The NBA preseason is a great time for overreaction.
Teams play tune-up exhibition games with limited rosters that usually look nothing like what their actual rotation will be during the regular season. It's a time where some players are fighting for final roster spots, some are getting back into game shape, some are putting their offseason training to game speed and others ... either play sparingly or don't play at all.
With that being said, there are still some things you can take away from preseason, like seeing how teams with a lot of roster turnover are adjusting, what teams may use for starting lineups and players who could be on the verge of a breakout season.
Take a look at five things we actually learned during the 2021 NBA preseason.
Nets will start Bruce Brown in Kyrie Irving's place
The Irving saga has been one of the major storylines of the preseason, with the Brooklyn Nets most recently stating that they will not allow the star guard to be a part-time player. That means there is a void to be filled in the starting lineup, and preseason has given us an idea of what head coach Steve Nash may plan to do with that situation.
In the two preseason games where the Nets suited up their full roster, Nash elected to use a starting lineup of James Harden, Joe Harris, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Bruce Brown. There was some expectation that maybe offseason signing Patty Mills would slot into the starting five, but it appears that Nash plans to continue to deploy Harden at point guard.
Mills will still be a very valuable bench piece and potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate with an amazing opportunity to step up in Irving's absence, but it looks like it will be Brown who cracks the starting five.
Brown was a jack-of-all-trades for Brooklyn last season, being deployed at every position from point guard to small ball center. His defensive versatility is his calling card, but it's Brown's hustle and effort to make winning plays that make him so vital to the Nets' success. His averages won't jump off the page, but he'll do all the little things as a glue guy to hold together Brooklyn's star-studded cast.
Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey are fighting for Ben Simmons' starting spot
Speaking of major preseason storylines and All-Star shoes to fill, there is also the Simmons saga.
The 76ers starting point guard has reportedly returned to Philadelphia, but there hasn't been much update beyond showing up at the team's facility. Without any indication of when he could actually return, head coach Doc Rivers will have a decision to make with the starting lineup.
Whether he isn't showing his hand or hasn't made a final decision yet, it appears he'll choose between Milton and Maxey to slot alongside Seth Curry, Danny Green, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid.
In 2019-20, Milton was the interim replacement whenever Simmons missed time, earning 24 starts. But with Maxey's emergence during his rookie season, he earned eight starts to Milton's four, seemingly taking over that role as the replacement starter.
The 20-year-old should be poised for a breakout season in Year 2 regardless of his role, but the boost in minutes as a starter may be just what Maxey needs to maximize his potential. He averaged 18.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists in his eight starts last season, possibly a sign of things to come if he earns the promotion. But Milton did play a valuable bench role for Philly last year, averaging 13.0 points and 3.1 assists per game, and his experience could earn him the nod over the second-year guard.
It will be something to monitor as Opening Night approaches.
Lakers' role players have work to do
The Lakers went 0-6 in the preseason, meaning they're too old and the LeBron James-Russell Westbrook-Anthony Davis experiment is destined for failure ... right?
This is a prime example of not overreacting to exhibition games, especially when all three of the Lakers' stars only shared the court once. But that doesn't mean there is nothing to take away from an ugly preseason showing from Los Angeles.
The Lakers brought in almost an entirely new roster this offseason. While Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard are returning from the 2020 championship team, Carmelo Anthony, Malik Monk, Trevor Ariza, Kendrick Nunn, Kent Bazemore, DeAndre Jordan and Wayne Ellington are all new to LA.
And there wasn't much to praise across the majority of the team's new additions.
Anthony shot 40.8 percent from the field on roughly 10 shot attempts per game. Nunn shot 36.8 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from 3. Ellington shot 28.6 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from 3. Bazemore shot 37.5 percent from the field. Those shooting splits are ... not good. The disclaimer is that life will get easier with more open shots once James and Westbrook are playing their usual roles, but it's still a cause for concern early.
The good: Monk was solid, averaging 12.7 points while shooting 51.7 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from 3. The veteran trio of Rondo, Howard and Jordan all brought something to the table as well, playing the same roles we've seen them compete in for years now. Standout undrafted rookie Austin Reaves also appeared to be a potential contributor, cashing in on over 40 percent of his 3s until he went 1-for-8 from beyond the arc in the final preseason game.
It's easy to see a zero in the win column and assume the worst, but make sure to take the good with the bad when assessing the Lakers' preseason performance.
The Bulls will snap their playoff drought
In the same way you can't overanalyze bad performances, you can't get yourself too hyped up over good performances. But the new-look Bulls are making the latter tough to abide by.
With an average winning margin of 21.5 points, Chicago rolled through its competition. The Bulls destroyed the Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Pelicans by 36 points apiece, then flashed the ability to win a close game with a one-point win over the Cavs later in the week. The foursome of Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball look sharp so far, with the Bulls really benefitting from having a plethora of playmaking options.
Forget the coffee... watch this video!- Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 6, 2021
Every single dunk from last night's W: pic.twitter.com/88uxB3Ix9H
Even other offseason additions like Alex Caruso and Alize Johnson have looked strong in their roles, bringing defence and attitude to the team's second unit. With an unfathomable defensive rating of 91.3, Chicago looks like a well-oiled machine thus far.
Again, don't get carried away with things like an immaculate defensive rating in preseason, as more often than not it's against a lineup of reserves. I'm simply just stating the facts. But for real, the Bulls look poised to end their four-year playoff drought as everyone assumed after the strong offseason they had.
Warriors found interim Klay Thompson replacement in Jordan Poole
Thompson's highly-anticipated return to the floor is expected to come sometime around Christmas, marking his first NBA action since the 2019 NBA Finals. The Warriors have struggled in his absence for a variety of reasons, but the three-time NBA champion's comeback will be integral in Golden State's playoff push during the homestretch of the season.
The preseason has appeared to present Thompson's replacement in the interim. Enter third-year guard Poole, who has built upon a strong finish to the season last year and looks to be on the verge of a breakout season this year.
The 22-year-old tore up the Warriors' exhibition games, averaging 21.8 points per game - good for the sixth-most in the NBA in the preseason. He shot efficiently, shooting 50.6 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from 3, while adding 3.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game.
Jordan Poole through four games of preseason play:- Golden State Warriors (@warriors) October 13, 2021
1.3 SPG pic.twitter.com/YepgIepWIn
Poole can make life easier for All-Star guard Stephen Curry, giving opposing defences another threat to worry about in the backcourt. It seems as though Poole has locked up the starting shooting guard spot until Thompson's return and it will be interesting to see if he can carry his level of play from the preseason into the regular season.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.