• 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

  • 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