- HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors - http://www.hoopsworld.com -
Biggest NBA Preseason Surprises – West
Posted By Jabari Davis On October 16, 2013 @ 8:58 pm In NBA | No Comments
The admitted “mantra” being rhythmically chanted in the background as you read this should be, “It’s only preseason.”
With that said, there have been several developments that continue to grasp our attention as we have reached the midway point of the preseason and work our way toward the regular season. Here are some of the storylines that stand out the most:
Russell Westbrook’s Lingering Injury
Injuries in professional sports shouldn’t come as a total shock, but when you are dealing with an individual that hadn’t endured a (reported) major injury, nor missed a game in his collegiate/professional career prior to last year’s playoffs, a second procedure that is likely to keep the three-time All-Star out of the lineup for four-to-six weeks at the start of the regular season should at least cause a slight amount of concern. No, not that he won’t eventually make his way back onto the court in as electrifying a fashion as he left it, but because in an ever-improving Western Conference, you simply don’t want to run the risk of falling too far off pace in the event the team doesn’t get off to the start they’re accustomed to.
That shouldn’t be too much of an issue, as it isn’t like a core of Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and a combined effort from others should be able get the Thunder through the early-season stretch. The Thunder play 10 games against playoff teams (from 2012-13) in their first 22 games of the regular season. They’ll need a continued emergence from players like Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb, as well as steady contributions from key role players like Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison.
Durant is certain to earn some much-deserved MVP talk early on, but if Westbrook returns with the type of force and impact many believe he will, then it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Thunder make the type of second-half push that could propel them right back atop, or close to the head of the pack in what should still be considered the tougher conference top-to-bottom.
Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan Looking Much Improved
Again, while only the preseason, Jordan has looked nothing short of phenomenal in limited minutes for the Los Angeles Clippers. Yes, we’ve been here before, as Jordan has shown signs of promise for brief stints in the past. The difference is, this season Jordan seems to have an ever-growing sense of certainty to his walk. A sense of purpose to each movement while on the court. A greater understanding of positioning and approach, especially on the defensive end.
The offensive side of the ball will continue to be a development to monitor, but much like anything with young, emerging players (big men in particular), much is determined by confidence. Head coach Doc Rivers has taken steps to not only instill, but continue to generate confidence in Jordan from the moment he got into town. Following trade rumors that have lingered even back to last year’s deadline, Jordan seems pleased to have remained in Los Angeles. His 15 blocks through three preseason games, while meaningless to the Clippers’ eventual outcome, should come as a welcomed sign of potential. The trick will be finding a way to maintain that type of defensive productivity and overall interior toughness throughout the season.
New Orleans Looking Like a Playoff Contender
Not to completely burst any bubbles, or rain on what should be optimistic beliefs from a fanbase starving for (and deserving of) a winning product, but people may want to hold off making travel arrangements for April and May just yet. That said, the Pelicans are absolutely well on their way to being headed in the right direction. With one of the league’s brightest and most promising young cores, head coach Monty Williams is armed with enough weapons to make most games not only highly entertaining, but also far more competitive than in recent years.
After coming on strong over the second half of his rookie season in 2012-13, Anthony Davis continues to blossom on the offensive end. Not that he was completely devoid on that side of the ball prior to what was reported as a very productive offseason from a development standpoint, but Davis looks more comfortable and far more confident in his ability to become a go-to scorer in today’s NBA. His skill-set, while ever-expanding, looks as though it could be one of the more versatile arsenals among the league’s emerging young big men.
Fellow second-year player Austin Rivers has also looked stronger and more confident as he settles into the pace of the NBA. Having suffered through what had to be a disappointing, injury-riddled rookie season, Rivers is fighting to establish himself among a strong group of playmakers on the Pelicans’ revamped roster. With Ryan Anderson coming off another solid year in a primarily reserve role, the additions of former All-Star Jrue Holliday and former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans round out what might very well be a core that could be a force in the Western Conference within a short period of time.
No Rotation Issues For Mark Jackson’s Warriors
Consider this a more of a case where we are pleased to see Golden State’s harmony, as opposed to some of the power struggles that routinely accompany the success that we’ve seen in other locker rooms around the league. These Warriors seem to have completely embraced the idea of playing for one another, rather than simply playing alongside or with each other.
When the Warriors made waves during the offseason by not only shedding a great deal of salary in what seemed like the blink of an eye, but by also acquiring swingman Andre Iguodala from their conference-mate Nuggets, there were plenty that questioned how the rotation might work. An understandable concern, given the breakout year enjoyed by Klay Thompson that coincided with a somewhat surprising mid and late-season emergence of both Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green.
While having too much of a “good thing” isn’t something that exists in a coach’s vocabulary, it is exceedingly easier to manage when the players are both mature and professional enough to place the team’s well-being over their own personal productivity. Especially, when you are dealing with younger (still developing) players, as in the case with Thompson, Barnes and Green.
The players understand that Iguodala brings the type of perimeter defense, well rounded skill set, and approach to the game this teams needs in order to propel them to the next proverbial tier of teams in the NBA. This is a team that doesn’t just want to entertain and excite the raucous crowds of Oracle Arena into April and early May. This is an organization with much larger aspirations for the future, as they try to build upon what was their best season since 2007-08, last year. This continued dedication to the team concept could be key to their eventual success.
Article printed from HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors: http://www.hoopsworld.com
URL to article: http://www.hoopsworld.com/biggest-nba-preseason-surprises-west
Copyright © 2013 HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors
Part of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group.