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Mike Gallagher

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NBA Preseason Notebook

Tuesday, October 2, 2018


Preseason! There are a lot of "get off my lawn" folks on the interwebs these days who will tell you "preseason doesn't matter" or some other putdown about how it's a waste of time. Sure, we know players aren't giving their all at all times, but still we can gain a lot of information based on the preseason.

 

Perhaps most importantly, we get an idea of what the rotations could look like. In the first half, coaches can tip what they have in store for the upcoming season. Do they want to go small with no centers? What about playing guys out of position or two-PG lineups? What do the depth charts look like? We can answer most of these questions with some info on the preseason.

 

Of course, some coaches are in experiment mode, so we can't absolutely say we know what's going to happen. However, there was a lot to learn from over the weekend.

 

With that, I went over my biggest takeaway for every team that played so far. The 76ers, Pelicans, Hornets and Celtics have all played twice while a handful of teams still haven't made their debuts yet. Most of this is about projected rotation stuff, but there are some observations, as well. I'm hoping it helps season-long players and all the DFS grinders out there.

 

If you're not following me on Twitter, most of these points will be made over there. I'm @MikeSGallagher. For the stats heads out there, all of these stats are from NBA.com or Synergy.

 

Atlanta Hawks - The Hawks seem to have an idea of their rotation to start.

 

Last night, the Hawks played it pretty much straight up with their rotation until later in the second quarter. Here’s how their depth looked:

 

PG: Trae Young, Jeremy Lin

SG: Kent Bazemore, DeAndre Bembry

SF: Taurean Prince, Kevin Huerter

PF: John Collins, Vince Carter

C: Alex Len, Miles Plumlee, Alex Poythress (Dewayne Dedmon was out)

 

Most of the subs were straight swaps, but the Hawks did get John Collins in there for some brief time at center. While it looks like a near lock Vince is going to be Collins’ backup at the four, that suggests huge minutes are headed to Collins because VC is no spring chicken anymore. Plus, Collins scored 18 points in 20 minutes and he tore up Vegas. Plus, all eight of his buckets were assisted (Len one, Bembry one, Bazemore two, Young four). We saw Collins prove he can get his own shot, but ideally he’s getting set up for easy buckets from teammates to boost his FG%. The hype train is full steam ahead.

 

Bembry made my All-Letdown team last year due to injuries, off-court issues and poor play, but he looked great on Monday with 20 points. Plus, he’s backing up Kent Bazemore, so a trade could be useful. Thirdly, coach Lloyd Pierce said Bembry is the one guy that can get into the paint and that he needs to find ways to get him more touches. He has my attention.

 

Boston Celtics - Terry Rozier is going to get plenty of non-PG minutes.

 

He was the first sub for the Celtics on Sunday when he subbed in for Jayson Tatum, and he logged eight minutes next to Irving in the first half alone on Sunday. Plus, he played next to him on Friday. Of course, Rozier’s per-minute stats are down next to Kyrie, but his efficiency is up, his turnovers are down and his steals were slightly up. Coach Brad Stevens wants to play him, so I’d expect Rozier to be closer to 26-28 minutes even when Irving is healthy. He’s one of my favorite targets, especially given how Irving has missed 19 games per season.

 

Charlotte Hornets - New year, new coach, new system.

 

It’s only two preseason games, but the Hornets pace is up 9.2 possessions per game. The Hornets have also upped their spot-up play percentage 8.3 percent, and their transition possession jumped up 3.0 percent, too. That doesn’t sound like much, but that’s an increase of 25 percent in relation to just last year’s transition scoring alone, and Walker’s transition possessions are up so far. Yeah yeah, sample size, but all of coach James Borrego’s quotes are telling the same story that the stats are.

 

It’s still a guessing game on who wins the starting center job. The Hornets also likely really want Willy Hernangomez to succeed and he’s been solid so far. He scored 14 points on Sunday and would’ve scored more than nine on Friday if he made his free throws (3-of-10). Cody Zeller was terrific on Friday, so this one could be close. Plus, Kemba and Willy were awesome in 68 minutes last year with a +23.7 net rating while Willy had per-36 stats of 21.6 points and 16.3 boards. For now, I’d draft Willy late to see what happens. I'm all in on Kemba.

According to general manager Mitch Kupchak, Malik Monk was behind in the schemes and that's why he didn't play on Friday. However, Monk picked it up on Sunday with 13 points, one rebound, four assists and three 3-pointers in 24 minutes. Kupchak made it a point in the coaching interview process that making Monk better was a priority, so this will be something to watch. Monk was dead last in points per possession (PPP) among players with at least 50 possessions last year, but I'm still hopeful. His one game in Vegas was strong, too.

 

Miles Bridges has also been the star among the rookies and the Hornets continue to talk up his defensive efforts. He's logging minutes all over the place and he's slimmed down to help him switch on guards, so maybe he's able to earn more run. He may need an injury, but Nicolas Batum isn't the most durable guy.

 

Chicago Bulls - The Bulls want Jabari Parker to shift to straight PF while Lauri Markkanen is out.

 

On Sunday, Parker played all of his minutes at power forward and almost all of the backup time went to Bobby Portis while the rotation players were still in there. Although, we saw a little bit of Portis at the five and we even saw a few minutes of Wendell Carter Jr. at the four — he was next to Cristiano Felicio. We didn’t see the Bulls do anything outside of going straight up on the perimeter, so besides what I mentioned the depth looked like this in the first half:

 

PG: Kris Dunn, Cameron Payne

SG: Zach LaVine, Antonio Blakeney

SF: Justin Holiday, Chandler Hutchison

PF: Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis

C: Robin Lopez, Wendell Carter Jr., Cristiano Felicio

 

This could be good news for Holiday, but frankly he just won’t get the volume this time around. I will be watching Blakeney to see if he runs out there in three-guard lineups or if LaVine slides over to PG. Blakeney is the Most Improved Player from the G League and he impressed in Vegas. Not yet, though.

 

Dallas Mavs - The Mavs could be a great PNR team.

 

Yes, it’s the Beijing Ducks, but the Mavs looked awesome on offense on Saturday. They had a 1.26 points per possession on PNR plus passes on their 23 possessions, which is superb to compared to the Warriors’ league-leading 1.05 for that last year. That includes Dennis Smith Jr. at a ridiculous 1.8 on his five possessions. It seems pretty obvious that one of the best PNR bigs in DeAndre Jordan could take DSJ and Luka Doncic to the next level. Again, Beijing Ducks, but these were impressive:

 

I’m a DSJ truther and I’ll be reaching for him in drafts. Plus, Luka looks like the real deal, so I’d target him aggressively, as well. Luka!

 

They were also the slowest team over the weekend at a 91.2 pace, which makes their 126.3 O rating better. Again, Beijing Ducks.

 

Denver Nuggets - I’d be a little concerned with Gary Harris.

 

He did not play on Sunday due to a right hammy strain, but it sounds minor. However, Harris had right hammy soreness in February, and he’s had a slew of upper leg issues with his groin injury to start the 2016-17 season as the headliner. I’d probably shy away from drafting him until we see he’s back, and I’d still bump him down a round regardless. Preseason hamstring issues can really come back to bite players later.

 

We didn’t see the Trey Lyles at the three just yet, but coach Mike Malone said that could  happen. We saw Juancho Hernangomez be the SF2, but that’s likely because of Torrey Craig starting because of no Harris.

 

Jamal Murray is going to be great and Nikola Jokic is locked in at No. 5 for me.

 

Golden State Warriors - They’re still good.

 

Stephen Curry is the top dog for efficiency so far at 1.62 points per possession in the preseason (minimum of 10 possessions). If he’s healthy, he’ll be incredible, but beware of the ankle issues.

 

The Warriors appear to want to try Jordan Bell with Kevon Looney in the second unit while Damian Jones starts. The Warriors did run out some Bell-Draymond combos, which is all you really needed to see for Bell. If anything, I’d view this as a positive for Bell because now you can get him after 100. I’m still a believer, especially with Andre Iguodala saying that his back is a basically a perpetual problem. We probably won't see too much of the Hamptons Five this year.

 

Los Angeles Clippers - Not much yet, but we have an idea of what their depth chart looks like.

 

PG: Patrick Beverley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

SG: Avery Bradley, Lou Williams

SF: Tobias Harris, Luc Mbah a Moute

PF: Danilo Gallinari, Mike Scott, Johnathan Motley

C: Marcin Gortat, Montrezl Harrell

 

We are going to get some Gallo at the five, but it didn’t happen in the preseason opener. The Clippers also pretty much played it straight up with their depth, which is slightly a good sign for SGA. If Pat-Bev is dealt, SGA would be a hot pickup. He’s probably worth drafting right now anyway. Tobias Harris is also really good and you probably won’t find a safer guy to take in the 30-40 range. Free Boban.

 

Los Angeles Lakers - Get ready for a lot of small ball.

 

The Lakers went to Kyle Kuzma at the five in the middle of the first quarter, and Michael Beasley also logged all of his minutes at center before suffering a head laceration. Ivica Zubac didn’t check in until 7:25 in the third, so the Lakers are going to give it their all here. This is all great news for Kuzma because JaVale McGee can’t play big minutes. 

 

The Lakers may have had the most wacky rotation in the first half with a handful of three-guard lineups and obviously that has a lot to do with their no-C lineups. Josh Hart subbed in for JaVale McGee, and Brandon Ingram subbed in for Rajon Rondo both in the first quarter. So that lineup mentioned above was at one time Hart, Lance Stephenson, Ingram, LeBron James and Kuzma. We still have to wait to see how Lonzo Ball (knee) fits in for all of this, but there could be an opportunity for Hart and Kuz off the bench.

 

Miami Heat - Is Hassan Whiteside really going to take threes?

 

Well, apparently because he has a celebration ready.

 

 

Justise Winslow has said he wants to play some point guard, but he logged all of his minutes with at least one PG on the floor. There has been some Derrick Jones Jr. hype, but he was a major letdown as he fouled out in 19 minutes. Plus, he had Dwyane Wade subbing in behind him, so that also doesn’t bode well for him. 

 

Minnesota Timberwolves - Are the Wolves really going to play Derrick Rose at SG?

 

Well, they better not. Rose did play well on Saturday with 16 points, one assist, two steals and one 3-pointer, and Karl-Anthony Towns was excited about it after the game. Rose also didn’t get any minutes as the lone PG. Coach Tom Thibodeau also played it 100 percent straight up rotation wise for the first three quarters:


PG: Jeff Teague, Tyus Jones

SG: Derrick Rose, Josh Okogie

SF: Andrew Wiggins, Keita Bates-Diop

PF: Taj Gibson, Anthony Tolliver

C: Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng

 

Besides, that you’re taking KAT all day at two and Teague did handle the ball a bunch to add more promise to his fantasy value. Back in Vegas, it looked like KBD was ahead of Okogie, but it feels like Okogie is ahead of him. Plus, obviously Okogie’s upside is much higher behind an oft-injured Rose instead of KBD behind the durable Wiggins. Yes, we still don’t know what the Wolves will get back in a Jimmy deal.

 

I also want a piece of Tyus Jones in all leagues just to see what happens.

  

New Orleans Pelicans - The ultra-fast pace talk is legit.

 

The Pelicans led the NBA in pace last year and coach Alvin Gentry said they want to be even faster. So far, they have a ridiculous 118.0 pace in their two preseason games. Gentry said he’s not worried about his frontcourt rotation because they will play so fast that guys will need rest. There should be enough value to go around for Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic, who hasn’t played yet due to an Achilles issue. Plus, they’re going to try to play all three together at some point this month. Randle is getting plenty of center minutes as expected, but he's not the most fantasy-friendly guy for nine-cat leagues.

 

Before his ankle sprain, Frank Jackson looked like he’s going to get a chance. The Pelicans played him in multiple combinations and they gave him several opportunities to produce with his 27.2 usage rate. We probably can’t draft him yet, but Gentry really likes him. Plus, Elfrid Payton hasn’t looked great with inefficiency and the Pelicans offense not producing when he’s out there.

 

New York Knicks - Mitchell Robinson is out here.

 

Mitchell Lobinson. He is lapping the field to win the backup center job and he’s shown he can guard in all sorts of sets. Plus, he’s running PNR with wings and point guards, so expect him to get a ton of dunks. He looks like a mega steal and a player you need to take after 110.

 

Kevin Knox also appears to have a major leg up to win the SF job. He tied for the team lead in plus/minus at +7, posting a strong line of 13 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in 26 minutes. Perhaps most impressively on Knox was that nine of his 13 points came in transition — four possessions for a 2.25 PPP. If he can somehow get a noteworthy amount of transition buckets, maybe he won’t be as bad in FG% as expected. I’m warming up to taking him and dialing back Mario Hezonja, who I still kind of like.

 

Frank Ntilikina looked better than expected after one game, but I’m not touching this one.

 

Orlando Magic - Sadness.

 

Jonathan Isaac was one of my favorite targets in drafts and he looked great to start the game with this play.

 

 

However, he suffered a sprained right ankle and did not return. If I had to guess, it likely happened here:

 

 

This is the same ankle that kept him sidelined for basically the entire middle third of the season. We’ll find out more in the next couple days, but we have to bump Isaac down here. Major buzzkill. 

 

Besides that, Mo Bamba looks like the real deal with 12 points, three rebounds, two assists, one turnover and two 3-pointers in 17 minutes. Sure, he had five fouls, but Joel Embiid draws fouls with the best of them. Take Mo and see what happens. Besides, the new front office and coaching staff likely wants to throw all they can at Bamba.

 

Philadelphia 76ers - Brett Brown appears to want to give Markelle Fultz confidence.

 

From an Xs and Os standpoint, it makes almost no sense to take J.J. Redick off the floor next to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Obviously, the top priority for the 76ers is to get the 2017 No. 1 pick back on track, and Fultz has looked tremendous on defense at times. His ADP is going to rise because of it, so I probably won’t be drafting Fultz. But hey, DREW HANLEN FOR PRESIDENT (when he turns 35, of course).

 

 

Props to Fultz for having his confidence back, but his jumper still doesn’t look like it’s going to be a plus for him. Besides that, Landry Shamet got the first crack at the backup SF job with Wilson Chandler hurt, and Mike Muscala is getting the overwhelming amount of his time at PF. Embiid and Ben looked to be locked in as top-15 targets, especially if you’re punting FT% with Ben. Rudy Gobert and Ben duo to start in a nine-cat league? Andre Drummond?

 

Phoenix Suns - Devin Booker looks like a near lock to start at point guard, assuming he’s healthy.

 

When the Suns had their intra-squad scrimmage last week and one of the teams was Isaiah Canaan, Josh Jackson, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Deandre Ayton, it felt like Canaan was just a place holder with the other four. But wait there’s more: coach Igor Kokoskov said he likes Jackson’s defensive versatility to play him at the two. Plus, Mikal Bridges also played directly behind Jackson in the first half on Monday. Bridges had talked about how he is ready to play any position over the weekend, so that quote in this context is yet another clue of the moves coming.

 

This is big news for Jackson, Ariza and T.J. Warren. The Suns are basically sliding everyone up a spot to take their two-position logjam and are now spreading it over three positions. I would bump up Jackson into the top-75 discussion.

 

Deandre Ayton looks ready to be a major contributor. He did a little bit of everything on offense with some jumpers and of course he feasted at the rim. He was also strong on the defensive end with rim contests and even blocking the opening possession when De’Aaron Fox took a 3-pointer. Ayton went off for one of the best preseason stat lines with 24 points, nine boards, one assist, one steal and three blocks. I was taking him in round five all day, and now we might have to take him in late round four.

 

Elie Okobo is also ahead of De’Anthony Melton for now, but Okobo didn’t have a strong showing on Monday. The move to shift the SF guys to SG is a negative to these two rookies.

 

Portland Trail Blazers - The Blazers are not ready to give Zach Collins extra run just yet.

 

When the Blazers let Ed Davis go, there was some optimism Collins could step up. He wasn’t very impressive in Vegas, and he was a major disappointment on Saturday. The Raptors had a target on him for switching and he was a liability on offense, too. Plus, he didn’t get center minutes with Meyers Leonard out there with him. Sure, part of that is likely due to the matchup vs. Jonas Valanciunas, but either way you can’t count on a second-unit player if it’s going to be based on matchups.

 

The other thing is that the Blazers want more threes, which is a good thing for Leonard. Plus, Nurkic attempted two above-the-break threes, and he passed well out of the high post. If Nurk falls, take him. I would’ve also been intrigued to draft C.J. McCollum, but the recent news of his PRP treatment knocks him down.

 

 

San Antonio Spurs - Dejounte Murray is good.

 

 

Draft him.

 

Sacramento Kings - I don’t know.

 

We have a winner for wackiest lineup of the preseason. At the end of the first quarter, the Kings went with Frank Mason, Marvin Bagley III, Skal Labissiere, Harry Giles and Willie Cauley-Stein. Yikes.

 

We also saw another combo with Bagley as the third big, so they’re apparently open to playing him at the three. Plus, we saw Yogi Ferrell log heavy minutes at SG, which is likely due to the absence of Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee). I wouldn’t overreact to his 26-point game and I still like Fox. Giles also looks strong and a great system fit for what the Kings want to do. He had 14 points, six boards, three dimes and one 3-pointer.

 

Toronto Raptors - Get ready for some matchup-based moves, but don’t expect many Serge Ibaka at PF lineups.

 

If OG Anunoby had been active for Saturday, he likely would’ve started with Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Serge IbakaC.J. Miles was a spot-starter. Jonas Valanciunas was a man among second-unit boys with 17 points, seven boards, one assist, three steals and one block. He even attempted two treys, so coach Nick Nurse fully believes in him. JV isn't going to play 30 minutes anyway, so this move could be a positive as he is the head of the snake of the strong second unit surrounded by lower-usage players. He’ll slide and he could be a serious value after 75. I have some interest in Pascal Siakam and Ibaka, but not until they fall or my sleeper hopper empties out.

 

Nurse really wants to play Lowry and Kawhi together, and so far they look outstanding together. I am heavily targeting Lowry and Kemba in the 18-26 range, but I still don’t trust Kawhi. He didn’t look too explosive, but obviously we can’t draw conclusions off 19 minutes.

 

Utah Jazz  - They appear to be open to different combos.

 

Obviously, we can't jump to conclusions about a game that had the Jazz up 44-13 at the end of the first, but there were a couple things. The Jazz did run a no-PG lineup out there with Alec Burks and Grayson Allen as the ball-handlers. Allen has looked the part of a rotation player based on Vegas and his strong 19-point effort on Saturday. However, Joe Ingles didn’t play and Royce O’Neale has endeared himself to the coaching staff.

 

We’ve seen talk of Dante Exum possibly playing in three-guard lineups, but that didn’t happen on Saturday. He had a solid game as he ran the offense, but most of his momentum comes to a halt here as he’s being held out for Tuesday due to knee soreness. At least it’s not to his ACL knee, but still that’s enough of a red flag to take him off my board.

 

Washington Wizards - They’re very open to three-guard lineups.

 

The first perimeter player sub for the Wizards on Monday was Austin Rivers for Otto Porter, but besides that it was fairly normal except a brief time of Markieff Morris at the five before he was expectedly ejected. The Wizards are talking about playing Otto Porter at the five some, which probably is more about an unhealthy Dwight Howard (back) than anything else. 

 

The Wizards also kept their word that they want to shoot more 3-pointers, so don’t be surprised to see Beal and/or Otto hit three per game this season. Porter is a little banged up now with an ankle issue, so I won’t be drafting him based on his leg injury history dating back to his first summer league. I’m also not drafting Wall and not because of his picture from Las Vegas.

 

Two more weeks until the regular season!



Mike Gallagher has covered fantasy hoops for eight years and this season is his second with Rotoworld. You can find him on Twitter talking about a player's shots at the rim.
Email :Mike Gallagher



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