Perhaps it's a hangover from summer league play. The event staged by NBA puppet master Warren LeGarie is held in Las Vegas, after all. Whatever the reason, the reputations of a lot of young NBA veterans are sparkling right now, bolstered by performances against a lot of guys who will never don an NBA uniform. That's not to discount the upgrades flashed by players such as Golden State's Kent Bazemore, Charlotte's Jeffrey Taylor or Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas. While we have to carefully consider the LVSL's lack of on-court structure and level of competition, some of these improvements portend breakout seasons.
In fact, some of the standout performers we saw in Vegas and Orlando will be pushing for bigger roles in the coming season, whether it's a regular rotation gig or a full-blown shot at the starting lineup. In some cases, such as Valanciunas, the coast is clear: The Raptors have already made him the franchise's featured big man, both in the present and in the near future. For others, such as Bazemore, the depth chart is more crowded. As good as he looked in Vegas, once training camp hits, Bazemore will be battling Toney Douglas for minutes behind the Warriors' dynamic backcourt duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Teams hunger for young players to push into featured roles. They offer more attractive pay-to-performance ratios, for one thing. Also, on a more ephemeral level, they offer a promise for a better future. Turning to Golden State again as an example, much of our excitement over a team that won 47 games last season is because of the very fact that so many of its key performers are early in their NBA careers. Would we feel the same about the Warriors if Harrison Barnes' minutes had gone to Richard Jefferson? With that in mind, let's look at some rotation spots across the league for which it's time to pass the baton.