The Opening Week of the 2022-23 Season
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The week we’ve all been waiting for since June is finally here: Opening Week. As has been the case in recent years, the 2022-23 season opens with a doubleheader Tuesday night, with the 76ers visiting the Celtics and Lakers making the trek north to face the Warriors. With the regular season finally here, it’s time to take a look at the week ahead for fantasy basketball players.
Week 1 Schedule: Games Played
3 Games: ATL, BOS, CHA, CLE, DEN, DET, GSW, HOU, IND, LAC, LAL, MEM, MIA, MIN, NOP, OKC, ORL, PHI, PHO, SAC, SAS, TOR, UTA, WAS
2 Games: BKN, DAL, MIL, NYK
- Brooklyn and Milwaukee head into 2-game weeks shorthanded
If your league requires you to set your lineups for the entire week, you’ll want to avoid slotting in players from the Nets, Mavericks, Bucks, and Knicks. Of course, this doesn’t apply to stars such as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Luka Dončić, and Giannis Antetokounmpo; those are all players who can give you three games’ worth (or more) of production in just two outings, and none will play a back-to-back this week. Two of these teams are currently dealing with injury issues that will leave them shorthanded for, at the very least, their respective season openers.
Brooklyn adds Ben Simmons to the equation, and even with the lack of a perimeter shot, he’s a safe bet to be a top-100 fantasy player. The presence of Durant and Irving means that the Nets won’t need Simmons to be a prolific scorer; the ability to impact games as a distributor and defender should be enough. But the Nets will open their season without sharpshooters Seth Curry (ankle) and Joe Harris (foot), and offseason signing T.J. Warren (foot) will be re-evaluated in November. Patty Mills and Royce O’Neale will be players of increased importance early on, and the offseason clearing of the logjam in the post is great news for managers who are looking for more production from Nicolas Claxton.
Claxton averaged 20.7 minutes in 47 appearances last season, one minute more than Andre Drummond and 1.6 less than LaMarcus Aldridge. Drummond is now in Chicago, and Aldridge remains a free agent. Brooklyn still has Day’Ron Sharpe, and Markieff Morris was signed, but Claxton should make good use of the coming minutes increase so long as he stays healthy.
Milwaukee will also begin the season without a key player, as Khris Middleton remains sidelined after undergoing offseason wrist surgery. With Joe Ingles still recovering from the ACL tear that ended his 2021-22 season prematurely and Pat Connaughton out at least three more weeks with a strained right calf, the Bucks will be down three expected rotation players on the wing. That means more opportunities for starter Grayson Allen, with Jordan Nwora and rookie MarJon Beauchamp getting into the mix as well. The schedule is an issue with regard to determining if any of those players are worth streaming, as the Bucks will play two games this week and three the next. Keep an eye on those three this week, to add the best performer next Sunday.
- How will Darvin Ham‘s first official starting lineup look?
Last season was a disaster for the Lakers, with the team finishing well outside of the race for a playoff spot and Ham being hired to replace Frank Vogel. The question ahead of Tuesday’s season opener in San Francisco: who will start the game? LeBron James and Anthony Davis are locks, but we don’t know if the latter will do so as the power forward or the center. Davis has made it clear on multiple occasions, most recently during the preseason, that he prefers to play the four but will play the five if that’s best for the team. Davis at the five is bad news for anyone who may have hoped for either Damian Jones or Thomas Bryant to offer deep-league value, but it’s probably what’s best for the team.
A piece of good news regarding Davis is that he won’t be on a minutes restriction of any kind. Hopefully, he remains healthy, but Davis hasn’t appeared in at least 65 regular season games since the 2017-18 campaign.
The other position to keep an eye on is point guard. Russell Westbrook‘s struggled mightily last season, not even cracking the top 200 in 9-cat formats. The subject of numerous trade rumors, Westbrook stayed put this summer, with the $47 million salary and the Lakers’ refusal to part with their two remaining first-round picks (2027 and 2029) being the reasons why. And now, it isn’t guaranteed that Westbrook will start at the point guard position. Westbrook came off the bench in Friday’s preseason finale before exiting after five minutes due to a left hamstring injury, and ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported that the “experiment” is expected to continue into the regular season.
That makes sense, as Ham only has a five-minute sample size to go off of. The Lakers play three games this week (Warriors, Clippers, Trail Blazers) with no back-to-backs, so the schedule will help if Westbrook is healthy enough to play. But whether or not he remains on board with the change that Ham described as a “realignment” is the big question. Patrick Beverley, Austin Reaves, Kendrick Nunn, and Lonnie Walker will be the other guards in the rotation, and there isn’t much to like fantasy-wise. Nunn may offer the highest upside, but he didn’t play at all last season due to a knee injury.
- Hornets’ Ball “highly doubtful” for the season opener
The Hornets’ rough offseason only got worse on two fronts Monday morning. First, it was reported that James Bouknight was arrested Sunday for allegedly driving while intoxicated. His status for Wednesday’s opener against the Spurs has yet to be determined. The bigger on-court news is that starting point guard LaMelo Ball is “highly doubtful” for the opener due to the Grade 2 ankle sprain that he suffered during a preseason game last week. At the time of the injury, it was reported that the All-Star guard would miss 1-2 weeks, so the news isn’t a huge surprise. But if Ball is unable to play Wednesday night, Charlotte’s point guard rotation would have just one certainty: Terry Rozier. After “Scary Terry,” who has been a top 40 player in 9-cat each of the last two seasons, all bets are off. Dennis Smith Jr. would be in line for more backup minutes, but he isn’t a player that you rush to add via the waiver wire. Kelly Oubre and Cody Martin would be in line for more playing time off the ball, with the former offering greater fantasy potential.
- Horford’s workload without the “Time Lord”
In late September, Al Horford said during Celtics media day that he planned to play in back-to-backs this season, and that approach will be put to the test this week. After Tuesday’s opener, the Celtics finish their week with games against Miami (Friday) and Orlando (Saturday). The Heat boast Bam Adebayo in the middle, and while the Magic are in the midst of a rebuild, that’s a rotation loaded with bigger bodies. Add in the fact that Robert Williams (knee) may be sidelined until the calendar flips to 2023, and the Celtics will ask a lot of Horford early on.
Last season he played in both ends of eight back-to-backs, averaging 10.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.3 blocks, and 1.3 3pointers in 30.9 minutes per game, shooting 51.6% from the field and 75.0% from the foul line. And 56% of his minutes were logged at the center position, which will increase substantially with Williams sidelined. Boston does have Mfiondu Kabengele and Noah Vonleh on the roster to provide depth, but this will primarily be Horford’s responsibility. Provided he stays healthy, the top 50 feels like Horford’s floor fantasy-wise.
- How will an upcoming back-to-back impact Tyronn Lue‘s rotation?
The Clippers may be the deepest team in the NBA, and given the injury history of some of the players due to getting run, it’s a good thing that they are. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Norman Powell are healthy, and John Wall is due to play in an NBA game for the first time since April 23, 2021. It’s safe to expect all to be fresh for Thursday’s season opener against the Lakers, but that matchup will be followed by a Saturday/Sunday back-to-back against the Kings and Suns. As a result, it’s conceivable that fantasy managers will only get two games from Leonard and George, and other veterans on that roster may be subject to either a rest day or minutes restriction as well. That’s an issue that managers in leagues where you have to set your rosters at the start of the week will have to grapple with, not only this week but for the season as a whole.
- Nuggets’ Jokić, Murray expected to be available for the opener
Denver played most of last season without two key contributors, as Jamal Murray (ACL) missed the entire year and Michael Porter Jr. (back) was limited to nine games. MPJ is back to full strength, but Murray was sidelined toward the end of the preseason by a sore hamstring. There was good news on Sunday, however, with Nuggets coach Michael Malone saying that he expected Murray and Nikola Jokić (right wrist) to be available for Wednesday’s opener. Murray participated in most of Sunday’s practice, and Jokić said that his wrist isn’t an issue, even with the two-time MVP appearing to be a bit passive on offense during the preseason.
Jokić has played in 72 games or more in each of his seven seasons, so when he says that he’s “fine” then you take his word for it. He was the first overall pick in most fantasy drafts, and managers who made that move should sleep well. As for Murray, the time off led to him going in the middle rounds of most drafts (Yahoo ADP: 82.3), while MPJ came in with a Yahoo ADP of 61.1. Denver has a Friday/Saturday back-to-back this week (at Golden State, vs. Oklahoma City), so that second game may be where the Nuggets entertain the possibility of resting Murray and/or Porter. Murray’s availability would impact Bones Hyland and Ish Smith the most, with the latter working with the starters during Sunday’s practice.
- Who will the Grizzlies start at power forward?
Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, and Steven Adams are penned into the team’s starting lineup heading into Wednesday’s opener against the Knicks. But who will replace the injured Jaren Jackson Jr. (foot) at power forward? Given how Brandon Clarke played in the Grizzlies’ first-round win over Minnesota, it would be easy to assume he’d be next in line. But Clarke, who signed a four-year extension worth $52 million on Sunday, isn’t a perimeter shooter (5-of-22 from three last season, with only 30 of his field-goal attempts coming from outside of 16 feet).
On the other hand, there’s Santi Aldama, a second-year forward who shot 40% from three on 3.0 attempts per game during the preseason. Overall, he was a 57.5% shooter from the field, averaging 12.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.2 blocks, and 1.2 3-pointers in 25.2 minutes per game. Sure, it’s only the preseason. But that small sample size may be what gets Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins to go with Aldama at the four, with Clarke coming off the bench. Aldama has the potential to offer a bit more offensively, but both options are worth taking a late-round flyer on in fantasy drafts as they’ll be in the mix to help Memphis account for JJJ’s absence.
- How will Ayo Dosunmu handle the starting point guard role in Chicago?
Lonzo Ball underwent another knee procedure last month and does not have a timeline for return to game action. As a result, the starting point guard job was up for grabs in training camp, and Dosunmu won in the end. In four preseason games, he averaged 10.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 1.5 3-pointers, shooting 51.9% from the field and 87.5% from the foul line. Just as important is the turnover count, as Dosunmu averaged 1.8 per game. And he started 40 games as a rookie, accounting for 10.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 1.1 3-pointers in 34.8 minutes per.
Chicago having Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan on the court alleviates some of the pressure that would usually be on a point guard to make plays, which will continue to aid Dosunmu in his development. His Yahoo ADP (139.9) was too low, even with Billy Donovan waiting until after the final preseason game to decide that Dosunmu would be the starter. Alex Caruso can play either on or off the ball, while Coby White and Goran Dragić will also pick up rotation minutes. But Dosunmu’s all-around play makes him the best fit in Chicago’s starting lineup. Something else to watch in Chicago is the power forward rotation. Patrick Williams struggled during the preseason, while Javonte Green flourished. Williams may be the former lottery pick, but he cannot afford to be hesitant offensively when on the court with LaVine and DeRozan if he’s to succeed.
- Magic’s Suggs expected to play in the season opener
Orlando’s perimeter rotation received a welcome boost on Sunday, as it was reported that Jalen Suggs (knee) was expected to be available for Wednesday’s opener against the Pistons. Limited to 48 games last season due to injury, Suggs struggled as a rookie. Shooting 36.1% from the field, 21.4% from three, and 77.3% from the foul line, he averaged 11.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 0.9 3-pointers in 27.2 minutes per game. Markelle Fultz (toe) continuing to work his way back from injury means it will largely be Suggs and Cole Anthony handling the point guard minutes, but we shouldn’t expect too much from Suggs immediately. And the addition of Paolo Banchero, which should improve Orlando as a whole, could lower the usage of the team’s guards due to his playmaking ability. Is Suggs, who has been a late-round pick in many drafts despite the rough rookie campaign, worth the risk? We’ll see.
Light Game Days
Tuesday (2 Games)
PHI vs. BOS
LAL vs. GSW
Thursday (2 Games)
MIL vs. PHI
LAC vs. LAL
Week 1 Back-to-Backs
Friday-Saturday: BOS, CHI, DEN, DET, HOU, IND, MEM, MIA, ORL, SAS, TOR
Saturday-Sunday: CLE, LAC, OKC, SAC