NBA Preseason: A Rookie’s First Act

In Basketball by Jo Anne Mabika

Rookies, Rookies, Rookies

The NBA season is quickly approaching and anticipation is in the air. While fans are excited to see how some of the blockbuster moves that went down will affect their favorite franchises, there is another group of people also chomping at the bit, the rookies. Preseason in the NBA is not considered a huge indicator of a team’s regular season record, but for the rookies, even preseason matters. This is the first time that most of the rookies get to really show what they’ve got. Some of them have a chip on their shoulder because of a late draft pick.  Some are playing hard as soon as they step foot on the court because they have families at home who have gotten them thus far and are motivating them to go even farther and get that paycheck. Some of the rookies are chasing a dream of becoming household names like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. Regardless of what the motivation may be, each of these young men has something to prove.

Amidst all of the speculation, the sneaker deals,  the lights and cameras, each rookie has to find a way to succeed. On rare occasion, a rookie will make his mark from game 1 and the media will go crazy with the comparisons to other great players before him. Wilt Chamberlain had a rookie season that still hasn’t been matched to this day. He snagged Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and averaged an astonishing 37.6 points/27 boards a game with the Harlem Globetrotters. Magic Johnson averaged only 18 points his rookie year, but he was present in every aspect of Game 6 of the Finals that year, tallying up 42 points, Finals MVP, and the team championship. The league has changed in many major ways since the times of Magic and Wilt, however, this new wave of players play a faster offense, take more shots, and rely upon much more versatile bigs. The percentage of shots taken outside the arc has also increased exponentially.

So as a team chasing a championship ring, which is more appealing?

The steady and slow veteran or the shiny, new rookie with fresh young feet? The Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, And the Los Angeles Lakers were probably the top 3 teams in the league infused with young blood this offseason and it remains to be seen if these new rookies can make an immediate impact. One of the advantages of having so many rookies is the abundance of the potential. For a franchise like the Lakers that has a new front office, infusing new blood on that roster means a new era of heroes in LA. Everyone has a shot to prove themselves and get consistent minutes and summer league showed just how different combinations on the floor Coach Luke Walton can play with until something clicks. For the Sacramento Kings, the rookies are an attempt at rebranding and creating a new atmosphere for the fans as well as the franchise.  Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, De’Aaron Fox, Lonzo Ball, each of the rookies were selected top five in the draft for a reason and that drive to earn their spot is sure to make for some exciting plays.

On the other hand, you have the veterans in the NBA who may have some wear and tear, but also possess tons of valuable lessons that cannot be taught other than experience.  When you get a team with both a skilled veteran AND a rookie who is willing to learn, the sky is the limit. The Dallas Mavericks picked a great year to be bad, and they were able to land rookie Dennis Smith Jr. 9th overall in the draft. The Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year has plenty of options when it comes to receiving counsel on the game- Dirk Nowitzki, JJ Barea, Devin Harris, or Wesley Matthews.

You could probably teach a new dog old tricks, but should you?? This new rookie class brings with them many new tricks and perspectives that will also have an impact on the league for many years to come as well. So as you watch your favorite rookies step out in front of the lights during preseason, remember the learning curve and trust the process. Don’t be too quick to put them on a pedestal or to burn any jerseys. Grab your inhalers AND your Kleenex boxes. Warm up those twitter fingers and let the rookie watching commence! May the odds be ever in your team’s favor!