Posted: Tuesday October 31, 2006 11:06AM; Updated: Tuesday October 31, 2006 11:06AM
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4. Don Nelson's up-tempo Golden State Warriors win five of six, Baron Davis leads team in scoring at 27 points per game.
What it means: Davis looked fantastic, shooting 55 percent from the field, making half his three pointers (attempting just two a contest, down from 6.6 a year ago), while leading a Warrior team through a promising preseason. Better yet, young guards Monta Ellis (13.7 points in 28.5 minutes) and Dajuan Wagner (12.7 points in 24 minutes) have found a way to contribute even with Baron playing 37 minutes a night.
Still, it's easy to remain skeptical about these Warriors. Opponents eventually will learn to be patient on offense and work the clock to exploit Golden State's weaknesses; that should bring the Warriors back to Earth. Until then, it'll be a fun watch.
5. The Heat's Gary Payton averages 5.3 points and 2.3 assists in nearly 24 minutes per game, shoots 31 percent from the floor.
What it means: Payton was a liability on both ends for the Heat during the preseason, and coach Pat Riley can't afford a slow start with Jason Williams on the injured list. Even after J-Will returns, will Riley have it in him to scour the ranks of the NBDL (he lambasted the NBA's minor league two weeks ago) or available NBA point men to shore up his backcourt? The latter could alienate the touchy and already frustrated Payton beyond repair, but Miami's chance at a repeat will rely heavily on a competent point guard to sop up minutes alongside Dwyane Wade.
6. The league's best rookie in the preseason wasn't Andrea Bargnani, Tyrus Thomas, Rudy Gay or Randy Foye, but Rockets sharpshooter Steve Novak.
What it means:Yao Ming can function in the post, and Tracy McGrady can work his magic off the dribble safe in the knowledge that Novak can make defenders pay for sagging off of him on the outside. The Marquette product averaged 12 points in 24 minutes per game, shooting 53 percent from the floor and 48 percent from behind the three-point line. Boston Rajon Rondo isn't far behind, averaging 11 points, five assists and two steals in 30 minutes per game for the Celtics.
7. The Mavericks average 82.6 points, lose five of eight games, shoot 38 percent from the floor.
What it means: Dallas is as good a championship contender as any, and most of its offseason replacements (upgrading Adrian Griffin to Devean George, Darrell Armstrong to Anthony Johnson, Keith Van Horn to Austin Croshere) should fit in nicely. But it will take a while, especially with Dirk Nowitzki pacing himself after a brilliant stretch at the World Championships, and the rest of the team coming off a 105-game run in 2005-06.
The early returns haven't been pretty, as Dirk (41 percent) and newly extended forward Josh Howard (48 percent) are the only Maverick perimeter performers to hit more than 40 percent from the field. The good news? The squad is dominating the boards, and the defense has looked sound in spite of having to recover quickly from all those long misses.
8. Youngsters J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza average a combined 28 points for the Nuggets in 45 combined minutes.
What it means: The Nuggets are developing some perimeter threats. Both Smith and Kleiza shot 40 percent from behind the three-point arc, and though they don't contribute much in other areas, they'll at least provide Denver's stable of power forwards with some breathing room down low.
9. Kevin Martin leads Kings in scoring with 17 points per game, shoots 52 percent from the floor, 48 percent from three-point range, and 83 percent from the free throw line.
What it means: He averaged 1.63 points for every shot he took in the preseason; by comparison, Kobe Bryant averaged 1.30 points for every shot he took last season while throwing in 35 points a game. Martin's True Shooting Percentage, a number that takes into account a player's efficiency on all types of attempts and free throw performance, was 65.1. That's a mark that would have led the league last year, when Martin was fourth (behind Steve Nash, Chris Wilcox and Josh Childress) with a 60.4 True Shooting Percentage.
In other words, Martin is a flat-out marksman.
10. The Knicks' Jalen Rose doesn't score a point in 28 preseason minutes, while Malik Rose plays all of one game and 14 total minutes.
What it means: As poor a judge of talent and chemistry as Isiah Thomas is when it comes to trading for and signing players, he at least has an advantage over Larry Brown in knowing when to award minutes to washed-up, overpaid veterans. Jalen Rose was released on Monday. Where will he end up? See No. 5.