Man, I just realized that the NBA has six divisions. In the guise of journalistic integrity, I am contractually obligated to write one of these for every division now…
Again, if you missed the Central Division earlier in the offseason, I’m not focusing on the guys for risers in the early rounds… I’m looking for guys to make a leap and targets throughout the rest of the season. Teams are in order of how I predict they will finish. I find that order more fulfilling.
Faller: After the Jrue Holiday trade, some helium has to be sucked from the Derrick White balloon. Derrick is now talking in a chipmunk like voice and doesn’t understand that helium isn’t THC infused or anything. White has been a popular sleeper based on his projected role as the sole point guard for the Celtics. White is no longer projected as the sole point guard for the Celtics after this. I’m now expecting him to do what he did last year, not make a leap forward. Sorry experts. Your popular sleeper pimple just got popped.
Riser: Oshae Brissett has the chance now for real minutes, especially with the age and injury histories of the guys in front of him in the frontcourt. He did average around 10 points and 5 boards in 25 minutes a couple years ago on Indiana. I have no idea if this is sustainable. I probably won’t draft the guy but am keeping an eye on Celtics minutes early. Act swiftly and accordingly.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Riser: I see no reason why Josh Hart shouldn’t be playing over RJ Barrett right now. He’s simply a better, more reliable player on a contending team. He also can play some small ball 4 for ol’ Thibs, who will for sure fall in love with this guy’s game. And upon checking his page, Hart DID play 30 minutes last season. 10.7 points and a hefty 7 rebounds are great for your utility slot. He chips in for every category and doesn’t turn the ball over. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to erect a shrine to his memory. This way he can enjoy it before he dies. Hart is a great, safe target to fill out your roster.
I’d like to mention Quentin Grimes here too as the starter at SG from day one.
Faller: I love the kid, kinda, but RJ Barrett‘s mentality is that Kobe one. You know, where they think they have to be the guy to take the last shot, all that. RJ took last second shots at Duke even though his teammate was Zion Williamson. The trouble is that RJ struggles to shoot, and doesn’t do enough to make up for the lack of shooting prowess. If the Knicks are serious, they should look to trade RJ and his big contract for a third scorer. I don’t think RJ is really rosterable in a ten team league due to poor shooting numbers.
Riser: De’Anthony Melton has to be on the rise with the whole James Harden not reporting to work thing. He’s really fun to watch and 14-5-4 seems like a good projection. And in 22 minutes he averaged 1.5 steals; this could rise if he gets to 30 minutes.
Faller: Tobias Harris is a perfectly serviceable player in every category. Harris also does not make a noticeable impact on any specific part of the game. I’m more into category juice and guys who can help something in an elite way. Harris is more of a guy who just helps a little bit everywhere, but in the end doesn’t really help you very much. He’s well paid, at least.
NEW JERSEY NETS
Riser: I think the Nets will be a play-in team this year, playing with a ton of heart, defense, hustle, and grit. Dennis Smith, Jr. embodies all of these traits. He’ll earn his minutes as a defensive terror. When he gets starter minutes he averages 13 points and 5 assists, with elite steals potential as well. What a great third point guard you can add to your roster. As a bonus, I don’t see a lot of buzz about DSJ. He can make you look smart!
Faller: I’m gonna go with Ben Simmons as a reminder to not draft him. I’m not sold on that, though, even. Nets are another team to watch to see where the minutes shake out for them. They could have any number of outcomes; we just need to see what the coach does.
THE RAPPING RAPTORS
Riser: Gary Trent, Jr. is not his dad, who was my favorite beastly SF in NBA Live 95. If you hated Trent, you have a lot in common with Nick Nurse. Trent’s minutes and stats went backwards last season. A new coach should get Trent back to solid 3-and-D status for the Raps.
Faller: I’m not sold on Scottie Barnes. He could be a great player. He could also be a physical specimen who doesn’t have the shooting or handles to be a fifth round pick. Without 3s, he has to be elite in something else as a wing player and he’s just not. I’ll have to pass on Barnes as a top-50 guy.
That’s all for this one, and next is the Southeast!