NBA: Five Biggest Surprise Players of the Preseason

With the NBA Preseason wrapping up by early next week, we have had a great chance to see some of the non-starting players get playing time. Some of these players folded and did not perform, while some others have proven they deserve a bigger role. In this article, I will be going over five of the biggest surprise players this preseason.

Talen Horton-Tucker (Los Angeles Lakers)

Talen Horton-Tucker has been an absolute monster in his three NBA preseason appearances this year.  As a second-year player who got relatively limited minutes last year, this is quite a positive surprise to the Los Angeles Lakers.  Through his first four games this preseason, he has statistically been performing at an extremely high level.  Taking a look, these are his stats for each game:

Game 1: 19 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals

Game 2: 33 Points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals

Game 3: 18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists

Game 4: 12 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2/2 from 3 point range

Looking at these, obviously, game 2 was an extreme outlier in this case. This game was their second of which against the Los Angeles Clippers in a row. Something to note from this game is that THT was extremely proficient from 3 point range, shooting 4/5 (80%) and shot 11/17 from the field (64.7%). He was the leading scorer for the game, and that was his first real breakout game scoring wise. As a relatively late pick in 2019 (Round 2, Pick 46) he could look to be a rotational piece for the Lakers this year after this impressive streak of performances.

Malachi Flynn (Toronto Raptors)

Malachi Flynn, a late first-round pick this year (Round 1, Pick 29) has proven his worth so far in the preseason.   This is someone that Toronto Raptors fans had relatively high hopes for coming into the preseason. Boy did he live up to them.  So far he has had three games to show his talents, and these are his stats for each game:

Game 1: 9 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds

Game 2: 17 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound

Game 3: 5 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound

Now granted, these stats are not extremely impressive on their own. Especially since these points were put up on relatively inefficient performances from Flynn. However, he has been doing a lot on the court that does not show up on the stat sheets. He has been very consistent on the defensive end of the court, which many people did not expect to see from him. His perimeter defense has been at the very least above average, and he has been decent in transition defense as well. While he hasn’t broken out big time yet, he is someone to watch as he will likely prove his worth in the coming games.

Deni Avdija (Washington Wizards)

First off with Deni Avdija, I know he was a lottery pick.  I also know he was projected to go very early in the lottery prior to the draft.  So is this a surprise or more a living up to expectations?  I personally say it’s a mix of both.  Something to keep in mind here, however, is that we have only seed 2 games worth of Deni in the preseason, as the third game the Wizards play is the night that I am writing this.  So far in his first 2 games, these are his stats:

Game 1: (starting) 15 points, 2 assists, 4 rebounds, 3/3 from 3, 6/6 from the field

Game 2: (bench) 7 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds, 0/4 from 3, 3/8 from the field

Deni is another one that while the stats are basically a 50/50 split between great and bad, he still has shown his worth.  In game 1 he was extremely efficient from the field and produced a large number of points.  While in game 2 while he did not show the scoring side, he showed a strong defensive prowess and was fantastic at moving the ball on offense, despite the low assist numbers.  This is because he normally was making passes into another pass, rather than assisting shots.  Deni should definitely be an intriguing piece for the Wizards to work with going forward and should work well with Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal.

Isaac Okoro (Cleveland Cavaliers)

Isaac Okoro is another one where I need to say, yes I know he was the 5th pick this year.  That still does not take away from the fact that he has been a surprise, at least for me.  Hitting what was a game-winning shot with 0.3 seconds left on the clock in your first NBA appearance is quite the feat.  Okoro is another player who has had 4 games in the preseason to prove his abilities.  Through these 4 games, here are his stats:

Game 1: 18 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound, game winning shot

Game 2: 15 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds

Game 3: 10 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound

Game 4: 2 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds

There are two things we need to be looking at with these stats, however. In game 1, 16 of his points were scored in the 4th quarter, which is absolutely insane. Also, in game 4, the reason for the low production is because Colin Sexton and the bench took a large majority of the shots that game. Okoro is likely going to end up being an extremely productive player for the Cavaliers this season if he can continue his production from the first three games, and cut out the fourth.

Gary Trent Jr. (Portland Trailblazers)

Rounding out the list, we have Gary Trent Jr.  He is one that has a few things he definitely could do with working on, which I will discuss as we look at the stats.  He has also had 4 games playing this preseason, all of which off the bench but with starting type minutes.  These are his stats in each game:

Game 1: 18 points, 2 assists, 3 rebounds (6-13 shooting)

Game 2: 17 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound (7-18 shooting)

Game 3: 6 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds (2-10 shooting)

Game 4: 18 points, 1 rebound (7-18 shooting)

As I said, there’s a lot to break down with these stats. Number 1, he is extremely inefficient when shooting occasionally. Shooting 2-10 and getting 6 points is something you never want to see from any NBA player. Had he made around half those shots like in his other games you would be looking at another close to 20 points. But instead, you get a sub-double digit scoring game. This is something he should be looking to work on throughout the season and bounce back like he did in game 4.

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