NBA

Toronto Raptors among several teams with intriguing positional logjams ahead of training camp

In the period that follows the chaos of summer but precedes teams reassembling for training camp in the fall, much of the NBA takes a moment to breathe. The respite is crucial to prepare for the grind of an 82-game season but it can also be the clarity teams need to identify imbalances in their rosters.

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Whether it's because a team signed a free agent at an already deep position, drafted a rookie who's buried on the depth chart or traded a star for too many pieces, these rotational logjams exist all over the league.

As the 2021-22 NBA season approaches, six teams, in particular, stand out as having positional logjams on their respective rosters. From the Toronto Raptors to the Los Angeles Lakers, take a closer look…

Toronto Raptors: Frontcourt

The Kyle Lowry trade indisputably marked the culmination of an era for this Raptors franchise. The young half of the core remains intact, but the retooling done - both by choice and not - over the past three years, has pushed this team into a new phase.

As a result, this roster isn't as balanced as it needs to be. Fred VanVleet, Goran Dragic and Gary Trent Jr. are a playoff-level backcourt but there is very little proven depth behind them. Instead, most of the resources have been poured into an already deep frontcourt rotation.

OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa, Khem Birch, Chris Boucher and Yuta Watanabe. Those are seven rotation-level players, each of whom has the potential or past production to be priorities this season.

Within that group, Anunoby, Barnes and Achiuwa have to be seen as foundational while Birch, Boucher and Watanabe are nice pieces but don't have the same potential. Siakam is the notable omission there. He's the lone Raptor All-Star remaining on this roster but he's also the piece that appears most logical to move to complete the reset.

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He doesn't hold the value he did a couple of years ago but, if the right team comes calling, Siakam could still bring back a star's return. It wouldn't be an easy move for the franchise to make. Nor is it one the team or Siakam have publicly indicated they desire; but the roster needs to be rebalanced and the rumours have been so pervasive that it's hard to ignore the smoke.

Siakam is not old. It's not a stretch to believe the 27-year-old could be a foundation of the next Raptor contender but this front office has never shied away from a move just because it is hard.

Utah Jazz: Forward

Utah only tweaked their 52-win roster this summer but they did add a couple of names to an already deep forward rotation.

Signing Rudy Gay for the $6 million Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception was one of the best value moves any team made this offseason. Gay has quietly become a great shooter in the latter half of his career and will be a nice compliment to what was already a very good bench unit.

While Eric Paschall struggled quite a bit in his sophomore season, trading a 2026 second-round pick for a player less than a year removed from a First Team All-Rookie selection - who happens to be one of Donovan Mitchell's best friends - is a no-risk flyer.

With Gay and Paschall joining Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O'Neale, this is one of the deepest forward units in the league. Each brings different complementary skillsets to the table but too many resources are being spent here while other areas of the rotation are still lacking.

There is almost no proven experience behind Mitchell, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson. Ingles can be Conley's de facto backup but, given rumours from earlier in the offseason, he seems like the most likely to get traded if the Jazz were to make a move.

Hassan Whiteside filled the hole at backup center but they still lack any real stretch-five option. Gay could be shoehorned into that role but that presents some real defensive questions for a team that always struggles to defend with Rudy Gobert on the bench.

This is undoubtedly a talented roster. It's one that could very well win the most games in the league for a second-straight regular season but it doesn't feel balanced enough to achieve this franchise's broader postseason goals.

Orlando Magic: Backcourt

Orlando's guard rotation has evolved quite a bit in the three years since the Shelvin Mack tweet.

Jalen Suggs became the face of the Magic's long rebuild the moment they took him fifth overall but he joins a very crowded backcourt. Cole Anthony is looking to build off a solid rookie campaign, RJ Hampton has only scratched his potential and the rehabbing 23-year-old Markelle Fultz now, incredibly, has almost twice as much NBA experience as the other three point guards combined.

Orlando's priority has to be to decide how they are going to prioritize those four players. They may already have an internal hierarchy but those decisions will dictate quite a bit about the direction of this team over the next couple of seasons.

The compounding factors in those evaluations, however, are Gary Harris and Terence Ross. Orlando's two off-guards are at decidedly different points in their careers than the point guards. Harris and Ross are valuable players in the right situation, but the likelihood either plays a role on the next Magic contender is slim. After all, this roster is, optimistically, a couple of years away from being a couple of years away.

Given the priority on development, struggling through three-guard lineups isn't a bad path forward. It gives the point guards NBA experience and preserves Harris and Ross's value for potential moves at the deadline. Orlando will have to address this logjam eventually but they are blessed with less urgency than some other franchises.

Los Angeles Lakers: Perimeter Players

A major priority for the 2019-20 Lakers was finding a fifth starter. By the end of the season, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope separated himself from the back and became that answer. Now, with an almost entirely new roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Frank Vogel will have to answer that same question once again.

The priority for that spot is clear: finding the right fit next to LeBron, Davis and Russell Westbrook. This is an unbelievably talented roster but pulling the strings to find the right floor-spacer to play in that spot is the key to reaching that sky-high potential.

Given those criteria, Malik Monk, Wayne Ellington and Talen Horton-Tucker seem the best candidates to start. Behind them, though, Kendrick Nunn, Kent Bazemore, Trevor Ariza and, of course, Carmelo Anthony will all factor into the rotation as well.

Ellington looks to be is the best fit in regards to spacing and usage rate but Monk may provide a higher ceiling. Bazemore is the safest 3-and-D option but Horton-Tucker's recent extension indicates the Lakers believe he's ready for a larger role.

This roster has only four holdovers from that 2020 title team - a championship they won just ten months ago. Evaluating the chemistry of a brand new rotation is an arduous job and will take time so there is no easy answer.

There are too many wings vying for too few minutes. The Lakers will find lineups that but that will inevitably push some of these players out of the rotation.

San Antonio Spurs: Wings

DeMar DeRozan is no longer a Spur, but somehow San Antonio's wing rotation got even more congested over the summer.

Lonnie Walker, Devin Vassell, Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson all have legitimate potential and look to be foundational pieces moving forward. The Spurs also gave Doug McDermott a significant contract and acquired Thaddeus Young significant this summer, two veterans capable of coming in to help this team win right away.

That's a complete rotation before even factoring in Chandler Hutchison and Al-Farouq Aminu.

This situation is pretty simple. The Spurs have too many good, but not great, wings, each of whom needs minutes and are being paid starter-level money or soon will be. Marginalizing any of the young players on the bench will hinder their development but playing them at the expense of McDermott or Young make them instantly negative contracts.

If any team needs to consolidate assets, it's the Spurs. This roster is crying out for a three-for-one upgrade trade but, for a team who famously doesn't make in-season moves, the clock is ticking.

Washington Wizards: Frontcourt

The Wizards find themselves in a very Spurs-y predicament. Like DeRozan, Westbrook's departure has left Washington with an overflow of solid players and not enough minutes to divide between them.

Despite some big names in this group, Rui Hachimura is the building block of the Wizards frontcourt. Given his potential and play over much of last season, he is the only member of this frontcourt guaranteed to play 30+ minutes a night. The remaining minutes are up for grabs.

Davis Bertans, Dani Avdija, Kyle Kuzma, Thomas Bryant, Montrezl Harrell and Daniel Gafford will all be vying for that time. They are all legitimate NBA players who the Wizards have invested considerable money, trade or draft capital into. Each has played well enough in their careers - or were drafted highly enough - to be justified in believing they deserve big minutes for a team whose primary goal is to make the playoffs.

With how much the Wizards have also invested in their backcourt - and the success they had playing small last season - there won't be enough frontcourt minutes to go around. Like previous teams on this list, it will take time to find the right lineup combinations to be successful but this will be a difficult needle to thread for first-year coach Wes Unseld Jr.

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