The NBA preseason already started, which means all 30 franchises are tuning their rosters ahead of the season start set for October 15. But there are a few weeks left yet on the preseason schedule, and there are several interesting players worth watching.
Here are five players to watch during the NBA preseason.
Kyle Kuzma – Los Angeles Lakers
Lonzo Ball has been one of the rookies every NBA fan – hardcore or casual – has been talking about of late. But the first-year point guard has not been the team’s most productive player. That distinction should go to Kyle Kuzma, who was thrived for Los Angeles Lakers both during the NBA Summer League and preseason.
The 22-year-old power forward has dazzled so far during preseason, averaging 21 points, three rebounds, and one assist in 27.5 minutes per game. In fact, he had 23 points in 29 minutes against the Denver Nuggets this past Monday.
It remains to be seen whether he will become a starter with the Lakers considering he will battle for playing time with Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle. But there is no doubt he has enough potential to become a regular contributor as soon as the season starts.
If his Summer League and Preseason performances are the benchmarks for his rookie, then we might be looking at the biggest steal in this year’s Draft. He is certainly one player worth watching in the upcoming games.
Ben Simmons – Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons was the top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. However, he did not play at all last season after injuring his knee before the start of preseason. But the Australian is now healthy and will look to lead the Sixers to their first postseason appearance since the 2011-12 season.
There is no question the Australian will be a player to watch not only during the preseason but during the regular season as well. His role within the team is yet to be determined, but there is no question Simmons will start from day one as the team’s power forward. His preseason debut was strong, as he posted six points, seven rebounds, and nine assists against the Memphis Grizzlies this past Wednesday. And he’s essentially as good as advertised because he could easily thrive in the point-forward role.
If he remains healthy, look out. And Simmons will undoubtedly be a spectacle to watch before the regular season starts.
Carmelo Anthony and Paul George – Oklahoma City Thunder
We are basically pairing Carmelo Anthony and Paul George together since both will be watched closely. Considering both players joined the Oklahoma City Thunder during the offseason, both need to adjust. Let’s remember they are not joining ANY team in the league. They will be playing alongside Russell Westbrook, the league’s reigning MVP who averaged a triple-double last season while posting a usage rate over 40% in the regular season.
Anthony and George were both the Alpha Dogs in the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers last season, respectively. But both need to adjust to a new team, new teammates, and a whole new environment. No one will take the ball out of Westbrook’s hands, that’s for sure. So Anthony and George will likely be the second and third option on the offense for head coach Billy Donovan. That’s a luxury any team would like to have. But can they adapt to those roles? That remains to be seen.
Rodney Hood – Utah Jazz
Rodney Hood has a reputation in this league as a very good offensive player, but he will be forced to adjust this season. Considering Gordon Hayward signed with the Boston Celtics, Hood will now play a bigger role in the team. And while he does not have the same star upside Hayward has, Hood can certainly fill the void left by Hayward. And if we take a look at the numbers, they match up rather well.
Just take a look at this comparison between Hood (without Hayward) and Hayward per 36 minutes last season:
|Hood (Hayward Off-court)||22.2||17.7||4.8||2||54.2|
Hayward seems to be far more effective when it comes to raw numbers. But Hood was a more effective shooter, even if the margin was slim.
The challenge for Hood now is to produce like this on a steady level. Considering the Jazz doesn’t really have a natural scorer on the roster, Hood can take that role. But only if he maintains what he showed last year. That’s a big IF. But at the same, he would be quite interesting to watch as preseason – and the regular season – unfolds.