Storylines to Watch in Training Camp
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With training camp now underway for every team in the league, there have been way too many updates and quotes to keep up with. Every coach, general manager, and player has gone through media day, which gives us plenty of information to draw conclusions from. A lot of teams are waiting to see how training camp and preseason go before deciding on lineups. So let’s go team by team and highlight which storylines are worth keeping an eye on over the next few weeks.
Nate McMillan said that Jalen Johnson will get some minutes this season. With Danilo Gallinari gone, Johnson is the only power forward on the roster behind John Collins. He only played over 20 minutes in one game as a rookie, finishing with 11 points, seven rebounds, one steal, and one block. He won’t have a huge role, but he can be a nice streaming option if JC misses games and could provide value in deeper leagues.
Al Horford said that he plans on playing in back-to-backs despite previous reports that he wouldn’t. With Robert Williams out 8-to-12 weeks (and will likely miss back-to-backs to protect his knee), Horford receives a boost from the extra games. He was an early third round value over the final two months of last season, and his ADP on Yahoo! is 91. Horford should benefit from Williams’ absence and not automatically missing 13 back-to-backs.
While there’s plenty to watch out of Brooklyn after a hectic summer, the concrete news is that TJ Warren isn’t expected to play until November. He was already considered a risky pick, and now he’s already slated to miss some games. Assuming Nicolas Claxton, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and Ben Simmons start, there will be a competition for that fifth spot. Assuming it’ll come down to Seth Curry or Joe Harris, the other will compete with Royce O’Neale, Warren, and Cam Thomas for backup wing minutes. We’ll see who stands out to Steve Nash early.
Gordon Hayward said that he feels “great” heading into training camp. He hasn’t been the epitome of health since leaving Utah, and he’s only played in 145 games over the last three seasons. However, with Miles Bridges unlikely to return to the team, Hayward is in a great spot to be the second scoring option on the team, behind LaMelo Ball. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be a steal at his ADP of 113. Of course, that’s a big if.
Who will start at point guard opening night? With Billy Donovan saying you have to look at Lonzo Ball‘s knee injury as potentially season-ending, and Lonzo saying he can’t run or jump, the starting job is wide open. Ayo Dosunmu, Alex Caruso, and Goran Dragić all have a legit chance to start. With the rest of the starting lineup basically set, this is the main story to watch in Chicago. Caruso will reportedly see plenty of minutes whether he starts or not, and Dosunmu’s name has been tossed around as a player with high expectations this season. For fantasy purposes, Dosunmu would probably be the ideal starter, but we’ll see what Donovan decides.
Since the trade that brought in Donovan Mitchell, the main question has been about the starting small forward next to Darius Garland, Mitchell, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen. J.B. Bickerstaff mentioned SIX possible guys to fill the role: Isaac Okoro, Caris LeVert, Dean Wade, Dylan Windler, Lamar Stevens, and Cedi Osman. Reports from Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com suggest that Okoro is the favorite to start, and LeVert makes sense as the 6th man. That is probably what will happen, but if Bickerstaff decides on someone else to start, that player should receive a boost in fantasy value.
After being suggested in reports earlier this summer, it was confirmed that Christian Wood would be the 6th man for Dallas, while JaVale McGee would be the starting center. Wood said in his press conference that it was the first he’d heard of it but later clarified that he would play any role asked of him. He also tweeted after practice that, which many people have speculated that it’s related to his 6th man role. Wood should still play a large role and could start based on the matchup, but we’ll have to see how he produces in a backup role. He’s been a starter the past two years, which were the two most productive seasons of his career. Playing next to Luka Dončić should help, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Michael Malone has said that he plans to use Bones Hyland next to Jamal Murray in certain lineups. Hyland likely won’t start over Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but his role seemed limited behind Murray, even if Murray will play limited minutes and miss back-to-backs. Now there seems like a real path to over 20 minutes per game. Over the final two months of the season, Hyland was a top-150 value while playing 21 minutes per game.
Isaiah Stewart said that he believes Jalen Duren will play meaningful minutes as a rookie. That’s high praise from the current starter that could eventually lose his spot. If he’s able to carve out a role, he could be a solid late-round target with extremely high upside. His performance in training camp and the preseason will be very telling, though it’s still possible that he won’t play heavy minutes until later in the season. We’ll just have to see how he progresses.
Golden State Warriors
Steve Kerr has reportedly made it clear that Kevon Looney will be the starting center for the Warriors this season. While Looney makes sense as the incumbent starter that is familiar with the system, how big of a role will James Wiseman have? The former No. 2 overall pick is fully participating in camp for the first time in his career. Hopefully we’ll have a good indication of how many minutes he’ll play this season after a few preseason games.
Tari Eason and TyTy Washington ran with the third-stringers to open camp. Daishen Nix, Josh Christopher, Jae’Sean Tate, Usman Garuba, and Bruno Fernando ran with the second unit. Eason was seen as a late round flier given his fantasy upside, but it may not be worth it if he’ll rarely see the court. It’s a good issue for Houston to have this much depth, but it isn’t great for the two first-rounders fantasy outlook. There’s still time for them to ascend up the depth chart, and their performance over the next few weeks will be crucial.
Isaiah Jackson gained 15 lbs of muscle and is up to 221. He said that he got “bumped around” last year, but he feels more stable now. Jackson found himself in foul trouble often last season, but perhaps this will help him stay on the court. Myles Turner has been in trade rumors for half a decade, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him get moved this season. If that happens, Jackson should slide into the staring unit and instantly be one of the best shot blockers in fantasy hoops. We’ll see if this added muscle keeps him on the court long enough for him to showcase that.
Los Angeles Clippers
What can’t Terance Mann do? The poor guy got asked to play point guard last season, and now early reports indicate that he may play some minutes at center. He added 12 pounds over the summer, which could help with that transition. I had him as a potential bust in Rotoworld’s 2022-23 Draft Guide, but that may not age well if he gets minutes at center. Tyronn Lue seems to be trying everything to get him on the court. He could finish in the top-200 again if Lue is this committed to playing him.
Los Angeles Lakers
Anthony Davis and LeBron James have emphasized their desire to stay healthy this season, but who will join them in the starting lineup? Will they opt to start Thomas Bryant or Damian Jones at center? Will Dennis Schröder start at point guard with Russell Westbrook coming off the bench? The Lakers view Patrick Beverley as more of a wing, but will he start in favor of Austin Reaves or Lonnie Walker? How does Kendrick Nunn fit in? There’s so many new faces after a disappointing season in LA, including head coach Darvin Ham. Last season, LeBron and AD were the only top-100 9-cat players on the Lakers. We’ll be monitoring this closely to see if anyone else can be valuable.
Jaren Jackson Jr. said that his status for opening night is unlikely, but he’s ahead of the team’s suggested timeline, according to a report from Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. The initial report suggested he’d be back 4-6 months after surgery on June 30th. If he’s back closer to early November, Brandon Clarke won’t be the early season streaming stud that he was slated to be. Hopefully we’ll get an update over the next few weeks, but it’s Memphis, so we may not find out JJJ is back until he checks into a game.
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After losing P.J. Tucker to Philadelphia in free agency, Miami did nothing to address the power forward position. They drafted Nikola Jovic, but a late first round rookie won’t do much to help Miami in their quest for a title. Jimmy Butler said he’ll do what it takes to help the team, but he made it clear that he’s not a power forward. That likely vaults Caleb Martin into the starting unit. Martin’s early 9-cat rank on Yahoo! is 215, which means he’ll be draftable in basically every league. In 12 starts last season, he averaged 13.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game. If he earns the starting job, he’ll be a legit late-round target.
Jordan Nwora isn’t a guy to target in drafts outside of deeper leagues, but he can offer some real value early in the season. Joe Ingles isn’t expected to play until January, and Khris Middleton is still recovering from wrist surgery in July. There isn’t a set return date for Middleton, so Nwora could see some starts early in the season. He’s likely better as a DFS option than taking up a roster spot, but he’s worth taking a chance on in deep leagues.
Current reports suggest that Jaden McDaniels will start at small forward alongside D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Rudy Gobert. McDaniels can be incredibly valuable in fantasy if he can improve on his 3-point percentage and reach his defensive potential. Over the last two months of last season, he averaged 1.3 triples, 1.1 blocks, and 0.7 steals per game. He shot just 31.7% from deep, so we’ll be watching to see if he shows improvement during the preseason.
New Orleans Pelicans
After a lost season last year and only playing 85 games over his first two years, Zion Williamson seems like he’s finally back. He was a top-75 asset in 2020-21, with his poor shooting really holding him back. However, he’s an unstoppable force that is finally healthy. We should get to see his talents on full display this season on a Pelicans team that should return to the postseason. After a year off, how much will he play? Will he play back-to-backs? His talent isn’t in question. It never has been. How available will he be for fantasy managers? We’ll be keeping an eye out to see if he’ll have any limitations.
New York Knicks
Jalen Brunson was brought in to start next to RJ Barrett and Julius Randle. Tom Thibodeau said that Evan Fournier is the favorite to start at shooting guard, which is probably smart to help with spacing. Assuming Mitchell Robinson will start at center and split minutes with Isaiah Hartenstein, we’ll be watching to see if any of their young wings can carve out enough of a role to make them worth taking a look at. Robinson was the only top-100 fantasy asset on the team last season, and Thibs isn’t going to be doing us any favors this year. Could the Knicks have refused to trade Quentin Grimes for Donovan Mitchell because they plan on using him? How much will we see from Cam Reddish and Obi Toppin? Thibs may continue to crush our dreams of seeing Immanuel Quickley more, but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop hoping for the best.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Everyone is assuming that the OKC fantasy studs of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey will miss a number of games as the team tries to help their lottery odds, which is a fair assumption. A frontcourt of Chet Holmgren and Victor Wembanyama is an excellent goal to have. That should leave some extra minutes for Aleksej Pokusevski, who is listed at 210 lbs heading into this season. Sam Presti was also complimentary of the progress that he made over the summer. His current Yahoo! ADP of 134 makes him an excellent late-round candidate with high upside. We’ll see if all the praise leads to a bigger role.
The Magic’s roster is loaded with young guys, and they seem like they’re finally ready to take a step in the right direction. We don’t even need to discuss Jonathan Isaac, since his situation is too baffling to provide any analysis. Instead, let’s look at Wendell Carter Jr., who said he expects to shoot better from deep this season. He shot 32% on 3-pointers on 3.5 attempts per game last season. He hit 1.1 triples per game, and he finished as a 7th round value. If he can increase his shooting percentage while maintaining his volume, we could easily see a top-75 finish from WCJ.
Doc Rivers said that De’Anthony Melton and P.J. Tucker were the best defenders in practice on Tuesday “by a long shot”. Of course, we expect that from Tucker, as he’s one of the best defenders in the league. If Melton can be one of their best defenders while also being a spark plug off the bench, it’s going to be very hard for Doc to keep him off the floor. If he can play 20-25 minutes per game, we could definitely see a top-100 finish from Melton, and he’ll be a must-start if James Harden or Tyrese Maxey were to miss any time.
At this time last year, we were talking about the Suns potentially returning to the NBA Finals after losing to the Bucks in 2021. However, after the disappearing act we saw in Game 7 against Dallas, this team is a mess. Deandre Ayton doesn’t seem happy to be with the team whatsoever. Jae Crowder was told that he wouldn’t be the starter, and he’s staying away from the team until he’s traded. Through all of this, we could see a breakout year from Cam Johnson. He’ll presumably slide in as the starting power forward and was a top-100 player last season. In 16 starts last season, he averaged 16.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 3.1 triples per game. He shouldn’t have an issue beating his ADP of 134.
Portland Trail Blazers
Like a number of other teams, Portland has their starting lineup set, except for at small forward. Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant, and Jusuf Nurkić will be joined by either Nassir Little or Josh Hart in the starting lineup. Dame said that he sees Little having “one of his best seasons to date”. Hart was nearly a top-75 fantasy asset in 9-cat last season. For fantasy purposes, we’ll be rooting for Hart to start, but Little was productive as a starter last season. This is definitely a situation worth monitoring.
Keegan Murray said at media day that he’s fully healthy following wrist surgery in July. Murray is an early favorite for Rookie of the Year and won the Summer League MVP. He should start at power forward next to Domantas Sabonis and Harrison Barnes as Sacramento tries to return to the postseason. We’ll see if running team sprints after missing free throws helps them accomplish that.
San Antonio Spurs
Another point guard battle! Tre Jones is the presumed starter, but Gregg Popovich said that he hasn’t made a decision as to who will run the offense. We could see Josh Primo take the reins of the offense, or even see the two fill the starting backcourt. Pop emphasized playing young guys as much as possible, so we could easily see a starting lineup of Jones, Primo, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, and Jakob Poeltl. It’s going to be a youth takeover as the Spurs embrace the rebuild (tank for Wemby). The starting point guard, whether it be Jones or Primo, will be a coveted fantasy asset.
All aboard the Scottie Barnes hype train! Barnes is embracing the idea that he’ll be playing point guard at times for the Raptors this year. He finished as a 6th round asset as a rookie, and it’s very possible that we see him finish in the top 50 this season. We’ll also be looking to see if Gary Trent Jr. or Precious Achiuwa fills out the starting unit next to Barnes, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam. Trent produced like a 4th rounder last season, so we’ll have no problem nabbing him at his current Yahoo! ADP of 95 if he retains his starting role. Achiuwa has shown his potential in flashes, but he was barely a top-300 guy last year. Trent Jr. is the superior fantasy asset. Let’s hope he fills out the starting unit.
The new high-volume shooting guard in Utah, Collin Sexton, alluded to improving on his assist numbers. Sexton had back-to-back seasons finishing just outside the top-100 before missing most of last season with a knee injury. Because he was playing next to Darius Garland (and his score-first mentality), his career-high in assists is 4.4. If he can improve on that without his turnovers increasing dramatically, we could see Sexton finish in the top-100 for the first time in his career. Hopefully we’ll get a taste of this playmaking in the preseason.
Of course it’s another team that doesn’t know who will start at small forward. Wes Unseld Jr. said that the starting small forward spot is “wide open”. Washington dealt for Will Barton in June, and he immediately projected as the starting small forward. However, it appears that Deni Avdija will have a legit shot at taking the starting job. More recently, Avdija has dealt with a groin injury that has kept him out of practice. This will likely help Barton win the starting job, but we’ll be watching to see who Unseld decides on. Barton has been the better fantasy asset, finishing at top-75 value twice in his career and finishing just outside the top-100 last season.