August 16, 2020, 12:07 pm
22 teams arrived in Orlando with dreams of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy. After Saturday’s victory by the Blazers, only 16 now remain. Barring any playoff leagues taking place, fantasy basketball is done and dusted for another season. For that reason, the focus can begin to shift to the 2020-21 campaign, starting with the six teams that took part in the bubble but are now on their way home. Despite each team only playing eight games, there were certainly a number of takeaways when trying to project individual fantasy value.
Which players are likely to be hyped heading into draft season?
Who can be targeted, yet still have value moving forward?
Are there any players to avoid when drafting?
Let’s dive into the six teams, highlighting a few players fantasy outlooks based on what we saw during the seeding period.
The Grizzlies fell agonizingly short of a playoff berth despite losing Jaren Jackson Jr. midway through the bubble. In only three games, Jackson was the 13th ranked player in standard formats. Of all the Grizzlies players, he is arguably the most debated fantasy option. Already an established perimeter option, Jackson typically brings scoring and defensive numbers to the table on most nights. The upside is there for him to, someday, become a first-round asset. Unfortunately, his game also contains a number of pretty obvious flaws. Persistent foul trouble has been an ongoing issue, often limiting his ability to remain on the floor. His rebounding numbers also leave a lot to be desired on most nights. Over his three games in Orlando, Jackson averaged only 2.7 rebounds per game. Of all the players who saw more than 15 minutes per game, he ranked last, tied with Grayson Allen and Anthony Tolliver. For these reasons, there is a chance he falls in some drafts and there could actually be value when selecting him.
Not unlike Jackson, Ja Morant’s fantasy ceiling is somewhat blurred by his contrasting strengths and weaknesses. The scoring game is on point and his ability to facilitate the offense is clear. However, he lacks a reliable 3-point shot and his defensive production certainly needs work. His efficiency from the floor could also be seen as a negative, although inconsistent shooting is certainly not to be unexpected from a young point guard. When looking at likely draft scenarios for Morant, his outlook differs from that of Jackson. He is certainly not one to shy away from headlines and for that reason, he could be a player who is over-drafted in many leagues.
Brandon Clarke certainly made a name for himself this season and his bubble play only emphasized his incredible upside. He ended the season shooting 62 percent from the floor, the highest ever by a rookie. Taken towards the end of the first round by the Grizzlies, Clarke played well beyond his years and is going to be a big part of their plans moving forward. He is an efficient rebounder and the defensive production developed nicely throughout the season. During his final game on Saturday, Clarke also chipped in a career-high four triples. If he can develop a consistent perimeter game, that should allow him to spend more time on the floor next to Jonas Valanciunas. Clarke is likely to go in the middle rounds of most drafts and if he can carve out an increased role, there could be value to be found.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans were arguably the most disappointing team in Orlando, the sum of which came when they fired their head coach on Saturday. With a new coach comes a new thought process. Each player’s individual role could shift depending on who is appointed as the new top-dog. After a strong season, Lonzo Ball struggled during his time in the bubble. He barely finished inside the top-150, shooting a disastrous 30 percent from the field. Along with a number of other Pelicans players, it is hard to get a true read on Ball’s bubble output. After this poor showing, there is a decent chance he slips in drafts. His unique skill set makes him a player not typically suited to every fantasy build, meaning value is really in the eye of the beholder.
Zion Williamson came into the resumption games significantly underdone and it certainly showed on the floor. He ended as the 260th ranked player, despite averaging 18.4 points per game on 56 percent shooting. His offensive game is already at another level and he can find his way to the basket with ease on most nights. Unfortunately, the defensive production has not translated from college, highlighted by him failing to record a steal or a block in Orlando. His free throw struggles have also been well documented and could hamper his overall value moving forward. Based on name alone, Williamson is almost certainly going to be drafted inside the top-30 in most formats. There is a world in which he has value at this spot but it is too rich for me right now.
After a breakout season, Brandon Ingram failed to replicate his numbers during the seeding games. The Pelicans struggled as a unit and so he can be forgiven somewhat. Given the larger sample size of the regular season, there is no reason Ingram won’t be able to maintain similar production. He ended as the 35th=ranked player in 9-category leagues and is almost certain to go in the third round of most drafts next season.
Mikal Bridges was a standout for the Suns during their unbeaten run in Orlando. Despite only averaging 12.8 points per game, Bridges ranked inside the top-50 in standard leagues. His defense alone is enough to give him a sizeable fantasy floor. His role throughout the season was inconsistent which resulted in questionable production. However, after Monty Williams locked his rotations down, Bridges’ confidence began to grow and that was on full show during the seeding games. He was not afraid to take the open shot and perhaps more promising was the fact his teammates seemed fine with that. Not unlike Robert Covington, Bridges’ unflashy game could see him overlooked in many fantasy drafts meaning he could be a potential value pick.
Cameron Johnson established himself as the starting power forward for the Suns and certainly made the most of his opportunity. He came away from Orlando as the 36th ranked player, scoring 13.3 points per game on 50 percent shooting. Already a noted perimeter threat, Johnson proved to be a more-than-handy rebounder and even looked to have added a defensive element to his game. His role is a little cloudy given he is competing with Dario Saric, who also had a strong resumption period. However, the Suns are clearly high on Johnson and if he can see at least 30 minutes per night, he is going to be a player to target towards the back end of most drafts.
Along with the Pelicans, the Kings were underwhelming during the seeding games. One positive to come out of Orlando was the strong play of Bogdan Bogdanovic. Across the eight-game span, he was able to put up second-round value in only 32 minutes per game. His place in the starting lineup seems secure, much to the disappointment of Buddy Hield enthusiasts. Bogdanovic is a proven 3-point threat and possesses an elite passing game. Consistency has always been the primary issue for Bogdanovic, often resulting in wild swings to his playing time. For this reason, there may be some who are hesitant to trust him as the long-term starting option. If you are prepared to take a bit of a risk, Bogdanovic could certainly outperform his ADP next season.
Richaun Holmes played only five games in Orlando and he was far from the player we experienced earlier in the season. A hip injury put an end to his campaign and perhaps this was bothering him during the earlier games. Despite ending the season as the 42nd-ranked player, Holmes is almost certainly going to slide down many draft boards. There is a decent chance he will be available during the middle rounds and he could certainly have value at that spot. There is an element of risk in this instance, especially if Marvin Bagley can finally get healthy for a sustained period. Holmes is not going to put up mouth-watering numbers on a nightly basis which does make him a little more reliant on his peripheral numbers.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs were surprisingly competitive during their eight games in Orlando. The loss of LaMarcus Aldridge put a significant dent in their playoff aspirations but did allow a number of their young core to take center stage. Derrick White was fantastic, putting up third-round value despite averaging only 1.3 combined steals and blocks. The most surprising element was his improved perimeter game. He took his average from 1.2 threes per game during the regular season, to 3.1 during the resumption. While this is only a small sample size, the intent is clearly there. Should he even come close to this mark next season, his ability to stay on the floor should increase dramatically.
Keldon Johnson was a player many had not even heard of coming into the resumption. However, the rookie made the most of a good situation, putting up 14.1 points per game on an incredible 64 percent from the field. Of course, this efficiency is unlikely to stick but he certainly has the chops to hang in the NBA. He added 5.0 assists and 1.1 steals in 26 minutes per game and while he may not have immediate fantasy value, he is a player to keep an eye on moving forward.
Coming into the season, Thomas Bryant was one of the more heralded young big-men in the league. The Wizards were far from blessed at the center position, leaving Bryant as the primary option. Unfortunately, injury ruled him out for much of the regular season, and even when he was on the floor, he was typically on a minute restriction. The resumption period came at just the right time for Bryant who finally looked to be healthy. He played over 30 minutes per game, putting up first-round value on a team that was basically playing for nothing. Of course, this needs to be put in perspective given the Wizards were without Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans. Come next season, John Wall will also be back on the floor and so Bryant could be the third or fourth option on offense. Projecting his role is difficult and there is a chance he is somewhat over-drafted based on this small sample size.
Rui Hachimura continues to shoot the ball poorly and finished the seeding games as the 172nd ranked player. At this point, his fantasy game is reliant on scoring the basketball and securing a steady stream of rebounds. While the rebounds could very well stick moving forward, the return of Bradley Beal and John Wall is almost certainly going to impact his usage and subsequent shot volume. This could actually work in his favor when it comes to efficiency, although not to the point where he should be considered a must-roster player.
Plenty of players sat out on Friday but there were still a few legitimate injuries and updates out there.
With no games taking place on Sunday, there is very little to report in terms of injuries.
For the Magic, Aaron Gordon (left hamstring) participated in the walkthrough portion of practice on Saturday and should be considered questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Bucks.
Terrence Ross (illness) and Evan Fournier (illness) were both full participants on Saturday and they could return against the Bucks.
Jae Crowder (right knee) practiced in full on Saturday and should be fine for Game 1 on Tuesday.
Romeo Langford (right wrist) is dealing with torn ligaments and his status for Monday remains up in the air.
Derrick Jones Jr. (neck) is apparently feeling better and hopes to ready for the start of the playoffs.