Starting for the third preseason contest in a row, Golden State Warriors rookie center Festus Ezeli just keeps raising the bar. In his most recent start against Maccabi Haifa on October 11, Ezeli played 33 minutes—by far the most time he’s logged so far. But with that increase in usage, Ezeli’s effectiveness didn’t lag a bit.
Quite the opposite, actually.
In those 33 minutes, Ezeli went 7-for-8 from the floor, made his only free-throw attempt, grabbed eight rebounds, blocked two shots and even handed out a pair of assists.
For Ezeli, who the Warriors hoped would assume the role Kwame Brown played for them at the beginning of the 2011-12 season, his preseason performance has been a pleasant surprise—to say the least. In addition to clogging up the middle, Ezeli has continued to show excellent hands and the ability to finish around the basket. He’ll be spoon fed by Stephen Curry and the rest of the Warriors guards for the time being, but all Golden State needs him to do is finish the easy buckets when he’s been set up. Ezeli has shown the ability to that, and then some.
With every passing day, Ezeli inches closer to a major role with the Warriors. Andrew Bogut has yet to play five-on-five, and even when he’s cleared to do that, he’ll still be at least a couple of weeks away from actual games. As long as Bogut’s readiness for the regular season remains in doubt, the spotlight will stay on Ezeli.
If he keeps this up, he’ll prove it belongs there.
And from a long-term perspective, if the Warriors are going to get this kind of production in spot minutes when Bogut’s healthy, they’ll easily have the best center tandem in the NBA. Ezeli is ready to play right now, and that’ll be a huge benefit this season. Plus, nobody knows what this guy’s ceiling is, given the relatively short amount of time (six years) he’s been playing organized ball.
When the sky’s the limit for your backup center, you’re in pretty good shape.