The preseason is under way, and with it comes several clues to what lies ahead in the 2017/18 campaign. Many of these will be red herrings, but others will be signs of things to come. Here are some early observations from the 2017 NBA preseason.
Chris Paul, James Harden off to a good start
One of the biggest moves of the NBA offseason, Chris Paul to Houston set tongues wagging. Some are confident the Rockets will prosper while others think they won’t be able to share the ball. Well, they’re off to a good start. The two combined for 17 assists in less than 30 minutes each in their first game together as the Rockets downed the Thunder 104-97. With Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, and Eric Gordon doing their thing by shooting 14-22 from deep, and P. J. Tucker proving a useful addition with his energetic all-round game, the Rockets are looking pretty potent.
Carmelo Anthony, Paul George combo works
The Thunder may have gotten beaten by Houston, but it was no fault of their two big-name recruits. With Russell Westbrook sitting out, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George led the team. Melo dropped 19 points in 20 minutes, while PG-13 filled the stats sheet with 15 points to go with five boards, two assists, a block and a steal in just 26 minutes. When Westbrook returns, look for these numbers to improve further.
Point Blake? Maybe not
With the departure of Paul, discussion has surrounded who will be the primary facilitator for the Clippers this year. Many have expected Blake Griffin to take on significantly more responsibility in the area this year, but his preseason to date suggests the opposite. Griffin has just four assists in two games.
Milos Teodosic appears to be the front runner to run the Clippers offense after posting 13 assists in two games. Paul’s replacement, Patrick Beverley, has six. Lou Williams has racked up nine in his two games, while Austin Rivers dished out three in his solitary game. Seems they have plenty of options, and perhaps Griffin isn’t as high up the pecking order as many expected.
The 2017/18 rookie class can seriously Ball
The preseason is a good chance to get a first look at the new class of rookies in a competitive NBA-level setting, and the early signs are that a few of them will make a serious impact this season. The highest profile recruit of the year, Lonzo Ball, has started as we know he can, dishing out 12 assists in his first two games. More impressive still is his hustle, with a chase-down steal on Andrew Wiggins a highlight.
Josh Jackson, the number four pick, also made an impression in his sole outing to date. Coming off the bench for Phoenix, he dropped 14 points in 15 minutes, proving he has a serious ability to score. Likewise, De’Aaron Fox, the number five pick for Sacramento, impressed. Fox came off the bench and finished with 16 points on 7-8 shooting in just 17 minutes as the Kings edged out the Spurs. Not a bad start.
Ben Simmons impresses, 76ers remain an enigma
Simmons and his 76ers have been one of the most talked about teams during the offseason, with a list full of highly talented, injury-prone youngsters creating a lot of uncertainty around how they will fare. That continues to be the case after an 89-110 defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Simmons showed what he can do in his first preseason outing, finishing with seven boards, nine assists and just one turnover in 22 minutes of action. Several of the assists showed his remarkable abilities as a facilitator. Yet, his Achilles heel is his shooting. Simmons did nothing to dispel this criticism, going 2-8 for just six points against the Grizzlies.
Meanwhile, top draft pick Markelle Fultz struggled in shooting with 2-13, while Joel Embiid sat out the game. Looks like we’re no closer to knowing just how the season will pan out for the unpredictable Sixers.
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