3 thoughts before the 2023-24 NBA season
Plus: Why you should keep an eye out for Keegan Murray
Welcome back to A Farewell to Takes, our quick trip around the NBA and WNBA. I went to Boston to talk to Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla for Episode 176 of The Old Man and the Three. If you haven’t listened to it, definitely check it out. For context, it was recorded two days after the Dame trade and two days before the Jrue trade. This week’s episode of The Old Man and the Three Things will be live later this afternoon, so stay tuned for that.
In this week’s A Farewell to Takes we’re giving you:
Thanks for reading! —JJ
Three preseason thoughts as we near October 24
The NBA preseason has tipped off, which means the excitement of the regular season is right around the corner. It’s always fun to see an off-season full of transactions, rumors and movement turn into tangible things we can see with our own two eyes. If you’re an NBA fan, this is the most exciting time of the year. There is hope; there are vibes and expectations haven’t quite arrived at their destination.
I, as always, will state to take the preseason with a grain of salt. Look to explore concepts and ideas. You will not see the full extent of what a team is looking to do but if you parse through you can see the philosophy that is being implemented. I have a few thoughts:
Chris Paul in Golden State will take some adjusting sight wise, but on court it appears the fit will be right there. Draymond Green being out is going to accelerate some of the acclimation but you can see what he adds to the Warriors team. The Warriors have great ball movement but Paul adds an element of on-ball, pick and roll actions that can enhance them. A defense having to deny a dribble handoff to Stephen Curry only for that to turn into a dribble handoff to Chris Paul is not ideal. Paul being able to operate in Pistol action with Curry while also having Curry spaced on the weakside is fun. He should stabilize the second unit and if he doesn’t want to run in transition, he can always throw ahead and play.
Kristaps Porziņģis showcased why the Celtics wanted him to be a key piece of their future. The biggest reminder of what he can bring to the table was on display early as we saw Porziņģis score as a spacer and a roller early in his preseason debut. It was very interesting to be reminded that Porziņģis can be very effective as a roller, I do wonder if we start to see teams switching more if his actions. Keep an eye on the defense, the deep drop makes sense with Boston’s personnel but will open up shots. One thing that stood out to me was Boston’s willingness to put him in different schemes, that’s something they will have to nail as the season moves forward. Jrue Holiday was a little quieter in his debut but the defense jumped off the page and I am curious how much Boston’s movement will allow him to get easier looks and create opportunities for others.
Karl-Anthony Towns is playing like a man on a mission. Look no further than the possession where he got a steal, dove on the floor and somehow found Rudy Gobert in transition. The one thing that has jumped out to me has been the aggression. Really looking to drive the ball and while it is still not perfect, the mindset is there. The off-ball cutting when he is spaced also feels much better, he’s aware of the gaps when defenses help and is looking to impact the game outside of pure shooting. Overall, it feels like Minnesota is making an effort to keep him more involved, there is more purpose to how he is used.
Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla joined Episode 176 of the show to discuss the new East, standing by his philosophies, Tatum and Brown, the time Joe tried to convince JJ to join his coaching staff, and more.
Notable Player of the Week: Keegan Murray
As the Kings transition from hunters to hunted this season, much of the summer's focus has been on the growth of DeAaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis together, plus the addition of Euroleague star Sasha Vezenkov. While Vezenkov's assimilation to the league will be fascinating to see, the Kings quickest path to the second round is a jump from their All-Rookie guard, Mr. Murray. Murray had an incredibly efficient rookie season and his 188 3s set a rookie record; what looked good on Sunday was his poise off the dribble. Murray finished at 63% last year within 4 feet, a spot where he needs to get better, and already Sunday, he mixed in a couple of floaters, tough lefty finishes and dunks to make up for what was a slow shooting night. It seems like the Kings are going to be experimenting with him bringing the ball up the court more, an interesting wrinkle and one worth watching as the season progresses.—Tommy
Nekias’s 2K Tip of the Week: Peep the clock before you reach!
This is one of the basic tenets of basketball, but it especially holds true in the leakout-heavy world of 2K. While it's easy to get lost in the bucket-getting — pull-up artists dancing behind a screen, below-the-rim finishing thanks to the improvement with finishing badgers and more static green windows, BlaqKobra-esque mid-range magic — the easiest buckets to come by are in transition.
And thus, you should do everything within your power to stop those buckets from happening.
A lot of this responsibility falls on the players spaced the highest on the floor. If you're playing a true 5-out system, I'm talking to the hash-sitters (players on the wings). Naturally, the players spacing in the corners should do their best to get back and match up, too, but it's really on the players above the break to sprint back. More often than not, the players defending them leak out aggressively as soon as a shot goes up, in hopes of getting quick dunks, layups (or floaters, if you're trying to upgrade that badge) or uncontested threes. The easiest counter to that is to run with them so they can't get those opportunities.
If your team gets an offensive rebound, the players that were originally stashed in the corners should have catch-and-shoot opportunities, especially if their defenders also attempted to leak out. But if all else fails, you have 14 more seconds to generate a good look. It may be annoying to punt on potential catch-and-shoot opportunities after offensive rebounds if you're spacing on the wings, but it's much better to work your way back into a play vs working your way back into a game because you've given up a bunch of transition baskets.
At the end of the day, winning should be top of mind. —Nekias
What Nekias has been reading
There's been plenty of conversation around WNBA media this year, and what role we play in telling the stories of its players. There's plenty of work to be — Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud sparked another discussion on Twitter last week with a thread — but I feel it's important to highlight when that work is done, and done well. Mark Schindler put his f̶o̶o̶t̶ pen into this feature on Connecticut Sun forward DeWanna Bonner, one of the greatest players of the (more) modern WNBA. —Nekias
Best Thing Tommy Ate Last Week: Salmon Wrap at Nûrish
There are a lot of good salad and sandwich options in Brooklyn amongst all the chains and family places. I'm not sure I've found a better one than Nûrish, a small, family-run neighborhood spot on the border of Prospect and Crown Heights. Everything is good (the Caesar, the smoothies, the grain bowls), but for some reason they have incredible salmon, about as good as I've had in a sandwich or wrap. Baked and marinated, the salmon is tender, flavorful, and would probably be good with anything. Highly rec the salmon wrap (not pictured above). —Tommy
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