Each NBA franchise participated in a handful of exhibition games designed to determine who will receive meaningful minutes when the games count, see which rookies have the moxie to handle the men they are trying to steal jobs from, figure out which two-way players will be relegated to the G-league, and ascertain whether preseason really deserves a hyphen or not. Coaches agonize over different rotations, who can play with who, what offensive sets might work, who is smart enough to make defensive decisions in the wink of an eye, and whose agent was lying when he said their player had been putting up 3,000 three pointers a day in an effort to improve their range. All this is done while those same coaches secretly plead in their inside brain, “Please God, don’t let anybody get hurt, sleep with another player’s girlfriend, or be swayed by their buddy from the 4th grade to think that they truly deserve 15 shots per game.” All of those could significantly change rotation plans, kill that elusive team chemistry, or generally cause chaos.
So after the past week of games, we are here to answer or try to answer the following questions:
- What do we know?
- What do we think?
- What can we prove?
The answers to those questions will assist you in making the final preparations for your drafts, or help you assault the waiver wires to recover from the last three draft picks you made after the Coronas kicked in. Ever notice how the host of the draft is always saying, “Let me get you another beer, you look thirsty.”
Some questions still remain unresolved, like the Jimmy Butler saga. Where will he end up? What will the T-wolves get? How will fantasy rosters be affected? When does Thibs lose his job?
Question 1: Will Brad Stevens figure out a way to make sure all his Celtics get fed?
As great as he is, I don’t think Coach Stevens has figured out how to have more than one ball or five players on the court at the same time. Thus, expect numbers for all of them to be lower than expected. I shied away from all Celtics in my draft due to the uncertainty of not knowing how the minutes would be divvied up amongst Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hawyard, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Morris. They all got drafted, at slightly reduced costs, but expect Brad to play the hot hand, matchups, and rest some, as he hopes to have a full contingent come playoff time.
He enlisted a little known voodoo priestess from New Orleans. Having failed to get adequate playing time last year while facing competition from a sweet shooting European forward, Bobby took it to the streets last year and punched his lights out. Learning from the errors of his ways, and faced with bench time behind another sweet shooting Eurpoean forward, and possibly Jabari Parker, Bobby resorted to other means. He then scored double figures in each contest, hoping Coach Hoiberg would finally notice the offensive juggernaut that he is. What we have learned is, don’t mess with Bobby Portis, and that given minutes, he will score and rebound.
Question 3: Can this many rookies provide fantasy goodies?
After the most recent auction draft I participated in, all were amazed at how many rookies went for a high dollar amount. Usually, there are a couple due to the hype, opportunity, or positional need that are expected to be fantasy relevant. Most are usually not mentally or physically ready for the long grind of the season. That was thrown out the window this year, as all of the top 10 rookies got drafted, in addition to three other first rounders and two second rounders. And none of those were named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Grayson Allen, Aaron Holiday, or Josh Okogie, who all could crack the rotations on their respective teams.
Deandre Ayton, Trae Young, Marvin Bagley III, Luka Doncic, Jaren Jackson Jr., Collin Sexton, and Kevin Knox all look primed to start and play prominent roles, while Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr., and both Bridges are making noise. Many others in the first round are an ankle tweak away from getting an opportunity. Of course, this may all change next week, especially for the big guys, as the veterans didn’t show them any old guy tips, tricks, and moves during preseason. Nonetheless, this will be the most productive rookie class we have seen in a while, as even some second rounders have shown promise. Observe who contributes and who waves towels from the bench, as the productive ones could shore up your weaknesses.
Question 4: Will Coach Mike Budenholzer improve the Bucks offensively?
The Bucks look awfully scary. Coaching does matter in the NBA. Not just the head coach, but the developmental assistants who convert cocky 19 year olds into productive participants by maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses. Budenholzer and his staff are very good, and quite frankly, the team now has much more talent than his 60-win Hawks team. Consider that the Bucks added long-range marksmen in Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova, and Donte DiVincenzo to a team with Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and you could see an offensive explosion. I targeted as many Bucks as I could and got outbid on all of them.
Question 5: Who will rebound and who will make the leap?
The keys to every fantasy season are figuring out the players who will rebound and those who make the proverbial leap. Are Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, and Gordon Hayward all the way back? What to do about DeMarcus Cousins? Will we see the April versions of Josh Jackson, Taurean Prince, and De’Aaron Fox, or the December ones?
Kawhi, Kyrie, and Hayward all look a little rusty, but will be fine. As mentioned earlier, Celtics scorers may have depressed numbers, so proceed with caution. Prince, Jackson, Fox, D’Angelo Russell, Josh Richardson, and Joe Ingles are all primed to continue their strong play from the second half of last season. Cousins is another story, as I don’t expect him to be ready before the turn of the year. When he does return, it will take time before he becomes a productive asset.
Lastly, watch Rodney McGruder, Harry Giles, Christian Wood, and Miles Bridges. They have all performed well during the preseason, but their minutes allocation will be determined by whether they can continue to produce.