Lots of question marks around Miami’s reload in the Eastern conference this year.  Their unraveled depth and #HeatCulture rose them through the gauntlets of the Eastern Conference bubble to rise from the 5th seed to Eastern Conference Champs.  Their core is fired up, focused, and gaining continuity.  I see seven solid rotation players.  This year, with the losses of Goran “Dragon” Dragic (16/3/5 in 28 minutes), Jae Crowder (10/6/2.8 in 29 minutes), and Derrick “Air Plane Mode” Jones Jr. (8/4/1 in 23 minutes) it remains to be seen how Riley and Spoelstra work their magic to fill out this roster.

Those three rotation players have left with a total of 34 points per game.  How will end-of-bench role players step up with their new opportunities?  Why was Udonis Haslem’s contract extended? Does Iguodala have anything left in the tank to earn the two-year, $20 million extension he got?  So many questions surround the depth and bench this year.  With only 10 guaranteed players under contract, how will management round out this roster?

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The Memphis Grizzlies are young and on the upswing.  Last year they surprised all when they missed the 8th seed by just one win.  With a complete 15 man roster and an intact, custom-built young core, the Memphis Grizzlies are Grit-N-Grind 2.0 and rearing to go.

The Big 3 of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke bring above-the-rim intensity and classic Memphis two-way play back to the culture of the young Grizzlies.  These young cubs are hungry, motivated, and complement each other.  Rugged, yet up-tempo, I project this team to improve from the 34 wins last year to 40-42 this season. 

Expect increased roles for Dillon Brooks, De’Anthony Melton, and the new incoming draftees. With all the young Memphis core under contract, and no significant contributer allowed to walk, and, this team will have continuity going forward.

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Despite the Warriors attempt in further cementing their place among the historically great franchises in all of sports, the speed bump of having half your team’s knee explode was almost as a traumatic experience as learning that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were going to be teammates. But after this past season’s freefall, a bright future awaits with returning stars and three picks in this year’s draft.

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We’ve yet to see this Indiana Pacers team live up to its potential. With cornerstone pieces such as Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, and a nice cast of veterans to round out the team, this is a team that’s engineered to compete. But after getting swept for the third time in four years, this time in the first round of the playoffs, the Pacers saw fit to fire head coach Nate McMillan. Former Toronto Raptors assistant coach Nate Bjorkrgren has been hired as McMillan’s replacement as the Pacers look to straighten things out.

Being that the Pacers don’t have a first-round draft pick and Justin Holiday was the only significant player to hit free agency, it looks like barring potential trade talk (of which there has been plenty), the Pacers are going to run it back. It’d be a shame if the Oladipo-led Pacers didn’t get another year to sort things out. Things started out so promising in 2016, with the team pushing LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games. The Cavs would go on to get swept by the Warriors but let’s be honest, nobody was beating the Warriors that year.

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A state known for facing adversity in many forms, Michigan has seen many battles defending its heart and soul. The auto-industry bailout many years ago, poisoned drinking water, seeing Justin Verlander naked, and of course being a Pistons fan the last decade. But all is not lost! (Probably?) With an encouraging offseason cap outlook, the NBA Draft fast approaching, and some healthy returning pieces (you know who you are), the Wolverine State may finally see their basketball team contend for, well, something other than not the playoffs. That is, of course, the most optimistic view in the midst of this rebuild process, but I guess it can’t get worse than this past season. (Probably?)

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Fun fact: The Oklahoma City Thunder are the last team in the league without a head coach as of the writing of this preview. They’re going to need to fill that void quickly for us to really nail down the fantasy outlook of their roster, but we can definitely make some key judgment calls in the meantime.

The Thunder are in a bit of an awkward spot, but there’s optimism of OKC fans. Nearly half of the guaranteed salaries on the roster are coming off the books next season, and that’s not even including the team options for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley. There is also a nice haul of future draft picks beyond this year from the Russell Westbrook/Chris Paul swap.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Thunder stand completely pat here and look to make a big splash in free agency next year when Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert are unrestricted free agents, as well as a plethora of mid-tier guys. There will be quite a few developing players available as restricted free agents as well that the Thunder could pair with budding star SGA.

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In 2019-2020, the Charlotte Hornets looked to be a veritable goldmine for fantasy hoops. Practically out of the gate, youngsters Devonte’ Graham, P.J. Washington and Dwayne Bacon all showed themselves to be unexpected sources of production. But by the time the season had ended, Bacon had fallen out of James Borrego’s rotation and only Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier found themselves anywhere close to top-100 production. Let’s not dwell on the negatives, though. Charlotte is a land of basketball opportunity. As proof, Graham and Rozier finished 12th and 25th, respectively, in minutes played per game. That’s a lot of minutes for two solid if not All-Star-caliber players, and it bodes well for future talent.

GM Mitch Kupchak has gone on the record saying that the Hornets won’t be buyers in the upcoming free agent class. That’s to be expected considering where the Hornets are currently situated, firmly at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a good amount of young talent. Of course, they also have the third overall pick in the 2020 Draft. Putting aside the pick, what this means is we can expect the young guys to continue getting all the minutes they can handle and to make improvements on what we saw from them last season.

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If you heard one thing about last year’s Spurs, it was probably about their 22 year playoff streak ending. 22 years! For the first time in what feels like forever, especially to a young guy like me (I’m not bragging, I swear), not only are the Spurs not contenders but—dare I say it?—they don’t even seem particularly good. The 2019-2020 San Antonio Spurs went 32-39, finished 11th in the Western Conference, and their best players in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are arguably on the decline, despite both managing to put up very good numbers. They do have the 11th overall pick in the draft, as well as some league-ready young talent which I’ll get to, but aside from that, things are looking a little gloomy in San Antonio. Luckily for us, this is fantasy basketball, where a gloomy record can mean opportunity for young guys to put up numbers.

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I’m fascinated by the 2019-20 Pacers. They lost their two best wing-defenders (Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic), two veteran point guards (Darren Collison and Corey Joseph), and two other wing scorers (Tyreke Evans and Wesley Mathews), and Zach Lowe thinks they’re in trouble. He’s probably right, but I don’t care. I’m in on these new-look Pacers. As long as they don’t wear those hideous Hickory jerseys too often, they should be a lot more fun to watch this season. I like that they, and other teams are getting weird and starting two big men. I like that they seem to be counting on TJ Warren as an integral piece after the Suns gave him away for nothing. Victor Oladipo will eventually return. This team has three TJ’s, two Holiday’s, and the almighty Dougie McBuckets. Myles Turner is ascending and yet he or Sabonis could get traded? Maybe the on-court product turns out to be less thrilling than I expect and this team falls flat on its face. Either way, the the storylines are here.

My best guess at a starting lineup sans Oladipo: Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, TJ Warren, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner.

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Larry Drew parted ways with Cavaliers brain trust when they refused to remove the interim from his title or pay him like a real NBA coach. Instead, the team went to the college ranks and provided John Beilein of Michigan the opportunity. He may long for the days of the Big 10 once the season starts and the losses pile up, but for now, he remains optimistic, hoping his young charges can grow, especially at the defensive end.

The Cavaliers tied for the second-worst record in the Association last season with only 19 W’s. The team’s best player, Kevin Love, missed three-fourths of the games which didn’t help. He was not the only player, though, as Larry Nance, Cedi Osman, Tristan Thompson, John Henson, Brandon Knight, and Ante Zizic all missed games. With just a smidgen of better luck, a return of Kevin Love, and any contribution from three rookie additions should make the Cavaliers more competitive.

We could see a Cavaliers fire sale come trade deadline time, as Jordan Clarkson, Thompson, Henson, Matthew Dellavedova, and Brandon Knight are veterans on expiring contracts who could help a playoff-bound team in search of additional pieces. Love and Nance could also be involved in trade discussions, with Love sure to garner interest. If they keep Love, and the youth movement improves, they could at least be a fun team to watch.

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