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It’s never too early to think about fantasy basketball, especially with many of the major sites having opened up mock drafts within the last week or so. And in the case of us here at NBC Sports Edge, we’re hard at work on the draft guide that will go live on September 7. Included in that draft guide is a column on the top rookies, and what they could potentially provide from a fantasy standpoint.
In most seasons, there will be a few rookies capable of being productive fantasy options immediately, but the majority of them aren’t going to provide a great deal regardless of league format. With that in mind I wanted to take a look at four situations that are worth discussing as training camp approaches. And we’ll begin with the third overall pick, as there appears to be a bit of a logjam in the Cavaliers frontcourt.
Question No. 1: Can Cleveland do more to clean up its frontcourt rotation?
With Evan Mobley being the Cavaliers’ pick in the lottery, many anticipated the team pairing him with Jarrett Allen at the power forward and center positions, respectively. Mobley is still a work in progress with regard to playing away from the basket, but he displayed the potential to do so both at USC and in Summer League play. However, even with that being the case, Cleveland was still in a position where it needed to do some housekeeping in the frontcourt. Larry Nance Jr. and Cedi Osman were mentioned in trade rumors, and the Cavs still have Kevin Love under contract.
While the managed to move one of those three, Nance, he was involved in a three-team deal that landed the Cavaliers Lauri Markkanen on a four-year deal worth $67 million. He’s best suited to play the power forward position, possessing the ability to stretch defenses out beyond the 3-point line. So does Cleveland start Mobley? Or do they start Markkanen, bringing the rookie off the bench as he gets acclimated to the NBA? And what about Love who, according to reports, isn’t interested in accepting a buyout with two years and $60 million remaining on his current contract? Does Cleveland, if it cannot trade Love, park him on the bench? If not, how does his presence in the rotation impact Mobley?
Cleveland can certainly use Mobley as their backup center to begin his rookie season, and given where he is development-wise, that may be the best course of action. But the signing of Markkanen, and Love still being on the roster, may impact how fantasy managers view Mobley with regard to draft position.
Question No. 2: How will Cade Cunningham be used on a roster that has another lottery pick at the point?
By most accounts top overall pick Cade Cunningham had a good three-game run in Las Vegas, averaging 18.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.3 blocks, 4.3 3-pointers and 4.0 turnovers in 27.7 minutes per game. While his field goal (42.9) and free throw (50.0) percentages weren’t great, Cunningham did manage to shoot 13-of-26 from beyond the arc. His all-around game is one of the reasons why the former Oklahoma State standout was viewed as the top prospect in this draft class, and it’s what makes him such an appealing fantasy option as well.
That being said, the question worth asking heading into training camp is how committed are the Pistons to sticking with a backcourt of Cunningham and Killian Hayes, last year’s lottery pick? Unlike Cunningham, Hayes didn’t have the luxury of a Summer League (or full training camp, when that time comes), which would have helped with his transition immensely. Add in the hip injury that sidelined him for nearly three months, and it’s understandable why Hayes struggled. He had issues with his efficiency in Summer League action, and isn’t all that close to Cunningham with regard to perimeter shooting.
Would pairing those two together mean more time off the ball for Cunningham, thus limiting his potential impact as a creator for others? While Hayes is certainly capable of working on his perimeter shot and getting it to a point where there’s some consistency, teams can still cheat off of him when he doesn’t have the ball. They can’t do that with Cunningham. How Dwane Casey handles the minutes of those two will be something to keep track of in the preseason, as the Pistons ranked in the bottom third of the NBA last season in both offensive rating (26th) and 3-point percentage (22nd).
Question No. 3: How much of a fantasy factor can Alperen Sengun be?
Sengun, who was the best player in the Turkish league last season, was more of a factor defensively in Summer League play than many anticipated. In four games he averaged 14.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 3.0 blocks and 0.8 3-pointers in 25.0 minutes per game, shooting 43.2% from the field and 60.7% from the foul line. Viewed as a prospect who was further along offensively than defensively, Sengun managed to impact the game in multiple ways as a defender. In addition to protecting the rim, he moved well laterally in ball-screen situations, and was also able to affect passing lanes.
However, for as good as Sengun looked in Las Vegas, Summer League and the regular season are two entirely different animals. In Houston, he and fellow frontcourt rookie Usman Garuba join a roster that has a relatively young building block in Christian Wood (he’ll be 26 when the season begins), and Houston also signed veteran center Daniel Theis. Add in the fact that the Rockets have two small forwards in KJ Martin and Jae’Sean Tate who are capable of sliding down to the four on occasion, and there will be competition for minutes.
Houston did show a willingness last season to give their young players quality rotation minutes, which bodes well for Sengun and Garuba. Given the presence of Wood and Theis, fantasy managers may need to be a little patient with regard to Sengun. But if he can build upon his play in Las Vegas, the rookie big has the potential to provide value.
Question No. 4: How much time will Jalen Suggs share with another point guard?
Before suffering a sprained thumb, Suggs was one of the top performers in Summer League. He averaged 15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.0 blocks, 1.7 3-pointers and 2.3 turnovers in 21.8 minutes per game, shooting 41.5% from the field and 77.8% from the foul line. While you do want to see that field goal percentage a bit higher, Suggs performed well overall and could very well be the Magic’s point guard of the future. However, it’s worth noting that he shared the court for significant periods with Cole Anthony, the point guard that Orlando drafted in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft.
With Markelle Fultz and Michael Carter-Williams also on the roster, it’s fair to wonder how much time Suggs will have on the court as the sole point guard. This shouldn’t, given the health of the two veterans not be much of a concern for fantasy managers. Fultz remains without a timeline as he recovers from an ACL tear that limited him to eight games last season, and Carter-Williams underwent surgery on August 23 to remove a bone fragment and repair a ligament in his left ankle. He is also without a timeline for return, but at this point it’s known that Carter-Williams won’t be available when the season begins.
So that leaves Suggs and Anthony as Orlando’s point guards, and RJ Hampton can serve as a playmaker as well. While you certainly shouldn’t “celebrate” injuries, Orlando being without two veterans clears the way for Suggs to hit the ground running. Jalen Green and the aforementioned Cunningham are certainly top targets when it comes to fantasy rookies, but fantasy managers can’t go wrong with Suggs, either.
Source: Yahoo Sports