NBA Training Camps: 10 Most Intriguing 2013 Camp Invites

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2013

NBA Training Camps: 10 Most Intriguing 2013 Camp Invites

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    Every year, NBA teams sign a number of free agents to non-guaranteed contracts in anticipation of training camp. Some of these players stick around, but most don't. 

    But not even the inevitability of cuts right around the corner can dim the ray of hope shining on (or from) these 10 players.

    Each of the following enters their respective teams' training camps with an opportunity to make the regular season roster for a variety of reasons.

    The two biggest factors? How they fit, and what they need to do to stick.

    All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.

10. PG Darius Morris, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Darius Morris was a solid distributor in college, averaging 6.7 assists a game as a sophomore at Michigan. But he never spent a ton of time on the floor as a Laker, playing behind Derek Fisher and Steve Nash.

    If he makes the final roster for Philadelphia, he'll still be a backup. But on a team clearly aiming toward the summer of 2014, opportunities abound.

    Why He Fits: Rookie Michael Carter-Williams has been handed the keys to the car right from the outset. But the learning curve for an NBA point guard is steep, and if MCW sinks instead of swims, another youngster like Darius Morris might get a shot.

    The two main draws for Carter-Williams leading up to the draft were his size and pass-first mentality. At 6'4", Morris may be two inches shorter, but his wingspan is still slightly longer. Also, his assist average in college was only about half a dime shy of MCW's.

    Morris has also shown massive improvement to an important aspect of his game while in the NBAhe's hit 37 percent of his three-point attempts in the pros, compared to just 22 percent in college.

    How He Can Stick: More than perhaps any other team in the league, the 76ers have spots that are up for grabs, and Morris could snag the role of backup point guard.

    The strides he's already made are promising, but he needs to continue to improve as a shooter. Philadelphia could use someone with some range behind Carter-Williams.

    It's a skill that will almost certainly be an issue for the 76ers rookie, who hit less than 40 percent from the field during his sophomore year at Syracuse. 

9. PF Joe Alexander, Golden State Warriors

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    Joe Alexander making the regular season roster for the Warriors is a long shot, but it would be pretty big news within NBA circles. Everyone loves a good comeback story, and this one would be huge.

    Alexander was the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft, but he appeared in just 67 games over the next two years.

    He's bounced around since then, playing abroad as well as in the D-League. He was pretty successful in his last long-term stint in the D-League, too. During the 2010-11 season, he averaged 20.2 points and 8.9 rebounds for the Texas Legends.

    Why He Fits: The Warriors already have plenty of depth, but Alexander could be an interesting addition if he finally shows some of the skill we thought he would before being drafted.

    As a combo forward, he could battle Draymond Green for minutes. Some are pretty high on Green as some kind of point forward, but his production did nothing to back that up. He averaged 2.9 points and 0.7 assists while shooting less than 33 percent from the field.

    How He Can Stick: Golden State is pretty well stacked in terms of perimeter offense, so Alexander's best shot to make an impact will be inside.

    Andrew Bogut and David Lee's bodies have been through plenty of injuries, and the Warriors might need some extra bangers inside who are willing to fight for rebounds and loose balls.

    Alexander probably won't ever be the scorer he was at West Virginia or in the D-League, but he can use his length and athleticism to become a great hustle guy.

8. C Fab Melo, Dallas Mavericks

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    Fab Melo has logged just 36 minutes of NBA action since the Celtics selected him in the first round of last summer's draft. And in the last couple months, he's been traded to the Grizzlies, released by the Grizzlies, and then signed by the Mavericks.

    So why should anyone be intrigued? Well, it should be for the same reasons Boston took a shot at him with a first-round pick. Defensively, Melo has the potential to make an impact.

    In 2012, he was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, after averaging 2.9 blocks in just 25 minutes per game. And that ability to protect the rim translated to Melo's time with the D-League's Maine Red Claws, where he averaged 3.1 blocks in 26 minutes.

    Why He Fits: Dallas has been starved for a defensive presence inside since the departure of Tyson Chandler in 2011.

    Mavs fans are hoping Samuel Dalembert can fill that role, and all indications are that he can. Dalembert is a per-minute beast on the boards and around the rim on defense. Last year in Milwaukee, he averaged 13 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes.

    But he's averaged over 30 minutes a game for just two of his 11 NBA seasons and appeared in only 47 games last season. He'll need plenty of relief over the course of the year, and that is where Melo can help. 

    How He Can Stick: Melo will have plenty of competition in Dallas's frontcourt, where he'll be battling Brandan Wright, DeJuan Blair and Bernard James during training camp.

    To give himself any chance against those three, Melo has to continue to be a pest around the rim on defense. But more importantly, he has to show that he can at least be marginally effective on offense.

    A good defense-first center doesn't have to have a wide array of post moves or a great mid-range shot. But being a real threat to finish alley-oops and get a couple putbacks per game is the minimum for a real role.

7. SF Josh Childress, Washington Wizards

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    Josh Childress made a name for himself by leading Stanford to 26-straight wins and a top seed in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. And despite being the No. 6 overall pick in the draft that summer, Childress is still known best for his accomplishments in college.

    He showed some promise during his first four years in the NBA as a member of the Hawks, particularly during the 2006-07 season when he averaged 13 points and 6.2 rebounds as Atlanta's sixth man.

    But that year might seem like a lifetime ago for Childress. He's since played overseas, and for both Phoenix and Brooklyn. His stint with the Nets last year was his least successful, as he scored just 14 points in 14 appearances.

    Why He Fits: The Wizards are set at point guard with John Wall, and they are all set at one wing position with Bradley Beal. The other wing has been a weakness in Washington for a couple years, and that just happens to be the position Childress plays.

    He certainly doesn't have an inside track at starting or even playing significant minutes, but the team could use some depth behind three-point specialist Martell Webster and unproven rookie Otto Porter.

    How He Can Stick: Childress was a solid scorer in college, but it was his versatility as a rebounder and playmaker that set him apart. And with plenty of scoring already on the roster, the Wizards will be interested in those other things he did.

    If his defense can slow down Webster and Porter in training camp, and if his hustle can create some extra possessions for his teammates, Childress might be able to land a spot on the regular season roster.

    He's not likely to ever live up to his top-10 pick status, but he can still contribute to a team looking to get into the playoffs this year. 

6. PG Scott Machado, Utah Jazz

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    Over four years, Scott Machado became one of the best pure point guards in America while he played at Iona. He was second in the nation in assists per game during his junior year, and finished first in the nation as a senior with an average of 9.9 assists.

    He created plenty of offense for himself as well, averaging 13.6 points and hitting 40 percent from downtown during that last year in college.

    Why He Fits: Utah may have traded up in the draft to land Trey Burke this summer, but his underwhelming performance in the summer league has some fans concerned. Bringing Machado in to compete at point guard could help.

    The Jazz have been a little flat ever since facilitator Deron Williams left in 2011. Adding a pass-first point guard to the second unit could help get things back on track. 

    How He Can Stick: Machado needs to show that he's a threat to score at this level. As a rookie in the D-League last year, he averaged just 8.9 points while hitting 33 percent from three-point range.

    It's easier for defensive players to sag into and close off passing lanes when they know the ball-handler isn't a real threat to score. If Machado can make defenses respect his offense, facilitating for others will be more natural.

    Right now, it looks like John Lucas III will get the backup point guard job. If Machado can get after him the way he did opposing point guards in college, Lucas III's role won't be such a sure thing. 

5. PF/C Brandon Davies, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Brandon Davies put together a quietly dominant couple of years at BYU, averaging 16.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in 71 games as a junior and senior.

    As a back-to-the-basket center, he showed decent touch and a variety of moves in the post that suggest he's already more polished offensively than Clippers starting center DeAndre Jordan.

    Why He Fits: I'm not suggesting Davies will take Jordan's job. I'm not even saying he'll definitely make the team. But even a moderate offensive threat at center has to intrigue the Clippers.

    Jordan's points average has gone up in each of the last four years, but his inability to score outside of four or five feet clogs up the lane, and his career free-throw percentage of 42 percent makes him a liability in critical situations.

    And I'm not sure he's proven to be a dominant enough defender to warrant his struggles on offense.

    Davies at least offers a different look inside. 

    How He Can Stick: At 6'9", he may be a bit short, so Davies will have to use his length (7'2" wingspan) and a lot of activity to bother opposing opposing centers on both ends of the court.

    Doing so will be harder on defense, at least early on. Davies averaged a block per game as a senior, but he didn't do anything that would blow you away on that end.

    Sometimes it simply takes more effort; just look at Tyler Hansbrough. He's become one of the best interior defenders in the NBA and most of what he does is just a product of pure hustle.

4. SG Xavier Henry, Los Angeles Lakers

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    So many people are high on incoming Kings rookie Ben McLemore, a long, athletic wing from Kansas with a sweet stroke from three-point range.

    Anybody else have deja vu? Xavier Henry was another one-and-done Jayhawk who measured very favorably at the combine, hit 42 percent of his threes in college, and was selected as a lottery pick in the draft.

    Kings fans must be hoping McLemore's first three years in the NBA don't mirror Henry's, who's averaged 4.5 points in just over 14 minutes a game for the Grizzlies and Hornets.

    But he is just 22 years old, so it feels a little early to call Henry a bust.

    Why He Fits: The small forward spot is pretty much up for grabs in Los Angeles following the departure of Metta World Peace. ESPN has Nick Young penciled in as the starter for now, but he's more of a shooting guard, and current backup Wesley Johnson is pretty much in the same boat as Henry.

    In D'Antoni's system, Henry could rediscover one of the attributes that made him so intriguing coming out of college. At Kansas, he hit 69-of-165 three-point attempts in just 36 games. In the NBA, he's offered up just 45 attempts and has hit only 13.

    The Lakers will need capable shooters on the wings to provide space for Steve Nash (or Kobe Bryant) to run the pick-and-roll with Pau Gasol

    How He Can Stick: On top of becoming a real threat from the perimeter, the Lakers need defenders, and Henry has the length and athleticism to be a serious pest. 

    At the 2010 combine, he displayed a 6'11" wingspan and a vertical leap just under 37 inches. If he focuses the use of those physical tools on holding down opposing wings, he could become a valuable part of the Lakers' rotation.

3. PF James Johnson, Atlanta Hawks

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    James Johnson is one of the most versatile athletes in the NBA. You might call me crazy, but in terms of athleticism, he's on the same level as Josh Smith (or at least real close).

    The way Johnson moves on the floor and explodes off it does not seem possible considering his frame. He entered the league at 260 pounds and is agile enough to do stuff like this.

    He also possesses very quick hands and feet, a product of his extensive mixed martial arts background.

    Over the last few years, Johnson has used his quickness and explosiveness to establish a reputation as a solid defender, averaging 1.9 blocks and 1.5 steals per 36 minutes.

    Why He Fits: Josh Smith is in Detroit. And while signing Paul Millsap will help replace a lot of Smith's offensive production, it won't do much on the other end.

    That's where Johnson comes in. Over his career, you could make the argument that he's right on par with Smith as a defender (at least statistically).

    According to Basketball-Reference, "Defensive Rating estimates how many points the player allowed per 100 possessions he individually faced while on the court."

    For his career, Johnson's Defensive Rating of 104 is just one point higher than Smith's, and his average for steals per 36 minutes is about as far ahead as his average for blocks is behind.

    How He Can Stick: Johnson needs to really own the reputation of defensive specialist. If he makes himself indispensable in that role, he'll have plenty of time to worry about offense later.

    Developing his perimeter skills will help, too. If Johnson can capably play both forward positions, his minutes should go up.

2. SF Corey Maggette, San Antonio Spurs

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    Corey Maggette is just a few years removed from being a consistently dominant scorer. From 2007 to 2010, he averaged 20.3 points while shooting 48 percent from the field.

    It's been a struggle for Maggette since then, as he's played for three different teams over the last three seasons—a stretch that was capped off by a 5.3-point-per-game campaign that he put together for the Pistons last year.

    Why He Fits: The decline makes sense, as he's now entering his mid-30s. But if anyone can extract one last efficient run, it's Gregg Popovich, right?

    And with Ginobili so often hurt the last couple years, San Antonio could use a proven scoring wing off the bench.

    How He Can Stick: Over his entire career, Maggette was always one of the most talented players on whatever team he found himself on.

    The battle now is accepting that his days of leading the charge are over. This has proven to be a difficult task for many NBA superstars.

    If he puts his head down, works hard, and accepts whatever role Popovich offers him, Maggette could become yet another castoff-turned-steal for the Spurs organization.

1. SF/PF Michael Beasley, Miami Heat

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    Over the last few years, pretty much everything Miami's done has been intriguing. And watching Michael Beasley's downward spiral is like that video of a gruesome injury you don't want to watch but somehow can't take your eyes off.

    So it's no surprise to see the reunion of Beasley and the Heat organization make this list.

    Maybe the strong and mature support system led by Pat Riley, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade can help this talent finally get on the right course.

    If that happens, Beasley could end up being one of the bigger steals of the summer.

    Why He Fits: The No. 2 overall pick in 2008 had the two best years of his NBA career (at least in terms of efficiency) with the Heat from 2008-2010. Beasley can also provide depth behind both James and Chris Bosh.

    In terms of pure talent, he may be as high as the fourth-best player on the team behind Wade, James and Bosh. The discipline and structure of the organization could help Beasley's game on the court finally catch up to that talent level.

    How He Can Stick: Aside from kicking his issues off the court, Beasley will have to show that he's willing to take a back seat while he is on it. 

    Even if he gets back to playing as well as he did at Kansas State and during his first two years in Miami, he'll be no higher than the fourth option for the Heat.

    Accepting that might not be easy for Beasley, but trying to prove to everyone that he's was worthy of that No. 2 overall selection could lead to more ill-advised mid-range jump shots and a focus on scoring instead of defense and rebounding.