New Orleans Pelicans training camp: The guard battles

Devonte' Graham #4 and Jose Alvarado #15 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)
Devonte' Graham #4 and Jose Alvarado #15 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images) /

After a long and relatively quiet offseason, the New Orleans Pelicans are heading into training  camp next week and excitement around the team is at all-time high.

The roster is loaded, which head coach Willie Green thinks is a “good problem to have” as there will be plenty of internal battles and steel sharpens steel.

When is Pelicans training camp?

New Orleans Pelicans training camp starts on September 27th, and preseason tips-off on October 5th, so we won’t have to wait much longer to watch some hoops.

But before the games get real, the Pels will be fighting for minutes and roles in practice with spots in the rotation at stake.

New Orleans Pelicans training camp battles: The guards

Nowhere is this more evident than in the guard ranks, where only one spot is set in stone. CJ McCollum is going to be in the starting lineup and getting the most minutes of any guard, but other than that, everything else is up for grabs.

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The guards will not only be battling each other for minutes, but will also have competition from versatile forwards like Naji Marshall for the back end of the rotation. But for now, let’s focus on the guards.

Dyson Daniels vs. Devonte’ Graham

Both Daniels and Graham are combo guards who can play on the ball or off it. Graham is the better 3-point shooter (so far) but Daniels is bigger and more versatile defensively. Graham started to lose favor in the rotation last season, as he shot just 34 percent from 3-point range and doesn’t offer much else if he is not hitting shots at high rate.

If Graham can hit shots, he’ll get the minutes early on, as the Pels need 3-point shooting. But if he is hitting 34 percent again, I think we’ll see Daniels start to take those minutes soon, as he is a more dynamic player on both ends and the rumor around town is that he is much more ready to play than people might think.

Willie Green has shown he’s not just going to hand minutes to anyone, so this may just come down to who performs better in practice and preseason and whether the Pelicans need offense or defense in certain matchups.

Jose Alvarado vs. Kira Lewis Jr.

These two are the only true point guards the Pelicans have, as McCollum, Daniels and Graham are more tweeners who can play either spot. Alvarado clearly has the advantage here after playing well last season, both as a defender and setting up teammates for quality shots on the offensive end. Jose also played well in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers and looks like a guy who could make a leap as a 3-point shooter.

Far less is known about Lewis Jr. who is coming off a serious injury and may not even be 100 percent when the season starts. He was improving as a defender and playmaker himself before getting injured, and if he hadn’t, Alvarado may have never gotten a shot. The Pels also have to make a decision on Lewis Jr.’s contract option and will want to see him play as much as possible before doing so, whether that is with them or in the G-League. The backup point guard position is Alvarado’s to lose at this point, and it’s hard to see how Lewis Jr. is going to fit into the rotation moving forward.

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