Top Plays of the Week, NBA Preseason Edition
Week 2 of the NBA preseason provided plenty of highlights, whether they came from rookies flashing what they have to offer their new teams or established veterans doing what they do best.
Whether it was LeBron James with a filthy throwdown, Tony Mitchell with a chase-down block or Jeff Green posterizing yet another opposing big man, some of the league's best and brightest shined in big ways as the regular season crept ever closer.
Before you dive in, it must be noted that these plays were not ranked in any specific order, so please keep that in mind as you make your way through the piece.
Royce White Dishes in Transition
We likely won't be seeing many Royce White (or Philadelphia 76ers) highlights this season, but this play from the 22-year-old is worthy of praise.
In Monday's preseason contest against the Brooklyn Nets, White collected a blocked shot by Michael Carter-Williams on the perimeter and then swiftly moved coast-to-coast, faking a behind-the-back pass before ultimately dishing the ball behind his head to Thaddeus Young, who calmly delivered two.
It's rare to find a player of White's size and stature (he is listed at 6'8'' and 270 pounds) who can run the floor and control the ball with such ease, but he did so effectively here. The outcome was quite pretty.
JaVale McGee's Swat Leads to the Oop
Here is another transition bucket initiated by a big-time block.
On this occasion, JaVale McGee swatted Tiago Splitter's jump-hook attempt into oblivion before Ty Lawson hit Randy Foye with an outlet, who then delivered an alley-oop to a streaking J.J. Hickson.
Although Brian Shaw's system may not be as conducive to running the floor as much as George Karl's was, it's undeniable how freakish some of Denver's athletes are, particularly in the frontcourt.
With bodies like McGee, Kenneth Faried and Hickson—all of whom have the speed and athleticism to bolt up and down the floor—the Nuggets could create some serious magic on the break this year.
And with McGee protecting the rim in a starting role, there's no reason he can't threaten to lead the league in blocks this season.
Jamal Crawford Beats the Buzzer
Did he call glass? Probably not, but Jamal Crawford's first-quarter buzzer-beater was a reminder of how deadly the Los Angeles Clippers' sixth man can be in isolation situations.
Matched up against Chuck Hayes on a switch, Crawford went to work with his patented crossover, hitting the 250-pound forward with the move one time before dribbling to his left and banking in the long two to cut the Sacramento Kings' lead to one.
A season after finishing second in Sixth Man of the Year voting behind J.R. Smith, Crawford is one of the leading candidates to take home the hardware in 2014.
John Wall's Sick Dime
Whether it's being a reliable mid-range jump shooter, driving to the rack and finishing at the rim, drawing contact, or setting up teammates, he will be the catalyst for everything that Randy Wittman's bunch achieves offensively.
Transition is where Wall can make his living, just as he did in this clip. Driving into the teeth of the Miami Heat's defense, Wall used a slick behind-the-back move, drawing the attention of two defenders while calmly delivering a scoop pass to Al Harrington.
Jeff Green Posterizes Reggie Evans
Jeff Green is no stranger to making bigger defenders look small with show-stopping slams. Unfortunately for Reggie Evans, he's now Green's latest victim.
In Tuesday's preseason bout with the Brooklyn Nets, Green cut baseline, received a pass from Jared Sullinger, leaped skyward and hammered home a vicious dunk over the outstretched arm of the rough-and-tumble Evans.
You can expect more highlight-reel throwdowns from Green throughout the year as the Boston Celtics figure to lean upon him to be their primary scorer on the perimeter now that Paul Pierce resides in Brooklyn.
LeBron Feeds Wade for the Slam
Where have we seen this one before? LeBron James feeds Dwyane Wade for a show-stopping alley-oop. Ho-hum.
So long as the dynamic duo are healthy and playing together in South Beach, the aerial connection between James and Wade is going to continue to entertain crowds and infuriate defenses.
With James drawing the attention of two defenders as he deceptively ran a pick-and-roll with Chris Bosh, Wade quickly bolted for the bucket and skied high for the slam.
There's simply no stopping it. With James being the most feared dribble-drive threat in the game, Wade will have opportunities to make plays on the back end of some slick passes when the reigning MVP draws double-teams.
LeBron Opens the Scoring with a Monster Dunk
LeBron James is the king of finishing alley-oops in transition, and he reminded us of that on Tuesday evening when the Miami Heat squared off against the Washington Wizards.
After Mario Chalmers forced a turnover on the perimeter, James bolted from the free-throw line past several would-be defenders and caught a lob from his point guard, cocking the ball back behind his head before throwing it down to score the first two points of the game.
Fans may be becoming desensitized to LeBron's athleticism with each passing season and awe-inspiring performance, but this play serves as a reminder of just how unique his combination of size, speed and strength is.
Gal Mekel Goes Between the Legs to Monta Ellis
Gal Mekel is a relative unknown to many NBA fans, but he turned heads with a pretty pass to Monta Ellis on Monday night against the Orlando Magic.
The Israeli point guard, who signed a three-year, $2.3 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks this summer, will be battling with Shane Larkin for third-string point guard duties behind Jose Calderon and Devin Harris (once healthy). His playmaking in the open court may be one reason he sees just a few extra minutes this season.
With a beautiful no-look, between-the-legs dish to fellow free-agent signee Monta Ellis, Mekel cast himself in a positive light as he begins to fight for playing time during his rookie campaign.
Tony Mitchell with the Chase-Down Block
Entering the 2013 NBA draft, Tony Mitchell was considered a plus-athlete with good size.
A 7'3'' wingspan is arguably his best physical attribute, and he will need to put it to good use after his long-distance shooting efficiency (28.9 percent from three) dropped considerably during his sophomore season at North Texas.
On Thursday night against the Chicago Bulls, Mitchell made his presence felt thanks to his outstanding athletic qualities, chasing down point guard Marquis Teague and swatting his shot off the glass.
As Mitchell elevates, it's clear just how massive his wingspan is. Although he may not see the floor much during his rookie season, his ability to block shots, run the floor and rebound could be viewed favorably when compared to the skill sets of fellow Detroit Pistons reserves Charlie Villanueva and Jonas Jerebko.
Derrick Rose Hits a Circus Shot
Derrick Rose has looked remarkably sharp in his return to the hardwood, so much so that he may even be faster and more explosive than he was prior to tearing his ACL, per ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell:
"I think I'm way more explosive now," Rose said after scoring 22 points in 22 minutes. "Like getting to the rim. I think I can take contact a little bit better. And as far as jumping-wise, I think I can jump even higher. They tested my vertical -- I increased it by 5 inches. I just didn't show it yet because there's no need to."
One of the plays that exemplified Rose's ability to burst forward and withstand contact came at the tail end of the first half of Wednesday night's preseason contest against the Detroit Pistons.
Scoring two of his 18 first-half points, Rose kept rookie point guard Peyton Siva off balance with a couple of strong crossovers and an inside-out dribble, ultimately connecting on an acrobatic shot as he fell to the floor while drawing the foul.
Simply put, it's going to be a long season for those tasked with defending the former MVP.