The Fantasy Basketball season is underway and it’s time to dive into the latest news and how it impacts the Fantasy landscape.
Are the Bulls Blowing It Up?
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, there is “increased openness from [the Bulls] and [Zach LaVine] about exploring a trade.” Charania also pointed out Nikola Vucevic leading the players-only meeting after Opening Night, plus DeMar DeRozan and the front office being far apart on extension negotiations. The Bulls are 4-7 after a loss to the Bucks on Monday.
Chicago’s Mid 3 are all on pace for worse fantasy production than last season, and all three have negative point differentials – the Bulls notably performing -21.0 points per 100 possessions worse with DeRozan on the floor. Coach Billy Donovan also swapped out 2020 No. 4 overall pick Patrick Williams from the starting lineup in favor of offseason addition Torrey Craig.
LaVine and Vucevic are the toughest of the three key players to trade given how much money they’re owed. DeRozan is on a $28.6 million expiring deal. That’s easier to move, but it won’t be a cakewalk. Regardless, all three would presumably move into reduced roles if traded. Since the story is broken, it will probably be difficult to trade them away in fantasy basketball, unless you’re selling at a major discount.
What Chicago theoretically gets back is tough to say, but the typical haul of picks and young players seems likely. Still, it’s not a bad time to scoop some of the team’s existing youngsters off the waiver wire, especially if you’re thriving in a deep league. Coby White is the obvious add, while I remain unconvinced about Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu. But you never know what could happen with increased usage and minutes.
The 35-year-old missed his first game of the season during Tuesday’s loss to the Timberwolves – and, of course, keep an eye out for a Draymond Green suspension after he put Rudy Gobert in a sleeper hold. Curry will undergo additional tests to determine the exact nature of his injury, though the organization has already noted that the injury is believed to be minor and that Curry will not miss “significant” time – whatever that actually means.
Assuming this is something like a minor MCL sprain, Curry could be looking at a timetable of 1-2 weeks. In his absence Tuesday, Chris Paul, Brandin Podziemski and Dario Saric notably stepped up, but that was also after Green and Klay Thompson got ejected two minutes into the contest. I would still be keeping an eye on all three players, especially Podziemski and Saric in deeper formats.
Ben Simmons Dealing with Nerve Irritation
Simmons is expected to miss a week or more due to nerve irritation in his hip and lower left side. This is a bad sign from a player with persistent back issues, and specifically a back impingement that prevented him from playing after the All-Star break last season. He’s playing well this season, averaging 6.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.3 combined blocks-plus-steals.
Cam Thomas has also been out for three of Simmons’ four absences, though he could also return as soon as next week. Their absences have also coincided with Cam Johnson coming back, and he’s performed well. Mikal Bridges, Lonnie Walker, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dennis Smith have also all stepped up lately, but something will give when Thomas and Simmons are back.
I don’t believe Simmons is a drop. We need far more information, and he’s been worth rostering in almost all fantasy leagues. It’s convenient that he’s already been ruled out for a week, so you can utilize your league’s IR spot. Use the opportunity to stream interesting players on four-game weeks.
Bridges should have been drafted in your league, and I assume he’s not sitting on any waiver wires. It’s anyone’s guess how he’ll look after not playing since the end of the 2021-22 season, but the intimation from head coach Steve Clifford is that Bridges will play a “significant role right away” – whatever that actually means.
Ultimately, this news is just as much about whose minutes and usage Bridges is taking. In addition to the extended absence of Terry Rozier on Tuesday, Charlotte was also missing Gordon Hayward and Brandon Miller. That led to PJ Washington popping off for 32 points. This is the ultimate sell-high moment if anyone is buying (they probably aren’t). When Bridges broke out two years ago, Washington averaged just 10.3 points in 27.2 minutes, compared to the past two seasons’ marks of 16.4 points in 32.8 minutes.
You should also be concerned about Hayward and Miller. Hayward averaged a respectable 16/5/4 in 2021-22. And while those numbers aren’t drastically different from what he’s averaging this season, the usage will certainly decrease, and he will especially not continue to average 2.4 combined steals-and-blocks. Plus, he’s a major injury risk who hasn’t played more than 52 games since 2018-19. Sell high if possible, but you’re going to have trouble after he posted six points against the Knicks and then didn’t play Tuesday.
There’s nothing you can really do with Miller. Managers have already been dropping him, and I think those discussions will really heat up within the next week or two. To me, you have to drop him unless you’re doing extremely well in your league and want to wait and see. The situation is just horrible for him.
The Clippers are 0-5 since Harden debuted. Oddly, Paul George and Russell Westbrook haven’t been affected much, but Kawhi Leonard is averaging just 18.0 points and 2.8 assists on 44/35/88 shooting over the past five. Harden himself is averaging 15.0 points and 4.2 assists on 47/37/100 shooting and has yet to post a game with more than a 23% usage rate. Today, coach Ty Lue described the situation as “my toughest challenge as a head coach.”
I don’t think there’s much you can do here from a fantasy perspective. Maybe throw out a buy low on Kawhi Leonard, especially if this continues for a week or two. But most managers will simply be stuck on James Harden’s Wild Ride.
Kelly Oubre Struck by Vehicle
Over the weekend, Oubre was struck by a vehicle, suffering a fractured rib. While he’s set to be re-evaluated within the next week, it seems more likely he’ll return next month. Oubre started off the season scorching hot but cooled down in his last three games, averaging 8.3 points in 26.7 minutes.
In Oubre’s first absence, Nic Batum got the start and played 33 minutes, posting nine points, seven rebounds, three blocks and a steal. Then, Batum sat out the following game due to a personal matter, prompting Robert Covington to start. Covington continued to do nothing, playing 16 minutes and finishing with two points, one rebound, one assist and one block. Patrick Beverley and Marcus Morris ended up being the ones seeing the biggest bump in workload – neither player producing fantasy-relevant stat lines.
So, is there a move to make in fantasy? Not really, outside of dropping Oubre, which most managers in standard-sized leagues should feel comfortable doing. Ultimately, I think his absence just results in more usage for existing rostered players like Tyrese Maxey, Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris.
Speaking of Maxey – he looks like a legitimate star. He popped for 50 points against the Pacers on Sunday and is now averaging 28.4 points on 49/43/94 shooting, 7.0 assists to just 1.4 turnovers, 5.3 assists and 1.9 combined blocks-plus-steals in 37.9 minutes. The shooting volume, efficiency and assist-to-turnover ratio are unreal. Expect his defensive stats to come down, but I think everything else is fairly real.
Can Anyone Make Sense of The Wizards?
Monday night, Washington snatched defeat from the jaws of victory through a combination of confounding coaching decisions – benching Daniel Gafford while he was having a great game – and terrible execution. On the bright side, someone on the Wizards is finally averaging 30 minutes per game! That being Kyle Kuzma, who has clearly taken over as the team’s No. 1 option and is returning value on his ADP. Deni Avdija is also rewarding fantasy managers who took a shot outside of the Top 100.
But if you selected nearly anyone else on this team in your fantasy drafts, you’re being let down. The main offender is Jordan Poole, who is averaging just 16.2 points, 3.7 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 28.7 minutes. His usage is somehow lower than it was with Golden State last season, and he’s slashing just 41/30/77. I still believe this is a buy-low opportunity, but mostly because I can’t imagine it getting worse. I feel the same way about Gafford, who is a foul machine but is still averaging a quality 8.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.1 assists in 23.1 minutes.
Emerging from the chaos, rookie Bilal Coulibaly has put together two impressive games in a row, totaling 30 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, seven steals and one block with only two turnovers. With Delon Wright out a month-plus and the team in need of an exorcism, don’t be surprised if the defensive-minded rookie keeps seeing significant minutes. He should be rostered in 12-team category leagues, though it’s still a bit speculative.
The Rockets Look Great
Houston has the fourth-highest non-garbage time net rating (+8.1) in the NBA, playing at a 60-win pace. But we also have to acknowledge they’ve had the eighth-easiest schedule. Interestingly, the only player who’s really broken out is Alperen Sengun. Dillon Brooks has played well, too, but keep in mind he will not continue to slash 55/54/84, and he’s actually posting the lowest usage rate of his career. I begged readers to sell high in a previous column. If you didn’t, it might be too late. He’s averaging 8.5 PPG over his past four.
Anyway, Sengun. He’s averaging 19.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.0 steals in 31.4 minutes and is seeing a 3.7% USG increase compared to last season. I could see his 60.0 FG% declining, though it’s important to keep in mind he’s getting better looks from a real set-up man in Fred VanVleet. Sengun should also shoot better than 61.8 FT%, as he shot 71.3 FT% in his first two seasons. Managers who drafted VanVleet in the fourth round are feeling it a bit, but mostly because he’s averaging 0.6 steals, rather than the 1.8 steals he racked up during his prior four campaigns. I’m concerned, since he’s averaging 1.7 deflections this year compared to 3.8 last year, so it doesn’t appear to be just bad luck.
Jalen Green and Jabari Smith – please show us something. Smith is losing minutes to Tari Eason, Jae’Sean Tate and Jeff Green. Jeff Green! Jalen Green followed up three consecutive 20-point games by going 1-for-13 from the field for nine points against the Nuggets. At least he had five assists and no turnovers. I’m more inclined to hang onto Green in fantasy. I don’t think dropping Smith would lead to regret.