• Welcome back Hoop Ball readers! This rendition of The Week Ahead will cover the preseason play thus far for various players and what to expect for the games this week.  Instead of the trade watch column from last week, we will have a rookie radar section that covers how some of the rookies are performing thus far.  Since there is no trade watch section, the update on the Jimmy Butler situation is that a deal between Miami and Minnesota was in place but fell apart. Butler is still in Minnesota with only nine days left until the regular season starts.

    The season is just over a week away, so if you did not draft your fantasy basketball team already you should be in preparation mode for the draft.  From witty team names to one-sided trades to intra-league trash talk, fantasy basketball season is my favorite time of year.  The Week Ahead will help you gain an edge over your friends and help you become the one bragging and doing the trash-talking. The preseason is important for everyone to shake the rust off, but it does not compare to the thrill that regular season NBA basketball brings to the fans.

    So let’s get started!

    ROOKIE RADAR

    Deandre Ayton – The No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft has put up outstanding numbers in the preseason thus far.  He has averages of 21.3 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in three games played.  Expect a huge season out of Ayton, who has proven that he is ready for the NBA spotlight.

    Luka Doncic – The top international prospect heading into the 2018 NBA Draft has put up averages of 13.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in two games thus far in the preseason.  He will have plenty of opportunities with the Mavs and should have a productive season.  It seems as though the Mavs lucked out that the Hawks were willing to swap Trae Young for Doncic on draft night.

    Trae Young-   The college basketball star has been scrutinized heavily by the media following his poor Summer League performances.  He shot the lights out at Oklahoma and is expected to do the same in the NBA, but he has shot the ball poorly so far even in the preseason.  He has averages of 13.0 points, 6.5 assists and 1.5 steals on 34.6 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from the 3-point line.  He must improve his shooting percentages in order to be a viable fantasy option for anything besides 3-pointers made this season.

    Miles Bridges –  Bridges has been one of the most efficient rookies this preseason and the Hornets have a lot of faith in the man they selected with the No. 11 pick in the draft.  He has averaged 15.7 points and 6.7 rebounds on 58.1 percent shooting from the field and 53.3 percent shooting from the 3-point line.  Bridges could have a huge role with the Hornets, a team that has struggled over the past few seasons at both forward positions.

    Marvin Bagley III – The second pick in the draft has not played well in Summer League or preseason and has many people including myself questioning whether or not he is the real deal. He will get the time to prove himself in Sacramento, but so far he has not stood out like he did at Duke. He is only averaging 11.3 points and 7.0 rebounds on 40.6 percent shooting from the field.

    Grayson Allen –  Bagley’s fellow Duke product has shown out in the preseason and seemingly carved himself a role in the Utah game plan. He has put up 13.7 points per game on 48.4 percent shooting from the field and 52.6 shooting from the 3-point line.  He was the star and leader on Bagley’s Duke team and will look to be a dynamic scorer off the bench for the Jazz this season.

    Collin Sexton – The Alabama point guard had a solid Summer League and is having an even better preseason for the Cavs.  The Cavs need a “replacement” for LeBron which is impossible, but looking towards the future and picking Sexton was a good move for their franchise. He needs to become a leader for the Cavs and help steer this franchise in the right direction even without King James. He has put up good scoring numbers in the preseason with a 14 points per game average and has hit 4-of-5 on three-point attempts in two games played.

    Kevin Knox –  The No. 9 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft has averages of 10.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals thus far in the preseason.  Knicks fans booed him on draft night and once again they are going to rue the day they booed Kevin Knox like they do with Kristaps Porzingis.  He will start for the Knicks and likely be the best small forward they have had since Carmelo Anthony.

    INJURY REPORT

    Lonnie Walker IV (torn meniscus) will likely need six-to-eight weeks to recover and will miss the start of the season.  The Spurs’ first round draft pick was slated to play solid minutes for the Spurs this season and this is a big blow for them. He will undergo surgery on Monday, October 8th and his official timetable for return will be determined after the surgery.

    Eric Gordon (foot) tweaked his foot in Sunday’s exhibition game, but will be ready for the start of the season. Mike D’Antoni said Gordon could have played through the foot issue if they needed him to play. However, the injury-prone guard is someone that the Rockets should take precaution with so they wisely decided to rest him. He will provide scoring and threes in fantasy when healthy, but health has always been his biggest obstacle.

    Clint Capela (bruised hand) should be fine according to head coach Mike D’Antoni. He sat out most of the second half of Sunday’s preseason game, but the injury is not serious so do not hesitate to draft him in fantasy. Capela will be a great source of rebounds and blocks and will even provide sufficient scoring on an excellent percentage from the field as well.

    Dejounte Murray (knee) appeared to have suffered a scary injury against the Rockets on Sunday, but was able to walk off under his own power and waved off the wheelchair they brought out for him.  He did not return to the game and will get an MRI on Monday.  Murray was poised for a breakout season so this is a huge blow for the Spurs if it is anything serious.

    Jahlil Okafor (ankle sprain) will likely miss the next week or two, but should be back and ready right around the start of the regular season. He will likely make the team, but he will not have any fantasy relevance.

    Derrick Jones Jr. (shoulder) has been ruled out of Monday’s preseason game versus the Magic.  X-rays came back negative but he still has discomfort and will remain sidelined for the time being. He will likely be ready for the season opener if the Heat keep being cautious and resting him. He is another player who will have minuscule fantasy value even if he earns minutes for the Heat this season, though the fact that he keeps being trusted to make spot starts is interesting.

    Dirk Nowitzki (ankle) will have his status updated on October 12th. He will likely come off the bench this season and not play significant minutes, so spending a pick on Dirk is a waste even in the late rounds of standard-sized fantasy drafts.

    Harrison Barnes (hamstring) might miss the season opener as coach Rick Carlisle does not sound too content with where Barnes’ hamstring is at health-wise right now. Barnes will be a good source of scoring and rebounds when he is healthy, but it’s a red flag that his health is already in question.

Fantasy News

  • Kevin Porter Jr. - PG-SG - Cleveland Cavaliers

    The Cleveland Cavaliers have announced that they have officially acquired the draft rights to Kevin Porter Jr.

    This trade was confirmed on draft night but it has now officially gone through. Porter Jr. figures to see opportunities off the bench as a score first guard for a Cleveland team in desperate need of bench production in his first season. He'll get his first look with his new team in Summer League.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Stanley Johnson - SF - New Orleans Pelicans

    The Pelicans have opted to not extend a qualifying offer to Stanley Johnson, making him an unrestricted free agent according to Shams Charania of the Athletic.

    This doesn't come as much of a surprise. Johnson struggled to make much of an impact both in Detroit and in New Orleans this season, despite possessing defensive upside that has been mired by his inconsistencies elsewhere throughout his career. He's still 23, and should find an offer elsewhere for next season. Wherever that may be, he will have a long way to go before he will become fantasy relevant.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Derrick Favors - PF - Utah Jazz

    According to Shams Charania of the Athletic, Derrick Favors will field calls from several interested teams and act as if he will be an unrestricted FA, a sign that he doesn't expect the Jazz to pick up his team option.

    Favors has gone on the record indicating that he'd love to return to Utah, but it appears that they are interested in allocating the 17 million he would have made, elsewhere. Favors has always struggled to maximize his fantasy potential playing next to Rudy Gobert, and perhaps a situation with a less clogged paint could do more for his value.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Thomas Bryant - C - Washington Wizards

    Thomas Bryant has been given a qualifying offer from the Wizards, making him a restricted free agent.

    Bryant surprised last season, coming from obscurity to finish with top-125/100 value (8/9-cat). That despite Scott Brooks toying with his minutes. If the Wizards can keep Bryant around last season's workload he'll easily be a steal in fantasy leagues, though we're obviously hoping he takes hold of the starting job.

    Source: Fred Katz on Twitter

  • Romeo Langford - PG - Boston Celtics

    The Celtics start Summer League practice this weekend but first-round pick Romeo Langford will not be cleared for full contact.

    Langford is recovering from right thumb surgery, which is not expected to have any significant long-term effects. This is just the Celtics taking it easy on their new rookie. Hopefully he's cleared before Summer League ends, otherwise we'll get our first look at him in preseason.

    Source: Adam Himmelsbach on Twitter

  • Enes Kanter - C - Trail Blazers

    The Blazers, Lakers and Celtics are among the teams that will be interested in free agent Enes Kanter, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

    Portland knows Kanter well and would surely like to have him back after his admirable work filling in for an injured Jusuf Nurkic, while playing through his own serious ailments, in the playoffs. The Celtics could use a ferocious rebounder to replace Aron Baynes and are barren at the center spot with Al Horford's departure, while the Lakers are lining up cost-effective depth with their roster almost completely empty. Kanter might not replicate his Knicks numbers, but he'll be a standard-league asset no matter where he lands.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Cheick Diallo - PF - New Orleans Pelicans

    Cheick Diallo will be an unrestricted free agent after the Pelicans decided not to extend him a qualifying offer.

    Diallo has solid per-minute output but the playing time has never been there for him in New Orleans. He's got talent and good work ethic, but the league is flooded with available big men at the moment. Hopefully Diallo lands in a spot where he can continue his development.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Nikola Mirotic - PF - Milwaukee Bucks

    Nikola Mirotic is another player on the Mavs' list of free agent targets, per Brad Townsend of the Dallas News.

    Mirotic is not as high on the list as Patrick Beverley, but the Mavs see the stretch forward as a potential fit. While Mirotic ended the postseason out of the rotation for Milwaukee, he's going to be a hot commodity given his floor-spacing and should hold solid standard-league value no matter where he ends up.

    Source: Dallas News

  • Tobias Harris - SF - Philadelphia Sixers

    The Clippers, Mavs, Nets, Nuggets, Wolves, Kings, Grizzlies and Pelicans are expected to be interested in Tobias Harris once free agency opens.

    The Clippers are the most surprising team on the list, but only because they dealt Harris unexpectedly last season. Even so, the team and player had success together and the relationship wasn't necessarily damaged by the deal. Harris is one of the top second-tier free agents available and should have his pick of competitive offers. The Sixers are said to be confident about re-signing him, but they won't be able to do so without a fight.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Julius Randle - PF - New Orleans Pelicans

    The Bulls are expected to indicate "early interest" in Julius Randle, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.

    Randle is coming off a career year and is looking to cash in. The Bulls have plenty of space available and won't be in the mix for max players, so there's definitely a fit salary-wise if Chicago can get in on Randle before other teams pivot off the top players. It would be a pain for fantasy players however, as Randle joining a frontcourt that already features Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. would put a cap on each player. The Knicks and Nets are also interested in Randle, and we'll hear about more suitors in the coming days.

    Source: The Athletic