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Stempak: Why the NBA preseason matters

| Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The NBA preseason is underway. Don’t jump out of your seat just yet, because I haven’t even told you why that matters.

Sure, the preseason in the NBA is probably the least consequential of all the major sports leagues — it’s mostly a time to test out D-League signees in order to fill out each team’s 15-man roster. The Spurs and the Warriors both lost their first game, Derrick Rose is missing games for court dates and I’m pretty sure LeBron James is still on vacation in Miami. But I love basketball, so I watch it anyway and gather all the information I can from it.

The biggest takeaway from the preseason is that it gives viewers a snippet of each team’s “watchability” for the upcoming season. It’s a sneak preview into how each team’s offseason additions will mesh together, as well as a first look at this year’s crop of uber-athletic teenagers that were drafted in June. So here are my recommendations of things to look out for this season.

First on my list is the Golden State Warriors. As a basketball fan, it is impossible to turn away from a team that can whip the ball around the perimeter to any of their four All-Star sharpshooters and get an open look every time down the court. That’s more than enough Warriors talk, though; onto the more obscure minutiae that has been revealed in the preseason.

As the NBA has inched closer to position-less basketball, a hero has emerged: point guard James Harden. With the removal of Dwight Howard, the Rockets are handing the keys to the team to their bearded treasure more than ever before, and it’s very fun to watch. Why waste your time passing to Harden when you can have him take the ball up the court, dribble around for 20 seconds and Euro-step his way into a pair of free throws for 40 minutes per game?

In the rookie department, my favorite player to watch has been Phoenix forward Marquese Chriss. The 8th-overall pick hailing from Washington appears to have made a deal with gravity to affect him less than the rest of humankind. Chriss leaps over defenders to finish alley-oops and complete put-back dunks so effortlessly that I am worried that he will never come down when he actually tries to jump for the first time.

And finally, the thing that I am most looking forward to this year is the coming of Philadelphia’s savior, Joel “The Process” Embiid. Embiid, drafted by ex-general manager Sam Hinkie, sat out his first two seasons due to injury. Still considered a rookie, Embiid gets to show off his ability on the big stage for the first time. Standing seven feet tall and weighing in at 250 pounds, the 76ers’ center has shown off his deft footwork in the post and long-range from three already this preseason.

He has also shown a lack of patience, shooting only 8-for-22 so far. Once he settles down and gets used to NBA pace after sitting out two years, he will be a blast to watch. Even if he does not live up to expectations, he will always be a must-follow on Twitter.

So before you fall asleep watching baseball this October, set your alarm for Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. when New York tips off at Cleveland to begin the NBA season.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About R.J. Stempak

R.J. Stempak is a sophomore computer science major who enjoys basketball.

Contact R.J.