It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not the holidays, the start of the NBA season.
Even in a pandemic, the NBA still has preseason games to help prepare players and their bodies. Of course with preseason games, which mean next to nothing, you have plenty of overreactions and exaggerations. No five golden rings for you, only five of my overreactions from the preseason.
Nate Hinton is the best rookie on the roster
This feels like an overreaction mainly because of sample size, but Hinton looked great in his first preseason game as a Maverick. In 15 minutes against the Bucks, Hinton posted 8 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal. Despite the small role, he finished as the Mavericks’ leading rebounder.
To offer an undrafted free agent a two-way contract, the Mavericks had to see something promising Hinton. I’m sure the Mavericks fanbase also saw plenty of promise in that game.
Hinton would go on to play in nine minutes over the next two games combined, which isn’t a great sign for him having any kind of role this season. If the Mavericks can find ways to maximize Hinton’s talent when he gets called up, they may have a bargain.
Luka Doncic is out of shape
This statement alone may not be an overreaction, because Doncic himself has admitted to it.
Full Doncic quote: “I mean, people on Twitter say every stuff “But, it’s true I’m not in my best shape. I will get there for sure. But, you know, I’ve never been a muscular guy, so what can I say?”— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) December 15, 2020
Despite the doomsday mentality the internet wants you to have, there’s a middle ground to be found here. It’s okay to both admit that Doncic is out of shape while also understanding he’s going to be just fine. How many of us didn’t put on a few quarantine pounds? The way Luka’s body holds up over the course of a high-volume season is still to be determined, but that’s true for every player this season. The cries of Doncic being ineffective due to some added blubber is an overreaction. Especially when considering that he had a pretty good preseason.
Willie Cauley-Stein became a shooter
If you follow Cauley-Stein on Instagram, you are familiar with the iconic workout videos he loves to post on his profile. A common theme in those videos over the summer was a potential development in his jump shot. If you’re anything like me, you were more than skeptical of a 27 year old having a newfound jumper. But as the preseason began, Willie let it fly. Cauley-Stein went 2-4 over the course of the preseason, both of his makes coming in one game. It may not look like too interesting at a glance, but some context does it justice.
Cauley-Stein shot just three three-point attempts in his last 135 career games. That’s raw data too, not weeding out any buzzer-beaters or heaves. The last time he made a three was on November 9, 2018. He had never made two threes in a game, including preseason games.
I’m still a little hesitant about how much stock I’m putting into this, especially at higher volumes. But hey, who am I to judge? If he feels comfortable with it and Carlisle gives him some sort of a green light then by all means, let it fly Wet Willie.
Josh Richardson is going to have a career year
I’m having a hard time keeping myself level headed on this one. Richardson just had a pretty remarkable three-game stretch. He shot 11-15 (73.3%) on the three-point attempts this preseason, the highest efficiency among all NBA players who attempted at least 10 deep shots. The staff at Mavs Moneyball was optimistic about what Richardson could look like in the Mavericks’ spacing. Early on, it looks like that excitement was reasonable.
He’s also showing flashes of being a perfect secondary playmaker next to Doncic, dishing out six assists to just one turnover over the three games. Of course, the defense goes without saying as well. Have fun talking me out of this one after a few regular season games.
Dwight Powell should be benched
Let me preface this by saying I am very glad Powell is back on the basketball court and looks healthy. His explosiveness coming off the court looks great — normal even — which isn’t something we should take for granted coming off a ruptured Achilles. Another disclaimer is that who starts doesn’t matter nearly as much as who plays the majority of minutes, and especially who closes. All that said, I think there’s a fair case for someone getting the starting reps over Dwight Powell.
It’s important to remember that he did face two of the league’s best big men in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Karl Anthony-Towns, but Powell got worked defensively during the preseason. The Mavericks allowed about six more points per 100 possessions when Powell was on the court compared to when he was on the bench. The eye-test didn’t do him any favors either.
I’m not ready to quit on Powell yet. This was the first basketball he’s played in almost a year and he’s coming off a serious injury. But if things don’t improve early in the regular season, I think this overreaction becomes reality.