Welcome to Court Vision, a weekly video-breakdown column on emerging trends around the NBA that you might have missed.
Spurs dangerously thin after Murray's injury
You could blindly trust Gregg Popovich to work his magic despite not having any superstars to work with for the first time in two decades. You could argue that the Spurs have two perennial All-Stars and that they traded in a past-his-prime Danny Green and nine games of Kawhi Leonard for All-NBA second team guard DeMar DeRozan. You could make the case that their infusion of youth compensates for the lost wisdom and leadership from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Or you could face the grim reality that the Spurs have questions up and down the roster that could threaten their 21-year playoff streak.
For starters, can LaMarcus Aldridge share the spotlight with DeRozan, or will he shrink again? It's no coincidence Aldridge suddenly found his footing in San Antonio the minute Leonard ghosted the team. Aldridge wants to be the featured player with the offense running through him on the left block, but that's also where DeRozan wants it. Both players excel in the mid-range (DeRozan led all East players in mid-range shots last season, Aldridge topped the West) and it's unclear if they can resolve the overlap.
It's sacrilegious to say this, but the Spurs will also struggle on defense. Their starting lineup will feature Aldridge (capable defender when motivated), Pau Gasol (a literal statue), Rudy Gay (not interested), DeRozan (consistently below-average), and Patty Mills (annoying at best). Pop can reach for better defenders off the bench in Jakob Poeltl and Dante Cunningham, but those two are limited offensive players who will struggle to co-exist with DeRozan and Aldridge. San Antonio only snuck into the playoffs because it ranked third in defense, but that's far from guaranteed this year given its personnel.
One positive development to bank on is Gay, who has seemingly rediscovered his bounce after tearing his Achilles two years ago. He has converted 24-of-34 from the field thus far in preseason and has hit 8-of-12 from deep. The Spurs' best lineups this season will feature Gay as a small-ball four.
Don't sleep on Harry Giles
It's okay if you forgot about Giles, because everyone thought he was done after he tore both his ACLs as a teenager. The Kevin Garnett comparisons died after his lackluster showing at Duke, and nobody batted an eye when he redshirted as a rookie after the Kings drafted him 20th overall last summer.
But it's time to wake up. Giles is suddenly healthy and showing flashes of why he was the No. 1 prospect coming out of high school. He's averaging 24 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks per 36 minutes in the preseason, and he's throwing a handful of wicked dimes every night, giving even the most jaded of Kings fans (there are a lot of them) some reason for optimism.
Here's just one of the gorgeous assists from Giles thus far in preseason. Big-to-big passing is becoming a lost art in the era of small ball, but the Kings have frontcourt glut between Marvin Bagley III, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Skal Labissiere, which is forcing Giles to get creative.
Dwane Casey's changing the culture, again
Upon first glance, the 61-year-old Casey doesn't exactly strike you as a new-school type of coach. After all, he sports a dad cap whenever possible, incessantly alludes to players from the '70s and '80s (Jack Sikma is his go-to comparison), and his teams have historically played a conservative style of offense.
But this is the second straight year in which Casey has been tasked with modernizing the offense, and the early results are encouraging. He's convinced Blake Griffin to curb his reliance on that awkward-yet-effective elbow jumper, the Pistons are playing at a much faster pace than they did under Stan Van Gundy, and Detroit's shot spectrum is a lot healthier.
The one thing that hasn't translated is the 3-pointer that Andre Drummond has apparently been working on. Casey gave him the green light to fire from deep after Drummond spent the summer making 200 threes per day, but he's 0-for-9 through four games and defenders aren't buying it whatever he's selling.
Domantas showing shades of Arvydas
Freedom of movement or freedom of play?
The referees are emphasizing freedom of movement this year, and it's driving players crazy because they can't go two possessions without being whistled for something innocuous.
Look no further than the absurd number of free throws being attempted in the preseason. The Charlotte Hornets led the league with 27 attempts per game last season, and there are currently 19 teams above that mark right now. It's making preseason basketball even more unwatchable than it already was.
It's also wreaking havoc with the veterans who generally expect more leeway when it comes to clutching and grabbing away from the ball. Kyle Lowry got himself tossed out for bickering with officials on the same night Kevin Durant picked up six personal fouls in 24 minutes.
This could easily spawn another bitter spat, but chances are the referees will back off in a few weeks, as usual. They're always extra gung-ho whenever a new rule is implemented (remember how many delay of game technicals were called in 2015?) before settling into the status quo by Christmas.
"They're not going to call 65 fouls and foul Kevin Durant out in 24 minutes when the regular season starts, I'm pretty confident of that. ... Ironically, the point of calling things tighter off the ball is to improve flow and improve pace, but it's not going to happen with 65 fouls," Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr told Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
Can Taurean Prince make the leap?
Prince was initially billed as the next DeMarre Carroll because of their similar tweener builds, but Prince is quickly surpassing those humble expectations. He averaged 14 points last season while drilling 38.5 percent from deep on over five attempts per game, and it appears he's refined his ball-handling skills over the summer to take on an even bigger role on offense.
There's a certain nuance to how Prince approaches offense. He used to be just another energy player when he first came out of Baylor, but now he's picked up some subtle tricks on how to manipulate defenders with his dribble. Pair that with his all-out hustle and his promising jumper, and he could be a solid starter for the Hawks for years to come.