Knicks backcourt among top position battles to watch in fantasy basketball

How the Knicks backcourt fleshes out this season will have a big impact on Trey Burke's fantasy production. Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The longer you play fantasy sports, the more you realize so much of it is all about opportunity. The more chances a player has to accumulate stats, the better.

In football, it's about touches and targets -- players who possess the ball a lot, whether on the ground or through the air. In baseball it's about plate appearances -- players who hit near the top of the order and can regularly get one more trip to the plate than those lower in the lineup.

In hoops, it's all about minutes. You want guys who play and play a lot, and from that group you want players who can avoid injuries and stay on the court game after game.

NBA preseason can't reveal everything, but it can show us which rookies look like they belong in this league. Many of you surely recall the way Utah's Donovan Mitchell dominated in the early part of October last year.

Preseason can also be a strong indicator of how position battles might shake out. In many instances, the player who wins the starting job gains a decisive minutes advantage. In other cases, it might not be as meaningful, as the team shares minutes evenly between the starter and reserve.

If we're smart, we can use this exhibition time to get a glimpse of how the minutes might be dispersed once the regular season starts.

Here are the position battles that deserve special attention in the weeks and months ahead:

1. Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo, PG, Los Angeles Lakers -- LeBron James will handle the ball a lot for the Lakers, but when he doesn't, it will be largely fall on Ball and Rondo. Ball put in a lot of work during the offseason to fix his unusual shooting form, while Rondo joins the team after revitalizing his career in New Orleans. Rondo didn't come to L.A. to sit on the pine, but it's doubtful that he and Ball will share the court for long stretches. This one isn't so much about who wins the starting job as it is how coach Luke Walton will divvy up their time on the court.

2. Jamal Murray and Isaiah Thomas, PG, Denver Nuggets -- Murray is a rising talent in this league, as he showed right away as a rookie in 2016-17. He's also durable, having missed just one game in his first two NBA seasons. On the flip side of that is Thomas, who is entering a very important season, as he looks to return from hip surgery and show that he still is one of the best scorers in the league at age 29. He didn't sign with Denver to play 15 minutes a night. Unfortunately, he also still doesn't have a timetable as to when he'll return to the court, so this is one position battle where we won't be able to glean much from the preseason.

3. Pau Gasol and Jakob Poeltl, C, San Antonio Spurs -- Gasol is a future Hall of Famer who enters the season ranked 39th on the NBA's all-time scoring list, but his minutes dwindled to a career-low 23.5 per game in 2017-18 and, at age 38, he is nearing the end of a long, successful career. Meanwhile, Poeltl comes over from Toronto with DeMar DeRozan in the Kawhi Leonard trade and provides fresh legs; the 22-year-old averaged 6.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG and 1.2 BPG with the Raptors last season. Depending on how the season goes for the Spurs, there's a chance Poeltl could play more minutes than Gaso. If that happens, he would become an interesting player -- particularly as a shot-blocking presence -- in fantasy.

4. Robert Covington and Wilson Chandler, SF, Philadelphia 76ers -- Covington started 80 games for the 76ers last season and averaged 31.6 minutes along the way, both terrific numbers as far as fantasy is concerned. The addition of Chandler could change things, though. It's easy to overlook the fact that the 31-year-old versatile forward started 71 games and averaged 31.6 MPG with Denver last season. How those two share time will be an interesting development.

5. Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Dragan Bender, PF, Phoenix Suns -- The Suns brought in a few more key vets in Ariza and Anderson to join Tyson Chandler on a roster full of young faces. Still, on paper, it looks like the Suns are probably still a long shot to make the playoffs in the tough Western Conference. How Ariza, Anderson and Bender fit into the rotation along with fellow forwards Josh Jackson and TJ Warren will be interesting, because there aren't enough minutes to go around for all of them. Will Bender, the No. 4 overall pick in 2016, finally break through? Will Anderson play more than he did in Houston? All things to watch.

6. Trey Burke, Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, New York Knicks -- All three point guards averaged right around 21-22 MPG last season, and the big question is which, if any, will emerge as the main option for coach David Fizdale. Major questions exist for all three; shooting woes have plagued Mudiay throughout his career in Denver and New York, Ntilikina isn't a polished ball-handler and is more of a rangy combo guard and defensive stopper, while Burke flamed out in Utah and Washington before his impressive finish with the Knicks last season.

7. PJ Tucker, James Ennis III and Gerald Green, SF, Houston Rockets -- One of these veterans is going to take the starting spot vacated by Ariza, and whoever earns the biggest role on this high-powered Rockets offense is going to be someone to consider in fantasy. Yes, Carmelo Anthony and Marquese Chriss are also in the picture, but they'll likely settle into the role at the 4-spot, with Melo having the upper hand there.

8. Trae Young and Jeremy Lin, PG, Atlanta Hawks -- Suddenly it's been 6.5 years since Linsanity, and Lin has barely been able to stay on the court the past two seasons (36 games in 2016-17 and one game in 2017-18). He's coming off a serious knee injury too. This could be Young's job to lose, but the No. 5 pick this past June will have to take care of the ball and shoot better than he showed in the summer league in order to lock down the starting job.

9. Robin Lopez and Wendell Carter Jr., C, Chicago Bulls -- Carter Jr. shined in the summer league, looking like the next Al Horford. Lopez has all the experience and more size, but the rookie might be a better fit for today's game -- a versatile big man who can run the floor and do a bit of everything.

10. JaMychal Green and Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Memphis Grizzlies -- Green is one of the more underrated players in the league (10.3 PPG, 8.4 RPG last season), while Jackson -- the No. 4 overall pick this past June out of Michigan State -- opened eyes in summer league with his shot-blocking ability and well-rounded game. The rookie will demand minutes in his first season in the league.

Others to watch: