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NBA Preseason Recap: Notable performances, returns and injuries

Tari Eason

Tari Eason

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

We’re 11 days into NBA preseason action and just a week away from opening tip-off to the 2022-23 season! With preseason winding down and fantasy drafts coming to a close, now is the perfect time to take stock of early performances and injuries. Let’s dive into our preseason recap!

Top picks

How have the top picks in the 2022 NBA Draft performed thus far?

Paolo Banchero

The No. 1 pick in the draft is the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, and he’s high atop many fantasy analysts’ rookie rankings. Banchero is being drafted as early as Round 7, and while he should push for top-100 value, he’s got a lot of competition in Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr and even Jonathan Isaac (if he plays). Banchero has averaged 12.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.0 steals through three preseason games while shooting just 36.7% from the floor.

Jabari Smith

Smith appeared in just one preseason game and logged 24.5 minutes in a big effort. The No. 3 pick posted 21 points on 53.3% shooting and added eight boards, two dimes and five triples. He sprained his left ankle, and while the injury isn’t expected to be serious, the Rockets are taking a cautious approach with him for the remainder of the preseason. He should be ready for the start of the regular season.

Keegan Murray

After winning Summer League MVP, King Keegan has balled out in Summer League, averaging 16.0 points on 70.6% shooting, 3.5 triples, 4.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 2.0 steals across two contests while leading Sacramento in minutes (21.6). Murray has a very real shot to win Rookie of the Year and finish as fantasy’s best rookie thanks to his diverse skill set and plenty of opportunity.

Jaden Ivey

The No. 5 pick has played well in two preseason games, scoring 15 points a contest to go with 4.0 assists, 3.5 boards and 1.0 steals. His fit alongside Cade Cunningham is yet unknown, but the two are expected to share starting duties in the backcourt, making the athletic Purdue product worth a look in the final rounds of fantasy drafts.

Tari Eason

Eason had a strong Summer League, and he’s been a breakout in the preseason, averaging 20.7 points on 64.1% shooting, 10.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.3 triples across three games. Eason was likely to leapfrog Jae’Sean Tate and Eric Gordon this season, but Tate’s recent knee injury could accelerate that process. Eason is being drafted well after pick 100 in fantasy drafts, and savvy managers should target the high-upside forward with one of their last two picks.

Jalen Duren

Duren injured his shoulder and only played in one preseason game in which he went for two points, 14 rebounds and a block. We likely won’t see any more of him in preseason play, but he’s expected to be healthy to start the season. He’s got Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley and Nerlens Noel in front of him on the depth chart, but Duren should find his way to meaningful minutes before the season’s over.

Shaedon Sharpe

Could Sharpe provide some microwave scoring off the bench for Portland as a rookie? He’s averaged 10.5 points on 48.4% shooting through four preseason games and looks the part of a reliable rotation player for the new-look Blazers.

Jeremy Sochan

Even if he plays minutes in the mid-20’s, can Sochan be a viable fantasy option? His 3-and-D skill set is great for the NBA but might not translate to useful fantasy numbers. He had a trio of unremarkable preseason appearances and shot less than 25% from the floor and from beyond the arc.

Jalen Williams

Williams has been quite impressive, posting three-game averages of 11.7 points on 47.8% shooting, 2.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.7 steals. Williams impressed in his third season at Santa Clara and boosted his draft stock enough to get taken at No. 12 by the Thunder. OKC constantly produces silly-season heroes, and Williams could be another such player on this tanking squad.

Johnny Davis

Davis will have a tough time finding minutes in Washington’s crowded backcourt. He’s averaged just 3.3 points on a putrid 12.5% shooting in preseason play. He can still hang his hat on hustle and defensive tenacity.

They’re Back

Some notable players missed all or most of the 2021-22 season and returned to action in the preseason. Here’s how they’ve fared and what we can expect moving forward.

Kawhi Leonard

After missing all of last season, Leonard returned to the court and logged 33 total minutes of preseason action. He posted 19 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals. Leonard is likely to put up top-25 per-game numbers this season, but will the Clippers limit he and Paul George‘s workloads to keep them fresh for the playoffs? Leonard remains one of the riskiest second-round selections in fantasy drafts.

Paul George

George hasn’t been able to stay on the court much in his time with the Clippers, but he played 40 minutes across two preseason contests with averages of 13.0 points, 2.0 triples, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.5 steals. Just like his teammate Leonard, PG13 should produce elite fantasy numbers, but selecting him for fantasy is a risky proposition.

John Wall

Wall didn’t play last season for the rebuilding Rockets, but he was healthy. There’s far less concern about his availability this season than the other guys who missed the 2021-22 season. Wall played a pair of games and took the court for just under 34 minutes where he compiled 25 points, six assists and five steals. He’s a great value pick outside the top-100 in fantasy drafts and a rare late-round source of assists.

Damian Lillard

Will it be Dame Time in 2022-23? Lillard has looked solid through three preseason games, averaging 15.0 points, 2.0 threes, 2.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists across 24.8 minutes. He can be had in the middle of the second round in fantasy drafts, but he’s capable of top-10 numbers.

Ben Simmons

Simmons made his Nets debut on October 3 and has appeared in two preseason games while leading Brooklyn in minutes (22.3). He’s done exactly what we’d expect, averaging 5.0 points on 55.6% shooting, 7.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.0 steals. Simmons should be an elite source of dimes, boards, FG% and defensive numbers while lacking in threes, FT% and scoring. His stock is way down after missing all of last season, but he’s worth a look beginning in Round 6 of fantasy drafts. If you can get him later than that, he’s an even better value!

Jamal Murray

Murray is back, and he’s played 28 minutes in the preseason, racking up 12 points, seven dimes and a pair of triples. Prior to his season-long absence, he enjoyed the best campaign of his career, finishing 32nd in per-game fantasy value. You can likely snag him after pick 70 in fantasy drafts, and the upside there is tantalizing.

Michael Porter Jr./span>

MPJ’s scoring, threes, rebounds and efficient shooting led him to finish 27th in per-game fantasy value two seasons ago. A back injury derailed his 2021-22 campaign, but he’s back and ready to go for the upcoming season. Porter Jr has averaged 19.6 minutes, 13.7 points, 2.3 triples, 4.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.3 steals in three preseason contests. Just like Murray, he can likely be had for a discount in your fantasy drafts, making him a fine value in the 60’s and 70’s.

Zion Williamson

Often chided for his svelte physique, Williamson looks trim and in shape ahead of the 2022-23 season. After missing all of last season, he’s appeared in three preseason games for a total of 60 minutes while averaging 11.3 points on 52.2% shooting, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists. In his only fully healthy season back in 2020-21, Williamson averaged 27.0 points and 7.3 boards. If he can replicate some of that production, he’d be a great addition to fantasy squads if he falls outside the top-40 in drafts.

James Wiseman

Wiseman opened the preseason with a 20-point performance in Japan and has averaged 20.2 minutes, 13.7 points on 60.0% shooting and 6.0 rebounds through three games. After missing all of last season, the 2020 No. 2 pick presents some exciting upside as a final pick in fantasy drafts.

Injuries

For a full list of injuries, make sure to visit NBC Sports Edge’s Injury Report here.

LaMelo Ball

Ball tweaked his ankle in Monday’s matchup with Washington. The severity is yet unknown, so fantasy managers who haven’t yet drafted should be weary of selecting him in the first round.

Kristaps Porzingis

KP went down early in the same game with an ankle injury of his own, and his availability for the start of the regular season is up in the air. He should continue to post big numbers on a per-game basis, but health is a constant concern for fantasy managers.

Mason Plumlee

Plumlee sprained his left foot Monday, and he’s already ruled out of Wednesday’s preseason finale. Nick Richards contributed 15 points and eight boards in Plumlee’s absence, and after being hyped up by his coach in the offseason, Naughty Nicky could be a strong late-round value in fantasy drafts if Plumlee is forced to miss time.

Jalen Suggs

Suggs sustained a left knee injury in Friday’s preseason matchup with Dallas, but he avoided an ACL tear, which means there’s even a chance he makes it back to the court for the team’s season-opener on October 19. If he’s forced to open the season on the sidelines, R.J. Hampton and Cole Anthony would get the biggest boost for fantasy purposes.

Jae’Sean Tate

He left Monday’s matchup with Miami after just five minutes while dealing with right ankle soreness. If he’s forced to miss time moving forward, Tari Eason would be the biggest beneficiary of additional minutes and usage. Regardless, Eason remains a high-upside last-round pick in fantasy drafts.