1. Jarace Walker
We’ll start with the main event.
Coming into the preseason, Jarace Walker had pretty high expectations following an impressive Summer League campaign where he displayed his raw athleticism, power, and defensive prowess.
Indiana Pacers fans were hoping he could bring that into the preseason and perhaps show Rick Carlisle why he deserved the starting power forward spot straight out the gate instead of Obi Toppin.
And bring it, he did… for the first game, at least.
Jarace Walker’s first preseason game was nothing short of spectacular, as in a total of 27 minutes, he showed the NBA why he was so highly coveted coming out of Houston. Despite the overtime loss, Walker led the team in points with 19 and kept them in it for most of the game, even hitting a clutch three for the tie that kept them in the game long enough to take it to overtime.
In addition to his surprising shooting performance (4/9 3PT), Walker also showed the defense, athleticism, and hustle that made Indiana trade for him, as he had plenty of fast break buckets, smart defensive plays, and even had a thunderous block on Jake LaRavia.
Shooting wasn’t his only contribution on offense, as Walker also showed his quick first step and touch with this fancy floater off a beautiful fake and drive to the basket.
Of course, it would all come down to his shooting, as despite the loss, Walker still had time to show some more of his shooting touch with a four-point play in overtime.
While Walker put up a fantastic effort (19 points and nine rebounds) despite the loss, his production slipped pretty heavily following this game. In the following three games of preseason, Jarace Walker only averaged 5.3 points and 3.6 rebounds on 28/12/60 splits.
While these stats are pretty bad on paper, it has to be remembered that Walker is only a rookie, after all, and expecting greatness right out the gate from a 20-year-old might be a bit of a tall task, to say the least.
What matters more is the strides Walker makes in his game and that he keeps showing those flashes and signs of a future star. He did indeed show those signs at times, and fans shouldn’t worry too much about some preseason failures.
All that matters is that Walker gets ample amount of time on the court to get acclimated to the NBA level, and he will be all set for a long and productive NBA career. If his work ethic is anything to go by, he’s already headed in that direction.
However, this may not exclude him from having to pick up the tab at dinner.
Final Grade: C+ (First game was his best, production dipped afterward, but still showed flashes)