I've been down on Raymond Felton since he was traded to Portland, primarily due to pacing. Felton plays his best in up-tempo systems like those played in Denver and New York; the Blazers are one of the NBA's most deliberate squads. But according to a number of reports, that could change this year. Nate McMillan is experimenting with some smaller lineups - including one with Nicolas Batum as the nominal power forward - and a faster-paced attack that plays to both Batum's and Felton's strengths.
Newly-acquired Jamal Crawford is expected to be the third guard in Portland's offense, backing Felton at the point and Wesley Matthews at the two. (I'm not optimistic about Crawford getting heavy minutes at the point; for all his talent, he's prone to some real head-scratching decisions with the ball.) Either way, Matthews' spot in the starting lineup seems secure for the time being.
Mareese Speights was one of the bright spots of the Eddie Jordan era in Philadephia and looked like one of the league's more promising young bigs. But he didn't get much run under Doug Collins. That could change this year, as Speights appear to be in line for a significant role backing Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes at power forward and center. There has also been some speculation that Speights could be a trade target - more on that in a bit.
It appears Raja Bell will be the starting shooting guard in Utah, at least initially. Theoretically, that job will go to Alec Burks at some point. Utah is using Mehmet Okur in the starting frontcourt alongside Al Jefferson for now, but that could be a way of showcasing Memo for a trade. Either way, look for Derrick Favors to get significant playing time in the Jazz frontcourt. CJ Miles is starting at small forward for now, but Josh Howard will reportedly take over there once his conditioning is up to snuff. That means Gordon Hayward and Paul Millsap are bench players for now.
Matt Barnes appears to have the inside track on the Lakers' starting small forward job, with Metta World Piece (the artist formerly known as Ron Artest) set to come off the bench. Darius Morris played will in his first preseason game, scoring 11 points with three rebounds and three assists off the bench. It's not outrageous to think the rookie could supplant Steve Blake as Derek Fisher's primary backup at some point.
The Clippers plan to use Chauncey Billups as their starting shooting guard; Billups should get lots of open looks playing alongside Chris Paul, though his assist totals could take a hit. Mo Williams will come off the bench.
Don't put too much stock in preseason performances, but Kemba Walker (18 points, plus 16) really outplayed DJ Augustin (7 points, minus 16) in Charlotte's first exhibition. I still have a hard time believing Charlotte will be able to use those two as a backcourt tandem… and I suspect Walker will be the more valuable of the two before the season is out.
The Grizzlies lost Darrell Arthur for the season due to a torn Achilles. Arthur was slated to be the primary backup to both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol; without him, they will have to rely heavily on journeyman Brian Skinner. This could be motivation to jump-start trade talks and possibly try to deal O.J. Mayo for frontcourt depth. (Enter Speights? Or maybe one of Utah's spare bigs? The Jazz haven't had a decent two in forever...)
With Jeff Green sidelined for the season (heart surgery), the Celtics will have to rely on Marquis Daniels to back up Paul Pierce. Sacramento voided Chuck Hayes' contract after a failed physical, which leaves JJ Hickson and Jason Thompson in line for more significant roles, though the Kings could look to bring back free agent center Sam Dalembert as well.
Ramon Sessions will likely open the season as Cleveland's starting point guard, with rookie Kyrie irving coming off the bench initially. Daniel Gibson is slated to be their third or fourth guard behind Sessions, Anthony Parker and Irving.
Timofey Mozgov didn't get much run after arriving in Denver, but according to a number of reports he's penciled in as a starter, even after the team re-signed Nene. Arron Afflalo finally re-signed there as well, and will probably be option 1a (after Danilo Gallinari) in a pretty good offense.
Sleeper alert - the Mavs have signed forward/center Sean Williams. A good-to-great shot-blocker, Williams could become a poor man's Tyson Chandler in the middle of the Dallas defense.
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