July 28, 2020, 3:35 pm
In this latest installment of Hoop Ball’s restart preview series, we take a close look at the Atlantic Division, where three tough contenders are accompanied by an injury-plagued, yet still potentially playoff-bound team.
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Record: 46-18 (Clinched Playoffs, currently 2nd in the Eastern Conference)
Restart Opponents: Lakers, Heat, Magic, Celtics, Grizzlies, Bucks, Sixers, Nuggets
Official Roster for Restart: OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher, Oshae Brissett, Terrence Davis, Marc Gasol, Dewan Hernandez, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Serge Ibaka, Stanley Johnson, Kyle Lowry, Malcolm Miller, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam, Matt Thomas, Fred VanVleet, Paul Watson
The defending NBA champions are close to the top of the Eastern Conference, chasing after the dominant Bucks. It’s a considerably impressive feat, considering that they no longer have Kawhi Leonard there to be a dominant force on both ends of the floor. The team can credit the continued improvement of Pascal Siakam, who took his game to yet another higher level in 2019-20 with averages of 23.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.6 APG, 2.2 3PG, 1.0 SPG and 0.9 BPG on .459 FG% and .800 FT%. So yeah, they still have a bona fide superstar carrying the team. No sweat. Expect him to do more of the same when the NBA restarts.
Siakam was not the only Raptor who elevated his game. Fred VanVleet smashed his fantasy ADP with solid scoring (17.6 PPG, 2.7 3PG), reliable passing (6.6 APG) and mad defense (1.9 SPG). FVV and Kyle Lowry have emerged as a potent two-way, albeit undersized backcourt duo – but size doesn’t always matter anyway, right?
The Raptors do not have an easy schedule, so it’s a tall order to expect them to claw their way to the top seed in the East, especially with the Bucks rolling, losing only one scrimmage game so far. On the other hand, neither is it likely are the “Kings of the North” going to lose their current second-place seed to the Celtics.
Despite their tough road ahead, the Raptors have some solid role-players who’ve emerged outdone themselves this season. Norman Powell and OG Anunoby have been great in their own ways for the team. Anunoby has dealt with inconsistency this season but was able to put up strings of games where he’s shown some prolific effort on defense as far as fantasy numbers are concerned. Powell started off the season injured but when he finally felt good, he performed like the amazing sixth man that the team needed to bring some instant offense off the bench.
Marc Gasol, who was slowed by injuries this season, limited to playing only 36 games season-to-date, is healthy and ready for action. That said, he is a prime candidate for to be in for some serious load management as the Raptors attempt to preserve him for the playoffs. Serge Ibaka may no longer be the defensive stopper he once was in his prime but he’s remade his game to serve as a stretch five that the team sorely needed. So, if ever the Raptors do decide to give Gasol a breather or a game or two off to rest, Ibaka can be counted on to fill in nicely in a pinch.
Players to own in restart leagues: Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, OG Anunoby
Record: 43-21 (Clinched Playoffs, currently 3rd in Eastern Conference)
Restart Opponents: Bucks, Blazers, Heat, Nets, Raptors, Magic, Grizzlies, Wizards
Official Roster for Restart: Jaylen Brown, Carsen Edwards, Tacko Fall, Javonte Green, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Romeo Langford, Semi Ojeleye, Vincent Poirier, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis, Kemba Walker, Brad Wannamaker, Tremont Waters, Robert Williams III, Grant Williams
The Celtics come into the NBA restart with a big question hanging over their heads, “How quickly and how well will Kemba Walker’s knees be?” Walker’s knees have been bothering him and he’s already expected to be limited during these eight games for the resumption of the season, which means the Celtics will need to lean more on Marcus Smart, who has been able to perform admirably this season. That said, these two players don’t exactly bring the same things to the table, but as they say, “It is what it is” at this point and the Celtics will just have to adjust – something that’s going to be a high priority for coach Brad Stevens. That said, we know Stevens is a basketball coaching savant and will be able to make things work out, somehow.
With the departure of Kyrie Irving, the Celtics have found a renewed vision and chemistry with four of their players playing for USA Basketball in the FIBA World Cup before the season began. Now, the Celtics are rallying around two of their young players who’ve taken up the mantle and have owned carrying the team to, hopefully, an era close to their former glory.
Jayson Tatum is now a legit superstar, breaking out with top-15 value in fantasy on averages of 23.6 PPG, 2.8 3PG, 7.1 RPG, 2.9 APG and 1.4 SPG on .448 FG% and .806 FT%. He was joined in the spotlight by Jaylen Brown, who has now found a way to become a two-way threat for the team.
*Gordon Hayward is finally healthy and closer to his former self, but he’s expected to leave the NBA bubble to attend the birth of his child, so he may not be a full participant for all eight games. His wife is expecting in September, which would put real playoff games in greater jeopardy, but stranger things have happened. Hayward was posting top-50 value on the season on per-game rankings.
Daniel Theis has been a solid pickup in fantasy, picking up where the now-Sixer Al Horford left off. Theis is able to serve as a suitable rim protector and can body-up on opposing big men in the paint. He’s been a welcome revelation, both for the Celtics and for fantasy managers alike.
With Hayward potentially leaving and Walker still ailing, the Celtics’ three spot in the standings could be challenged by the dark-horse Miami Heat, so they’ll have to stay on their toes.
Players to own in restart leagues: Jayston Tatum, Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Daniel Theis, Gordon Hayward*
Record: 39-26 (Clinched Playoffs, currently 6th in the Eastern Conference)
Restart Opponents: Pacers, Spurs, Wizards, Magic, Blazers, Suns, Raptors, Rockets
Official Roster for Restart: Alec Burks, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, Raul Neto, Kyle O’Quinn, Norvel Pelle, Josh Richardson, Glen Robinson III, Mike Scott, Marial Shayol, Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle
Currently sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings, the Sixers aren’t exactly in a spot where they’d like to be. There’s been a rough adjustment period that the team has had to go through this season with the arrivals of Al Horford and Josh Richardson. Things have been rocky as the team adjusted, moving Horford in and out of the starting lineup.
Heading into the NBA restart, the Sixers are coming back with yet another tweak. They’re starting Ben Simmons at power forward and moving Shake Milton into the starting PG role with Horford coming off the bench. Apparently Horford and Joel Embiid cannot share the paint too well and the former Celtic has also been told to expect a reduced role with this recent adjustment. He’s a pro and is ready to do what he can for the team in whatever capacity he’s able to do so.
The change will allow the Sixers to take advantage of many interesting matchups. Simmons will play “a la LeBron James,” facilitating the offense from the forward position. Tobias Harris will slide over to the three where he can shoot over smaller defenders. This new dynamic and all of its little ripples in terms of how the players function will be tested over these upcoming eight games. Still, as they say, “the proof will be in the pudding.” Milton becomes an interesting player to watch over the restart’s eight games. He’s shown some promise when he filled in as a starter for the Sixers, so a full-time job as the starting point guard could do him wonders.
The focus will be now on how well Embiid and Simmons playoff each other, hopefully creating havoc for opposing defenses. Embiid has been bothered by his knees at times this season, playing in only 44 games so far. On per-game valuation, he’s still a top-15 stud, averaging 23.4 PPG, 1.3 3PG, 11.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.9 SPG and 1.3 BPG on .473 FG% and .814 FT%. While the dynamic duo will be the core machine running things for Philly, the team will need guys like Harris and Richardson to step up their games and be more involved on offense.
The Sixers aren’t a very deep team, but have some useful pieces in Alec Burks, Matisse Thybulle and Glenn Robinson III with only Burks being worth consideration in restart leagues — and even that is contingent on him getting a real rotation spot, which he was unable to earn before the season stopped. Thybulle has been a promising rookie who is just waiting to break out as an elite defensive stopper, but at the moment is far too raw and needs to let the game slow down for him some more before he can be handed more minutes on a consistent basis.
Players to own in restart leagues: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Shake Milton
Record: 30-34 (Currently 7th in the Eastern Conference, 0.5 games ahead of Magic)
Restart Opponents: Magic, Wizards, Bucks, Celtics, Kings, Clippers, Magic, Blazers
Official Roster for Restart: Jarrett Allen, Justin Anderson, Chris Chiozza, Jamal Crawford, Donta Hall, Joe Harris, Tyler Johnson, Rodions Kurucs, Caris LeVert, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Jeremiah Martin, Dzanan Musa, Garrett Temple, Lance Thomas
“Oof, the Nets!” – that pretty much sums up the dire situation the team is in heading into the NBA restart. They’re coming in with a laundry list of key players who are out. They’ll be without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, and Taurean Prince, as well as coach Kenny Atkinson. Ouch.
They’ve brought in Jamal Crawford, Tyler Johnson and Michael Beasley. Beasley had to leave the Orlando bubble after testing positive for the COVID-19 virus and was replaced by Justin Anderson.
The team is currently in seventh place in the East but with a ragtag mix of old and new players plus a new coach in Jacque Vaughn, it’s almost impossible to think that they’ll be able to hold onto that spot, especially with two matchups against the Magic, who currently sit in eighth and just half a game behind them.
Looking for silver linings, fans will be treated to eight games highlighting the basketball stylings of breakout star Caris LeVert, who has been averaging 17.7 PPG, 1.8 3PG, 4.1 RPG, 4.1 APG and 1.1 SPG on .414 FG% and .720 FT% – numbers we expect him to smash out of the arena with the team leaning on him heavily to shoulder the scoring load.
Young big man Jarrett Allen will also get a chance to get some extra run with DeAndre Jordan sitting out the restart. He should be a nightly double-double threat but will still need to keep his fouls in check if he wants to be able to stay on the floor for extended periods.
Then there’s role-players Joe Harris and Garrett Temple, who will do what they do, which is to mostly shoot threes. Harris will do his job in an efficient manner, shooting 47.1 percent from the field. While Temple is not as efficient as Harris (.378 FG%), he does bring a strong defensive presence to the table, something that Harris is not exactly known for.
With both Irving and Dinwiddie sitting out the restart, Chris Chiozza is going to get thrust into the starting PG role. Though he’s not going to wow us, he has been a reasonably good passer over the Nets’ scrimmages, making him worth a late-round flier in restart leagues.
Rodions Kurucs, Jamal Crawford and Tyler Johnson could be X-factors, but it’s hard to recommend holding one’s breath, considering that the team is expected make a quick first-round exit come the playoffs. Kurucs flashed a sneaky valuable fantasy game as a rookie before falling out of the rotation this year, so we’ll see if he’s able to recapture his appeal as the likely starting power forward.
Players to own in restart leagues: Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris, Garrett Temple, Chris Chiozza, Rodions Kurucs