With the NBA eight-game regular season restart just a day away, teams in the playoff bubble continue to prepare for their playoff push. After over four months without basketball, it was good to see players back on the court during scrimmages these last few days.
While some players struggled or did not play many minutes during the exhibition games, others burst onto the scene and grabbed the attention of national media with some unexpected performances. Here are five primetime performers that showed why they could potentially play big roles in their team’s chances of reaching/producing in the postseason.
Looking to shock the world and break NBA Twitter, the Nuggets led off Day 1 of scrimmages with one of the most interesting starting lineups the league has ever seen. Denver caught many by surprise with the decision to run out a lineup of All-star Center Nikola Jokic playing point guard, Jerami Grant, Bol Bol, Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee.
Within this unique lineup all eyes pointed to 7-foot-2 Bol Bol who put up video game-like numbers in the team’s first scrimmage against the Washington Wizards. Putting up a stat line of 16 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks on 42.9%, the rookie out of Oregon showed flashes that he could be a nightly contributor up in the Mile High.
Bol Bol has not played a single game this season with the Nuggets main roster but did spend some time in the G-League as a member of theWindy City Bulls putting up 12 points, 5.5. rebounds and just over two blocks per game. If he can give them consistent minutes off the bench as scorer and shot blocker, the combination of him and fellow rookie forward Michael Porter Jr. could be a deadly future frontcourt alongside Jokic.
2) Seth Curry, Dallas Mavericks
Despite the casual fan referring to him as “Steph Curry’s brother,” those who watch Seth play know that three-point shooting runs in the family. In a 108-104 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, Curry shot 8 for 8 from the with six threes for a total of 23 points in only 15 minutes of action. Leading all scorers, Curry showed off his underrated ability to get hot from behind the arc while doing so in an efficient manner.
The Mavericks are currently tied for5th in the West with a 40-27 record and the margin for error is slim to none if they plan to move up the standings and avoid facing the LA Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. With the difference between finishing as the 4th seed or the 7th seed being so close, Dallas will be looking to role players like Curry to step up big alongside the team’s young star duo of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
Curry was a member of the Portland TrailBlazers team that went to the Western Conference Finals last year and had some big performances, showing that he is capable of stepping up when the lights are bright. He may not hit six threes every night, but if he gets hot in the postseason, we may have to watch out for a potential upset by this up and coming Mavericks team.
3) Troy Daniels, Denver Nuggets
Although the basketball world kept a close eye on Bol Bol, another standout player for the Nuggets was Troy Daniels who shot the lights out despite falling to the New Orleans Pelicans, 108-104. Leading all scorers in the game with 28 points, Daniels hit 7 of 10 threes while shooting 52.9% from the floor.
For a team with a deep rotation like Denver has, there is no real expectation that Daniels will play significant minutes in the postseason. But in a league that has significantly embraced the three-point shot over the last few years or so, shooting performances like this are the reason a journeyman guard like Daniels has lasted12 years in the league on seven teams. As he enters this offseason as anunrestricted free agent, expect his name to be on the radar as a potential high commodity on the open market for championship level teams.
Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City Thunder
Returning to live action for the first time sinceJanuary 28, 2018, Roberson brought Thunder teammates and staff to a standing ovation as he subbed into the scrimmage against the Philadelphia 76ers for the first time.
Known more for his defense as a former second team all-defense selection prior to suffering acareer threatening leg injury (ruptured patella), Roberson’s biggest struggle offensively was his inability to shoot the basketball. Shooting 25.7% from three and 46.7% from the free throw line for his career, it is safe to say that he is not much of a shooting threat.
But in his brief return, Roberson shocked OKC fans and the Sixers when his only points of the game came in the closing moments of the game where he hit two big threes down the stretch to seal a 102-97 victory for the Thunder. Obviously, this does not mean that he is now some knockdown shooter or anything like that. But, if he can learn to hit threes at a relatively efficient clip or at least league average (35.7%), he could become the elite “three and D” wing that Oklahoma City has been missing all season.
5) JR Smith, Los Angeles Lakers
It is good to see quality minutes out of the Lakers backcourt. With questions surrounding the Lakers backcourt practically all season before the pandemic, the easy solution was to just put Lebron James at point guard and let him run the show. Although it is an excellent plan to make one of the best players in the sport your primary decision maker, in today’s league you need playmakers that can create for themselves.
In a 123-116 victory over the Wizards, Smith turned back the clock a little bit with a 20-point performance on 6 of 7 shooting from three. With he and fellow free agent signee Dion Waiters combining for 38 points, the Lakers backcourt is starting to show some promise despite losing Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. This is the JR Smith that the Lakers need if they plan on making a deep run in the playoffs. Smith and Kyle Kuzma may easily be the game breakers that make or break Los Angeles’ hopes of winning the title this year.
Hi there! My name is Jalon Dixon, but most people just call me Jay. As an aspiring, young sports writer and podcaster, I enjoy discussing sports (mainly basketball and football) and sharing my knowledge with others. Growing up right in the middle of Towson University, Morgan State, Goucher College and others, I have gotten the chance to learn so much about a handful of the different athletic teams that thrive here in Baltimore. I want to be the voice of local fans and teams that may not get the same spotlight as others, but still play a big part in our everyday lives. My motto is "Always Embrace Conversation," so if you ever want to give me feedback on a piece or even just have a friendly sports debate, feel free to email me! Hope you enjoy my work and maybe even learn something along the way.