• Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our International Spotlight mini preview feature where we take a look at all the international players around the league and their outlook for the upcoming season. We previously examined the Atlantic, the Central, the Southeast and the Southwest Division and as training camps are under their way we can start to recognize the risers and the fallers.

    Mario Hezonja and Frank Ntilikina are struggling to gain momentum in their pursuit of a starting gig but the minutes will be there for them while Jonas Valanciunas looks rejuvenated under new head coach Nick Nurse in Toronto. Lauri Markannen will be sidelined to begin the season with a sprained elbow and he might fall in your draft, Cedi Osman is solidifying himself as a starter while Ersan Ilyasova looks like a perfect fit for Coach Bud’s system. Willy Hernangomez is getting the minutes he needs in order to produce, Goran Dragic might have a new home soon while Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Nic Batum look like safe bets. Finally, Luka Doncic is already turning heads with his play as Pau Gasol and Jakob Poeltl battle for the starting job in San Antonio.

    This week we deep dive into the Northwest Division:

    DENVER NUGGETS

    Juancho Hernangomez, SF, 23 years old, Spain

    Juancho went down with mono last year, losing more than 50 games and suffering a statistical regression in almost all categories upon his return. He was never able to regain his position in the rotation and his future with the Nuggets looks somewhat murky as Nuggets have promoted Mike Malone’s favorite (son) and former two-way player Torrey Craig to the active roster. Craig is not a polished scorer but he is an above average defender who fits better with a group of Nuggets players that can mostly get buckets. Malone has also fallen in love with Trey Lyles and he was even quoted saying that he plans on using him as a small forward. Juancho’s game expresses the evolution of modern basketball with the need for big men who are able to switch in the pick-and-roll and hit shots from distance, but he faces an uphill battle this season and I’m not very optimistic about his long term outlook in Denver since the team invested a high lottery pick in Michael Porter this year. He is still relatively young though and you should absolutely keep an eye for him in dynasty leagues as, just like his brother, he might just need a change of scenery.

    Nikola Jokic, C, 23 years old, Serbia

    The Nuggets seem to have finally figured out how to properly use the Joker in their system and he is likely to be a top-15 if not a top-10 fantasy asset this year. Questions about his defense and his leadership are still there but Jokic should be able to take more steps forward after securing a five-year, $148 million max contract this summer. Paul Millsap has been emphatic about Jokic becoming a leader of this team and the two had a great talk late in the season last year after which, in the final five games – with Denver making a playoff push, no less – Nikola averaged 23.8 points, 12.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.0 steals.

    MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

    James Nunnally, SF, 28 years old, Euroleague

    The 2017 EuroLeague and Turkish League champion drew attention from a few playoff teams this summer after years toiling in the D-League and in a handful of international leagues. He was arguably Europe’s best 3-and-D wing last year and got signed by a team that ended up dead last in the NBA in 3-pointers made (8.0) and attempted (22.5) in 2018. He won’t provide the same scoring punch that Jamal Crawford did, at least not in the same way, but he can be counted on to knock down his shots and hang tougher on the defensive end. Nunnally could hold 3-point specialist value in deeper leagues but the arrival of Luol Deng in Minnesota and Thibs’ predilection to overplay his starters means that he won’t offer much more than that.

    Josh Okogie, SF, 20 years old, Nigeria

    A potential steal of the draft candidate in my opinion, Okogie is a prototypical 3-and-D player coming out of a tremendous career year at Georgia Tech where he averaged 18.2 points, 6.3 rebounds (despite standing at just 6’4”) and 2.5 assists as a sophomore, shooting 38 percent from the 3-point line while getting to the line consistently (at least 6.0 free throw attempts per game in both seasons at Georgia Tech). He is a strong, multi-positional defender who fits the mold of players that Tom Thibodeau likes and he might be able to earn some minutes as a rookie because he simply plays hard.

    OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

    Alex Abrines, SG, 25 years old, Spain

    The Spaniard is one of the purest shooters among European players with fluid mechanics, quick release and deep range. He possesses an excellent off-ball game, exploiting screens and cuts while also using pull-up jumpers and pump fakes in order to require attention. Unfortunately for him, Billy Donovan has traditionally played two non-shooters in many of his lineups, whether they included Steven Adams and Andre Roberson or forward Jerami Grant or whichever other duos he’s elected to pair causing some apparent lane clogging. What further limits his ability to contribute is the lack of pick-and-roll action in a Thunder scheme that relies heavily on ISO situations.

    Abrines is basically being used as a decoy most of the time he is on the floor even if his ability to stretch the floor, his skill level and his understanding of how to play the game make for an excellent rotation guy. With news about Andre Roberson suffering a setback in his recovery there will be minutes available for Abrines in the rotation but Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot  was also added to the mix while the Thunder are expected to go with two-guard lineups more often after the arrival of Dennis Schroder.

    Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, SG, 23 years old, France

    TLC came into the league as a raw but versatile wing with exceptional size and wingspan for his position as well as a style of play that fits perfectly the NBA, but he hasn’t been able to put everything together yet. He was able to distinguish himself with some outstanding athleticism but this is the norm in the NBA and he got outplayed last year, ending up losing his place in the rotation. The Frenchman has pretty much everything you look for in a two-way role-playing NBA wing and maybe there is another level to his game that he unlocks after his move to Oklahoma. He will be given the chance as I do believe Sam Presti likes him and the reason he was acquired by the Thunder was the need to increase the competition at the wing position. A lot will depend on whether his shot falls obviously.

    Terrance Ferguson, SG, 20 years old, Australia

    Ferguson has been an electrifying talent since his high school days where he finished as a top-20 national recruit and was selected for several prestigious high school All-Star games including the McDonald’s All-American and the Nike Hoop Summit. OKC’s biggest need is still surrounding Russell Westbrook with secondary scoring as well as with perimeter shooting and defense. Ferguson fits that mold but he was far from a ready product in his rookie year where the lack of muscle caused him to get consistently pushed out of his spots on offense. He has terrific feet, he can cover a lot of ground, and does well to stay in front of smaller players and in general, his combination of scoring and defense can certainly be a special skill most teams would love to have. The offseason report says that he was able to add some weight and work even more in his game and you should keep him on your watch list in case he emerges as the first man off the bench.

    Dennis Schroder, G, 25 years old, Germany

    Dennis the Menace had an interesting year with a tanking Hawks team and he was able to cut down on his turnovers while setting new career-highs in scoring and steals. His percentages are still ugly though and it’s almost a lock that he will be coming off the bench. I’m confident in Sam Presti and Billy Donovan providing the necessary motivation to him in order for Schroder to hold value even in standard leagues and Russell Westbrook’s knee woes might carry into the season so I’m still keeping an eye on him as a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

    PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

    Jusuf Nurkic, C, 24 years old, Bosnia & Herzegovina

    Nurkic was mostly inconsistent last year yet delivered top-75 value in the second half of the season for owners who had the patience to hold on to him. A first round exit from the playoffs exposed his flaws even more as New Orleans took the ball away from Damian Lillard and forced Al-Farouq Aminu and Nurkic to make plays, something they were not very comfortable with. The game is trending away from his skillset, so unless he develops a functional jumper he could lose minutes to Zach Collins and the Blazers are a team that could decide to go into a different, younger direction if things don’t go as planned.

    UTAH JAZZ

    Ricky Rubio SG, 27 years old, Spain

    I’m bullish on Ricky Rubio after a year in which he struggled to communicate with his coach while trying to adjust to playing off-ball for the first time in his career (due to the emergence of Donovan Mitchell). After a rocky start he shot a career-best 41.8 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from the 3-point line, understanding his place in Utah. I’m not at all worried about Dante Exum cutting into his minutes as the Jazz will play the young Aussie in the small forward position as well. Rubio will enter the season playing for the same coach for the first time ever during his tenure in the NBA and at only 27 years of age he might be entering the prime of his career.

    Dante Exum, G, 23 years old, Australia

    Dante Exum has struggled badly to stay healthy in his short career but he finally might be ready for a breakout year. He looked pretty solid in the playoffs, particularly on defense, but he still had some issues finishing at the rim, handling the ball and being consistent with his shot. With a full and healthy offseason under his belt along with a new contract and the confidence that the Jazz have his back entirely, the stage is set for Dante to make that leap. Quin Snyder and Exum himself have alluded to the possibility of a three-guard lineup featuring the young Aussie at the three – something that goes to show that the organization feels he’s ready for big minutes.

    Rudy Gobert, C, 26 years old, France

    Gobert’s durability is in question after a year in which he missed multiple games due to knee issues and owners might be hesitant to take him in the first few rounds. He isn’t much of a scorer and his free throw percentage will hurt your team but he remains a top-3 defensive player and his rebounds and blocks will be elite again. I wouldn’t let him slip past the fourth round though.

    Raul Neto, PG, 26 years old, Brazil

    Neto is a fringe NBA player but he managed to find a role with the Jazz the last couple seasons mainly due to an accumulation of injuries in their backcourt. He will remain the third string point guard this year as an insurance policy and even if he finds his way into some minutes he has no fantasy value.

    Thabo Sefolosha, G/F, 34 years old, Switzerland

    Sefolosha quietly had a steady fantasy year before spraining his MCL, averaging 8.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.8 3-pointers. The Jazz will rely on Crowder and Royce O’Neale to begin the year but there are still minutes available for him and he will likely emerge with deep league value at some point during the long season.

    Thank you for checking out this article and please visit us again next week in our last part of our mini feature where we will examine the international players in the Pacific 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

  • Kevin Porter Jr. - PG-SG - Cleveland Cavaliers

    The Cleveland Cavaliers have announced that they have officially acquired the draft rights to Kevin Porter Jr.

    This trade was confirmed on draft night but it has now officially gone through. Porter Jr. figures to see opportunities off the bench as a score first guard for a Cleveland team in desperate need of bench production in his first season. He'll get his first look with his new team in Summer League.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Stanley Johnson - SF - New Orleans Pelicans

    The Pelicans have opted to not extend a qualifying offer to Stanley Johnson, making him an unrestricted free agent according to Shams Charania of the Athletic.

    This doesn't come as much of a surprise. Johnson struggled to make much of an impact both in Detroit and in New Orleans this season, despite possessing defensive upside that has been mired by his inconsistencies elsewhere throughout his career. He's still 23, and should find an offer elsewhere for next season. Wherever that may be, he will have a long way to go before he will become fantasy relevant.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Derrick Favors - PF - Utah Jazz

    According to Shams Charania of the Athletic, Derrick Favors will field calls from several interested teams and act as if he will be an unrestricted FA, a sign that he doesn't expect the Jazz to pick up his team option.

    Favors has gone on the record indicating that he'd love to return to Utah, but it appears that they are interested in allocating the 17 million he would have made, elsewhere. Favors has always struggled to maximize his fantasy potential playing next to Rudy Gobert, and perhaps a situation with a less clogged paint could do more for his value.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Thomas Bryant - C - Washington Wizards

    Thomas Bryant has been given a qualifying offer from the Wizards, making him a restricted free agent.

    Bryant surprised last season, coming from obscurity to finish with top-125/100 value (8/9-cat). That despite Scott Brooks toying with his minutes. If the Wizards can keep Bryant around last season's workload he'll easily be a steal in fantasy leagues, though we're obviously hoping he takes hold of the starting job.

    Source: Fred Katz on Twitter

  • Romeo Langford - PG - Boston Celtics

    The Celtics start Summer League practice this weekend but first-round pick Romeo Langford will not be cleared for full contact.

    Langford is recovering from right thumb surgery, which is not expected to have any significant long-term effects. This is just the Celtics taking it easy on their new rookie. Hopefully he's cleared before Summer League ends, otherwise we'll get our first look at him in preseason.

    Source: Adam Himmelsbach on Twitter

  • Enes Kanter - C - Trail Blazers

    The Blazers, Lakers and Celtics are among the teams that will be interested in free agent Enes Kanter, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

    Portland knows Kanter well and would surely like to have him back after his admirable work filling in for an injured Jusuf Nurkic, while playing through his own serious ailments, in the playoffs. The Celtics could use a ferocious rebounder to replace Aron Baynes and are barren at the center spot with Al Horford's departure, while the Lakers are lining up cost-effective depth with their roster almost completely empty. Kanter might not replicate his Knicks numbers, but he'll be a standard-league asset no matter where he lands.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Cheick Diallo - PF - New Orleans Pelicans

    Cheick Diallo will be an unrestricted free agent after the Pelicans decided not to extend him a qualifying offer.

    Diallo has solid per-minute output but the playing time has never been there for him in New Orleans. He's got talent and good work ethic, but the league is flooded with available big men at the moment. Hopefully Diallo lands in a spot where he can continue his development.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Nikola Mirotic - PF - Milwaukee Bucks

    Nikola Mirotic is another player on the Mavs' list of free agent targets, per Brad Townsend of the Dallas News.

    Mirotic is not as high on the list as Patrick Beverley, but the Mavs see the stretch forward as a potential fit. While Mirotic ended the postseason out of the rotation for Milwaukee, he's going to be a hot commodity given his floor-spacing and should hold solid standard-league value no matter where he ends up.

    Source: Dallas News

  • Tobias Harris - SF - Philadelphia Sixers

    The Clippers, Mavs, Nets, Nuggets, Wolves, Kings, Grizzlies and Pelicans are expected to be interested in Tobias Harris once free agency opens.

    The Clippers are the most surprising team on the list, but only because they dealt Harris unexpectedly last season. Even so, the team and player had success together and the relationship wasn't necessarily damaged by the deal. Harris is one of the top second-tier free agents available and should have his pick of competitive offers. The Sixers are said to be confident about re-signing him, but they won't be able to do so without a fight.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Julius Randle - PF - New Orleans Pelicans

    The Bulls are expected to indicate "early interest" in Julius Randle, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.

    Randle is coming off a career year and is looking to cash in. The Bulls have plenty of space available and won't be in the mix for max players, so there's definitely a fit salary-wise if Chicago can get in on Randle before other teams pivot off the top players. It would be a pain for fantasy players however, as Randle joining a frontcourt that already features Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. would put a cap on each player. The Knicks and Nets are also interested in Randle, and we'll hear about more suitors in the coming days.

    Source: The Athletic