(FREE) Players And Position Battles To Monitor In Preseason – Eastern Conference

 In Draft Strategy, Pickups, Preseason

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics

Center Rotation: Enes KanterDaniel Theis, and Robert Williams will battle for the Celtics’ center minutes. All three players could be interesting if they become the team’s clear top option at the five. Kanter will likely get the first shot at the starting job, but he could easily lose it due to his defense. If Kanter holds onto the starting spot and plays 25-28 MPG, he’ll have top-50 upside and will likely average a double-double with great percentages and nothing else. There’s a chance that he would be rosterable in standard leagues in 23 MPG or so, but he wouldn’t be a top-100 player with that little run. Theis could do damage in 25 MPG as well. Last season, he put up some pretty tasty per-minute numbers in the big-man categories. In 2018-2019, he produced 8.9 RP36 and 1.6 BP36 while shooting from 54.9 percent from the floor. He also has a three-ball (1.0 3P36) and is respectable at the line (73.7 FT%). He’s someone deep-league players will want to keep an eye on. Williams is the most exciting option of the trio. He has 2018-2019 Mitchell Robinson potential if he can carve out a 20 MPG role. He only played a total of 283 minutes last year, but his massive upside in the blocks category is clear. As a rookie, Williams produced an absurd 5.1 BP36. The Time Lord would likely be a punt FT%-only player if he does find a way to play decent minutes. In his final season at Texas A&M, he only connected on 47.1 percent of his trips to the line.

Brooklyn Nets

Taurean Prince: Prince may end up with a clear path to big minutes early in the season. Wilson Chandler has been suspended for 25 games and Rodions Kurucs was arrested in early September for allegedly beating up his ex-girlfriend. The NBA is currently investigating the matter and we should have an idea what the outcome of the investigation will be by the start of the season. Kurucs has a court date on October 21st. If the NBA comes down on Kurucs, Prince could be looking at 30 MPG. That is a number that Nets players seldom see. Coach Atkinson does not play his role players big minutes. With 30 MPG, the swingman would likely be a top-100 player. He’s not a great per-minute player, but he does enough in the scoring categories to be interesting. In 2017-2018, Prince was a borderline top-90 player in nine-category leagues in 30.0 MPG. That season he averaged 14.1 PPG, 2.1 3PG, 4.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 0.5 BPG.

Center Rotation: Fantasy players should be cheering for Jarrett Allen to win his preseason battle with DeAndre Jordan. The winner of this showdown is likely going to see about 26 MPG. That’s enough minutes to make Allen very useful, but the declining Jordan would only be a late-round player with that kind of run. In 2018-2019, Allen was a top-80 player in only 26.2 MPG. Some improvement from the 21-year-old could allow him to post fifth-round numbers or better this year. His best contributions will come in the big-man categories (8.4 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 59.0 FG%) and he’s shown the ability to be solid at the line. In his rookie year, he shot 77.6 percent from the charity stripe. Jordan is a two-category player at this point in his career. He can still do great work on the boards (15.9 RP36) and can still have a stellar impact on the field goal percentage category (64.1 FG%) in limited minutes, but he won’t do anything else. Jordan’s previously excellent block rate has disappeared (1.3 BP36) and given his age, it is unlikely to come back. 

New York Knicks

Point Guard Rotation: This is one that only deep-league owners should care about. Dennis Smith Jr. is going to start over Elfrid Payton, and it will be interesting to see what the minutes split ends up looking like. Smith is a poor per-minute player who needs about 30 MPG to sneak into the standard-league conversation in friendly builds. 30 MPG definitely feels like a stretch here, and it will likely just end up being an ugly timeshare that kills both players’ value.

Big-man Positions: You probably heard a joke or two about the Knicks signing half of the league’s bigs this offseason. There is some truth to that. Despite having a future stud at center, the Knicks brought in a bunch of veterans that could potentially harm his development and fantasy value. Julius Randle’s minutes are safe. He’ll play 30+ MPG this year and be the team’s first option. What we don’t know is how he, Taj Gibson, and Bobby Portis will affect Mitchell Robinson’s minutes. In a sane world, with a sane coach, Robinson would play 30 MPG, and the team would make his development a priority. Unfortunately, this is the Knicks we are talking about. Robinson can still be an early-round player if his minutes end up being in 25 MPG range, but if by some miracle his playing time is close to 30 MPG (likely at the expense of Gibson), he could be a first-round player.

Philadelphia 76ers

Matisse Thybulle: The Sixers’ loaded starting lineup makes them one of the least interesting teams this preseason. It is very unlikely that any of their bench players are useful early in the year. Thybulle is the one bench option that might be able to be a reliable streamer in standard leagues, but he may not even be in the rotation to start the season. He could be a Nerlens Noel-type of streamer if he can find a way to see minutes in the upper-teens. In his final year of college, he averaged an insane 3.5 SPG and 2.3 BPG.

Toronto Raptors

Shooting Guard Rotation: The Raptors’ starting two-guard spot is going to be fluid this year, so we want to keep an eye on the minute distribution and not the starting spot. Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell are your best bets to absorb most of the minutes vacated by Danny Green. VanVleet is much more interesting than Powell. He’s got a shot at being a top-75 player this year if he can hit 30 MPG. Over the final month of the 2018-2019 regular season, the Finals hero played 30.1 MPG and averaged 12.5 PPG, 2.1 3PG, and 5.6 APG. Powell was an efficient scorer last year (48.3 FG%, 82.7 FT%), but doesn’t do enough outside of the scoring categories to be more than a late-round option. There’s also been talk of Patrick McCaw seeing minutes at the two. The three-time NBA champion is unlikely to be relevant in any league that has less than 20 teams. The only category that he has shown potential in is steals (2.1 SP36). McCaw has shown nothing on the offensive end up to this point (6.7 PP36, 0.8 3P36, 2.6 AP36).

Central Division

Chicago Bulls

Point Guard Rotation: The Kris DunnTomas Satoransky showdown is one preseason storyline that all fantasy players will want to keep an eye on. Both players can be very useful in standard leagues when given 30 MPG. The Bulls bringing in Satoransky and drafting Coby White suggests that they are not thrilled with Dunn’s development. However, that does not mean that Dunn is a lock to lose his starting spot. He’ll go into preseason as the starter, and it’s possible that he outplays Satoransky. In 2017-2018, Dunn was a top-80 player in 29.3 MPG. That season he averaged 13.4 PPG, 0.8 3PG, 6.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, and 0.5 BPG. Satoransky also has top-100 upside this year. After taking over for the injured John Wall on December 28th, Satoransky was a top-90 player who produced 11.0 PPG, 1.0 3PG, 4.6 RPG, 6.6 APG, and 1.2 SPG. He also hit 47.8 percent of his shot attempts and helped keep his owners’ turnovers in check (1.9 TOPG). White could be relevant down the stretch, but it looks like he’ll be the odd man out early on.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Darius Garland: Garland only played in five games in college, and anyone who is making confident-sounding predictions regarding how he’s going to look this year is lying to you. We just have to wait and see. It looks like he’ll serve as the Cavaliers’ starting point guard with Collin Sexton playing the two. This setup is likely going to limit both players’ upside in the assists category. Garland’s calling card is likely going to be his shooting, so it’s possible that he posts some useful numbers from deep. With the rookie being a true wildcard, I would stay away in early standard league drafts. He’s just a late-round flier for now in deeper leagues.

Larry Nance Jr: Nance is a per-minute stud who could be a top-50 player this year. He is apparently going to play some three, and while I don’t love that news since it will likely hurt his very useful field goal percentage impact (52.0 FG%), it should lead to a couple more minutes of playing time this season (26.8 MPG). We are also already hearing the Cavaliers talk about resting Kevin Love. As we saw last season, Nance has early-round potential whenever Love sits. If it looks like the Cavaliers are going to play Nance 30 MPG, get very aggressive with the big man on draft day. He’s not a shot blocker (0.8 BP36), but he is efficient from the field, does very good work on the boards (11.0 RP36), and provides elite out-of-position steals (2.0 SP36) while being a sneaky source of out-of-position dimes (4.3 AP36).

Detroit Pistons

Wing Rotation:  The Pistons are still rocking arguably the ugliest wing rotation in the league. I would take the Hornets’ wing rotation over the Pistons’ without thinking twice. Tony Snell looks like the favorite to start at the three, and if Snell has a shot at starting for your team, you are not in good shape. Luke Kennard is the only somewhat interesting player among the team’s options at the two and the three. Kennard could average 13+ PPG and 2.0+ 3PG while doing absolutely nothing else. His lack of all-around game makes him more of a streamer in standard leagues than someone you want to consider taking a flier on in the later rounds of your draft.

Indiana Pacers

Myles Turner/Domantas Sabonis: The Pacers’ rotation is going to get messy when Victor Oladipo returns, but until then, it should be pretty straight forward. Malcolm BrogdonJeremy LambT.J. Warren, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner will start and play major minutes. We will have to see how Sabonis and Turner mesh. The results were positive last year (the duo had a positive net rating), but the pair did not play together a ton, and it is likely that many of their minutes came against frontcourts that were good matchups for a big-big lineup. The two centers will eat into each other’s rebounding rates. They did last year, although the impact was not significant. It’s hard to say to how the throwback lineup will affect the rest of their lines. Both players’ efficiency numbers increased when they shared the court in 2018-2019, but again, the sample size was not large, and many of their minutes together likely came against favorable matchups.

Goga Bitadze – Bitadze is an intriguing prospect who has landed in a tricky situation. The good news is that he is joining a team that has done a great job developing young big men. The bad news is that those well-developed young big men are still on the roster. He won the EuroLeague Rising Star award as a 19-year-old, and his strong play translated to some flashy box score numbers. In his 13 games in the EuroLeague, the first-round pick averaged 12.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 2.3 BPG in only 24.2 MPG. He should see some minutes as the backup five, but there will be games when the Pacers have to go small at the four, and Sabonis takes most of the backup center minutes.

Milwaukee Bucks

Shooting Guard Rotation: The other four positions have returning studs that will play major minutes. The only position battle that is somewhat interesting is at shooting guard due to Malcolm Brogdon’s departure. It looks like it could be a spot that ends up being useless to all but the deepest of fantasy leagues. Wesley MatthewsDonte DiVincenzoSterling Brown, and George Hill could all spend time at shooting guard this year. None of the four are particularly interesting fantasy assets. Matthews and Hill are well past their primes, and DiVincenzo and Brown were both very poor per-minute players in 2018-2019. Keep an eye on the minute distribution, but keep your expectations low. 

Southeast Divison

Atlanta Hawks

Cam Reddish: Reddish is coming off of one of the worst college seasons that a lottery pick has ever produced. That is not hyperbole. The former Blue Devil somehow managed to shoot 35.6 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from deep, and a mind-bogglingly bad 39.4 percent from two in his freshman year despite having minimal defensive attention paid to him. He was also one of the worst finishers in college basketball. Reddish only shot 51.2 percent at the rim during his only year at Duke. To give you an idea of how bad that is, Tre Jones, Reddish’s 6’2” teammate, shot 63.8 percent at the rim on almost 25 percent more attempts. Reddish was also a non-factor on the boards (3.7 RPG) and averaged far more turnovers (2.7 TOPG) than assists (1.9 APG). So why should we pay attention to him? Because he was playing through a core injury while posting those horrendous numbers, and there’s a chance that it was the primary reason for his struggles. Reddish was an elite high school prospect and he should not have been that terrible in college. It could just be a motor issue or a bad job by scouts, but we’re not going to know until we see him on the court. Reddish’s best category as a rookie should be steals. At Duke, he averaged a very solid 1.6 SPG.

Bruno Fernando: Fernando was a second-round pick in the 2019 draft, but projects to have a very fantasy-friendly game and could find himself playing big minutes during the most important stretch of the fantasy calendar. He was a double-double machine at Maryland (13.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG), and could end up being one of those rare, and always very valuable, bigs who block a lot of shots (1.9 BPG) without hurting you at the line (77.9 FT%). He’s a better fantasy prospect than some of the players selected in the lottery. With the Hawks not expected to compete for a playoff spot this season, it’s easy to picture the team unleashing Fernando in March to see what they’ve got. It’s possible that he finds himself starting even earlier in the season. He only has Alex Len in front of him and Len has yet to prove that he is a starting-caliber player.

Charlotte Hornets

Everyone but Terry Rozier and Miles Bridges: Rozier is going to start for the Hornets, play a ton of minutes, take a ton of shots, miss a ton of shots, and be an excellent weapon in the punt FG% build. Bridges should see major minutes on the wing and provide his owners with a “glue guy” type of line. Everything else is up in the air. The Hornets have talked about playing their young guys more this year, and such a shift would have major fantasy implications. Nicolas Batum will likely be a top-100 player with 30 MPG, but if it looks like he’ll only play minutes in the mid-20s, he should be left until the final round in standard leagues. Cody Zeller’s value is slightly safer since he doesn’t need big minutes to be useful. Zeller was a top-100 player in nine-category leagues last season in only 25.4 MPG. Malik MonkDwayne Bacon, and Willy Hernangomez will be the primary beneficiaries of a youth movement. With heavy minutes, Monk would be a quality option for punt FG% teams (38.7 FG%) looking for a late-round points and threes boost. In 2018-2019, Monk produced 18.7 PP36 and an excellent 3.1 3P36. He doesn’t do enough in the other categories to be a top-100 player. Bacon has the best shot at 30 MPG of the group, but like Monk, his contributions have been limited to the scoring categories thus far. In 2018-2019, Bacon produced 15.0 PP36 and 1.8 3P36 and only 0.6 SP36. Unlike Monk, he is efficient (47.5 FG%) and can be slotted into a few builds. Hernangomez is an interesting late-round pick for punt blocks teams (0.9 BP36) in deeper leagues. He can put up flashy numbers in the points (18.7 PP36) and rebounding (13.8 RP36) categories when given heavy run.

Miami Heat

Justise Winslow: Winslow had a slow start to his career but turned it around last season when he was finally allowed to play point guard. He’d be a strong late-round pick if Jimmy Butler hadn’t decided to take his talents to South Beach. Butler coming to town will move Winslow off the ball, and that has meant trouble in the past. If Winslow is having problems adjusting to Butler in preseason, you should pass on him on draft day. His upside is not very high anyway due to his awful performances in the percentages categories (43.3 FG%, 62.8 FT%).

Power Forward Rotation: James Johnson has already been sent home for coming to camp out of shape, and that is big news for Kelly Olynyk and Derrick Jones. Olynyk is the favorite to start on opening day (assuming he has recovered from his bone bruise by then) and has top-100 potential this year. The Canadian produces a well-rounded line when given extended run. Over the final two months of the 2018-2019 season, in 28.0 MPG, the Canadian averaged 11.8 PPG, 1.5 3PG, 5.5 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 0.9 SPG while shooting 47.5 percent from the floor and 88.4 percent from the charity stripe. Jones could have the power forward spot to himself during preseason if Olynyk needs more time. The high-flyer is an interesting late-round option for managers in deeper leagues due to his ability to post big numbers on the defensive end. In 2018-2019, Jones produced a very intriguing 1.4 SP36 and 1.3 BP36.

Orlando Magic

Markelle Fultz: Fultz will likely be brought along slowly and could be useful in deeper leagues in the right build even if his jumper remains a problem. In his 19 games with the Sixers last season, Fultz produced 5.8 RP36, 5.0 AP36, and 1.5 SP36. Those are solid per-minute numbers, and he should at least match them this year when he is healthy. He excelled in all three categories in college and in the handful of games that he played in his rookie year. If the jumper still looks like a problem in preseason, I wouldn’t bother spending a final-round pick on him in standard leagues. If it looks like it’s in decent enough shape to force the opposition to guard him, then he becomes a very interesting final-round pick in standard leagues.

Jonathan Isaac: Isaac is one of this year’s trickier mid-round picks. His long-term upside is significant, but he has disappointed in the past and now has the solid Al-Farouq Aminu backing him up. His price tag on Yahoo makes the stakes even higher. He will cost you a sixth-round pick if you play on Yahoo, which is just below his ceiling this season. He has bulked up significantly, and owners will have to hope that the extra muscle helps his mediocre rebounding rate (7.4 RP36). His steal rate is a big question mark. In his rookie year, he produced a ridiculous 2.2 SP36. In his sophomore year, his per-minute steal rate dropped to 1.1 SP36. Isaac should be an excellent fit for the punt FG% build. He’ll gain value there (42.9 FG%), and his blocks (1.7 BP36) are a huge help for a build that tends to struggle with the category.

Washington Wizards

Forward Rotation: The Wizards have an absolutely massive hole at the three. There may not be a thinner rotation spot in the league. Troy Brown is out for the preseason, and C.J. Miles, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his left foot, is not a lock to be ready for opening day. It looks like they’re going to be forced to play second-round pick Admiral Schofield decent minutes early in the year and the team will likely have to move Davis Bertans over from power forward. Schofield’s name is more interesting than his game. He didn’t do much outside of the scoring categories (16.5 PPG, 2.0 3PG) in his senior year at Tennessee, and likely won’t be much of a help to very deep league players in the defensive categories (0.9 SPG, 0.5 BPG). The Wizards lacking options at the three, and having to play Bertans there, boosts Bertans and Rui Hachimura’s values slightly. When everyone is healthy, they’ll be stuck splitting the Wizards’ 48 power forward minutes. I wouldn’t take either before the final round in standard leagues though. Bertans doesn’t do much outside of the three-point category and Hachimura projects as a three-category player (points, rebounds, FG%).

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