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The NBA preseason is here! Between the short training camp (compared to NFL or MLB) and the preseason games, it’s a chance for coaches and front offices to sort through their rotations and rosters. While the NBA features much smaller rosters than NFL or MLB, there are still decisions to be made. We’re going to go through the biggest rotation and roster decisions each team has ahead of them over the next month or so. We’ve already covered the Atlantic Division, Southeast Division and Southwest Division teams.

Golden State Warriors

Will Chris Paul start? 

This is one of the most fascinating questions in the entire NBA. The Warriors acquiring Chris Paul was somewhat of a no-brainer. They turned Jordan Poole’s long-term deal into a pseudo-expiring contract that is far more tradable. But before a trade comes, if one even does, Paul is going to play for Golden State. But will he start or come off the bench?

It’s way too easy to assume either option is the answer. Paul has always been a starter. He’s played in 1,214 regular season games and 149 playoff games. Paul has been on the floor for the opening tip for all 1,363 of them.

On the flip side, the Warriors have a productive starting five that is pretty well-balanced positionally and with offense and defense. Why would Steve Kerr mess with that?

In the short-term, it seems like this question will be answered by Draymond Green being out. Green suffered an ankle sprain that may keep him out for the start of the regular season. That opens the door to avoid some awkwardness, at least early on.

But Green will be back. Then what?

Many have looked at Kerr’s regular starting lineup and decided that Kevon Looney is the least-accomplished Warrior and decided he’d go to the bench. But Looney is easily Golden State’s best rebounder, probably their best night-to-night interior defender (Green doesn’t bring it every night in the regular season anymore) and arguably their best screener. Shuttling him to the bench puts a ton of pressure on Green to do a lot on defense.

So, maybe Paul goes to the bench? That’d be a different role for him, but others have accepted such a transition as their career has gone along. Dwyane Wade, who is one of Paul’s good friends, came off the bench for the majority of each of his final two seasons. And he did it at roughly the same age Paul is now. And, finally, Wade didn’t exactly do it on a title contender in his final season, which made his sacrifice even more noteworthy.

Paul could help stabilize bench units, which have often bled points and leads during the Warriors title-contention run. And it would help Kerr keep Paul’s minutes in check, which should hopefully keep him fresher and productive into the springtime, when games matter most.

Either option will require a heavy dose of buy-in. From an established Warrior or from Paul. Maybe Golden State is at the point where someone will always be out with some sort of malady. That would also take care of the issue, without anyone having to be benched. But if this season goes the way the Warriors want, they’ll need everyone available. At that point, someone will have to sacrifice for the best of the team and a run at a title.

Will Brandin Podziemski play? 

Golden State’s bench has been a revolving door for several years now. Young players haven’t developed into rotation regulars as hoped for, while veteran signings have been pretty hit-or-miss. This season, the Warriors seem to have some pretty good options, especially on the wing. Gary Payton will see most of his minutes in an off-ball perimeter role. Moses Moody is knocking on the door of a bigger role. Cory Joseph has played off-ball quite a bit, and Jonathan Kuminga will see some minutes at the three.

Where does that leave rookie Brandin Podziemski? Probably on the bench, or playing for Santa Cruz in the G League. He’s got an interesting mix of all-around skills though. Despite not shooting it well at Summer League, Podziemski flashed his mix of scoring, rebounding and playmaking ability. He could bring a bit of everything off the bench.

But he’s a rookie and the Warriors have title aspirations. The key will be to work Podziemski in where they can. Golden State can’t continue to let former first-round picks sort of whither on the vine. They have to start developing some of them into real rotation players. Both Kuminga and Moody seem to be finally turning that corner, but that’s not a 100% thing. Former second overall pick James Wiseman never got there. Podziemski has skills that can help Golden State, but he needs to get a chance and to make the most of it. Otherwise, he’s going to be another guy that we’ll all just keep waiting on, like others before him.

LA Clippers

Are some veterans going to be out of the rotation? 

The Clippers have been lauded for their depth over the last few years. Most seasons started with it looking like LA had at least 10-12 guys who could play real rotation minutes. With injury and load management issues, the Clippers needed all of them too.

Now, things have started to swing in another direction. The Clippers increased Terance Mann’s role as last season went along, they added Bones Hyland for point guard depth at the trade deadline, and this summer the team traded for K.J. Martin to plus-up the frontcourt. The team also likes holdovers Brandon Boston Jr. and Amir Coffey quite a bit too.

Where does that leave vets like Nic Batum, Marcus Morris and Robert Covington? At least one of them, and probably two, aren’t going to see many minutes. Batum and Morris saw their roles lessened as the season went along, while Covington saw the fewest minutes he’s had in a healthy season since his rookie year.

With Clippers signaling that they won’t be nearly as aggressive with load managing their stars, minutes are going to be at a premium. If younger players are seeing those reserve minutes, the vets will be pushed to lesser roles.

Unless, of course, a James Harden trade saps LA of some of their depth. Then all bets are off and the rotation will need to be rebuilt on the fly.

Who is the backup point guard? 

The point guard position has been a messy one for the Clippers for a while now. Russell Westbrook came in during buyout season and stabilized the starting spot. But the minutes behind him remain a question.

Terance Mann has played a lot in the lead guard spot, but he seems ticketed for a bigger role in Ty Lue’s three-wing lineups alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Bones Hyland would seemingly be the answer, but his role was fairly limited after LA acquired him at the trade deadline.

The guess here is that Hyland gets the first shot at playing behind Westbrook. The Clippers can use the early months of the season to evaluate Hyland’s play, and if they need to upgrade, that will be a trade deadline priority. Mann will probably see some on-ball reps too, because there’s a comfort level there with him.

And, like the above question, a Harden trade could throw all of this out of whack.

Los Angeles Lakers

Who is the fifth starter? 

The Lakers have four starting spots spoken for with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell inked in. The fifth spot offers a lot of options, not just with players, but with style of play too.

It’s no secret Davis doesn’t like playing center. That could lead to a second big starting games, even if almost everyone seems to recognize that Los Angeles is at their best with Davis at the five. If the Lakers go this way, Jarred Vanderbilt is an option, as is Christian Wood or possibly Jaxson Hayes. Vanderbilt started a lot for the Lakers after being acquired at the trade deadline. Wood was an established starter before a messy season in Dallas. And Hayes would be one of those “start, sub out five minutes in and doesn’t return” guys in each half.

If the Lakers go a little smaller, Rui Hachimura or Taurean Prince seem to have the leg up on the competition. Hachimura reportedly prepared this offseason as if he’d start. And the Lakers paid him like a starting option. Prince has a long history of starting, and he’d bring a little more shooting to the opening group, along with decent size. Either would be an acceptable option, with Hachimura probably ahead of Prince.

If the Lakers go a lot smaller, they could slide everyone up a position and open games with Gabe Vincent. That shifts Russell into even more of a scoring role, where he’s more comfortable. And Vincent is best option for defending opposing point guards on the roster.

Ultimately, this is going to come down to Darvin Ham finding balance for his players and lineups. There are a lot of options, and this might involve some experimentation before Ham finds the right mix.

Who settles in as the primary backup shooting guard? 

As much as the Lakers have options for their fifth starter, they don’t have a lot of depth in the backcourt. And that’s sort of funny, considering this team was so guard-heavy last season.

All of the options are relatively unproven. Cam Reddish is on team number four in five seasons. He’s never quite put it together enough to hold down a regular rotation role. Max Christie is heading into his second season. His rookie year was fairly ho-hum, but Christie was productive in the G League and terrific in Summer League. He could be poised for a breakout year.

The other options are rookies Jalen Hood-Schifino and Maxwell Lewis. Hood-Schifino has primarily been an on-ball player, and he’s a really iffy scorer and shooter. Lewis looks like he’s ready to score and shoot, but he’s in over his head with everything else. If either of these rookies is playing major minutes for the Lakers, they were either better than expected, or a lot went wrong for Los Angeles.

The guess here is that Reddish gets the first shot, simply because he’s the veteran option. But Christie looks like he has the best mix of offensive skills, along with being a helpful perimeter defender. Look for him to win the role before long.

Phoenix Suns

Who is the fifth starter? 

The Suns have four of their starters locked in with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal and Jusuf Nurkic. The fifth spot is wide open, and it’s a key one.

Josh Okogie started the first preseason game and new coach Frank Vogel praised what he brings to the floor. In an opening group full of offense-first guys, Okogie can focus on defense and moving the ball. One challenge with starting Okogie is that the Suns end up being somewhat small. It’s not all that major of a problem, but it does task Durant with doing more as a pick-and-roll defender and on the interior. That could add wear and tear that Phoenix would rather avoid putting on him in the regular season.

If being that small proves to be a problem, Vogel could turn to Keita Bates-Diop to start. It went mostly unnoticed as he toiled for the unwatched Spurs, but Bates-Diop put up 51/39/79 shooting splits last season on decent volume. If that three-point shooting is even remotely real, the Suns got a steal for the veteran minimum.

Other options could include Yuta Watanabe, but his all-gas, no-brake energy is a huge plus off the bench. Nassir Little could be an option, as he’s played as a small four in the past. But he’ll need some time to settle in after being acquired right before camp started. Grayson Allen could also get a look, if the Suns really lean into the offense and want another ballhandler on the floor.

Bet on a mix between Okogie and Bates-Diop. They both provide defense, along with being content to play without the ball on offense. Those are desired skills, in a top-heavy lineup of offensive stars.

Who is the backup point guard? 

Phoenix is committed to playing without a pure point guard in the starting lineup. Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal have all been offensive hubs before, so that shouldn’t be a big problem. When Deandre Ayton was still with the Suns, it might have gotten tricky to make sure a bunch of score-first guys fed him enough touches. With Jusuf Nurkic, and his more-versatile skillset in town, that’s less of a worry.

Behind the openers, the Suns backup point guard spot remains in flux. Grayson Allen has played a decent amount on-ball, so he’ll be in the mix. Eric Gordon has primarily been an off-ball guy, but he could be in for a late-career expansion of his playmaking duties.

The best pure point guard option is Jordan Goodwin, who Phoenix did well to acquire in the Beal-Chris Paul swap. Goodwin fought his way to a standard contract by outplaying his two-way status. In a group of imperfect options, he’s the best point guard defender and the one with the most lead guard experience. Look for Goodwin to eventually emerge as a key rotation piece.

Sacramento Kings

How does the perimeter rotation shake out? 

The Kings are mostly running back last year’s highly successful group. Sacramento renegotiated-and-extended Domantas Sabonis, extended Harrison Barnes, and re-signed Trey Lyles and Alex Len. After breaking their playoff drought, the Kings prioritized continuity over flashy free agent additions.

The new faces in the rotation are both perimeter players. Sasha Vezenkov finally signed, after being drafted in 2017, and Chris Duarte was acquired in a salary-dumping trade from the Indiana Pacers. Both players should factor in immediately in helping to beef up the Kings wing group.

Vezenkov will likely form a three-forward rotation with Barnes and second-year stud Keegan Murray. All three players are relatively interchangeable, and each can play in tandem with the others. Vezenkov is NBA-ready with his shooting and scoring, so he’ll play a big role for the Kings this season.

Duarte will swing between the forward and guard spots. He’ll give Mike Brown a bigger option in the backcourt behind starter Kevin Huerter than he had last season. And if Sacramento downsizes and tries to spread things out, Duarte can slide up and play at the three. There are bench unit possibilities that feature Vezenkov, Duarte, Malik Monk and Davion Mitchell that have to make Brown giddy.

One last note: The additions of Vezenkov and Duarte probably don’t leave a lot of forward minutes leftover for Trey Lyles. That means Lyles primary minutes could come from backing up Sabonis. That’s probably fine, as Lyles can certainly handle that role as a stretch-five option.

Related: Who will be the backup center? 

This is somewhat of a first-NBA-world problem. Which is pretty cool for the Kings, if you think about where they’ve been for years. But it’s still something Mike Brown will have to sort out.

As mentioned above, Trey Lyles will probably have to play a good amount at the five, if the Kings are going to make sure to leave plenty of minutes to work in both Sasha Vezenkov and Chris Duarte. Lyles saw about 40% of his minutes at center last year, and that feels like it will increase this season. On nights when Sacramento needs to go bigger, he’ll swing over to power forward, but this year’s roster construction should see him playing center more than ever.

Alex Len re-emerged late last season as Domantas Sabonis’ primary backup. After playing mostly garbage time for the first five months of the season, Len saw 13 minutes per game behind Sabonis over the season’s final few weeks. He then featured regularly in the team’s first-round playoff series too. Len never took more than five shots in a single game, but he averaged 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks to close the regular season.

JaVale McGee was brought in after he was bought out by the Dallas Mavericks. McGee is heading into Season 16 and he wasn’t very productive in Dallas last year. But he’s got a good relationship with Brown and could have one more solid season of backup play in him. If nothing else, he’s a good locker room addition for the Kings.

Look for Lyles to get the bulk of the minimal backup minutes behind Sabonis (the Kings star plays about 34-35 minutes per game). McGee will probably get the veteran nod early on, when Sacramento needs a bigger option. But Len will be heard from before the season ends. He was too productive be relegated back to a deep bench role.