• Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our International Spotlight continuous feature where we take a look at all the international players around the league and their outlook for the upcoming season. We examined the Atlantic Division in the first part of this mini-feature and how the coaching change and the addition of Kawhi Leonard will affect the value of Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas in an entirely different way.

    Here is a closer look into the Central Division:

    CHICAGO BULLS

    Omer Asik, C, 32 years old, Turkey

    The Turkish big man is set to earn north of $22 million over the next couple seasons and owns an early termination option that he is unlikely to execute during the 2019-20 season. Bulls fans should expect to see a good amount of him sitting on the bench unless the front office is somehow able to negotiate a buyout or find a taker for his pseudo-expiring contract. He is nowhere close to fantasy radars and with the Bulls adding Wendell Carter Jr. in this year’s draft he will only provide insurance in case any of the other bigs gets injured.

    Cristiano Felicio, C, 26 years old, Brazil

    The ugliest mark still on the books for the Bulls is the guaranteed $24 million-plus GM Gar Forman handed out to Cristiano Felicio a couple years ago. Even though his minutes went up last season (solely due to tanking), his rebounding numbers regressed (4.2 per game), he can’t block any shots (0.2 per game) and he is still committing more fouls than ever before (1.9 per game). Felicio doesn’t do much to protect the basket while the fancy footwork and lateral quickness that made him a solid perimeter defender has vanished and the numbers are brutal as the Bulls, with Felicio’s net rating the worst on the team among players who were actually members of the rotation. The number surplus of big men on the roster also doesn’t help Felicio’s case while Bobby Portis has clearly surpassed him in the rotation.

    Lauri Markannen, PF/C, 21 years old, Finland

    The Finnish product possesses a nice physique and added considerable muscle during the summer without losing any of his mobility. He isn’t afraid of contact, he knows how to stay with his man and his NBA-ready body has led to him being an above average defensive rebounder. His usage will most likely go down with Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker in the lineup and while their presence might create more open shots for him I wouldn’t expect a drastic change to his numbers. The Bulls absolutely need his floor spacing as the team didn’t really improve in that area while the word is that Fred Hoiberg will allow him to play more as a five in order to exploit potential mismatches. He looks like a solid middle-round asset but I can hardly envision him cracking the top-50.

    CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

    Cedi Osman, SF, 23 years old, Turkey

    Cedi dominated in Summer League in just a couple games with the Cavs, showing some much needed leadership skills and the ability to hit the pull-up three. He has been building momentum with the Turkish national team as well and it appears that his game is slowly developing. Kyle Korver reportedly helped him with his stroke last year in Cleveland and the Turkish forward is undoubtedly a breakout candidate this upcoming season. The Cavs have said that they want to run and that’s something that fits Cedi’s game but he will have to make his shots and avoid fouling too much in order to win the starting job. He is definitely someone worth taking a flier in the later rounds but keep an eye on him during the preseason as his ADP should jump considerably if he enters the starting lineup.

    Ante Zizic, C, 21 years old, Croatia

    The 21-year-old center looked extremely comfortable in a couple games in Las Vegas and he could see an expanded role if the Cavs fall out of playoff contention but for now he is just a backup center who could have a hard time keeping up with the up-tempo offense that Tyron Lue wants to develop this year. The Croatian big is a relentless rebounder on both ends of the floor and he possesses the physical tools to dominate in the paint but he is a slow, immobile body has always been better at defending space and not PnR situations, making him an underwhelming rim protector who doesn’t offer many blocks.

    DETROIT PISTONS

    Jose Calderon, PG, 36 years old, Spain

    Zaza Pachulia, C, 34 years old, Georgia

    Both veterans were signed in order to provide leadership and insurance in case of injuries but Pachulia might actually have to play at the beginning of the season due to Jon Leuer recovering from a meniscus surgery while Henry Ellenson hasn’t really showed the ability to capitalize on the opportunities he’s had in his short career.

    INDIANA PACERS

    Bojan Bogdanovic, SG/SF, 29 years old, Croatia

    Bogey proved to be a valuable commodity for the Pacers last year, returning top-125 value and earning Nate McMillan’s trust with his defensive effort and a career-high 0.7 steals per game. Victor Oladipo cannot guard the elite small forwards in the league like KD and LeBron and it was Bogdanovic who took this task, delivering some very positive results. His minutes look safe even though Tyreke Evans’ presence in three-guard groups might keep him on the bench as the Pacers need him to stretch the defense while he often has to guard bigger opponents on the other end of the floor. Bogdanovic has worked a lot on his game to become more than just a scorer and he should be on your radar this year as the Pacers will continue to rely upon him.

    Domantas Sabonis, PF/C, 22 years old, Lithuania

    The Pacers deserve a lot of credit for immediately putting the ball in Sabonis’ hands allowing him to unfold his true skills. It’s no coincidence that he saw the league’s eighth biggest increase in usage rate, the league’s biggest increase in rebounding percentage, and the league’s third biggest increase in true shooting percentage. He transformed from an afterthought in the Thunder offense to an integral part of Indiana’s success. The team looks committed to continue playing Thad Young alongside Myles Turner so he isn’t likely to move into the starting lineup even though the Lithuanian possesses the playmaking ability to create opportunities for his teammates. Sabonis is not perfect obviously, as, his small hands don’t help him produce defensive stats, but he is destined to be a solid big who can average 12 and 8 with good percentages.

    MILWAUKEE BUCKS

    Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF/PF, 23 years old, Greece

    The fantasy industry looks to be down on Giannis this year and he’ll need to either increase his defensive numbers or start hitting his three and his free throws in order to crack the top-3. He still dominates the big man categories though (52.9 FG%, 10.0 RPG, 1.4 BPG) and is one of the league’s better thieves (1.5 SPG) plus I do expect coach Bud to use him in small-ball lineups with shooters around him. While introducing Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova to the press, Bucks’ GM Jon Horst emphasized the need to stretch the court with sweet-shooting big men and that should help Giannis play to his strengths as a penetrator and playmaker.

    Ersan Ilyasova, PF, 31 years old, Turkey

    Ilyasova returns to the place where he spent the first seven years of his career but he left the Bucks as a mid-range shooting power forward and now comes back to Milwaukee as a floor-spacing, small-ball big whose defensive versatility could be the key to potentially unlocking a variety of effective lineups. He will be one of the first players off the bench for Milwaukee and will give them some badly-needed shooting out of the forward spot as coach Bud wants his bigs to be able to spread the floor and switch on defense. You should expect to see him go at at the end of the draft and I’m really high on him after so many years where he burned owners due to his instability.

    Thon Maker, PF/C, 21 years old, Somalia

    Thon intrigued scouts with his determination, length and skill level, but that happened against almost non-existent competition and his development has stagnated. The problem arises mainly from the fact that he played on the perimeter early in his career and getting used to playing his more natural power forward position is still a major adjustment, especially physically. He struggled even more in his sophomore year primarily due to the lack of playing time and the statistical regression was inevitable – he hit just 29.8 percent of his shots behind the arc.

    He had largely fallen out of the rotation at the end of the season but an injury to John Henson opened up the opportunity for playoff Thon to appear and he once again responded with his ability to stick with guards and wings and deny them easy drives to the basket. The coaching change in Milwaukee this summer will only help him and I expect coach Bud to craft a game plan better suited to his strengths but with Lopez and Ilyasova now in town the opportunity will not be there on a consistent basis. Maker will have to work hard in order to surpass Henson as the backup center.

    Thank you for checking us out this article and please check us back again next week as we examine the international players in the Southeast Division. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @philysstar and stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.

Fantasy News

  • Zach LaVine
    SG, Chicago Bulls

    Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times reported that the Sixers' assistant coach, Ime Udoka, is the front-runner to be hired as the Bulls' new head coach.

    New president Arturas Karnisovas and GM Marc Eversley are looking to part ways with current head coach Jim Boylen. This will likely be a positive for younger players on the Bulls' roster as Boylen seemed to have a disconnect with them. Raptors' assistant coach Adrian Griffin is also in consideration to be the Bulls' coach.

    Source: Chicago Sun Times

  • Meyers Leonard
    C, Miami Heat

    Erik Spoelstra said that Meyers Leonard (sprained left ankle) is "feeling great".

    Leonard has been steadily recovering given the extra time off with the season being suspended. It was reported by Sports Illustrated back in April that he would be ready to return when the NBA season resumes and it appears that is still the case with Spoelstra's latest comment. Leonard will be a role player for the Heat with limited minutes, which makes him unreliable for fantasy.

    Source: Miami Herald

  • Al-Farouq Aminu
    PF, Orlando Magic

    Al-Farouq Aminu (right torn meniscus), "most likely will not be healthy enough to return," when the season resumes according to the Orlando Sentinel.

    Aminu had season-ending surgery in early January and shed his brace in March. There some some speculation he could return due to the extra time off but in an interview this week, Magic president Jeff Weltman didn't give any indication Aminu was close to a return saying, “Not a whole lot of news there. As always, we’re going to wait and see how they respond to rehab." With Jonathan Isaac in the same boat as Aminu, expect Khem Birch and James Ennis to continue splitting the frontcourt minutes opposite Aaron Gordon.

    Source: Orlando Sentinel

  • Kyrie Irving
    PG, Brooklyn Nets

    According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Kyrie Irving (right shoulder) could conceivably join his Nets' teammates in Orlando when they return to play later this summer, albeit as an inactive player.

    There was really never much of a possibility that Irving would return to action in 2019-20 unless the season got pushed back severely. After the arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in late February, the Nets tentatively said they expected to have him back in time for preseason workouts in the fall (which will now likely take place in November or later). That still seems like the likely scenario, even given the long pause the league was forced to undergo. Caris LeVert had shown flashes of brilliance again this season after he returned from injury, so he and Spencer Dinwiddie will evidently be shouldering the ball-handling duties when the Nets take the floor in Orlando.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowksi on Twitter

  • Kevin Durant
    SF, Brooklyn Nets

    Kevin Durant (right Achilles) confirmed on Friday that he will not take the court for the Nets when they return to play in Orlando in late July and early August when they close out the 2019-20 season.

    Given the extended pause to the current season due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there were many who believed the Nets could plausibly try to bring back both Durant and Kyrie Irving from their respective injuries in order to make a push for a championship later this summer. Evidently, Durant will remain out of the equation for the Nets as they look to close out the season on a high note. "My season is over," Durant said. The Nets currently sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and will have to maintain that position in order to avoid the planned play-in bracket to decide the eighth seed after the initial eight final "regular season" games. Durant has never seemed likely to play, even with the pandemic disrupting the season, and it seems as though he won't be playing for the Nets in Orlando. Much crazier things have happened, though.

    Source: The Undefeated

  • Kelly Oubre Jr.
    SF, Phoenix Suns

    Kelly Oubre Jr. (torn right meniscus) will be able to take the floor for the Suns when the NBA returns to play in Orlando on July 31, the team's owner Robert Sarver said on Friday.

    This is phenomenal news for the Suns, as Oubre had really been having a breakout season for the Suns (18.7 PTS, 6.4 REB, 1.5 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.7 BLK and 1.9 threes per game in 34.5 minutes) prior to going down with a torn meniscus in late February. He was originally expected to miss the rest of the 2019-20 season, but due to the pandemic he has recovered and will evidently be fully functional for a team that currently sits in 13th place in the Western Conference. They will have quite the uphill battle to force their way into the playoff field in August, as there will only be eight regular season games played before the playoffs are set.

    Source: Arizona Sports

  • Jonathan Isaac
    PF, Orlando Magic

    The President of Basketball Operations for the Magic, Jeff Weltman, said Friday that the team does not expect Jonathan Isaac (left knee) to return when league play resumes, but that they will also be letting his rehab program dictate his timetable.

    Isaac has been sidelined since the beginning of January after a serious injury to his left knee.
    He was scheduled to be re-evaluated in 8-10 weeks but the impact of the coronavirus has muddled things up with many players, Isaac included. The Magic don't want to risk Isaac's immediate future, as he is under contract for one more season and is eligible for a qualifying offer prior to the 2021-22 season. With the Magic sitting in eighth place in the East and looking a (potential) fight for the right to face Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs as the eighth seed in August, the Magic brass may opt to keep Isaac out until the beginning of next season. That seems likely, at least.

    Source: 96.9 The Game on Twitter

  • Kawhi Leonard
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    Marc Stein is reporting that the NBPA has agreed to continue negotiations with the league for a 22-team restart to the season.

    Stein also noted that not everything is settled at this point, and more items need to be agreed upon before the NBPA is ready to sign and proceed forward with the resumption of games. It sounds like we're still on a path to an agreement, but the NBPA still has a few points to clarify before it is all said and done. Stay tuned.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Shams Charania is reporting that the NBPA informed players that they will be tested on a nightly basis for COVID-19 and a positive test will result in quarantine for a minimum of seven days.

    The resumption of play will also include 2-3 preseason games and a bubble of 1600 total people. Players will not have tracking devices on them but they are expected to stay in the bubble for the entire period. Everything is gradually coming together and the schedule for the return to play is becoming more and more clear for all parties.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Nikola Jokic
    C, Denver Nuggets

    According to head coach Mike Malone, Nikola Jokic has been staying in great shape during the lockout.

    Jokic has never been known for staying in shape, especially during the offseason, and it will be a legitimate surprise if he returns lighter than he was at the stoppage in play. He started the year on the slower side and was clearly looking behind out of the gate, but he was back to his usual first-round value by the time games came to a stop. He should be ready for action when the lockout comes to an end. His teammate Jamal Murray is claiming that Jokic now has a "little four pack".

    Source: The Athletic