This preview will focus on what happened over the off-season, how it should affect fantasy relevant players for the upcoming season, and most importantly, what you should be looking for this preseason to help you make a more informed decision.
Be sure to check out the rest of the Too Early Preview
- Part 1: New Look? Same as the Old Look
- Part 2: Injuries Mostly Come at Night… mostly
- Part 3: Minutes?!?! We’re talking about Minutes?!?!
- Part 4: How’s that guy going to fit in?
Part 3: Minutes?!?! We’re talking about Minutes?!?!
Preseason will be big for the Bulls. With Coach Hoiberg’s brand new, up-tempo offensive schemes, we could be seeing a whole new look for all of these players over the oppressive, predictive, and uninventive Thibs offense. Also, this should mean less minutes all around in conjunction with the front office’s wishes and the prevailing durability science that teams like the Spurs and Warriors have used to their advantage. Jimmy Butler should see a dip in usage as he shouldn’t even approach last year’s 38.7 mpg, but it could mean he plays more than 65 games this year, and he should be featured more in offensive sets. Overall a wash when it comes to value, safely leaving him in the first round.
The real unknown is the front court rotation: Noah, Gasol, Gibson, Mirotic, and a sharp summer league from Bobby Portis is forcing a glut of talent into 96 minutes. Granted we could see Niko dabble with the three-spot, but his advantage is playing the stretch four. Fully expect someone (Gibson) to move at some point during the year. Until then, everyone may suffer due to lack of playing time. The rotation in late preseason will help shape fantasy value, but without minutes even a strong Pau Gasol year won’t bring the same value as last year. The Niko hype is real, the minutes are just not there; reaching for him won’t pay off unless he is going to get 30+ mpg. Watch to see where Hoiberg’s priorities lie. Also, keep an eye on Noah. A healthy Joakim was 4th in MVP voting and 19th overall in 9-cat/game value just two years ago, mostly because the Bulls ran the offense through him. I wouldn’t put it past Hoiberg to utilize this. Noah’s abysmal year should drive his value down before the draft. A mid to late round Noah is worth the pick.
Orlando keeps getting younger. This is great for team building, but can be questionable for how a coach wants to approach a rotation. Do we favor developing youth, or do we still run with heavy minutes for our starters? Now throw in Coach Scott Skiles; a hardcore hustle and defensive minded coach who doesn’t play favorites. Then throw in a much deeper bench then last year: C.J. Watson, Mario Hezonja, healthy Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier, all of which can contribute with good minutes.
Even with this crowded backcourt, Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo have more than earned their starters minutes, so I don’t see a reduction in their playing time. Fournier could get large minutes off the bench playing on the second team, if Skiles prefers his defense. The real question is the emergence of Arron Gordon. Granted Channing Frye was hurt last year, he still only averaged 24.9 mpg, and that dwindled during the final stretch of the year, as Gordon’s minutes rose. (Not Ben Gordon, remember how Ben Gordon was actually playing meaningful minutes. What the hell was that about?) Aaron Gordon tearing up summer league intrigues me, but Summer League means nothing. It should just be a ping on your radar. Now that Gordon is on your radar, preseason is his chance to prove his worth. The hype train is high, and Gordon is tracking up. Which means someone will probably draft him way too early. But in Gordon’s case, the minutes are there for him to take, and the talent seems to match. Preseason should verify his improvements are real. Unless you are in a deep dynasty league, do not even look at Mario Hezonja.
They might need to rename this team into the Minnesota Log Jams. Where to even begin? Let’s start with what we do know. Only two T-wolves finished in the top 190 in 9-cat totals last year. One Gorgui Dieng at 43rd, and the rookie Andrew Wiggins at 89th. Which is very impressive by a rookie, yet is slightly misrepresented. Wiggins played the 2nd most minutes in the NBA last year, only 12 minutes less than James Harden. In fact, he almost averaged 40 mpg for the second half of the season, mostly out of necessity due everyone on the team being injured. So, I’m not sure how much more effective Wiggins can be this season, even though he continues to improve faster than most rookies. But, you can take comfort that his position is safe.
The rest of the team is up for grabs. Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio return from injury expecting to move right back into their starter’s roles, but Zach LaVine had a late stretch last season, putting up big numbers (on 40 mpg), while running the offense. It will be interesting to see how the T-Wolves want to handle his progression. Granted there are enough minutes to go around, and both Rubio and Martin have shown they are starter caliber players. When LaVine played under 30 mpg, he was not fantasy relevant last year. But keep an eye on him, he showed flashes as a rookie and is only 20 years old.
The real log jam is in the frontcourt. Gorgui Dieng emerged after starter Nikola Pekovic went down, showing that his fantasy value is top half of the draft worthy when he is the sole starter. Yet, Pekovic is getting paid to be the starter on this team, and when they were both healthy they shared minutes. Now enter number one draft pick. It takes a special rookie to even break the top 100 their first year. Big man rookies are even more rare to break out as they get used to the game. Certified messiah Anthony Davis only played 29 mpg his rookie year (and finished 25 in 9-cat avg.) I will not compare the two, probably ever. Minnesota has to figure out this situation. Moving Pekovic is the obvious solution, but easier said then done. Kevin Garnett certainly not going to play much more than he did last season (20 mpg). So, there are minutes available at the four, but can Towns even play the four? Also, you got Adreian Payne and Anthony Bennett both pushing for minutes in that position as well. This whole frontcourt is a cluster, and someone will come out the starter. You can only hope the T-Wolves show their cards in preseason as to the rotation. Dieng and Towns are the most interesting fantasy prospects here, but you might just have to do your best guessing before the draft.
I am very glad the human pterodactyl is healthy and back to playing basketball. Watch for minutes restrictions for him and Wade this year, but I’m confident in Bosh’s ability to return to full form. Wade will probably sit a handful of games like last year, which means his minutes need to go somewhere. Situations like this are awful to predict. Sure, in deeper roto leagues or daily H2H roster leagues, maybe this gives Mario Chalmers or Gerald Green a bump in rankings, but I certainly don’t want have to check the Heat’s twitter account to set my lineup every single day. Do pay attention to how Green fills in the rotation. Just two years ago he was ranked 66th in 9-cat per game on 28.4 mpg.
Someone in your league is getting hyped about Justice Winslow, I almost guarantee it. I mean, Luol Deng isn’t that good, right? Winslow shouldn’t have problem moving into that spot. Point #1: Rookies rarely are fantasy relevant. Point #2: Luol Deng was ranked higher than Dwyane Wade last year in 9-cat leagues. (I’ll give you a minute to read that sentence again). Deng is always a late draft steal. His game is incredibly boring. He has always been way better on the court than in fantasy, but he doesn’t hurt you anywhere. That’s his value, he slowly scrapes away at all the stats, a steal here, a three there. Never blowing up your stat line, but always contributing. I’m staying away from the Hassan Whiteside situation. Obviously, keep track of his performance this preseason, but Whiteside is the ultimate boom or bust draft pick. Let him be someone else’s problem. Unless he slips hard in your league (which I doubt), he isn’t going to win anyone their league, but he certainly can lose it for you.
With Brandon Jennings likely out until late December, Detroit is now the Reggie Jackson show at point guard. My bet is that Reggie won’t need to worry about Jennings cutting into his minutes by the start of the new year. I’m sure you’ve read numerous times about how Reggie was insane over the few months of the season with Josh Smith gone and nothing to play for, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. He only dropped 20/10 in the last 16 games of the season. That is a very small sample size. In that small sample, he shot 48% from the field, but 44% on the season. I need to see him shoot the ball well for more than 16 games before I believe that Reggie has improved that much. Either way, the bulk of the minutes are his, and that means putting up stats no matter what.
Elsewhere on the roster, we got Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (who also played well in that 16 game stretch), and Jodie Meeks battling out for their share of the minutes at the two, and Stanley Johnson/Marcus Morris at the three. Will Stan Van will go with youth in these cases? Caldwell-Pope did show some nice filler stats, and became a true three-point assets last season, he could be a nice later round SG flyer. I am interested in seeing how the spacing of Illyasova will allow Drummond to get open and have space to work in, and if the rest of the offense frees up Illyasova as well. That will be an important part of their offense moving forward, and definitely something Stan Van Gundy can design around.
Stay tuned for Part 4: How’s that guy going to fit in?