• What’s up HoopBallers!

    Just a disclaimer, the “Community Choice” spot of Stock Watch won’t be starting until the regular season starts, so if you were wondering why it’s not in this article, there you go.

    Whew, basketball is actually back. It’s time, seeing your favorite team getting ready to tip-off for the start of a new NBA Season is one of the best feelings in the world. The best thing about preseason is, even if your team gets horribly blown out, it all washes away and no one really cares or remembers about in a few weeks. On the other hand, the preseason is probably one of the most important times of the year when it comes to fantasy hoops.

    Around this time you’re probably reading up on articles, doing your own research and spamming through two or three mock drafts every day leading up to your draft. Your entire search history is probably filled with sentences like: “2018 Fantasy Basketball Breakouts” or “2018 Fantasy Basketball Busts” or hopefully “Hoop-Ball.com.” With this edition of Stock Watch we’re going to be going over who played well, and who didn’t, over this past weekend of preseason hoops.

    Without further ado, lets get into it.

    Stock Up

    Jamal Murray, PG/SG, Denver Nuggets 

    One of this season’s most popular breakout picks, Murray’s play has only added to the hype train he has behind him. In the Nuggets’ first preseason game against LeBron and the new-look Lakers, Murray managed to drop 18 points, one assist, two rebounds, one steal and two 3-pointers in only 19 minutes. Not to mention he went 8-of-12 from the field and really looked like the Nuggets’ best player (sorry, Nikola Jokic).

    Murray seems to garner a hype train every season, as last year I seem to remember hearing everyone say he was their breakout candidate as well.

    Why is this? It’s because you can tell he’s special.

    He’s got that thing, whatever it may be, that lets people know he’ll be something big in this league one day. Whether it turns out to be this season, or the next one, or the next one, he’ll continue to be on breakout lists every single year until he actually does breakout. Last season Murray finished as the 60th ranked player in fantasy while averaging 16.7 points, 3.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 2.0 3-pointers in 31.7 minutes. There were two more great things about Murray’s stat line, he shot 45.1 percent from the field and averaged only 2.1 turnovers per game. The dynamic offense in which he plays in is what allows him to do that.

    The Nuggets were fifth best in Offensive Efficiency and Points Per Game last season while also being fourth best in assists. With that said, Murray will be playing in one of the league’s best offenses and I know what you’re thinking, “Doesn’t that mean the ball won’t be in his hand a lot and he won’t have the opportunity to score a bunch?”

    Before the Warriors became a thing, that was a viable argument. However, look at Golden State. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson all averaged at least 20 points per game and the Warriors managed to attempt the 24th most shots in the league. The Nuggets on the other hand, attempted the 12th most shots in the NBA and have an offense very capable of supporting at least three 20-point per game scorers, Murray being one of them.

    He’ll play big minutes even with his backup now being Isaiah Thomas, he’ll be one of the best free throw shooters in the league yet again and his assists and points have risen each year he’s been in the league so they’ll likely do it again. You’ll have to reach on Murray due to all the hype, but odds are it’ll be a risk worth taking.

    John Collins, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks

    Collins is in for a big season as the starting power forward on a team that is undoubtedly one of the worst in the league.

    In Monday’s preseason game vs. the Pelicans, Collins finished with 18 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal on 8-of-14 shooting in only 19 minutes. He was tied for the second most shot attempts on the team with DeAndre’ Bembry and behind only Trae Young. Once the season starts Bembry definitely won’t be attempting 14 shots and Young will probably attempting double the amount he took tonight. There’s no getting around that. Young is going to let it fly but he’s also going to dish the ball.

    He averaged the most points in college basketball last season for a reason and he’s no slouch when it comes to assisting the ball. Collins went up against Julius Randle and Anthony Davis, two very, very good big men and almost dropped 20 while being very efficient. Collins was a top-100 player last season while only playing 24.1 minutes last season, which is undoubtedly going to be on the rise.

    While he won’t take the most shots on the team, he’s arguably its best player and that’ll show as the season progresses. He’s not a 20-point per game scorer right now, but he can definitely manage to put up season averages somewhere around 15.0 points, 10.0 boards and and maybe inch up towards 2.0 blocks if his playing time crosses the 30-minute threshold. (If you want to see where I got those ballpark numbers from, check out the Player Projections article.)

    With everything taken into account, talent will almost always win in a situation like the one Collins is in. He’s on a bad team that’ll be down in a lot of games and looking for someone to bail them out on a lot of possessions. It’ll either be him or Trae Young and odds are there will be enough shots around for both of them to produce. Collins could be in for a big breakout year so don’t be afraid to take him in the early-middle rounds and remember he’ll have the upside to outplay that draft position.

    Kawhi Leonard, SG/SF, Toronto Raptors

    Wow, it still feels weird to type “Toronto Raptors” next to Leonard’s name.

    He might be on a new team, but I’m projecting Kawhi to play like the same player we were used to before last season. You know, the Finals MVP, 25 PPG scorer, lockdown defender that had been a top-6 fantasy player every year since 2014. He’s in a new situation, but the good thing is that we know who’s spot in the offense he’ll be taking.

    He’ll essentially be replacing DeMar DeRozan in the Raptors offense. In Kawhi’s last healthy season in 2016, he averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.0 3-pointers on 48.5 percent shooting while attempting 17.7 shots per game. In fact, Leonard has never attempted more than 17.7 shots per game in his entire career. On the other hand, DeRozan has attempted at least 17.7 shots per game in four of the last five years and in each of them he’s shot a worse field goal percentage than Kawhi.

    With that said, the shots will still be there for Leonard and with him being a far superior player to DeRozan, he’ll probably be able to do much more with the opportunity he’s given. I’m in no way worried about injuries for Leonard to begin the season, he’s basically sat out a whole year and a half so if he’s still injured then there is something severely wrong.

    Remember, Leonard really doesn’t hurt you in ANY categories. He’s got you covered in points, rebounds, assists, steals, both percentages, gets the occasional block and has only averaged 2.0 turnovers once in his entire career. The man is a machine and after missing a season of basketball he’s ready to remind us why he was starting to be talked about in the same range as LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

    Leonard was being drafted as a top-5 pick in a ton of leagues last year and now his ADP has dropped to 12.0 which means a lot of people who are picking at 12 in their leagues will be getting an absolute steal. I’m picking in 12 in my main league of record so if any of my league-mates are reading this, please pay it no mind and please let Kawhi fall to me. Thanks.

    Honorable Mentions

    Miles Bridges, SF, Charlotte Hornets

    Bridges has been one of the standouts of the preseason, posting averages of 15.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.7 3-pointers on 58.1 percent shooting from the field in 26.3 minutes. The Hornets are one of the only teams to play three games so far so we’ve got to see more of Bridges than most other rookies but as of right now he’s definitely carving out a place in the Hornets rotation. Right now he’s behind Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who’s played less minutes (17.8) and managed to shoot a worse field goal percentage as well (.333). If Bridges continues to outplay him when the regular season begins it’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to gain the starting job, not to mention Kidd-Gilchrist’s injury woes. He could be a sleeper who pays off big for owners this season.

    Deandre Ayton, C, Phoenix Suns

    While Bridges has been a standout rookie this preseason, Ayton has looked like the best of them. He’s showing exactly why the Suns chose him with the first overall pick with averages of 22.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 blocks through two games. Ayton is also managing to shoot 62.1 percent from the field and is knocking down 75.0 percent of his free throws. One of Ayton’s biggest criticisms coming out of college was his lack of a defensive presence, well it doesn’t look like that through two NBA preseason games. Ayton has been all over anything that comes through the paint and has really shown that he’s been working this offseason. I’ve seen a lot of people picking Mavericks guard Luka Doncic as their Rookie of The Year but my money is on Ayton. He’s being taken around pick 50 right now which is a good range as he has the upside to outperform it.

    Stock Down

    If a player who you know is amazing isn’t performing well in the preseason, never put too much thought into it. With that being said, the Stock Down section for preseason editions of Stock Watch will be a little light.

    Derrick Jones Jr., SG/SF, Miami Heat

    Jones Jr. lit it up in the Summer League back in July and was getting nothing but praise from Heat coach Erik Spoelstra leading up to their first preseason game. Jones Jr. was reportedly one of the standouts in training camp and he only managed to score four points on 2-of-7 shooting in 18 minutes in the Heat preseason opener. He went on to drop four points in seven minutes before being ruled out of the game with a bruised right shoulder. As of right now he doesn’t have a timetable to return but it shouldn’t be long. Even when he returns he still doesn’t seem like he’s managed to put it all together and Miami’s depth chart is still pretty packed, not to mention they might actually be landing Jimmy Butler. He might be worth a flier in the last round of your deeper drafts but other than that Jones Jr. doesn’t look like he’ll be helping you much this season. There’s just too many guys ahead of him.

    Gary Harris, SG/SF, Denver Nuggets

    Woah, why is Gary Harris, everyone’s favorite “sleeper” and “breakout” pick in the Stock Down section? Well, don’t get me wrong I love Gary Harris’ game too but he’s hurt right now with a right hamstring issue and hamstring issues always seem to linger throughout the season. In fact, he was dealing with right hamstring soreness in February too and has had a bunch of upper leg issues since he’s came into the league with the most serious being the partially torn groin muscle he suffered in 2016. He has yet to play in a single preseason game and while it’s possible the Nuggets are just saving him for the regular season, there is also a possibility that this hammy injury lingers longer than we’re being led to believe it will. By all means, take Harris within the top-40, just beware of his injury risk. We’ll see how he looks on Friday after he was cleared to play against Perth.

    Jahlil Okafor, PF/C, New Orleans Pelicans

    Okafor was once a top-3 pick in the NBA draft and now he’s struggling the make the New Orleans Pelicans’ bench. He was most likely going to make the team and maybe even be able to carve out a role in the rotation before he suffered a right ankle sprain which will keep him out for the next 1-2 weeks. Two weeks is a lot of time for someone who might not make the roster to miss. It’s a shame because I do believe Okafor has some talent left in him, but he can’t seem to stay healthy and he still hasn’t fixed the same issues he had coming into the league.

    Don’t forget to check Hoop Ball every Monday and leave your Stock Up and Stock Down suggestions for the “Community Choice” player.

    You can also tweet me suggestions on Twitter @najeeadams_

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