Is it Oct. 12 already? Is 3-on-3 really happening right now? Am I actually writing this?
Apparently the answer to all those questions is yes, because I just checked my calendar and it really is Oct. 12, and I just checked what I was doing and I really was putting together 3-on-3. The preseason is already here. The regular season is right around the corner. And we’re all getting too old for comfort. Time flies when you’re signing Doc Rivers. Now, let’s get onto the first 3-on-3 of the year:
1. Are we overreacting to DeAndre Jordan’s fantastic preseason opener?
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): No. If Vinny Del Negro was still on the sideline, then the answer would perhaps be yes. But he’s long gone, and there’s little reason to worry about DeAndre Jordan’s role or confidence. He’s going to play a ton of minutes and get a handful of touches offensively, which is exactly what he needs. I’m skeptical that he’ll average 16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks, but he can definitely be in that vicinity.
Patrick James, (@patrickmjames): Any reaction to a single game – especially a preseason game – is probably an overreaction. But it sure feels like D.J. is onto something. Forget the scoring, and just imagine that he continues to be that active, responsive, and communicative on defense (and continues to box out with rigor). Doc likes him as a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. I think he has a shot at Most Improved.
Seerat Sohi, (@DamianTrillard): Unless I missed the part where we expect him to open every quarter with three blocks, I don’t think so. We expected D.J.’s defensive awareness to substantially improve under the tutelage of Doc Rivers long before Monday’s game. His performance (hopefully) gave us a loose primer for what’s to come but the precedent was set months ago. If we’re reacting to anything, it’s the formation of a future we’ve long been expecting to manifest.
2. What was the most notable difference from last year that you noticed in the first preseason game?
Buha: The defensive precision of the starters – with the caveat that it’s difficult to take away much from a preseason game. Jordan and Blake Griffin were more active and engaged, and more importantly, were generally in the right spots rotation-wise. Jared Dudley’s effort and IQ is apparent. The Clips still have a long way to go to get to an elite level, but there was palpable improvement in their defensive schemes.
James: The motion offense showed us glimpses of the team’s beautiful potential, and that was with its best shooter and screen-runner-offer in street clothes. Even when the offense didn’t work — when screens failed or the spacing broke down — there was still so much more activity than last year that it felt like watching a team in fast forward.
Sohi: The sentient, all-conquering second unit of the past is no more. The Darren Collison-led bench played a combined 115 minutes and scored just 28 points. Not a single reserve had a positive +/- rating by the end of the game. The Clippers sorely missed Eric Bledsoe’s and Matt Barnes’ enthusiasm— luckily, the latter is only missing in action temporary.
3. Are the Jazz the worst team in the West?
Buha: No. The Phoenix Suns are worse, if only slightly. Outside of the Suns’ top three — Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat — there isn’t much NBA-level talent. The Jazz, meanwhile, have an interesting array of young talent, and feature a more balanced and well-rounded roster.
James: Sure! If a few balls had bounced the other way last spring, they’d be coming off a playoff appearance. Instead, they’re in total rebuild mode. Kudos to them for sticking with Kanter, Favors, and Hayward, but man is their point guard situation bleak. It’s particularly painful considering how many great PGs there are in 2013 — and bodes rather poorly for Saturday’s match-up against Chris Paul’s Clippers.
Sohi: Well, their best player is Gordon Hayward. The Jazz are overwrought with questions and uncertainty but they’ve got a well of potential at their feet. If just one of their young prospects (no one on Utah’s starting lineup is older than 23) blossoms, they should at least be better than the Suns.