Each year, the NBA Preseason brings us a few memorable highlights and gives a peek into the teams' plans for the year. The first week of this year's NBA Preseason has already offered glimpses of rookies and sophomore players showing their mettle in the extended minutes they have received. Injured players, such as Kevin Durant, who sat out last season are back on the court.
NBA Preseason 2020-21: 5 key takeaways from the first week of preseason action
Some teams are already looking like serious championship contenders while other contenders from last year look to have serious problems on their hands. As teams gear up to begin their gruelling regular season campaign, we take a look at the 5 key takeaways from the first week of NBA Preseason 2020-21.
#1: Youngsters make their mark in the NBA Preseason
The 2020 NBA Draft's No.3 overall pick of the Charlotte Hornets, LaMelo Ball, has displayed amazing ball handling skills and no-look passes. He scored 18 points and had 5 assists against the Orlando Magic.
The New York Knicks' Obi Toppin, who seems to play a lot like Kevin Durant, started with 11 points and 7 rebounds against the Pistons in his first preseason game.
Zion Williamson, who played without a minutes restriction against the Miami Heat, went for 22 points, 6 assists, 6 steals and 3 blocks for the New Orleans Pelicans.
The young pick of the week goes to ‘THT – Talen Horton-Tucker’. After scoring 18 points in his first game against the LA Clippers, the LA Lakers' youngster notched up a double-double. He scored 33 points and 10 rebounds, which included a monster dunk.
#2: Injured stars making a comeback
All eyes were on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to see how their pairing would work for the Brooklyn Nets. In their opener, against the Washington Wizards, they scored a combined 33 points. The duo then put up 42 points in their second preseason game against the Boston Celtics.
Meanwhile, Golden State Warriors fans would be disappointed at the news that they would not be seeing Klay on the court this season. However, they would have enjoyed the return of superstar, Stephen Curry. In two preseason games against the Sacramento Kings, Curry scored 29 points in each game and went 11 of 26 from behind the arc across both fixtures.
#3: Trade rumors and controversies
The Houston Rockets, who had built around James Harden, found themselves in a fix as the 31-year-old asked for a trade. The 2018 NBA MVP even rejected a two-year, $103 million contract extension -- on top of his current three-year, $133 million deal, as per sources .
After a disappointing performance in the 2019-20 NBA season, the LA Clippers have a new problem on their hands. A lawsuit has been filed by Johnny Wilkes, a friend of Kawhi Leonard, against LA Clippers executive Jerry West.
Wilkes claims he was offered $2.5 million to help deliver the two-time Finals MVP to the LA Clippers but was not paid for his help. The NBA has launched an official investigation into the mysterious deal.
# 4: New teams that are NBA playoff contenders
Last season’s high-flying Rookie of the Year, Ja Morant, is making heads turn once again. He put up two double-doubles in three preseason games. The last time the Memphis Grizzlies were in the playoffs was in 2017 when they lost in the first round.
Though still not a championship contender, the Grizzlies look to go deep into the playoffs this year. They got off to a good start, winning their first three NBA preseason games.
After beating last year's finalists, Miami Heat, and title contenders Milwaukee Bucks in their first two preseason games, the New Orleans Pelicans look very good. The addition of Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe will help the team, who could make a run under the leadership of Brandon Ingram.
# 5 East Vs West: Who will reach the finals
With the Houston Rockets and the LA Clippers continuing to sort out internal issues, it could be an easy path for the LA Lakers to the NBA Finals this year.
The LA Lakers added the reigning Sixth Man of the Year from last season, Montrezl Harrell. They even added the Sixth Man award runner-up, Dennis Schroder, who averaged 18.9 pts per game last season,
The LA Lakers won their first three preseason games easily. A healthy LA Lakers team would be big favorites to win back-to-back championships.
The Eastern Conference is a different matter. Four teams, the Brooklyn Nets, the Miami Heat, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Milwaukee Bucks are looking to emerge from the East.
The Bucks look the strongest but lack the clutch gene need to pull off wins in big games and have choked in key moments over the last two years.
The Brooklyn Nets have two superstars with three championships to their names and we could see a Brooklyn Nets vs LA Lakers NBA Finals.Published 19 Dec 2020, 22:16 IST