NBA preseason: What we discovered from Lakers, Celtics, extra

The NBA preseason wraps up on Friday, which implies one factor — it is practically time for the true marketing campaign to tip off! However earlier than we flip our consideration to Tuesday's opening video games, there was loads of motion and intrigue from coaching camps across the league.

Among the many highlights had been San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama making some spectacular performs, in addition to Damian Lillard making his Milwaukee Bucks debut alongside fellow famous person Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Elsewhere, we're nonetheless in wait-and-see mode on whether or not James Harden will get his want to be traded from the Philadelphia 76ers.

ESPN's NBA insiders look again at what stood out this preseason forward of subsequent week's tip-off.

Soar to a workforce:

Lakers | Spurs | Bucks | Mavericks | Warriors |
76ers | Celtics | Nuggets | Clippers | Nets


Fifth spot in beginning lineup nonetheless up for grabs

Continuity has been the Lakers' goal within the offseason, however the workforce has added gamers who give coach Darvin Ham some choices for his beginning lineup. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and final season's breakout star, Austin Reaves, had been no-brainers. Ham named D'Angelo Russell, benched on the finish of final season's Western Convention finals towards the Denver Nuggets, as his start line guard earlier than coaching camp opened up, which ended hypothesis about Gabe Vincent parlaying his NBA Finals run with the Miami Heat into L.A.'s driver at level.

However what about that fifth starter? ESPN reported this summer time that Davis advised Lakers administration that he wanted to play fewer minutes at the 5 after nearly completely enjoying the place final 12 months. The workforce took be aware, signing Jaxson Hayes and Christian Wood. It grew to become clear throughout the preseason that Davis would nonetheless occupy the beginning heart position, which leaves three candidates for the final spot:

  • The incumbent, Jarred Vanderbilt.

  • The brand new man, Taurean Prince, whom Ham himself described because the “quintessential 3-and-D participant.”

  • Rui Hachimura, whom the group raved about after he adopted up his sizzling postseason by coaching with James all summer time.

Vanderbilt suffered a bruised heel in L.A.'s first preseason recreation after offering his dependable model of on-ball protection, whereas going 2-for-3 on nook 3s — one thing he labored on all offseason. With Vanderbilt out, Prince stepped in, shaking off a forgettable preseason debut when he fouled out after capturing 1-for-5, by capturing 11-for-20 from 3 with 4 steals in his subsequent 4 exhibition video games.

Vanderbilt, who will probably be reevaluated Friday, has the within observe on the place. However Ham would have loads of confidence in Prince if Vanderbilt wants extra time forward of Tuesday's opener at Denver. That may bump Hachimura to a bench position, the place he may find yourself receiving Sixth Man of the Yr consideration if all goes as deliberate for the Lakers. — Dave McMenamin


NBA preseason: What we discovered from Lakers, Celtics, extra

Middle? Ahead? Determining Wemby's finest position

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stated that one of many “cool” questions the workforce wanted to handle at coaching camp was Victor Wembanyama‘s finest place. Would it not be on the heart spot? Would it not be one of many two ahead spots? Up to now, energy ahead appears to be the reply.

Wembanyama has began each recreation he has performed at energy ahead with both Zach Collins, the Spurs' beginning heart, or Charles Bassey subsequent to him. Typically the Spurs have gone with Wembanyama at heart, however he has largely spent his time on the wing.

On the opposite finish, Wembanyama has been guarded by a number of gamers. The Houston Rockets used six completely different gamers within the half courtroom Wednesday towards Wembanyama — Jae'Sean Tate, Jabari Smith, Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore, Reggie Bullock and Alperen Sengun — simply within the first quarter of Wednesday evening's recreation.

Experimentation will final lengthy into the season. And it will not simply contain the 7-foot-4 rookie. Popovich is already tinkering with the beginning lineup. In opposition to the Rockets — and to begin the common season, he introduced Wednesday, the workforce slotted 6-foot-8 Jeremy Sochan because the workforce's start line guard alongside Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Wembanyama and Collins.

Final 12 months's start line guard, Tre Jones, who signed to a two-year, $19 million extension this offseason, may come off the bench and permit the Spurs to shuffle the lineup much more. — Andrew Lopez

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NBA preseason: What we discovered from Lakers, Celtics, extra

Glimpses of brilliance from Lillard-Antetokounmpo duo

At shootaround earlier than his first preseason recreation as a Buck, Damian Lillard knocked down a 3-pointer from the emblem with Giannis Antetokounmpo standing behind him, his mouth broad open in amazement. The preseason provided a glimpse of what the Bucks' new famous person duo is able to and the way their partnership ought to make issues simpler for each gamers.

“I've by no means been this open,” Antetokounmpo stated after their preseason debut Monday evening.

Neither Antetokounmpo nor Lillard have ever performed with one other star that garners as a lot consideration as every of them command. Up to now the transition appears to be going easily. Off the courtroom, each have been impressed with their similarities, with Antetokounmpo calling Lillard “slightly model of me.”

In the meantime, defenses have despatched traps and double-teams at Lillard, which has given Antetokounmpo more room to assault the paint whereas opening up pictures past the arc. Nonetheless, Antetokounmpo has expressed a willingness to defer to Lillard to assist ease his transition along with his new workforce.

Lillard anticipates there will probably be a studying curve with this new partnership of their pursuit of a championship, however to date, the Bucks should be thrilled with the best way their two stars have clicked. — Jamal Collier


NBA preseason: What we discovered from Lakers, Celtics, extra

Abroad journey did little for Doncic-Irving chemistry

The Mavericks' preseason journey did not fairly go as deliberate. The hope was that Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving may use the three-game journey to kind the sort of chemistry that was troublesome to create on the fly after Irving's February arrival.

As an alternative, they performed solely a handful of minutes collectively throughout the preseason opener towards the Minnesota Timberwolves in Abu Dhabi, as each stars handled accidents throughout the journey. Left groin soreness sidelined Irving for the second matchup towards Minnesota in Abu Dhabi and for the Mavs' recreation in Madrid, however he returned to follow in Dallas on Monday.

Doncic, coping with a strained calf, jogged by way of the primary 5 minutes of the matchup towards his former workforce, Actual Madrid, however Doncic was dominated out for the ultimate week of the preseason. His standing for the season opener is unsure.

“We'll get these two, or these three, again collectively in some unspecified time in the future after they're wholesome,” coach Jason Kidd stated, together with offseason addition Grant Williams as a part of the Mavs' core trio. “However earlier than we left, they had been actually good.”

The Mavs had been actually good offensively with Doncic and Irving on the ground final season, scoring 119.2 factors per 100 possessions within the 444 minutes the duo performed collectively. However the Mavs went 5-11 in these video games, falling out of the playoff image due to defensive struggles.

Clutch execution and defensive connectivity require the sort of chemistry that can stay a piece in progress as Doncic and Irving reunite on the ground within the common season. — Tim MacMahon


NBA preseason: What we discovered from Lakers, Celtics, extra

Kuminga on a sizzling streak with Inexperienced out

The buzzword all through Golden State Warriors coaching camp has been “connectivity.” By means of their first 4 preseason video games, it seems to be prefer it suits. Sources inside the group advised ESPN that is probably the most coherent the workforce has been shortly, each on and off the courtroom.

The principle driver has been Chris Paul. Though the pattern has been fairly small. Paul has appeared snug playmaking whereas averaging 20.7 minutes and eight.3 factors per recreation in 4 appearances. It is nonetheless arduous to know what Paul's position will probably be — beginning or coming off the bench — particularly as a result of Draymond Green has missed all of camp and the preseason due to an ankle harm. (Warriors coach Steve Kerr stated Inexperienced is taken into account questionable for Tuesday's opener towards Phoenix.)

One silver lining of lacking Inexperienced this preseason has been elevated enjoying time for Jonathan Kuminga. The third-year ahead has taken full benefit. Kuminga leads the league in whole scoring (96 factors) throughout the preseason and thru 4 video games is averaging 24 factors per recreation.

There'll nonetheless be changes to Kuminga's position as soon as Inexperienced returns to the lineup. However because it stands, Golden State believes it's in a great spot heading into the common season. — Kendra Andrews


NBA preseason: What we discovered from Lakers, Celtics, extra

Harden turmoil hanging over squad with title hopes

There ought to be a whole lot of causes for optimism across the Philadelphia 76ers. They've the league's MVP in Joel Embiid, the man who led the league in assists in James Harden, a precocious younger guard in Tyrese Maxey, an elite 1-2 administration combo in president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and coach Nick Nurse, and a roster filled with versatile gamers.

As an alternative, there was nonstop drama. Harden desires to be traded and has publicly called Morey a liar. Harden hasn't performed in a preseason recreation but and skipped two practices for what the team called a personal matter.

Embiid hasn't performed in a single, both, after lacking Monday's win over Brooklyn due to an sickness. This is not precisely the place any workforce, not to mention one with championship expectations, desires to be heading right into a season.

However nothing is ever straightforward in terms of the 76ers. And so long as the Harden drama is hanging over this workforce, it is arduous to see how Philadelphia will have the ability to concentrate on what it hopes generally is a championship-winning season. — Tim Bontemps


NBA preseason: What we discovered from Lakers, Celtics, extra

An elite six-man rotation on either side of the courtroom

There's solely been temporary glimpses of Boston's high six guys — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford — all enjoying collectively. However even in these small alternatives, it has been clear that this workforce has a chance to be a devastating offensive machine.

All six gamers are reliable threats from 3-point vary. When they're all spaced out past the 3-point line, there are semi-truck sized lanes for Boston's perimeter gamers to assault off the dribble. Porzingis, specifically, provides an unstoppable lob menace, particularly with that spacing the Celtics have created.

And, not like a few of their different competitors on the high of the league, that group additionally has an actual probability to be elite defensively, too. There definitely are questions — sturdiness, potential decline from Horford, and depth behind these six gamers.

However the preseason has proven us that, if wholesome, Boston has each purpose to imagine this group is able to lifting it to the highest. — Bontemps


NBA preseason: What we discovered from Lakers, Celtics, extra

After ‘Summer season of Jokic,' bench depth a fear for the champs?

Nikola Jokic's summer time of celebrating the Nuggets' title gave us plenty of viral moments. However Jokic and the Nuggets did not stray too removed from the gymnasium this summer time.

Jokic has been extra vocal this preseason — an offseason problem from coach Michael Malone — and the two-time MVP has appeared good this preseason in restricted minutes. The identical goes for Jamal Murray, who has been challenged by Malone to grow to be a first-time All-Star and All-NBA performer this season.

Whereas Michael Porter Jr. was slowed down by an ankle harm, the Nuggets imagine the title-winning beginning lineup that additionally consists of Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stays one of the best within the league.

The query going through Denver is how will their new bench items look with Bruce Brown and Jeff Green gone? Christian Braun could have an even bigger position and the Nuggets want to Reggie Jackson to supply offense off the bench. Denver hopes Peyton Watson will have the ability to exchange Brown's influence, particularly defensively, and rookie Julian Strawther has shined along with his capturing within the preseason. — Ohm Youngmisuk


Amid Harden drama, Kawhi and George totally wholesome

Regardless of the continuing saga of whether or not James Harden would be part of from Philly, the vibes in Clippers camp have been maybe one of the best of the Kawhi LeonardPaul George period.

Leonard and George entered camp in uncommon kind — totally wholesome with no restrictions. With coach Ty Lue pushing his gamers with a concentrate on protection and conditioning, the Clippers may really feel a unique power on this camp.

Leonard and George had been all enterprise from the beginning with the Clippers in a pivotal prove-it season after falling within the first spherical with each gamers injured. “We have been having some sense of urgency,” Leonard stated. “I really feel like our depth stage has been slightly bit higher [than in the past] simply by enjoying arduous, although it is preseason.”

Russell Westbrook, in his first preseason with the Clippers, additionally has been establishing himself as a vocal chief. However the greatest query stays whether or not the Clippers can purchase Harden from the Sixers, though sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski this week that “a large hole” stays between either side. — Youngmisuk


NBA preseason: What we discovered from Lakers, Celtics, extra

Simmons aiming to thrive with no expectations

An intriguing query this offseason was whether or not Ben Simmons may remake himself right into a productive NBA participant. By means of a number of preseason video games, a minimum of, the reply is beginning to take form.

Simmons nonetheless has a number of offensive points: He cannot shoot, has bother on the free throw line and nonetheless seems to be hesitant at occasions attacking the basket. However, bodily, he seems to be significantly better after again surgical procedure, he is pushing the tempo in transition, establishing 3-point pictures for his teammates and holding up defensively.

Brooklyn's roster is well-suited to convey out one of the best in Simmons. It has a bunch of lengthy, switchable defenders. It has a whole lot of 3-point shooters Simmons can kick out to after collapsing the protection — lengthy certainly one of his finest attributes — or run with him in transition. It is a low-pressure state of affairs on a workforce with low expectations, an atmosphere the place Simmons will get an opportunity to only play and see what he can flip himself again into.

It is why Nets coach Jacque Vaughn stated Monday the one factor he desires to see from Simmons is a continued willingness to be aggressive, no matter what number of errors that creates. Simmons has proven to date that his offseason declaration that he might be this workforce's level guard is legitimate. Now, he ought to get this season to see how a lot he can construct upon this begin. — Bontemps

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