The NBA preseason is always important.
Young players have a chance to prove they deserve more playing time, while established veterans show they still have the skill they once had.
When the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Sacramento Kings in an early preseason game on Friday, do not watch the score.
Instead, fans should watch these hard-working players who will be giving it their all, regardless of game situation.
Jason Thompson, Power Forward
The big man started at power forward for most of last season. Unfortunately, he was the least productive member of the starting lineup, averaging only 9.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
In the offseason, the Kings drafted Thomas Robinson with the No. 5 pick of the draft. It is unlikely a pick this high stays on the bench.
Thompson has started each of the three preseason games this year, but his hold on the job is very weak. He needs to make sure he proves that his experience is better than anything Robinson can provide out of the gate.
Otherwise, his minutes will start to disappear quickly.
Travis Outlaw, Small Forward
A few years ago, Outlaw was one of the best bench players in the league for the Portland Trail Blazers. That time is long gone.
Last season, the veteran was not even a serviceable rotation player. He averaged only 12.8 minutes per game, and his once-solid three-point shooting was down to 26.7 percent.
If Outlaw does not prove in the next few preseason games that he can help the team, he might be out of a job by the beginning of the year.
Los Angeles Lakers
Devin Ebanks, Small Forward
The Lakers have put together an outstanding starting lineup, but the one weak spot might be at small forward. Although Metta World Peace is the starter, his offensive production has dropped dramatically in the last four years from 20.5 points per game in 2008 to 7.7 in 2012.
At this point, World Peace is only useful because of his defensive skills, but those are also fading with age.
This leaves the door open for Ebanks to earn plenty of minutes this season. He is in his third year out of West Virginia and has the size and athleticism to be a successful wing in the NBA.
Ebanks is averaging 8.5 points in only 15.5 minutes per game so far in the preseason. If he continues to impress the coaching staff, the playing time will be there in the regular season.
Robert Sacre, Center
The center is getting a good, hard look this preseason as a potential backup to Dwight Howard. The All-Star center is taking it slow as he returns from a back injury, so Sacre is getting his chance to show the team what he can do.
He has started in all four preseason games and played over 20 minutes in each one of them. Against the Utah Jazz, he totaled nine points and 10 rebounds.
This is the one position where the Lakers are light on depth. Howard's health is a mystery, and Jordan Hill has back injuries of his own.
Sacre has a chance to earn himself a spot on the team and possibly some quality minutes during the season if he continues to play well in the preseason.