The NBA preseason is in full swing, mock drafts are running nightly and projections are getting tweaked by the hour. Ahhh, it’s great to be a fantasy hoops player. The Rotoworld crew (Noah Rubin, Raphielle Johnson, Zak Hanshew) have been hard at work covering preseason games, notable injuries and transactions while formulating their thoughts on the season ahead.
We asked each of them for the boldest predictions they could offer, and they did not disappoint! Each of the guys dished out three of their hottest takes for the 2023-24 fantasy basketball campaign. You better grab a glass of milk, turn on the ceiling fan and crank the AC, because things are about to get spicy!
Devin Vassell returns top-50 value
When Vassell’s four-year, $146 million extension was announced, some casual fans may have been a bit confused. He only played 33 games last year due to knee issues, and it doesn’t seem like he can do much aside from score and hit threes. But make no mistake. This guy is legit and is on the cusp of a breakout season. The Spurs gave him a big contract despite the knee injury because they know what type of talent he is. He’s healthy heading into year four and will see much better shot opportunities with Victor Wembanyama drawing the attention of the defense. He’s an underrated playmaker and has a lot of upside on the defensive end. I’m expecting jumps in his points, assists, steals, blocks and field goal percentage. Whether those are small steps or giant leaps remains to be seen, but a top-50 finish is within his grasp. -Noah
Anthony Edwards finishes the season as a top-10 fantasy player
Given the 2022-23 season that Edwards had, I don’t think this is too hot of a take. He appeared in 79 games, averaging 24.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.7 blocks, and 2.7 3-pointers, shooting 45.9% from the field and 75.6% from the foul line. However, when you consider that this level of production was good for top-40 value in 9-cat formats, expecting Edwards to be a top-10 player does qualify as a “hot take.”
He produced those numbers with Karl-Anthony Towns sidelined for 53 games due to injury, and there was also the process of getting used to a lineup that featured two bigs (KAT and Rudy Gobert) when everyone was available. But I won’t let those facts deter me from hopping on the Edwards bandwagon. Two areas that are correctible are the free-throw percentage and turnovers, with Ant-Man averaging 3.3 per game in the latter category. And if you’re dealing with 8-cat leagues, the jump isn’t as high, with Edwards finishing last season as a top-25 player. I’m all-in on the Timberwolves star guard. -Raph
Jordan Poole leads the NBA in scoring
Wait, Zak… you’re talking about that absolute scrub that Golden State couldn’t get out of the building quick enough, right? Have you suffered brain damage?
No, I’m not Homer Simpson trying to drum up business for Mr. Plow. I’m a firm believer in Poole’s talent. The narrative that he’s washed or has lost some of the skill that made him a key piece on a championship roster just two seasons ago is laughable. This guy is long and lanky with a great finish around the rim and an excellent three-point shot that had us calling him the “Third Splash Brother” not too long ago. He’s going to take plenty of shots, of that you can be sure.
In 26 games played without Steph Curry last season, Poole averaged 26.1 points and 3.0 triples. Sure, he did it on 41.9% shooting, but the FGAs were there. They will certainly be there for a rebuilding Wizards team that just traded its top two players in the offseason and brought in Poole to be one of the faces of the franchise. Expect him to get the green light and let ‘er rip in the nation’s capital. It’s time for a Poole Party, baby! -Zak
Giannis Antetokounmpo provide first-round value in 9-cat leagues
This isn’t me saying “he’ll be worth drafting in the first round”. That’s a given. This is me saying that in 9-cat scoring (where he finished 104th last season), he will finish in the top-12. There are multiple reasons that Giannis’ value was so bad last year. He set a career-high for turnovers. His 3-pointers, steals and blocks all slightly dipped. Most notably, he was atrocious from the free throw line (64.5% on 12.3 attempts). However, he returned second round value during the 2019-20 season while shooting 63.4% from the line on 10 attempts per game. He also shot 72.2% on 11.4 attempts during the 2021-22 season. He took on a larger offensive load last season with Khris Middleton out for over half of the season, which caused his efficiency and defensive numbers to slip. With Damian Lillard in town and Middleton healthy, Giannis will get easier looks than ever and be able to focus on the defensive end more. An uptick in defensive numbers and decrease in turnovers will help his value a lot. His career free throw percentage is 70.8%, so getting back towards that as well will complete the recipe for Antetokounmpo’s fifth first-round finish of his career. -Noah
Giannis Antetokounmpo finishes as a top-5 fantasy player
While Giannis put up some gaudy numbers last season, averaging 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game, foul shooting and turnovers sank his fantasy value, especially in 9-cat formats. Shooting 64.5% from the line and averaging 3.9 turnovers per game, Antetokounmpo finished the year ranked outside the top 100 in 9-cat and just inside the top 50 in 8-cat formats. He has shot below 70% from the line in three of his last four seasons, but Giannis has made at least 72% of his attempts in six of his nine years with the Bucks. I’m betting on him improving the foul shooting. And the addition of Damian Lillard may result in even better scoring opportunities for Antetokounmpo, as opposing teams will have to devote a substantial amount of attention to the Bucks’ high-profile guard. Expecting top-5 production from Giannis is a bit ambitious, especially considering the players who have produced at that level in recent years. But this is a hot-take column, so I’m rolling with it. -Raph
Christian Braun finishes as a top-85 player in 9-cat
Bruce Brown and Jeff Green won a championship and promptly dipped out of Denver, peacing out to Nikola Jokic and Co. and heading for new destinations. The departure of those two players and Denver’s decision to stand pat this offseason means Braun will surely absorb a good chunk of the 48 minutes vacated by Green and Brown. Braun showed a ton of promise in spots throughout the regular season, but he made a name for himself in the postseason with some quality play, including 15 points in a crucial Game 3 in the NBA Finals.
Who’s a player who might go undrafted in fantasy hoops leagues who you legitimately believe will finish in the top-100?
I’ll start: Christian Braun pic.twitter.com/8JRetRohun
— Zak Hanshew (@ZaktheMonster) October 8, 2023
One of only five players in history to win an NCAA championship and an NBA championship in back-to-back seasons, Braun is poised to take the next step forward in Year 2 and take full advantage of the monster leap in minutes he’s about to see. He can assume a Bruce Brown-esque role and provide useful scoring mixed with quality peripherals. Braun may not be elite in any one category, but he can be productive across the board and not hurt you too much in any one cat. He’s going undrafted in some leagues, which gives him incredible value given his high ceiling. Don’t miss out! -Zak
The Pacers and Magic make it to the postseason
They may both only make the play-in tournament, but I think there’s a real chance that at least one of these teams plays a full series. Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Miami, New York, Brooklyn and Atlanta are the other eight postseason teams to me, though the other five teams all have a path to make it. The East is going to be uber competitive this season, but I think that Indiana and Orlando will make the biggest jumps. The Magic have a ton of lottery talent, and it wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest if everything came together around Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner and Markelle Fultz, along with other guys like Wendell Carter Jr., Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony. A healthy year from Jonathan Isaac would help as well. Indiana was competitive for most of last season until Tyrese Haliburton missed a large stretch of games. They now have two real power forward options in Obi Toppin and Jarace Walker, and they added Bruce Brown. Get your tickets now Orlando and Indiana fans. Postseason basketball is coming to your city real soon! -Noah
Chris Paul finishes the season ranked outside the top-50
Death, taxes, and Chris Paul providing top-25 per-game fantasy value. He had done that every season of his NBA career before the 2022-23 campaign when CP3 finished just outside that threshold in his final season with the Suns. It wouldn’t be fair to point to that as a sign of Paul’s productivity declining, as he averaged 13.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 1.7 3-pointers per game, which placed him 31st in 9-cat per-game value. But the Warriors team that he joined this offseason is different in that they have the potential to field lineups with five players capable of making plays for themselves or their teammates. That could not be said for the Suns, and I believe that will impact Paul’s usage and production. He isn’t going to fall off the map in fantasy basketball, but sharing the court (and touches) with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins could be what pushes Paul outside of the top 50 for the first time in his storied career. -Raph
Robert Williams finishes as a better per-game option than Deandre Ayton
Is it really time for Time Lord again? Look, it’s never not been time, if we’re being honest. Much like Jordan Poole, one disappointing season, and you’re toast. Williams has an early-round ceiling thanks to his elite FG% and blocks, but he’s consistently getting drafted outside the top-80. Hell, I got him at pick 102 in a recent Rotoworld mock. Seriously, that’s league-winning value!
The Blazers small forward competition is between Matisse Thybulle and Shaedon Sharpe with Thybulle the likely leader. Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said Tuesday that Jerami Grant will start at PF. Robert Williams is the backup center and will see some time at PF.
— Aaron J. Fentress (@AaronJFentress) October 4, 2023
Apparently Williams will get some run at PF, which is a huge boost to his fantasy value, as it means he can play 25+ minutes per night with Ayton in the fold. Don’t forget that for his career, Williams has averaged 12.7 points, 12.0 boards, 2.3 dimes, 1.4 steals and 3.3 blocks per 36 minutes. He doesn’t need to play 30 minutes a night to finish inside the top-50, but Ayton will need all the minutes he can get to finish inside that range. The two should finish the season close in per-game value, but Williams is being massively undersold, and a bounce-back campaign is imminent. -Zak
Source: Yahoo Sports