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Latest News, NBA / Sep 30, 2010 / 4:15 pm

Top 10 NBA Training Camp Position Battles

(Ryan Hurst, twitter.com/nba_photos)

In the NBA’s offseason, coaches are just like fantasy owners: Tinkering with their roster at home like kids would arrange and re-arrange battalions of plastic Army toys, to the point where some already have a rotation in place by the time training camp begins.

Brand-new Golden State Warriors coach Keith Smart, for example, said he has his lineup in place less than a week into camp: Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Dorell Wright, David Lee and Andris Biedrins. Meanwhile, other coaches will use camp to let players compete for jobs. Whether it’s a Lottery squad in rebuilding mode (Minnesota) or a reigning conference champion not satisfied with second-best (Boston), some coaches won’t determine their lineups so easily.

With tip-off for the regular season less than a month away, here are the Top 10 NBA position battles:

D.J. Augustin vs. Shaun Livingston (Bobcats, PG)
Not too long ago Augustin was the obvious pick to succeed Ray Felton as Charlotte’s starting point guard. But when Felton left in free agency over the summer, Augustin still hadn’t to make a convincing enough case for himself. Coach Larry Brown was clearly less enamored with D.J. last year than he was in the Texas product’s rookie year, as his minutes, points, shooting percentages and assists all dropped significantly in Year Two. Now he’s in a competition with Livingston, who was signed over the summer after a promising late-season stretch with the Wizards. Livingston is notorious for his injury issues, but when he’s healthy he brings size and good passing instincts to the PG spot.
Projected winner: Augustin

Evan Turner vs. Thaddeus Young (76ers, SG/SF)
The hype surrounding Turner all but vanished when he struggled in the Vegas Summer League. Andre Iguodala was among those who defended Turner — noting that Philly’s squad in Vegas was pretty stacked by summer league standards — but the effects seem to have lingered. When he was drafted No. 2 overall, Turner was projected to step right into a featured role in the 76ers’ offense. But early in camp he’s been coming off the bench while Young starts at small forward and Iguodala plays the two.
Projected winner: Turner

Shaquille O’Neal vs. Jermaine O’Neal (Celtics, C)
As covered yesterday. And it will get even more interesting when Kendrick Perkins returns from injury in a few months.
Projected winner: Shaq

Jawad Williams vs. Joey Graham vs. Jamario Moon (Cavaliers, SF)
Only interesting because it determines who will officially replace LeBron James. The winner becomes the next Pete Myers. The losers? Anybody who gets stuck watching the Cavs on League Pass.
Projected winner: Moon

Shawn Marion vs. Caron Butler (Mavericks, SG/SF)
This one is unique because the players are so different. Having Butler on the floor gives Dallas a solid No. 2 scorer behind Dirk Nowitzki, but Marion allows Dirk to work on the perimeter because he can defend power forwards and rebound like a four. However coach Rick Carlisle chooses to play it, Dallas will have one of the best benches in the League.
Projected winner: Marion

Tayshaun Prince vs. Tracy McGrady (Pistons, SF)
He’s been saying the right things to the media, but please believe T-Mac still thinks he can be a starter and a star in Detroit. We’ve seen how Rip Hamilton reacts when he gets benched, so T-Mac’s best bet is to attempt to snatch Prince’s job at small forward. Tayshaun is the rock of the Pistons, although he’s not the lock-down defender he used to be. McGrady outshines him as an offensive playmaker, but still doesn’t have anyone’s trust that he can hold up for an entire season.
Projected winner: Prince

Joel Anthony vs. Udonis Haslem vs. Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Heat, C)
“Other Guy” status is on the line. Because D-Wade or LeBron can initiate the offense average 9-10 assists per game easily, it’s not so important who wins the PG battle (between Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo), but more crucial who is left standing as Miami’s starting center. Defense wins championships, and especially in the East, where even Miami’s star trio will have to go through Dwight Howard and Boston’s group of bigs. Anthony is the most athletic and best shot-blocker of Miami’s center candidates, Big Z has the best offensive and rebounding instincts, and Haslem is the Miami mainstay with whom D-Wade is most comfortable.
Projected winner: Anthony

Martell Webster vs. Wesley Johnson vs. Corey Brewer (Wolves, SG)
Early indications are that Michael Beasley will start at small forward, leaving the two-guard spot open for a trio of players who might all be natural threes. Webster is the best shooter and an improving defender, Brewer is the best defender and best athlete, and Johnson is the most versatile with the most potential. Johnson was also the No. 4 pick in the Draft, and teams usually like to showcase their shiny new toys.
Projected winner: Brewer

Wes Matthews vs. Nic Batum (Blazers, SF)
Although Matthews is the newcomer in Portland and just in his second year as a pro, he’s actually the more steady option next to Batum. Matthews is two years older, he’s built stronger, and he doesn’t have a history of injuries like Batum. He was also given a fat free agent contract by Portland after shining as an undrafted rookie in Utah. But the Blazers see loads of potential in Batum, who helps make their offense go with his speed and hops. Plus he’s a natural three.
Projected winner: Batum

Jeff Teague vs. Mike Bibby (Hawks, PG)
For a young team looking to take the next step up in championship contention, it doesn’t sound smart to replace a 32-year-old with proven playoff stripes (80 postseason games) and big-shot nerves with a 22-year-old still wet behind the ears. But Bibby’s defensive deficiencies and decreasing speed have opened the door for Teague, who has been new head coach Larry Drew’s pet project.
Projected winner: Bibby

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  • jimmhumm

    Livingston is on the last leg (no pun intended) of his career. He is a good defender and a true point gaurd at 6’7. If he hadn’t got hurt he would be a star by now. I wish hin luck. D.J can shoot very well and is some what of a poor man’s Mo williams (or a Foye Clone). THis one is tight. The starter for the heat at 1 and 5 is no big deal eaither way.

  • Stunnaboy09

    Hmmm

    DJ, Turner, Butler, Moon, Teague, Shaq, Prince Brewer and Batum

    Turner is the fing number 2 pick, and wasn’t pick on potential. No way he doesn’t start for Philly next year summer league means jack shit.

    DJ/Livingston is interesting. Look for both to split minutes.

    PLLEEAASSEEE let Teague start. bibby is horrible to watch on D.

    T-Mac is suited coming of the bench and play making for them. might start a few games if either one goes down.

  • j

    Nate mcmillian has alread said batum is starting, do your research. Dont be like SI and just make stories as if you were teh coach.

  • money

    haha i know comments are normally for trolls bashing on dime but i think this topic was well worth covering and discussing, so thanks dime

  • Sporty-j

    Haslem is the back-up PF odd the bench and Joel is the starting center so theres no battle there for sure and you would have been better doing the PG position instead(Chalmers/House/Arroyo). Cant speak for the other teams though, but it does not matter since they wont be competing for a ship anytime soon until maybe the end of this DECADE…

  • DVS

    TMac isn’t starting in Detroit. We’d need to have similar injuries to last season for him to even be considered.

  • heavy d

    Even if Bibby keeps the starting job PLEASE let Teague play most of the minutes so that he’s ready late in the year.

  • Lefty

    I think it might be worth mentioning James Harden vs. Thabo Sefolosha in OKC. Two guys that do very different things for a pretty good team.

  • http://dimemag.com/2010/09/top-10-nba-training-camp-position-battles/ wuffe

    We need to evolve as a team and take our lumps now., early in the year and let Teague start. Otherwise, remember the 2 blowouts in the playoffs, we didnt have an answer for their speedy pg and Teague would be just the answer.

  • Gar Richards

    Once again there are so many training camp battles for the NY Knicks but you don’t even mention them. Does everyone think that they are so insignificant. Well deserving because of the last 10 or so years but the Knicks will be relevant again fight for the Eastern Conference title Go Knicks.

  • BC

    Raptors at almost every position:

    PG: Calderon vs. Jack
    SG: Derozan vs. Weems vs. Barbosa
    SF: Kleiza vs. Weems vs. Julian Wright
    PF and C (2 spots): Johnson vs. Bargnani vs. Ed Davis vs. Dampier?

  • Knicksfan84

    LMAO, only Position Raptors and Cavs are debating are:

    Which league do we play in?
    NBA or WNBA

  • ricky ross

    if evan turner doesnt start its not a big deal hes a rookie. and he can also run point. haslem is a pf not a center. teague or bibby.. u fucking kidding me.and why is joel anthony on this list. hes only good for being on posters getting dunked on by d wills