Surely enough, this preseason has been a fun-filled ride of excitement and deliberation. All in preparation for what we’ll call, “The Real Deal.”
This upcoming Tuesday, the NBA will finally commence their 70th season of existence, and this one is going to be one for the books. And for our own relief, we’ve just witnessed a sneak-peak of it.
For this column, I won’t just be evaluating players, but I’m also promoting and advertising what these individuals are capable of once the new season dawns. Of course it’s preseason, and that we’ve had a handful of our brightest stars sit-out games, but there’s some who have had something to prove early on. You’ve witnessed players pushing to crack the starting lineup, or sneaking into the rotation, or for some, even making the team’s final roster cut. But in this piece, I feel that these players here are going to have some strong seasons! I’m truly excited, and Tuesday cannot come fast enough.
Welcome back, basketball!
Terrence Jones: 2 games, 17.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 46% field goal, 33% three-point.
BIG Performance: 24 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists against the Hawks.
The 24-year old former Wildcat turned some serious heads this preseason. His rebounding wasn’t great, but this guy just knows how to play bigger than his size. Jones was taken 18th overall in the 2012 draft by the Houston Rockets, and oddly enough, he fell out of place due to leg and rib injuries. The more Houston loaded up on Power Forwards and Centers, it was looking more and more unlikely for the Rockets to bring him back — and ultimately, that was the conclusion.
The New Orleans Pelicans inked him to a one-year deal to bring in more firepower in their front-court, but it’s still a weird setting for Jones. Unfortunately, it just might be worse than the situation he was while being with Houston. He’s going to be fighting for minutes at PF/C behind rookie Cheick Diallo, Alexis Ajinca, and of course franchise centerpiece Anthony Davis. But after watching him these last couple of weeks, he’s proven that the ability for Jones to play to his strengths will never leave him. He can stretch the floor and also attack the paint. Definitely one of the more athletic players we have in our league. If Davis misses time, expect him to be the ultimate stop-gap.
Danilo Gallinari: 4 games, 17.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 58.8% field goal, 66.7% three-point, 87.8% free-throw.
BIG Performance: 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists in 129-128 loss to Warriors.
Gallinari really shot the lights out this preseason. He was 20-for-34 from the field, was a scorching hot 10-for-15 from long distance, and was 36-for-41 from the stripe. Preseason or not, you can’t deny how encouraging those numbers are, especially from a player who’s more than capable of heating up like this.
But it’s another year, yet another challenge for The Great Gallo. I feel that every player has that one “make or break” season in the NBA. That “Ah darn, this is it” season. You have to come to a point in believing if Denver would be willing to cut ties with Danilo after countless seasons of injuries.
It’s been so much of an investment for these trainers to get him back on the right track, but he only managed to play 53 games last season.
However, Gallinari did average career-highs with 19.5 points and 5.3 rebounds last season. But if this were to be another lost season for the Italian Forward, Denver could get plenty in return, especially if they were willing to package him. But Denver is reportedly happy with his progress, and believes that he can finally deliver his all-star caliber skills, at a healthy pace.
Myles Turner: 4 games, 12.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.2 blocks, 48.8% field goal.
BIG Performance: 17 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks.
Turner had such a promising rookie season. Moving forward into his sophomore year, he’s primed for an even bigger jump. Myles was dealing with a concussion throughout this preseason, but it didn’t get in the way of his play.
He shot 80% from within three-feet, and on the defensive side of the paint, he finished third in the league in blocks.
You really have to like the way this kid plays. He’s still just 20 years old, and has one of the best shooting touches in the 2015 rookie class. An inside-out big man with rim-protection? Myles was an absolute steal for the Pacers (11th pick), and I see a very long career in his future.
Serge Ibaka: 5 games, 16.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 54% field goal, 45% three-point.
Big Performance: 25 points (9-15 FG), 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks, and one three-pointer.
I’m loving Serge’s fit with the Magic. To see him finally be free and expand his game, is warming. As I’ve said earlier, his improvement from the three-point line is something Orlando is going to need moving forward. We already know how solid he is defensively, and I still believe he can improve his footwork with his strength and quickness. If he were to improve his low-post scoring, Ibaka would be the perfect go-to Power Forward in this era. (Image by Getty Images)
Jusuf Nurkic: 7 games, 12.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks, 44% field-goal, 73% free-throw.
Big Performance: 13 points, 9 rebounds, 9-12 free-throws.
Welp. With that being said, Jusuf has officially won himself a starting spot for opening night, according to Mike Malone. He’s been impressive to watch, and he was aggressive on the glass per usual. After playing just 32 games last season due to knee and ankle injuries, Nurkic just hasn’t been able to sustain a healthy young career at this point. He’s still just 22 years old, and the Nuggets are very high on him to become a solid big-man in the NBA. Nurkic is a hard-nosed big that can eat-up offensive rebounds, and also take up space on both ends. He also has very soft hands, and it showed in these seven games.
Just a quick thought, I’m very intrigued by the combo of Jusuf and Nikola Jokic. They’re both young, skilled young big-men with unloaded potential. That still might not be enough for Denver to compete, but it’ll be fun to watch.
Tyler Johnson: 11.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 55% field goal, 62% three-point
Big Performance: 15 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, one steal, and one block.
TJ has proved this preseason, that he’s going to become a very solid backup PG in this league. The Heat paid him, and every cent of that $50 million contract is going to pay off (No pun intended).
Tyler was pretty darn hot from the field. He’s known to be an instant offensive combo-guard, but I’m interested at how he competes with the second unit. The Heat loves his versatility, and if he continues to play with this kind of energy, the league will have something else to fear when they look at Miami’s bench.
Jabari Parker: 6 games, 17.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 52% field goal, 36% three-point
Big Performance: 21 points, 9-14 field goals, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block.
As I’ve said, Jabari is due for a big season. He’s looked stronger, quicker, and ready to roll after that ACL tear suffered in his rookie season. With Khris Middleton missing significant time, Jabari will have to be a bigger option offensively than he’s been. But I believe he’s more than capable of doing so. He just has so many ways to contribute, and scoring is a major one of them.
But in comparison to Andrew Wiggins, who is his draft-class competition and true high-school rival, Jabari isn’t that far away from catching up to Wiggins. And this season, he’s definitely going to prove that.
Kelly Oubre Jr: 13.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.7 steals, 49% field-goal, 35% three-point, 75% free-throw.
Big Performance: 15 points, 3 rebounds, one assist, 2 steals, one three-pointer.
If Porter or Beal miss any shape or form of time, it’s going to benefit Oubre Jr greatly. I believe this kid is starting to grow on me, and that he’s starting to become a lot more comfortable with his game. In this preseason, Oubre has shown some versatility, and vast improvement. And the only way he can grow on that, is with more minutes. I feel that if he continues to build up muscle and continue to attack the paint stronger, he could go a long way in this league.
Dion Waiters: 7 games, 12.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 47% field goal, 44% three-point, 78% free-throw.
Big Performance: 12 points (6-10 FG), 8 assists, one turnover.
I was very shocked at how Dion came into the Heat’s system, and how he fit in right away. But it’s very intriguing knowing that consistency has been the biggest adjustment in his young career so far. However, his game is so much more defined than what people give him credit for, and the potential is certainly there. Not just as a scorer.
Dion was setting players up, and making it really hard for defenses to guess what he’ll do. He was so valid at running the P&R and seeing the floor. It was just a true beauty to watch. He’s just going to really benefit the Heat, and what they want to do with their youth movement.
These performances were very well under the radar, and for sure, we’ll be surprised at some of these players who find their niche in this league. It’s what makes the NBA great.
Again. Welcome back, basketball.
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