Zion Williamson and rookie mates make for sick preseason mixtape

Oct 8, 2019
PHOTO: AP

Amid the whole China debacle, NBA teams have hit the road for preseason basketball.

Fans have gotten a much-needed first look at the altered landscape (finalists Raptors and Warriors minus their best players), the league's newest 1-2 punches (AD-Bron, Kawhi-PG), rising stars returning from injuries (Dejounte Murray, Markelle Fultz), and more importantly, the highly touted 2019 draft class, starring Zion Williamson.

Tuesday featured the most number of rookies playing in these summer games, which meant that the league had enough material for an electrifying highlight reel.

Tacko Fall (Boston Celtics)

You only need to hear how the Boston crowd erupted once Tacko checked in the game. While his numbers against the Hornets weren't eye-popping (five points, three rebounds, and two blocks in eight minutes), the 7'5", 310-pound beanpole became an instant fan-favorite at the TD Garden. Whether his supersized features translate on the court or not, the Celtics have already made a smart investment on the undrafted 23-year-old.

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Meanwhile, No. 12 pick PJ Washington led Charlotte with 16 markers, seven boards, and three three-pointers.

Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies)

The No. 2 selection ushered in a new era in Memphis in silky smooth fashion versus Israeli team Haifa Maccabi Haifa. His 10 points and seven assists in 19 minutes don't give justice to how the game looked effortless for Ja, who easily broke down defenses and found the open man. It would be interesting to see how his feel for the game will fare against actual NBA competition.

Coby White (Chicago Bulls)

Efficiency should be the primary concern for the No. 7 pick (12 pts, 3-10 shooting, 25 mins) if he hopes to supplant Kris Dunn (11 pts 3 steals 24 min) in the starting lineup someday. A good sign, though, was how he shifted into attack mode after clanging a couple of jumpers resulting in eight free-throw attempts, five of which he made. Still, Coby has a lot of work to do to be the next great Tar Heel-turned-Bull.

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    Darius Garland (Cleveland Cavaliers)

    The No. 5 selection almost made the consensus Top 3 of his draft class a four-man race before suffering a meniscus injury in Vanderbilt. Against the Argentinian squad San Lorenzo, Darius made up for lost stock by not missing a shot (4-4 for 9 pts) and giving a glimpse of his unselfishness with a couple of dimes in just 14 minutes off the bench. It's only a matter of time before teams regret passing up on him.

    RJ Barrett (New York Knicks) vs Rui Hachimura (Washington Wizards)

    Knicks fans must be keeping their fingers crossed that coach David Fizdale will have the same amount of trust (39 mins) in their No. 3 pick come regular season. RJ took advantage of his fresh 19-year-old legs and contributed across the board, finishing with 17 markers, seven boards, and three dishes.

    On the other hand, Rui, Washington's No. 9 selection from Japan, followed up on his stellar World Cup play with a solid 12-point, four-rebound outing as Otto Porter's successor.

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    Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes (New Orleans Pelicans) vs De'Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish (Atlanta Hawks)

    The battle between two of the most promising teams in the league lived up to its billing, with the top pick showing why he's the headliner. Zion turned State Farm Arena against the Hawks with a wide array of aerial assaults, on his way to 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals in 28 mixtape-worthy minutes. His rookie teammate, Jaxson, can only do so much in limited run (2 pts, 3 rebs, 5 mins).

    Not to be overshadowed, Atlanta's young guns also had solid debuts, with De'Andre, who was selected fourth, putting up 10 markers and two threes in 25 minutes as a starter. Zion's Duke teammate, Cam, picked 10th, was slightly better with 11 points and three threes in 15 minutes.

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    PHOTO: AP
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