Congrats, everybody! We made it through the offseason and the preseason, and the 2018-19 campaign has finally arrived.
With only two regular-season games in the books, today we’ll focus on some notable numbers posted during preseason action. In particular, I’ll highlight a handful of players that exceeded expectations during exhibition games played earlier this month.
* Deandre The Giant
Deandre Ayton showed why he was the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft this preseason. He was dominant on both ends of the floor for the Suns. Over Phoenix's first four exhibition contests, Ayton averaged 20.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.5 blocks in 29.8 minutes. He also shot 59.3 percent from the floor and 78.3 percent from the charity stripe.
It is extremely difficult to envision Ayton matching these numbers once the real games begin considering there have been only six rookies in NBA history to average at least 20 points, ten boards and two blocks (David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson). Nonetheless, if Ayton is capable of posting numbers approaching his incredible preseason numbers, he has a chance to provide top-50 overall fantasy value.
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* Trae Terrific
There were many concerns related to Trae Young heading into October, but the dynamic PG out of Oklahoma provided plenty of impressive performances. In fact, he was one of only four players this preseason to average at least 15 points, five assists and one steal per game. The other three were James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Wall. Young also knocked down two 3-pointers per contest.
The issue for Young all season long is going to be his field goal percentage. Over his final 15 regular season games as a freshman at OU, Young shot just 37.9 percent from the floor while attempting over 19 shots a night. Over his five preseason games this month, Young shot 39.4 percent from the field. Turnovers will likely also be a problem, as he averaged more than five turnovers per game in college. To his credit, Young did a good job taking care of the basketball in the preseason, turning the ball over only 11 times during the Hawks five games. His stock is significantly higher in points leagues, but he’ll still provide plenty of value in nine-category leagues, as he’ll supply points, treys and dimes in abundance.
* The Don Delivers
As expected, Luka Doncic was unfazed by matching up against NBA competition. Doncic is the most accomplished and pro-ready rookie in his draft class. Last season, at just 19 years of age, Doncic became the youngest player in EuroLeague history to win both the regular season MVP award and the Final Four MVP, as he carried Real Madrid to the championship. The Spanish ACB League is the second most competitive league in the world, far superior to NCAA Division 1. Luka has been battling against grown men since his mid-teens. Unsurprisingly, he stuffed the stat sheet in the preseason.
Doncic joined James Harden as one of only two players to average at least four boards, four dimes, two steals and two treys per game. He’s my pick to take home the Rookie of the Year award, and I think he finishes inside the top-50 overall in nine-cat leagues.
Doncic, Young and Ayton were all top-five picks in the 2018 draft. The only other rookie to average more than 14 points per game during preseason play was Allonzo Trier, who went undrafted back in June. Remarkably, over the Knicks first four exhibition contests, Trier was the team’s most efficient offensive player. Through those first four games, he led the Knicks in total points scored (15.8 ppg) and True Shooting Percentage (68.8%), ranked second on the team in minutes played (22.6 mpg), and was third in assists.
Despite being locked into a two-way contract, Trier still earned a spot in the rotation heading into the regular season. While he’s not currently worth a spot in standard fantasy formats, as his game isn’t all that fantasy-friendly and he likely will only see limited minutes off the bench, he is a player to keep an eye on in deep leagues.
* Action Jackson
As we know, sometimes the most important factor in fantasy success is playing time. The more minutes a player receives, the higher his chances to accrue stats. This is what makes Josh Jackson's preseason numbers so interesting. By most objective measures, Jackson was awful. He was incredibly inefficient offensively, shooting just 35.3 percent from the floor, 19.0 percent from 3-point territory, and 62.5 percent from the stripe. He also committed 3.6 turnovers per contest. However, it is important to note that Jackson led the entire league in minutes played this preseason, averaging 33.0 minutes over the Suns five contests. When a new head coach is hired, it can be challenging to try and project a team’s rotation, but it certainly seems Igor Kokoškov trusts Jackson. This is something to watch closely over the first few weeks of the regular season.
* LeVert Leap
The last player I left off my top-150 overall ranking, literally the 151st player on my board, was Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert. If I were to re-make my list, he’d make a massive leap up the rankings. Yes, LeVert played well and stuffed the stat sheet this preseason, averaging 14.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.8 treys, and 2.0 steals in a team-high 28.4 minutes. But that’s not the only reason to optimistic about LeVert’s outlook at the moment.
The Nets have already been hit with a rash of injuries in their backcourt and on the wing. DeMarre Carroll underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his right ankle on Tuesday. Allen Crabbe, who sprained his left ankle last week and had to be carried off the court, has been ruled out of the Nets season opener Wednesday vs. the Pistons. Shabazz Napier (hamstring) also won’t be available to play on Wednesday night. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who missed the entire preseason with a groin issue, is officially being listed as questionable for the season opener. There are a ton of minutes up for grabs, and LeVert is arguably the biggest beneficiary. I plan to play him in all my DFS lineups Wednesday, and he should be scooped up off your league’s waiver wire if he’s still floating around.
If we are discussing impressive preseason performances, then we have no choice but to detail the incredible numbers Boban Marjanovic posted this month. Marjanovic appeared in all five games the Clippers played but logged a total of just 52 minutes. However, he most certainly made the most of his limited playing time. Here are Boban’s per-36 minute averages:
41.4 points (while 76.7% shooting from the floor and 82.4% from the free throw stripe),
Unfortunately, his success is highly unlikely to carry over into the regular season. Boban currently sits third on the Clippers depth chart at center, behind Marcin Gortat and Montrezl Harrell. We’ve seen Marjanovic dominate in small sample sizes before, and get our hopes up, only to see him buried on the end of the bench. So, we’ll avoid falling for it this year. However, should either Gortat or Harrell miss time due to injury, Boban should get a chance to do Boban things.
* Record Setters
In preparation for Wednesday’s full slate, here’s one last bundle of stats courtesy of NBA PR. The top individual performances in regular season openers since 1980:
54 - Michael Jordan (1989)
26 - Dwight Howard (2013)
19 - John Stockton (1989)
Most Assists Without A Turnover:
13 - Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (1995)
Most Free Throws Made:
22 - Kevin Durant (2013)
10 - Clyde Drexler (1996)
Most Blocked Shots:
9 - Anthony Davis (2014)