In lieu of a traditional franchise-by-franchise NBA preview, we asked Tyler Parker to give us five players to watch on each team. If we want. For reasons entirely his own.
Luka Doncic, Guard/Forward
There have been exactly 10 other players in the history of the NBA who have worn the number 77. That’s it. Ten. Gheorghe Muresahn was the first to wear axes. First broke them out in 1994. Next was Vladimir Radmanovic with SuperSonics. He began wearing candy canes in ’02. Jake Voskuhl wore them in Toronto in 2009 and Sasha Pavlovic in Boston in 2011. From there it went Julyan Stone, Andrea Bargnani, Joffrey Lauvergne, Johnny O’Bryant, and Ersan Ilyasova, and now Doncic. I appreciate a swerve. He’s an individual. Everybody’s favorite Slovenian. The reigning Rookie of the Year. On his left forearm is a tattoo that says “non desistas, non exieris.” That’s Latin for “never give up, never surrender.” There’s a tiger close by. He would like to rip your beating heart from its chest, hurl it to the earth, and stomp it out.
He was as good as advertised, maybe even a little bit better. The chunky chunk man can handle it and create his own offense off the bounce, or he can set up one of his teammates with myriad passes he’s got at his disposal. He began this season with his hands on fire but still found time in his busy schedule to send some encouragement to his draft classmate Trae Young. Told him to go off. Doncic knows what that’s like.
Delon “Scones” Wright, Guard
Scones went to Leuzinger in Lawndale, California. Let’s go Olympians! That’s the same high school Russell Westbrook went to. The same high school Ross Jeffries, a.k.a. the man who inspired Tom Cruise’s character in Magnolia, went to. The same high school a guy who used to play bass for the Doobie Brothers went to. That’s a star-studded alumni board. There is something in the water. Leuzinger breeds legends.
Scones was the first player in Grizzlies history to post a triple-double in back-to-back games. Guess what team they were playing in the first game? The Mavericks. Guess what team they were playing in the second game? The Mavericks. Is this some Doc Rivers–type stuff? Sign the guy who played well against your team? I don’t know. I’m not smart. I know I’ve said that before, but I feel like it can always stand to be repeated. Frankly, there are plenty of ideas that make less sense than that.
Justin Jackson, Forward
One of those well-seasoned Tar Heels. NCAA champion at the University of North Carolina. Got really good at doing the thing where they cut part of the net off, then tie it around the adjustable strap of the hat the championship team is given to wear. Wore the number 25 with the Kings but came over to the Mavericks in the Harrison Barnes trade, and now he’s back to wearing sailboats.
A little more about him. He was homeschooled. Looks very cool when he hangs on the rim. Kind of stretches his whole body out, straightens his legs, lets them swing. He was co-MVP of the 2014 McDonald’s All American Game along with Jahlil Okafor. Seems to be infinitely relatable. I say this because we have documented proof of him wearing khaki cargo shorts and a Seaside T-shirt in Seaside, Florida. Feels like it’s then a given he’s been to Fudpucker’s at some point, or Sundog Books, or Bud & Alley’s Taco Bar. In the picture I mentioned above, the one with the Seaside T-shirt, Jackson is matching his father and younger brother. They all look like honorable men, each of them possessing a certain indefinable gravity.
My mom once made us all put on white shirts and khaki shorts and go down to the beach to take pictures.
Boban Marjanovic, Center
His hands are rakes and his feet are Audis. 7-foot-3-inches tall. 290 pounds of chiseled Serbian man flesh. He is Alaska-sized, and has to duck under, what, 80 percent of the doorways he encounters? More? This is a galaxy of a human being that can hold in his hand a gallon of Bush’s Chicken’s Fresh Brewed Sweet Tea and make the jug look like a coffee mug. His knuckles are the size of hamsters, and his glasses lenses could be confused for motorcycle windshields. Competes on both ends of the floor. Plays as hard as he can when he’s out there. Sometimes changes a game entirely. To watch him dance is to forget your name. To watch him dunk is to laugh at the people who had no hope to stop him. He has a delightful smile and can basically posterize someone without jumping. He is one of the most entertaining players in the league, and the fact that he doesn’t have a reality show is absolutely ridiculous to me. That personality is clearly a goldmine.
Kristaps Porzingis, Forward/Center
He is asleep and dreaming. A stampede of unicorns! So many magical ponies! Magical ponies with gigantic, spiraled horns coming out of their heads. They sound like they’re from England. They keep shouting, “Cheerio!” They start chasing him. They run him over. They stomp on him. Then he wakes up.
Porzingis is a big fan of Andrei Kirilenko, has his autograph on an old jersey from his Jazz days. Staps’s Instagram bio says Family Over Everything. Reminds me of those people who get asked what they do in their spare time and their answer’s, like, I like to spend time with my family and friends. Worked out with Dirk, even before he was traded to Dallas. The Zinger loves Dirk. Of course, how could you not? Dirk is the coolest customer there is, and he redefined what the playoff postgame presser could be with his unprecedented decision to remove the microphone from its holster, lean back in his chair, and hold court. During the workout, Nowitzki was wearing some shorts that looked like boxers. It was a real Billy Hoyle energy he was bringing. He looked fantastic, like the star he is.
Tyler Parker is a writer from Oklahoma.