NBA News & Rumors: Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless Compete for Blazers' Starting SF Spot
Evan Turner and Maurice Harkless are reportedly competing for the Portland Trail Blazers starting small forward spot as the two players try to impress in the ongoing 2016-2017 NBA Preseason Games.
Turner, 27, was signed by the Blazers on a four-year, $70 million deal in July after he became an unrestricted free agent at the end of last season. He was coming off a two-year stint with the Boston Celtics where he produced career-highs of 13.2 points, 1.3 steals, and 1.0 blocks in 35.7 minutes per game last season.
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Meanwhile, Harkless, 23, was given a four-year, $42 million extension also this summer after his rookie-scale deal expired at the end of the 2015-2016 season as well. He was one of Portland's premier bench players last season, averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 boards in 18.7 minutes of playing time per game.
ESPN indicated that when Turner was acquired, some analysts believed that he would be a shoo-in as the starting small forward of head coach Terry Stotts.
However, as the preseason goes deeper, Harkless has been getting all the starts, and it seemed like Stotts prefers his combination with the team's star backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
So far, Harkless has started in three of the Blazers five preseason matches, and he has been productive. Turner has started only once.
When asked whether he would stick with the starting lineup he utilized in the past two games when the regular season opens later this month, the coach was not ready to reveal his plans.
"You can read into it whatever you want," said Stotts. "When I'm ready to announce to you - I'd like to announce to the team first before I announce to anybody else."
Both Turner and Harkless played in all five preseason games with the former averaging 8.8 points, 3.6 boards, and 2.6 assists per contest. Harkless averaged 7.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game.
At the moment, it is a close call to predict which one of the two players Stotts will start in the upcoming season.