The NBA is officially back in action with the 2020 NBA Preseason. The preseason is the best opportunity for rookies to prove their worth, veterans to show they still belong, and for bit players to earn themselves a larger role. Through the first round of preseason games, some interesting names have stuck out from the crowd. Here are the breakout performers of the NBA preseason so far.
12 PTS, 3 REB, 55% FG
Patrick Williams proved a lot of people wrong with a strong performance in his first game as a Chicago Bull. Many questioned the Bulls’ decision to draft Williams fourth overall in this year’s NBA draft due to his lack of experience and lackluster numbers in college.
But Williams was one of the lone bright spots during the Bulls’ ugly loss at the hands of the new-look Houston Rockets. As the starters struggled, Williams led a solid bench unit who managed to outscore the Rockets bench. What was most impressive about his game was his jump shooting ability. He came in with a lot of confidence in his shot and knocked down a number of mid-range jumpers over the course of the game. Although it’s only been one game, Williams looks like he’ll be a valuable piece for Chicago this year.
18 PTS, 14 REB, 3 STL, 2 BLK
After two injury-riddled seasons in Sacramento, Harry Giles signed with the Portland Trail Blazers this offseason hoping to jumpstart his young career. And jumpstart it he has with a monster first game in Rip City. When healthy, Giles has always showcased the promise that made him the number one player in the country coming out of high school and this game was no exception.
Giles made his presence felt on the boards, seemingly grabbing every available rebound, including four on the offensive end leading to lots of easy putbacks. On the defensive end, Giles did a great job of forcing turnovers and reading passing lanes, ending the game with a combined five steals and blocks. If Giles continues to play like this, he’ll be a vital part of a strong Trail Blazers team this season and beyond.
16 PTS, 5 AST, 57% 3P
Matt Thomas was little more than a garbage-time player for Toronto in 2019-2020, averaging only ten minutes per night. He’s looking for a bigger role to play this season and in his first preseason outing he came out red hot.
Thomas is known as a sharpshooter and as usual, he showcased his incredible long-range shooting ability with a 4-for-7 performance from downtown. Where Thomas really shined though was in the playmaking department. His 5 assists were more than double his season-high from last season and if he can make playmaking a consistent part of his game he’ll have more value than just as a spot-up shooter. Keep an eye on Thomas over the next couple of games for Toronto as he fights to earn a spot in the rotation.
18 PTS, 3 STL
Isaac Okoro was a top-five pick in this year’s draft and wasted no time in delivering a performance worthy of the selection. Okoro was all over the court on both sides of the ball during his game in Cleveland, contributing in all facets of the Cavaliers system.
Already known as a renowned defender, Okoro showed off his scoring ability as well with 18 points, including 2 makes from three-point land. His defense was up to his usual standards, including three steals and a crucial defensive stop on TJ McConnell followed by a layup to ice the game. While his NBA flight hasn’t even left the ground yet, Okoro looks every bit the player Cleveland hoped he would be, and it’s up to him to string together strong performances heading into the regular season.
20 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST
On an Oklahoma City Thunder team with plenty of opportunities to earn playing time, Theo Maledon made a huge statement in his first game in an NBA uniform. While he is only 19 years old, Maledon has already spent three seasons playing professional basketball in France and looked the part of someone with plenty of experience on his debut.
His 20 points led the Thunder in their victory over the Spurs and he managed to chip in five rebounds and two assists as well while only committing a single turnover in the process. Maledon will have the chance to grow and develop along with the rest of the Thunders young guard core led by Shai Giligious Alexander and Luguentz Dort.
22 PTS, 64% FG
A second-round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2019, Jaylen Nowell spent most of his time last season with the Iowa Wolves of the NBA G-League. In Iowa Nowell averaged over 21 points per game, enough to get him on the Timberwolves preseason roster with another shot at making the NBA.
Nowell did not disappoint, displaying the elite shooting stroke he had in the G-League to the tune of a game-high 22 points. After shooting nearly 45 percent from deep last season and with a 4-of-7 performance tonight, Nowell is showing his worth as a spot-up shooter, an ever more important role in today’s perimeter-dominated league. If he keeps up the good shooting in the pre-season, Nowell has a great chance of being with the Timberwolves on opening day.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com
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