October 18, 2017, 10:05 am
Well, we’re finally here.
The NBA season has begun and fantasy basketball is back in full effect. Most of you have probably already completed your drafts and are excited to see how your sleepers” and steals perform, waiting to see who turns out to be a bust and who ends up winning you your league.
Well, so am I.
Everyone always says not to put too much stock into the preseason, but why not? No, rotations aren’t completely finalized, but its definitely possible to see trends in the way a team plays in the preseason and realize whether or not they’ll carry it into the regular season. It’s clear to see when a player, or a player’s situation, has vastly improved and when it’s worsened.
So without further ado, I bring you the inaugural edition of “Stock Watch,” where I’ll be taking a look at which players are trending in the right direction, and which are trending downwards in the world of fantasy basketball.
Aaron Gordon, PF, Orlando Magic
The darling of the fantasy world this preseason. Before the Magic started their preseason, Gordon could be taken somewhere around round eight or nine in most drafts. You would’ve been lucky to snag him in the sixth by the end of draft season. His low ADP was partly due to ESPN’s ridiculous ranking of 117, behind teammates Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic who all fall in the top-100. Gordon was even behind players such as Marcus Morris, Greg Monroe, Pau Gasol and Enes Kanter, two of which don’t even start.
Gordon came out and shredded that ranking this preseason, averaging 18.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 0.6 assists in only 23.9 minutes, all while shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from beyond the arc. It’s not like Gordon wasn’t attempting threes either, he shot 4.2 per game and was able to knock them down at a very efficient clip. Now of course the assists numbers could go up, but when you drafted Gordon you weren’t expecting him to be a viable source of threes, so you’ll have to take the good with the bad. The amazing thing about that though, is that the good severely outweighs the bad.
Last year Gordon spend a lot of time out of position at SF because Serge Ibaka occupied the PF spot. With Ibaka now in Toronto and the Magic acquiring Jonathon Simmons on top of already having Terrence Ross, the PF position is once again Gordon’s for the taking.
He’ll have a ton of opportunity on a Magic team that is destined to be bad again, and he’ll be fighting for a contract next season after not reaching an extension agreement with Orlando. Gordon is betting on himself this season, and fantasy owners should be betting on him too. If you took Gordon on draft day, enjoy being a part of his breakout season as he could crack top-50 value, and to those of you who stole him in the eighth and ninth rounds of your draft, consider yourself lucky.
Josh Richardson, G/F, Miami Heat
Josh Richardson has been a breakout candidate for the last two years, and this might finally be his time. Last year was a shaky, injury riddled season for Richardson as he returned mid-season to a Heat team that had already formed an identity without him. He only played 53 games last year, only one better than the 52 he played his rookie season, so the injury risk is there. However, the reward you could be receiving is very much worth that risk.
Richardson is in entering his third year, which is usually where players either show that they truly belong in the league, or fall short and end up getting waived or traded. I’d be willing to bet that Richardson proves that he belongs.
He’s extremely versatile in that he can play the one, two and three positions on a team. Which means the Heat will be able to find minutes for him no matter what. Justise Winslow was drafted with Josh Richardson, and frankly Richardson has shown much more promise, so there’s no way they don’t make time for him. Not only is he versatile in the positions he plays, but in his skillset as well. J-Rich can knock down threes, get to the basket and play lockdown defense all while never logging more than 31 minutes per game.
He showed off his versatility this preseason, averaging 13.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.2 assist and 1.4 steals. Not to mention 1.6 blocks, which was first among all qualified shooting guards and small forwards. Richardson led the Heat in points, blocks, steals and minutes this preseason, which is a sign of things to come. The recent injury to Rodney McGruder only makes more time for Richardson and paves the way for what could be a top-100 finish this year. He’ll produce for you in literally every category and for a guy you’re probably taking in the late rounds, you can’t get much better than that.
Justin Holiday, SG, Chicago Bulls
Unlike the previous two, Justin Holiday has never been considered a player that is ready to break out. However, due to the Bulls’ injury woes he’ll have a large amount of opportunity, and opportunity usually equates to fantasy production. The Bulls are missing both Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine until at least the middle of November, maybe later. In their absence Justin Holiday plans to carve himself out a permanent role in the offense.
Justin Holiday is without a doubt the best player the Bulls have available right now. Bet you’d never guess those words would ever be said. Nikola Mirotic is sidelined indefinitely, Bobby Portis is likely getting suspended and Lauri Markkanen is a rookie, leaving just Holiday, Denzel Valentine, Jerian Grant and Robin Lopez. Valentine clearly isn’t ready to produce at a high level, Jerian Grant is still a raw talent and Robin Lopez has proved that he isn’t very fantasy relevant many times.
Just how much the Bulls will need to rely on Holiday was shown during the preseason. He averaged 18.6 points, while no other player on the roster averaged more than 12.2. Along with the points, he put up 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals while leading the team in minutes with 27.7 per game. Holiday took 13.6 shots per game, once again, the most on the team. He knocked them down at an incredibly efficient rate though, shooting .456 percent from the field and .529 percent from deep. His usage rate will likely be through the roof and he definitely didn’t cost fantasy owners anything more than a late round pick – he might even still be available in some leagues. If that’s the case, I’d scoop him up immediately because he could put up top-100 value even when LaVine and Dunn return.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Taytum, SF’s, Boston Celtics: With Gordon Hayward suffering a likely season ending injury in the opener, minutes and opportunity will open up for both Brown and Tatum. While Tatum is likely owned in your league already, Brown’s ownership percentage is much lower. Make sure you change that.
Kyle Kuzma, PF, Los Angeles Lakers : Clearly the Lakers aren’t set on who they want to start at the PF position, and coach Luke Walton has said himself that Kuzma is too good to keep off the floor. He and Lonzo Ball seemed to have great chemistry during Summer League, so if he’s available in a deep league and you have an open roster spot give him a look.
Lauri Markkanen, PF, Chicago Bulls : With Bobby Portis likely suspended and Nikola Mirotic out indefinitely, Markkanen’s path to the starting lineup is as clear as day. He’ll get opportunity on a Bulls team that will likely struggle to score, but it’ll be hard to trust him. Still, he has a good amount of upside and is definitely trending in the right direction.
Norman Powell, SG/SF, Toronto Raptors: Powell just got inked to a four-year, $42 million extension and the Raptors clearly have faith in him. He’ll be starting over C.J. Miles and had a great preseason. The Raptors will be expecting him to score more in order to help out DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry and he’s definitely capable of it. He’ll be a reliable source of points and threes with massive upside if Lowry or Derozan were to miss time.
Alex Len, C, Phoenix Suns: He had an incredibly strong preseason and the Suns are still in rebuild mode. He’s one Tyson Chandler injury/trade away from playing big minutes, and we all know big minutes equal opportunity and opportunity gives more chances for fantasy production.
Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have been patient with Randle, giving him time to grow. Maybe because they believe in him, or maybe because there was no one that was more promising on the roster at the time. Either way, the patience seems to finally have run dry.
It’s been going around that the Lakers are thinking about benching Randle, in lieu of starting either Larry Nance Jr. or Kyle Kuzma with Nance being the favorite as of now.
If this is true, that spells disaster for Randle’s fantasy value.
Randle is a player that is fueled by emotion, and he may not respond well to being benched. The Lakers are looking to run in transition a ton, and have rookie point guard Lonzo Ball to throw those full court outlet passes he’s famous for. Having the extremely versatile Kuzma or uber athletic Nance on the floor would make more sense for the Lakers anyway. Randle didn’t quite impress this preseason either, averaging 13.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and only 1.5 assists throughout six games. He also shot an atrocious .200 percent from deep while attempting 1.7 threes per game.
The appeal with Randle is that he provides the Lakers, and your fantasy team, assists at the big man position. However, Kyle Kuzma averaged more assists than him at 1.8, averaged more points at 17.3, has a much better shooting stroke and only averaged three less rebounds in the same number of games.
Randle is one of the last remaining players of the Lakers’ old regime as they’ve already shipped out D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn. Not to mention trade rumors that have been floating around about Jordan Clarkson since the offseason. Randle’s days in LA are numbered, and his time on your fantasy team might be too. I’m not saying flat out drop him, but definitely look to trade him before his bench role is officially secured.
Per FantasyPros, he has an ADP of 65.3 which likely means he was likely taken over players like Clint Capela, Tobias Harris and even Aaron Gordon. You’ll get much more value if you were to just trade Randle and go and see if Larry Nance Jr. or Kyle Kuzma are on your waiver wire. Chances are at least one of them is.
Markelle Fultz, PG, Philadelphia 76ers
“Markelle Fultz is winning Rookie of the Year. He’s the best scorer in the draft, his shot is beautiful and him and Ben Simmons will gel perfectly together.”
That’s what could be heard coming from NBA fans all over when Fultz was first drafted four months ago.
Now, it’s a whole different story.
The 19-year-old Markelle Fultz is likely being benched for the 29-year-old Jerryd Bayless.
Yes, you read that right. Jerryd Bayless.
Whether is was his broken shot, awkward free throw or injured shoulder, Fultz looked awful this preseason. He played just two games due to his shoulder, and averaged 8.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.5 steals in 23.5 minutes per game. Not only was he not effective, he wasn’t efficient either. Fultz shot a horrific .292 percent from the field while not making a single three pointer although he averaged 1.5 attempts throughout the two games.
He couldn’t seem to hold on to the ball either, putting up 2.5 turnovers per game. He’s just shaping up to be a headache for fantasy owners. He’ll likely be in and out of the lineup due to injuries, and won’t even start when he’s active. He’ll ruin your field goal percentage, maybe even your free throw percentage and won’t contribute nearly enough in other categories to warrant his 75.0 ADP per FantasyPros.
Trade Fultz now to an owner who will take him based on his name and hype alone, get a top-75 player in return and be happy that you won’t have to deal with him all season because this isn’t a process I plan on trusting.
T.J. Warren, SF, Phoenix Suns
T.J. Warren was one of the waiver pickups of the year last season as he came out of nowhere and helped many fantasy owners due to his ability to contribute in multiple categories.
However, the Suns drafted SF Josh Jackson with the fourth pick in this year’s draft and he’s been playing great in the preseason. Meanwhile, Warren missed most of the preseason with an injury, only playing two games. Jackson made the case that he could do everything that Warren could, which spells bad news for T.J.
The good thing is that the Suns like to move Josh Jackson to different positions, sometimes he’ll play the two, maybe even the four. Warren’s situation isn’t as bad as the previous two guys, but he’s still a young player and if he doesn’t prove himself to be valuable when the season begins he could easily be shipped out of Phoenix because they know they’ll have Jackson ready if need be.
I wouldn’t actively be trying to trade Warren just yet, but if an offer comes your way don’t hesitate to accept or counter it if necessary.
Terrence Ross, SF, Orlando Magic: The emergence of Jonathon Simmons puts a huge damper on Ross. Simmons had a better preseason, is more versatile and defends the ball much better than Ross. It’s only a matter of time until Ross is benched or put in a 50/50 timeshare, if that hasn’t happened already.
Dwyane Wade, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers: Wade had a subpar performance on opening night, and was definitely outplayed by J.R. Smith. If this continues, it’s only a matter of time before coach Tyronn Lue switches their roles, relegating Wade to a bench spot. If that happens, Wade might become drop worthy. Plus, his value will severely decrease when Isaiah Thomas returns post All-Star break.
Willy Hernangomez, C, New York Knicks: The Knicks’ rotations are a mess right now. Maybe its just because it was preseason and they didn’t want to give up their lineups but I doubt it. Hernangomez is giving up minutes to both Kyle O’Quinn and Enes Kanter. He was drafted with the expectations that he’ll start, which he should, but with the Knicks you just never know.