With three preseason games in the book, it's never too early to take a gander at the winners and losers so far, is it?
It isn't. Trust me. Let's do this.
Dirk Nowitzki: In his first game against the Pelicans on the 7th, Dirk didn't do too much. 2/5, grabbed some boards, whatever, whatever, whatever. But in the next two games, Dirk went 7/10 for 20 points (in 24 minutes) and 9-14 for 24 points (in 25 minutes). People always miscalculate how much damage an injury does, and for how long. They're also quick to point to age. Tim Duncan seemed done a couple of years ago, but it turned out to be just plantar fasciitis. This is Dirk's first training camp in two years. Get ready.
Monta Ellis: Other than being my favorite Fan Fiction Friday character, Monta has immediately shown some of what he can bring to a team if he stays disciplined. He's scored 13, 11 and 16 with good efficiency, which is nice, but the real eye-opening thing is his distributing. Monta has been the leading assist-getter in all but one game (where his 5 assists to Mekel's 6 was more than balanced out by his 1 TO to Mekel's 5). NEVER underestimate the power of a really good player opening things up, and able to convert. Never. What's that about a land war in Asia? I'm in!
The 5 spot: Dalembert had a good game. It was game 2, 11 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks. In game 1 it was 4 points, and 2 rebounds. In game 3 it was 8 rebounds (hooray!) but only 4 points (on 1-5) shooting. The worse news is that Bernard James played 4 minutes in game 1, did not play in Game 2, and only got 14 minutes in game 3 despite Brandan Wright's injury. That means that your center tandem, when the regular season begins is very probably Dalembert-Blair, unless they play Dirk at 5. All of this is looking awful. Would it have killed them to re-sign Elton Brand? Jesus.
The 1 spot: While Monta has been racking up the assists? Calderon has been on the bench nursing an injury, as has Shane Larkin, and Gal Mekel has been just awful. 1-5 in Game 1, with 5 boards and 5 assists, but 5 turnovers. 2-9 in game 2, with 3 boards, 2 assists and 4 turnovers. 2-7 in game three with 1 rebound, 6 assists and 5 turnovers. Yes, this is a position that should solidify as the season goes on (both Monta and currently injured Devin Harris can play here in a pinch), but right now it's the injury prone Calderon and armageddeon. The irony is that the Mavs were panned in the offseason for grabbing a zillion guards. If any of them worked, that would be great.
The Young Guys: Listen. I've said what I have to say about Jae Crowder. I'm not going to stop saying it though. I went to Summer League, and it just seems impossible to me that somebody who's guarded Kobe Bryant could look that bad against such mediocre competition. Young Ovinton J'Aenthony started off okay, 4-8 with 4 boards and 3 assists in game 1, but his 1-2 from the arc in that game would metastasize into a collective 1-6 by the end of game 3 and his 1 and 2 points respectively in games 2 and 3 aren't going to get it done. We always say that guys can learn how to shoot, but what we should really say is that guys "could" learn how to shoot. In that it's possible. Not that it often happens.
Meanwhile, Ricky Ledo, who looks uncannily like Durant out there until the shot approaches the net, is a spicy 4-16 from the field. You say he "can" use some D-League seasoning, I say he "could". Gal Mekel we already covered. Jared Cunningham we literally -- and not much was said about this at the time, but -- we literally traded down in the draft and gave up a second round picks to get the Hawks to take Jared Cunningham. Seriously. The trade was the 16th AND 44th picks for the 18th. That's what happened. And Sarge is buried on the bench even though everyone else is dead.
(manager's note: for those wondering, Cunningham has played in two of three season games for Atlanta, combining for 15 points on 5/11 shooting)
There must be a name for the feeling you get when other teams are super excited about the potential of their young guys (Giannis Adetokunbo and Dennis Schroeder spring to mind) whom your team could have had. Perhaps the team has learned that three really mediocre players may not actually be worth a mediocre Tyler Zeller. Perhaps they have not.
Either way, there are the winners and losers, so far.