• On Monday, it was announced that Zion Williamson would be forgoing the opportunity to play with Team USA at August’s training camp. This comes in the middle of an avalanche of other NBA players withdrawing from the team in order to prepare for their respective NBA seasons. Of the many players who have withdrawn from the team this summer, the vast majority of them are citing NBA preparation as the reason.

    Zion’s absence from the USA squad is not a big deal in my eyes, just as it wasn’t a big deal that he sat out Summer League after a minor injury. He is the centerpiece of the Pelicans’ future, and the team is going to handle his career carefully. But although Zion skipping Team USA isn’t a big deal, I do think there are some things we should consider.

    As David Griffin pointed out, Zion is not in basketball shape right now and they were ultra-conservative with him in Summer League. The rampant speculation about Zion being “injury prone” that you can see on mainstream media is, well, stupid, but not because it’s unfair to question whether it’ll be a problem. It’s stupid because we don’t need to draw conclusions about something being a problem before a player even steps on an NBA court. If Zion shows up to Pelicans preseason with serious weight issues, then we can worry.

    The withdrawal from USA basketball will allow Williamson to focus exclusively on integrating with the NBA game and the Pelicans roster. The NBA game is so radically different from every level of basketball, including Summer League, and it is an adjustment for everyone, even for someone as talented as Zion.

    One of the things that we saw this summer is how much recruiting stars do behind the scenes. This is not anything new, but at this point, it is perfectly clear that the top players directly communicate with each other in order to figure out who wants to team up. The bottom line is this: to get a star to force his way to you or to sign one in free agency, you almost always either need a star on your roster already or have to be willing to trade what it takes to get one.

    The good news is that although it seems that Zion is missing a chance to team with other top players, almost all of the top talent on the USA roster has turned down the opportunity to play this year. Plus, it’s not as though Williamson will never get a call from Team USA again.

    Zion inked a shoe deal with Nike’s Jordan Brand on Tuesday and hopefully has a long, prosperous NBA career ahead of him; his withdrawal from Team USA this summer seems very much in line with what other top stars are doing and thus does not seem to be a reason for concern.

Fantasy News

  • Josh Okogie
    SG, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Josh Okogie played well against the Lakers on Sunday as he put up 18 points and four rebounds on 4-of-8 shooting.

    Okogie knocked down three triples and made all seven of his attempts from the stripe. Jarrett Culver chipped in 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting and Keita Bates-Diop scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting with two blocks. All three should not be on standard league radars, but Bates-Diop offers the highest upside.

  • Shabazz Napier
    PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Shabazz Napier put up 13 points with six dimes in a loss to the Lakers on Sunday.

    Napier shot 5-of-9 from the field and put up solid numbers in just 15 minutes of action. Jeff Teague contributed with 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting in 24 minutes. Teague is a late-round value, while Napier is a deep-league assists and steals specialist.

  • Robert Covington
    SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Robert Covington put up 16 points with seven cash counters in a 142-125 loss to the Lakers on Sunday.

    Covington hit three triples and added three steals and one block to the stat sheet. Covington is trotting along with his typical top-50 value and consistent defensive stats. He is one of the most consistent players in the league when it comes to fantasy.

  • Alex Caruso
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Alex Caruso put up 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting in a win over the Wolves on Sunday.

    Caruso added four rebounds, four assists and two steals to the stat sheet. He made two of his three attempts from beyond the arc. He was second on the team in minutes with 30 and he is worth a look in deep leagues.

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    LeBron James put up 32 points and 13 assists in a win over the Wolves on Sunday.

    James shot 12-of-20 from the field and 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. Although Anthony Davis has asserted himself as the top option on the Lakers, James is still a top-10 fantasy asset and underdog MVP candidate.

  • Anthony Davis
    PF-C, Los Angeles Lakers

    Anthony Davis dropped 50 points on 20-of-29 shooting in a 142-125 victory over the Wolves on Sunday.

    Davis added seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and one block to the stat sheet. AD took over this game and led the Lakers to the win.

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
    SG, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put up 21 points with nine rebounds on 5-of-14 shooting in a win over the Blazers on Sunday.

    Gilgeous-Alexander shot 5-of-14 from the field and 9-of-12 from the stripe. SGA is just outside top-100 value on the season and is looking like a late-round scoring specialist. Dennis Schroder chipped in 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting with three triples and two assists. Schroder provides solid scoring and passing value for standard leagues, but is outside top-150 on the season.

  • Chris Paul
    PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Chris Paul put up 20 points on 7-of-17 shooting in a win over the Blazers on Sunday.

    Paul made two of his six attempts from beyond the arc and added three steals to the box score. He is the best fantasy player on the Thunder this season and is a solid top-30 option.

  • Nerlens Noel
    C, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Nerlens Noel put up 13 points and 12 boards in a 108-96 win over the Blazers on Sunday.

    Noel has outplayed Steven Adams this season and did so once again on Sunday night. Adams put up six points, nine rebounds and four assists on 2-of-6 shooting. Noel added one steal and two blocks to the box score as well. Both guys are worth owning in standard leagues and Adams has a huge buy-low window right now.

  • Carmelo Anthony
    PF, Portland Trail Blazers

    Carmelo Anthony had a horrible shooting night on Sunday against the Thunder as he put up nine points on 4-of-18 shooting.

    Anthony added eight rebounds and three assists to the stat sheet. He has been a late-round value since his signing and top-70 value over the past two weeks. He is worth owning in all formats, especially now that Rodney Hood is out for the season.