Hype: Jordan Bell
Jordan Bell didn’t miss a shot in the Warriors’ preseason game Sunday. Granted, it was in garbage time. And, um, most of them were dunks:
Bell went 5-for-5 from the field, racking up 11 points, one rebound, one block, and two steals in just seven minutes of play. (Efficiency must be in the water in Golden State.) The second-round pick, whom the Warriors acquired from the Bulls for cash on draft night, has dominated in exhibition contests so far—
—breaking a franchise summer league record in one performance (16 rebounds), the night after he secured a five-by-five (five points, six blocks, five steals, five assists, 11 rebounds). We’ll have to wait for real NBA minutes to see if Bell’s skill can translate to the regular season. On a bench as deep as the Warriors’, we might be waiting a while.
Concern (or Hype???): The Pelicans Without Rajon Rondo
Rondo is estimated to miss about four weeks after sustaining a sports hernia. With the 31-year-old sidelined, New Orleans will have to wait on the backcourt it envisioned when it signed him over the summer: Rondo at the 1 and Jrue Holiday shifting primarily to the 2, with both alternating bringing the ball down.
The Pelicans shouldn’t be too worried in his absence (read: any more worried than already necessary, after finishing the past two seasons under 35 wins with the best power forward in the league), since Holiday is already comfortable as a primary playmaker. Against the Bulls on Sunday, he was joined by E’Twaun Moore in the backcourt and has a capable backup in NBA CHAMPION Ian Clark, who also signed over the summer. Both Moore and Clark shot 37 percent from the 3-point line last season, which should give the Pelicans some desperately needed shooting.
Hype: Chicago’s Ball Movement
Fred Hoiberg has waited two years and 129 days for the Bulls to showcase this kind of ball movement. Chicago has spent the past two seasons using guards and wings uninterested in (or incapable of) Hoiberg’s preferred pace-and-space style of play. The five seen here—Jerian Grant, Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine, Justin Holiday, Robin Lopez—still don’t offer much of an upgrade, with a 26.4 percent career average from 3 among them, but don’t have the starpower of the Bulls’ core from last season to go against their coach’s wishes.
Will their willingness to run and gun carry over to the regular season, against defenses better than the Pelicans’? Maybe, if Lauri Markkanen’s outside shot proves to be worthy of the seventh overall pick, and if Zach LaVine comes back from his ACL tear early. But probably not—the spacing jig is up when defenses learn they don’t have to respect the shot. If there’s any real reason for hype here, it’s not the scheme, but that Hoiberg will finally have a team willing to listen.
Concern: Tom Thibodeau’s Happiness
At the end of what most coaches might call a successful preseason trip to China (one victory against the Golden State Warriors, one loss), Minnesota coach Thibodeau was asked if he was happy with his team’s progress.
“I’m never happy,” Thibodeau replied. Related: The coach also made the team practice not long after a 14-hour flight landed in Shenzhen last week. The Wolves ran drills in China during what would’ve been 4 a.m. in Minnesota. “You don’t want to lose a day,” Thibodeau told reporters.
“If you’re waiting on potential,” he said Sunday, “you’re waiting on losing. We can’t wait on potential any longer." Acquiring Jimmy Butler and signing veterans like Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and Jamal Crawford this offseason proves as much. Minnesota wants to be in win-now mode … while still banking on future stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins panning out. That’s what happens when you offer a maximum extension to a 22-year-old, with a 21-year-old next in line.
Then again, patience—like waiting a day, or an hour, to start practice after nearly a day in the air—has never been Thibs’s thing.