The NBA’s regular season doesn’t officially begin until Oct. 22, but there is plenty of preseason action happening on Tuesday night to hopefully appease your basketball hunger – and plenty of former Kentucky Wildcats will take the court.
Before we get into which members of the BBNBA will be in action, it’s important (to me) that I note that preseason in the NBA shouldn’t be viewed as an accurate predictor of how well these guys are going to play once the season gets rolling. 82 regular season games allow for ups-and-downs of all kinds and every player goes through ruts and spurts of brilliance. These games are merely a chance for the organizations to try and learn more about who they have on the court while giving players on the backend of the rotation some minutes to prove themselves. That being said, preseason basketball isn’t useless by any means – just don’t pay too close attention to the box scores. Especially for the trio of rookies that once represented Kentucky, this is a time for them to get a feel for the NBA’s physicality. A good showing in the preseason can mean everything or nothing, the same way a poor showing can mean the exact same thing. Now let’s get into it.
7:30 (NBA League Pass): Miami Heat (Herro, Adebayo) @ San Antonio Spurs (Johnson, Lyles)
If you haven’t been paying attention to the hype surrounding Tyler Herro and his much-anticipated rookie season for the Miami Heat, I would start now. Herro and the Heat will take on his former blue-and-white teammate Keldon Johnson and the San Antonio Spurs in a game that will be unfortunately only be streamed on NBA’s League Pass.
This will be the second preseason game for Johnson, who registered seven points (on 2-14 shooting *yikes*) and two rebounds in 22 minutes of action against the Orlando Magic on Oct. 5. As for Herro and the Heat, they’ll be playing the first of five preseason games after holding an open-scrimmage on Sunday. Herro has been hyped up rather heavily by the folks down in Miami and there are already some expectations that he could come in and be a rotational piece from the jump.
Look for Johnson to have a bounce-back game after a poor shooting performance and expect to see multiple Twitter videos of Herro if he does anything even remotely interesting.
8:00 (ESPN): Dallas Mavericks @ Oklahoma City Thunder (Gilgeous-Alexander, Diallo, Noel)
In what will be the game of the night (and the only one broadcasted on national television), second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will make his debut for the Oklahoma City Thunder alongside the recent addition of Hall-of-Fame point guard Chris Paul.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is special ?
(IG: allthingsshai) pic.twitter.com/cl9fgFepYi
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) October 7, 2019
I have some (potentially dangerous) expectations for SGA this season as a sophomore guard in OKC. He shined as the lead guard for the Los Angeles Clippers last season, helping aid the team to a playoff berth despite having no true star player. He showed an endless amount of flashes as a rookie and the only reason the Clips parted ways with him was so they could acquire Paul George and Kawhi Leonard – and even then the franchise still didn’t want to get rid of him. He has all the makings of a future All-Star and learning under the “Point God” should expedite that process.
I would still put money on Paul being traded at some point of the season, probably to a team with championship aspirations (or at least hopes of a deep playoff run) such as the Heat or Denver Nuggets, but for now, he’ll run the show with SGA filling in as the secondary ball handler. A matchup against the Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, and the rest of the Dallas Mavericks should make for a fun Tuesday night of preseason hoops.
10:00: Minnesota Timberwolves (Towns) @ Phoenix Suns (Booker)
Finally, we’ll end the evening in Phoenix, where Devin Booker and the Suns will play host to Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Both teams will open up its preseason run with two superstars heading into the 2019-20 season with high expectations on their young shoulders. For Towns and the Wolves, this is a reset year of sorts. No Jimmy Butler drama. No more Tom Thibodeau. Minnesota had a full offseason without those two and head into the year looking for some consistency. I wouldn’t say there are realistic playoff hopes for this team (or the Suns, for that matter), mainly due to an unfairly stacked Western Conference, but Towns is entering a “make-or-break” sort of year.
We know that he’s one of the most dominant big men in the entire world, and you could argue he’s already the most complete big on the offensive side of the court. I have a bet going with one of my friends that Towns joins the elite class of players to record a 50/40/90 season (field goal percentage/three-point percentage/free-throw percentage) and I still believe he can hit that. But he’s going to burden most of the scoring for a Minny team that lacks high-level scorers, which could hurt his percentages as he goes on throughout the year. Even still, KAT posted 51.8/40.0/83.6 shooting splits in 2018-19, so I wouldn’t say it’s too far-fetched that he bumps up that free-throw percentage closer to 90 percent. With all this being said, it’s Towns’ defense that everyone is going to be paying attention to (for, like, the third year in a row).
Karl-Anthony Towns gave his close friend and college teammate Devin Booker glowing scouting report on two of his former teammates who are two of Booker's new #Suns teammates.
Ricky Rubio and Dario Saric. pic.twitter.com/8ayFuxWFkn
— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) October 8, 2019
As for Booker, he’s going to be put under the spotlight once again. The Suns will finally have a competent(ish) team this season with Ricky Rubio running the point and Dario Saric (both former Wolves players) now in the fold along with Deandre Ayton entering his second season. But as I said, this team won’t be expected to make the playoffs. Booker and Towns will get some good minutes in the first half, but will likely take it easy for the most part. Good luck finding this game on the Internet, as well.
*UPDATE* I’m a fool and didn’t post the late game on ESPN, thank you to the comment section.
10:30 (ESPN): Denver Nuggets (Murray, Vanderbilt) @ Portland Trail Blazers (Labissiere)
The ACTUAL final game tonight will be broadcast on ESPN with Skal Labissiere making his Portland Trail Blazers debut. He’ll be the backup for Hassan Whiteside, who was traded from the Miami Heat over the summer. He’ll battle against two former ‘Cats, Jamal Murray and Jarred Vanderbilt. Murray is viewed as the future co-star alongside All-Star Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets’ potential postseason success hinges on Murray’s ability to take another leap. If he can do so, Denver has a legitimate chance to challenge the two powerhouse teams out in Los Angeles (along with every other team in the West). Labissiere and Vando should get some nice run in the second half if you can manage to stay up that long.
It’s almost that time of year for non-stop basketball, so you might as well go ahead and get a preview of what should be an amazing NBA season.