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NBA Preseason Takeaways and Stories to Watch

The NBA regular-season is approaching fast, and here are some trends to note before the games start to count.

Here is a quick rundown of a few NBA stories to watch heading into the year.

The Lakers rotation looks deadly

After winning the NBA Finals in the bubble, many people expected the league to catch up to the Lakers.

However, in the offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers retooled their lineup by adding 6th Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, 6th Man runner-up Dennis Schröder, Wesley Matthews, and Marc Gasol.

LA re-signed key veterans Markieff Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and saw flashes of increased development from Talen Horton-Tucker and Kyle Kuzma.



In the preseason, the Lakers beat the Clippers 131-106 while running an 8-man rotation without superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

I usually hate to put this much stake into preseason games, but the limited rotation showed that when everybody is locked-in and clicking, this team can go 10-12 deep in their rotation without missing much of a beat.

A scary sight for the rest of the league.

Russell Westbrook intangibly improves the Wizards

Russell Westbrook is a player who is no stranger to stuffing the stat sheet, but his impact to the Washington Wizards organization is the way his competitiveness will rub off on the younger players.

From his first practice, Wizards coach Scott Brooks said that Westbrook set an “intense” tone for the rest of the team.


His impact showed in the Wizards’ sole preseason win in Westbrook’s debut, and even though there are still plenty of question marks on this team, we know that Westbrook has the potential to change the culture in the District.

The Suns are the best they’ve been since 2010

The Phoenix Suns offseason addition of Chris Paul will maximize the potential of Devin Booker.

Booker was an All-Star in a season that saw him average 26.6 points a game for the second consecutive year on increased efficiency in 2019-2020. (+2.2 in field goal percentage and +2.8 in three-point percentage)


Booker also led the Suns to an 8-0 NBA Bubble record, a run that symbolized a changing of the culture in the valley. The change of culture mixing with the influx of new talent and the addition of a future Hall of Famer in Chris Paul makes this the best Suns team in a decade.

Patrick Williams is a Hooper

I’m not here to absolve the Chicago Bulls for reaching to take Patrick Williams with the fourth overall pick, however, I am here to let everyone know — Patrick Williams can hoop, and can make a big impact in year one.

In the preseason, Williams’ skillset showed his game is better suited to the spacing of the NBA game than the college game, which would explain his lackluster numbers in college. (even taking into account the limited usage he had at Florida State)


He’s not in the Windy City to lead the team in scoring, or honestly anything. He’s a do-it-all player who can give you solid minutes, play good defense, and fill some of the holes the Bulls have in their roster.

Steph Curry Has a Legit MVP Chance

The Warriors aren’t the powerhouse they used to be, but they still have Steph Curry.

Curry’s increased usage could bode well for his MVP chances assuming he stays healthy this season.


Side note: The extra attention on Curry on the perimeter allows for first-round big-man James Wiseman to have matchups inside he can take advantage of with his athleticism.

New Look Rockets Aren’t Enough For James Harden

The Rockets made drastic changes to their roster this offseason.

John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Christian Wood give Houston a different feel on the court, but it isn’t enough to entice superstar James Harden to stay.


Kevin Durant is Healthy

After a long recovery from an Achilles injury in 2018, Kevin Durant will be taking the floor tonight. Durant has looked good in preseason, and you can tell he’s worked his way back near the form that has his status cemented as a basketball legend.

His talent will always be there, but the main question mark will still be his post-injury explosiveness. There were moments in preseason games where you could see him move a bit slower.

Either way, it shouldn’t matter too much, as Durant’s ability will keep him in the upper echelon of NBA players this season.


The Pelicans are primed to compete

In case you haven’t seen the news, Zion Williamson is not on a minutes restriction this season.


A healthy Zion, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball are a young trio that will be one of the NBA’s toughest combinations to stop this season.

The impact Zion had on the floor in limited time last season was special.

Every player on the court has to account for every move he makes.

Zion will open up opportunities for Ingram to continue being the offensive threat we’ve seen him grow into.

Lonzo’s playmaking and defense allows New Orleans to compete with any team in the league.



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The End of the John Wall Era

Wednesday night, The Washington Wizards traded franchise cornerstone John Wall and a 2023 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for MVP guard Russell Westbrook.

To analyze this trade, we have to consider how this trade impacts the following.

1. The Basketball Court

2. The Fanbase

Rockets news: Russell Westbrook's decision that sped up John Wall trade

Before getting into the emotional impact, it’s time to look at how this move changes the way the team plays the game of basketball.

To keep this first part short and sweet, Westbrook’s domination of the basketball puts the fit in jeopardy in Washington, and while Wall’s pass-first mentality fits anywhere, we have yet to see him cede touches and play a bit more off the ball.

Due to injuries, Wall has not seen the floor in roughly two years. Assuming Wall produces similarly to when we last saw him—even when healthy, he is not the player Russell Westbrook is.

On almost a daily basis, you can pull up Twitter and see someone blaspheming about the abilities of Westbrook. However, he is more than capable of propelling a 25-win, ninth-seeded team in the East this past season into the playoff picture.

His skill set, albeit similar to Wall’s, is separated by his higher motor. Wall plays hard, but no basketball player brings more heart to the floor than Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook brings his best effort every night and expects the same for his teammates, and if you’ve watched the Wizards over the years, you understand that one of the biggest knocks on this team is that they often play down to the talent level of lesser opponents. Talk about his intensity all you want, but you know he isn’t holding back against anybody.

In Washington, Westbrook will be one of the primary paint attackers and will either draw extra defenders off the Wizards shooters or have an easier time in the lane—something that worked well in Houston.

One thing absent in Houston for Westbrook was coach Scott Brooks. This trade allows for the two to unite for the first time since their Oklahoma City Thunder days. The ceiling for their success is lower than it was in OKC when you saw the pair maximize one another, along with the talent of Kevin Durant and James Harden as they reached the 2012 NBA Finals.

However, in 2020 The Wizards are Beal’s team, adding Westbrook solidifies the starting five, and when coupled with the development of Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant, plus the re-signing of the Latvian marksman Davis Bertans, instantly improves the team in talent, and hopefully in win total.

On Houston’s end, they get a player returning from a multitude of season-ending injuries, but also a talented guard, who is feeling “110% healthy” and looking to remake his mark in a rapidly changing league and pair with James Harden.

The Rockets are going through a makeover of their team as well, and the trade is a move that looks to appease their current superstar and potentially bring in future young talent with a first-round pick in 2023.

Fan & Community Impact

Washington Wizards Ben's Chili Bowl Temporary Mural on Behance

This trade hits D.C sports fans incredibly hard due to the presence that John Wall had among fans in the area. Wall has given back to the community time and time again and even became a staple within the culture, whether by showing up in Shy Glizzy videos (NSFW warning: Language) or being forever linked with Rosebar.

Regardless of what anyone thought of him, John Wall’s connection to this city was deep, and he is forever a part of the D.C community.

On the flip side, the D.C community also gets a guy who has the potential to represent the area just as well in a short time. Westbrook’s intensity on the floor represents the area well, and he is also known along with his wife Nina to be incredibly charitable and embracing of his playing community.

Russell Westbrook speaks at Black Lives Matter protest in California
Westbrook marching in Los Angeles shortly after the death of George Floyd (p/c:USA Today)

Verdict

Adding Westbrook gives the Wizards a fighting chance to win 15-20 more games than the previous season, and Wall allows the Rockets to have a number two on the roster with a much lower usage rate.

Wall and Westbrook have roughly the same amount of money and time remaining on their contracts, but Wall has a 15% trade kicker—a trade kicker being the percentage of the salary that becomes a bonus for a player when traded.

Overall, both sides needed to make this deal. The move appeases the superstars on both sides and both teams can compete in their respective conferences.

It’s sad to see John Wall go, but at the same time, all we can do in life is pick up the pieces and keep going.

Officially, this is now a Russell Westbrook defender blog.