The Golden State Warriors debuted the 2013-14 preseason with a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers that was filled with positives.
Our very own Jordan Ramirez already covered most of the particulars regarding Golden State’s opening preseason game and the expectations that came along with the way the contest unfolded.
Still, there a few other things worth mentioning as it pertains to the Warriors and a few teams in the league.
Golden State Warriors
The Dubs attacked mismatches early and often in Game 1 of the preseason. Indeed, smaller players frequently defended Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson and their teammates recognized that and fed them the ball.
Also, perimeter players guarded David Lee and Jermaine O’Neal on a few trips and the ball came their way whenever a favorable matchup presented itself. This will be incredibly important for a Warriors team that is very reliant on 3-point shooting.
The Warriors missed 16-of-21 shots from downtown, most of which were good looks. Nonetheless, getting high-percentage looks at the basket is an important component for a good offense and Mark Jackson is probably expecting a great one heading into 2013-14.
One way to get shots at the rim is via transition looks and Golden State generated 29 fast break points against the Lakers. They used an active defense anchored by Andrew Bogut (12 rebounds in 17 minutes) to get into passing lanes and run out after misses.
In the half-court offense, Thompson was aggressive early and consistently went to his turnaround jumper in post-up situations. As the game unfolded, he came off screens looking to feed the big man that set the screen for him.
We discussed the importance of adjusting and reading these plays during the offseason and it seems as though it was already a point of emphasis for the 2-guard. This matters in the grand scheme of things because it’s another way for the Warriors to get looks directly at the basket against set defenses.
Derrick Rose finally returned to the lineup with the Chicago Bulls on the same night his team opened up the preseason against the Indiana Pacers. After sitting out the entire 2012-13 season nursing a knee injury, he made his return for the Bulls and was obviously rusty.
Make no mistake though, the former Memphis Tiger still looked like the guy who collected the 2010-11 MVP award. His ball-handling was a little off and the same can be said about his footing. He occasionally lost the ball as well as his balance when trying to set himself up in a one-on-one move.
Still, Rose is as dangerous as they come. The three-time All-Star was able to beat guys off the bounce and finish at the rim. In addition, he got out in transition and simply looked as though he was running at a different speed in comparison to other players on the floor. Keep in mind, he still seemed a little slow by his own standards.
Rose’s return is obviously huge news in Chicago and it also impacts the rest of the league. The Bulls are an incredibly scrappy bunch with tons of mental toughness. Furthermore, they are very physical and play with an edge reminiscent of the rugged NBA teams from the 1990s.
Other than Rose, the players that I will be keeping an eye on are Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. They embody everything that Tom Thibodeau is about and are two of the best role players in the league.
The core of Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Rose makes Chicago a championship contender, but the pairing of Butler and Gibson will probably end up being the difference during the playoffs when teams need two-way players on the court for long stretches to continue advancing in the postseason.
Roy Hibbert was a huge presence during the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals and almost led the Indiana Pacers to the NBA Finals. The former Georgetown Hoya averaged 22.1 points and 10.4 rebounds per game on 55.7 percent field-goal shooting in seven postseason games against the Miami Heat.
There is a perception that Hibbert is the Heat’s Kryptonite because they lack size on the interior to contend with the big man and that is not entirely incorrect. However, in the Pacers’ opening preseason game against the Chicago Bulls, the big man scored 11 points on a mere four-for-14 shooting night.
His performance against Chicago highlighted the fact that Hibbert is not quite the player we saw during the 2013 ECF. Prior to that seven-game series against Miami, the Pacers’ defensive anchor had never scored 20 or more points in five games in a row.
He is a little predictable in the low-post area and also enjoys drifting away from the basket for jumpers. Thus, he struggles against good interior defenders that sit on his moves. The Heat actually accomplished that during the 2012-13 regular season and held him to a staggering 38.7 percent shooting figure.
Also, he produced a mere 11.9 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting in 79 regular season games in 2012-13. In other words, Hibbert has limitations as a scorer and therefore it’s probably unwise to expect him to regularly dominate the block offensively in 2013-14.
The Indiana front office deserves some huge credit here because they understood the weaknesses of both the roster and its starting center. Consequently, the Pacers added Luis Scola for a bit of low-post help and Chris Copeland to stretch the floor.
It will be interesting to see if Frank Vogel sits Hibbert down when Scola has it going offensively and the Georgetown product is struggling to score. That decision might be the difference between a second-round exit or perhaps a trip to the NBA Finals.
Dwight Howard played his first preseason game as a member of the Houston Rockets against the New Orleans Pelicans and looked like the player that terrorized opposing teams when he played with the Orlando Magic.
The three-time Defensive Player of the Year was very active on both ends of the floor and affected the way the Pelicans played. Howard did a lot of screening and diving down the lane and attracted a swarm of defenders, which allowed his teammates to get a multitude of open 3-point shots.
In addition, the former Los Angeles Laker was active on the low block during post-ups when fighting for position. When he got the ball, he faced up his defender and drove into the lane for scores and fouls. He finished the night with 19 points on 11 shots.
Defensively, he helped out on off-the-ball screens, patrolled the paint and rotated to the ball with great timing and energy. Fans of the Lakers probably will not recognize this healthy version of Howard but watching him regain his form and attempt to reclaim the title of best center alive will be an interesting story to follow.
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