• 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

  • Hamidou Diallo - G - Oklahoma City Thunder

    Hamidou Diallo puts his stamp on the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest by beating Dennis Smith Jr., John Collins, and Miles Bridges.

    Diallo arguably delivered one of the greatest performances in Slam Dunk Contest history by jumping over the seven-footer Shaquille O'Neal and throwing down a vicious elbow dunk. He left the crowd mesmerized and gave them a moment to remember in an otherwise lopsided contest. As incredible he might be tonight, fantasy owners shouldn't really give him a look unless they're in deep leagues.

  • Joe Harris - G/F - Brooklyn Nets

    Joe Harris was scorching hot during the entirety of Saturday's 3-point shootout as he bested Stephen Curry with 26 made three-point shots in the final round.

    Harris put an end to Curry's storybook ending of winning the 3-point contest in his hometown of Charlotte by besting him and Buddy Hield. It's no surprise that Harris was a dark-horse candidate entering the contest since he's been hot all season long from behind the arc, making 47 percent of his shots. In the past week, Harris has been rewarding his owners with top-20 value with averages of 22.7 points with 4.7 threes per game on 67.6% shooting. If you could sell high on him, now would be the perfect time.

  • Jayson Tatum - F - Boston Celtics

    Jayson Tatum clinched the Taco Bell All-Star Skills Challenge by draining a half-court shot to beat Trae Young in the finals of the competition.

    Tatum sealed the deal in this one and is responsible for one of the most exciting finishes in Skills Challenge history. For the past month, Tatum has been posting Top-40 value with 16.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 blocks and shooting 46 percent from the field. He's currently cruising as an early-middle round guy and should be even better once the Celtics find their footing.

  • Jayson Tatum - F - Boston Celtics

    Jayson Tatum clinched the All-Star Skills Challenge by draining a half-court a half-court shot to beat Trae Young in the finals of the competition.

    Tatum sealed the deal on this one and is responsible for one of the most exciting finishes in Skills Challenge history. For the past month, Tatum has been posting Top-40 value with 16.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 blocks and shooting 46 percent from the field. He's currently cruising as a early-middle round guy and should be even better once the Celtics find their footing.

  • Hasheem Thabeet - C - Oklahoma City Thunder

    Hasheem Thabeet worked out for the Rockets, Raptors and Pistons while the teams were in Charlotte for All-Star weekend.

    Thabeet was the second overall pick in the 2009 draft by the Grizzlies and was quickly one of the biggest busts in NBA history. He was the highest overall pick to be sent to the then D-League until Anthony Bennett secured the top spot. Thabeet is somehow still only 31 years old, and 7'2" centers can certainly provide value in today's NBA, but it's unlikely Thabeet finds his way back into the league. He's currently playing in the Japanese B-League.

    Source: Keith Pompey on Twitter

  • Dirk Nowitzki - F - Dallas Mavericks

    Dirk Nowitzki said he has not made any final decision on if this is his last season.

    "I haven't said this will be it," Nowitzki said, "I'm going to wait and see the last couple of weeks, how my body feels and if I continue to see improvement and I'm still having fun, we'll see." While Dirk has been treating this season as a retirement tour, there's still a chance we see him playing next season.

    Source: Brad Townsend on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis - F/C - New Orleans Pelicans

    Anthony Davis (left shoulder contusion) said he is unsure if he will play in the All-Star game on Sunday.

    Davis said the plan is to play, but we will have to wait and see if he's feeling okay. He's certainly not worried about saving himself for the second-half of the season.

    Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter

  • Kyrie Irving - G - Boston Celtics

    Kyrie Irving (right knee strain) says he is healthy and plans to play in Sunday's All-Star game.

    Irving missed the Celtics' last two games but fantasy owners shouldn't expect him to miss any more with the current injury. Terry Rozier was a hot pickup when Irving initially went down but now goes back to being a handcuff. Irving has put up top-10 per-game value this year with no holes in his fantasy game but he has already missed 11 games. He has missed at least 10 games in seven of his eight NBA seasons so this is something fantasy owners should already be used to.

    Source: Gary Washburn on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis - F/C - New Orleans Pelicans

    Anthony Davis said that the Celtics are on his list of preferred destinations.

    Moreover, Davis added "they were never not on my list," though he also confirmed that the initial reports of his list including the Knicks, Lakers, Clippers and Bucks were true. Initially it had been said that the Celtics are not a preferred landing spot, and Davis' dad would rather his son play elsewhere. It sounds like everything is on the table now that his push to end up on the Lakers has failed, as Davis also said "all 29 teams" (sorry New Orleans) are on his list. Get ready for more updates on AD's thoughts as the season rolls on.

    Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter

  • Nikola Jokic - C - Denver Nuggets

    The Nuggets have agreed to extensions with president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and GM Arturas Karnisovas.

    The Nuggets haven't reached the playoffs in the last five seasons but will surely end that streak this year. Their abundance of talent and depth currently has them in second place in the Western Conference although Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Will Barton and Isaiah Thomas have all been injured for much of the season. Their draft choices and player development over the years has been a big catalyst for this as one could look at Nikola Jokic and the breakout seasons of Jamal Murray, Torrey Craig, Monte Morris and Malik Beasley, all of them having been with Denver since their first day in the NBA.

    Source: Denver Post