Power Rankings, Week 1: From Butler to LeBron and beyond, storylines abound in 2018-19
New season brings much to watch -- including Warriors' hopes for a three-peat
Another season is upon us, and once again the Golden State Warriors are the clear favorites to win the NBA title in June. As last season’s top challenger lost a couple of key elements to its top-10 defense, the champs gained an All-Star at the one position where they didn’t already have one.
The Houston Rockets still have two stars, a solid supporting cast, and the likelihood that they won’t miss 27 straight 3-pointers again. And in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics — with their top-line talent and versatility — could be the Warriors’ new biggest threat.
Focus on the big picture and “Warriors or the field?” remains a legit question. At their best, the champs are the best team on both ends of the floor. We might just have to wait before we really see them at their best.
There will be plenty of other things to watch in the meantime. The Jimmy Butler situation in Minnesota is at the top of the list for the time being, because a very good team is being pulled apart and one of the league’s best two-way players will eventually be on a new team.
Of course, LeBron James and the Lakers won’t take a back seat for long. The best player in the world has joined the league’s most high-profile franchise and has been surrounded by a motley crew of mercurial veterans and promising youngsters. How it’s all going to fit together and to what degree it will work remain a mystery.
There are plenty of other things to be discovered over the next nine months and it’s time to get this show started.
- Mid-Summer Rankings: Celtics make things interesting atop East | James’ arrival adds intrigue to Western Conference
- This time last year: Some All-Star combinations will work — and some won’t — Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison were Sidney Deane and Billy Hoyle. We had no idea how long Kawhi Leonard was going to be out with his quad issue, Dante Exum separated his shoulder in the preseason, Dwyane Wade was starting over J.R. Smith in Cleveland, Kyle Kuzma was the Lakers’ rookie sensation, and somebody ranked the Pacers much too low (26th).
Plus-Minus Players of the Preseason
- Mr. Plus: Jae Crowder (UTA) was a plus-79 in five preseason games.
- Mr. Minus: Derrick Rose (MIN) was a minus-60 in four preseason games.
Teams of the Preseason
- Make It Last Forever: Charlotte (4-1) — Both teams that went undefeated in the preseason — the Clippers and Jazz — got two of their five wins against non-NBA competition. The Hornets were the only team with four wins vs. NBA teams, seeing increases in assist rate and 3-point rate from last season.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: New Orleans (0-5) — Every other NBA team (even the Wolves with all their drama) won a game in the preseason.
Movement in the Rankings
- High jumps of the preseason: Milwaukee (+3), Portland (+3), L.A. Lakers (+2)
- Free falls of the preseason: Minnesota (-8), Six teams (-1)
Week 1 Team to Watch
- Minnesota — The Wolves’ schedule isn’t all that interesting. They’ll open in San Antonio on Wednesday, host the Cavs on Friday, and then head back to Texas for the second game of a back-to-back in Dallas. But no matter the opponent, how can you possibly look away?
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Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league averaged 98.1 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 107.7 points scored per 100 possessions last season.
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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.
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Last Week: 1
2017-18 record: 58-24
Pace: 100.4 (5) OffRtg: 112.7 (3) DefRtg: 106.8 (11) NetRtg: +5.9 (3)
Draymond Green has said that the Warriors shouldn't go through the same malaise as they did last season, because they have more to "make work" this year. We'll see if the energy holds up, but the first thing to make work was Damian Jones as the (first) starting center, and that worked pretty well in the preseason. Jones shot 18-for-23 and the Green-Jones frontline was a plus-5 in its 32 minutes together. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, meanwhile, combined to shoot a decent 35-for-66 (53 percent) from 3-point range in the preseason. The champs begin their season with three games against likely playoff teams in the West.
One Team, One Stat: Champs flip the switch
Week 1: vs. OKC, @ UTA, @ DEN
Last Week: 2
2017-18 record: 55-27
Pace: 96.8 (23) OffRtg: 106.7 (18) DefRtg: 103.1 (2) NetRtg: +3.6 (7)
The Celtics certainly didn't look like the best team in the East in the preseason. Their super-talented starting lineup was only together for the preseason opener in Chapel Hill 17 days ago and Gordon Hayward was clearly not yet at full strength. He shot 5-for-20 (1-for-10 from 3-point range) in his three preseason games and the Celtics were outscored by 38 points in his 59 minutes on the floor. They will have had nine full days between games when they tip off on Tuesday, and we'll see if the switch can be flipped as they begin the regular season with games against the other two elite teams in the East.
One Team, One Stat: A remarkable streak of 3-point defense
Week 1: vs. PHI, @ TOR, @ NYK
Last Week: 3
2017-18 record: 65-17
Pace: 98.1 (14) OffRtg: 114.0 (1) DefRtg: 105.6 (7) NetRtg: +8.4 (1)
Including postseason, Carmelo Anthony has started all 1,126 games of his career, a streak that will come to an end when he comes off the bench against the Pelicans on Wednesday. Of course, coach Mike D'Antoni has been subbing just four minutes into each half, staggering the minutes of James Harden and Chris Paul again, mixing his lineups quite a bit, and giving Anthony the chance play alongside the stars. Harden, Paul and Anthony combined to shoot 49-for-108 (45.4 percent) from 3-point range in the preseason, so they seem ready to get the real games started.
One Team, One Stat: Iso-fest in Houston
Week 1: vs. NOP, @ LAL, @ LAC
Last Week: 4
2017-18 record: 59-23
Pace: 98.1 (13) OffRtg: 112.9 (2) DefRtg: 105.1 (5) NetRtg: +7.8 (2)
Coach Nick Nurse may switch up his starting lineup from game to game, but it's pretty clear that he'll stay small at power forward, with Serge Ibaka playing center almost exclusively. Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas played just 4:28 together in the preseason and the starting forwards are likely to be OG Anunoby and Kawhi Leonard, who had some preseason moments that reminded you that he was a Kia MVP candidate just 18 months ago. The ball movement wasn't great as the Raps went 4-1, but the defense was. They'll play five of their first six games at home, with the highlight being a visit from the Celtics on Friday.
One Team, One Stat: Can't defend the league's best
Week 1: vs. CLE, vs. BOS, @ WAS
Last Week: 6 ↑
2017-18 record: 48-34
Pace: 96.7 (25) OffRtg: 107.2 (16) DefRtg: 102.9 (1) NetRtg: +4.3 (5)
The Jazz played three of their five games against international teams and the Kings, so take their gaudy preseason point differential (a league-best plus-27.6 points per 100 possessions) with a grain of salt. They were outscored by five points against Toronto when Kawhi Leonard was on the floor and by 22 points against Portland when Damian Lillard was on the floor, so it wasn't as perfect a preseason as the overall numbers might indicate. Still, this team has continuity, an elite defense, and depth. It's another year where we wonder if Dante Exum will stay healthy and become an impact player, except this time he's getting paid like one.
One Team, One Stat: Better than their record
Week 1: @ SAC, vs. GSW
Last Week: 5 ↓
2017-18 record: 52-30
Pace: 100.9 (4) OffRtg: 108.3 (14) DefRtg: 103.8 (3) NetRtg: +4.5 (4)
It could be a while before we know if Brett Brown is making the right move in breaking up last season's best high-usage lineup to start Markelle Fultz, whose preseason (only five 3-point attempts in 91 minutes and as many turnovers as assists) wasn't exactly a strong statement toward affirmation for his coach. J.J. Redick (who will start second halves) didn't miss many shots in the preseason and does stabilize a bench that lost two key pieces in the summer and had Wilson Chandler go down with a hamstring strain before attempting a single shot with his new team. Sixers-Celtics is a great way to tip off the season.
One Team, One Stat: League's strongest lineup
Week 1: @ BOS, vs. CHI, vs. ORL
Last Week: 10 ↑
2017-18 record: 44-38
Pace: 97.2 (20) OffRtg: 108.8 (10) DefRtg: 109.0 (18) NetRtg: -0.3 (20)
It's a new day (yes, it is) in Milwaukee, where the Bucks had the preseason's most efficient offense (115 points scored per 100 possessions), somehow managing to outdo the Rockets in the percentage of their preseason shots (82 percent) that came from the restricted area or 3-point range. Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged a ridiculous 34.8 points, 16.9 rebounds and 8.2 assists per 36 minutes, registering a triple-double in less than 26 minutes against Minnesota on Friday. Of course, that leads us to the context that two of the Bucks' four games were against the Wolves' defense. More important is that they were in the middle of the pack in regard to the percentage of their opponents' shots that came from the restricted area.
One Team, One Stat: No protecting the rim
Week 1: @ CHA, vs. IND
Last Week: 7 ↓
2017-18 record: 48-34
Pace: 97.5 (18) OffRtg: 109.9 (7) DefRtg: 106.3 (9) NetRtg: +3.6 (6)
It's not clear if Russell Westbrook (who had arthroscopic surgery on his knee last month) will be available for Tuesday's game in Oakland. What is clear is that Andre Roberson will miss a significant chunk of the season after suffering a setback with his own knee. Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams remain one of the league's best trios, but the Thunder will need something from the other wing (Terrance Ferguson, Alex Abrines or even rookie Hamidou Diallo) and from Patrick Patterson, who shot 6-for-23 as the starting power forward in the preseason.
One Team, One Stat: The impact of Roberson
Week 1: @ GSW, @ LAC, vs. SAC
Last Week: 9
2017-18 record: 48-34
Pace: 96.9 (21) OffRtg: 108.5 (11) DefRtg: 107.2 (12) NetRtg: +1.3 (12)
With Thaddeus Young dealing with a foot injury early in camp, the Pacers' starting lineup only played together in the preseason finale in Chicago on Wednesday. It got outscored, 40-26, by the Bulls in its 15 1/2 minutes, concluding a weird (no home games, just a four-game road trip) and inconsistent preseason. Neither the new additions -- Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott (32 percent combined) -- nor man on the spot Myles Turner (3-for-19 from outside the restricted area) shot well, but this team knows what it's doing, has a star to lean on, and has a margin for error in the Eastern Conference. Of course, Friday's visit to Milwaukee is a game to watch if you believe that the Bucks and Pacers are fourth and fifth (or vice-versa) in the conference.
One Team, One Stat: When Oladipo sits, Pacers struggle
Week 1: vs. MEM, @ MIL, vs. BKN
Last Week: 11 ↑
2017-18 record: 46-36
Pace: 97.8 (15) OffRtg: 111.3 (6) DefRtg: 109.9 (23) NetRtg: +1.4 (11)
The Nuggets promise to have a potent starting lineup again, with Will Barton taking Wilson Chandler's spot at the three. But even with Isaiah Thomas missing the entire preseason (and likely to miss the start of the regular season), they had some promising performances off the bench. Trey Lyles averaged 19 points, 11 boards and five assists per 36 minutes and Malik Beasley averaged 13.3 points on an effective field goal percentage of 70 percent in his first four games (before shooting 0-for-8 in Chicago on Friday). The Nuggets will play 10 of their first 15 games at home, where they were 8.9 points per 100 possessions better than they were on the road last season.
One Team, One Stat: No defending the three
Week 1: @ LAC, vs. PHX, vs. GSW
Last Week: 13 ↑
2017-18 record: 35-47
Pace: 101.0 (3) OffRtg: 105.9 (22) DefRtg: 107.2 (13) NetRtg: -1.3 (21)
LeBron James, who has played 10,184 more minutes (regular season plus playoffs) than any other player over the last 15 seasons, played just 63 preseason minutes (none after halftime) with his new team. The sample size was small, but the Lakers were efficient offensively (111 points scored per 100 possessions) in those 63 minutes, pushing the ball in transition (they led the preseason with 23.8 fast break points per game) and using those James-at-the-elbow sets that can be incredibly lethal. Nine of their first 11 games are against teams that had winning records last season, but four of those nine are against the injury-ravaged Spurs and the drama-ravaged Wolves.
One Team, One Stat: More threes after the break
Week 1: @ POR, vs. HOU
Last Week: 15 ↑
2017-18 record: 49-33
Pace: 97.2 (19) OffRtg: 108.3 (13) DefRtg: 105.5 (6) NetRtg: +2.8 (9)
The Blazers' plan is to do what the Raptors did last year, in two ways. First, the offense is set to feature more ball movement and more 3-poiners. Indeed, they saw the league's biggest jump in assist percentage (AST/FGM) from last season to the preseason (and it's 12th biggest jump in the percentage of shots coming from 3-point range). Second, for the first time since C.J. McCollum became a starter three seasons ago, the plan is to sit McCollum and Damian Lillard together, so that five reserves will play together, with Evan Turner running the second-unit offense. Toronto's changes produced the league's second-ranked offense and its best bench.
One Team, One Stat: Blazers lacking shots off the catch
Week 1: vs. LAL, vs. SAS
Last Week: 12 ↓
2017-18 record: 48-34
Pace: 101.6 (1) OffRtg: 108.4 (12) DefRtg: 107.2 (14) NetRtg: +1.1 (13)
The Pelicans' 0-5 preseason featured the league's 28th-ranked defense and concluded with a loss to a Toronto team that rested six of its top seven guys. The Pels allowed 65.2 points in the paint per game, 12.8 more than any other team. Part of that comes from playing at the league's fastest pace last season and then seeing its third biggest increase in pace in the preseason. If defense continues to be an issue in weeks ahead, we'll see how long Elfrid Payton lasts as the starting point guard. Prior to sending him to Phoenix last season, the Magic were 10 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Payton off the floor than they were with him on the floor.
One Team, One Stat: Pelicans in the paint
Week 1: @ HOU, vs. SAC
Last Week: 14
2017-18 record: 47-35
Pace: 95.8 (29) OffRtg: 107.0 (17) DefRtg: 104.1 (4) NetRtg: +2.9 (8)
On Oct. 5, Lonnie Walker IV tore the meniscus in his right knee, taking him out of action for 6-8 weeks. Two days later, Dejounte Murray tore his ACL, ending his season before it started. And three days after that, Derrick White suffered a heel injury. So the Spurs will go into the season with a paper-thin backcourt, featuring Bryn Forbes as the starting point guard. It's a long season and White and Walker will return eventually, but four of their first five games (two against the Lakers, one against the Wolves, and one against the Blazers) could end up being critical in the Western Conference standings come April. As you'd expect with DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge leading the team in shots, the Spurs led the league in the percentage of their preseason shots (48 percent) that came from between the restricted area and the 3-point line.
One Team, One Stat: Spurs' shooting takes a dip
Week 1: vs. MIN, @ POR
Last Week: 16 ↑
2017-18 record: 43-39
Pace: 97.7 (16) OffRtg: 108.1 (15) DefRtg: 107.6 (15) NetRtg: +0.5 (15)
Dwight Howard missed all five games, but the Wizards had a relatively successful preseason otherwise, with John Wall having a huge game (32 points, nine assists) in their "dress rehearsal" in Detroit on Wednesday. As expected, the bench had its ups and downs, and we'll see if this team can take care of business better than it did last season. They begin the season with four straight opponents that made the playoffs last season and have the East's earliest trip West. While every other team will have a rest disadvantage (playing the second game of a back-to-back vs. a rested opponent) in one of their first 12 games, the Wizards won't have one until Game 32 (Dec. 19). Before then, they'll play eight games with a rest advantage, starting with their first two games of the season, with the Heat and Raptors playing the second game of a back-to-back on Thursday and Saturday.
One Team, One Stat: No getting to the rim
Week 1: vs. MIA, vs. TOR
Last Week: 8 ↓
2017-18 record: 47-35
Pace: 96.8 (22) OffRtg: 112.3 (4) DefRtg: 110.1 (25) NetRtg: +2.2 (10)
As things stand (according to reports), Jimmy Butler is going to play with the Wolves while the team pursues a trade. It's not clear if that makes the team better or worse in the short-term (chemistry matters in this sport), but it sure will be interesting to watch. Not surprisingly, with the distraction caused by Butler and without the actual Jimmy Butler, the defense was a disaster in the preseason, allowing a league-high 113 points per 100 possessions over five games. It bears repeating that this team could be really good if everybody was on the same page and a little more effort was made on defense. Alas...
One Team, One Stat: Wolves can't slow 'em down
Week 1: @ SAS, vs. CLE, @ DAL
Last Week: 18 ↑
2017-18 record: 44-38
Pace: 96.2 (27) OffRtg: 106.1 (21) DefRtg: 105.7 (8) NetRtg: +0.4 (16)
A Jimmy Butler trade remains possible until he's traded somewhere else, and the Heat don't have much to lose in regard to trading for a star. They're a good team and they'll make the most of what they have, but what they have isn't enough to compete with the best in the Eastern Conference. Plus, they don't have the cap space to shop for free agents next summer. With or without James Johnson (who's absence has had the Heat starting a small and skinny forward combination of Derrick Jones Jr. and Rodney McGruder), #OneLastDance starts Wednesday in Orlando, and the Heat have the league's easiest first 10 games in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage from last season.
One Team, One Stat: Clutch from deep
Week 1: @ ORL, @ WAS, vs. CHA
Last Week: 17 ↓
2017-18 record: 39-43
Pace: 96.8 (24) OffRtg: 106.5 (19) DefRtg: 106.6 (10) NetRtg: -0.1 (19)
Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin played almost as many minutes together in the Pistons' last three preseason games (46) as they did all of last season (47), but the offense wasn't good and Detroit was outscored by 27 points in those 46 minutes. Andre Drummond's green light to shoot 3-pointers produced an 0-for-11 preseason from beyond the arc, though the Pistons had some success in Drummond's minutes on the floor without Griffin. Coach Dwane Casey will stagger the minutes of those guys, though it's not clear who's ready to be the third big in the rotation (Jon Leuer played just two preseason minutes).
One Team, One Stat: A run of defensive improvement
Week 1: vs. BKN, @ CHI
Last Week: 20 ↑
2017-18 record: 36-46
Pace: 98.7 (11) OffRtg: 108.9 (9) DefRtg: 108.9 (17) NetRtg: +0.0 (18)
It's not a big surprise that Jeremy Lamb will start at the two for the Hornets. What might be a surprise is that No. 12 pick Miles Bridges has earned himself a role off the bench with a preseason in which he mixed highlight dunks with 9-for-19 shooting from 3-point range. The Hornets ranked fourth in off-the-dribble, long 2-point attempts last season and ranked 29th at 36.3 percent shooting on those shots, but their preseason numbers point to more ball movement and more 3-pointers. They play 19 of their first 21 games within the Eastern Conference.
One Team, One Stat: Advantage at the line
Week 1: vs. MIL, @ ORL, @ MIA
Last Week: 19 ↓
2017-18 record: 50-32
Pace: 98.8 (9) OffRtg: 112.0 (5) DefRtg: 111.0 (29) NetRtg: +1.0 (14)
With Kevin Love having played less than 18 minutes, it's hard to make much of a judgement about the Cavs' preseason. At the same time, though they still have a bunch of shooters on the roster, it's not a huge surprise that they saw the league's biggest drop in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range. With nine of their first 15 games against Atlanta (x 2), Brooklyn, Charlotte (x 2), Chicago, Detroit (x 2) and Orlando, we'll find out pretty early just where the new Cavs stand in the bottom nine of the Eastern Conference.
One Team, One Stat: Who feeds the shooters?
Week 1: @ TOR, @ MIN, vs. ATL
Last Week: 22 ↑
2017-18 record: 42-40
Pace: 99.6 (7) OffRtg: 109.3 (8) DefRtg: 109.2 (19) NetRtg: +0.2 (17)
They're healthy, so the Clippers will start the season with a veteran backcourt -- Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley -- that didn't play at all together last season and a starting forward combination -- Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris -- that played in just nine games together. It looks like No. 11 pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander -- the biggest steal in the Draft according to the league's GMs and a holder of a 19/4 assist-turnover ratio in the preseason -- will get a chance to play right away. Speaking of right away, the Clips will play 13 of their first 14 games against teams that finished with winning records last season.
One Team, One Stat: Clips keep the streak alive
Week 1: vs. DEN, vs. OKC, vs. HOU
Last Week: 21 ↓
2017-18 record: 22-60
Pace: 95.8 (28) OffRtg: 103.4 (27) DefRtg: 110.2 (26) NetRtg: -6.7 (27)
You don't have to watch the Grizzlies for very long to see how much of a difference Mike Conley can make. In the 30 games that Tyreke Evans missed last season, the Grizzlies basically had nobody that could create anything off the dribble. Now, in Conley, they have one of the best off-the-dribble creators in the league. The point guard couldn't help Marc Gasol make shots -- Gasol had the worst effective field goal percentage (27.9 percent) among 185 players who took at least 30 shots in the preseason -- but Chandler Parsons' legs seemed stronger on his jumper (he was 7-for-15 from 3-point range) and Jaren Jackson Jr. finished really well in the paint (where he was 19-for-27).
One Team, One Stat: Grizz lose Conley, lose the ball
Week 1: @ IND, vs. ATL
Last Week: 23
2017-18 record: 28-54
Pace: 99.7 (6) OffRtg: 106.0 (22) DefRtg: 109.6 (21) NetRtg: -3.6 (24)
The preseason Nets were a lot like last season's Nets in that they had stretches where they looked really good, they had stretches where they looked pretty bad, they turned the ball over a lot and there was no clear hierarchy in the rotation. In fact, with the (solid-but-not-spectacular) additions they made this summer, sorting out a healthy roster may be more difficult than ever for coach Kenny Atkinson. Jarrett Allen looked freakish in his ability to protect the rim, but got bullied by Enes Kanter on the glass. Caris LeVert was difficult to stay in front of, but had as many turnovers (17) as assists. And while D'Angelo Russell looked really sharp in running the pick-and-roll at times, the Nets were (again) better with him off the floor.
One Team, One Stat: Forcing the right shots, but not enough mistakes
Week 1: @ DET, vs. NYK, @ IND
Last Week: 24
2017-18 record: 24-58
Pace: 96.6 (26) OffRtg: 105.4 (24) DefRtg: 108.2 (16) NetRtg: -2.9 (22)
Luka Doncic had some turnover issues, but he shot well and the Mavs were a plus-32 in 71 minutes (scoring 121 points per 48 at a relatively slow pace) with Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. on the floor together (in three games) against NBA competition in the preseason. And that was with Harrison Barnes, DeAndre Jordan, and Dirk Nowitzki combining to play just 31 minutes (all from Jordan against Charlotte on Friday) in those three games. Barnes and Nowitzki will still be out when the season starts in Phoenix, a matchup of Kia Rookie of the Year favorites, on Wednesday.
One Team, One Stat: Starters can't hang
Week 1: @ PHX, vs. MIN
Last Week: 25
2017-18 record: 27-55
Pace: 98.7 (10) OffRtg: 103.3 (28) DefRtg: 110.4 (28) NetRtg: -7.1 (28)
After two games in which they appeared largely disinterested, the Bulls made a lineup change -- Jabari Parker and Robin Lopez to the bench, Bobby Portis and Wendell Carter Jr. in the starting lineup -- that made a difference. Parker still scored 19 points in 32 minutes off the bench in the preseason finale against Denver on Friday. Lauri Markkanen (elbow sprain) is out for at least the first 12 games, but Zach LaVine is healthy and was efficient (true shooting percentage of 63.1 percent) in the preseason. Starting at center will test Carter's ability to be a defensive anchor, and in his regular-season debut on Thursday, he gets to match up with Joel Embiid.
One Team, One Stat: Bulls get moving
Week 1: @ PHI, vs. DET
Last Week: 26
2017-18 record: 29-53
Pace: 97.7 (17) OffRtg: 106.2 (20) DefRtg: 109.6 (22) NetRtg: -3.4 (23)
The Knicks could be playing faster this season, though the preseason numbers (they ranked 29th in three-to-mid-range ratio) don't indicate that new coach David Fizdale is going to fix their shot selection issues right away. He will throw Kevin Knox into the fire right away, promising to keep the rookie in the starting lineup despite some preseason struggles (1-for-14 from 3-point range over his last four games after a solid debut). The point guard position might still be open, though Emmanuel Mudiay shot 3-for-20 and the offense struggled (94 points scored per 100 possessions) with Frank Ntilikina on the floor.
One Team, One Stat: Mired in mid-range
Week 1: vs. ATL, @ BKN, vs. BOS
Last Week: 27
2017-18 record: 21-61
Pace: 101.3 (2) OffRtg: 102.6 (30) DefRtg: 111.6 (30) NetRtg: -9.0 (30)
If preseason production means anything, Deandre Ayton is your favorite for Kia Rookie of the Year. The No. 1 pick led all rookies with 18.2 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks per game in the preseason. We'll see how the eventual return of Devin Booker (and the lack of a point guard) affects his touches, but Ayton has showed that he's a rare rookie big man that doesn't need to be fed at the rim to get buckets. He shot 12-for-23 from mid-range over his five preseason games, with a pretty smooth face-up jumper. Josh Jackson's jumper (he was 4-for-21 from 3-point range in the preseason) is another story.
One Team, One Stat: The wrong kind of history
Week 1: vs. DAL, @ DEN
Last Week: 28
2017-18 record: 25-57
Pace: 98.6 (12) OffRtg: 104.7 (25) DefRtg: 109.3 (20) NetRtg: -4.7 (25)
With Jonathan Isaac in the starting lineup, Aaron Gordon is back at small forward, though the pair's minutes were a little more staggered in the Magic's final preseason game. The defense was pretty good and the offense was pretty bad, scoring less than 85 points per 100 possessions against both Miami and San Antonio last week. Evan Fournier should shoot better than the 32 percent (5-for-22 from 3-point range) he shot in the preseason, but things could remain generally ugly as the Magic play four of their first five games against teams that ranked in the top eight defensively last season.
One Team, One Stat: No offense after the break
Week 1: vs. MIA, vs. CHA, @ PHI
Last Week: 29
2017-18 record: 24-58
Pace: 98.9 (8) OffRtg: 104.4 (26) DefRtg: 110.0 (24) NetRtg: -5.6 (26)
It's the Trae Young Show in Atlanta, for sure. The No. 5 pick led the Hawks in usage rate in the preseason and was somewhat efficient, shooting 10-for-27 from 3-point range (draining a ridiculous game-winner against the Spurs) and registering an assist-turnover ratio of 2.45 (with some crafty dimes included). With injuries to John Collins and Dewayne Dedmon, Omari Spellman could get some early-season run and Alex Len (who shot 7-for-11 from 3-point range in the preseason) is likely the Hawks' starting center in New York on Wednesday.
One Team, One Stat: A defensive step backward
Week 1: @ NYK, @ MEM, @ CLE
Last Week: 30
2017-18 record: 27-55
Pace: 95.6 (30) OffRtg: 103.0 (29) DefRtg: 110.3 (27) NetRtg: -7.2 (29)
Marvin Bagley III had some good moments (he's got great hands, good footwork and a soft touch around the hoop), Harry Giles had the best assist of the preseason, and Buddy Hield playing small forward could open things up offensively. But the first quarter of preseason games is generally when you see the most minutes from the regular-season rotation, and the Kings lost their last three first quarters against NBA teams by a total score of 110-48. With ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy probably still yelling at Hield for going under screens when guarding Klay Thompson, the Kings begin the season against the team (Utah) that they trailed 45-10 after 14 minutes on Thursday.
One Team, One Stat: Kings make free throw history
Week 1: vs. UTA, @ NOP, @ OKC
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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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