1 Critical Decision Facing Every NBA Team Before 2013-14 Season
With most of the offseason roster shuffling out of the way, NBA teams must now focus their attention on the tough decisions that will make or break their 2013-14 seasons.
These important situations vary from team to team. It could be deciding whether to trade a valuable veteran in an attempt to get stronger in other areas. It could be picking a winner in a tense position battle. It could even be something as typical as finding a new head coach.
Deciding who plays where and for how long is as important to a team's championship hopes as luring in a marquee free agent. The right choice can land you in the NBA Finals, while guessing wrong might get someone out of a front office and into a TV analyst gig.
Let's take a look at every NBA team and break down the critical decisions they face as they enter the upcoming season.
Atlanta Hawks: What to Do with Jeff Teague
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The Atlanta Hawks made the curious decision to match Milwaukee's four-year, $32 million offer to restricted free agent Jeff Teague. This comes after the team used the No. 17 overall pick on German point guard Dennis Schroeder to be Teague's replacement.
The Wake Forest product told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that there is "no bad blood" and that he's "glad to be back in Atlanta."
He wasn't saying that a week prior, however. According to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Teague had this to say about joining the Bucks:
I'm definitely excited at the opportunity to come back to work with Larry Drew. The Bucks have a good team, a young nucleus and guys that are ready to take the next step. I can help.
During the courting process, it is natural for athletes to say all the right things to the media. Still, it has to be tough to return to a team that already has your replacement waiting in the wings.
With Josh Smith gone, Teague becomes an even bigger part of the Hawks' machine. The team must decide whether it will do what it can to keep him happy or have him tread water long enough for Schroeder to take the reins.
Boston Celtics: Keep or Trade Rajon Rondo
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The Boston Celtics already made a tough decision to start the rebuilding process by letting go of key parts such as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers.
The next big decision is whether mercurial point guard Rajon Rondo is the next one out of the door. GM Danny Ainge has insisted that Rondo isn't being shopped, according to ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg. Still, a case can be made for either side.
On the one hand, Rondo is coming off an ACL injury and is set to make $25 million combined over the next two seasons. He also has a reputation for not being the easiest guy to coach, as evidenced by his run-ins with former coach Doc Rivers.
On the other hand, he's only 27 years old and is a four-time All-Star. He's also one of the best two-way point guards in the game. As the alpha dog on this Celtics team, he can be an MVP candidate if he stays healthy.
We won't know for certain what Rondo's future holds until he is cleared to return to the court. New coach Brad Stevens seemed excited to work with Rondo in his introductory press conference.
Still, if the right deal came along, it would have to be hard for Ainge to pass up moving the last piece from Boston's "Big Four" and starting from scratch.
Brooklyn Nets: Monitoring Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett's Minutes
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For the second time in as many summers, the Brooklyn Nets made an aggressive move to win now. The draft-day trade to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce gives Brooklyn one of the best starting rotations in basketball.
The trick for new head coach Jason Kidd will be putting the two newest members of the team on a pitch count.
Garnett is 37 years old, and Pierce is 35. While they are both still very productive players, they aren't exactly spring chickens. It will be up to Kidd to decide how much he plays Garnett and Pierce on a nightly basis, especially on back-to-backs.
With guys like Andrei Kirilenko, Mason Plumlee and Andray Blatche on the roster, Kidd has incentive to rest his aging stars and save them for the postseason. The question becomes what happens if Brooklyn stumbles out of the gate early on.
Last season, the Nets fired Avery Johnson after the team started off 14-14 (including 3-10 in December). Would Kidd lean on Garnett and Pierce to prevent a repeat of last year? Would KG and PP be OK with a reduced role if the team begins to struggle?
An NBA season is more of a marathon than a sprint. It will be interesting to see how Kidd manages egos and playing time in his coaching debut.
Charlotte Bobcats: Cody Zeller or Bismack Biyombo at Power Forward?
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The Charlotte Bobcats surprised some people on draft day when they opted to use the No. 4 overall pick on Indiana forward Cody Zeller. The team passed on bigger names such as Kentucky shot-blocker Nerlens Noel and Kansas sharpshooter Ben McLemore.
In another move to improve the interior, Charlotte signed Al Jefferson away from Utah to man the middle. With Jefferson entrenched at center, the focus shifts to deciding on a starter at power forward. There are several interesting candidates.
Behind door No. 1 is journeyman Josh McRoberts. McRoberts was signed to a two-year, $6 million deal this summer, but he's more of a stopgap option than a long-term remedy.
Next, there's former lottery pick Bismack Biyombo. The 20-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance in his short career. His biggest strengths are on the glass and protecting the rim. The former No. 7 overall pick is still a bit raw offensively.
Lastly, there's Zeller, who put on a clinic in Las Vegas in Summer League. In four games, he averaged 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest.
The decision comes down to what Charlotte ultimately wants the most. Biyombo gives the team another rebounder and defender, while Zeller's outside touch would complement Big Al's post game well.
The team could go with McRoberts to start off, but the upside of Zeller and Biyombo will eventually win out.
Chicago Bulls: Whether to Trade Luol Deng
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With point guard Derrick Rose back from an ACL injury, the Chicago Bulls have a team that can make a run at a title this season. The question is whether Luol Deng will be a part of that title run.
According to Bulls GM Gar Forman, the answer would appear to be "yes." In fact, Forman told the Chicago Sun-Times that he has had talks about a contract extension with Deng's representatives:
We see Luol as a valuable member of this team moving forward, so the window is open to talk about an extension. We’ve had some conversations. Whether something gets done, I don’t know. But whether it’s this summer or next summer, those are conversations we’ll continue to have.
Deng's name has been a fixture in NBA trade rumors and rightfully so. He's a free agent next summer, and the team already has a suitable replacement in Jimmy Butler. Butler is currently slated to start at the 2, but trading Deng for a shooting guard would allow the team to move Butler back to his natural position.
There is also incentive to keep Deng. A Joakim Noah-Carlos Boozer-Deng-Butler-Rose starting rotation is formidable enough to be a contender, and the team deserves to see what this core can do when everyone is healthy.
Two years ago, the Bulls were the top seed in the East before Rose's injury saw them bow out in the first round to the Philadelphia 76ers. The former MVP hasn't played a game since.
Forman may be adamant about keeping Deng at this moment, but it will be interesting to see his stance if contract talks hit a snag.
Cleveland Cavaliers: How Much Playing Time for Andrew Bynum
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The Cleveland Cavaliers are rolling the dice on oft-injured Andrew Bynum being their answer at center. The big man missed all of last season with a knee injury. He's also missed 248 of a possible 640 games during his eight-year career.
When healthy, Bynum is one of the game's best centers. The problem for Cleveland will be deciding how to utilize such a talented yet fragile piece of manpower.
Injuries seem to be the Cavaliers' undoing. Point guard Kyrie Irving has yet to play more than 59 games in a season in his short career. Anderson Varejao has played a total of 81 games in the last three seasons. Even last year's rookie sensation, Dion Waiters, missed 21 games.
This season, the team already has No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett on the mend from offseason shoulder surgery.
The key will be keeping an eye on Bynum, though. He is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward free agent. If he can stay upright, Cleveland has a good chance at going back to the playoffs.
It will be up to head coach Mike Brown to give his starting center just enough playing time to get back in the swing of things without putting too much mileage on his gimpy wheels.
Bynum may only be 25 years old, but he has the body of someone much older. He's like the NBA's version of Benjamin Button.
It is imperative that the Cavaliers use him properly if they want their gamble to pay off.
Dallas Mavericks: Should They Sign Greg Oden?
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Having missed out on Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum in free agency, the Dallas Mavericks are in desperate need of some help at center. The Mavs signed Sam Dalembert, but it doesn't appear they will stop there.
According to multiple reports, Dallas has also thrown its name in the ring to secure the services of former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden. ESPN's Marc Stein tweeted a little over a week ago that the Mavs will get "legit consideration" from Oden.
With no proven options beyond Dalembert on the roster, there is a good opportunity for Oden to get significant playing time with Dallas. He could even play his way into a starting role if he can prove he's healthy.
The issue is whether he is worth the risk. Given the Mavericks' need for a big man, it might be wiser to opt for someone more reliable. Veterans such as Joel Przybilla, Marcus Camby and Timofey Mozgov are all still looking for contracts.
Oden, meanwhile, hasn't played since the 2009-10 season. Even when he was on an NBA roster, he has appeared in only 81 games in his entire career. The best landing spot for him would be a team that can bring him along slowly and let him get readjusted to the pro game.
The upside of signing Oden is obvious. He's only 25 years old, and he was once considered a potential franchise cornerstone. If he can regain any of the form he showed during his days at Ohio State, he would be a huge steal.
However, that seems like a long shot. Oden has battled knee troubles his entire career, and his lack of durability is a huge concern. The Mavericks might be desperate, but they should also be careful.
Denver Nuggets: JaVale McGee or J.J. Hickson at Center?
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The Denver Nuggets have the luxury of having two intriguing options for their starting center spot. The first candidate is the wildly erratic JaVale McGee. In the other corner, there's free-agent addition J.J. Hickson.
McGee has the talent to be a viable starting big man. He's very athletic and does an excellent job protecting the rim. During his five-year career, he's averaged nearly two blocks per game.
The problem with McGee is what's between his ears. Occasionally, he makes the kinds of silly mistakes that give head coaches ulcers. As former head coach George Karl said to the Denver Post about his enigmatic big man in January:
He's got to understand that lazy and crazy isn't going to work. We want solid and we want fundamental, and we want spectacular but only when it happens, not forcing the action where sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't.
McGee has appeared in 99 games for the Nuggets since coming over in a midseason trade in 2012. In that span, he's made a total of five starts. Most recently, he was passed over for a starting gig by Kosta Koufos (now in Memphis).
As for Hickson, he is coming off averaging a double-double (12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds) for Portland last season. He doesn't have McGee's size or shot-blocking ability, but he's a better scoring presence inside. He also comes without McGee's quirks.
Inevitably, it boils down to upside or consistency. McGee makes the Nuggets better defensively, while Hickson gives them a steadier option. On paper, McGee should run away with this one, but that's why we play the games.
Detroit Pistons: How to Use Josh Smith
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To the untrained eye, playing Josh Smith alongside Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe seems like a no-brainer. After all, it would give the Detroit Pistons one of the scariest frontcourt lineups in the NBA.
The problem with playing Smith at small forward is that he isn't a perfect fit. He is at his best when he's around the rim. He can use his athleticism to attack the basket and still be in position to be active on the boards.
You don't want Smith hanging around the perimeter and hoisting up jump shots. He is a career 28 percent shooter from behind the arc. He doesn't shoot a ton of threes (around two a game over the last three seasons), but it is enough to make you cringe when he lets the ball go from deep.
Playing three guys together who are at their best in the paint will make things congested inside. A Smith-Monroe-Drummond lineup can work in small doses but not as a full-time strategy.
The best move would be to keep Smith at PF alongside Monroe and bring Drummond off the bench. That way, the team will have a viable option on its second unit while still bringing its young big man along slowly.
There's a chance that Maurice Cheeks finds a way to make this trio work out together. It certainly would benefit the Pistons from a defense and rebounding standpoint.
However, until J-Smoove improves his jumper, there will be causes for concern when playing him at the 3.
Golden State Warriors: Who's the 6th Man?
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When the Golden State Warriors signed Andre Iguodala, questions immediately arose over the future of last year's first-round pick Harrison Barnes.
Would the Warriors trade him? Is he going to the bench?
The easy answer is that Iguodala will be the team's new starting small forward, and Barnes will replace Jarrett Jack as the sixth man.
To quote Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend."
There are obvious reasons why you would want Iggy in the starting lineup. He's a better defender, he's more proven and it makes little sense to give a guy $48 million to come off the bench.
However, Iguodala as the sixth man wouldn't be a terrible idea. He can play multiple positions, and he would give the team a more reliable option on its second unit. He can be a super-sub, like Manu Ginobili in San Antonio or Ryan Anderson in New Orleans.
He won't start, but he'd play enough minutes to feel like a starter. It also would eliminate the risk of hurting Barnes' confidence by removing him from the starting lineup.
Iguodala is a good player, but he isn't a superstar. He's an athletic slasher who doubles as a solid perimeter defender. The Warriors could get as much out of him as a Swiss army knife-type reserve as they can as their starting small forward.
As Golden State proved with Jack last year, it helps to have a proven commodity as a backup plan.
Houston Rockets: The Omer Asik-Dwight Howard Quandary
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Dwight Howard was all smiles when he opted to sign with the Houston Rockets. The same can't be said for Omer Asik. After a career year last season (10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds a game), the Turkish big man now finds himself on the outside looking in.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Asik asked the Rockets to trade him after acquiring Howard, but the team has no plans to give in to his requests. Rockets GM Daryl Morey even told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle that Howard and James Harden "want to play" with Asik.
Whether the Rockets land Camby or not, they have to figure out how Asik and Howard will work together. Both men are great defenders and rebounders. They would make it very difficult for opposing teams to attack the basket.
However, neither possesses the outside touch to give the other breathing room on the offensive end. Playing them together would make things very stuffy in the paint. Asik would also be a pricey backup at $5.2 million for next season.
The Rockets knew the consequences of adding Howard to a team that already had a adequate starter in place. For this move to work out, Houston has to find a way to keep all parties happy.
Indiana Pacers: What to Do with Danny Granger
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Indiana Pacers small forward Danny Granger played all of five games last season due to a knee injury. In his absence, teammate Paul George had a breakout season and became a household name. The Pacers were also one win away from reaching the NBA Finals.
Now, Granger is back and presumably healthy. He is also in the last year of his contract, which will pay him $14 million.
The Pacers have two choices: They can get their All-Star small forward re-acclimated into the starting lineup and hope that a healthy Granger can get them over the hump. They could also trade him and attempt to get something back for a player who might not return after this season.
There is a downside to either option. Granger's return could disrupt the chemistry of what has become George's team. The Memphis Grizzlies went through a similar situation with Rudy Gay.
Without Rudy Gay in 2010-11, Memphis made it to the Western Conference Semifinals. When he came back the next year, the Grizzlies didn't make it out of the first round.
The con of trading Granger is the unlikelihood of getting fair value. After all, he's a 30-year-old rental with a troublesome knee. That isn't going to net you much besides a bad contract or someone with similar injury concerns.
The best strategy is to see how Granger's return plays out. If the transition is seamless, the Pacers will be as good as anyone in the East. At the very least, Granger proving that he's healthy and can still play will raise his trade value.
In the end, it's a good problem to have.
Los Angeles Clippers: Is DeAndre Jordan a Building Block or Trade Bait?
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Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan spent the summer hearing his name attached to trade rumors. There was talk of him going to Boston in a deal that would have brought Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers to L.A. There were also rumors that he would be sent to Portland.
Now that he's still a member of the Clippers, the team must decide what to do with him. Do the Clippers view him as an integral part of their long-term future? Do they believe new head coach Doc Rivers can develop the young big man? Or are they just waiting for the right deal?
Jordan has a little over $22 million over the next two years remaining on his contract. He is coming off of a season where he averaged a pedestrian 8.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. If Rivers is going to salvage Jordan's career, he has a lot of work to do.
Jordan will have to be more than an athletic big man who is occasionally a factor on the glass and protecting the rim. He will have to team with Blake Griffin in order to become part of a formidable inside duo.
Chris Paul's quest to the Finals will be contingent on Jordan standing up to the likes of Marc Gasol, Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard. If he can't do that, the Clippers must find someone who can.
After nearly being shipped out of Lob City, Jordan must prove he's worth keeping around.
Los Angeles Lakers: Should They Rush Back Kobe Bryant?
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In the span of a year, the Los Angeles Lakers went from a sure-fire title contender to a team that will be lucky to make the playoffs this season. The 2013-14 Lakers will have an entirely new look from the perceived juggernaut who took the court on opening night last year.
Dwight Howard is in Houston, Metta World Peace is in New York and Kobe Bryant is in a walking boot.
"The Black Mamba" is recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon sustained late last season. Co-owner Jim Buss told NBA TV that he thinks Bryant could play in the preseason.
The question is, why would he? Why would Bryant want to rush himself back from a serious injury to rejoin a team that is a long shot to contend for a title?
Yes, Kobe is a competitor. He's also a human being (despite Buss calling him a machine in the aforementioned interview). At 34 years old, Bryant's body isn't what it once was. No matter how hard he pushes himself, it will tough for him to return to his old form by opening night.
Even if he can, how far can he carry this team? Can a Nash-Bryant-Gasol trio beat Chris Paul's Clippers, Tim Duncan's Spurs or Kevin Durant's Thunder?
The smart move for the Lakers is to give Bryant as much time as possible to recover. There's no need to play him in preseason games. It's not even necessary to play him early on. If the Lakers are going to make a playoff run, they will need Bryant for that final stretch.
Bryant is a free agent at the end of the season. It seems hard to believe he'd ever leave Los Angeles. If he's adamant on playing another three years, as he told Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, he needs to be more mindful of his NBA mortality.
Memphis Grizzlies: Should They Trade Tayshaun Prince?
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The Memphis Grizzlies don't have a ton of critical decisions to make as they enter the upcoming season. If you want to nitpick, they could look to upgrade the small forward spot.
The team acquired Tayshaun Prince in last year's three-team trade that sent Rudy Gay to Toronto. Prince is a rangy defender, and he brings veteran savvy to a young team with championship aspirations. He's also 33 years old and slated to make nearly $15 million combined for the next two seasons.
The Grizzlies possess one of the best inside tandems in the NBA in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. They have a rising star in point guard Mike Conley, but they lack another perimeter scorer. Gay was their offensive spark, but he was too expensive for the new ownership to keep around.
Prince is a career 37 percent shooter from beyond the arc, but his days as a reliable scorer are dwindling. Beyond him, there aren't many promising alternatives.
Tony Allen is better known for his defense. Jerryd Bayless is inconsistent, while Donte Greene and Quincy Pondexter leave much to be desired.
There is no immediate need to move someone like Prince, but he's the most expendable of the team's trade chips. The team could use more offensive firepower to keep up with the likes of the Clippers and Thunder.
Defense may win championships, but you eventually have to put points on the board.
Miami Heat: Who Should Play Power Forward?
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In what could be the final season together for "The Big Three," the Miami Heat's most critical decisions come next summer. In the meantime, the team could find ways to tinker with the lineup to try and make it back to the Finals for a fourth consecutive time.
The biggest problem Miami had was in the frontcourt, where the team finished dead last in rebounding during the regular season. It finished 14th of 16 possible teams on the glass in the postseason. (Only the Clippers and Bucks were worse.)
There are a number of ways the team can improve on the glass. It could insert Chris Andersen as the starting center and play Chris Bosh at the 4. Another possibility is making LeBron James the full-time starter at power forward.
James led the Heat in rebounds in both the regular season and the playoffs with eight boards per game. With his combination of strength, speed and athleticism, he would be an even bigger mismatch for NBA big men than he is for small forwards.
With LBJ at the 4, the Heat could move Shane Battier or even Ray Allen to the starting small forward spot. It would make the team's all-around lineup better and put the team's best rebounder and defender around the basket more often.
Milwaukee Bucks: What to Do with Giannis Adetokunbo
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The Milwaukee Bucks became the latest team to be wowed by the upside of an international prospect when they used the No. 15 overall pick on forward Giannis Adetokunbo. The 18-year-old known as The Greek Freak definitely passes the eye test.
He's 6'9" with a 7'3" wingspan and huge hands. He's a small forward who can handle the ball like a point guard and an extraordinary athlete who has drawn comparisons to Portland's Nicolas Batum.
The problem with Adetokunbo is that he's rawer than sushi. He has a lot to learn about the pro game, and the Bucks will need to be very patient with his development. He might not pan out for several years.
The Bucks must decide on a course of action for The Greek Freak. Do they send him back to Europe for more seasoning and use the roster spot on someone more reliable? Or do they bring him along slowly in the pros?
With Carlos Delfino on the roster, they don't have to worry about rushing into the lineup. It would benefit the rookie to play against NBA veterans and get acclimated to American basketball.
The Bucks aren't going anywhere for a while, so they don't need Adetokunbo to contribute right away. With the right commitment, this could be a gamble that pays huge dividends to the Bucks down the road.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Chase Budinger or Corey Brewer at Small Forward?
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The Minnesota Timberwolves were busy in free agency this summer. They signed Kevin Martin away from Oklahoma City to be their starting shooting guard. Also, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that Minnesota is close to bringing back center Nikola Pekovic.
The T'Wolves also made a couple of sneaky signings at the small forward spot. Chase Budinger was re-signed to a three-year, $16 million contract. The team also brought back Corey Brewer with a three-year, $14 million deal.
So, who gets the starting nod at the 3?
Budinger is a good shooter with underrated athleticism. He's a career 36 percent shooter from the three-point line and averaged 9.4 points per game for Minnesota last season. However, he only played in 23 games thanks to a knee injury.
As for Brewer, his specialty is on defense. He's finished in the top 10 of steal percentage the past three seasons. He scored 12.1 points a game for the Nuggets in 2012-13.
He doesn't possess Budinger's shooting touch, but he's serviceable as an athletic slasher. He's also the healthier option of the two.
It comes down to offense versus defense. Brewer excelled in a sixth man role with Denver last season, but he would benefit Minnesota's defense as a starter. Budinger would give the team another scorer whether he starts or comes off the bench.
The Timberwolves can't go wrong either way.
New Orleans Pelicans: Should Anthony Davis Start at Center?
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After trading away Robin Lopez in a three-team deal that sent Tyreke Evans to New Orleans, the Pelicans have to fix their hole at center.
There are a number of directions the team can go in. Jason Smith is the longest-tenured player on the roster. He has 38 career starts under his belt (35 with New Orleans) and is passable as the starter in the middle.
Rookie Jeff Withey is an excellent shot-blocker and is active on the boards. If the team wants to give the Kansas product his trial by fire early, he could develop into a long-term staple at center.
Greg Steimsma is another big man who can protect the rim. If he can avoid foul trouble, he could play his way into the starting center debate. The Pelicans have also expressed interest in former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
Another intriguing option would be moving last year's top pick, Anthony Davis, from power forward to center. The team has shown a reluctance to move Davis to the 5, as he still needs to add more bulk. However, with his quickness and athleticism, he would give opposing centers fits on the offensive end. He also has the length to hold his own on the glass and the defensive end.
Moving Davis would allow Ryan Anderson to start at power forward. Playing those two together with Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday would make the Pelicans a tough team to stop.
Anderson's sweet stroke from the outside would draw opposing defenders outside and give Davis more space to operate. It would also put New Orleans' best players on the court at the same time.
The Pelicans made a number of interesting moves this summer, but the best one might involve someone already on the roster.
New York Knicks: Should Carmelo Anthony Start at Power Forward?
The evolution of small ball and the dearth of traditional centers have rendered positions meaningless. That's why the idea of the New York Knicks playing Carmelo Anthony at power forward doesn't carry the stigma it used to.
The Knicks have tried for years to find ways for Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire to co-exist on the court together. Due to Stoudemire's health issues, there hasn't been a large sample size for the team to look at.
Now, with Metta World Peace coming home to New York, the Knicks have more incentive to play Anthony at the 4. They have a perimeter defender to hinder opposing small forwards. That would allow Anthony to focus on creating mismatches on the offensive end.
Much like LeBron James, Anthony's combination of strength, speed and athleticism is too much for NBA power forwards to defend. He's a natural scorer who can beat you in a number of ways, whether on the perimeter, posting up or driving to the lane.
The other option is keeping Anthony at small forward and going with either Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani at power forward. Stoudemire has yet to prove he can stay healthy, and Bargnani may be a worse defender than 'Melo.
Playing Anthony at power forward would allow both of those men to stay on the bench and strengthen the second unit. It also makes the Knicks a deeper team while utilizing their best weapon in a different way.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Is Jeremy Lamb Ready to Be the 6th Man?
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With Kevin Martin now in Minnesota, the Oklahoma City Thunder are relying on Jeremy Lamb to provide an offensive spark off of the bench. The former UConn star was one of the main pieces to last year's James Harden trade.
The question is now whether Lamb is ready to take a bigger role or if the team should look for more a proven option.
If the numbers from the Summer League count for anything, Lamb has the chops to be a factor this season. He averaged 18.8 points per game in Orlando this summer. Last year, he scored 20 points per contest as a member of the Houston Rockets.
With Martin as the sixth man last year, Lamb didn't see much playing time. He appeared in 23 games and logged about six minutes a night. He shot just 35 percent from the field and 30 percent from the three-point line.
The pressure is on Lamb to fill Martin's shoes. If Oklahoma City is going to remain on top in the West, he needs to keep the momentum going when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook take a seat.
Otherwise, the Harden trade will look like a failure, and the team will have to look elsewhere for help.
Orlando Magic: Arron Afflalo or Victor Oladipo at Shooting Guard?
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The Orlando Magic must find the best way to incorporate No. 2 pick Victor Oladipo into the lineup.
At 6'5", he's a little short to play the small forward position he played at Indiana. He also doesn't have the ball-handling skills to play point guard. His best position is at shooting guard.
The problem is that the team already has a starting 2-guard in Arron Afflalo. Leading up to the draft, there were talks that he would be traded to the Clippers for point guard Eric Bledsoe. Inevitably, that deal fell through, and Bledsoe ended up in Phoenix.
Now the team must figure out what to do with its logjam at shooting guard.
Oladipo had an impressive Summer League run. He scored 19 points and dished five assists per game. More importantly, he lived up to his reputation as a solid defender by averaging three steals a contest.
Afflalo, meanwhile, is the team's leading scorer from last season. He scored 16.5 points per game for the Magic in 64 games. His season ended early due to a hamstring injury.
The best way to solve the problem would be to trade Afflalo and let Oladipo take over at shooting guard. The Magic are deep into the rebuilding phase, and it would be in their best interest to play their young guys as much as possible.
Philadelphia 76ers: Find a Head Coach
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There are a number of decisions the Philadelphia 76ers must make going into this season. None is bigger than finding a new head coach after letting Doug Collins go.
A rebuilding team like Philadelphia needs someone to lead the charge. Recently, outspoken former Sixer Charles Barkley called Philly's lack of a head coach "a joke."
"They got players who are playing in the summer league, they got assistant coaches coaching the team," Barkley told Comcast Sportsnet's Philly Sports Talk. "You just can't bring somebody in, and him have instant credibility—he has to build rapport with the players."
A couple of the candidates being mentioned for the vacancy are assistant coach Michael Curry and Spurs assistant Brett Brown.
Once the team finds its next coach, it can focus on other pressing issues such as Nerlens Noel's recovery from knee surgery and the development of point guard Michael Carter-Williams. The growth of those two rookies will be crucial to the team's rebuilding process.
Phoenix Suns: Should They Move on from Marcin Gortat?
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The Phoenix Suns have clusters at nearly every position.
Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall are at point guard. They have Shannon Brown and Eric Bledsoe (who is better suited to play point guard) at the 2. Caron Butler, P.J. Tucker and Michael Beasley are vying for minutes at small forward.
Marcus and Markieff Morris sit at the forward spot with Luis Scola. Then, there's the center position, where Marcin Gortat is joined by rookie Alex Len.
Out of all these dilemmas, the center spot might be the easiest to resolve. Gortat is the team's most intriguing trade asset besides Bledsoe. He's also in the final year of his deal, so there is incentive to get something for him this season.
Plenty of teams could use a 29-year-old big man who averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game last season. Suns general manager Ryan McDonough recently told ArizonaSports.com's Vince Marotta that he has no intention to trade Gortat at this time.
"Well, I'm certainly not looking to move Marcin," McDonough said. "We think he's a top-15 starting center in the NBA, and those guys are hard to find.
McDonough also went on to say that the team is going to be patient with Len, as "he's just turned 20 years old," and "he's coming off an injury."
Hanging on to Gortat is understandable, especially with Len on the mend. However, given the prowess of Phoenix's training staff, Len will be up and running eventually. Once that happens, it makes sense to move Gortat.
The Suns aren't headed anywhere this season, and they will benefit more from getting something now instead of letting Gortat walk next summer.
Portland Trail Blazers: Should They Trade LaMarcus Aldridge?
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There have been conflicting reports as to whether Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge wants out of Portland. The All-Star forward told Joe Freeman of The Oregonian in an email that he hasn't asked for a trade.
However, Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reported that Aldridge's camp met with Blazers general manager Neil Olshey to discuss potential trade destinations. Haynes also says that the Pelicans, Hawks, Bulls, Timberwolves and Clippers have rejected offers for the former Texas Longhorn.
Whether true or not, Aldridge's alleged trade demand is a bit peculiar. After all, Portland has the makings of a solid, young team with Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard alongside Aldridge.
The Blazers were also very aggressive in the offseason. They drafted mid-major superstar C.J. McCollum with the No. 10 overall pick. They also added veterans Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson and Dorell Wright to improve the team's depth.
Portland still has Aldridge under contract for two more seasons. Unless he forces the issue, it is in the Trail Blazers' best interest to keep him either until he commits to staying or the right offer presents itself.
Sacramento Kings: Ben McLemore or Marcus Thornton at Shooting Guard?
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The Sacramento Kings lucked out on draft day when shooter Ben McLemore dropped to them at pick No. 7. As a rumored top-three pick, the Kansas product has the potential to be the steal of the draft.
In Las Vegas, McLemore struggled with his shooting touch, converting just 19 percent of his three-point attempts. He still managed to average 15.8 points per game.
McLemore's shooting woes could have just been a product of rookie jitters. Once he found a comfort zone during the second half, he became a more effective scorer.
That raises the question of whether Sacramento should rush its prized rookie into the starting lineup. Marcus Thornton isn't a star by any means, but he's an adequate stopgap option to start until McLemore finds his rhythm.
With so much pressure to contribute early, forcing young players to play before they are ready runs the risk of hurting their confidence. It would be wise for the Kings to take their time with McLemore and let Thornton keep the spot warm.
San Antonio Spurs: Should the Spurs Scale Back Tim Duncan's Minutes?
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Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs proved they still had a lot left in the tank with an improbable Finals run last season. Still, at 37 years old and entering his 17th season, is it time to start rationing out The Big Fundamental's minutes?
With most of the group from last year returning, there's no reason San Antonio can't contend for another title. However, the team will only go as far as Duncan carries it. The future Hall of Famer averaged 30.1 minutes per game in the regular season and logged an average of 35 minutes per night in the playoffs.
The Spurs should scale that number back to between 26-28 minutes per game. By giving him extra rest, they would be saving their best player for when it matters most. They should cut back his minutes and be especially cautious on back-to-backs.
Guys like Matt Bonner and Jeff Pendergraph are more than capable of contributing with extra minutes. Head coach Gregg Popovich has done an excellent job throughout his career of getting the most out of his role players.
The West is filled with plenty of young contenders. If Duncan is going to compete with guys many years his junior, he is going to need fresh legs to keep up. Otherwise, this Spurs team will come up just short yet again.
Toronto Raptors: Should They Trade DeMar DeRozan?
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A year ago, the Toronto Raptors gave shooting guard DeMar DeRozan a four-year, $38 million contract extension. Since then, the team has acquired Rudy Gay and hired a new general manager in Masai Ujiri.
DeRozan and Gay will make a combined $27 million next season. Both are athletic slashers who lack a shooting touch. DeRozan converted 28 percent of his three-point attempts, while Gay nailed 32 percent.
There isn't room for two similar players with hefty contracts, especially on a team that is years away from contending. DeRozan's contract is cheaper and longer than Gay's, making him more enticing to a team that views him as a long-term option.
Also, by moving DeRozan, the Raptors could move last year's first-round pick, Terrence Ross, into the starting lineup. Ross shot just 33 percent from three, but his college numbers suggest he'll get better.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Toronto explored a trade that would send DeRozan to Los Angeles for Eric Bledsoe, but it never panned out. There has been no recent talk of moving DeRozan now that Bledsoe is in Phoenix.
However, given how poorly his style meshes with Gay's and the amount of money committed to non-shooters, it might be only a matter of time before DeRozan is on his way out.
Utah Jazz: To Tank or Not to Tank?
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With Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap elsewhere, the Utah Jazz are now a collection of promising prospects. That's a nice way of saying the team will be terrible this season.
The Jazz's projected starting five is Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and rookie Trey Burke. Of that group, only Hayward averaged double-digits in scoring last year (14.1 points per game), while Burke put up 18.1 points per game at Michigan.
The team also acquired nearly every terrible contract on the Golden State Warriors roster just for the right to acquire a few extra draft picks. A team doesn't willingly take on the salaries of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins unless it is planning to be lousy.
With a young core and an excellent draft coming next year, the Jazz can kill two birds with one stone by playing their unheralded guys and tanking for a high pick next summer.
Kanter and Favors may one day be a great inside duo, but that day probably won't be this season. Hayward showed some promise last season, but not enough to carry this team. As for the backcourt, Burks and Burke have a combined zero starts.
By punting this season, the team gets a good look at the youngsters while keeping its eye on next season. It has nothing to play for other than a shot at Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Julius Randle.
It's hard to advocate for a team to deliberately lose, but the Jazz may be so bad that we won't be able to tell the difference.
Washington Wizards: Start Otto Porter or Martell Webster at Small Forward?
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For the first time in a long time, there is reason for Washington Wizards fans to have hope. The team added some nice pieces this offseason and actually has a possible position battle brewing at small forward.
The team used the No. 3 overall pick on Georgetown's Otto Porter. He was considered one of the safer picks in the draft, and he fills a huge need for the Wiz at the 3 spot. Washington also added Glen Rice Jr. in the second round.
In free agency, the Wizards doubled down on their need at small forward by re-signing Martell Webster to a four-year, $22 million deal. Veteran Trevor Ariza is also in the mix.
The battle will come down to Porter versus Webster. Right now, the veteran has the upper hand given his experience and Porter's underwhelming performance at the Summer League. The former Hoyas star shot just 30 percent from the field and averaged a measly 6.3 points per game.
Porter has the upside to be the team's starter at small forward eventually, but Webster is coming off his best season as a pro (42 percent from the three-point line, 11.4 points per game).
Regardless of who gets the nod, the Wizards managed to turn a position of need into a strength.