The NBA preseason traditionally causes little hype in the media, with all-stars serving limited minutes, it’s a showcase for both rookies and bench players to demonstrate their worth.
But a wave of highly anticipated recruits this season has led to an explosion in online publicity for the exhibition games.
It’s no secret that 6’6” power forward Zion Williamson is favourited to win Rookie of the Year, being the first pick for the New Orleans Pelicans in the draft lottery and averaging 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals in just four games this rookie hasn’t failed to impress. Curry, Harden and Westbrook failed to match his preseason stats with his 71.4% field goal average propelling his career off to an astonishing start.
Looking past the numbers though, it is evident Williamson’s defence needs some fine-tuning and everyone knows the regular season pressure will be far worse but there are a lot of game review hours ahead to prepare.
Dubbed one of the best preseasons in history, the 285lb North Carolina native is a dunking powerhouse on the court and is only predicted to get better, will anyone be able to stop him?
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20-year-old 6’3” point guard Ja Morant was picked second in the 2019 draft for the Memphis Grizzlies and is already showing plenty of promise on the court. Last season’s NCAA assists leader has not disappointed, averaging 7.7 assists in only 20.7 minutes of game time.
Morant’s handles are smooth and he has the athleticism to put up at least 20-points per night, with teammate Jonas Valanciunas revealing he signed his 3-year $45 million contracts because he believed in Morant’s potential.
Increasing pressure placed on Morant to up his defence by first-year coach, Taylor Jenkins, has left Morant more determined to focus on his negatives and hungry to improve with each coming game.
Have the Grizzlies put together the most underrated team in the NBA?
Wearing #9 for the New York Knicks, RJ Barrett made his preseason debut against the Wizards, racking up 17 points and 7 rebounds in 39 minutes of game time. Despite being listed as a small forward, Knicks’ coach David Fizdale admitted to experimenting with Barrett, putting him in point guard position multiple times already.
The Canadian was the third overall pick in June and it would be a loss to have him work off-the-ball all the time, with a 36.4 shot percentage from three Barrett is destined to make an impact on offence. With an uphill struggle against defenders in the summer season, will this rookie have the skill and mindset to make major improvements before the regular season starts?
The 6’5” shooting guard could be the answer to Miami Heat’s prayers after a show-stopping performance in their second game of the preseason against the Atlanta Hawks. Securing 14 points in the first five minutes, Herro has become a beacon of hope for a team that placed 26th in offence last season. Regarded as ‘untouchable’, the hype is real and all centred around the 19-year-olds shooting ability, averaging 16.3 points per game, shooting 54.5% from the field and 53.3% from the three-point line.
But the performance didn’t come as a shock to the Heat roster who have watched Herro put in consistent work over the offseason and at training camps.
Will Tyler Herro be Heat’s hero?
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It’s less than a week until the NBA regular season kicks off, with last season’s champs, the Toronto Raptors, facing the New Orleans Pelicans and the Lakers taking on the Clippers. Although too early to cast any long-term predictions, one thing is certain, all eyes will be watching this year’s rookies.