Tim Duncan is trying to sort out where he fits into the Spurs’ pecking order with the emergence of small forward Kawhi Leonard and the addition of power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com. With high-scoring Aldridge at power forward, Duncan is likely to spend more time in the high post and use his passing skills, Wright continues. “My role has changed a little bit this year,” Duncan told Wright. “I’m trying to figure that part of it out. But it’s fun to be out there. It’s fun to be with the guys that I’ve been with for so many years and some new guys that I’m learning.” Even before Aldridge joined the Spurs, Duncan’s role in the offense was reduced, Wright notes. His usage rate of 22.2% last season was the lowest of his career but his true shooting percentage of .560 tied his best since 2006/07, Wright adds.
In other news around the Southwest Division:
- International veteran Salah Mejri has fought his way into the mix for a rotation spot with the Mavericks, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports. The 7’2” Mejri gives the Mavs length at center and has displayed shot-blocking and rebounding skills during the preseason, Sefko continues. However, he needs to work on his strength, Sefko adds. Mejri received a guaranteed rookie minimum of $525,093 from Dallas.
- Power forward Jarnell Stokes seems to have fallen out of favor with the Grizzlies and that could help journeyman center Ryan Hollins gain a roster spot, Chris Herrington of the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. Stokes only played six minutes in the team’s preseason game on Sunday, while coach Dave Joerger has made a point of praising Hollins, Herrington continues. With Marc Gasol as the only other true center on the roster, Hollins might fill a bigger need, Herrington adds. Stokes has a guaranteed contract worth $845,059 this season, while Hollins’ $947,276 deal is not guaranteed.
- Rookie center Joshua Smith is getting extensive court time as he battles for the Rockets‘ final roster spot, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Injuries to big men Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Clint Capela have allowed Smith, who has a non-guaranteed deal worth $525,093, to make an impression on the coaching staff. “You look at a guy in my position – just trying to make the team – any chance you get to start, you have to take advantage,” Smith told Feigen. “I’m humbled they’re giving me a lot of opportunities. I just have to keep trying to make the best out of them.”