September 6, 2019, 2:40 am
This has been undoubtedly the Pelicans’ busiest offseason.. ever. Mind you, New Orleans has won the lottery sweepstakes before, and I was there for the lottery party that the team threw. It was lit. But since the Pelicans won the lottery in the same offseason that they traded Anthony Davis, the fact that the Pelicans landed Zion Williamson through sheer luck is talked about less than it would be otherwise. Shoot, I’ve spent almost the entire offseason talking about Jrue Holiday. And that’s why I want to write about Zion now.
It’d be hard to write that Zion is undoubtedly the best New Orleans pick ever. I wouldn’t believe it. Anthony Davis was insanely good in his freshman UK season and Chris Paul was one of the best rookies in the modern era. But what I can say is that Zion is in that company, and there’s nothing more important to the offseason than that.
Yes, the Pelicans basically got the Lakers’ entire foreseeable draft future, and yes, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram could pan out to be great players, but all of this pales in comparison to what Zion appears to be: a foundational talent that could shift the NBA landscape.
The first time I saw Zion was in clips of him dunking all over the place in high school. I didn’t understand how someone that big could be that explosive. The only comparison I could think of was young Shaq, who broke the max vertical reach record while standing 7’1″ or 7’2″, weighing nearly 300 pounds, with a huge wingspan and crazy fluidity. But Zion wasn’t seven feet tall, so I didn’t know if he’d be the next big thing or just some guy who can dunk well and not do a lot else.
What’s crazy about Zion isn’t the jaw-dropping athleticism. It’s that his statistics are just as crazy as his athleticism. To be clear, there are players who can post great stats and may be underwhelming in their actual on-court impact. But to post THESE kind of stats is beyond reason.
On a per-75 possession basis, Zion scored roughly 31 points per game and generated 12 rebounds, around three steals, around three assists, and 2.5 blocks — and he did it on a 68 percent shooting from the field (70% TS). He’s got world-class leaping ability in a 270-280 pound frame, excellent agility, very good ball-handling, a high IQ and a motor more befitting of a role player, in addition to what appears to be top-shelf character. At his athletic peak, he’ll probably be able to switch and defend at least positions 1-4 and quite possibly positions 1-5. David Griffin described him as Draymond Green with “rockets in his ass.”
The bottom line is that all of the other stuff that happened this offseason mattered. The Pelicans appear to be in good hands with Gayle Benson and David Griffin’s new staff, and the Pelicans are loaded with young talent, future picks, and flexibility. But all of that stuff matters a lot less than what happens with Zion.
If he is who I think he is, he could quite possibly be one of the NBA’s top five players in less than five years, with the potential to one day be the best. And with a front office that has ownership’s investment, that means that there are exciting times ahead.
September 19, 2019, 2:53 pmBlake GriffinPF, Detroit Pistons
Coach Dwane Casey revealed that although the team's training staff is easing him into things, Blake Griffin (knee) is back on the court and playing.
Coach Casey added that the team expects Griffin to be at 100% with "no lingering effects." Casey said. It looks like Griffin is progressing nicely in his return and should be all systems go for the start of the season. With Griffin's extensive injury history, the team may manage him more this year. Coming off a career year, he's expected to be an early middle-round selection.
September 19, 2019, 2:44 pmVictor OladipoSG, Indiana Pacers
Coach Nate McMillan said that Victor Oladipo (knee) probably wouldn't play on opening night.
Videos have surfaced this summer of Oladipo is doing on-court work, and by all accounts, he is progressing well. Though coach McMillan said that Oladipo isn't playing live yet, and it would seem he still has hurdles to climb. Even when Oladipo does return, he will likely be facing minute restrictions and frequent days off, at least initially. Jeremy lamb figures to be the biggest beneficiary of Oladipo's absence.
September 18, 2019, 10:18 pmNikola VucevicC, Orlando Magic
In an interview Wednesday, Magic head coach Steve Clifford said he could see Nikola Vucevic improving across all areas of his game, and echoing his player's belief that he is in his prime.
One of the areas Clifford thought Vucevic could improve upon was his 3-point shooting percentage, and also seemed to indicate that he could contonue to up his play on defense. He's unquestionably solidified himself as the anchor of this team, and the Magic as a whole are likely eyeing to improve upon their momentum as a rising young playoff team in an Eastern Conference that looks pretty weak after the top four to five teams. Expect Vucevic to produce safe second-round value this season.
September 18, 2019, 9:18 pmDeandre AytonC, Phoenix Suns
Suns General Manager James Jones said in a recent interview that Deandre Ayton is capable of playing PF if needed.
One could chalk this up to either Ayton continuing his development in becoming a more dynamic offensive player, or the Suns covering up for the lack of depth on their roster at PF. In reality it's likley a mix of both, and is a positive for Ayton's value heading into this season. If he does end up spending meaningful time at the four, it would not bode well for the value of Dario Saric, who is already barely going at the end of drafts in 9-cat leagues.
September 18, 2019, 8:15 pmDeMarcus CousinsC, Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have been granted a $1.75 million Disabled Player Exception for DeMarcus Cousins (torn left ACL).
This now officially rules DeMarcus Cousins out for the season. The Lakers will now have the ability to go out and acquire a player that will in all likelihood occupy the end of their bench. Because they signed Dwight Howard, using this cap space on a center isn't necessarily as big a priority as it once was when Cousins initially went down.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
September 18, 2019, 6:28 pmMohamed BambaC, Orlando Magic
Mo Bamba will enter training camp second on the depth chart behind Nikola Vučević.
Head coach of the Magic, Steve Clifford, told a reporter that he plans on having Bamba as his primary backup center while Khem Birch will be third on the depth chart. The Magic also have Vučević, who was re-signed in the offseason to a four-year, $100M contract. As long as Bamba is backing up Vučević, his fantasy ceiling is capped outside of standard redraft leagues.
September 18, 2019, 3:16 pmNerlens NoelC, Oklahoma City Thunder
Brett Dawson of The Athletic believes that Nerlens Noel could see a slight bump in minutes if the Thunder limit Steven Adams' usage.
Noel is a great per-minute producer of steals and blocks but only appeared in 13.7 minutes per contest last season. Additional playing time would make him more useful in deeper leagues.
Source: Brett Dawson of The Athletic
September 18, 2019, 2:23 pmJoel EmbiidC, Philadelphia Sixers
In a video, Joel Embiid announced that he lost about 25 pounds over the summer.
Embiid is one of the best fantasy players around but has struggled at times with conditioning. The Sixers will gladly accept any improvements from last season's averages of 27.5 points and 13.6 rebounds.
Source: NBC Sports
September 18, 2019, 2:04 pmTJ WarrenSF, Indiana Pacers
According to Pacers beat writer Scott Agness, Pacers forward T.J. Warren has no injury worries heading into the season.
Warren has missed 56 games during the last two seasons, but he hopes to stay healthy for all of 2019-20. Warren is likely to start for the Pacers and could hold top-100 value if he can stay on the court.
Source: Scott Agness on Twitter
September 18, 2019, 1:37 pmDamian LillardPG, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard expects to play for Team USA during next year's Summer Olympics.
Lillard skipped this year's World Cup but is planning to play in Tokyo. He should be a late first-round or early second-round fantasy pick this year.