Since this is the first preseason game, all assumptions on starting lineups are totally subjective.
Memphis enters their first preseason game with more questions than answers with their lineup. The only completely solid starter appears to be Rudy Gay at small forward.
Mike Conley, O J Mayo appear to have the inside position to man the other perimeter positions, but both are being pushed by their backups. The PF position is a complete mess with returning starter Hakim Warrick appearing to be the winner simply because he fits the youth movement better than Antoine Walker.
Center is a battle royal between two seven-foot big men in Darko Milicic and Marc Gasol. There aren't going to be a lot of questions answered in this game either.
Houston has questions as well, but not on the level of the Grizzlies. Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest and Yao Ming should all start, and likely Luis Scola and Rafer Alston as well, but their positions are still in play.
Shane Battier is best as a solid SF, but has shown the ability to play PF and SG when needed. That versatility and professional attitude seems to make him an ideal sixth man.
The rest of the lineup gets fuzzy for the Rockets. New Rockets Brent Barry, D J Strawberry and Joey Dorsey should find a way to get into the regular rotation along with Aaron Brooks, Mike James and the incredible Dikembe Mutambo.
Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Rafer Alston
Speed. That is the one common denominator in this matchup. Alston has been considered a fast point guard since his days on the playgrounds of NYC. Conley has the capacity to make Alston look slow however with his incredible burst of speed.
The problem is that Alston seems to have a clue how to use his speed. Conley is still learning how to use his most effectively in the NBA. If he has learned that important lesson, then his control with the ball could prove to be the difference.
Alston has never really adjusted to leaving the playground and playing with any restraint at the point in he NBA, despite nine years of NBA experience. Mike just hasn't shown that he has learned how to use his jets yet.
Welcome to the NBA, Mayo. You may have been on people's radar since seventh grade, but nothing you have seen yet can prepare you for T-Mac. McGrady can score at will, is an excellent passer and at 6'8" can easily do either over the diminutive Mayo.
T-Mac has the type of game Mayo wants but without the experience or the size. It will be a learning experience for O J.
Mayo's most reliable talent, defensive intensity, will be pushed to the limit, but he should be able to get his shot off against the lackadaisical effort from T-Mac.
Two of the most important players on their respective teams. Rudy Gay must remain healthy and produce at even a higher level than his sophomore season to prevent the Grizzlies from being a joke in the NBA. He is that important right now. If there is one player who could destroy the Rockets dream of a playoff series win then this is the man.
Sure, T-Mac and Yao are vital—but Artest has the mentality to make an entire team basket cases, especially coaches. Artest used to be among the best defensive SFs in the league, but his athleticism is on the decline now.
Hakim Warrick inherited the starting role after the Pau Gasol trade, and was nealy as effective on offense as Pau was. He averaged 16.6 ppg and 6.9 rpg as a starter—but amazingly, he was worse than Pau on defense! That won't sit well with new Assistant Coach Kevin O'Neill, and showing up to camp looking even lighter than last season won't help Hak improve on his interior game either.
Scola was a big surprise among the rookie class last year, and should be more comfortable this season. At 28, Scola is entering his prime and benefited a lot from Yao's injury last year. Scola does the dirty work on this team, and excels in that role.
Yao Ming was the Rockets last season, before another season-ending injury pushed him to the bench. When healthy there isn't a more complete center in the league. Yao averaged 22 ppg, nearly 11 boards and hit over 82 percent of his FT attempts last year. Throw in a couple of blocks a night as well as two assists and you can understand why people called Yao the best.
Darko, however, matched up well against Yao when they played. Darko fought injuries all season last year, but when healthy early was capable of keeping anyone in check. The problem was that Darko wasn't healthy very much.
Memphis has a lot of talent off the bench. Antoine Walker has looked good in camp so far. Marco Jaric is capable of starting in this league and his size makes him capable of playing 3three different positions. Kyle Lowry was arguably the best PG on the team last season.
The biggest question mark however is Marc Gasol. Pau's younger brother has been the biggest surprise of the camp so far, and he has the type of size that could give people fits this year.
Houston's bench is as scrambled as Memphis' but with a lot more experience. Shane Battier should become an immediate player in the league's Sixth Man of the Year contest but everyone else is a question mark.
Carl Landry had a tumultuous summer dealing with a new contract. Dikembe Mutombo is probably closer to 50 than 30, although no one knows for sure. Aaron Brooks is a dimunitive PG who packs a big game. Throw in Brent Barry, Chucky Hayes, Mike James, Steve Francis, and others, and Houston has a lot of weapons.
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