Stephen Curry and the Warriors open the season on top of the Power Rankings.
It remains rather amazing how much better the Western Conference was for so long. Over the 22 seasons from 1999-00 through 2020-21, the West won 56.5% of its regular-season games against the East. Only once in that 22-season stretch (2008-09) did the East have a better record in interconference games.
That remarkable stretch came to an end last season, when the East eked out a victory, going 226-224 in interconference games. And now, the Eastern Conference looks even stronger.
There were 10 East teams that finished with winning records last season. One of them — the Charlotte Hornets — clearly took a step backward this summer. But the other nine remain strong, and two of them — the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers — imported All-Star guards from the West.
At least one of those nine teams is not going to make the playoffs, and at least two others will need to qualify via the Play-In Tournament. Last season, the two Eastern Conference Play-In winners were a team that most general managers picked to win the championship (the Brooklyn Nets) and a team that reached the conference finals the year before (the Hawks).
So who knows how it will shake out this season. All we know is that there will be a lot of must-watch games between those (projected) top nine teams in the East. And there are eight games between those nine teams in Week 1, with only the Hawks not facing one of the other eight. The Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors will each have three games within the group, and they’ll face each other in a two-game series that begins on Saturday night in Miami.
The 2022-23 NBA season is here, and the last two champions sit atop the Week 1 Power Rankings.
Plus-Minus Players of the Preseason
Teams of the Preseason
- Make It Last Forever: Sacramento (4-0) — The Kings had their second straight undefeated preseason and the league’s best preseason defense by a wide margin. Take it for what it’s worth.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Portland (1-4) — The win came against Maccabi Ra’anana, and the four losses came by an average of 21.8 points. And if you discount all games against international teams, the Blazers had the league’s worst defense by a healthy margin.
Movement in the Rankings
- High jumps of the late summer/preseason: Cleveland (+6), Houston (+4), Orlando (+4)
- Free falls of the late summer/preseason: Utah (-6), Chicago (-5), Oklahoma City (-3)
Week 1 Team to Watch
- Philadelphia — There’s no better way to test the new and improved Sixers than with games against the Celtics (Tuesday) and Bucks (Thursday), both on TNT at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Sixers will also host the Spurs on Saturday.
Previous Power Rankings
- This time last year: Bucks, Nets and Suns start season on top — The Lakers went 0-6 in the preseason, while the Mavs won a game in Charlotte by 68 points. Free throws were down and Julius Randle beat the Wizards at the buzzer. Mikal Bridges got a contract extension, but Deandre Ayton did not. Ben Simmons practiced with the Sixers, Marcus Smart missed a flight, and the Nets began the season without Kyrie Irving.
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
The league averaged 111.4 points scored per 100 possessions and 98.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes last season.
NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man’s opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.
2021-22 record: 53-29
OffRtg: 112.1 (16) DefRtg: 106.6 (2) NetRtg: +5.5 (4) Pace: 98.7 (15)
Preseason notes: From the outside, it’s difficult to know if or when the Warriors will be past the fallout from Draymond Green’s punch to Jordan Poole’s face. But when Green was back on the floor for the preseason finale on Friday, the Warriors pretty much looked like themselves. Poole shot just 1-for-10 and they lost the game, but they did have a second-quarter stretch of small ball (with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jonathan Kuminga and Green on the floor with either Poole or Andrew Wiggins) where they scored 19 points on just eight possessions.
Something to watch in Week 1: The young guys. Green-at-the-five minutes could be somewhat limited so the Warriors can feed playing time to James Wiseman, who averaged 27.9 points and 11.7 rebounds per 36 minutes (playing 95 minutes total) in the preseason. Wiseman and Kuminga assisted each other on a couple of nifty feeds in the first quarter of that loss to Denver, and the seven-footer also had some defensive highlights.
The Warriors’ second-unit minutes (with Poole, Donte DiVincenzo, Moses Moody, Kuminga and Wiseman) could be just as fun as watching Curry terrorize opposing defenders with his off-ball movement. And those minutes will be critical as much as they’ll be entertaining. If the young bench can maintain (or even build on) leads, the vets can rest some fourth quarters and stay fresh for April and May. The Warriors will also need at least some of that Moody-Kuminga-Wiseman trio to develop into reliable rotation pieces by the time the playoffs arrive.
The champs have a fun first five games (meetings with the Suns and Heat follow this week’s slate), especially if you put any stock in the Kings’ preseason success. This core is 2-1 on ring night, having won their openers in 2015 and 2018, and lost (with Kevin Durant’s game-winner having come a tick after the buzzer) to Houston in 2017
Week 1: vs. LAL, vs. DEN, vs. SAC
2021-22 record: 51-31
OffRtg: 114.3 (3) DefRtg: 111.1 (14) NetRtg: +3.2 (8) Pace: 100.6 (3)
Preseason notes: The Bucks were one of four teams — the Hornets, Pistons and Blazers were the others — without a win, and they ranked 29th defensively (not counting games involving international teams), allowing 114.3 points per 100 possessions over their five games. They allowed only 106.7 per 100 with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the floor, but that was still more than the league average (104.8). And on the other end, Antetokounmpo had an effective field goal percentage of 32.4%, the second-worst mark among 116 players with at least 35 field goal attempts in the preseason.
But if there’s an Eastern Conference team that shouldn’t sweat preseason numbers, it’s this one. According to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, the Bucks were the team that got the lowest percentage of their preseason minutes from their projected rotation. And they were also winless (0-3 and outscored by 12.1 points per 100 possessions) in the preseason two years ago. Seven months later, they were NBA champions.
Something to watch in Week 1: The big lineup. In the two years that Bobby Portis has been in Milwaukee, he’s played 605 total minutes alongside Brook Lopez, usually with Antetokounmpo on the bench. The two-time former Kia MVP has also been on the floor for less than 120 (about 19%) of those 605 minutes. But in the preseason, the Bucks went big, starting Portis in place of Khris Middleton, whose return date (he had wrist surgery in July) is unknown.
They can still space the floor around Antetokounmpo with both Portis and Lopez on the frontline, but the Bucks are less skilled and less mobile on the perimeter. Pat Connaughton’s calf injury (he’s out three weeks) limits their perimeter options even more. They did seem to be asking for more playmaking out of Grayson Allen — putting the ball in his hands via off-ball screens and handoffs — in the preseason.
The Bucks don’t start their season until Thursday, when they visit Philly. Their longest homestand of the season — six games over 12 days — begins two nights later.
Week 1: @ PHI, vs. HOU
2021-22 record: 51-31
OffRtg: 113.6 (9) DefRtg: 106.2 (1) NetRtg: +7.4 (2) Pace: 97.3 (24)
Preseason notes: Despite all the turmoil that the prior two weeks had brought, the Celtics looked ready for the season in their first preseason game, a 41-point win over Charlotte. Heck, the Celtics looked ready on their first defensive possession of the night, switching seamlessly, rotating well and forcing a tough shot late in the clock. It’s possible they got bored (or tired from playing two overtime games) by the end of the preseason slate, when they allowed the Raptors to score 137 points on 112 possessions (1.22 per) in Montreal.
Malcolm Brogdon appeared to fit in well, averaging 11.6 assists per 36 minutes (second only to Chris Paul) in the preseason. But turnovers continue to be an issue for the Celtics, who committed 19 or more in three of their four games. Jaylen Brown had 11 turnovers with just seven assists.
Something to watch in Week 1: Small ball. The Celtics signed Blake Griffin and kept Noah Vonleh on the roster, but (with Robert Williams III out) they also played some small ball in the preseason, with Jayson Tatum or Grant Williams at the five. Neither Griffin nor Vonleh are particularly reliable and the Celtics certainly want to keep 36-year-old Al Horford as fresh as possible. So they could try to steal a few minutes per game with none of those guys on the floor.
Rebounding will be a concern, though. The Celtics ranked 29th in defensive rebounding percentage in the preseason, though it should be noted that two of their four games came against the team — Toronto — that ranked second in offensive rebounding percentage last season.
This week’s opponents ranked 30th, 10th and 27th, but both the Sixers (with Joel Embiid) and Magic (playing big across the frontline) have size that the Celtics will have to deal with. The Embiid matchup will also challenge the notion of limiting Horford’s minutes.
Week 1: vs. PHI, @ MIA, @ ORL
2021-22 record: 64-18
OffRtg: 114.2 (5) DefRtg: 106.8 (3) NetRtg: +7.5 (1) Pace: 100.3 (8)
Preseason notes: It was on defense where the Suns struggled more in the playoffs, and it was on defense where they showed something new in the preseason. They were one of two teams (Orlando was the other) to play more than 30 possessions of zone in the preseason (consistently going to it after shooting free throws), having ranked 26th in total zone possessions (107) last season, according to Synergy tracking.
On offense, they ran some stuff – handoffs, cross-screens — for Mikal Bridges, who had a usage rate of 20%, not super high, but his highest mark for any preseason, regular season or postseason. The Suns didn’t shoot particularly well, but Chris Paul still had 30 assists (14.0 per 36 minutes) and just four turnovers in his three preseason games.
Something to watch in Week 1: The bench. Until they trade Jae Crowder, the Suns are seemingly depending on some combination of Torrey Craig, Damion Lee, Josh Okogie, Landry Shamet and Ish Wainwright for bench minutes on the wing. Cameron Payne also needs to recover from a rough ’21-22, when he had an effective field goal percentage of just 46.9%, down from 57.6% the season prior and the 10th worst mark among 178 players with at least 500 field goal attempts. The returning Dario Saric, meanwhile, played just 16 total minutes in the preseason. So bench minutes (though the Suns will likely have either Paul or Devin Booker on the floor at all times) could be an adventure.
The Suns play their first nine games within the Western Conference, and they’ll have an opportunity to exorcise some demons when they host the Mavs on Wednesday. They’ll have a rest advantage on Sunday in L.A. which means they might not get the full-strength Clippers.
Week 1: vs. DAL, @ POR, @ LAC
2021-22 record: 42-40
OffRtg: 109.5 (25) DefRtg: 109.5 (8) NetRtg: -0.0 (18) Pace: 98.5 (19)
Preseason notes: The Clippers have a league-high eight players who shot the league average (35.4%) or better on at least 100 3-point attempts last season, and that list obviously doesn’t include Kawhi Leonard, who has shot 38.1% from beyond the arc over his last three seasons. The Clips didn’t wait until the games counted to start showing off their assemblage of shooters, making 39.9% (second best) of their 3-point attempts in the preseason. And that was with Leonard and Paul George combining to go 5-for-20 from beyond arc.
The Clips did lose two of their three games against NBA teams, allowing the Wolves and Nuggets to score more than 123 points per 100 possessions in Ivica Zubac’s 33 minutes over those two games. This was a top-10 defensive team last season and the returning Leonard is one of the best defenders of the last 20 years, but they still need to put the work in to reestablish themselves on that end of the floor.
Something to watch in Week 1: The rest plan. The first of the Clippers’ 15 back-to-backs is Saturday (at Sacramento) and Sunday (vs. Phoenix). We can safely assume that Leonard will play in only one of the two games, but will the Clips save him for the Suns? Will George (who’s played in both games in just 14 of the Clippers’ 38 back-to-backs in his three seasons in L.A.) play in both games? And if they each sit one out, will it be the same one? You could believe that Leonard missing games will keep the Clippers from finishing at (or near) the top of the standings, but they’re 31-22 (.585) in regular-season games that George has played without Leonard over the last three years.
Eight of the Clippers’ first nine games are against teams that had losing records last season, with the Phoenix game being the lone exception.
Week 1: @ LAL, @ SAC, vs. PHX
2021-22 record: 51-31
OffRtg: 113.0 (11) DefRtg: 110.2 (12) NetRtg: +2.8 (9) Pace: 96.7 (26)
Preseason notes: Tyrese Maxey came out on fire, averaging 40.2 points per 36 minutes (shooting 64%, including 8-for-12 from deep) over the Sixers’ first three preseason games and looking like a potential answer for the “Who’ll be a first-time All-Star this year?” question. He cooled off against Charlotte on Wednesday, but the Sixers were still one of two unbeaten teams in the preseason.
Matisse Thybulle shot 4-for-11 from 3-point range, but appears to be out of the rotation to start the season, a victim of the Sixers’ added depth. So it will be interesting to see how well this team defends without the most disruptive defender in the league.
Something to watch in Week 1: Harden’s finishing inside. With how much oomph that Maxey gives the Sixers’ offense, Harden doesn’t need to be as much of an attacker as he’s been in the past. But he is going to be handling the ball and he will venture into the paint, so he’ll need to finish well and/or draws fouls when he gets there.
Harden’s 48.3% in the paint last season ranked 81st among 97 guards with at least 200 field goal attempts in the paint. And in the preseason, he shot just 4-for-11 (36%) in the paint, while registering the lowest preseason free throw rate (22 attempts per 100 shots from the field) of his career. He played just 70 total minutes, but that wasn’t particularly encouraging.
The Sixers begin the season with two marquee games on TNT, visiting the Celtics on Tuesday and hosting the Bucks on Thursday. Philly has played just one game against those two teams with Harden in uniform. They blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead and lost to Milwaukee by two points in late March, with Harden missing a go-ahead 3 and Giannis Antetokounmpo blocking Embiid’s put-back attempt.
Week 1: @ BOS, vs. MIL, vs. SAS
2021-22 record: 48-34
OffRtg: 113.8 (6) DefRtg: 111.5 (15) NetRtg: +2.3 (11) Pace: 98.4 (20)
Preseason notes: Jamal Murray (hamstring issue) and Nikola Jokic (wrist injury) played just one game together, but the Nuggets’ offense was still efficient with their rotation guys on the floor. Of course, their other team’s offense was also efficient, and the 110.3 points per 100 possessions that the Nuggets and their opponents combined to score was the highest combined mark (edging out that of the Celtics) in the preseason.
Something to watch in Week 1: Jokic’s shooting. The MVP took just eight shots (along with 13 free throws) in his 52 preseason minutes, registering a usage rate of just 19.1% (eighth highest on the team). The Nuggets aren’t voicing much concern and both Jokic and Murray are expected to be ready for their game in Utah on Wednesday. In each of the last two years, Jokic had a much higher usage rate in the regular season (29.3% and 30.9%) than he did in the preseason (18.4% and 22.9%), so taking a back seat when the games don’t count is not unusual. But if his wrist injury lingers and affects either his aggressiveness or his effectiveness, that’s a problem.
Jokic is the best passer in the league and he now has more scorers around him than he did last season, but the Nuggets still need him to score. His true shooting percentage of 66.1% last season was the third highest mark for a player with a usage rate of 25% or higher (trailing only two Stephen Curry seasons) in the 26 years for which we have play-by-play data.
Last season was the first time in the 46 years since they came to the NBA that the Nuggets had a better record on the road (25-16) than they did at home (23-18). This season, they’ll play 13 of their first 19 games away from Ball Arena, though six of those 13 road games are against the Jazz, Blazers, Thunder (x 2), Spurs and Pacers.
Week 1: @ UTA, @ GSW, vs. OKC
2021-22 record: 56-26
OffRtg: 114.3 (4) DefRtg: 108.9 (6) NetRtg: +5.3 (5) Pace: 100.5 (4)
Preseason notes: Ja Morant looks ready to go after averaging 32.1 points per 36 minutes, featuring plenty of highlights and a ton of free throws. His free throw rate (55.2 attempts per 100 shots from the field) ranked fourth among 76 players with at least 40 field goal attempts in the preseason.
Morant was just 3-for-13 (23%) from 3-point range, but he’s got another shooter playing alongside him. The Grizzlies’ starting power forward (in place of the injured Jaren Jackson Jr.) is Santi Aldama, who played just 360 total minutes (fewer than the recently waived Killian Tillie) last season. He’s got a pretty smooth-looking stroke and he drained four 3-pointers in the Grizzlies’ win against Orlando two weeks ago, finishing 6-for-15 from beyond the arc and 16-for-23 (70%) in the paint.
Something to watch in Week 1: Bench minutes. The Grizzlies lost depth with the departures of De’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson this summer. And with Ziaire Williams dealing with a knee issue, they may need one or both of their first-round picks (Jake LaRavia and David Roddy) to play meaningful minutes to start the season. Both played a lot in the preseason, the second unit had an egalitarian feel to it (everybody handles and moves the ball), and the Grizz were at their best (outscoring their opponents by 15.6 points per 100 possessions) with *Roddy on the floor.
* The pick that the Grizzlies used to select Roddy was acquired in the Melton trade, which will obviously look better for the Grizz if the rookie is (or becomes) a real contributor.
After they host the Knicks on Wednesday, the Grizz will play six of their next seven games on the road, and they’ll have a rest disadvantage (they play the night before, the Mavs don’t) in Dallas on Saturday. They lost three of four to the Mavs last season, scoring just 95.1 points per 100 possessions (their worst mark against any opponent by a wide margin) over the four games.
Week 1: vs. NYK, @ HOU, @ DAL
2021-22 record: 53-29
OffRtg: 113.0 (12) DefRtg: 108.4 (4) NetRtg: +4.5 (6) Pace: 96.5 (28)
Preseason notes: The starters didn’t play much (Jimmy Butler logged just 42 minutes over two games), but the Heat still went 4-1, because seemingly anybody in a Heat uniform looks competent when he’s on the floor. Nikola Jovic (the No. 27 pick) didn’t need much time in the Biscayne Bay lab to look like the next great Heat find, averaging 22.1 points, 12.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists per 36 minutes. The new starting lineup — with Tyler Herro and Caleb Martin — did play a little more than 20 minutes together in the preseason finale and outscored the Pelicans, 61-47. Martin drove past Zion Williamson three times in the first four minutes to create eight points for his teammates.
Something to watch in Week 1: Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo. Lowry was out there taking charges on Wednesday, but neither vet looked particularly good offensively in the preseason. Oladipo had nine assists in just 37 minutes, but the pair combined to shoot 11-for-37 (30%), including 4-for-20 from 3-point range. With Lowry turning 37 in March and Oladipo having played just 115 games over the last four years, it’s fair to wonder how much the Heat can rely on them.
The Heat begin the season with a four-game homestand, with all four games against teams — the Bulls, Celtics and Raptors (x 2) — that finished in the top six in the East last season. They swept the Bulls last year, winning the last three games by an average of 19 points.
It’s time to ball, y’all.
Week 1: vs. CHI, vs. BOS, vs. TOR
OffRtg: 113.2 (10) DefRtg: 112.3 (20) NetRtg: +0.9 (15) Pace: 99.4 (11)
Preseason notes: After looking very clunky (thanks in part to switching defenses) in their first two games, the Nets found themselves on the road, winning the minutes with their stars on the floor pretty handily in Milwaukee and Minnesota. Ben Simmons didn’t shoot from outside the paint, was 1-for-6 from the free throw line, and didn’t have Karl-Anthony Towns’ respect on the first possession on Friday. But he did get the Nets in transition and he registered a 16/4 assist/turnover ratio over those last two games.
New assistant coach Igor Kokoskov has added some wrinkles and movement to what’s been an iso-heavy offense the last two seasons, and that should help. But the Nets will still need to avoid the defensive lapses that have often plagued them. In their preseason opener (their first chance in five months to play NBA basketball), they gave up 42 first-quarter points to the Sixers (who were without both James Harden and Joel Embiid).
Something to watch in Week 1: The bench. It’s not good that neither Seth Curry nor Joe Harris will be ready for the season opener, with Harris’ foot soreness (after playing 15 minutes in the preseason opener) being particularly concerning. Without the two shooters, the Nets will need to count more heavily on Patty Mills and Cam Thomas off the bench, which will compromise their defense. Bench minutes in the preseason were generally not good.
Of course, the starting lineup (with Royce O’Neale in Harris’ place) is big and versatile. The Nets will face two more starting lineups with size in Week 1. Their first five games — vs. New Orleans, vs. Toronto, at Memphis, at Milwaukee, vs. Dallas — is probably their toughest stretch in the first half of the season. They do play six of their first eight at home, though last season’s Nets were just the fourth team in NBA history with a losing record (20-21) at home and a winning record (24-17) on the road. And that wasn’t a product of Kyrie Irving’s availability (they were 4-2 at home and 10-13 on the road when he played).
Week 1: vs. NOP, vs. TOR
2021-22 record: 44-38
OffRtg: 111.0 (20) DefRtg: 108.9 (5) NetRtg: +2.1 (13) Pace: 96.8 (25)
Preseason notes: The Cavs’ win over the Hawks on Wednesday was a tasty matchup of the two Eastern Conference teams that traded for one All-Star guard to complement another. And (at this point) Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell look more complementary than Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. The Cavs ran a lot of Spain pick-and-roll involving both guards and there was one possession where Garland passed to Mitchell and then relocated Stephen-Curry style to a corner 3.
For the preseason, the Cavs were a plus-11 in a little more than 59 minutes (all against the Sixers and Hawks) with Garland and Mitchell on the floor together, scoring about 113 points per 48 minutes. None of those 59 minutes came with Evan Mobley, who only played in the preseason finale (with the starting guards and Jarrett Allen resting).
Something to watch in Week 1: Mobley. The 21-year-old played only 16:31 in that game against Orlando on Friday, shooting 1-for-4 (the first two shots were not good). The Cavs shouldn’t need him to do too much offensively, but it will still be important to see if he’s bringing anything new to the table after a summer of work.
The Cavs play their first eight games within the Eastern Conference and their opener in Toronto on Wednesday should be a fun matchup of two teams with very different playing styles and the potential to earn a top-four seed. Cleveland won three of the four meetings last season, scoring 117.3 points per 100 possessions (fifth best vs. the Raptors) over the four games.
Week 1: @ TOR, @ CHI, vs. WAS
2021-22 record: 48-34
OffRtg: 112.1 (15) DefRtg: 109.9 (9) NetRtg: +2.2 (12) Pace: 96.6 (27)
Preseason notes: The Raptors sometimes feel like they’re playing a different sport than the 29 other teams. In fact, their offense is often a football-style handoff to one of their (many) forwards, with the floor spread wide so he can play one-on-one. And sometimes, it’s an option play, where the QB fakes the initial handoff and then pitches to the next guy … or just takes the ball to the rim himself. They have their back-up center (Precious Achiuwa) taking the inbounds pass after made free throws and not stopping until he gets to the basket.
The Raptors ranked last in the percentage of their field goals that were assisted last season (54.3%), and they saw the second biggest drop from last season to the preseason (league-low 45.5%). Nick Nurse is not Norman Dale.
Something to watch in Week 1: Shooting. Nobody on this team is looking like Jimmy Chitwood, either. The Raptors shot a brutal 24% from 3-point range in the preseason and may again need to rely on a low turnover rate and a high offensive rebounding percentage (they ranked in the top five in both in the preseason) to keep their funky offense afloat. But their shooting-opportunity differential from last season — they averaged 7.0 more field goal attempts or trips to the line than their opponents — was the highest for any team in the last 23 years and will be tough to duplicate. They’ll try to get as much offense as they can in transition, but (as simple as it sounds) they’ll also need to make some jump shots.
The Raptors’ first seven games are all within those (projected) top nine teams in the East, with a two-game series in Miami (Saturday and next Monday) followed by two games at home against the Sixers.
Week 1: vs. CLE, @ BKN, @ MIA
2021-22 record: 52-30
OffRtg: 112.5 (14) DefRtg: 109.1 (7) NetRtg: +3.5 (7) Pace: 95.6 (30)
Preseason notes: The Mavs played just three preseason games (fewest in the league) and Luka Doncic scored an efficient 40 points in his 48 minutes on the floor. He was 8-for-9 in the paint, getting defenders (who seemingly had him stopped) to bite on his subtle pump fakes. But the Mavs remain a jump-shooting team, with 62% of their preseason shots, the league’s highest rate, coming from outside the paint. (In the last three seasons, they’ve ranked 30th, 28th and 30th in the percentage of their shots that have come in the paint.) They also ranked last in preseason rebounding percentage by a healthy margin.
Something to watch in Week 1: Does Christian Wood close? Wood came off the bench in all three preseason games and played just 26 of his 68 minutes with Doncic. But they teamed up for a pick-and-roll layup on their very first offensive possession together and the Mavs scored 65 points in those 26 minutes (a rate of 120 per 48). Wood will need to earn Jason Kidd’s trust (to a certain degree, at least) on defense, and it will be fascinating to see who’s on the floor down the stretch of the Mavs’ first few close games.
Their first two opponents had the league’s two best clutch records last season. And it certainly would be fun to see Doncic go head-to-head down the stretch of a close game against Chris Paul and/or Ja Morant. It would be even more fun if Wood has to guard one or both of those guys in the pick-and-roll.
Week 1: @ PHX, vs. MEM
2021-22 record: 46-36
OffRtg: 113.8 (7) DefRtg: 111.0 (13) NetRtg: +2.7 (10) Pace: 101.5 (1)
Preseason notes: Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert played just 29 minutes together (all in the finale against Brooklyn) and the Wolves were outscored by 16 points in that time, with the Nets scoring at a rate of 131 points per 48 minutes. This team should be more willing to pass the ball to Gobert than the Jazz were and he did show some aggressiveness in sealing smaller defenders under the basket, but his usage rate in 47 total minutes (14.9%) was lower than it was last preseason (21.4%). He’s going to get fouled a lot and he’s shot just 64.6% from the line over the last four seasons, but 1.29 points per possession is still efficient.
The Wolves won their other four games, though consistency (on both ends of the floor) remains an issue with Anthony Edwards, who had just eight free throw attempts to go with his 68 shots from the field. He may find it harder to get to the basket and to the line when both bigs are in the lineup.
Something to watch in Week 1: Towns’ mobility. With Gobert on the floor, Towns will need to be able to defend the perimeter. And (in at least one game) when Gobert was off the floor, the Wolves had Towns blitzing pick-and-rolls (like he did last season), another challenge of his mobility. On offense, Towns likes to trail the break and drive past his man, which may be a little more difficult against opposing forwards than it is against centers.
The Wolves’ schedule for the first two weeks may be the softest we’ve seen in a long time. Their first seven games are against the Thunder (x 2), Jazz, Spurs (x 3) and Lakers.
Week 1: vs. OKC, vs. UTA, @ OKC
2021-22 record: 43-39
OffRtg: 115.4 (2) DefRtg: 113.7 (26) NetRtg: +1.6 (14) Pace: 98.7 (17)
Preseason notes: The offense was a bit of a my-turn-your-turn affair. Trae Young went off when Dejounte Murray missed the Hawks’ second game in Abu Dhabi, but Young was often a bystander as Murray scored 25 points (shooting 7-for-9 on pull-up 2-pointers) two nights earlier. Of course, when there are fewer passes, there are fewer turnovers and while the Hawks ranked 27th in assist rate (recording assists on just 56.4% of their buckets), they also had the lowest turnover rate (12.5 per 100 possessions) in the preseason. And you can certainly do worse than having two guards who can shoot well off the dribble.
Maybe the Hawks have more than that, despite the departure of Kevin Huerter. Bogdan Bogdanovic (49.3% on pull-up 2s last season) missed the entire preseason and will be out for the opener on Wednesday. But De’Andre Hunter was playing pick-and-roll somewhat capably in Cleveland on Wednesday.
Something to watch in Week 1: What happens when Murray grabs a defensive rebound? Young will have plenty of opportunities to play off the ball, because Murray will often get it off the glass himself. He had the second-highest defensive rebounding percentage (19.6%) among 198 players 6-foot-6 and shorter who averaged at least 10 minutes per game last season. It may be an adjustment for Young to run ahead, rather than circle back to the ball when it’s already in the hands of a capable playmaker. But if he can get some catches in the open floor (like this one in their first preseason game), he can have more space to perform his wizardry.
The Hawks’ first five games — this week’s homestand plus two in Detroit — are one of the easiest five-game stretches for any team all season.
Week 1: vs. HOU, vs. ORL, vs. CHA
2021-22 record: 36-46
OffRtg: 111.2 (19) DefRtg: 112.0 (18) NetRtg: -0.8 (21) Pace: 98.0 (21)
Preseason notes: Zion Williamson played 71 minutes before turning his left ankle, and it’s not clear if he’ll be available for the Pelicans’ opener in Brooklyn. Just as concerning as the injury was his defense against the Heat on Wednesday, when Caleb Martin drove past him three times (one, two, three) in the first four minutes of the game.
The Pelicans should be able to make up for their defensive issues on the other end, and their offense was pretty potent with their starters on the floor in the preseason, even though Brandon Ingram only played in the finale (which Williamson missed). They played fast, seeing the league’s biggest jump in pace from last season (98.0 possessions per 48 minutes, 21st) to the preseason (107.3, third). Williamson showed both quickness and strength in getting to the bucket in isolation, but the more they can get him on the move, the better.
Something to watch in Week 1: Trey Murphy. The 6-8, second-year forward is the type of player who can fit into any lineup, and he filled in for both Ingram and Williamson last week. He was overshadowed by Herb Jones last season, but had a strong finish to his rookie campaign, averaging 16.4 points and shooting 44% from 3-point range in 21 games after the All-Star break. And then he shot 14-for-25 (56%) from beyond the arc in the preseason. The Pelicans’ bench ranked in the bottom 10 last season, but if Murphy is the real deal, they can both win more minutes with their second unit and better withstand the inevitable absences from their stars.
The Pelicans will play eight of their first 11 games on the road, but shouldn’t have a problem getting off to a better start than they did last year, when they lost 12 of their first 13.
Week 1: @ BKN, @ CHA, vs. UTA
2021-22 record: 46-36
OffRtg: 112.7 (13) DefRtg: 113.2 (23) NetRtg: -0.5 (20) Pace: 98.8 (14)
Preseason notes: It’s probably not good that Patrick Williams hasn’t established himself as the obvious starting power forward, but it would be hard to argue with a choice to start Javonte Green, given his preseason numbers. The 29-year-old shot 20-for-28 (including 6-for-9 from 3-point range) and the Bulls outscored their opponents by 27.4 points per 100 possessions in his 77 minutes on the floor. Nikola Vucevic also had a strong preseason, registering an effective field goal percentage of 77.0% (best among 113 players with at least 35 field goal attempts) and looking a little more active defensively.
Something to watch in Week 1: Zach LaVine in the paint. LaVine has seen a drop in the percentage of his shots that have come in the paint in each of the last three seasons. Nursing a knee injury for most of last season, that percentage dropped from 43% (in ’20-21) to 39%. It’s possible that LaVine just doesn’t have his legs under him yet, but only five (22%) of his 23 preseason shots came in the paint, and he had just four free throw attempts to go with those 23 shots. It doesn’t help that Lonzo Ball (who would get LaVine more transition opportunities) is out for the foreseeable future, but the Bulls need LaVine to be more than a jump-shooter.
Eleven of the Bulls’ first 12 games are within the Eastern Conference, and that stretch includes four of their 15 back-to-backs. The first of those is this weekend, and the Cavs (not playing Friday) will have a rest advantage at the United Center on Saturday.
Week 1: @ MIA, @ WAS, vs. CLE
2021-22 record: 37-45
OffRtg: 109.7 (23) DefRtg: 110.2 (11) NetRtg: -0.4 (19) Pace: 96.4 (29)
Preseason notes: The Knicks played their guys, and the numbers were terrific with their starters on the floor. They outscored their opponents by 37.3 points per 100 possessions with Evan Fournier on the floor, the third-highest mark among 325 players who averaged at least 15 minutes in two games or more. Mitchell Robinson, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson all ranked in the top eight as well.
The bench minutes (especially in the last two games) weren’t so good, but this bench has a history of regular-season success to fall back on. There were some signs of the Knicks looking to get into their offense faster – Randle got himself a post-up mismatch by pushing off a make and getting into a dribble-handoff with 21 seconds still left on the shot clock – but there were similar signs last year, so take a believe-it-when-you-see-it approach on that. Brunson does certainly give them some needed punch off the dribble, and he’s amazingly crafty in the paint.
Something to watch in Week 1: The level at which they defend. The offense was ugly last season, but the bigger difference between the ’20-21 Knicks and the ’21-22 Knicks was on defense. Personnel changes had something to do with that, but the returning guys also didn’t play as hard on that end of the floor. This is Year 3 under coach Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks’ success will, in part, be determined by how much they buy in and make multiple efforts defensively.
They’ll be tested early. Seven of the Knicks’ first 11 games, including their Wednesday opener in Memphis, are against teams that ranked in the top 10 offensively last season.
Week 1: @ MEM, vs. DET
2021-22 record: 33-49
OffRtg: 110.0 (22) DefRtg: 112.8 (21) NetRtg: -2.9 (22) Pace: 100.5 (7)
Preseason notes: The Lakers’ preseason wasn’t as bad as last year (0-6 and outscored by almost 18 points per 100 possessions with Anthony Davis on the floor), but it wasn’t much better. Their first defensive possession of their first game had Davis losing his man and LeBron James standing still when there was a very obvious rotation to be made. They didn’t rank as low on defense (24th, counting only games involving NBA teams) as they did on offense (30th — 93.9 points scored per 100 possessions), though the Laker who took the most preseason shots was somebody named Cole Swider, who was 14-for-54 (26%). Maybe that would have been Davis, but he missed three games with back tightness.
A positive was Kendrick Nunn playing five games, registering an effective field goal percentage of 59.0%, and looking both shifty and smooth off the dribble. Plus, the Lakers were outscored by only two points in James’ 76 minutes, with most of the plus-minus damage coming against guys who shouldn’t be in the rotation.
Something to watch in Week 1: Lineups. There’s talk of Davis starting at center and Westbrook coming off the bench. But the rotation seems far from settled and it’s not clear which guard combinations might actually work. Starting Davis and James on the frontline would also leave the Lakers pretty small on the perimeter, with 6-4 Lonnie Walker IV or 6-5 Austin Reaves starting at the three. That might fly against the Blazers on Sunday, but could present challenges against Andrew Wiggins and Kawhi Leonard.
After they visit the champs on Tuesday, the Lakers will play 11 of their next 14 games in L.A. This will, once again (and no matter the results), be a fascinating team to watch in the early going.
Week 1: @ GSW, vs. LAC, vs. POR
2021-22 record: 30-52
OffRtg: 109.6 (24) DefRtg: 114.8 (27) NetRtg: -5.2 (25) Pace: 100.1 (9)
Preseason notes: The Kings were the best team in the preseason, going 4-0 and winning three of their four games (including two against the Lakers that LeBron James participated in) by 30 points or more. They ranked fourth offensively and first defensively (not counting games involving international teams) and had a per-100-possessions point differential (plus-26.0) that was double that of any other team. Their per-game point differential was that of a team that would win 81 of 82 games. (81-1 should be good enough to end the playoff drought.)
Keegan Murray shot 5-for-7 on 2-point shots (showing some nice touch on his floater) and 7-for-10 on 3-pointers in his 43 preseason minutes, also making some positive contributions — breaking up a lob from the weak side, reading a cross-court pass — defensively. But the No. 5 pick missed the last two games and is now reportedly in Health and Safety protocols.
Something to watch in Week 1: Domantas Sabonis’ fouls. The Kings mixed up their pick-and-roll coverages, were relatively aggressive (there was some blitzing in the first Lakers game), and led the preseason in opponent turnover rate. They averaged 13.1 more shooting opportunities per game than their opponents, which is a pretty amazing differential, even in the preseason.
More encouraging may be that the Kings also ranked first in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (47.6%), but that came with the highest opponent free throw rate by a wide margin. Richaun Holmes had seven fouls in just 28 minutes and, more importantly, Sabonis (3.3 fouls per 36 over his last three seasons) averaged 5.4 per 36 in the preseason. Holmes may be the best back-up center in the league, but the Kings don’t want Sabonis (who had a 20/4 assist/turnover ratio) in early foul trouble.
Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Curry in Week 1 present serious challenges to whatever pick-and-roll coverage the Kings employ and Sabonis’ ability to move his feet defensively.
Week 1: vs. POR, vs. LAC, @ GSW
2021-22 record: 27-55
OffRtg: 107.3 (27) DefRtg: 116.3 (29) NetRtg: -9.1 (30) Pace: 98.7 (15)
Preseason notes: The Blazers went 0-4 against NBA teams (losing the last two games by a total of 65 points) and were outscored by 17.8 points per 100 possessions in Damian Lillard’s 75 minutes on the floor. So, that’s not good. In those four games, they allowed 118.7 points per 100 possessions, 4.3 more than any other team and 13.8 more than the preseason average (in games between NBA teams). Even if you count their 53-point win over Maccabi Ra’anana, the Blazers ranked 24th in opponent effective field goal percentage, 26th in opponent free throw rate, and 30th in defensive rebounding percentage.
Something to watch in Week 1: The results. Given the shakiness of the preseason (and last season, for that matter), it’s fair to wonder if the Blazers aren’t again a bottom-five team in the West. And two of their Week 1 games — visits to Sacramento and L.A. — could really help answer that very question. There are 24 weeks of games after this one and this is a new group that needs time to gel, but the Kings and Lakers are teams the Blazers will need to beat if they want to make the playoffs. Portland wasn’t resting anybody when it got thumped in Sacramento eight days ago.
Gary Payton II, one of the guys brought in to help the worst defense of the last four years, will miss at least the first five games of the regular season. The schedule gets much tougher after Week 1.
Week 1: @ SAC, vs. PHX, @ LAL
2021-22 record: 35-47
OffRtg: 110.2 (21) DefRtg: 113.6 (25) NetRtg: -3.4 (23) Pace: 97.8 (22)
Preseason notes: Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis played just 15 minutes together, with one or the other missing each of the Wizards’ last three games. The Wiz scored just 28 points in those 15 minutes, but the pair did connect on a lob and the Warriors’ offense scored only 24 points in that same time. (That first game in Japan was not pretty.) Beal was 2-for-10 from beyond the arc, so it’s a T.B.D. on his ability to rediscover his 3-point stroke.
The development of the young guys is probably more important than the Beal-Porzingis chemistry, but Deni Avdija (groin injury) missed the entire preseason, Corey Kispert sprained his ankle early in the second game, and Johnny Davis shot 2-for-21. Rui Hachimura’s 3-point shot looked flat again, but he was noticeably aggressive and 20-for-31 (65%) inside the arc.
Something to watch in Week 1: Defense. A year ago, the Wizards won 10 of their first 13 games, and they ranked fourth defensively through the first four weeks of the season. And then they went 25-44 the rest of the way and finished 25th defensively. Over the last four seasons, only Portland and Cleveland (who took a big step forward last season) have allowed more points per 100 possessions than Washington. We can’t expect this team to rank in the top 10 on that end of the floor, but it could certainly set a goal of not ranking in the bottom 10. With the potential that this group has offensively, the not-so-bad defense could keep the Wiz competitive.
The Wizards have a league-high 12 single-game road trips this season, and four of them – to Indiana, Cleveland, Boston and Philly – are in the first 15 days.
Week 1: @ IND, vs. CHI, @ CLE
2021-22 record: 22-60
OffRtg: 103.9 (29) DefRtg: 112.1 (19) NetRtg: -8.1 (28) Pace: 99.7 (10)
Preseason notes: As expected, the Magic frontline was driving the car. Paolo Banchero was handling the ball in pick-and-rolls, Franz Wagner led the team in assists per 36 minutes (7.4), and they were even setting pin-down screens for Wendell Carter Jr., who made good reads on the move. The search for starting guards continues, with Terrence Ross even getting a couple of starts in the preseason. Jalen Suggs turned the ball over nine times in 38 minutes and then suffered a pretty scary left knee injury (he’s expected to be available Wednesday, somehow). With Markelle Fultz and Gary Harris also out, the Magic went super big in the preseason finale, starting the 6-10 Wagner at guard and running out a frontline of Banchero, Carter and Mo Bamba (with Bol Bol in Bamba’s place to start the second half).
Something to watch in Week 1: Wagner. Give Banchero some time to find his way. Last year’s No. 1 pick (Cade Cunningham – who the Magic will face in the opener) looked pretty rough (shooting 7-for-39) in his first few games and the No. 2 pick (Jalen Green) was also much better late in the season than he was early. But Wagner should hit the ground running after a strong rookie season and impressive showing at Eurobasket. With his size and skill set, he may have just as high a ceiling as Banchero. And if both of those guys hit, look out.
The Magic lost their first two games last season (against the Spurs and Knicks) by a total of 51 points and they were 5-18 on Dec. 1. A better start to this season would be nice.
Week 1: @ DET, @ ATL, vs. BOS
2021-22 record: 20-62
OffRtg: 108.1 (26) DefRtg: 116.4 (30) NetRtg: -8.3 (29) Pace: 101.2 (2)
Preseason notes: The first quarter of preseason games is the 12 minutes that most resemble regular season basketball, and the Rockets were the best first-quarter team in the preseason, outscoring their opponents by 32.3 points per 100 possessions in the opening 12 minutes of their four games. More promising is that Jalen Green just continues to get better. He came back with a stronger base and a better-looking stroke on his 3-point shot, and he remains ridiculously quick. The Rockets scored more than 130 points per 100 possessions in Green’s 105 minutes on the floor.
Kevin Porter Jr. also had a strong preseason and Tari Eason looks like he can play. The rookie shot 23-for-33 (70%) in the paint and ranked third in offensive rebounding percentage (17.3%) among players who averaged 15 minutes or more in at least two games.
Something to watch in Week 1: Turnovers. The Rockets had the league’s highest turnover rate (16.2 per 100 possessions) by a comfortable margin last season, one reason why they set an 18-year record for most transition points allowed per game (25.0). The preseason (when only the Nets turned the ball over more per possession) wasn’t promising, and the Rockets will face some tests in Week 1. The Hawks have last season’s leader in deflections per game (Dejounte Murray) and the Grizzlies ranked fourth in opponent turnover rate last season.
The Rockets lost their first 11 road games last season, and ten of their first 13 games are on the road this year.
Week 1: @ ATL, vs. MEM, @ MIL
2021-22 record: 23-59
OffRtg: 105.6 (28) DefRtg: 113.3 (24) NetRtg: -7.7 (26) Pace: 98.8 (13)
Preseason notes: The Pistons were switching everything defensively, and the results were not good. A switching defense is meant to keep the ball in front, but no team (not even Maccabi Ra’anana) allowed more points per game in the restricted area than Detroit (51.0). Only the Bucks (and the international teams) allowed more points per 100 possessions and the Detroit defense was at its worst with the starters on the floor.
The Pistons saw the second biggest jump in 3-point rate from last season (39.1%, 17th) to the preseason (50.7%, third), and Isaiah Stewart was 7-for-18 (39%) from beyond the arc. Marvin Bagley’s injury had Stewart playing a few minutes alongside Jalen Duren, who ranked second in rebounding percentage (among players who averaged 10 or more minutes in at least two games). Of course, the rookie also averaged 7.3 fouls per 36 minutes and had some trouble containing drives after he switched onto guards.
Something to watch in Week 1: The results. The backcourt is young and Jerami Grant is gone, but the Bogdanovic trade is an indication that the Pistons want to be more competitive than they were last season. And their first four games – against Orlando, New York, Indiana and Washington – are all winnable for a team looking to compete for a Play-In spot. Three of those opponents had bottom-10 offenses last season, so it’ll be a really bad sign if the Pistons continue to struggle defensively.
Week 1: vs. ORL, @ NYK, @ IND
2021-22 record: 43-39
OffRtg: 113.6 (8) DefRtg: 113.1 (22) NetRtg: +0.5 (16) Pace: 100.5 (5)
Preseason notes: The bright side of an 0-5 record is that first halves of preseason games tend to be more real, and the Hornets weren’t as bad in those first halves (minus-10.3 points per 100 possessions) as they were in second halves (minus-23.9). After looking terrible in their first two games, they led for almost all of the first 28 minutes of their second game against Boston and outscored the Sixers by six points in Joel Embiid’s 23 minutes.
But the Hornets were one of two teams – Portland was the other – to rank in the bottom five on both ends of the floor (in games between NBA teams), James Bouknight (10-for-40 shooting, more turnovers than assists) didn’t look ready to lock down a perimeter rotation spot, and LaMelo Ball sprained his left ankle last Monday. Terry Rozier will likely have to run the offense when the regular season begins in San Antonio.
Something to watch in Week 1: Defense. Without their primary creator, the Hornets may need to win ugly. That should be feasible against the Spurs, but the next two opponents – the Pelicans and Hawks – project to have top-tier offenses. So this week will be a good test of Steve Clifford’s ability to turn this group into a not-bottom-10 defense. As noted in this space over the summer, Charlotte allowed 7.0 fewer points per 100 possessions in the first season of Clifford’s first tenure (2013-14) than it did the season prior, and that was the fifth-best season-to-season defensive improvement of the last 20 years.
Week 1: @ SAS, vs. NOP, @ ATL
2021-22 record: 24-58
OffRtg: 103.8 (30) DefRtg: 111.7 (17) NetRtg: -8.0 (27) Pace: 99.4 (12)
Preseason notes: Even if you throw out their wins over Adelaide and Maccabi Ra’anana (over which they scored 141.8 points per 100 possessions), the Thunder were 3-1 with the league’s third-ranked defense in the preseason. Chet Holmgren is out for the year, but fellow Lottery pick Jalen Williams played well, often acting as the back-up point guard and averaging 19.7 points and 7.1 assists per 36 minutes. He showed a knack for getting to the basket and he shot 23-for-31 (74%) in the paint. Rookie guards don’t usually shoot well inside, so if he can keep that up, he might be something special. He’s already another Thunderman who’s fun to watch.
Something to watch in Week 1: Who’s handling the ball? Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could be available on Wednesday and Josh Giddey (who was two total rebounds from averaging a per-36 triple-double in the preseason) will run the offense when he’s out there. Williams has probably earned a shot of being a secondary playmaker, but the Thunder also had Tre Mann and Aaron Wiggins running pick-and-roll (or taking dribble handoffs) against Dallas in the preseason, and that produced some rough moments.
The Thunder have a pretty brutal first three weeks of the season, with eight of their nine games against the Wolves (x 2), Nuggets (x 2), Clippers (x 2), Mavs and Bucks.
Week 1: @ MIN, @ DEN, vs. MIN
2021-22 record: 49-33
OffRtg: 116.2 (1) DefRtg: 110.0 (10) NetRtg: +6.2 (3) Pace: 97.5 (23)
Preseason notes: The Jazz aren’t the 3-point launching team that they were under Quin Snyder. They saw the league’s biggest drop in 3-point rate (3PA/FGA) from last season (46.8%, first) to the preseason (38.5%, 21st). They do have the ability to space the floor with Kelly Olynyk starting at the five, but he and Lauri Markkanen (who started all four games at the three) combined to shoot 6-for-28 (21%) from beyond the arc.
On defense, the Jazz have gone from protecting the rim with Rudy Gobert to protecting the rim with Olynyk, which … well, see the play below. Walker Kessler moved well without the ball on offense, but the Jazz probably can’t team him with Jarred Vanderbilt on the frontline and the rookie may need some time to adjust to the NBA defensively.
Something to watch in Week 1: Any semblance of cohesion. The Jazz can put together a rotation full of vets who know how to play. But those vets were playing for five different teams at the end of last season. Even with Stanley Johnson being waived on Saturday, nine of the 15 players on the main roster were acquired via trade over the last 3 1/2 months. And all 15 are playing for a new coach. So while they may be competent individually, getting on the same page on either end of the floor could take some time. There was a nice Collin Sexton-Olynyk-Markkanen sequence in their loss to the Spurs on Tuesday, but the Jazz had the league’s third-highest turnover rate in the preseason.
The Jazz are playing their first 12 games within the Western Conference, but after they host the Nuggets on Wednesday, they’ll play 14 of their next 21 on the road.
Week 1: vs. DEN, @ MIN, @ NOP
2021-22 record: 25-57
OffRtg: 111.9 (18) DefRtg: 115.5 (28) NetRtg: -3.6 (24) Pace: 98.6 (18)
Preseason notes: Bennedict Mathurin made a splash, averaging 30.3 points per 36 minutes, ninth among players who played at least 50 preseason minutes. He was just 2-for-13 from 3-point range, but was 22-for-38 (58%) in the paint and had 27 free throw attempts to go with his 56 shots from the field. That free throw rate (.482) ranked sixth among 76 players with at least 40 field goal attempts. The rookie has speed in the open floor and a bully-ball mentality in the half-court.
Something to watch in Week 1: Myles Turner playing inside. Turner didn’t play after the Pacers traded Domantas Sabonis in February, so coming into camp, he hadn’t played with Tyrese Haliburton and hadn’t been a full-time center on offense under Rick Carlisle.
A Turner trade (with him being in the last season of his contract) seems inevitable, but in the meantime, it will be interesting (to both potential trade partners and 7 p.m. League Pass watchers) to see how he plays with a new point guard and in an adjusted role. Over the last three seasons, the percentage of Turner’s shots that came in the paint was just 37% with Sabonis on the floor, but 54% with Sabonis off the floor. (In the preseason, 17 of his 26 shots came in the paint.) And over that three-year stretch, Turner shot 63.7% in the paint and had an effective field goal percentage of just 49.1% on shots from outside the paint.
The Pacers have some winnable games in their three-game homestand to start the season.
Week 1: vs. WAS, vs. SAS, vs. DET
2021-22 record: 34-48
OffRtg: 111.9 (17) DefRtg: 111.7 (16) NetRtg: +0.2 (17) Pace: 100.5 (6)
Preseason notes: Four of the Spurs’ five games came against other teams expected to compete for ping pong balls this year. They looked like the better team when they visited the Jazz on Tuesday, but they lost to the Rockets, Magic and Thunder, getting outscored by 14.7 points per 100 possessions in Devin Vassell’s 73 minutes over those three games.
Vassell was 9-for-14 on 2-point shots longer than eight feet, but with Dejounte Murray taking his mid-range game to Atlanta, the Spurs saw the fifth biggest jump in 3-point rate (3PA/FGA) from last season (34.5%, 29th) to the preseason (40.9%, 14th). Eight different Spurs, including rookie big Jeremy Sochan (2-for-15) attempted at least 10 3s. A higher 3-point rate could lead to more variance with the Spurs’ offense and a greater chance of pulling off upsets.
Jakob Poeltl didn’t shoot any 3s, but he did do a spin move on Walker Kessler.
Something to watch in Week 1: Point guard play. The Spurs’ starting point guard is a 2020 second-round pick (Tre Jones) who’s currently the team’s lowest-paid player. Their back-up point guard is a 19-year-old (Josh Primo) who came into the league as a wing. It’s less about whether Jones and Primo can run the offense and more about whether either can create advantages that lead to open shots. The Spurs ranked first in player movement and seventh in ball movement last season, but they still need somebody with some juice off the dribble.
The Spurs have one of the league’s toughest first 20 games, but they begin the season against two more teams – Charlotte and Indiana – likely to join them in the Lottery. They went 0-4 against the Hornets and Pacers last season.
Week 1: vs. CHA, @ IND, @ PHI