Gary Harris (hamstring) made his preseason debut, scoring 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting (2-of-2 from the line) to go with one 3-pointer, one rebound, two assist, one block and zero turnovers across 22 minutes. He looked fine, and the fact that he suited up for an exhibition game confirms that the minor hamstring issue was, well, minor. Harris is a lock for top-30 value, but he gets constantly disrespected in the draft room, so you can usually grab him mid-way through Round 4. Don’t let the non-hamstring issue deter you from drafting him.
He went No. 1 for a reason
Deandre Ayton came through with another double-double on Friday night, scoring 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting (5-of-6 from the stripe) to go with 14 rebounds, one assist, one steal, three swats and four turnovers in 29 minutes. He’s been nothing but impressive this summer, and through his first three preseason games, he’s compiled averages of 21.3 points, 12.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 3.0 blocks and 1.7 turnovers per contest. The dude is a stud and shouldn’t have much trouble churning out top-50 value this season.
Meanwhile, in China…
Markelle Fultz looked like a guy on the cusp of a breakout year during his preseason debut against Melbourne United last Friday, but ever since the competition shifted back to the NBA stage, Fultz has really struggled from an efficiency standpoint. He again had a tough time getting his shot to drop against Dallas in Shanghai, going 2-of-7 from the field and 0-of-1 from 3-point range on his way to four points, three boards, three assists, one turnover and five fouls over 23 minutes. However, he also added three steals and a swat, and the strong defensive statistics have been a bit of a saving grace for the former No. 1 overall selection during his two-game cold streak. Against NBA teams this preseason, Fultz has put in averages of 8.0 points, 4.5 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.0 block, 0.5 triples and 1.5 turnovers per game on 36.8% shooting from the field and 50.0% from the stripe in 23.9 minutes per contest. I still think that he can indeed have a strong, bounce-back year, but I fully acknowledge that the shooting percentages could be an issue and he’s simply not going to help you in the 3-point department. Brett Brown seems committed to starting him and making the Ben Simmons-Fultz pairing work, so I suspect Fultz will get ample minutes and opportunity during Year-2. He’s one of my favorite late-round targets.
Luka Doncic was on the receiving end of Fultz’s impeccable defense and finished with 11 points (4-of-11 FGs, 3-of-6 FTs), six rebounds, three assists, three steals, two blocks and four turnovers in 31 minutes. I think Doncic is a stud, but the fact that he’ll be suiting up for Rick Carlisle in Dallas makes me nervous, just look at what happened with Dennis Smith Jr. last year. While I’m confident Doncic will have an impressive NBA career, I’m not all that eager to draft him prior to the later rounds on draft day.
Speaking of Smith Jr., he continued his strong preseason play and finished with 20 points, five boards, five assists, three triples, one steal, one block and one turnover in 27 minutes. He failed to live up to the hype last year due to his efficiency issues, but like Fultz, I could see him turning things around his sophomore season. He’ll be a high-upside pick to think about towards the later rounds.
Shout out to Harlem
Mo Bamba showed his defensive chops against Flamengo of Brazil, finishing the exhibition win with 12 points, nine rebounds, one assist, two triples, four swats and three turnovers in 19 minutes off the bench. Nikola Vucevic does cap Bamba’s upside a bit, but this could finally be the year that Orlando moves him with Vooch sitting on a $12.8 million expiring deal. It’s also worth noting that head coach Steve Clifford has toyed with the idea of throwing out a Vucevic-Bamba frontcourt from time to time with Bamba at the four-spot, and if he can show that he can consistently hit that 3-point shot, it’ll make it a lot easier to make that pairing. The No. 6 overall selection from the 2018 draft could take a while to really get going, but I could see him being a difference maker after the break due to his shot blocking upside. He’s an intriguing, late-round target.
What a Mess
Emmanuel Mudiay got his chance to start in Friday’s exhibition and finished predictably, going 1-of-7 from the field on his way to two points, two rebounds, six assists, one steal and two turnovers across 22 minutes. Trey Burke was equally unimpressive in his 14 minutes off the bench, finishing with six points (2-of-9 FGs, 2-of-3 FTs), one rebound, two assists and one turnover and Frank Ntilikina rounded out the forgettable group with two points, two rebounds, one assist, two steals and one turnover on 1-of-5 shooting. Ron Baker registered a plus-minus rating of -6. The point guard situation in New York is an absolute mess and one I’ll be avoiding in all leagues. Reminder, the Knickerbockers will be paying roughly $14.8 million across these four point guards this season.
Mario Hezonja didn’t want to be left out and joined his teammates at the inefficiency party, going 2-of-6 from the field on his way to five points, one 3-pointer, four rebounds, one steal, one block and one turnover in 15 minutes off the bench. He has an excellent opportunity in front of him to start with the Knicks but has done himself zero favors through the preseason thus far, registering averages of 5.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 block and 2.7 turnovers per game on 42.9% shooting from the field and 66.7% from the charity stripe. Super Mario seems to have an innate ability to consistently disappoint fantasy owners, so it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see him cough up a golden opportunity this season.
Kevin Knox started slow but finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and two steals over 34 minutes of floor time. Unfortunately, he also committed five turnovers and went just 6-of-19 from the field, and the efficiency issues have been a problem for him through his first three preseason games. Currently, he’s sitting on averages of 10.7 points, 8.0 boards, 1.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 2.7 turnovers per contest on 38.2% shooting from the field and 80% from the stripe. Knox should see a ton of opportunity this season while Kristaps Porzingis recovers from his knee injury, but the turnovers, percentages and lackluster production from beyond the arc will weigh down his value. He’s worth a look towards the last few rounds, but I wouldn’t reach for him.
It wasn’t all bad for New York, though, as Enes Kanter came through with a 20-point, 15-board double-double to go with five dimes, one steal, one block and zero turnovers in 28 minutes and Tim Hardaway Jr. added 21 points (6-of-18 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs), three triples, five rebounds, five assists, one steal and two turnovers in 26 minutes. These two will serve as the offensive engine for the Knicks while Porzingis is on the mend, and they could both be in for career-years amongst the dumpster fire in New York.
The Birds & The Bears
Trae Young played admirably against Mike Conley, scoring 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting (6-of-6 from the stripe) to go with two rebounds, five assists, one 3-pointer, two steals, one block and three turnovers in 29 minutes. Yes, the shooting percentages will be an issue for Young this season, but he should do enough with the points, dimes and triples to warrant ownership in most settings. Nothing wrong with taking a flier on the guy who was the first player ever to lead the NCAA in both points and assists.
Speaking of the guy that only played 12 games last season, Mike Conley did look fresh in his 27 minutes of floor time, tallying 11 points, three rebounds, three assists, one steal and one turnover. Sure, he’s healthy now, but I’m not touching him in any league.
MarShon Brooks didn’t miss a single shot in his 16 minutes off the bench, recording 18 points, three 3-pointers, four rebounds, one assist, one steal and four turnovers. He’s picked up right where he left off and could have a decent sized role in Memphis this season with the lack of offensive options on the roster. He’s certainly on the radar as a potential late-round target in deep leagues.
Jaren Jackson Jr. wasn’t all that impressive in his 18 minutes off the bench, going 2-of-5 from the field and 2-of-3 from the line on his way to six points, five rebounds, two assists and two turnovers. He still hasn’t blocked a shot through the preseason thus far, and when he’s not doing that, he’s really not going to be helping you too much in fantasy hoops. The talent is there, but JJJ isn’t in the best situation to produce in Memphis, and he’s still quite raw. His shot blocking upside makes him worthy of a late-round pick, but I wouldn’t be reaching for the rookie.
Jeff Teague scored 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting (6-of-6 from the stripe) to go with four rebounds, four assists, one 3-pointer, one steal and two turnovers in 28 minutes. As a guy with a top-50 floor and top-30 upside, he’s one of my favorite, mid-round targets this season. It could take a while for Jimmy Butler to officially get moved, but there’s no way Minnesota will be getting a player of his caliber back, meaning once he’s gone Teague will be forced to take on a more proactive role in the offense. I don’t know why everyone’s been sleeping on him (65.2 ADP), but I’m not complaining.
Stop the gimmicks, Andre!
Andre Drummond missed both of his 3-point attempts, but still finished with 18 points (8-of-16 FGs, 2-of-3 FTs), 10 rebounds, one block and two turnovers in 25 minutes. There was a lot of talk of Drummond potentially adding the 3-point shot to his repertoire this summer, but through his first two preseason games, he’s connected on precisely zero of his five attempts from long range. Assuming he doesn’t get Casey’d (cc: Jonas Valanciunas), Drummond should continue to rack up the double-doubles this season, but I wouldn’t anticipate much in the way of 3-pointers. It’s also worth noting that while Drummond has had a strong preseason run thus far, we still haven’t seen Blake Griffin (rest), and how Dwane Casey plans to utilize the pair. Given Casey’s history with bigs, I’d be somewhat nervous about investing an early-round pick on Drummond or Griffin this season.