• Draft season is mostly over and it’s that time of the year where I reflect on who really ended up being Hoop Ball guys in a list known as The Hoop Ball Six.

    Of course, you’ll always want to use the Bruski 150 and all of our other content as the backbone of your draft research, which gives you the most up to date rankings and gets you ready for your draft.

    The purpose of this article is to celebrate the winners from our evaluation process and a lot of that has to do with how things play out on the final Friday before the season starts. NBA squads really start to dig into some of the hard questions, injury situations come to a head and it all happens in a flurry right before Draft Weekend.

    It’s also a time during Draft Season where other sites, other owners and various industry folks have put their flag in the ground and I can get a full sense of what happened in the marketplace.

    So, the HB6 is a fun dessert with the B150 being the main course and all of our other content being loads of appetizers that put together should give you enough to gorge on and dominate your drafts.

    So, without further ado, I give you the Hoop Ball Six.

    Jonathan Isaac

    I had the hardest time getting my hands on Isaac because sites had overvalued him without really knowing what they were doing. News reports had been sparse on his minutes, and existing within a frontcourt of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Mo Bamba should have naturally kept the public evaluation around 20 mpg.

    There was no real talk of him playing small forward yet and along came a reminder about his ankle injury that should have depressed his value into the 80s and 90s in drafts but he was still flying off the shelf in the 60s. I was getting guys with valuations in the 30s and 40s while drafting in the 60s so I’d see Isaac go off the board and I’d go FAAAACK what are these people doing.

    Since then sites have hedged and said he’s a good mid-to-late round value and you can just subtract the ‘late’ part of that right off the bat. He’s a specimen that has all of the tools for an amazing fantasy game – the steals, the blocks, the threes, the foundation for good projections and his usage can only go up.

    He stands out on the floor as a massive difference-maker and the only real questions are ‘can he stay healthy’ and ‘can the Magic keep Aaron Gordon from gumming up the offense,’ which could delay some of the growth in Issac’s offense.

    Isaac should play minutes in the high 20s and we shouldn’t be asking if he finishes with mere late round value, but whether he can crack the top-50, which is the bet I’d rather have.

    Nikola Mirotic

    Mirotic should have been in last year’s Hoop Ball Six. He was close. You’ll see an honorable mentions list below and he was right on the top of it. I owned him practically everywhere. The venerable Dan Besbris (host of Fantasy NBA Today), was even higher on him than I was.

    When he got punched in the face and lost the early part of his year it was one of the stranger things that I’ve ever seen in Fantasy.

    But during the preseason you could see the added bulk and you could see the added nastiness that would be the precursor to an improving field goal percentage, which we predicted. He was able to get more easy looks and offset the downside of being a 3-point shooting big man.

    When he landed in New Orleans he was truly let loose and the pairing with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday is about as good as it gets. Some folks are concerned about the addition of Julius Randle but I actually think it’s great for Mirotic’s value. The trio will complement each other and most importantly, they’re going to be effective and that’s going to be a rising tide to lift all boats, but they’re also going to keep each other from taking on too much burden.

    In other words, they’ll help keep each other healthy, which is really the only concern I have for Mirotic. He took on some bumps and bruises in the playoffs, his hip didn’t seem right and the Pelicans have correctly kept him from too much work during the preseason. Those concerns are not enough to move me off predicting a big season for Mirotic.

    The best part is that if something were to happen to Anthony Davis there’s even some upside beyond what can be predicted. He has a big ol’ advantage in 9-cat leagues, where he has an easy early round floor and in 8-cat leagues he should be about a top-50 play. You’re getting that in the 60s and 70s or even the 80s in drafts. Hat tip to some of my brethren who push for him in 9-cat leagues in the 50s, but we’re out in front on this and in a big way. Plunder!

    Jonas Valanciunas

    You’ll see in the Honorable Mention section below that there are a couple of guys with higher ceilings and based on ADP jump in intermediate-to-beginner leagues, somebody like Enes Kanter could have easily taken this slot.

    I’m going with Valanciunas because he’s an incredibly useful safety net in the middle of drafts. Blocks are really hard to come by this year and you’re going to be wise to setup a strategy to get them early but you have to be mindful of the impact to your foul shooting with somebody like Clint Capela, who isn’t as expensive as the KATs and the Joel Embiid’s of the world. Deandre Ayton, also mentioned below, is the ideal fit because he does everything well, but he’s also hard to get if you’re also taking advantage of the top end of the early rounds.

    If you hit and get one of those guys, or even if you miss all of them, Valanciunas gives you a no risk bet with very good upside in the event somebody around him gets hurt. The key to all of this is his improved physique and Nick Nurse’s willingness to let him expand his game from the perimeter, with ballhandling and also with playmaking.

    He’s not going to become a point center anytime soon, but it appears he got the memo about getting his weight down and regardless, all he has to do is play the normal 22-24 mpg to hit his marks for owners. So outside an unforeseen ailment, you’re getting what you’re paying for but the upside is right around the corner. He’s not going to hurt your percentages and he’ll be decent enough on the blocks to keep you in the chase during the later rounds.

    Jeremy Lamb

    There are players that you come to know through the sheer exercise of blurbing like a maniac. That’s when I found Lamb years ago. His 22-24 mpg performances were bringing back late-round numbers and the only thing keeping him from being a perfect fantasy asset (predictable/serviceable floor with upside) was his toe and other injuries. Like Mirotic, he was right at the top of last year’s Honorable Mentions and he was on almost all of our squads.

    When he was given the early run during Nic Batum’s injury, he was predictably good and all of the discussion in Charlotte was how he had finally impressed Steve Clifford, who definitely didn’t hand him anything. You can see the fruits of that development paying off right now as he’s grown into his body physically but also has the mental acuity to go with it.

    I’m not saying he’s going to be an All Star this year, but he’s going to be that player that every announcer and Twitter pundit is going to say ‘that Jeremy Lamb is so underrated,’ as if this wasn’t something that the Fantasy community didn’t know for the last three seasons.

    Tangent: I’d still take the top 100 hoobs with me into a war room over half the GMs in the league and 95 percent of Basketball Twitter.

    Lamb is going to have no problem holding off Malik Monk and new coach James Borrego seems intent on both opening things up and also it doesn’t appear like he’s struggling with a decision to deploy Lamb, who can also slide down to the three easily and possibly even the four in today’s stupidly small NBA. I’m not penciling him into the type of minutes that usually leads to, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he got true starter’s minutes. I pushed his mpg projection upward aggressively and I just don’t have any concerns about his production. Where he’s going in drafts in the mid-to-late rounds is printing money for me in the early-middle rounds.

    Kris Dunn

    I’ll just toss my concern about Dunn right into the mix at the start – I hope he can keep his steals rate as high as it has been. He’s athletic enough to do so and I think the desire will be there for a duplicate performance, but the value can only really swing downward in that category and that could torpedo this pick.

    Still, there’s an odd safety in his numbers because you know he’s going to get the minutes and by virtue of his athleticism he’s a solid bet to get the popcorn numbers you need. If he can get the free throw stroke worked out, there’s hidden upside that can’t be predicted. The athleticism also gives him a great chance at getting easy buckets, which can hopefully become a dominant counterweight to the lack of true shooting ability, which if that comes would also represent hidden upside.

    Yes, he could also have the bottom fall out and be a relatively high volume 40 percent guy, but I’m not betting on that. And when you’re in the middle rounds and looking for somebody with a nice combination of upside, floor and the necessary blemishes to get said assets – it’s just a great risk/reward situation. I think he can crack the third round in 8-cat leagues if all goes well.

    Kent Bazemore

    There are a ton of candidates here and looking for one that can make a big ADP jump is part of the process here, but as we get into the late rounds it’s tough – how much of an impact can a guy being drafted there truly make. And no, we’re not talking beginner leagues where nobody knows how much Jeremy Lamb is worth.  Baze is that guy though. He’s going LATE.

    It’s a combo of the previous disappointing seasons, his overall talent level not jumping off the page, the excess belief in Trae Young and maybe even fear of a trade hurting his value. My response to that would be if he’s healthy he has been good, so we have to watch his knee, which hasn’t been an issue. I’d add a question about how many times we’ve waited for a trade deadline to come and go with no dice. You can’t prep for that uncertainty in any real meaningful way.

    What you’re getting here is a player that could possibly be the best player on the team, though it wouldn’t be by much and he could easily end up being the third best player on the team if Taurean Prince and John Collins zoom by him. Young, for all the big threes and everything the team will do to support him this season, could easily get a rude introduction to the NBA. Jeremy Lin has zero chance of staying healthy if he plays more than 27 mpg. It’s an actual law.

    The scenario of Bazemore playing point guard minutes is very real and he can also slide down to the three if necessary. Nobody is truly pushing him. Some of it’s going to be an eyesore and efficiency is a big question, but it’s all baked into the ranks. He just needs to not have a knee issue – which again has been the bellwether of his value – and we’re not seeing that right now. If that holds up, then you’re getting outstanding scoring, threes, assists and defensive stats with nowhere to go up on the efficiency. He won’t crack the top-50, but he could make it interesting and that makes him the possible Joe Ingles or Taurean Prince of this year’s Hoop Ball Six.

    Honorable Mention

    Deandre Ayton was in earlier versions of this list but the price has gotten so high and I just thought that the risk started eating into his HB6 candidacy. I still love what he does to free up your drafting options and he’s a recommended target but this is the elite of the elite here and the margins probably aren’t going to be that great.

    Enes Kanter has all sorts of ADP jump even in intermediate leagues and was hard to leave off the list. The only question I have is if he deals with injury issues or games off once he has established his market and then needs to preserve himself during a lost Knicks season. Nobody is going to challenge him for minutes and the Knicks need what he does. It’s an easy win but in competitive leagues the margin started getting cut and there’s something to be said for not getting blocks out of him at that price. It’s why Jonas Valanciunas got the nod ahead of him. He’s basically the cheaper version with a better cost/upside ratio.

    Taurean Prince almost got another nod and same with Joe Ingles, in what would have been paying homage to last year’s wildly successful HB6 predictions. They’re both going a little bit too late, a reflection of NBA Twitter’s realization of such things two years ago when evaluating these players, and they’re very useful to have around in that you know you have a legit shot at them when building your strategy. There’s just not enough ADP gain and in competitive leagues it can get whittled down to about a round real quick.

    Kelly Olynyk was an easy HB6 win last year and he’ll beat expectations again this season, and interestingly the price on him is still cheap. He still has the stat set upside for a big man that could get pressed into big minutes if Hassan Whiteside’s knee acts up, but Whiteside looks healthier this season and it’s not like last year where we were plucking a top-80 guy in the 150s.

    Spencer Dinwiddie is not a sleeper in general but he’s a sleeper on this Honorable Mentions list because we still don’t know what his upside is. The Nets seem willing to explore that and Kenny Atkinson has implored Dinwiddie to take over games late. The coach knows that Dinwiddie has that game-breaking talent to not just paint fastballs over the outside corner in the passing game, but he has the length and athleticism to get to the cup. He has the foundation of a shot that, with further refining, could be reliable enough to create a compelling package.

    So while folks are getting excited over Caris LeVert, who has nice, but different tools that are more complementary rather than somebody you want running a squad, and there are still folks that believe D’Angelo Russell is worth building around – Dinwiddie is just sort of sitting there like, remember me? In fact, he still chirps up about being underrated and he’s going through the ‘wasn’t labeled a star rookie and gets no respect’ process, which can actually submarine a guy because the chip on his shoulder is so big that it gets in the way.

    Whatever the case may be, he’s got a predictable floor and I believe he’ll edge everybody out for starter’s minutes, eventually. He’ll plod his way to a great ROI and if he can kick it into the type of gear that both Atkinson and I believe he can get to, then it’s all upside after that.

    Delon Wright is just a stat set machine and the same goes for Pascal Siakam. I’m not putting Fred VanVleet on this list but he could also end up cracking the top-100 without any massive injury assistance. Siakam has been properly rated by some sites, meaning he hasn’t been forgotten, but Wright has gone largely unnoticed and in each of these players’ cases they’re going to hit my marks and then there’s the what-if ahead of them in the rotation. Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard and even Danny Green have all dealt with injuries and that’s just icing on the cake.

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