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

 In Draft Strategy, Pickups, Preseason

Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets

Jerami Grant/Small Forward Rotation: Paul Millsap’s minutes are likely coming down. He saw 27.1 MPG in 2018-2019 and will likely play less than that with Grant now in a Nuggets jersey. I expect the split at the four to be about 25/23 in Millsap’s favor. Grant is a long-shot to see any time at the five when Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee are healthy, so he will have to pick up about seven minutes at the three to have a shot at being more than a late-round guy in standard leagues. That seems possible given the Nuggets’ lack of depth at small forward and management openly talking about how they want Grant to play at least 30 MPG this year. If he does hit the 30 MPG mark, he’ll have top-80 upside. He was a top-75 player last season in 32.7 MPG and averaged 13.6 PPG, 1.4 3PG, 5.2 RPG, 0.8 SPG, and 1.3 BPG.

Grant will compete for minutes at the three with Will BartonJuancho HernangomezTorrey Craig, and Michael Porter Jr. I’m not drafting any of those four in standard leagues, and Barton is the only one that is an interesting late-round flier in deeper leagues. He was a top-50 player in 2017-2018, but that impressive finish came in 33.1 MPG. If he plays minutes in the upper-20s, he’ll have top-140 upside with his best contributions coming in the scoring categories (15.0 PPG, 2.0 3PG). Hernangomez doesn’t have a shot at major minutes and wouldn’t do much if he did somehow find himself getting heavy run. The Spaniard wasn’t even a top-300 per-minute player last season. Craig is in the same boat. He cracked the top-300 on a per-minute basis last season, but only barely. Porter Jr. is living off of high school hype and is being selected in too many drafts. We don’t know if he can stay healthy (or if he is any good), and the Nuggets will likely want to monitor his minutes this year. He’s an OK dynasty stash, but not someone that you will want to consider in re-draft unless you play in a 20+ team league.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Jarrett Culver/Josh Okogie: Both young wings have the potential to be relevant to standard league players if they can find a way to play more than 30 MPG. Unfortunately, barring injuries, it’s unlikely that either player reaches that mark. Andrew Wiggins is going to once again play huge minutes and Culver, Okogie, and Jake Layman will be stuck splitting up the remaining 60 or so minutes available on the wing. Most of Okogie’s value is generated on the defensive end, and he should be a solid streamer for those looking for upside in the steals category (1.8 SP36) and a 50/50 shot at a block (0.7 BP36). Culver’s contributions should be a little more varied, but his jumper is likely going to hold him back early in his career. He has a hitch at the top of his jumper, and he’ll have to rework his shot mechanics to be efficient at the pro level. He struggled with his shot in his final year at Texas Tech (30.4 3P%, 70.7 FT%) and feels like a long-shot to even hit 1.0 3PG. Culver could work in the punt threes build in deeper leagues. The rookie should provide low-end numbers in rebounds, dimes, and steals. As a sophomore, he averaged 6.4 RPG, 3.7 APG, and 1.5 SPG.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Steven Adams Trade Rumors: The Thunder’s rotation isn’t too interesting. Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will play heavy minutes in the backcourt. Dennis Schroder will fill in for Paul when he is out and produce a sloppy point guard line with lots of points and dimes and ugly percentages. Danilo Gallinari will take most of the minutes available at the four and Adams will do the same at the five. The small forward rotation isn’t interesting. It’s full of borderline NBA players with terrible per-minute numbers. Andre Roberson was a nice punt points play the last time we saw him, but hasn’t played in almost two years and can be left on the wire in all but the deepest of leagues. Nerlens Noel will have top-30 upside if Adams is moved, and a center does not come back to the Thunder. Noel is an elite per-minute player who can produce dominant numbers on the defensive end. The Thunder’s current backup center has been a top-15 per-minute player the last two seasons. The last time the center was a consistent starter and played minutes in the upper-20s, he averaged a ridiculous 1.8 SPG and 1.5 BPG. That was in his final year in Philadelphia. Noel also averaged 11.1 PPG and 8.1 RPG that season and was a reliable source of field goal percentage impact (52.1 FG%). The big man is someone fantasy players in all leagues will want to target late in their drafts.

Portland Trail Blazers

Wing Rotation: C.J. McCollum is locked into a 34 MPG role at the two, but the rest of the Blazers’ wing minutes are up for grabs. Anfernee Simons is a name that those paying attention to Summer League will have heard of. He played well in the Blazers’ first two Summer League games and then exploded for 36 points, six threes, and six rebounds in his third and final appearance. He’s an interesting flier in deeper leagues since he’s likely going to be the Blazers’ backup point guard and spend some time at shooting guard. He’s not someone I’m taking a flier on in standard leagues just yet, however. Kent BazemoreRodney Hood, and Mario Hezonja will split the small forward minutes and Bazemore and Hood could play some two as well. Bazemore is the most interesting option of the trio and is someone who I think can be drafted in standard leagues. Bazemore has multiple top-100 finishes on his resume in less than 30 MPG and does more in the defensive categories (1.3 SPG, 0.6 BPG) than most final-round picks. Hood will likely just be a points and threes streamer. He’s had numerous chances in his career to be more than that and has flopped every time. He only averaged 9.6 PPG and 1.1 3PG in 24.4 MPG after being traded to the Blazers last season. Hezonja is a better option for deep-league players than Hood. The Blazers are lacking quality options at the four behind Zach Collins, and Hezonja has the size to play there. He looked like he was on the verge of breaking out after his final season in Orlando before falling victim to Coach Fizdale in New York. His game is somewhat fantasy-friendly. In 2017-2018, he was a top-150 player in only 22.1 MPG. Super Mario’s most valuable contributions will come from deep, on the boards, and in the defensive categories. During his final season in Orlando, he produced 2.0 3P36, 6.1 RP36, 1.8 SP36, and 0.7 BP36.

Utah Jazz

Joe Ingles: Ingles is likely moving to the bench, and that move could lead to a drop in his minutes. He played 31.3 MPG last season and was a top-100 player who was better than that over the second half of the season. The Australian should see minutes in the upper-20s, and potential owners will want to keep an eye on his role with the bench unit. If he’s asked to take on more creation duties, his value could survive the slight minutes drop. Ingle’s upside isn’t very high when everyone is healthy, but he should be one of the better sources of threes (2.3 3PG) and dimes (5.7 APG) available towards the end of the draft.


Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors

Kevon Looney’s minutes: Looney is the most interesting fantasy option of the Warriors’ role players and looks set to gain a significant amount of value with Willie Cauley-Stein expected to miss all of October and possibly some of November. There was some talk of playing Looney over 30 MPG in the summer. That felt like a stretch then, but it now looks like a likely scenario with the Warriors so thin up front. If Looney does get that much run, he would likely be a top-100 player who produces strong numbers in all of the big-man categories. In 2018-2019, he produced 10.2 RP36 and 1.3 BP36 while shooting 62.4 percent from the floor. The center could also come with a very helpful steal rate. Over the final three months of the season, Looney produced 1.6 SP36. There’s been some talk of Looney adding a three-ball and fantasy players should be hoping that he is hesitant to throw it up from deep during regular season games. Looney wouldn’t hit many (he’s only connected from deep five times in his career), and the attempts would take a chunk out of his very useful field goal percentage impact.

The Warriors also have a huge hole at the three. Unfortunately, they don’t have any interesting players to fill it. Alfonzo McKinnie is the favorite to start, and he’s someone you can safely ignore unless you play in a league with 20+ teams. McKinnie is a very good rebounder (8.9 RP36) who doesn’t do much else (12.1 PP36, 1.5 3P36, 1.1 AP36, 0.7 SP36, 0.6 BP36).

Los Angeles Clippers

Moe Harkless: We have not been hearing encouraging things from Paul George lately. He is out for all of October, and he’s been vague about when he will return in November. Harkless will be a strong play until George returns and will have top-100 upside anytime one of his star teammates is out of the lineup. Over the final two months of the 2018-2019 season, Harkless was a top-70 player in only 26.6 MPG and averaged 10.1 PPG, 0.6 3PG, 5.5 RPG, 1.4 SPG, and 1.0 BPG while shooting 51.2 percent from the floor. He’s someone I am targetting aggressively in the final round, and he will be worth considering a round earlier if it looks like he’ll be the team’s starting power forward when everyone is healthy. He started at the four in the Clippers’ first preseason game and has had the same role in practice.

Los Angeles Lakers

Point Guard Rotation: The Lakers have a few options here. They could go with LeBron James at the one and start Avery Bradley alongside him, or they could start one of Rajon Rondo or Alex Caruso and roll with a more traditional lineup. Fantasy players should hope that the Lakers go with the latter option and that Caruso ends up being the team’s primary lead guard. Bradley and Rondo are extreme long-shots to be relevant to standard league players. Bradley hasn’t been a top-200 player since he left Boston, and Rondo is an assists specialist who is just a late-round player when he plays 30 MPG. Caruso looks like he could be much more than a very popular meme. The 25-year-old looked like a legitimate NBA player after being called up from the G League late in 2018-2019. Over the Lakers final 16 games, Caruso averaged a very intriguing 12.5 PPG, 1.4 3PG, 4.4 APG, and 1.5 SPG in 27.9 MPG. Those extremely strong steal numbers are not a fluke. In his three seasons in the G League, he never averaged less than 2.0 SPG. He’s a decent flier in deeper leagues and could end up being a strong streaming option for those in standard leagues who are in need of dimes and swipes.

Center Rotation: Anthony Davis doesn’t want to play the five, and his refusal to spend time at the position that he should obviously be spending the majority of his time at is going to make one of JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard relevant in standard leagues. McGee looks like the better bet right now. The veteran played well last season and was a borderline top-50 player in only 22.3 MPG. In 2018-2019, he averaged 12.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 2.0 BPG on 62.4 percent shooting. His final ranking would have been even higher if LeBron James had not gotten hurt. McGee is extremely dependent on James, and his numbers dropped dramatically when he wasn’t paired with the King. When McGee shared the court with LeBron last year, he hit 66.8 percent of his shots. When LeBron wasn’t on the court, McGee only connected on 57.7 percent of his attempts. If Howard wins the starting job, he would be a very strong pick at the end of drafts for teams punting free throw percentage. He is still an excellent per-minute rebounder (14.8 RP36 in 2017-2018), a better-than-average shot blocker (1.9 BP36 in 2017-2018), and a very useful source of field goal percentage impact (55.5 FG% in 2017-2018).

Phoenix Suns

Wing Rotation: Devin Booker will start at the two, and Kelly Oubre Jr.Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Johnson will split the rest of the wing minutes. Oubre has a very good shot at 30 MPG, and we will want to keep a close eye on his usage. He blew up down the stretch of the 2018-2019 campaign, but his top-50 numbers over the final three months of the season were due to a usage rate that he is unlikely to match this year. Over those three months, Oubre had a usage rate of 25.8 percent and averaged 18.9 PPG, 1.8 3PG, 5.8 RPG, 1.7 SPG, and 1.0 BPG. Deandre Ayton will have a bigger role this year, and Ricky Rubio and Dario Saric will likely take away touches from Oubre. He can be a mid-round player in a more limited role due to his defensive numbers, but a high preseason usage rate would make him much easier to take in the seventh round. We are not concerned about Bridges’ usage since he is just a three-and-D player at this point in his career. His minutes are what we will want to monitor this preseason. It’s possible that they get squeezed a little bit with the Suns adding a lottery pick in Johnson to their roster. Bridges will need about 30 MPG to be more than a late-round player for owners. In his rookie year, he was a borderline top-100 player thanks to averages of 1.3 3PG, 1.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG, and 0.9 TOPG.

Sacramento Kings

Center Rotation: The Kings brought in Dewayne Dedmon to be their starting five this season and also added the very solid Richaun Holmes in free agency. Harry Giles is still around and it’s likely that Marvin Bagley sees some minutes at the five this year. This could get messy. Dedmon will be a very solid pick in the 90-100 range if it looks like he will be playing 25+ MPG this season. In his final season in Atlanta, Dedmon cracked the top-50 in only 25.1 MPG and provided his owners with a little bit of everything (1.3 3PG, 7.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.1 BPG). Whoever wins the backup spot could be relevant to deeper leagues. Giles looks like the favorite to start the year backing up Dedmon. He posted some intriguing per-minute numbers in his rookie campaign. In 58 games, Giles produced 17.9 PP36, 9.7 RP36, 3.7 AP36, 1.4 SP36, and 1.0 BP36. Holmes is an even better per-minute player and was relevant for stretches of the 2018-2019 season, even though he only played 16.9 MPG. In 2018-2019, the former Sun’s per-minute numbers were 17.4 PP36, 10.1 RP36, 1.3 SP36, and 2.4 BP36.

Bogdan Bogdanovic: Bogdanovic has the potential to be a borderline top-100 player if he can earn a couple of extra minutes per game this year. That will be tough to do with Buddy HieldHarrison Barnes, and now Trevor Ariza on the roster. In 2018-2019, Bogdanovic was a top-120 player who averaged 14.1 PPG, 1.9 3PG, 3.8 APG, and 1.0 SPG in 27.8 MPG. If he doesn’t see any extra run, he’ll need to improve his field goal percentage by a good amount to crack the top-100. Last season, he only hit 41.8 percent of his attempts from the floor.


Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks

Kristaps Porzingis: Porzingis is likely going to look very good in preseason. He’s had a year-and-a-half to recover from his ACL tear and is still only 24-years-old. I’m not worried about his per-game numbers at all. What I am worried about is his load management schedule. The Athletic is reporting that Porzingis could be rested 15-to-20 games this season. That would be a huge blow for his value, and I don’t think he can be more than a fourth- or fifth-round pick if we get confirmation of that. That would make 62-to-67 games his ceiling, and it would only take a minor injury to get him into the 50s. His load management program also matters because it will have a major impact on where we will have to take Dwight Powell on draft day. My subscribers know how I feel about Powell (SPOILER: I love him this year). If 15-to-20 games of No Porzingis gets locked in, we might have to start taking him around the eighth round. I’m fine with him there, but I’d much rather be able to grab him at his current late-round price.

Houston Rockets

Russell Westbrook: Westbrook’s value is difficult to predict, and you will want to keep a close eye on the changes that the Rockets make to their offense to accommodate him. The point guard is going to struggle if the Rockets continue to run the same isolation-heavy offense that they are famous for. The former MVP is one of the worst high-usage isolation players in the league. Last season, Westbrook shot a horrendous 34.8 percent when he isolated his defender. Taking turns with James Harden would also hurt Westbrook’s assist numbers. Because of how much Harden likes to attack in isolation, he was only assisted on 10.5 percent of his two-point attempts and 16.1 percent of his three-point attempts. Westbrook’s assist opportunities could drop dramatically in Houston. The Rockets’ love of the three-ball is also going to work against Westbrook. The point guard’s three-point percentage has been below 30 percent in four of the past five seasons. He should see an uptick in his threes (1.6 3PG), but his field goal percentage (42.8 FG%) could be even more damaging than usual this year.

Memphis Grizzlies

Kyle Anderson: Anderson struggled with injuries in 2018-2019, and it’s not clear how healthy he is right now. If he’s not 100 percent by the start of the season, he doesn’t need to be drafted in standard leagues. If we do get to see him in preseason and he looks good, he’ll be a strong late-round target in most leagues. Anderson has much more upside than most players drafted in the final rounds. He had a down year last season, and still finished as a borderline top-100 player in nine-category leagues and in 2017-2018, he was a top-75 player in only 26.7 MPG. He’ll battle Jae Crowder for minutes at the three, and if he plays more than the veteran, he should be very useful to teams punting points or threes. In his breakout 2017-2018 season, Anderson averaged 7.9 PPG, 0.3 3PG, 5.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.6 SPG, and 0.8 BPG.

Brandon Clarke: Clarke is going higher than he should in most drafts. It’s going to be difficult for the rookie to hit the 20 MPG early in the season with his outside jumper in rough shape and Jaren Jackson Jr. healthy. For now, he should only be treated as a final-round flier in standard leagues. If things change, and it starts to look like he’ll spend some time at the three and play more than 20 MPG, then he’d be worth considering a round or two earlier. Clarke’s shot-blocking ability is what is going to make him a very valuable fantasy asset eventually. He’s only 6’8” with a 6’8” wingspan, but his athleticism and timing allowed him to average an astounding 3.2 BPG in his junior year at Gonzaga. He also had an encouraging steal rate (1.2 SPG) and did a solid job on the boards (8.6 RPG). Clarke’s upside will be determined by how much he can improve his jumper. His three-ball is nonexistent right now. Over his three years of college ball, Clarke hit a total of six triples.

New Orleans Pelicans

Lonzo Ball: Lonzo reworked his jumper this summer, and it looks much better than it used to. Whether this new form leads to better results remains to be seen. This is exciting news because Ball is a reliable jumper away from being a top-40 player. His percentages have been a mess up to this point in his career (40.6 FG% and 41.7 FT% in 2018-2019), but almost everything else is in good shape. He is a very strong rebounder for a point guard (5.3 RPG), has great vision (5.4 APG), and is already one of the league’s better defensive point guards (1.7 SPG and 0.8 BPG in 2017-2018). His assists are a lock to increase this year. Jrue Holiday has no problems playing off the ball, and Lonzo should spend a lot more time running the Pelicans’ offense than he did running the Lakers’ offense.

San Antonio Spurs

Point Guard Rotation: The Derrick WhiteDejounte Murray showdown is one of the more interesting fantasy storylines of the preseason. It’s possible that both start, but that feels unlikely given the lack of shooters that the Spurs would have on the floor in that scenario. Both players have top-75 upside if they can carve out 30+ MPG roles. White had some extremely useful stretches during his second season in the association. Over the final three months of the season, White was a top-90 player in 27.8 MPG. Over that span, he averaged 11.4 PPG, 0.8 3PG, 4.4 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, and an especially useful 1.0 BPG. Murray was poised for a breakout 2018-2019 season before tearing his ACL in preseason. The last time we saw the point guard, he was producing a very promising 13.5 PP36, 9.5 RP36, 4.8 AP36, 2.0 SP36, and 0.6 BP36. His points and assists will remain mediocre this year with both White and DeMar DeRozan in the Spurs’ backcourt, but he should be one of the best sources of boards from the point guard spot and post some near-elite defensive numbers.

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