December 19, 2020, 7:29 pm
Just a few days remain before the start of another NBA season as fantasy managers are preparing for what seems to be a rather unpredictable year. Last week we took a look at the Eastern conference rotation battles and today we head to the West to check on 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.
Luka Doncic showed up for training camp not quite in the best shape of his life but based on what we know so far this should be expected every year. Regardless, the massive hype he is carrying from last year has his ADP sitting at No. 4 as fantasy managers show no hesitation to draft him as early as in the first round. The lack of fitness and the absence of Kristaps Porzingis in the first few weeks might hurt his percentages and his turnovers while free throw shooting remains suspect but the rest of the numbers support the decision to draft him in the very first round(s). The Mavs dis add some nice pieces around him which could make his life easier on the defensive side of the ball but his usage is likely to remain massive and I’m looking forward to seeing whether he is able to balance his percentages.
Maxi Kleber remains a solid source of triples and defensive stats in the later rounds but he will have much more competition this year due to the return of Dwight Powell and the addition of James Johnson and Willie Cauley-Stein. Kleber will likely have value as long as KP remains sidelined so draft him only in the later rounds and with the expectation that his minutes will decline as the season goes on.
As previously mentioned, I am staying away from Porzingis this year since the Mavs are likely to be extremely cautious with him after the Latvian big has proven to be fragile. He is getting drafted in the fifth around and he might be intriguing at that range due to his massive upside but I wouldn’t put my hands on him unless I am able to stash him in an IL spot.
Boban Marjanovic remains a chemistry guy who will only be asked to play if the Mavs struggle with injuries again and he doesn’t project to have any fantasy value this year outside of very specific situational matchups.
Argentinian sensation Facundo Campazzo joined the Nuggets even though he had plenty of offers on the table and it’s likely that he was guaranteed playing time in a deep backcourt; the Nuggets did extend Monte Morris and Mike Malone really likes P.J. Dozier so Facundo is looking like an assistant specialist in deeper leagues.
Bol Bol, Isaiah Hartenstein and rookie Zeke Nnaji are all expected to compete for backup minutes at the four and the five so I’m keeping any eye on that situation in case one of them emerges at some point in the season. Nikola Jokic, meanwhile, looks to be exactly where he left off back in the summer and I’m absolutely grabbing him as high as in the top-5 if he’s available.
Golden State Warriors
Back in the summer, Steve Kerr, opening up about the way he sees Alan Smailagic’s development in the upcoming years, stated that he sees him as a five. The Warriors drafted James Wiseman, who will battle with Kevon Looney and Marquese Chriss for the starting five, leaving no room for Smiley in the middle and I’m not touching him in any leagues.
Italian-American Nico Mannion isn’t likely to see many minutes at the beginning of the season as the Warriors stick with their veterans but he is someone that I really like from this year’s rookie class.
Bruno Caboclo has been a fantasy darling in the last couple years and the opportunity might finally be there for the Brazilian forward. The Rockets brought him back and he is likely to see minutes at both forward positions while his role could be upgraded if the Rockets decide to part with P.J. Tucker. Caboclo offers plenty of money-counting stats and he should be in your watch lists from the beginning of the year.
Los Angeles Lakers
Dennis Schroder is another player I am very high on this year and I expect the Lakers to use him as a workhorse while he will only benefit from playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. His current ADP is at 112 but I believe the German guard has the potential to finish within the top-75 and you shouldn’t be afraid of drafting him in the mid-to-late rounds. Spaniard big Marc Gasol, meanwhile, arrives in Los Angeles and while he is clearly an upgrade at the center position, his fantasy value should be limited as he is a complementary veteran presence that will be managed throughout the season. I wouldn’t bother drafting him in standard leagues.
Former Raptor Serge Ibaka landed in Los Angeles and he is expected to be the starter as Ty Lue doesn’t seem to be that high on Ivica Zubac. Montrezl Harrell moved to the Lakers so the minutes will be there for both bigs but Ibaka is the one who should be grabbed in the later rounds of the draft due to his ability to contribute on both ends of the floor; his current Yahoo ADP is at 104 which seems about right.
Meanwhile Nic Batum will try to revitalize his career after a couple years in Charlotte where he really didn’t play much. I expect him to be a nice rotational piece off the bench but I don’t anticipate the minutes will be there for him to become relevant in standard leagues.
Jonas Valanciunas is coming off a career year and he looks to continue where he left off, especially due to the expected absence of Jaren Jackson Jr. in the first few weeks of the season. The Lithuanian big has developed great on-court chemistry with ROY Ja Morant and he is a safe option in the middle rounds of the draft. His current Yahoo ADP sits at 60, which doesn’t offer much room for profit, but he should be targeted early and is absolutely a borderline top tier center in standard leagues.
Two-way French big Killian Tillie is someone I’m keeping on my watchlist for deeper leagues as he is someone that can stretch the floor for Memphis, a team that lacks shooting.
In Minnesota, Ricky Rubio is expected to come off the bench and I expect a big drop off to his value which could limit him to an assists specialist in standard leagues. His current Yahoo ADP is at 84, which is high in my opinion, and it’s likely that the time has come for Ricky to be treated as high-end backup.
At the forward positions, Josh Okogie and Juancho Hernangomez will be fighting for minutes but there is plenty of competition in Minnesota with Jake Layman and Jarrett Culver also in the mix and I wouldn’t trust any of these guys in standard leagues as we are probably looking at a timeshare.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans traded for Steven Adams since they had a massive gap in the middle and they wanted to be able to secure defensive rebounds before executing fastbreak opportunities. Assuming Adams is healthy, he projects to be a big part of what the Pelicans under Stan Van Gundy want to do so it’s likely that he returns borderline top-75 value just like he did a couple years ago while playing with Russell Westbrook and Paul George; his Yahoo ADP at 80 sounds about right.
Italian forward Nicolo Melli and Spaniard big Willy Hernangomez will fight for some backup minutes but I don’t see them having anything close to standard-league value.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are rebuilding and in what seems to be a completely transitional year they brought in a couple of very promising rookies in Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski. Maledon is a mature point guard who should be treated as first-round talent even though he slipped to the second round due to the lack of playing time in Europe last year and some turmoil with his coach; it is very likely that he begins the season in the rotation and his role could increase as the season goes on so you should absolutely have him on your radar.
Pokusevski is the dark horse of this draft class as the combination of size, shooting, ball handling and basketball IQ provide a very high ceiling. His body needs a lot of work and there will be plenty of turnovers and bad shooting nights but the Thunder want for Poku to learn through his mistakes so the playing time will be there and he is also someone that I’m keeping an eye out for this year as he could easily scratch the surface of top-125.
The Suns brought back Croatian forward Dario Saric who is expected to compete with Jae Crowder and Jalen Smith for minutes at the power forward position. He was also used as a backup center during the Orlando bubble in a more mobile scheme that Phoenix used in stretched. Regardless, his value has taken a big hit after the Suns solidified their depth and I’m not very comfortable selecting him even in the later rounds as he offers limited upside. Egyptian forward Abdel Nader arrived from Oklahoma City and he will provide depth and security at the small forward position but he is well of the fantasy radar.
Bosnian center Jusuf Nurkic looked better than ever during the bubble in Orlando and the Blazers are counting on him to be their rock in the middle. He is already getting drafted in the third round and he is a safe bet to finish the season in the top-50 at a minimum due to his good overall percentages and defensive numbers. The departure of Hassan Whiteside means that he has a clear path to 35+ minutes per game and I’m not worried about the presence of Enes Kanter, who will share the remaining minutes with Harry Giles.
With a revamped front office in Sacramento the Kings cleared house and Nemanja Bjelica is the only remaining international player on the roster. He still seems to be a favorite of Luke Walton’s despite his deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball and he projects to get minutes as a backup forward and center. Bjelica took advantage of the injuries to Richaun Holmes and Marvin Bagley last year to finish the season inside the top-75. You shouldn’t be expecting anything close to that kind of production and I’m only treating the Serbian forward as a scoring and triples specialist in deeper leagues.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs re-signed Jakob Poeltl but Gregg Popovic wants to play with tempo this year, making the Austrian a weird fit for that style of basketball. San Antonio is also expected to shoot more threes and LaMarcus Aldridge is expected to be the starting center so unless a trade happens I can’t see Poeltl having much value in standard leagues. His poor free throw shooting and lack of scoring from the perimeter are going to limit his effectiveness on the fantasy front and you should be looking elsewhere for production out of the center position.
Aussie guard Patty Mills has looked excellent and will continue to torch opponents with his shooting while Slovenian prospect Luka Samanic did show his versatility in the bubble but is buried on the depth chart and I don’t see a path for him to get regular minutes.
Contract extension talks between Rudy Gobert and the Jazz haven’t materialized yet but the French big is guaranteed to deliver a double-double with a couple of blocks regardless of whether he stays in Utah or gets moved. He has been going off draft boards in the third round so far which is exactly where projections are on him and he is one of the safer bets.
There were some concerns about the availability of Bojan Bogdanovic after the season-ending surgery on his wrist in the summer but he is at 100% and will be starting the season at the small forward position; his role hasn’t changed and he will continue to produce plenty of points and triples, making him a nice addition in the later rounds of the draft.
Finally, HoopBall favorite Joe Ingles returns to a bench role and should be treated as such; the addition of dynamic scorer Jordan Clarkson puts a dent in Ingles’ value in standard leagues as I expect a decline in his numbers.
Stats are courtesy of Yahoo Fantasy Basketball and Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of December 19th.