Preseason Observations: Ayton Shines, Parker Struggles, Giannis Can Still Dunk
Preseason Observations: Ayton Shines, Parker Struggles, Giannis Can Still Dunk

This article is part of our Preseason Observations series.

With the regular season fast approaching, we're back with a recap of the last four days of preseason action.

From Markelle Fultz shooting threes to Markieff Morris getting ejected to Brandon Ingram putting on a show, here's everything you need to know from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday's games.

- We have a situation: Markelle Fultz is shooting three-pointers again. After failing to attempt a three in the preseason opener, Fultz took FOUR in Monday's 120-114 win over the Magic. He only hit one, but it was a beautiful sight.

- It'll take some time for Fultz to become fully comfortable taking threes on a routine basis, but he already looks more than comfortable in the mid-range, and his rebounding remains well above-average for a point guard. Fultz, who started at the two Monday for the second straight game, finished with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting to go with six rebounds, an assist and a block.

- Speaking of threes, Joel Embiid launched six in just 23 minutes Monday. Embiid finished the game 1-of-6 from distance and 9-of-9 from two-point range.

- In their preseason opener Monday, the Knicks started Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Kevin Knox, Lance Thomas and Enes Kanter. Kanter and Hardaway are virtual locks to start, but the other three spots will be contested through the rest of the preseason, and probably into the regular season. Burke vs. Frank Ntilikina at point guard will be especially interesting to monitor.

- In Wednesday's win over the Nets, New York rolled out the same starting five. Kanter had 22 points and 20 boards in just 27 minutes, while rookie Allonzo Trier put up 25 points (8-12 FG, 8-8 FT) in 26 minutes off the bench.

- Second-rounder Mitchell Robinson got into it with Markieff Morris on Monday night. It's unclear what sparked the altercation, but Morris was ejected. From a preseason game.

- Washington is still without Dwight Howard, who continues to nurse a back injury. Howard sat out Thursday's practice and has already been ruled out for Friday's matchup with Miami. While he did go through some individual drills early in the week, it's fair to wonder if the issue will trickle into the regular season. Washington opens up Oct. 18 at home against the Heat.

- Trae Young struggled from the floor in his Hawks debut, going 5-of-16 overall and just 1-of-6 from beyond the arc. That'll likely be the case for much of the season as Young adjusts to the NBA, but early indications are that his passing is going to translate. Young handed out eight assists in just 20 minutes Monday against New Orleans.

- Atlanta got 18 points, three rebounds and two assists out of John Collins in 20 minutes of action.

- The Pelicans started Julius Randle alongside Anthony Davis again Monday. The ex-Laker looks like the favorite to win that job during the regular season, but his case has been helped by Nikola Mirotic's ongoing battle with an Achilles injury. In all likelihood, Alvin Gentry will give both players a look alongside Davis, and all three will play together in what could be the Pelicans' best lineup.

- Sacramento started Skal Labissiere and Justin Jackson in the frontcourt with Willie Cauley-Stein on Monday, opting to bring Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles off the bench. Cauley-Stein is looking like the full-time starter at center, but the other two forward spots could be up for grabs. The Kings have a major investment in Bagley, but he was mostly quiet in 25 minutes, finishing with seven points, two rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Giles had 14 points (5-12 FG, 1-2 3PT, 3-6 FT), six boards and three assists in 23 minutes.

- It's only the preseason, but Deandre Ayton looks like the real deal. Ayton had 24 points, nine rebounds and three blocks against Sacramento before throwing up 21 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in Wednesday's win over the New Zealand Breakers. Through tow games, Ayton is yet to attempt a three-pointer, but he's 9-of-12 at the line and 18-of-29 from the floor.

- Phoenix appears committed to starting Ayton, Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza in the frontcourt. The two-guard spot is up for grabs until Devin Booker returns, but Booker may have to end up functioning as the point guard if the Suns aren't able to land a veteran. The clock is ticking.

- With Booker (hand) out again Wednesday, the Suns started Shaquille Harrison and Josh Jackson in the backcourt, with T.J. Warren and Mikal Bridges off the bench.

- Kyrie Irving sat out Tuesday's game to rest. The rest of the Celtics' regulars were thoroughly dominated by the Cavaliers, who led by 19 at the half.

- Cedi Osman had 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 19 minutes. Kevin Love added 17 points in 17 minutes, and rookie Collin Sexton had 15 points and four rebounds off the bench. Osman, in particular, is a name to watch, especially if he's able to earn a starting spot. He grew into more of a folk hero than an actual basketball player a year ago, but with Cleveland embracing a mini-rebuild, he's suddenly one of the Cavs' top young pieces.

- Amid injuries to Bam Adebayo, James Johnson, Josh Richardson and Dion Waiters, the Heat trotted out a starting five of Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow, Rodney McGruder and Goran Dragic again Tuesday against Charlotte.

- Whiteside continued his strong start to the preseason, putting up a 14-point, 15-rebound double-double with a pair of blocks in 27 minutes.

- After not playing in the Hornets' opener, Malik Monk put up 13 points in Sunday's game against Boston and followed up with eight points and seven assists in 23 minutes Tuesday. This year's first-round pick, Miles Bridges, had 14 points and six rebounds off the bench Tuesday.

- Cody Zeller looks like the favorite to start at center, but Willy Hernangomez has strung together three impressive showings thus far. In 17 minutes Tuesday, Hernangomez put up 16 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.

- Making his Grizzlies debut against the Rockets, Jaren Jackson, Jr. was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field, finishing with 15 points, three rebounds, and three assists before fouling out in 19 minutes. The rookie figures to be in the mix at both center and power forward this season.

- Memphis brought Kyle Anderson off the bench Tuesday and started Chandler Parsons at small forward. We'll see if that's a sign of things to come. Hopefully it's not.

- Not sure if this is some sort of box score prank, but Michael Carter-Williams allegedly scored 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting (9-11 FT) Tuesday.

- Worth noting: Houston started Carmelo Anthony at the four and James Ennis at the three. P.J. Tucker (back) will hold down a starting spot once he's healthy, but the last spot could end up being a battle between Ennis and Eric Gordon.

- All indications are that Kawhi Leonard is fully healthy. He looked the part Tuesday, scoring 17 points in 18 minutes in a loss to Utah. A career 85 percent free throw shooter, Leonard is just 10-of-19 from the line through two preseason games.

- Joe Ingles scored 24 points, including five threes, in 24 minutes. Rudy Gobert had a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double to go with five blocks. If Gobert stays healthy, he's the favorite to win another Defensive Player of the Year award.

- If the NBA handed out a preseason MVP award, Tobias Harris might be the frontrunner. After putting up 20/11/5 in the opener, Harris followed up with 23 points, six rebounds and four assists in 23 minutes Wednesday against Minnesota. Danillo Gallinari added 22 points, six rebounds and four assists of his own Wednesday.

- The Clippers once again started Marcin Gortat at center, with Montrezl Harrell off the bench. Harrell had 13 points (6=7 FG), six rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes.

- Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander started in the backcourt alongside Patrick Beverley with Avery Bradley resting. Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 12 points and five assists, while fellow-rookie Jerome Robinson had seven points in 24 minutes off the bench.

- Timberwolves rookie Keita Bates-Diop bounced back from a poor preseason opener to finish with 11 points and four rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench. Gorgui Dieng saw 18 minutes off the bench but managed only two points on 1-of-9 shooting. How does no one want to trade for this man?

In Wednesday's loss to the Bucks, Jabari Parker hit his first shot and went on to miss his next twelve. Parker was also on the receiving end of this:


- Chicago shot 32 percent as a team and lost by 34 points. Milwaukee, meanwhile, had five players in double-figures, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo's 19 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes.

- In Wednesday's loss to Detroit, Dennis Schroder started at point guard in the absence of Russell Westbrook (knee) and finished with 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds in 27 minutes. Schroder was a perfect 9-of-9 at the line.

- For Detroit, Andre Drummond went for 31 points and 16 rebounds in 34 minutes. He was 0-of-3 from beyond the arc.

- LeBron James continues to do LeBron James things:


- James finished with 18 points, four assists and three rebounds Thursday against the Kings as the Lakers notched their first preseason win.

- With Rajon Rondo (rest) and Lonzo Ball (knee) out, Brandon Ingram got the start at point guard. Ingram responded with 31 points (10-15 FG, 11-15 FG), nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block in 35 minutes.

- For the second straight game, Josh Hart started at shooting guard over Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Hart had 17 points in 36 minutes, while KCP scored 11 points in 28 minutes off the bench.

- Marvin Bagley bounced back from that aforementioned rough debut to put up a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double in 32 minutes. Harry Giles added 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists before fouling out in 25 minutes. Giles also fouled out of Sacramento's preseason opener.


- De'Aaron Fox hit four threes and finished with 18 points, five assists and two steals in just 18 minutes.

- With P.J. Tucker sand Clint Capela both out, Houston started Marquese Chriss at center and Carmelo Anthony at power forward Thursday against Indiana. James Ennis once again got the nod at small forward, with Eric Gordon coming off the bench.

- Michael Carter-Williams put together another competent game off the bench. Through two games, he's averaging 17 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 25 minutes per game.

- T.J. Leaf and Domantas Sabonis were the standouts for Indiana, each putting up double-doubles. Leaf had 13 points, 12 boards and four assists as the starting power forward, while Sabonis chipped in 15 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals (and six turnovers) off the bench.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Whalen
RotoWire's NBA Editor and award winning host of the RotoWire NBA Podcast. Many years ago, Stromile Swift gave Nick his unbelievably sweaty headband after a preseason game. Despite its failure to match his school colors, Nick went on to wear that headband for the entirety of his sixth grade basketball season. Catch Nick on Twitter @wha1en.
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