Basketball is back! Well, sort of. There isn’t a more enjoyable pastime than overreacting to preseason games with no consequence. The first games of the preseason brought us LeBron in purple and gold (it’s going to take time to get used to that image), rookies who are here to hype us up, and some old faces in new places. Here are some of the early takeaways and overreactions from the first glimpses of the 2018-19 NBA:
Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic Are the New Dynamic Duo
Our own Kevin O’Connor has a sensible Mavs post for you. That’s not what I’m here for. I just want to gawk at highlights of Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic doing things. Come with me:
Luka Doncic first bucket pic.twitter.com/2Z3Ptg2F8d— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) September 30, 2018
Yes, I’m fully aware that this game was against the Beijing Ducks, who are nowhere near as good as any NBA team Dallas will face this season, but still, you can see the potential.
Speaking of potential, watch DSJ fly:
New season, same Dennis! #NBAPreseason pic.twitter.com/LQHhd1tPft— NBA (@NBA) September 30, 2018
Then take a look at Doncic as he dices up a defense:
Luka seems good. pic.twitter.com/Jo8mCNPURk— Big Doncic Energy (@KirkSeriousFace) September 30, 2018
This is the first time we’ve seen Doncic play in an NBA uniform. He didn’t participate in summer league because well, you know, he had just come off playing in the EuroLeague championship. No big deal. There’s still a long way to go until we can say that the Suns, Kings, and Hawks made a mistake by passing on Doncic, but as Saturday showed, any time Doncic goes off or shows off, the teams that said “no” to him will get the James Harden side-eye.
Markelle Fultz Can Shoot Now (Sort Of)
In Fultz’s first preseason game, spectators were presented with … a mixed bag. The pros are clear: He’s back on the court now and playing at full speed. He attacked the basket, had an awesome chase-down block, scored 14 points (6-for-11), took midrange jumpers with newfound confidence, and hit a pair of free throws.
Markelle Fultz tonight: 14 points, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks & a pair of FTs.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) September 29, 2018
Tentative to shoot early on and has a long way to go, but the confidence to take a few jumpers is key and he's improved. He generally looked pretty good. A few quick highlights, including his shot: pic.twitter.com/LMRXfKdS8W
The cons: On free throws, there was still something off with his shooting motion. Also, Fultz didn’t take a single long-range shot, and neither did Ben Simmons. But while Simmons might be able to succeed without shooting from the outside, Fultz needs to develop a jumper to make his way. This game was against Australia’s own Melbourne United, and one would think that if there was going to be any game where Fultz and Simmons would let it fly, it would be this one. Alas.
Nick Wiggins Social Media Posts > Andrew Wiggins Post-Ups
Andrew Wiggins tried to post up on Klay Thompson. It did not end well for Wiggins pic.twitter.com/WpCfzppmXK— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) September 30, 2018
Cut to Glen Taylor, who holds a sheet of paper with a trade proposal for Jimmy Butler in his right hand. He watches the video above and stares straight into a mirror at his face—the one he made sure Wiggins saw before he signed him to a $150 million contract—in disbelief. He crushes the piece of paper in his clenched fist. Somewhere, Tom Thibodeau laughs.
Skinny Jahlil Okafor Looked Good Until ...
New Orleans added Jahlil Okafor this offseason, assumedly hoping it could imbue him with some life in a new role. Okafor did his part and looks to have come into the season in great shape. In the first preseason game Sunday, he looked spry:
New Orleans Pelicans’ Jahlil Okafor with the mans jam on his hometown Chicago Bulls!— Brandon Robinson (@ScoopB) October 1, 2018
*Insert Kanye Homecoming song * pic.twitter.com/mkBx7vdzvr
And then, he hurt his ankle.
Pelicans’ Jahlil Okafor exits the United Center with crutches and an ice pack around right ankle. pic.twitter.com/svexvD960D— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) October 1, 2018
Okafor is set to have an MRI on his foot Monday, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, and as much as it shocks me to even say these next few words in late September: the Pelicans better hope it’s nothing too serious. With a thin frontcourt, they may actually need Okafor this season. Otherwise, I guess it’s Alexis Ajinca time?
Is a Zach LaVine Breakout Season Coming?
LaVine played only 24 games last season after returning from ACL surgery in mid-January. He averaged more than 16 points a game over the back half of the season, but it was clear he was still getting used to playing post-injury. Though, if Sunday’s game against the Pelicans is any indication, LaVine could be in for a more apt breakout season. In 24 minutes, he poured in 21 points on 13 shots.
Zach LaVine steal and stuff! #NBAPreseason— NBA (@NBA) September 30, 2018
: @NBATV pic.twitter.com/q60u4jBdbV
LaVine’s importance on the Bulls might also increase in light of the recent news that Lauri Markkanen will miss six to eight weeks due to an elbow injury he suffered in a recent practice. This should mean more touches and more offensive chances for LaVine.
Miles Bridges Is the Week 1 Rookie of the Year
Doncic is nice and all, but here’s what Bridges did in his first two preseason games as a Hornet:
First, he slashed to the rim for one putback dunk:
Miles Bridges putback dunk. Yikes. #NBABack pic.twitter.com/iIrguIPNwD— Basketball Jones (@ASportsJones) September 29, 2018
And then came out of nowhere for another one:
Miles Bridges still likes putback dunks pic.twitter.com/fWmAPUHwdU— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) September 29, 2018
Then, he scored a game-high 23 points in his second game, including this nifty up-and-under move:
He also had this perfectly-timed leap for a block:
Miles Bridges is pretty athletic pic.twitter.com/AqDGvOe5VK— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) October 1, 2018
The Hornets may not be one of your League Pass teams this season, but if this is any indication of how the regular season will go, Bridges may be popping up on your Twitter timeline. Also of note: the All-Star Game and dunk contest are in Charlotte this season. Start planning those dunks, Miles.
The Deep Reading Into Kawhi’s Demeanor Begins
You’ve probably seen the video by now, but in case you haven’t, here it is:
Everyone on the Raptors bench laughing and chatting it up....and then there's Kawhi pic.twitter.com/vml8P56eN8— gifdsports (@gifdsports) September 30, 2018
After that first video, there was another clip posted where Kawhi looked at least slightly engaged. Whatever the case, every one of Kawhi’s gestures or non-gestures this season will get flipped into what it means about his future. It’s going to be exhausting, but ask Paul George and LeBron James—this is just how being a star works.
Welcome to the Future, Where Chinanu Onuaku Rules
Chinanu Onuaku shoots under hand free throw....and makes it pic.twitter.com/44koNSxcym— gifdsports (@gifdsports) September 30, 2018
I am 100 percent into this. It’s a free throw; you’re free to take it however you want to.