December 12, 2020, 7:22 pm
With training camps underway, exhibition games in full swing and the start of regular season rapidly approaching, it’s time to browse around the league and see how the international guys are performing; who is rising up and who is trending down on the fantasy front.
With such a short preseason and the lack of Summer League there is a lot of fantasy value hidden, especially for leagues that are already drafting, so make sure you stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.
After a successful splash in the offseason the Hawks will have much more depth this year while Lloyd Pierce said that he plans to keep all his options open, even if the only opening in the starting five remains the small forward position. Bogdan Bogdanovic is officially the starting shooting guard but don’t expect him to go off with Trae Young and John Collins around; his ADP is around the top-100 right now which seems reasonable and the Hawks will be trying to win while developing Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter.
Danilo Gallinari, meanwhile, will be coming off the bench but the Hawks expect to see both him and Collins in small-ball schemes which could impact the minutes of Swiss big Clint Capela. Both Gallinari and Capela are getting drafted higher than I expect them to end the season so keep the expectations low and try to go for safer options. Bruno Fernando and Onyeka Okongwu will provide depth and insurance for Atlanta’s frontcourt but they should not be relevant in standard leagues.
Tristan Thompson is battling a hamstring injury and will reportedly miss a large portion of training camp but he should be ready by the start of the season and will cut into Daniel Theis’ minutes. It’s hard to envision Thompson and Theis playing much together while Robert Williams is healthy and will be putting even more pressure for minutes in the middle. The German big is currently going within the top-125 but I consider him a regression candidate and I’m not very confident the minutes will be there for Theis to retain stand league value.
In Brooklyn, Rodi Kurucs and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot are expected to take a step back due to the return of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and I don’t see a path for them to get major minutes, especially since the Nets added a lot of depth. Both should get their chances throughout the year but they don’t have much upside and should remain on the waiver wire. Elie Okobo, meanwhile, is fighting for his NBA life right now but given the developmental track record of the Nets in recent years he is likely to get another chance.
The Hornets drafted a couple big bodies in Nick Richards and Vernon Carney but they brought back Bismack Biyombo in order to provide insurance for the fragile Cody Zeller. The Congolese center shouldn’t be an option even in very deep leagues.
Bulls players are excited about the changes under new head coach Billy Donovan, including tailoring the offense to their strengths, which could create plenty of fantasy value. Chicago finished second to last in offensive rating last year and even though the roster is pretty much the same, there’s a sense of excitement at the potential it could have under Donovan. Lauri Markkanen found himself being too stationary last season, which reduced him to many catch-and-shoot situations, but the new offense is supposed to get him on the move more often and get him the ball in spots where he can be effective. Markkanen’s Yahoo ADP is currently at 75 and I consider him a bounce-back candidate.
Tomas Satoransky was outplayed and outperformed by Coby White in the second half of last year and he is expected to be coming off the bench. He is a nice veteran presence and brings an all-around game so I would consider him in the later rounds even though his upside is limited. With Billy Donovan keeping a 9-man rotation don’t expect to see Brazilian center Cristiano Felicio get much playing time unless the Bulls get hit hard by injuries again.
The Cavs drafted small forward Isaac Okoro who is known for his lockdown defense, but he has been impressing in training camp with better-than-expected offense. Even if Cedi Osman earns the starting job it’s only a matter of time until Okoro surpasses him so I wouldn’t touch the Turkish forward in standard leagues.
Thon Maker received a training camp invitation and he has a real chance to earn a roster spot with JaVale McGee still away due to Covid-19 protocol. Finally, Australian guard Matthew Dellavedova returned to Cleveland and he will fight for the backup job with fellow Aussie Dante Exum but both are unlikely to hold any value as long as Collin Sexton and Darius Garland remain the lead guards.
As I explained last week, Detroit is expected to have one of the most volatile rosters in the league which could create plenty of fantasy opportunities for managers who take a chance with some of the Pistons. Killian Hayes and Sekou Doumbouya have their deficiencies but the organization looks committed to developing them and a short season seems like the perfect scenario for both to learn through their mistakes. Derrick Rose is mentoring Hayes and the French guard is expected to begin the season as the starter in Detroit; his Yahoo ADP is around 125, which seems a little too high, while Doumbouya is well off the fantasy radar in standard leagues.
The Pistons added Jerami Grant and he will start at the small forward position until Blake Griffin gets moved so Doumbouya probably won’t get a lot of exposure immediately but he should be on your watch list. The Pistons need shooters and Svi Mykhailiuk will get his share of opportunity with Luke Kennard now in LA; he should be treated as scoring and triples specialists in deeper leagues and he is someone I’ve always liked due to his ability to also create with the ball.
Fresh off a contract extension and his first All-Star appearance, Domantas Sabonis has left the foot soreness that kept him out of the bubble restart in Orlando in the rear view. New head coach Nate Bjorkgren has been implementing a faster, up-tempo offense with the goal of shooting more triples and the Lithuanian big is excited to expand his range, which could bring even more fantasy value for hm. With the return of Victor Oladipo there will be more mouths to feed but the Pacers consider Sabonis part of their core moving forward and I am confident in returning similar value to last year as long as he is not hampered by injuries.
Goga Bitadze meanwhile has worked on his body in an effort to be more explosive and he will absolutely get a chance with a new head coach in town. I can’t see him pushing for the starting job right now but the Pacers were rumored to be shopping Myles Turner in the summer and part of the reason might be their trust into the young Georgian center. He is not standard league material yet but Bitadze should be on your watchlist this year.
It’s not quite clear yet whether the Heat plan on bringing Goran Dragic off the bench or starting him like they did in the bubble and the playoffs. Regardless, Miami will be uber conservative with him and will play Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn more in the regular season in order to protect the Slovenian guard for another deep run in the playoffs. His current Yahoo ADP is 120 but with plenty of rest days on the horizon I am not investing any draft stock in the Dragon this year.
Nigerian forward/center Precious Achiuwa looks like a prefect fit for the Heat but his offensive game is limited and his impact should be on the defensive side of the ball early in his career, while Cameroonian-Italian forward Paul Eboua is fighting for a two-way contract and is another prospect that could blossom with the Heat in the near future.
Giannis Antetokounmpo took a step back last year by averaging a career-low 63 percent from the free throw line while tying his career-high in turnovers with 3.7, finishing 22nd in 9-cat leagues even though his ADP was at No. 4. Both categories could improve this season since the Greek Freak is a gym rat and he will be playing next to a great facilitator in Jrue Holiday, so I have a hard time letting Giannis slip past the first round.
Second round pick Jordan Nwora out of Nigeria and Guinean forward Mamadi Diakite are some guys that I’m keeping an eye on in deeper leagues since both come out of four years at the collegiate level and could have an impact right off the bat.
New York Knicks
French guard Frank Ntilikina has the mold of a player who could flourish under Tom Thibodeau but I’m not very sure the Knicks believe in him anymore. On top everything, New York is loaded at the perimeter position and the French combo guard will have to earn his minutes against Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr., Alec Burks and Austin Rivers; a change of scenery is what is ought to happen in order for Ntilikina to potentially become fantasy-friendly again. Lithuanian-American guard Ignas Brazdeikis is fighting for a roster spot and I could see him getting waived before the season as the Knicks have a new regime in place and seem to be cleaning house.
Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier have no real competition behind them for another year as the Magic look to count on both of them for another playoff berth. Vuc’s current ADP sits in the early 30s with everyone assuming that the Montenegrin center will continue to be a workhorse for the Magic and nothing really points to the opposite direction. Fournier is also getting drafted within the top-100 but, as I’ve cautioned in the past, his percentages will define how high his fantasy value elevates. He shot a career-high .467 form the field last year but just .438 the previous season and the same pattern has repeated itself the last four years. Orlando didn’t really add another shot creator and I can see opposing defenses focusing in on Fournier with Jonathan Isaac sidelined for the year and Aaron Gordon unable to take the next step in his game.
Canadian big Khem Birch seems to have the edge against Mo Bamba for the backup job at center but he is outside the fantasy radar, while Nigerian forward Al-Farouq Aminu remains sidelined and it’s unsure when he will be back to action.
The Sixers are determined to put shooters around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid this season and Furkan Korkmaz will probably have the green light to shoot it from everywhere once he steps on the court. He too faces competition as Philadelphia brought in Danny Green and Seth Curry and drafted Tyrese Maxey but the Turkish swingman will have a tremendous opportunity to play to his strengths and he is someone that I’m keeping an eye on in deeper leagues.
Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are slowly becoming the faces of the franchise and both of them enter the season with a lot of expectations. Fantasy-wise, an uptick in production is expected by both them and I like their current Yahoo ADP (34th and 79th respectively). Meanwhile, the departure of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka has left a trio of bigs responsible to cover the middle with Aron Baynes likely the starter and Alex Len and Chris Boucher fighting for backup minutes. As I wrote last week, Baynes is flying under the radar and could present a nice value in the later rounds, while Boucher on the other hand is getting overdrafted even though I highly doubt he is able to stay on the floor for more than 15-20 minutes.
The small forward position is up for grabs in D.C. with Isaac Bonga, Troy Brown and Deni Avdija all trying to earn Scott Brooks’ trust. Regardless of the decision, the Wizards will be looking for defense, shooting and secondary playmaking from that position so it’s likely that we are looking at a timeshare and I wouldn’t really invest in any of them. The addition of Russell Westbrook and the return of Davis Bertans means that Rui Hachimura will have a hard time getting his shots and the element of a 3-point shot is crucial for his ability to stay on the floor. Bertans’ Yahoo ADP is currently around 100 but I expect him to easily surpass that and I have no hesitation picking him in the mid to later rounds while Hachimura’s stock is rapidly falling and but he is still getting drafted within the top-125.
Anzejs Pasecniks and Mo Wagner will have to fight for the backup role but with Robin Lopez in town it seems that both of them will be irrelevant on the fantasy front this year.
Stats are courtesy of Yahoo Fantasy Basketball and Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of December 12th.