The Most Critical Training Camp Battle for Every NBA Team
With training camps in full swing, intriguing position battles have taken center stage for all 30 teams across the NBA.
Whether it's two established vets like Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko vying for a starting spot with the Brooklyn Nets or two upstart point guards in Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas dueling to capture starting duties with the Sacramento Kings, battles come in all shapes and sizes.
As you sift through each team's respective battle, keep in mind that these are strictly position battles, so the focus is confined to personnel.
Position Battle: DeMarre Carroll vs. John Jenkins
The Atlanta Hawks went about their business quietly this summer, adding two players formerly of the Utah Jazz who should fortify their starting five this season.
Paul Millsap will receive the bulk of the attention, but don't overlook DeMarre Carroll, who's currently running with the first team in practices, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Simply looking at a pre-camp depth chart, one could have been tricked into believing that John Jenkins would be the starter at the 2 with Kyle Korver at the 3, but slotting in Carroll at the small forward to give his starting unit more defensive versatility is a no-brainer for Mike Budenholzer.
Jenkins is a fine shooter, but with Korver a lock to start, the Hawks don't need two players with similar and similarly limited skill sets clogging up the wing. Carroll is a more sensible choice. He should start ahead of Jenkins as the season gets underway.
Position Battle: Kelly Olynyk vs. Jared Sullinger
Neither Kelly Olynyk nor Jared Sullinger received a starting nod in the Boston Celtics' preseason opener against the Toronto Raptors. Brandon Bass slotted in at what many would consider the conventional power forward spot.
However, both received more than 18 minutes of run off the bench, with one drastically outplaying the other.
Sullinger shined when Olynyk could not, compiling 14 points, four assists and a team-high six rebounds. Olynyk mustered just four points (1-of-5 shooting), two rebounds and five assists.
Considering the Celtics were out-rebounded 46-26 by the Raptors, Brad Stevens has to be thinking that he needs a low-post banger like Sullinger more than a versatile offensive option like Olynyk.
If the former Ohio State Buckeye can avoid back issues during his sophomore season, he should have the early edge over Olynyk.
Position Battle: Andrei Kirilenko vs. Paul Pierce
Whether Jason Kidd could feasibly talk Paul Pierce into assuming a role as the team's sixth man remains to be seen, but there's no doubt that starting Andrei Kirilenko at the 3 would give the Brooklyn Nets a stronger defensive presence on the perimeter.
In addition, with Joe Johnson seemingly locked in as the starting 2, having two scorers like Pierce and Johnson on the floor together could be a bit redundant.
Kirilenko is the defensive stopper Kidd will turn to when the Nets are matched up against the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Kevin Durant. To start him in place of Pierce simply makes the most sense from a personnel standpoint.
However, there's no ignoring Pierce's pedigree.
Entering his 16th season, Pierce is still fully capable of averaging anywhere from 15 to 18 points a game, while his mark of 38 percent shooting from three last season was the highest he'd posted since 2009-10.
Kidd has an embarrassment of riches to work with in his first season as an NBA head coach. The real key will be figuring out how to properly utilize each piece in a new role.
Position Battle: Bismack Biyombo vs. Cody Zeller
The Charlotte Bobcat presumably drafted Cody Zeller No. 4 overall to come in and start right away. And with free-agent signee Al Jefferson in the fold, Zeller makes sense as an energetic frontcourt complement to the 28-year-old.
However, the thought of starting Jefferson and Zeller together should give head coach Steve Clifford pause, for that pairing offers very little defensively.
Jefferson is notorious for lacking energy on the defensive end, while Zeller is still an unknown in that department. Plus there's his lack of bulk.
The other frontcourt combination would see Jefferson and Bismack Biyombo start together, with the sole reason being Biyombo's ability to rebound and protect the rim. What Zeller and Biyombo offer offensively isn't even really comparable, but Biyombo did average 1.8 blocks and 7.3 rebounds in 80 games (65 starts) last season.
Position Battle: Marquis Teague vs. Kirk Hinrich
The battle for minutes as Derrick Rose's backup comes down to Kirk Hinrich and Marquis Teague, with one player firmly the leader in the clubhouse at this stage.
Hinrich, who's started 575 games in his career, took over the reins to the Bulls' offense in Rose's absence last season, starting all 60 games in which he appeared, averaging 5.2 assists and 1.7 turnovers per game while shooting 39 percent from three.
Teague, on the other hand, started no games last season and recorded an average of just 8.2 minutes of run in the 48 games he played in.
Since Hinrich's a more composed and steady distributor than Teague, Tom Thibodeau shouldn't have a hard time making the right choice in one of the Bulls' few position battles.
Position Battle: Earl Clark vs. Alonzo Gee
Could Earl Clark unseat Alonzo Gee as the Cleveland Cavaliers' starting 3? It's quite possible, despite Gee starting all 82 games last season for Byron Scott.
Mike Brown went out of his way to sign Clark, inking the swingman to a two-year, $9 million deal over the summer.
Clark showed out during the first extensive action of his career last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, recording 23.1 minutes per game over 59 appearances (36 starts). And while Clark may not be a particularly diverse offensive weapon, he offers more from a three-and-D standpoint than Gee does.
Last season, Clark hit 33.7 percent of his threes and posted a defensive rating of 105, per Basketball-Reference, while Gee made 31.5 percent of his treys and surrendered 110 points per 100 possessions.
Another factor working in Clark's favor is that he was a more proficient three-point shooter from the corners last season.
According to NBA.com's stats database, Clark hit 36.6 percent of his looks from the left corner and 40 percent from the right, whereas Gee posted percentages of 32.86 and 28.07 from the left and right corners.
Position Battle: Wayne Ellington vs. Jae Crowder
When it comes to a bench spark plug, will Rick Carlisle be inclined to go with the defensive-minded Jae Crowder or a shooter like Wayne Ellington?
Ellington, who signed with the Mavs during the offseason, is a career 38.2 percent shooter from three, and has posted a mark of better than 39 percent in three of his first four seasons.
Crowder, on the other hand, shot 38.4 percent from the field last season and a below-average 32.8 percent from deep. The two factors working in his favor, though, are his familiarity with Carlisle's defensive scheme and a commitment to pestering opponents on that side of the ball.
Both have compelling cases, which makes this one hard to call at this early juncture.
Ultimately, I believe it's Ellington who will be turned to first. His offensive stability is too good to pass up when Monta Ellis is in need of a breather.
Position Battle: Darrell Arthur vs. J.J. Hickson
We know J.J. Hickson can rebound extremely well. However, boards don't equate to solid defense, although that may still be a popular misconception.
With Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee the Denver Nuggets' starters at the 4 and 5, Hickson will be battling with Darrell Arthur, formerly of the Memphis Grizzlies, for minutes as the first big off of Brian Shaw's bench.
Hickson is sure to provide numbers to back up his play, but is that what the Nuggets really need at this point? After finishing 23rd in opponent's points per game last season, Denver could desperately use a stout defensive presence on the interior, and Arthur can provide that.
Fans will clamor for Hickson, but it could wind up being the unsung Arthur who has a more profound impact when it counts.
Position Battle: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope vs. Chauncey Billups
The contenders for the Detroit Pistons' starting shooting guard spot would have been lottery pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (No. 8 overall) and former first-rounder Rodney Stuckey, but the latter recently fractured his right thumb, according to the Pistons, and will be sidelined for a minimum of six weeks, per Pistons.com Editor Keith Langlois.
The silver lining for Detroit is that KCP has been impressing head coach Maurice Cheeks in camp, according to Langlois on Twitter: "Asked Mo if KCP is ahead of where he expected: 'He is. Yup, he is. He has never, ever looked out of place. That's huge for me."'
With Stuckey out of the picture, the Pistons will need to hope that KCP continues to develop at a nice pace in the run-up to opening night.
However, if Cheeks prefers that the rookie shooter comes off the bench, the starting spot could conceivably belong to Chauncey Billups, who is a 38.8 percent shooter from three for his career. And while he doesn't possess the height or burst that KCP can offer, Billups is undoubtedly a safer start for Cheeks at the moment.
Golden State Warriors
Position Battle: Marreese Speights vs. Jermaine O'Neal
With Festus Ezeli sidelined due to knee surgery, the role of first big off the bench is waiting to be captured by one of the Golden State Warriors' offseason additions.
Either Marreese Speights or Jermaine O'Neal will earn the gig, one that will likely dole out somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 minutes a night.
Speights is the more compelling offensive option. He can more effectively stretch defenses out to the free-throw line with his jumper. According to HoopData, Speights put that shot to work after being traded to the Cavs last winter, hitting 41.9 percent of his attempts between 10 and 15 feet and 50 percent between 16 and 23 feet.
O'Neal offers more toughness on the interior, and Mark Jackson will take all the help he can get in that area considering David Lee is his starting power forward.
Chalk this one up as too close to call at the moment.
Position Battle: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Terrence Jones vs. Omer Asik
Dwight Howard's arrival has complicated the Houston Rockets' frontcourt depth a bit, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
While it very well may frustrate Omer Asik should he be bumped out of the starting lineup, an opportunity could present itself for one of the team's young guns—Terrence Jones or Donatas Motiejunas.
The thinking is this: With Howard presumably spending the majority of his time on the low block, it wouldn't make much sense on offense to have Asik clog up the lane. And defensively, Asik doesn't have the footspeed necessary to defend more agile 4s.
In Jones, the Rockets have an athletic freak who's capable of defending both away and close to the basket. And like he was at Kentucky, Jones could wind up being a rebounding machine in the NBA if he sees enough minutes. According to Basketball-Reference, Jones averaged 8.5 boards per 36 minutes last season.
Unlike Jones, Motiejunas did start last season, and he did so 14 times in 44 appearances. Considering that the Lithuanian has a nice combination of size, strength and a bit of range, he has a strong case if Asik is booted to the bench.
Position Battle: Chris Copeland vs. Solomon Hill
Chris Copeland would seem to be ahead of Solomon Hill for a role in the Indiana Pacers' rotation. The primary reason is that Frank Vogel's team needs help knocking down shots from the perimeter, and Copeland is the more proven commodity at this point.
In his first NBA season at age 28, Copeland stepped into the New York Knicks' rotation and calmly delivered on 42.1 percent of his three-point attempts. He then upped that mark to 47.8 percent over nine postseason appearances.
Hill improved his three-point shot each of his four years at Arizona, topping out at 39 percent last year, but it would be hard to trust a boom-or-bust rookie of his caliber with such a role.
For a team that ranked 22nd in three-point field-goal percentage (34.7) last season, Copeland is a stronger and more immediate solution.
Los Angeles Clippers
Position Battle: Byron Mullens vs. Antawn Jamison
Doc Rivers may be bringing a defensive-minded culture to the Los Angeles Clippers, but I'm not sure anything will be able to remedy the lackluster defense of Byron Mullens or Antawn Jamison.
Both are one-way players, and in my eyes it's Jamison who should have the edge over Mullens. While the 7-footer is an intriguing talent, he's never produced up to his potential and has shot just 40.3 percent from the field and 30.1 percent from three for his career. As a player whose only real redeeming skill is his jumper, that's not great news.
Jamison is a safer option, for sure. While he's among the laziest defenders in the league, his stroke is more consistent than Mullens', and he's coming off a season with the Los Angeles Lakers during which he shot 46.4 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Los Angeles Lakers
Position Battle: Steve Blake vs. Jordan Farmar
Suddenly, the Los Angeles Lakers have a competition on their hands at backup point guard. While Steve Nash continues to rack up starts and dimes, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar will vie for the opportunity to come in and lead the second unit when the eventual Hall of Famer is in need of a breather.
Farmar returns to the Lakers after stints in New Jersey and abroad, while Blake is entering his fourth season in purple and gold and second under Mike D'Antoni.
After shooting 42.1 percent from three last season, the second-best mark of his career, Blake would seem to have the edge on Farmar entering the season. That, and he's more familiar with D'Antoni's spread attack.
Farmar will undoubtedly see minutes, but Blake has too many edges on his competition to cede the job in the early going.
Position Battle: Quincy Pondexter vs. Tayshaun Prince
This isn't so much a discussion over who will start games for the Memphis Grizzlies at small forward as much as it's a discussion about who will close games.
Quincy Pondexter has only started 15 games in his career, and Tayshaun Prince's defensive expertise should give him the edge over his more offensively capable teammate for the time being.
Prince played 10 more minutes per game than Pondexter last season, but when the Grizzlies need to spread the floor, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the sniper out there with the big guns.
The former Washington Husky converted 39.5 percent of his threes last season and 45.3 percent in the postseason. If he continues to hit at similar clips, he could make a dent in the 33-year-old's minutes.
Position Battle: Rashard Lewis vs. James Jones
Perhaps it doesn't feel like the biggest void in the world, but the Miami Heat have a spot to fill in their rotation now that Mike Miller resides in Memphis.
While waiving Miller via the amnesty provision was a necessary move from a financial standpoint, it's going to be tough to find a player who can replicate his shooting.
The two candidates to replace Miller are vets Rashard Lewis and James Jones, each of whom logged fewer than 15 minutes per game last season.
Lewis feels like the front-runner simply based on his role in the regular-season rotation last year, playing 14.4 minutes a night en route to a 5.2 point-per-game average on 38.9 percent shooting from three.
Jones, 33, appeared in just 38 games last season and shot 30.2 percent from deep over that span.
Position Battle: John Henson vs. Ekpe Udoh vs. Zaza Pachulia
The Milwaukee Bucks have plenty of frontcourt depth. The question is, will Larry Drew find a way to manage his lineups correctly?
A nice first step would be thrusting John Henson into a bigger role as the first big off of Milwaukee's bench.
Henson was a statistical animal per 36 minutes last season, with his big numbers providing a brief insight into how effective he could be if given enough playing time. According to Basketball-Reference, Henson put up 16.5 points, 12.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes, numbers that are indicative of his freakish athleticism and defensive prowess.
Although the Bucks inked Zaza Pachulia to a three-year deal "worth approximately $16 million," per ESPN, Henson's skill set is far more diverse and valuable to a young team in search of an identity like the Bucks.
Ekpe Udoh is in the conversation as well thanks to his raw physical tools, but his game isn't nearly as refined as Henson's.
Position Battle: Derrick Williams vs. Dante Cunningham
With Kevin Love back, Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham will duel for the right to be his backup.
Williams showed encouraging improvement during his sophomore season, scoring 12 points per game on 43 percent shooting and 33.2 percent shooting from deep. And believe it or not, that mark of 33.2 percent ranked third on the Minnesota Timberwolves last season.
Battling with Williams is the 26-year-old Cunningham, who averaged career-highs in the scoring (8.7 points) and rebounding (5.1) columns last year.
Cunningham is arguably a safer play, but Williams offers far more upside, particularly if his shooting efficiency continues to improve in Year 3.
New Orleans Pelicans
Position battle: Austin Rivers vs. Anthony Morrow
To say Austin Rivers was underwhelming during his rookie season would be an understatement. However, there were encouraging signs, even if just for a brief period.
In the nine games that he appeared in after the All-Star break, Rivers shot 50.9 percent from the field and 40 percent from three, marks that were drastic improvements over his pre-All-Star percentages of 35 percent and 31.6 percent.
In an ever-crowded backcourt, Rivers will be fighting for minutes behind Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday, and his main competition will be Anthony Morrow.
A five-year vet, Morrow has been true on 42.4 percent of his career three-point attempts, which makes him a safer option than the shaky Rivers.
While the former Duke Blue Devil is a better ball-handler and more diverse option from a skill standpoint, Morrow could really aid the Pelicans' offensive attack by spreading the floor and knocking down open threes while Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis and friends receive the bulk of defenses' attention.
New York Knicks
Position Battle: Amar'e Stoudemire vs. Andrea Bargnani
This may not even be a battle if Amar'e Stoudemire can't quickly recover from offseason knee surgery, but for now it's a matter of preference for Mike Woodson at power forward.
Although it's still unclear if Woodson will go small or big with his starting five on opening day, Andrea Bargnani is seeking to turn his career around in the New York Knicks' spread attack that values threes over all else on the offensive end.
The Italian big is presented with a fantastic opportunity to revive his status as a reliable three-point threat. But he will need to show that he's also up to the task of playing semi-competent defense. If he can't accomplish that task, minutes may be just a tad harder to come by as the season progresses.
For Stoudemire, it's all a matter of health. While a minutes cap appears likely, he was insanely effective in 23.5 minutes per game during the 29 regular-season contests he appeared in last season, averaging 14.2 points and five rebounds en route to a PER of 22.1.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Position Battle: Reggie Jackson vs. Jeremy Lamb
This will become more of a conversation when Russell Westbrook returns from his knee injury during the regular season, but it appears as though Reggie Jackson is already starting to pull away from Jeremy Lamb in the race to be the Oklahoma City Thunder's sixth man.
Jackson's preseason showings to date have been impressive, particularly in the team's matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers in Manchester, England. In 36 minutes, Jackson recorded a game-high 29 points and threatened to post a triple-double by adding eight assists and six rebounds to his final tally. Relying on his improved free-throw-line jumper, Jackson hit 10-of-17 shots in the win.
The story was different for Lamb, who played a team-high 40 minutes on the night. Shooting just 2-of-12, Lamb failed to show patience or a consistent stroke on the perimeter, jacking up contested threes on several occasions. For the game, Lamb finished with a line of seven points, four rebounds, two assists, three steals, two blocks and a game-high five turnovers.
While one game certainly won't dictate the outcome of this race, it demonstrated that the two young guns are at considerably different stages in their development.
Position Battle: Victor Oladipo vs. Arron Afflalo
Whether Victor Oladipo becomes the Orlando Magic's point guard of the future remains to be seen, so for now his primary competition will be the incumbent starter at shooting guard, Arron Afflalo.
It would be a minor surprise to see Afflalo booted from Orlando's starting five one year after leading the team in nightly scoring (among players who appeared in more than 30 games), but Oladipo possesses a rare blend of athleticism and speed that Afflalo does not.
However, in order to become a trusted NBA shooting guard, Oladipo will need to prove that he can hit from mid-range and long-range consistently, something Afflalo has done over the first six years of his career.
Oladipo's time as a starter is coming, but for now he seems better suited to come off the bench as a high-energy contributor.
Position Battle: James Anderson vs. Tony Wroten
If I told you James Anderson and Tony Wroten were fighting for a back-end rotation spot with a contender, perhaps that would be more believable. But the fact remains that these two are currently the top candidates to start at shooting guard for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Yes, Wroten's skill set is that of a more traditional point guard, but his 6'5'', 205-pound frame make him a candidate to start alongside Michael Carter-Williams in Brett Brown's backcourt.
It may be a long shot given the deficiencies in Wroten's jump shot, but it's not like the Sixers are in a rush to win games anytime soon. However, Wroten did drop 20 points on 5-of-13 shooting (4-of-8 from three) in the Sixers' preseason loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The more conventional option is Anderson, the former Big 12 Player of the Year, who spent the past three seasons bouncing around between San Antonio and Houston. For his career, Anderson has appeared in 116 games (a career-high 51 in 2011-12) and started six of them.
With a more polished shot than Wroten, we'll give the slight edge to Anderson, who by no means has a lock on the starting gig.
Position Battle: P.J. Tucker vs. Gerald Green
The Phoenix Suns aren't the most intriguing team, and their position battle is no different.
Vying for starting small forward responsibilities are P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green, neither of whom is the long-term solution the team will eventually need.
For now, though, Jeff Hornacek will have to make do with the hand he's been dealt.
Tucker, who made 45 starts for the Suns a year ago, shot 47.3 percent from the field, although his shooting percentages were all below 40 percent farther away from the rim, per HoopData.
The other candidate is Green, who shot a markedly worse 36.6 percent from the field in his first and only season with the Indiana Pacers. And while both are career journeymen, Green possesses more intriguing athletic qualities and a better three-point shot (35.1 percent for his career).
Portland Trail Blazers
Position Battle: Meyers Leonard vs. Thomas Robinson
The Portland Trail Blazers' starting frontcourt appears set with the tandem of LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez, but the role of first big off the bench is still up for grabs.
Jockeying for position in that race are two products of the 2012 draft class: No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson and No. 11 overall pick Meyers Leonard.
Neither player made much of a splash during their rookie season, as Leonard was hindered by injuries and Robinson failed to find his footing with the Sacramento Kings before being dealt to the Houston Rockets.
Leonard's athletic gifts make him an extremely intriguing prospect, but he needs to significantly improve on defense and in the rebounding department to be deemed worthy of such a role. If a reliable mid-range jumper were to become a part of his repertoire, that wouldn't hurt his cause either.
Robinson has all of the tools to be a role player for years to come, but he needs to tailor his game to the low block and move away from mid-range jumpers, a shot he struggled to hit last season from several ranges, per HoopData.
Position Battle: Greivis Vasquez vs. Isaiah Thomas
The Sacramento Kings have two qualified point guards attempting to secure a starting job, and each has a legitimate case.
Greivis Vasquez, the newcomer, is built from the conventional point guard mold, with strong court vision and a knack for setting up teammates in appropriate spots. Vasquez can offer the Kings some refreshing stability a year after leading the NBA in total assists.
Isaiah Thomas, the team's other option, is the scorer Vasquez is not. The Kings' starter for 62 games last season, Thomas averaged a career-high 13.9 points on 44 percent shooting, including 35.8 percent from three.
The starter will all depend on Mike Malone's preference, but one would have to think that since Thomas is a scorer first and passer second, he would work better as a spark plug off the bench.
San Antonio Spurs
Position Battle: Nando De Colo vs. Cory Joseph vs. Patty Mills
Like other elite title contenders, the San Antonio Spurs don't have many ongoing high-profile position battles.
And if there's one thing we know about the Spurs, it's that they don't often lack depth.
Tony Parker, as always, will assume his starting role at the point, but it remains to be seen who will take the reins as his backup.
Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo and Patty Mills all logged minutes for the Spurs last season, with De Colo appearing in the most games of the trio. However, Joseph started the most games, nine, of that group, and he played 9.6 minutes per game in the postseason, far more than either Mills or De Colo.
Based on last season, the Canadian point man seems to be the leader, although it must be noted the two options behind him aren't too shabby either.
Position Battle: Steve Novak vs. Landry Fields
Which former New York Knick will see more minutes in a reserve role this season for the Toronto Raptors?
That's one of several personnel questions facing Dwane Casey and Co., and the decision would seem to be a matter of preference at this point.
The Raptors finished 26th in the NBA last season in three-point field-goal percentage, hitting just 34.3 percent of their attempts as a team. Reliable three-point shooting should be a checklist item for Casey as he sifts through different lineup combinations, meaning that Steve Novak would be the more logical choice as a primary reserve on the wing.
For his career, Novak is a 43.3 percent shooter from deep. He led the NBA in three-point shooting two seasons ago with a mark of 47.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Fields provides more defensively, but his offensive production was beyond lackluster in the first year of a three-year deal that will pay close to $20 million. In his inaugural season North of the border, Fields scored 4.7 points per game on 45.7 percent shooting from the field. He also shot an abysmal career-low of 14.3 percent from three.
Position Battle: Alec Burks vs. Brandon Rush
Believe it or not, Utah Jazz head coach Ty Corbin is experimenting with bringing Alec Burks off the bench in the preseason, a role he could certainly thrive in.
In Utah's 101-78 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, Burks was replaced by Richard Jefferson in the starting lineup, but that didn't have any bearing on his performance. Burks was an efficient 6-of-10 from the field, scoring 14 points and doling out four assists in 22 minutes of work.
While it remains unclear if Jefferson will continue to see regular minutes, it's not great news for Brandon Rush, who's coming off of ACL surgery and looking to capture a role in Corbin's rotation.
If you ask me, Rush is far more deserving of regular minutes than Jefferson, particularly if Corbin is looking for his starting unit to space the floor.
Position Battle: Trevor Ariza vs. Otto Porter
Like several of his fellow lottery picks, Otto Porter is fighting an uphill battle to earning a starting spot. And what's making the climb even more difficult is that the No. 3 overall pick is dealing with a strained hip flexor, one that has held him out of practice for several days already.
Along with the nagging injury, last season's starter at the 3, Trevor Ariza, is standing in the way of Porter and a starting gig.
Hailing from the three-and-D school, Ariza has plenty to offer Randy Wittman's starting five on both ends of the floor.
Whether he produces up to his potential is another story.
Last season, Ariza managed just 9.5 points per game, but the silver lining is that he posted the highest three-point field-goal percentage of his career, converting 36.4 percent of his looks from deep. That mark was a full three points higher than his previous best (33.4 percent in 2009-10).
For the time being, Ariza's experience and three-point shooting give him the slight edge over Porter, who will undoubtedly come into his own once he's back at full strength.