• With the season almost upon us, a few of the more tenured (i.e., old and gray) Hoop Ball staff got together to share some thoughts about the upcoming season. Think of it like The View, except with less yelling, more basketball — so not like The View at all!

    In the mix we’ve got the maestro Aaron Bruski, podcast legend Dan Besbris, Managing Editor Mike Passador, Assistant Managing Editor Erik Ong, Dynasty Expert Zach Bodhane, International hoops expert Dio Nikiforos and dynamic duo from Thursday’s live show, Josh Millman and Souriyo Dishak.

    Who’s your pick for this season’s Fantasy MVP?

    AB: In 8-cat you almost have to go with the numbers and James Harden. He looks hungry already in the preseason and he hasn’t lost a step. Traveling rules won’t hurt him as the league has made it a rule that the gather basically doesn’t count as a step, whereas traditionally it always has, but I digress. He won’t boatrace the field but he’s got durability over AD and Steph, and the other top guys can’t really catch him unless he gets hurt. For 9-cat, it’s a toss up between AD, Giannis and Steph. Whatever my final B150 rank is there’s your answer.

    DB: Steph Curry if we’re going early; Chris Paul if we’re talking about the later parts of the early rounds; Eric Bledsoe if we’re looking at 5th round or later.

    MP: James Harden. The numbers don’t lie, and they spell disaster for you at Sacrafice I’m not going to mess around and not pick Harden.

    EO: James Harden. Despite the addition of Russell Westbrook to the team, the Beard will still somehow put up some silly numbers. He’s an iron man and checks so many boxes, you can have peace of mind knowing he’s bringing an elite game to the table night-in and night-out.

    ZB: This is probably a non-controversial take, but I’d put my money down on Stephen Curry. The Warriors will need him to be superman if they are going to survive to the post-season in a stacked Western Conference

    DN: Anthony Davis.

    JM: Anthony Davis. Trying not to overthink this. He’s hands down the best fantasy player in the league when healthy and now he’s got The King feeding him the ball. Enjoy your #1 overall pick if you’re so lucky.

    SD: On pure output, it’s Stephen Curry with everyone doubting the Warriors. On value, Mike Conley is getting slept on a ton and he could end up being a top-20 guy at season’s end

    In your opinion, what’s the worst draft slot to pull this season?

    AB: 1-7 you’re getting a solid player and as usual it’s the 11 and 12 slots that are terrible, even if you’re getting third round reversal. Not only does your expected value decrease, you’re stuck on a turn and pillaging in snake drafts just gets a lot harder. 3RR should almost include some 7RR as well just to start making up the gap there. The players in the 8-17 range have plenty of pitfall potential, so good luck.

    DB: Slot 10. Not the turn so you still have to worry about getting sniped, and not early enough for anything decent.

    MP: Let’s go with 9. Right when the picks get really risky, with the added benefit of a nice window for your picks to get sniped around the turn. Plus your second-rounder is right in that dead zone where there’s nobody really exciting on the board.

    EO: 10-11 is rough this year. There’s a miasma clouding the spot with injury-prone guys and/or speculative, high-variance players who can dip into first-round value but on and off.

    ZB: In another non-shocker, the 8 spot is really rough. The top-5 is pretty much locked in, I’d be happy to grab Dame or Jokic at 6 or 7, but at 8 you have some tough decisions. Do you shrug off potential load management/injury concerns for elite per game production with Embiid, Kawhi or Kyrie? It is a tough draw and sets up another tough decision in the second round.

    DN: End of first round (picks 11-12).

    JM: 6th. At least when you pick at the back of a 10 or 12-team league your chances increase of getting two top tier talents. You get no such luck in the middle of the 2nd to go with the ignominy of just missing a spot in the coveted top-5.

    SD: Not in love with a late first-rounder. 11/12 isn’t my favorite. After getting out of that solid top-tier of 7 or 8, it’s just a little bit harder to be confident in a combo. It’s easier to poke holes in player outlook.

    Which player with a top-50 ADP are you down on? Or at least less inclined to draft than most.

    AB: Rudy Gobert. He’s getting slower by the year and there’s a fine line between big minutes and getting downsized because the lateral quicks just aren’t there. The Jazz are more talented and he’ll see erosion in usage, and with knee issues he’s a bit of an injury risk, too.

    DB: Luke [sic] Doncic. I don’t trust his percentages. (Editor’s Note: The sheer disrespect from Danno here, didn’t even get the name right. Doncic is going to come out firing, surely)

    MP: I’m on board with Doncic, Gobert, Booker and Mitchell, but I’ll say Ben Simmons to shake it up. No threes, high turnovers and a woeful free throw percentage, without one area that he can basically win on his own every week. I get that there’s still upside, and he’s a great fit for certain builds, but Benny’s just not for me.

    EO: Devin Booker. He’s going too high for someone who gets too easily banged up too often. I’d be happy to be proven wrong, but his injury history makes me want to stay away until after the top-30.

    ZB: Donovan Mitchell around pick 25-30 is a tough one for me. It is a discount compared to last year to be sure, but I worry that Conley dings his value more than we may expect. The upside is clearly there, but without a leap forward in efficiency he may have a hard time beating that ADP.

    DN: Not buying the hype on Mitchell Robinson.

    JM: Devin Booker and I’m kind of surprised he isn’t more polarizing. Can’t see a way where he surpasses his torrid finish to last season, which barely netted him a place in the top-25. We think of him as this elite shooter, but his career numbers would kindly disagree. His current ADP is way too high for me to draft him.

    SD: Luka Doncic. The hype is just too much and he HAS to hit to make that draft slot in the mid-2nd worth it. This is the Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons syndrome.

    On a scale of 1-10, how much does load management bother you and why?

    AB: One. The more variables the better, but I don’t play in nearly as many playoff leagues as the next fantasy GM, so if I was heavy into that area I’d be at a 7 or 8.

    DB: 1. Very little. Guys just can’t play an entire season with the effort level in the modern NBA. They’ll just keep spacing games out to try to combat it and eventually we’ll be fine.

    MP: A big fat zero. It’s actually -10 for load management and a full 10 for people who whine about it constantly — maybe a 35 for people who tweet at team accounts about it, so it averages out to zero.

    EO: I’d say an 8, because any amount of missed games, whether due to actual injury or just plain rest, hurts in H2H. The fact that it’s becoming more prevalent across the top-tier talent list helps even the playing field. Then again, expecting 75 games might be the new ceiling norm, with anything over that as gravy.

    ZB: My answer will depend wildly on whether I have my fantasy manager cap on vs. my general NBA fan cap on. It is irritating, and there is a lot of work to be done on injury reporting from the team side, but I think it is more a symptom of bigger problems with scheduling that needs to be addressed.

    DN: 10, I’ve been screwed in the past so I make sure I check the schedule on each one of my leagues and plan accordingly.

    JM: 9. Load Management means different things to the players and coaches. It could be a game or two off, could be all back-to-backs, could be minutes restrictions, could be a shutdown altogether. It’s a fantasy wrinkle that feels almost impossible to predict.

    SD: 5/10. I think my general outlook is less negative simply because we KNOW which players will get managed in general. If I know that someone like Kawhi Leonard will miss 10-12 games for load management I can plan for that.

    Which of the league’s star combos do you think will fare best in fantasy? RIP Big 3s.

    AB: Kawhi and Paul George. Both have first round potential and aside from George’s shoulder issue, there are no major red flags. Kawhi moved a lot of capitol to make LAC happen and he’ll be expected to produce, even if nobody takes any major chances with his health. Neither player needs to hog usage to get where they need to go.

    DB: Bron/AD … their games don’t overlap the way that some of the others do (Russ/Harden on-ball, PG/Kawhi iso stuff)

    MP: Let’s say Harden and Westbrook to be different. LeBron/AD makes the most sense on paper but the Lakers can definitely mess things up (hello Rajon and Dwight), and Paul George’s shoulder is causing vexations. I really do think that Westbrook can benefit from taking more catch-and-shoot jumpers as well as outstanding floor-spacing for the first time in forever, and Harden’s on autopilot.

    EO: AD-LeBron but it’s a very health-dependent performance, for obvious reasons. That said, on per-game numbers, no duo will come close.

    ZB: Jokic and Bol Bol count as a big two, right? The obvious choice is probably betting on bounce-back from LeBron and a big year from AD. Curry and D’Angelo Russell are also both set up for big years. Just for fun, I’ll go out on a limb and say that Terry Rozier/Miles Bridges (really stretching the definition of “star combo” here) will both outperform their ADPs as well.

    DN: Going with the LeBron – AD duo.

    JM: Davis and James. The combo that sounds like they do really boring local commercials for tax season are going to collect all the stats. There’s less risk of them cannibalizing each other like Harden/Russ or Kawhi/PG-13.

    SD: The easy answer is Anthony Davis and LeBron, but I’ll go with Kawhi and Paul George. Two guys that could easily be top-10 players on a per-game basis in tandem at the expense of their backcourt pals.

    Who is one of your deep sleepers that people might not know about?

    AB: Edmond Sumner. He’s buried in Indy but he’s good enough to force his way into minutes. He needs some help but don’t forget the name.

    DB: You know me and my hatred for sleepers, but I’m likely going to end up with Old Man Bazemore in every single league.

    MP: Terence Davis. He showed a do-it-all skillset in Summer League and preseason and the Raptors have minutes available in the backcourt. He’s more versatile and probably flat-out better than Cam Payne, and Toronto’s not afraid to roll a deep rotation. I will have Mr. Davis on every single team in a league with 20 teams or more.

    EO: Troy Brown Jr. is someone who’s been overlooked. His missing the preseason and camp did not do his hype any favors, but once healthy, he should be able to carve out solid rotation time as the Wizards’ starting SF.

    ZB: In 12-team standard leagues, I really like taking a shot on a rebound year from Gary Harris with a late-round pick. I’m also in on an OG Anunoby breakout this year. In deeper leagues, I love Devonte’ Graham as an upside guy if Rozier struggles/gets hurt. Bruno Fernando could also surprise people.

    DN: Malik Beasley but I think people are catching up on him slowly.

    JM: Daniel Theis. We know Kanter can’t play D and Robert Williams is very raw even with his shot blocking ability. Someone will need to fill the minutes vacated by Horford, Morris, and Baynes. There’s some sneaky cash counter potential here.

    SD: Will Barton is getting forgotten because he was a disaster last year. The Nuggets are deep but 33 minutes of Will Barton was a borderline top-50 guy two years ago. We can meet in the middle at 30 minutes and top-75.

    Any spicy takes you want to get off your chest?

    AB: Knibb High Football did *not* rule and Zion is going to be unstoppable

    DB: Everyone is worried about AD/Steph resting in the top-5. Hot take city, here: BOTH those guys play more games than Giannis this year.

    MP: I’m… sort of on board with an Andrew Wiggins bounce-back? I wouldn’t spend a pick before round nine or anything but I’m pretty sure last season was close to rock bottom. I don’t think his percentages can dip much further and his last no-Jimmy numbers were actually alright. 23.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.4 blocks, 1.3 threes on .452 from the field and .760 from the line. It’s still probably going to be build-specific, and you can tell I’m trying to talk myself out of it right now, but I’ll mess with Wiggins this year.

    EO: Kawhi Leonard and Joel Embiid will play more games than Stephen Curry this season. Andre Drummond’s FT% will see a slight regression. Taurean Prince will once again be a top-75 asset now that he’s with the Nets.

    ZB: Chris Boucher earns a consistent role in the Raptors rotation and becomes fantasy relevant in standard leagues. (Seriously, look up his G-League numbers and put him on your watch list).

    DN: Why is ESPN fantasy basketball still a thing? Their rankings are lame, they often have technical issues and their product is pretty much lame, enough with these clowns already, Yahoo or Fantrax all the way please.

    JM: I have a Bold Predictions article coming for those nuclear level takes.

    SD: Bucks over Jazz in 6 in the NBA Finals because I’m a biased Bucks fan who just wants to be happy. Bucks: not that spicy. Jazz: more spicy.

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