• It feels so good to say this.

    WE’REEEEEE BACCCKKKK!!

    Remember last season when you were saying that you were done with fantasy basketball because one of your top-3 picks choked the championship game for you? Yeah, well here you are again. Don’t worry it happens to us all and we’re glad you’re back and choosing Hoop-Ball for your fantasy hoops advice yet again.

    It’s been a pretty big offseason to say the least. We got the best player in the world going to one of the most popular franchises in the world, we finally got some closure on the Kawhi Leonard situation and last but not least, the Warriors literally solidified a starting lineup of five All-Stars.

    That’s the thing about fantasy though, you roll with the punches.

    Preseason is about to kick into gear and don’t worry, there will be a Stock Watch for each week of the preseason because I know you don’t have time to watch the Hornets’ and Clippers’ third string point guards go at it for two quarters. No matter who’s playing, I think we can all agree that it’s just good to have basketball back.

    Okay, now we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty. Stock Watch is going to be slightly different this season, there will still be the main players and the honorable mentions but we’re going to add in a “Community Choice” spot for each section. So, what that means is for both Stock Up and Stock Down there will be a player featured that is recommended by a reader or Hoop-Ball staff member.

    Now you might be wondering how readers will send in their choices for the spot, it’s pretty simple. There are really two ways: readers can either shoot me a message on Twitter or they can comment on the forum post that will be on the Hoop-Ball website every week. All in all, it should serve as a good way to get the readers more involved and also give an opinion outside of my own.

    Now, with all of that said, let’s get into the first Stock Watch of the season.

    Stock Up

    Kevin Love, PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers

    It’s pretty clear as to why Love is one of the players whose stock rose this offseason. He’s no longer playing with LeBron James and for the first time in four years he’s the best player in his team. The last time Love was the best player on his team he averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.5 triples while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and finished as the sixth-best player in fantasy.

    Now yes, that was in 2014 and Love might not be that exact same player but he’ll definitely have all the opportunity he needs to show whether or not he is. In his last season with Minnesota, Love attempted 18.5 shots per game and while he was in Cleveland he never attempted more than 14.5 in a season. He’s shown flashes of that dominating player he once was every now and then, including his most recent showing being in the NBA Finals where Love averaged 19.0 points, 2.3 threes, 11.3 rebounds, and 1.0 steal.

    In three of Love’s last four seasons in Minnesota he finished as a top-6 fantasy player, which shows how good he can be when he’s the focal point of the offense. Now of course the Cavs have Colin Sexton, J.R. Smith, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood who could all very well take shots away from Love, but he should still get more work than he’s had in any of his seasons playing with LeBron.

    For some reason Love always seems to fall in drafts, whether it be because of injury risk or the pure fact that he hasn’t been a top-25 player since he joined the Cavs. However, Love has finished inside of the top-40 in each of his years with Cleveland. So if his floor is a top-40 player and his ceiling is a top-10 player, why wouldn’t you take a chance on that? I know I would.

    Dejounte Murray, PG, San Antonio Spurs 

    The absence of Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard might lead to the breakout of Dejounte Murray. In his last 34 games of the season he was averaging 26.5 minutes and Parker was averaging 18.1. In that time span, Murray was the 85th-ranked player in fantasy with averages of 10.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals on .469 shooting. He’s one of the best rebounding guards in the league so he’ll already give his owners that advantage, add to that the fact that he averaged 3.4 assists without a certified star player to next to him. Yes, LaMarcus Aldridge is good, but he’s no Kawhi Leonard or DeMar DeRozan.

    With DeRozan next to him, Murray should at least be able to get his assist numbers up to 5.0 dimes a game. He’s a stat sheet stuffer without much competition taking any minutes away from him not to mention the fact that Gregg Popovich seems to like him. No, he doesn’t shoot 3-pointers and doesn’t get to the line much but keep in mind he’s still only 22 years old.

    Murray won’t emerge as a bona fide star this season, and he may never. However, he will get you production in categories that other point guards usually don’t. Take a chance, have some faith and scoop Murray up in the late-middle rounds of your draft.

    Mario Hezonja, SF, New York Knicks 

    The Knicks now have the fourth and fifth picks in the 2015 NBA Draft in Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja. While Porzingis thrived, Hezonja got lost in the mess that was, and still is, the Orlando Magic. Hezonja hasn’t played more than 22.1 minutes per game in any of his three NBA seasons and he was on a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2011.

    Last year the Magic finally started to give the 22-year-old a chance, starting him in 30 games and he showed flashes of what they drafted him to be back in 2015. Well, now he’s on Knicks team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2013, probably won’t have their best player for the entire season and just signed him to a one-year “prove it” deal. In his last season in Orlando, Hezonja averaged 9.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.2 triples on 44.2 percent shooting from the field.

    He’s very capable of getting buckets from all areas on the floor as he can shoot the ball well and has much more athleticism than people seem to give him credit for. In fact, in the last 30 games of the season when Orlando was giving him 27.6 minutes per game he was the 73rd-ranked player in fantasy. On a Knicks team whose best scoring option is either Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke or rookie Kevin Knox, Hezonja has a big opportunity to finally burst through and show his potential.

    Not to mention, Michael Beasley has ditched the Knicks for the Lakers which leaves 10.9 shots open for the taking and there’s a good chance Hezonja scoops up a bunch of them. He’s a forward who can shoot the ball, get buckets and limit his turnovers in an offense begging for someone to step up and take that next step. He’s worth a pick in the back end of your draft simply based on the upside he provides.

    Honorable Mentions

    Will Barton, SG, Denver Nuggets

    With Wilson Chandler gone and Michael Porter Jr. injured for the foreseeable future, Barton will have no competition for the starting SF position in what should be a high-powered offense. Barton’s true shooting percentage has climbed each year he’s been in the league, and it sat at a remarkable 56.2% last season with no reason to think that can’t improve even more heading into next season. He only started in 41 of his 81 games played and still managed to average the second-most minutes on the entire team with 33.1 a night. He’s a crucial part of this Denver offense because of his versatility and his ability to score the ball from all areas on the court. When Barton gets hot, there aren’t many players in the league that can hang with him. He had the best year of his career last year with averages of 15.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.0 steal while shooting 37 percent from the perimeter. We can definitely expect those numbers to rise even more this upcoming season.

    Markelle Fultz, PG, Philadelphia 76ers

    Last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick had a tumultuous season, even reportedly losing his jump shot at some point. Well, here we are a year later with the Sixers expected to make the Eastern Conference Finals and Fultz expected to show us why he was such a highly touted player coming out of college. His jump shot has reportedly been re-worked and he’s said to be looking pretty good in training camp. He’ll serve as the point guard for a Sixers team loaded with potential and talent. His assists will be capped by the fact that Ben Simmons handles the ball a ton, but that also means he’ll be able to work off the ball and get some open buckets. If you’re looking for a point guard once all the surefire ones are gone, Fultz probably won’t be a bad option.

    Stock Down

    DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, Golden State Warriors 

    The Warriors are absolutely stacked and are most likely on their way to a third straight NBA Championship, but DeMarcus Cousins’ overall outlook this season has been severely diminished. He was already coming off of a ruptured Achilles so his potential this season wasn’t that high to begin with, but now he’s on a team with four other All-Stars with two of them being top-5 players in the league.

    The Warriors are the first team ever to have three players who averaged more than 25 points the season prior and the first team in 40-plus years to have five All-Stars from the previous season. While that’s amazing for Golden State as a franchise, for Cousins it means that they won’t be needing to rush him back. Golden State could probably sit him out the entire season, win 60-plus games, be a top-2 seed in the West and then unleash him in the playoffs. Will they do that? Probably not, but the fact that it’s even a possibility puts a huge damper on Cousins’ fantasy value.

    It’s more likely that Cousins returns somewhere around Christmas, but even then he probably won’t get more than 20 minutes per game for a couple of weeks if not months. He’ll constantly be rested as the Warriors can beat most teams with just half of their starting lineup and they’d have no reason to push his limits. His top-10 usage rate of 32.4 from last season will go down exponentially when playing with the starting unit, so he won’t be shooting the ball nearly as much in the Bay Area as he did in New Orleans. Even if he plays a ton of time with the second unit, his minutes will be capped almost every night and there’s no way he’ll be able to average the 25.2 points and 2.2 threes he did last season. He probably won’t even even come close to that.

    Cousins hasn’t averaged less than 22.7 points since the 2013-2014 NBA season and he’s constantly been able to keep his rebounding numbers in the double digits. What made Boogie such an amazing fantasy player is that he was a dominant scoring option, got the boards, the occasional blocks and had the ball in his hands so much. Maybe his assists will be able to stay the same, but that’s about the only thing you can hope for when he’s with a team as stacked as Golden State.

    Lonzo Ball, PG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Ball’s stock was already down since the Lakers managed to sign LeBron James this offseason and now it’s dropping even more with Rajon Rondo being announced as the starting point guard to kick off the preseason. Just like Cousins and the Warriors, the moves the Lakers made benefited them as a franchise, but not Ball as a fantasy asset.

    LeBron will most likely always handle the ball when he’s on the court and Ball hasn’t shown himself to be the best shooter, which is why his fit within the offense was questioned once the Lakers inked James. Now, with the Lakers announcement that Rondo will be starting over Ball (at least until Lonzo gets back to full health), this just throws even more of a wrench into an already murky fantasy situation. Not to mention the fact that Ball’s health has continued to be an issue throughout the offseason, with him just being cleared for 5-on-5 games earlier this week.

    He’s gotten noticeably stronger and has said that his goal this season is to play 82 games, but there is a very slim chance that happens in all honesty. He has so much potential in an offense that might actually surprise a couple of people, but the fact that he isn’t starting coupled with his injury woes doesn’t sit well with me. However, the Lakers are very aware that Ball is their future point guard and Rondo is on a one-year deal so it’s very possible Ball could be in the starting lineup as soon as he looks 100 percent. Also, he averaged 34.2 minutes last year so coach Luke Walton isn’t afraid of playing Ball big minutes.

    Overall, had the Lakers not signed Rondo this could’ve been a big season for Ball, and it still could be. However, the chances have drastically diminished.

    Isaiah Thomas, PG, Denver Nuggets 

    Isaiah Thomas continues to his fall from grace as he will now be serving as the backup point guard for the Denver Nuggets. Just two seasons ago, Thomas was in the MVP race and averaging 28.9 points, 5.9 assists and 3.2 triples. Now, he’ll be backing up Jamal Murray in Denver.

    In his time as a backup last season for Lonzo Ball and the Lakers, Thomas didn’t do so well. In 17 games he averaged 15.6 points, 5.0 assists and 1.9 triples in 26.8 minutes. However, he also attempted 13.4 shots per game and shot .383 from the field. The Lakers’ offense was much worse than the Nuggets’ and he probably won’t get the opportunity to take as many shots. In fact, only three players on the entire Nuggets roster took more than 13 shots per game last season: Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray. Not even Will Barton, who averaged the second-most minutes on the team with 33.1, took 13 shots — he was just short with 12.7.

    Thomas still believes he’s the same player he was two years ago, and maybe he is. However, he hasn’t shown it and he’s not on a team that needs him to, so his upside isn’t anywhere close to what we thought it would be last year at this time. Don’t be the guy that drafts him believing that he’s still that same MVP caliber guy and end up getting burned, because it will happen.

    Honorable Mentions

    Dennis Schroder, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Schroder was perhaps one of the people whose stock took the biggest hit this offseason. He went from the starting point guard of a horrible Hawks team with a ton of opportunity for him to jack up shots, to a playoff-bound Thunder team with triple-double machine and future Hall-of-Famer Russell Westbrook in front of him. Now, Westbrook underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on his right knee this offseason, the same knee that Patrick Beverly injured all those years ago in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs. However, this surgery is only expected to sideline him for the first few games of the season, if that. So for the first few games of the season, when Schroder will most likely play well, try to sell him high then, because it will undoubtedly happen. The drafting of Trae Young ruined Schroder’s fantasy value, and don’t expect him to get it back being behind Westbrook, who’s played 80 games in each of the last three seasons. He’ll still hold value off the bench and he’s not “undraftable” by any means, just tempter expectations.

    Josh Hart, SG/SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    After tearing it up in Summer League and garnering the praise of multiple big time NBA players it was looking like Hart might actually start for the Lakers next season. Well, a couple months later and the Lakers have re-signed KCP as well as adding Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley, all of which might eat into Hart’s playing time. He’ll be a valuable player for the Lakers and looked as though he’d be a second-year player ready to take a leap into stardom, however, with all of the Lakers’ new editions he might not get enough playing time to even stay fantasy relevant most nights, which is truly Hartbreaking. (See what I did there?)

    So there it is, the first Stock Watch of the new season with many more to come. 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_.

Fantasy News

  • Wesley Johnson - F/G - Los Angeles Clippers

    The Clippers have traded Wesley Johnson to the Pelicans for Alexis Ajinca, who will be waived along with Juwan Evans.

    The Clippers needed to waive two players and it is cheaper to waive Ajinca than it is to waive Johnson. Evans was buried on the depth chart but should be able to surface somewhere with at least a G-league contract.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Taurean Prince - F - Atlanta Hawks

    The Hawks have picked up the team options for Taurean Prince, John Collins and DeAndre Bembry.

    There is no surprise here. Between Prince, Collins and Bembry, the Hawks have seemed to hit on all three despite them being drafted 12th, 19th and 21st respectively. Between these three, the three first round picks from June's draft (Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Omari Spellman) and another year of tanking, the Hawks may have something brewing with their young talent.

    Source: Chris Vivlamore on Twitter

  • Russell Westbrook - G - Oklahoma City Thunder

    Thunder coach Billy Donavan said the team has prepared both having and not having Russell Westbrook as they are still unsure if he will play in Tuesday's opener.

    Donavan also said Westbrook has been doing more everyday, but still needs to be evaluated after workouts. We still have not heard anything about Westbrook being cleared for contact, which is not a good sign one day before the game. If there was a player who would play the same day he was cleared for contact, it'd be Russ, but the Thunder have no reason to push him for the first game of the season. Either way Dennis Schroeder should see extended run in what projects to be a high scoring game against the Warriors.

    Source: Erik Horne on Twitter

  • Dwight Howard - C - Washington Wizards

    Dwight Howard (buttocks) was a full participant in practice Monday.

    With the Dwight Howard butt jokes out of the way, this is actually very good news for the big man. The Wizards were planning on starting the season without Howard, but he may be recovering quicker than originally planned. Ian Mahinmi would likely start in his place if he were to miss time. Keep an eye on his status as the season approaches.

    Source: Ben Standig on Twitter

  • Gordon Hayward - F - Boston Celtics

    Brad Stevens said Monday Gordon Hayward will have a minutes restriction of 25-to-30 minutes for the first few weeks of the season.

    This is as expected, given how horrific Hayward's injury was. Hayward may need some meaningful game-reps to shake off any potential mental barriers of returning. Once he gets going he should be a good bet for early-mid round value.

    Source: Brian Robb on Twitter

  • Emmanuel Mudiay - G - New York Knicks

    Emmanuel Mudiay did not practice Monday due to a sprained right ankle.

    Mudiay has been terrible so far this preseason and has potentially played himself out of the rotation. Whoever ends up starting for the Knicks will likely be in an ugly timeshare that will have trouble producing fantasy value.

    Source: Ian Begley on Twitter

  • Lance Thomas - F - New York Knicks

    Lance Thomas (hip soreness) sat out Monday's practice.

    Thomas also missed Sunday's practice due to a sore knee. Two injuries in two days so close to the start of the season is not an encouraging sign. Thomas' status is one to monitor. If he is out, Mario Hezonja is likely next in line to start at power forward.

    Source: Ian Begley on Twitter

  • Dennis Smith Jr. - G - Dallas Mavericks

    The Mavericks have picked up the option on Dennis Smith Jr.'s contract for the 2019-2020 season.

    Not surprising to anyone. DSJ has shown improvement off-the-ball in the preseason along with his elite athleticism. He has a chance to form a dangerous tandem with Luka Doncic for a long time. He's got mid-round potential if his improvements carry into the regular season.

    Source: Dwain Price on Twitter

  • Vince Carter - G/F - Atlanta Hawks

    Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said Vince Carter will start the season opener against the Knicks.

    Carter has denied retirement right into the starting lineup for his age-41 season. He will be playing the four with John Collins out, but it's unlikely he gets enough minutes to hold fantasy value.

    Source: Michael Cunningham on Twitter

  • Trae Young - G - Atlanta Hawks

    Lloyd Pierce said Trae Young will start the season opener against the Knicks.

    The Hawks are clearly tanking and have no reason not to get Young the experience right away. Jeremy Lin has not looked fully healthy yet and Young has shown his highlight-reel shooting and passing throughout the preseason. Young should be able to get a healthy amount of points, 3-pointers, assists and steals, but his shot selection and turnovers will limit his value.

    Source: Michael Cunningham on Twitter