The typical refrain throughout any major sport is that the preseason doesn't matter. It's a couple of meaningless games where players go through the motions in order to get ready for the grind of 82 games. But if anything, the start of the 2014 preseason has at least shown this: Hollis Thompson is ready to ball out.
In the opener against the Boston Celtics, Thompson scored 15 points in 22 minutes of action, going 5-5 from the floor, including 3-3 from beyond the arc. On Wednesday, he played only four minutes after suffering a corneal abrasion, but not before he ripped down a rebound, crossed up Lance Stephenson, and then drew a foul as he finished a layup. Thompson is on the rise, and his emergence as a possible contributor in Philadelphia for years to come is what this rebuild is about.
While the process the Sixers are going through is trying and painful to watch, their goal has been simple: build through the draft, and bring along young talent. The former Georgetown standout falls under the latter category, but is quickly becoming proof that there is indeed a light at the end of the multi-year tunnel. While the on-court product isn't always pretty, the low team standards and ample minutes make it easy for younger players to learn and grow. They're getting chances they typically would not be able to receive otherwise in the NBA, and frankly,the Sixers would not be able to give if they were fielding a team that was striving towards the playoffs.
The turnstile of players on un-guaranteed and ten day contracts may have been funny (and generated a real sweet Sporcle quiz), in reality it gave the Sixers chances to evaluate a lot of talent they felt had a chance to become solid players down the line with proper growth and coaching. Thompson seems to be the poster boy for it.
The 23-year-old has essentially been converted into a two guard, and will be considered the pure shooter in the backcourt with Michael Carter-Williams. He posted a low usage rate last year which may explain his rather high shooting percentage last season, but against Boston he displayed all the skills that made him effective last season.
He displayed a quick release on catch-and-shoot situations, where he shot 42% from last year, and will continue to be his bread and butter. Thompson has also proven to be pretty efficient on his drives to the basket (albeit not often), and his added muscle should help him finish through added contact.
At this stage in the team's assessment of him it'll be about him getting him more shots this year, which shouldn't be too much of an issue as he's basically locked down a spot in the starting five.
It's sometimes hard to see the bigger picture, but Hollis Thompson is becoming nightly proof that this rebuilding process might have some legs to it.