- NBA Media Day was Monday, Sept. 24, and Justin Phan is here to parse through the press conferences for relevant news for the upcoming 2018-19 season.
- Read below for five of the biggest takeaways, including how the Hornets want to play fast and rumors that the Suns will play Devin Booker at point guard.
The NBA is back! Media day marks the unofficial start to the season, as players talk about the 15 pounds of muscle they put on and how they’re in the best shape of their lives. We also got our first look at how weird Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard look in their new jerseys. Here are five of the biggest takeaways from the day’s festivities.
Who Wants To Tell Melo?
A play, in three acts:
The Hornets Want to Go Fast
New head coach James Borrego has made it clear he wants to overhaul the Hornets’ offense to a more up-tempo style, and the team has played pickup games with a 12-second shot clock in preparation. That plays directly to their strengths, as they were far more efficient last season when shooting early in the shot clock.
Another reason to eye the over for Hornets games this season is the diminishing role of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. With Borrego talking up Jeremy Lamb’s playmaking alongside Kemba Walker, while confirming Nicolas Batum’s primary position will be small forward, it has become clear that Walker, Lamb and Batum will be the the team’s backcourt starters.
Kidd-Gilchrist’s defensive reputation is well-known at this point, and moving him to a bench role at the 4 will mean more run for Malik Monk. No Hornets player had a worse Defensive Rating than Monk last season (112.7), and the team went from an above-average defense with him off the court to the league’s worst with him on.
Thunder On the Mend
While Russell Westbrook and Paul George are undoubtedly the Thunder’s best players, Andre Roberson may be their most important. His Defensive Rating (96.4) trailed only Kawhi Leonard’s last season, and when healthy he significantly raises Oklahoma City’s ceiling. The team’s Net Rating with him on the court (+10.0) would have topped the marks of the Rockets and Warriors.
Roberson still hasn’t been cleared for contact as he continues to recover from a ruptured patella tendon, and is saying it will be awhile until he’s fully recovered.
With Westbrook also on the mend after undergoing his fourth procedure on his right knee earlier this month, it’s a bit surprising that the Thunder are still favored to win the Northwest Division at +210 (Bovada). The Jazz present the best value at +220, particularly coming off a season in which they were a 53-win team according to their point differential.
Andre Drummond: Stretch 5?
This feels a lot like the time Stan Van Gundy tried to force-feed Andre Drummond in the post, which ended up being a total disaster. Drummond was more efficient from the free-throw line (0.74 points per possession) during the 2016-17 season than on post-ups (0.73 PPP).
Drummond missed all 11 of his 3-point attempts last season and converted just 25.3% of his jumpers. He’s made just five 3s in over 14,000 career minutes. The idea that he can suddenly develop a 3-point shot when there’s been no evidence to this point that he’s able to even knock down long 2s consistently is a huge stretch.
Hopefully this is just “coachspeak” from Dwane Casey, as opposing defenses would have no reason to guard Drummond out on the perimeter, and it also does the disservice of taking him out of play types (dribble handoffs, for example) in which he actually excels.
Between talk of Josh Jackson’s defensive versatility allowing him to play the 2 and how playing TJ Warren at the 4 would give the Suns four ballhandlers, Igor Kokoskov dropped all sorts of hints that Devin Booker will see a lot of time at the point this season. And it makes sense given they’re down to just Shaq Harrison, Elie Okobo, De’Anthony Melton and Isaiah Canaan after trading Brandon Knight.
Kokoskov said it will be an open competition at training camp for the starting job, though it’s hard to see Okobo and Melton cracking the starting five right away given their inexperience. Harrison appears to be the front-runner for now with Canaan still recovering from a gruesome ankle injury.
Though we got only small doses of Point Booker last season, it’s worth noting that the Suns had a far better Net Rating with Booker at the point, and he was generally more productive as well.
With the Suns’ logjam at both forward spots, it makes far too much sense for Kokoskov to eventually start Booker at the point and open up as much playing time as possible for the likes of Jackson and Mikal Bridges on the wing.