NBA News Roundup: Media Day Edition
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The first NBA Media Day in two years kicked off earlier this week, and as we’ve learned over time, it’s an event chock-full of player news, injury updates, and (most importantly, obviously) fantasy hoops implications. There’s been a lot to unfold in the last 48 hours alone, so let’s take a look at some important things we’ve learned from teams and their players.
Media Day Headlines
90% of NBA Players are fully vaccinated - This is incredible news for various reasons, firstly being that a massive majority of the league is doing their part against this ongoing pandemic, meaning players will not miss nearly as many games due to the “protocols” tag. This number may rise slightly as the season begins, but for now, it’s a great start, and fantasy managers should have less headache with the majority of their season.
Bradley Beal admits he is not vaccinated - He didn’t say much else and blamed it on “personal reasons”, but given that D.C. does not have a vaccine mandate in place like New York and San Francisco do, there shouldn’t be too many bumps In the road for the potential first-rounder. He’ll be on a tighter leash with more testing and will miss games due to tracing and whatnot, but this news shouldn’t move the needle on Beal’s outlook too much.
Zion Williamson won’t be ready for training camp after right foot surgery - This injury and procedure was more or less kept a secret until this week, but the hope is that Zion will be ready for opening night. Even if he is ready by opening night, there’s a very solid chance that he’ll be on a minutes limit for the first handful of games. It’s also worth noting that, simply put, Zion is a massive man, and his 285 pounds of high-flying force upon landing could aggravate his foot in a jiffy. The good news is that Zion went through some 1-on-1 work in practice Tuesday, but it’s not usually a speedy recovery when it comes to foot injuries. There’s a lot to worry about here, and you have to bump him down on draft boards at least a round or two because of this.
The Ben Simmons saga continues - none of the following should be exceedingly shocking here, as the Ben Simmons vs. Philadelphia duel has been ongoing basically since his questionable-at-best playoff performance. Simmons remains adamant that he wants out of Philly and that he “[has] already closed the book” on the 76ers franchise. The chances of him being on another team are about as close to a sure thing as you can get, and it’s just a matter of when a team makes a move on him. He’s one of the more confusing guys to target in fantasy drafts, as his ADP for now is 55.6, but if he ends in a favorable destination, he could easily outproduce this and end up being a steal. High risk, high reward for the guy who finished with top-40 value last season when you punt free throws.
Still “a long way to go” in Jamal Murray’s ACL rehab - Murray emphasized that he refuses to get back into action at less than 100%, so it could be some time before we see him on the floor. Luckily, Denver has some other viable options at point guard in Facundo Campazzo and Monte Morris, who could be decent late-round picks for as long as Murray is out, and this gives reigning MVP Nikola Jokic even more of a boost (as if he needs one) as he’ll be running the offense a bit more. Murray is almost un-draftable in leagues without an IR spot, but if you have a couple, he could be worth a gamble late in drafts. He was a top-35 guy last season in his 48 games played behind a 21.2/4.0/4.8 line with 1.3 steals and 2.7 threes, so we aren’t worried about his production when he’s on the court, but rather when exactly he’ll get there.
Klay Thompson could return in January - The original goal was around Christmas Day, but January is a bit more conservative and makes more sense. Klay said he anticipates playing 5-on-5 again within the month, but caution is the key here for a guy coming off of two major injuries. He apparently looked great in his non-contact practice and was draining shots per usual, so he’s on his way. Klay is one of those guys that is so universally liked that we care more about him actually playing the sport he loves so much than his fantasy value, but as a quick note in that regard, he is a risky target and shouldn’t be targeted until very late in drafts unless you have an IR spot to use.
MPJ signs max extension with Nuggets - Michael Porter Jr. just agreed to a five-year extension worth up to $207 million, so he’s locked in as a Nugget for a while. He was incredible last season on his way to top-30 value, and was even better when taking some of Jamal Murray’s usage, so the sky is seriously the limit for MPJ. Oh, and he spent the majority of his summer working on his ball-handling and mid-post moves, so he may have some even more tricks up his sleeve in his third year. He’s a no-brainer third round target in all formats, and you may have to grab him late in the second if the rest of your league is buying the hype as well.
Unvaccinated Wiggins can’t play home games - Andrew Wiggins mentioned early this year that he would not be vaccinated for COVID-19 unless “forced” to do so, and with his city being one of the two that requires home players to be vaccinated to play games there, this slots Wiggins in at a maximum of 41 games played this season if he isn’t traded. His religious exemption from the vaccination was denied by the NBA, and while he’s allowed to participate in practices and preseason games, he’s going to miss half the season as a best case scenario. Wiggins doesn’t have the highest ceiling in fantasy hoops anyway, so I’m not going anywhere near him. And if he’s traded, well, I’m still not touching him, but he’s at least on the fantasy radar in that case.
Kyrie skips media day, also said to be unvaccinated - Kyrie and Wiggins have a very similar situation here, with the only difference being that Kyrie has first-round fantasy potential when healthy. Assuming he isn’t vaccinated, he also will miss 41 games this season at the very least, and it’ll probably be more given how injury prone he is. Maybe he’ll request a religious exemption and get a different result than Mr. Wiggins, but if everything stays the same as it is now, Kyrie just can’t be touched in round two like he usually is in drafts. Sure, Kyrie in 35 games could be better than a late-round guy in 82 games, but the frustration may not be worth it.
Injured Magic players - Both Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz are coming off of left ACL tears and neither have a timetable to return, so it goes without saying that these guys both carry plenty of risk for fantasy purposes. Fultz’s injury is slightly more fresh as he appeared in eight games for Orlando last season whereas Isaac appeared in zero, so the latter may be a bit ahead of Fultz progress-wise. Isaac has potential through the roof and could still be worth a pick in the middle rounds of drafts, but as for Fultz, he probably isn’t worth grabbing anywhere since the Jalen Suggs show should be in full effect from the Magic’s first jump ball of the season.
Clint Capela limited to start training camp - Last year’s leading rebounder was dealing with an Achilles issue last season and supposedly still is, which is not ideal 20 days before the season begins. He’ll be limited for the start of training camp, and while he should be ready for the season, nothing is set in stone. Gorgui Dieng would get some opportunity if Capela misses the first few games (Onyeka Okongwu is out until mid-December as well), so Dieng would start by default and may be worth drafting if it is confirmed that Capela will miss some time early on.
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Media Day Quick Hits
Pascal Siakam not yet cleared for contact - Siakam is coming off of left shoulder surgery and has reportedly been looking good in 1-on-0 drills, but he’s still very likely to miss some games to start the season. He’s projected to be taken in round seven for the time being, so that makes sense for a guy who was top-50 last year who will inevitably miss the Raptors’ first stretch of games.
Clips starters - Coach Tyrone Lue said that as of now, the Clippers starting five will be Reggie Jackson, Eric Bledsoe, Paul George, Marcus Morris and Ivica Zubac. Maybe he was so excited to get Bledsoe that he forgot Terance Mann existed, but Mann is still a much better fantasy option than Bledsoe and will get an increased workload with Kawhi Leonard likely out for the season.
Tyrese Maxey - Maxey ran with the first unit in Philly’s first day of training camp, and with Simmons inevitably out of town, he should be starter and should be drafted everywhere.
Caris LeVert - LeVert is dealing with a stress fracture in his back but there’s hope that it could be minor. He’ll likely miss a couple of games to start the year so should be moved down in draft boards just slightly, but keep in mind he still carries a ton of risk since he often carries the injury bug. When he plays, however, he’s very, very good (top-60 guy on a per-game basis last year).
Nikola Jokic - Coach Malone said Jokic may get some rest/maintenance days this season, so he’s not worth drafting in the first round anymore. (I’m kidding, who cares, select him first overall everywhere.)
Victor Oladipo - He still doesn’t have a firm timetable with his quadriceps issue, and the poor guy is always hurt. He shouldn’t be taken unless it’s a near-last round gamble.
Charlotte PF battle - It’ll be Miles Bridges or P.J. Washington starting at the four for Charlotte on opening night, but coach Borrego hasn’t decided who it’ll be quite yet. Both were top-100 guys last year and can play multiple positions, so they’ll be fine and both should be drafted in all leagues.
Bam Adebayo - As if Bam needed a more well-rounded game, he’s mentioned that he has made shooting biggest priority this offseason. If he actually can get to one three per game and continue his incredible numbers, he could be a top-five overall guy.
T.J. Warren - He’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks with the foot injury that has kept him out for what seems like forever. Warren is a risky guy to draft but could end up paying off if he ever gets/stays healthy.
Kevin Porter Jr. - KPJ confirmed himself that he’ll be a starter his year, which is not earth-shattering news given that John Wall is out of the equation. His shooting will be an issue but the counting stats will assuredly be there, so he may be better suited for points leagues but should still be rostered regardless of format.
James Wiseman - The second-year big is running at about “50, 60 percent” after his meniscus surgery, and he’s still without a timetable. He’ll be tough to target given the injury and how raw he was in year one with Golden State.
DeMar DeRozan - The first-year Bull could spend some time at power forward since Chicago is rather thin at this position, but this doesn’t change much about DeRozan’s outlook - he’s as solid as they come but is deathly afraid of three-pointers.
Anthony Edwards - 20-year-old Edwards said he hopes to average 2-3 steals per game this season, so it’s nice knowing that he wants to improve on the defensive end. Side note: the last guy to average at least three steals per game was Alvin Robertson in the 1990-1991 season, so if Ant-Man actually gets here, I’m buying all of his jerseys from all across the globe.
Buddy Hield - It’ll either be Hield or Tyrese Haliburton starting at shooting guard for the Kings, but Buddy says his job is to “play basketball and do what the team needs me to do whether I like it or not.” Simply put, he wants to start, but who doesn’t? He’s going to make a ton of threes regardless but if he shoots around the 40% mark from the field that he did last season, he’s no longer in the mid-round conversation.
Wendell Carter Jr. - Orlando may play him at the four this season so he could get a few more minutes, but honestly this is better news for higher-ceiling big Mo Bamba, who could grab a few of Carter Jr.’s center minutes whenever he slides to power forward. For whatever reason, WCJ is still being picked 30+ spots earlier than Bamba, but Bamba makes for a very fun late-round target with incredible potential.
Robert Williams - Time Lord prioritized adding muscle this offseason, so he’s somehow giving us more reason to like him. The per-minute machine should be taken way earlier than his current ADP of 65.3.
Next up: I can’t believe it either, but preseason actually starts this Sunday, so we are almost officially in the home stretch of the offseason. Until then, keep doing mock drafts, read some NBC Sports Edge columns, and sit tight for the rapidly approaching October 19 opening night.