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NBA Draft Kit: Position Battles (Pacific Division)

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors were the darlings of last year's playoffs, when their stable of sharpshooters and unmatched home court advantage gave the Spurs all they could handle in their second-round series. However, the team entered this offseason with a concerning salary cap figure, so they let key bench contributors Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry walk and also executed a salary dump trade with the Jazz. With their newfound cap space, the Dubs made one of the biggest splashes in free agency by signing swingman Andre Iguodala. While Iggy's skill-set should fit Golden State well, his presence will force coach Mark Jackson into some difficult decisions concerning the minute distribution of his talented group of wing players.

Wings: Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green

As one half of the "Splash Brothers", Thompson should start alongside Stephen Curry in Golden State's backcourt and is one of the leagues most promising shooting guards after averaging 16.6 points and 2.6 three-pointers per game on 40 percent shooting from deep last season. Thompson's minutes increased to 35.8 per game in his second year, which is probably a safe projection for his playing time moving forward. At small forward, Harrison Barnes really blossomed as his rookie season unfolded, evidenced by the 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds he averaged in 12 playoff games, but Andre Iguodala is the favorite to start. The former Nugget's career average of nearly five assists per game should work wonderfully in creating open looks for Curry and Thompson, and his versatility will surely be welcomed as well, probably allowing him to play 30-35 minutes per night. Fortunately for Barnes, the Warriors were among the new contingent of teams to utilize smaller lineups last season, so he should continue to see some minutes at power forward, likely earning him around a total of 25-30 minutes per night. Along with the aforementioned trio, Draymond Green's solid play as a rookie should warrant minutes, further complicating coach Jackson's distribution of playing time.

Los Angeles Clippers

After being one the league's deepest teams last season, the Clippers enter the upcoming campaign with another loaded roster for new head coach Doc Rivers, who has a history of limiting his rotation. Rivers, a former point guard, should love working with Chris Paul, widely regarded as the league's best at the position, but won't have the talented Eric Bledsoe to coach, since the Clippers used his increasing value to acquire the wing combination of J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley this summer. With Redick and Dudley, Rivers faces questions with how to distribute minutes between Los Angeles' rotation of wing players.

Wings: J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes

With Chris Paul's supreme penetration ability, Redick, a career 39 percent three-point shooter, figures to thrive from the amount of open looks he'll see. Also, given Jamal Crawford's effectiveness as a sixth-man, Redick will be handed the starting shooting guard position and should play around 30 minutes per game. On the other hand, Crawford is capable of playing with Redick, so he should be handed a similar workload and continue to be one of the league's best pure scorers. Jared Dudley can also play shooting guard, but with Redick and Crawford on the roster, he should predominately see time at small forward, where his impressive career shooting percentages (47.3 on field goals, 40.5 on threes) bode well. Dudley will be backed-up by Matt Barnes, who was one of the Clippers' most valuable players a season ago. Noted for his defense and athleticism, Barnes will provide a great bench spark for around 20 minutes per night, while Dudley should see closer to 25.

Los Angeles Lakers

Times have certainly been much, much better in Los Angeles. After acquiring both Dwight Howard and Steve Nash ahead of last season, the Lakers barely managed to make the playoffs, but doing so came at the expense of Kobe Bryant's Achilles. Although Bryant is said to be remarkably far ahead of schedule in his recovery process, Los Angeles still needed to bring in some serviceable players to hold them over until the Black Mamba returns to form.

Kobe Replacement Committee: Nick Young, Jodie Meeks, Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry

This is an ultra-entertaining group of players, but for mostly all the wrong reasons. In Nick Young, the Lakers get a player who should test the limits (and patience) of head coach Mike D'Antoni's free flowing, run-and-gun offense with his historically poor shot selection and preferred one-on-one play. The Los Angeles native tends to have a knack for keeping both teams in a given game due to his inconsistent offense, but should enjoy playing around 25-30 minutes per night for a coach who shares his lack of defensive concern. Jodie Meeks played 21.3 minutes per game for the Lakers last season and could match that this term, especially considering how his shooting stroke fits in D'Antoni's offense. The Lakers have a couple of 2010 lottery pick busts both joining the third team of their respective careers, to go with the one-dimensional duo of Young and Meeks. Wesley Johnson, the fourth overall pick, gives the Lakers someone who can average nearly 20 minutes and stay on the court because of his length and athleticism. Xavier Henry, the 12th overall pick and glorified towel-waver, rounds out this group of characters. Needless to say, Kobe has his work cut out for him this season.

Phoenix Suns

The Suns are clearly in rebuild mode. After hiring 33-year-old Ryan McDonough as their new general manager and Jeff Hornacek as head coach, there are plenty of new faces in the desert. McDonough's two biggest moves to date, drafting former Maryland center Alex Len and trading for point guard Eric Bledsoe, also create position battles that should raise the level of competition within the Suns' organization.

Point Guards: Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Kendall Marshall, Archie Goodwin

Returning for his second stint in Phoenix last season, Goran Dragic enjoyed a career year, averaging personal bests in minutes (33.5), points (14.7), assists (7.4), rebounds (3.1) and steals (1.6). However, despite Dragic's emergence, the Suns chose to add the up-and-coming Eric Bledsoe, who previously backed-up Chris Paul in Los Angeles. Now, the Suns tote two talented points guards deserving of starters minutes. Fortunately for them, both players can play shooting guard, so coach Hornacek will deploy Dragic and Bledsoe alongside each other in the starting lineup, probably earning each around 30-35 minutes per night. To continue the trend of point guards who can play shooting guard, the Suns spent one of their first-round picks this year on Kentucky's Archie Goodwin. The ultra-athletic Goodwin, who excelled in summer league play, may be best suited to play shooting guard, which works well because Phoenix also has 2012 first-round pick Kendall Marshall to play point guard. Neither Goodwin nor Marshall should play close to Dragic or Bledsoe's level of minutes, but they are in the mix for floor time nonetheless.

Centers: Marcin Gortat, Alex Len

On a team with few bright spots last season, Gortat was one of the Suns' most consistent performers, averaging 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. With those numbers being significantly less impressive than the 15.4/10.0 statline Gortat posted the year before and his contract expiring after this season, Phoenix went ahead and grabbed their center of the future with the fifth overall pick in drafting Alex Len. While the Len is currently returning from ankle surgery, he is expected to be ready for the beginning of the regular season, so a competition for Phoenix's starting center position ensures. Being that Gortat can also play power forward, both players should see near 30 minutes per game, but if the Suns trade Gortat at some point during the season, a highly-likely scenario considering the veteran's contract situation, Len's stock could be boosted months into his NBA career.

Sacramento Kings

Put simply, the Kings have some sort of notable competition at every position besides center, where DeMarcus Cousins' minutes are seemingly under no threat, leaving new head coach Mike Malone with plenty of decision to make concerning playing time.

Point Guards: Greivis Vasquez, Isaiah Thomas

Despite having Isaiah Thomas start 62 games and play reasonably well (13.9 points, 4.0 assists, 44 percent field goals) at point guard last season, the Kings opted to bring in another floor leader in Greivis Vasquez this offseason. One of the league's most improved players last year, Vasquez posted 13.9 points, 9.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 78 starts for the Hornets/Pelicans and is expected to earn Sacramento's starting gig ahead of Thomas, but both players should see significant playing time.

Shooting Guards: Ben McLemore, Marcus Thornton

The Kings rushed their card to the podium when Ben McLemore fell to the seventh pick of this summer's draft, but already possess a similar, albeit less gifted, player in Marcus Thornton. Both sharpshooters should fit into coach Malone's rotation, but McLemore, who has drawn comparisons to a young Ray Allen, figures to play starters minutes as he develops a more complete offensive game.

Small Forwards: John Salmons, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

Teammates for two seasons in Milwaukee, John Salmons and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are reunited in Sacramento and should battle for the team's starting small forward position. While neither player possesses much fantasy value, the difference in their skill sets (offensive/Salmons vs. defensive/Mbah a Moute) makes for an interesting competition.

Power Forwards: Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Patrick Patterson

With both players on the Kings' roster last season, Jason Thompson played 27.9 minutes per game, averaging 10.9 points and 6.7 rebounds, while Patrick Patterson saw a similar 23.2 minutes per game and averaged 8.0 points and 4.8 rebounds. That competition should remain intact. Carl Landry followed coach Malone to Sacramento this summer and adds another body at power forward for the Kings. In his 23.2 minutes for Golden State last season, Landry scored 10.8 points and pulled down 6.0 rebounds per game, so the Kings now have a three-pronged attack to sort out at the four spot.