With the league officially back in action, we here at BBALLBREAKDOWN will be walking through the major training camp questions each team must address, continuing on to the Pacific Division.
Golden State Warriors
1. Who gets the final roster spot?
As the reigning NBA Champions with a pretty stable roster, the Warriors do not have many questions heading in to training camp. 13 guaranteed contracts and James Michael McAdoo likely becoming no. 14 means the team only has one roster spot left (at maximum) for Ben Gordon, Ian Clark, Chris Babb, Jarell Eddie, Tony Mitchell and Juwan Staten. One of the shooters (likely Clark or Gordon) has the inside position due to team need, but it appears to be a pretty open competition
2. Can Festus Ezeli establish himself as a rotation mainstay?
Eligible for an extension before November 2nd, Festus Ezeli needs to establish himself as the center in waiting by first cementing a spot in the rotation. He played well in the NBA Finals, but staying on the court has been a problem for the former Commodore. Considering Golden State’s success with Draymond Green at center, Coach Kerr may not even need to give heavy minutes to a second seven-footer, though he would be wise to save those small ball units for the playoffs to reduce strain on the DPOY runner-up.
Los Angeles Clippers
1. Who plays Small Forward with the starters?
Some focus on what player gets the starting spot, but the more essential question is who ends up with the lion’s share of the minutes with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. At this point in their careers, Lance Stephenson, Paul Pierce and Wesley Johnson all make more sense at positions other than small forward, but the Clippers’ current roster makes those the reasonable options, with the other two playing on a fascinating bench lineup.
2. Where does Josh Smith fit in the second unit?
Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford and whatever players do not get the starting small forward nod likely pick up a majority of the bench minutes, which puts Josh Smith in an unusual place. If all of those guys and Mr. Smoove have the spots, it likely means Smith will play a fair amount of center, unless Cole Aldrich cuts into someone’s time. The pre-season should provide a small window into whether that is feasible for Doc Rivers.
3. Will we see a return to form for Lance Stephenson?
A year and a half ago, Lance Stephenson nearly made the All-Star Game as a key contributor on the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference. A beyond horrible season in Charlotte made him expendable, but the Clippers could be the right landing spot. Stephenson should be the best swingman defender on the team and makes the most sense at small forward if he can clean up his shot selection.
Los Angeles Lakers
1. Will Byron Scott play the older Lakers together or split them up?
While Kobe Bryant and Roy Hibbert can be penciled in as starters, the Lakers could choose to commit to a slower-paced first unit by playing Julius Randle more with the second team and Brandon Bass with the starters. That decision could lead to some PR nightmares, but having Randle playing uptempo with more long-term Lakers makes the most sense looking towards the long term. That same logic could apply to D’Angelo Russell as well, potentially.
2. What position does D’Angelo Russell defend?
The Lakers have a ton of lineup permutations in the backcourt with Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams, Kobe Bryant and others vying for time. While ball handling responsibilities can shift from possession to possession, Russell’s early defensive assignments will send a signal about how they see him as a pro.
3. Who makes the team?
With just 12 guaranteed contracts, the Lakers have three roster spots which could go in a lot of different directions. Tarik Black, Marcelo Huertas, Jabari Brown, Robert Upshaw and a returning Metta World Peace all have an argument to make it, but Jonathan Holmes and Michael Frazier III have larger guarantees than any of those five.
1. What is happening with Markieff Morris?
Phoenix’s only clear-cut starting caliber power forward has been on the outs with the team since they chose to trade his twin brother in a salary dump in July. While Morris has been saying the right things since the start of camp, his strong statements after the trade show that he still has plenty of feelings about what happened. Barring a hugely successful trade, the Suns need Morris at the top of his game to compete for a playoff berth.
2. Where does TJ Warren fit?
Forward TJ Warren played well in Summer League, but his lack of three-point range makes it hard to put him above a low rotation player despite a clear need at small forward. Some improvement defensively would help his case significantly since the team’s shooting guards and power forwards are not well-suited to sliding over.
3. Who plays backup Point Guard?
It looks like the Suns will start two natural PG’s in Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, but the next best primary ball handler is probably veteran Ronnie Price. Staggering Bledsoe and Knight’s minutes seems likely, but we still have to see it since Knight only played in 11 games after becoming a Sun at the trade deadline.
1. Who starts next to DeMarcus Cousins?
Most people see DeMarcus Cousins as a center, but the Kings spent serious resources to bring in Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein, who both defend opposing bigs as well. George Karl’s options are to go large with either of those two, or aim for more shooting from the complementary frontcourt spot with Rudy Gay or Omri Casspi. The team’s lack of swingman depth makes Gay an intriguing but overly ambitious option. Moving him over creates a space without someone capable of filling it.
2. What Rajon Rondo will we see?
At his best, Rondo can be a destructive force on defense capable of running an NBA offense. Despite still being under 30, it has been a few years since that two-way player showed itself in the league. The Kings have a second point guard in Darren Collison who started most of last season, but a rejuvenated Rondo could propel them to greater heights if he still exists.
3. Will Marshall Henderson make their pre-season games watchable?
Marshall Henderson became one of the most polarizing players in college basketball during his time at Ole Miss. After playing mostly in Qatar last year, Henderson gets his first shot at the NBA with the Kings. The former SEC Tournament MVP will definitely entertain and could raise some eyebrows in October.
Previous: Central Division