The NBA preseason should not completely influence your Fantasy Basketball draft strategy, but it is definitely a tool that should be utilized more often. Most star players don’t play much in the preseason but it’s a great opportunity to see young talent, figure out potential rotations for head coaches, and to witness the improvements players have made throughout the offseason. The improvements we see from young players, specifically, will influence average draft position, however. It happens every year. A few players put up monster performances in the preseason and automatically shoot up draft boards, leeching every ounce of value out of said player.
Frankly, it happens in football sometimes as well. Where there are positives, though, there will always be negatives. Since there have been players rising in value during the preseason for Fantasy Basketball purposes, there have been some players falling in value as well, whether it’s because of injury or coach speak. With that being said, below is a list of risers and fallers during the 2016 NBA preseason.
If I sounded bitter earlier it was because D’Angelo Russell is having a great preseason with some huge statistical lines. Russell is the Fantasy sweetheart this season and because of said performances, his ADP has climbed up to 61.3. The reality is that Russell is actually being drafted in the fourth or fifth rounds of most drafts and on one occasion, I witnessed him drafted in the third. There’s a lot to love about Russell this season.
He’s a combo point guard who can shoot from downtown, find his teammates, and rack up a ton of steals. Sounds a lot like some guy named Steph Curry right? Let’s consider Russell a very poor man’s Curry. It certainly doesn’t hurt Russell that Luke Walton is the Lakers’ head coach now too. The same Luke Walton who coached a large chunk of the Warriors season last year that saw them win 73 games. Basically, the fact that he’s worked so closely with Curry means he can help develop Russell’s game in a similar manner to Curry’s.
We’ve witnessed Russell’s upside already this preseason, as he’s posted 31 or more points on two different occasions. Against the Kings, specifically, Russell scored 31 points on 11 for 14 shooting with 11 assists, five threes, and two steals. That kind of production reminds you of that Curry guy again, huh? Because of Russell’s obvious upside, he continues to rise up draft boards, but it is completely warranted. He will be inconsistent at times but when he’s on, owners will be reminded why they used an early pick on him. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on Russell in the fourth or fifth round.
Devin Booker is another second-year guard who achieved some success as a rookie but could make a huge leap forward this season. The hype behind Booker has come from his usage and his scoring prowess in the preseason thus far. To this point, Booker has been starting throughout the preseason, and if that remains consistent in the regular season, he could see around 30 minutes per night. Initially, many projected Booker to come off the bench and see closer to 25 minutes per game. In the four preseason games Booker has started, he’s averaged 21.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, three assists, 1.8 steals, and one 3-pointer per game. In his game against the Blazers, specifically, Booker scored 34 points on 15-23 shooting with five assists and three steals. Similar to Russell, it’s huge games like that in the preseason that has everybody excited for Booker’s season-long outlook. He’s climbed up to an ADP of 71 and should be looked at in the sixth round or later of drafts.
While everybody is riding high on the Nikola Jokic bandwagon, there’s another big man in Denver who’s turning heads this preseason. Jusuf Nurkic is the name to pay attention to later in drafts, given his stellar play and opportunity. The opportunity comes when Nuggets head coach Mike Malone revealed there’s a chance Nurkic and Jokic could be in the starting lineup together. Despite both approaching seven feet tall, they have the athleticism and savvy to play on the court at the same time.
Nurkic has posted some huge lines this preseason including three impressive double-doubles in his first three games. In those games Nurkic averaged 18 points, 13.3 rebounds, and two steals per game. Even more impressive was his free throw shooting! He attempted a robust 28 free throws and made 24 of them . . . that’s nearly 86-percent from a seven foot power forward. This combination of offensive ability, rebounding, efficiency and defensive upside is extremely hard to find at Nurkic’s current ADP of 109.3. He’s already climbing into the seventh and eighth rounds, though, so keep an eye on that.
Digging a little deeper, rookie Marquese Chriss has opened some eyes this preseason due to his unique blend of talent. Chriss is considered a raw prospect who needs to grow into his game (still just 19 years old). But he does have incredible athleticism and a great shooting touch for a 6’10” forward. At one point in the game, he’ll be slamming an alley oop over a defender, and at another point, he’s stepping out and hitting 25-foot jumpers with a small forward guarding him.
He’s been consistent this preseason, scoring in double-digits every game, averaging 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals per night. In his most recent game against the Mavs, he put everything together; scoring 17 points with six rebounds, three 3’s, four blocks, and two steals! Those are elite numbers in category leagues, so Chriss is a name to keep an eye on this season if he can earn consistent playing time. He’s currently penciled in as the backup power forward for the Suns and should see 15-20 minutes to start. Before the preseason, he wasn’t on any draft boards, but now he’s worth a stash pick in deeper leagues.
The Boston Celtics have a great problem on their hands. They’ve been blessed with too much young talent, if that were ever a thing. The Celtics have so many young players; they might not be able to get them all minutes. One of these youngsters who made the most of his playing time in the preseason thus far has been Jaylen Brown, the 2016 third overall pick. Like Chriss, Brown’s game seems very raw but the upside has been displayed with his ability to drive and make plays on defense. He’s registered a steal in each of his six games this preseason while scoring 10 or more points on four different occasions.
Most Fantasy basketball drafters didn’t know what to make of Brown before the preseason but now he’s getting some attention. He’ll play small forward off the bench for the Celtics and could get more playing time when they decide to go with a smaller lineup. Jae Crowder is certainly capable of playing power forward, which would allow Brown to slide on in. He should see around 20 minutes per game to start the year and he’s worth scouting for Fantasy purposes early on.
Everybody knows the book on Anthony Davis. He’s never played more than 68 games in any season and he’s missed a total of 68 games over the past four seasons. This is just who Davis is. The problem this preseason is that he’s already hurt! He’s battling a right ankle sprain, which forced him to leave a preseason game, and he hasn’t returned since. In fact, his availability for opening night is already in question. Before the preseason, Davis was being drafted as a mid-first round pick in mock drafts but realistically, he should fall to the back end or even into the second round. Owners shouldn’t spend a first round pick on an oft-injured player who may miss time already to start the season. That’s just a recipe for disaster. When he did play this preseason, he wasn’t overly impressive either, not that that’s the reason you shouldn’t draft him. It’s just worth noting. This Pelicans team can’t catch a break with injuries and misfortune. If you start your draft with Davis, you’ll end up just like the Pelicans.
Right there next to Davis in the hospital bed is Derrick Favors. Favors, too, has never played a full NBA season and appeared in just 62 games last year. When he’s on the court, he’s very impressive, as he can score efficiently, rebound, and provide both defensive statistics. His issue now, however, is that he’s bothered by a knee injury, which is worse when it’s coming from a 6’10” power forward. He’s appeared in just one preseason game and hasn’t even practiced since. It isn’t imperative the Jazz rush him back either, as they have Trey Lyles and Boris Diaw backing him up in Utah. Favors should be a third-round player for Fantasy purposes but this injury scare has pushed him into the back-end of round four and on some instances, round five. Like Davis, if Favors could ever stay healthy for a full season, he’s a Top-25 player in categories and rotisserie. Proceed with caution.
Fantasy owners weren’t putting much stock into the backcourt of the 76ers this season but Jerryd Bayless is a player who was coming at a discount later in drafts. He could provide some low-end scoring, 3-pointers made, and would have had the chance to rack up assists with those big men, but it appears this wrist injury will keep him out of action. Bayless didn’t even get the opportunity to play in a preseason game as he’s battled a left wrist injury. The only positive is that the injury didn’t occur on his shooting hand, but he won’t see any action until he’s fully healed. Currently, he doesn’t even have a timetable for his return. Bayless was a popular late-round pick for Fantasy purposes but he shouldn’t be drafted now unless owners have injured reserve spots.