• 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.

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