Most (rational) fantasy leagues have wrapped up, so we’ll dedicate this space this week to viewing Thursday night’s performances with an eye towards to 2022-23 season. If you’re a true sicko still locked in a Finals battle—all the best to you!
Orlando Magic vs. Charlotte Hornets
- Chuma Okeke stepped into the starting lineup and delivered a gem, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting, with seven boards, four dimes, four treys, three swipes, and two swats with nary a miscue. After bursting onto the scene during Orlando’s tank job at the end of last season, Okeke was an intriguing fantasy play coming into 2022. His game stagnated, as he put up nearly identical numbers in this go around, with the unpleasant exception of his three-point percentage cratering to 31 percent and dragging his overall shooting all the way down to 37 percent. Despite that black eye of shooting and rather pedestrian volume stats, Okeke still rates as a 10th-rounder on per-game averages. He can be a 1/1/1 guy with enough playing time—the question is will he finally get it. That will depend on questions we can’t yet answer, such as whether the Magic will continue to start two centers, or will Jonathan Isaac finally make his return?? Okeke will likely go undrafted in standard leagues this fall.
- PJ Washington was solid with 10 points and six rebounds, to go along with a three, a steal, and two blocks. Washington’s 1/1/1 potential with upside for volume points and boards (and sometimes even assists) made him a worthy draft target this season, but he never got comfortable in a bench role, and the ascension of Miles Bridges realigned the Hornets’ pecking order. Washington found his footing down the stretch after being inserted into the starting lineup, averaging 12.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.6 3PTM, 1.2 SPG, and 1.0 BPG. That kind of statistical versatility is tantalizing, and would easily make him a top-80 player. Even in a slightly disappointing season, he still will finish as a borderline top-100 guy. He should be a 7th/8th round target in next year’s drafts.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors
- James Harden comes limping into the finish of the 2022 campaign after another lackluster scoring effort on Thursday. The Beard shot just 3-for-12 from the field to score 13 points, with a lone triple and no defensive stats. On the bright side, he did dole out 15 dimes to save his night. Harden has been an enigma this season. Other than a firecracking stretch right after being traded to Philly, he’s regressed in his scoring ability, with a lagging field-goal percentage. The raw numbers of 22-8-10 still looks good, but he’s not the no-brainer top-5 pick he’s been for the past eight seasons. In fact, he probably slips out of Round 1 in ’23, unless turns it up in the postseason—something that’s been lacking from his resume for a long time.
- Scottie Barnes is putting the finishing touches on a rousing rookie go-around with a 13-10 double-double, two assists and a three. Barnes has converted a lot of fans with his play, especially fantasy managers who see the potential for across-the-board dominance. Barnes has the skills and talent to flirt with triple-doubles while racking up defensive stats and making threes. Will it all come together in Year 2? I think it’s a little early and he will be slightly overdrafted, but he’s earned the right to be a top-50 pick.
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks
- Derrick White entered the starting lineup and played well in 39 minutes, ending up with 19 points, six rebounds, four treys, and three assists. White was a fantasy darling in San Antonio with top-50 upside. After moving to Boston, he’s an integral part of a contending rotation, but he lacks the touches to make as much of an impact in fantasy any longer. His numbers are down across the board, especially in a category that drove a lot of his value—assists. Perhaps even more alarming is how his defensive stats have dried up. White has just four steals and three blocks total over his past 12 games, after averaging better than a steal and block per game in his Spurs career. I’d avoid him in drafts next season, and he should be well outside the top-100.
- If Milwaukee can find a good player to fill their second wing slot, there’s a lot of potential for fantasy goodness. Donte DiVincenzo flashed potential there in recent seasons, but he spent most of this season on the sidelines before being shipped off the Sacramento. Grayson Allen (DNP last night) and Pat Connaughton (six points) both had their moments, but neither moves the needle that much. Jordan Nwora (DNP) has some fantasy potential as a scorer, but he’s not always a good fit in the Bucks’ rotation. Wes Matthews (seven points) shouldn’t be this prominently involved on any title contender at this point. Should the Bucks add a talented wing in the offseason, that player could be a nice sleeper in 2023.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
- Devin Vassell has gotten a chance to spread his wings down the stretch for the Spurs. The sophomore guard scored 18 points last night with four triples and a couple of thefts. He’s scored well lately, averaging 17.4 PPG over his past five contests, to go along with 3.2 3PTM and 1.6 SPG. Those three categories (along with super low turnovers) will drive his value. He should only get more playing time, and he’s been a late 7th-round value over the entire season as is.
- Few players spark more excitement than Anthony Edwards, who lit up the Spurs for a career-high 49 points on 16-of-28 shooting. He added six rebounds, eight assists, and six long balls to his gaudy line. There isn’t really a ceiling to Ant Man’s prodigious talents. He’s already a 20-plus point scorer who hits three triples a game, with the athleticism to contribute in steals and blocks. If he continues to develop as a playmaker and boosts his efficiency, he’s got top-five potential. Will it happen next season? I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility, giving him a legitimate case to be a first-round selection in the fall.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans
- I mean, are any of these guys going to be in Portland’s regular rotation next season???
- Herb Jones had one of the most pleasantly surprising rookie seasons of anyone in 2022. He had a muted night on Thursday, with nine points, eight boards, a three and a block in 25 minutes, but was outstanding for the duration of the campaign. He came into the league with a rep as a tenacious defender, which translated into bundles of stocks, but he was more than serviceable on the offensive end as well. For the season he shot nearly 48 percent from the field and a very encouraging 84 percent from the stripe, suggesting that he has the potential to develop into a deadeye shooter from distance. He’s a top-70 player on the season and should be comfortably in the top-100 in drafts next season.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Denver Nuggets
- Desmond Bane‘s breakout is complete. The second-year pro blossomed into a viable secondary scoring option, averaging better than 18 PPG, while drilling three triples a game and shooting a sterling 90 percent from the foul line. He also developed as a playmaker with some decent assist games, and climbed to 1.2 SPG. Last night he scored 14 points with three steals, a pair of treys, and no errors. He’s got the Klay Thompson profile—just with less volume—making him a top-50 asset next season.
- If he’s not the actual league MVP, Nikola Jokic is the fantasy MVP, with a No. 1 overall finish squarely in his sights. The Joker went off for 35 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, and four swipes in 35 minutes. The Joker’s season-long stat line reads like a computer glitch, with averages of 27-14-8 on a blistering 58 percent shooting. He even managed to add even more positive value on the defensive end, approaching 1.5 SPG and 1.0 BPG. He’s the unquestioned No. 1 overall pick in 2023.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State Warriors
- This was the Talen Horton-Tucker the Lakers thought they were getting this season and moving forward. Too bad he waited until the Lakers were embarrassingly eliminated from postseason contention before showing up. THT blew up for a 40-spot on 15-of-28 shooting, with three assists and four steals. Unfortunately, he was a mega disappointment all year, finishing outside the top-200 on the season. He’s more likely to be traded than be a fantasy factor for the Lakers in ’23.
- Jordan Poole started and finished the year sensationally. He notched a double-double against LA with 19 points and 11 dimes (a career best) to go along with three triples and a steal. Poole has more than earned heavy minutes next season, proving he’s the kind of dynamic, sweet-shooting third scorer that made the KD-era Warriors so frightening a few years back. Even with his role in flux this season, he’s returned 6th-round value, and I expect him to hold that next season, even playing next to a fully restored Klay Thompson.