The NBA preseason concludes on Friday evening and the regular season begins on Tuesday, Oct. 18. While the preseason shouldn’t be overvalued, there are things we can take away and note for when the games count. As per usual most rookies looked like rookies in the preseason, but these five stood out and should be watched in the regular season.
#5. Paolo Banchero (Magic) and Jaden Ivey (Pistons)
Right off the bat we’re cheating by having two players in one spot. Deal with it.
Pablo Banchero was the number-one pick in the 2022 draft and is the betting favorite (+150) to win rookie of the year. He looked a bit tentative early this preseason but over the last couple games was more assertive. The Magic have a lot of talent, but they are extremely young. They will look horrible at times and so will Banchero. But this is a big learning and development year and midway through the season he should find his NBA legs.
Ivey was the fifth pick of the draft, and like Banchero he will be on a very young team. But the Pistons have more upside immediately, with some believing they could contend for a play-in spot. That remains to be seen. He had a solid preseason and will play a lot of minutes this year and get up a ton of shots. The bad news is, he will have a lot of rough shooting nights; that’s to be expected. But as the year goes on, watch where and how he’s getting his shots and less on makes and misses.
#4. Jabari Smith Jr. (Rockets)
The third pick in the draft missed the final three preseason games with an ankle injury, as the team was being cautious. But he looked really good in his first game. He finished with 21 points and eight rebounds and was 5-8 from three. Single game plus minus is noisy and they played the San Antonio Spurs, but he was a +19. He will have a ton of opportunity to play and learn on the Rockets.
#3. Bennedict Mathurin (Pacers)
The sixth pick in the draft is very athletic and can attack the rim. He can finish in traffic and draw contact. He looks like someone who knows what to do when he has the ball in his hands. When he doesn’t, that’s a bit of a different story. Like all rookies, he’s still learning and will continue to learn on a team that does not project to be very good. But he looks to be one of their future building blocks with Tyrese Haliburton.
#2. Tari Eason (Rockets)
The 17th pick in the draft looks like he might be a steal. He’s averaging a double-double in the preseason and on the Rockets, he will get plenty of opportunity for playing time. He played well at Las Vegas Summer League and has continued in the preseason. He has the potential to contribute as a legit scorer, is an above average rebounder for his position, and has the tools to be a positive defender and a good three-point shooter.
#1. Keegan Murray (Kings)
The fourth pick looks like he’s already an excellent scorer. He only played two games, but was efficient with his shots: 73.5 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from three. A rangy forward that can play both three and four. In addition to his range, he has a very quick first step. He has the size and strength to absorb contact and finish in the paint and should be an above-average rebounder.
Read More TSL Stories: