NBA Preview: Part 4


Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are an interesting, young team. They just drafted two players, in DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish, who perfectly complement their star point guard Trae Young. Young, Kevin Huerter and John Collins had already functioned as a semi-Big three for Atlanta, with many threes and dunks between the trio. Reddish and Hunter should fold in well. Reddish’s primary offensive focus should be off the ball, as a spot-up shooter and someone who can catch the ball on the wing and attack the rim against a scrambled defense. Reddish’s ball-handling skills haven’t caught up to his athleticism yet; part of his NBA growing pains will be ball-security. Reddish played third wheel at Duke, but I think he might have the highest ceiling of the Zion-RJ-Cam triumvirate. If Reddish shows attention to detail and effort on defense he may become a plus-NBA defender. He certainly could bulk up his frame so he could switch on any position. For DeAndre Hunter to be a valuable NBA player there’s one key variable, shooting. Hunter had a great NBA tournament, with many of his most memorable moments being three-point shots. He was a 43% shooter in his sophomore year of college, a number that is certainly impressive. However, great college shooting doesn’t always translate to the NBA. The shot is further, and the defenders close out faster. Hunter’s shot certainly isn’t the prettiest, but his defense is top-notch. He has the potential to guard 1-5 in the NBA. He has quick feet, moves laterally well, and has long arms. Hunter has the potential to be a headache for offensive matchups. With steady improvement from Huerter, Young, and Collins this has a chance to be a playoff team in the watered-down East. Young was an inefficient scorer for most of last year but flashed go-to scoring potential. He also is a man who passes to open spaces, he is an expert at reading a defense. Expect upwards of 8 assists a game from him this year. Collins is a menace on the backboards and is one of the most talented roll men in the NBA. If he becomes a weapon from 3 point range, watch out. Deandre Bembry has this season to prove he’s an effective role player and not just depth. Jabari Parker is an interesting addition if he can stay healthy and play defense for once in his life (not likely). Evan Turner, Damian Jones, and Allen Crabbe are solid bench players and the eternally young Vince Carter adds shooting and crafty-veteran playmaking.

Orlando Magic

This is the most bizarrely built team in the entire league. They have a complete lack of shooting. Everyone is gigantic with long arms and are outstanding athletes. Steve Clifford is a defensive mastermind and with all these square pegs he’ll fashion a stout defense. The question is on the offensive end. It starts with the walking enigma Markelle Fultz. Fultz has had numerous maladies affixed to him, but the reason why he washed out of Philly was because he couldn’t shoot a jump shot. He looks to have regained his confidence so far in preseason action, and he’s even taken a couple of jump shots. If he can be an average starter this year for the Magic they’ll be thrilled. The alternative is D.J. Augustin, and no one wants to see that again. Aaron Gordon has been on the precipice of the leap for the past three seasons it feels like, but I think this might be the year when the dots connect. Gordon, regardless, is a nice piece. He plays hard, attacks both backboards with verve, and has some shifty playmaking in his bag. Nikola Vucevic is coming off a career season, he averaged 20.86 PPG last season and shot 36% from 3. Vucevic was the offenses’ saving grace last season as he provided some sorely-needed spacing. He’ll function in much the same role this year. Now to the projectable players, Johnathan Issac and Mo Bamba. These guys are both extremely athletic, tall, and rangy players. Issac is a defensive Swiss-Army knife. He can guard nearly every position on the court, albeit he can get bullied in the post because of his slight frame. He improved slightly last season as far as shooting goes, but he’s still largely an offensive liability. Bamba had a frenetic rookie season. He never earned playing time during the season and fought off multiple injuries. This year he’ll be fighting against the Bust label that many have already applied. The rest of the team is less interesting, you’ve got mostly career journeyman who are starting to show diminishing returns.

Boston Celtics

Thank God Kyrie is gone from this team. Now we can truly see if Jayson Tatum is a future All-Star or if all the hype has been manufactured. The Celtics’ biggest loss for this season is Al Horford. Horford was a centrifugal force for the offense and the defense and he’ll be sorely missed. So how do you replace a perennial All-Star and defensive stalwart? Well, the Celtics decided to go with Mr. Turnstile himself, Enes Kanter. Kanter’s most famous NBA moment occurred in the first round of the playoffs in 2017 when Billy Donovan said, “Can’t play Kanter”, because of his atrocious defense. Kanter is ostensibly a starter on this team, they have big issues. Kemba Walker has about 85% of Kyrie’s talent, but he comes with 0% of the headaches, he’s a great teammate and gets other guys involved. Jaylen Brown, amid a contract year, has to come out this year and dominate on both ends if he hopes to get a contract like the one Jamal Murray just signed. Brown is a highly talented defender, his offense just hasn’t been as impressive, minus a couple of highlight dunks. Gordon Hayward, now almost two years removed from his gruesome injury, should be fully healthy and back to his crafty ways. Hayward at full health working a two-man game with Walker is intriguing. Both are above-average three-point shooters and should be able to manufacture swaths of space. The guy everyone wants to talk about in Celtics-World, however, is Tacko Fall. The 7ft 7 inch behemoth has been blocking everything in the pre-season. Fall’s standing reach is 10ft 2 in. A spectator at a Celtics preseason game commented on twitter, “Tacko jumped AFTER he dunked”. If the Celtics and Brad Stevens find out a way to weaponize this guy it will be one of the most interesting stories in recent NBA history.

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