Overreacting to NBA preseason games

Published October 11, 2022, 1:30 PMPolo Bustamante

The best time to overreact to everything happening in the NBA is during the preseason.

This is the stretch of basketball where stars like Steph Curry, LeBron James, and Giannis Antetokounmpo jog around the court for one half and then clown around on the bench for the other. This is the time for guys like Max Christie, Theo Maledon, Isaiah Todd, and Udoka Azubuike to play heavy minutes, in the hopes of showing enough to break into the rotation. These are the games where NBA teams go up against international teams, hoping their second-stringers are good enough to pull out wins. 

The NBA preseason is upon us! What better way to break down games where wins and losses don’t mean as much than to overreact to the results in the preseason?

Clippers are a Finals contender

It feels like the Clippers have been tagged as an NBA Finals contender for years now. But they’ve never really lived up to the expectations. It’s not for a lack of talent, though. The problems plaguing the team have been health and a lack of an elite creator.

This year, it seems as if the team has addressed both issues. 

After missing the entire 2021-2022 campaign recovering from an ACL injury, Kawhi Leonard is back and is actually playing games. Never mind the numbers (9.5 points on 43.7 percent shooting), having him back is such a big boost for this team.

John Wall also sat out the entire 2021-2022 season so most people forgot just how good he is. Here’s a quick reminder:

Everyone has seen what the Clippers can do with Leonard and Paul George. What they haven’t seen yet is what the team can do with an All-Star level point guard like Wall. Not only can he create opportunities for elite finishers like Leonard and George, but he can also get buckets himself. The entire package that Wall brings to the team should not only ease the load on the two superstars but it will also help unlock the team’s full potential.

If Wall and Leonard can get back to their peak form and avoid DNPs, then the rest of the league is in trouble.

Ben Simmons, DPOY

Last year, Simmons was criticized and analyzed for choosing not to play. This year, he’s back to being mocked for not being able to hit a jumper. It’s a vicious cycle. What’s the best way to break free from being a meme? It’s to make a statement.

Simmons won’t get to do that on the offensive end with a scoring savant like Kevin Durant and a slashing genius like Kyrie Irving. 

Where he can truly make an impact is on the defensive end. All of the drama last season overshadowed the fact that before he sat out, Simmons was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. His natural gifts allow him to lock up all kinds of players, from shifty guards to long wings. His basketball IQ extends to the defensive end where he can play any scheme a team puts him in.

Just watch this sequence from Simmons:

That’s the type of impact he can bring to last season’s 20th-ranked defense. The passing from the post and finishing on the break is all fluff if he can be the defensive anchor of the Nets. If Simmons can get back into the DPOY conversation, and maybe even win it, then that should shut up all his haters.

Antman owns Minny

Anthony Edwards is primed for a Ja Morant-like breakout season. In his first game this season, he dropped 24 points on 60 percent shooting in just three quarters. That’s just a taste of the dominance that he can bring when the regular season begins. He looks like a stronger, more balanced version of a player that put up a 21-5-4 stat line last season. Check out this highlight:

Edwards didn’t shy away from the limelight in his first postseason appearance. He improved on his regular season numbers and went head-to-head with Morant in the first round. Now, compare that to the current franchise player of the team, Karl-Anthony Towns.

Towns’ numbers actually took a step back in the playoffs, just when his team needed him the most. The trade for Gobert is actually a telltale sign that Minnesota isn’t happy with how he’s carried the team so far.

That makes this coming season the perfect time for Edwards to take ownership of the Timberwolves. If he can put it all together and perform on both ends of the floor—something Towns could never do—then that makes him the unquestioned leader of a team with three other former All-Stars.

Tyrese Maxey is Philly's second-best player

Maxey is who the Philadelphia 76ers thought Markelle Fultz was when they drafted him back in 2017. Maxey is a natural-born scorer with an explosive first step, steady footwork, and a confident stroke. 

Last season, the Sixers were lacking a lead guard for most of the season, so Maxey took the opportunity and ran away with it. He averaged 17.5 points on an efficient 48-42-86 shooting split. In the two preseason games he’s played so far, Maxey has continued to light it up.

When the Sixers drafted Fultz, they wanted a scorer to pair with their post beast Joel Embiid and playmaker Ben Simmons. Next season, Philly will be trotting out Embiid, who just missed out on the MVP award, and James Harden, who takes over as the lead creator of the team. Maxey slots in as the pure scorer the team needs to complete the trio.

Embiid is always going to be the alpha and omega of Philly. But Harden remains an enigma. Which version of Harden is the team getting? If it’s the shell of his former MVP self, then that makes Maxey the clear-cut best perimeter option for the Sixers.