The NBA's regular season still is a week away. However, the NBA's newest supposed superteams have started test-driving their shiny new engines. The results, as you would expect in preseason, are mixed. But we already have a fascinating look into what we're going to be seeing from these squads this year.
With that in mind, here are quick looks at important trends and visuals from the Thunder, Timberwolves, Celtics and Rockets, along with other preseason notes from around the league.
Be warned: Before every single sentence that follows, say to yourself, "It's only preseason and it's probably meaningless, but ..."
The shocking thing when watching early OKC tape is seeing former defensive focal points being left wide open. Here's Paul George running with Russell Westbrook, but keep an eye out for Carmelo Anthony coming up in the trailer spot:
The biggest question for OKC has been whether Anthony will adapt and do the little things, if he'll move the ball, or if he'll just be the same player he was in New York. If you want to know what a great version of Anthony looks like, watch him defend in the transition post vs. Anthony Davis, snag the board, run the break and make quick decisions, leading to a secondary assist:
The Thunder's offense looks more layered than you'd expect. Westbrook has only played in one preseason game so far. In his stead, Raymond Felton has flourished with pin-down screens and using Steven Adams as the passer, like here:
If the Thunder are more complex than you'd expect, the T-wolves are a bit more simple. They're basically a blunt force instrument, pounding you with the kind of talent they have on board. Look at this wing pick-and-pop between Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns:
That's a reliable mechanism, but notice how no one else is moving on that play. There's good spacing for Minnesota, but their off-ball movement is pretty stagnant.
It's tough to evaluate the Wolves' defense, since they've spent two games playing the Warriors, which is not a fair bar to evaluate against. But there are definitely communication issues to iron out between the new guys.
Kyrie Irving is still the same guy. He's actively looking for his shot first and foremost coming off screens. Part of that is what the defense has given him. (Philadelphia dropped in pick-and-roll coverage, which is handing him points.) But there are no real signs yet of a wildly different Irving. He's not making any incredible shifts in making the Celtics more dynamic. He's simply getting buckets, which is what he does.
Notable, however, is the fact that he and Al Horford have some great chemistry already. Irving has found Horford on pick-and-pops and in transition. He's actively looking for Horford, and that's a great sign, given how often Irving outright ignored Kevin Love in Cleveland.
The Rockets played Shanghai. There's not much to take from it, I'm not going to lie from you, even for a preseason game.
OTHER PRESEASON NOTES
- I cannot stress to you how bad, even among preseason games, Kings vs. Lakers on Sunday was. Never watch that.
- That said, Kyle Kuzma impressed again, and continues to show that he could be a real impact player for the Lakers this season — which could make things complicated with Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr.
- D'Angelo Russell not only looks more confident and in control with the offense in Brooklyn, but is giving real effort defensively.
- Davis had a tough time covering Anthony at the four spot. Again, preseason, but something to watch this season when those teams match up.
- You know it's preseason because the Bulls' point guards look not-terrible. Kris Dunn and Jerian Grant both had strong weeks.
- Jordan Bell continues to impress with Golden State, as everyone continues to wonder how the rest of the league allowed the best team to draft a guy that talented.
- The Raptors are second in the league in 3-pointers attempted per 100 possessions. But they are shooting 27.6 percent from deep.