Tony Allen, Boston
Boston is high on Tony Allen, but he may be stuck backing up Paul Pierce this year. Allen doesn’t have three-point range and is a mediocre ball handler. An active defender and useful player in the open-court, he doesn’t seem to make much sense in any combination with Pierce, Ricky Davis, Jiri Welsch, and Gary Payton. If Welsch takes most of the backup point guard minutes away from Marcus Banks, that would help Allen in the short term. In the long term, Allen’s development as a player may make Ricky Davis expendable.
Chris Duhon and Ben Gordon, Chicago
Chris Duhon won the backup point guard job this pre-season. Ben Gordon’s early struggles as an NBA 2-guard may limit the benefits of that victory. If Gordon is unable to prosper alongside Kirk Hinrich, the Bulls will likely give him minutes relieving Hinrich at the point. Duhon played his best alongside Hinrich this pre-season but may not get that chance very often when the games count because he was not the third pick in the draft. I don’t think giving Gordon the benefit of the doubt is a cynical decision. Of the two, he’s the one with a chance to be a good NBA player.
Luke Jackson, Cleveland
Without even taking into account the variety of skills possessed by LeBron James, Paul Silas has a lot of lineup options. Jeff McInnis and Eric Snow will share the point guard minutes and could play together as well. Lucious Harris will likely be the third guard, with Dajuan Wagner as an option if Silas wants to go small. If Silas chooses to go big, he could have either Luke Jackson or Aleksandar Pavlovic play with James. When matchups don’t favor a big lineup, Jackson will battle Pavlovic and Ira Newble for the spare minutes at small forward.
Shaun Livingston, Clippers
As would be expected, Shaun Livingston struggled in the pre-season. The adjustment from college to the NBA slows most point guards. Leaping from high school to the NBA as a point guard is ridiculously difficult. Livingston will get minutes backing up Marko Jaric and he’ll struggle in those minutes. We won’t know if Livingston is going to be any good for three years at least: right around the time that the Clippers will have to be making decisions regarding Livingston’s contract. That’s why it’s not a good idea to build a team by drafting high schoolers.
Jameer Nelson, Orlando
As I said above, it’s tough to learn how to play point guard in the NBA. Nelson’s adjustment will be hampered by a lack of minutes and touches. Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley, and Grant Hill will all have the ball in their hands more often than Nelson. The Magic’s lack of post players will force Nelson to figure out how to create his own shot on the job. Nelson stands a very real chance of being prematurely labeled a bust but he’s not Mateen Cleaves. Once Nelson adjusts, he’ll be a good point guard in the league. That won’t happen this year and might not happen with this team. Keep Steve Nash’s career path foremost in your mind.
Kevin Martin, Sacramento
Doug Christie’s got a bad foot, Courtney Alexander’s on the injured list having been told in no uncertain terms that he better start practicing or look for work, and the rest of the bench will be comprised of Maurice Evans, Matt Barnes, and Erik Daniels. Kevin Martin could get a lot of run in Sacramento this year. The opportunity to play will be beneficial but the opportunity to be a visible manifestation of the Kings’ collapse could be damaging.
Rafael Araujo, Toronto
The only thing standing between Araujo and a starting job is Loren Woods. Araujo may win the battle whether he’s ready to contribute or not.