The 2022 NBA Draft class has been quite a delight, right?
No. 1 overall selection Paolo Banchero is averaging 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game; 15/4/4 for Jaden Ivey (No. 5 pick), 18 PPG for Bennedict Mathurin (No. 6), and 12 and seven for Jabari Smith Jr. (No. 3). We’ve also seen promising flashes from Jalen Duren (leading all rookies with 7.3 rebounds per game), Keegan Murray (12 and four) and Andrew Nembhard (leading in three-point percentage at 40.4). All this positivity comes even without uber-popular Chet Holmgren, the No. 2 overall pick who suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury before ever taking the floor in an NBA regular season game. Big things comin’ in the future, for sure.
That leads us into Wednesday night in fantasy basketball, one highlighted by two of the rising rookies I referenced above.
“Bennedict” Arnold is effective, not defective
General Benedict Arnold switched sides from the Americans to the British during the Revolutionary War, but the Indiana Pacers won’t be permitting any such defection from their floor general, Bennedict Mathurin. The rookie guard, alongside 22-year-old team leader Tyrese Haliburton, has been producing since day one of his pro career. Wednesday night was no different, as Mathurin and Haliburton took it to the defending-champion Golden State Warriors. The young-and-hungry Pacers secured a 125-119 victory over the wobbly Warriors, behind 29 points and six assists from Haliburton and 24 points and six rebounds from Mathurin.
The fantasy takeaway comes here: These two kids are mega-dynasty plays. I’ve been asked a number of questions @LegendSports7 on Twitter about the long-term outlook(s) for these young Pacers, and the key is a lack of explosive talent around them. The Pacers are currently 14-14 and in the “Ladder” portion of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but if things go south over time, both Myles Turner and Buddy Hield become prime trade candidates. If and when that occurs, that leaves Mathurin and Haliburton to suck up virtually all of Indiana’s usage and stats. Andrew Nembhard, Jalen Smith and Chris Duarte are young pieces here, but none of the three have anywhere near the long-term upside of Mathurin nor Haliburton. These two kids are very safe plays for dynasty in my eyes.
“Huevos Banchero” knows how to share his meal
Paolo Banchero has been a stat stuffer throughout his rookie campaign, but these young Orlando Magic have a number of other mouths to feed as well. Wednesday night marked a dream performance for head coach Jamahl Mosley, as eight Orlando players finished in double-digits in scoring on the way to a convincing 135-124 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Banchero went for 20/6/6, while feisty Franz Wagner dropped 24/4/3 and bouncy Bol Bol delivered 21 and seven. I’m starting to see a nice little mix developing here.
Fantasy wise, let’s just call a spade a spade: We don’t want evenly-distributed stats like this! It may be exactly what Coach Mosley wants, but we’d rather have 25/10/7 from Banchero and 28/6/5 from Wagner while guys like Terrence Ross (11 and four) and Moritz Wagner (17 and five) fade a little deeper into the background. Nevertheless, some of these youngsters clearly aren’t going anywhere: Cole Anthony is a talented guard and Mo Bamba is an intriguing stretch big, while Wendell Carter and Jalen Suggs will return down the line. We like the general output we are getting from Paolo and Franz, but I won’t be reaching for them next season because Orlando’s developing depth should persist.
Who is the “King” in Sacramento? It was hard to say on Wednesday
We ran into similar trouble in Toronto on Wednesday: This may have been a dream victory over the Raptors for Kings’ head coach Mike Brown, but we don’t wanna see six players in double figures without a single 30-point scorer! In the end, Sacramento squeaked out a 124-123 victory over tough-and-tested Toronto.
I’ll say that De’Aaron Fox – currently in the midst of the best all-around season of his NBA career – led the way with 27 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, but streaky Malik Monk also surprised with 24 productive points off the pine. Harrison Barnes (12 and eight), Domantas Sabonis (21 and 20, a monster double-double), Keegan Murray (10 and four) and Terence Davis (19 points) were the others in double figures.
Long term, Fox is the floor general here with Sabonis as his No. 1 receiver. Murray – despite the hype and surprising veteran-like poise – seems content as complementary piece right now. I’m honestly not loving any of these guys for redraft except Fox and Sabonis going forward.
Heat and Thunder in OKC: I feel like the “Herro” was supposed to be Thor
A lot to unpack in that tiny little heading, I know.
When I see “Heat and Thunder” and a hero is required, I automatically think Thor and his thunderbolt. Speaking of Thor – the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Noah Syndergaard (aka “Thor”) on Wednesday to a one-year deal worth $13 million. While that was happening, the Miami Heat burned their way to a sweat-inducing 110-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Then and there, the hero revealed his true identity: It was shooting guard Tyler Herro, who scorched his way to 35 points in 40 minutes of action vs. OKC.
Fantasy wise, well, it’s always something with Jimmy Butler right? Miami’s veteran leader was out Wednesday due to “right knee injury management,” so hopefully you had Herro from the get-go in DFS. And that’s exactly the gameplan with this roster, really: Play the obvious usage fillers when the stars are resting. Butler and Kyle Lowry have been through the wars – they simply ain’t playin’ every night. Victor Oladipo can never stay healthy and Bam Adebayo gets a blow from time-to-time as well. That’s when we very easily go with Herro and underrated Caleb Martin in DFS. Streaky Max Strus is worth a look occasionally, too.
And handling the Miami Heat roster should really be extrapolated to other rosters, as well. Do you know all of your pivots? Are you using reliable minutes projections? If you really want to compete in DFS or season-long with daily lineup changes, you should know the injury plug-and-plays like the back of your hand. It all depends on whether or not you want to be a casual fantasy coach or a Razzball-ready league crusher.
I’ll see ya right back here next week.
John Frascella is a published author who has been covering the NBA for 19 years. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things fantasy sports.