Ethan Norof

NBA Fantasy Mailbag

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Mailbag: PG-13, Rookies & More

Monday, June 26, 2017


Lonzo Ball is the new face of Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers, Jimmy Butler has reunited with Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota, Paul George trade rumors are sizzling, free agency is on the horizon and the 2017 NBA Draft is officially in the books.

 

Say it with me: What a time to be alive.

 

With no shortage of interest in the league’s changing landscape, let’s open the mailbox.

 

Question 1 from Doug F. in Palmdale, California: Nothing would make me happier than seeing Paul George come back home, but what’s stopping Boston from putting together a trade package that the Pacers can’t refuse?

 

I hope you channeled The Godfather when asking that question.

 

It almost felt like the Celtics might have been willing to go there on draft night before Woj pumped the brakes on that scenario, but it doesn’t feel like Danny Ainge has carefully stockpiled these assets in order to cash in for a rental. Of course Boston would be a better team with PG on the roster—and he is the kind of player where pushing the chips to the center of the table to go all-in makes sense—but it’s been made abundantly clear through every type of potential communication channel that George wants to wear the purple and gold.

 

There is a scenario that exists where George heads to Boston, potentially flanked by another star that is not currently on the roster (Gordon Hayward?), and the organization subsequently presents a very compelling case to remain in the fold. But a lot of things have to go exactly right for that to be even a consideration, and it’s incredibly difficult to bank on “ifs,” especially when the Celtics find themselves operating within a franchise-defining window after signing Al Horford last summer and with Isaiah Thomas’ pending 2018 payday.

 

And when it comes to teams that want to deal but don’t have Ainge’s war chest of assets available, it’s even more difficult to justify a deal because George could simply walk away for nothing at season’s end. Ultimately, it feels like it makes sense for the Lakers and Pacers to come together on something—even if it’s a discounted deal—because the clock is not operating in Indy’s favor and the Lakers desperately need a guarantee to pair with all of this new hope, optimism and potential.      

 

Question 2 from Jason B. in Tampa Bay, Florida: Beyond the obvious names, who are some rookies you’re looking at in keeper and/or dynasty formats right away?

 

Let’s establish the obvious as the top five selections: Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson and De’Aaron Fox. After that…

 

Dennis Smith, Jr, PG Dallas Mavericks: It doesn’t feel like he’s going to be a dark horse Rookie of the Year candidate for very long. Mark Cuban has already started the hype machine, Rick Carlisle has twisted no words in already naming him the starter and DSJ is going to have all of the opportunity he can handle to leave his imprint on the fantasy landscape.

 

Lauri Markkanen, F/C Chicago Bulls: The Bulls have finally embraced the rebuild, and Markkanen was a significant part of the Jimmy Butler trade that expedited that era. Assuming Chicago lets Nikola Mirotic walk in free agency like they should, this frontcourt should be all about evaluating the Markkanen-Bobby Portis connection in order to get a glimpse of the potential future.

 

Malik Monk, SG Charlotte Hornets: Michael Jordan’s team is going to need Monk’s offense because someone has to score, but like Jamal Crawford, Monk profiles as more of a specialist than an all-around contributor.

 

Justin Jackson, F Sacramento Kings: The chance is going to be there for Jackson to prove he should have been a lottery selection.

 

T.J. Leaf, PF Indiana Pacers: Leaf is going to be in the mix regardless of Thaddeus Young’s status, but the rookie could really take off alongside Myles Turner if he can hold his own on the defensive end—no small task—and Young is eventually dealt.

 

Jarrett Allen, C Brooklyn Nets: After trading away Brook Lopez, the Nets plan an open competition in the middle. The current competition includes Timofey Mozgov and Justin Hamilton. Needless to say, Allen shouldn’t exactly be intimidated.

 

Josh Hart, G/F Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers are incredibly thin at shooting guard, want to preserve their newfound cap space for the summer of 2018 and hope to build a culture around character and work ethic. Hart is a four-year college player who enters the NBA with mental and physical maturity, intangibles and a championship mentality. Given his ability to score the basketball and the opportunity in front of him, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Hart carve out a significant role in his inaugural campaign.

 

Second-Round Selections to Watch: Frank Mason III, Semi Ojeleye, Wesley Iwundu, Jordan Bell.

 

Question 3 from Randy T. in the Republic of the Philippines: Heat fan here…Is Gordon Hayward a possibility in free agency for Miami? If not, who is the next best option?

 

After an “in-between” season in which Erik Spoelstra recreated a Picasso while working with a 64-pack of Crayola’s, Pat Riley looks ready to make his next move. Hayward, a two-way All-Star wing, would fit perfectly into Miami’s scheme.

 

But as much as we love to predict free agency movement, it’s going to take a lot to convince Hayward that his NBA future is outside of Utah. However, regardless of what Hayward decides to do, keep a close and watchful eye on Blake Griffin, a behemoth of a box office superstar who may be clamoring to again claim his own theater and could flourish alongside Hassan Whiteside.

 

Question 4 from Brandon C. in Middlesex, New Jersey: Can I renounce my Knicks fandom if Phil Jackson trades Kristaps Porzingis?

 

The short answer is yes, especially if you’ve been a fan of the team for 20+ years.

 

That being said, I wouldn’t be betting big money on a Porzingis trade.

 

The more and more I analyze how we got to this point, the more and more it feels as if Phil Jackson was trying to send a message to Porzingis in response to the lengthy Latvian skipping his exit meeting that nobody in the Knicks organization is going to be bigger than Phil. It’s juvenile—especially considering Jackson’s track record while in the front office and Porzingis’ supposed place in the organization—but it fits Jackson’s M.O. These rumors were never about trading Porzingis in order to move forward as a franchise, but instead an unsuccessful and unnecessary attempt to “put Porzingis in his place.” In the end, as has become the theme during his Knicks tenure, Jackson looks like the one in the wrong and further alienated his cornerstone in the process. Job well done.  

 

Question 5 from Damian Q. in Pine Bluff, Arkansas: There’s been an awful lot of noise around the Rockets. Do you anticipate Houston doing anything dramatic to change the ceiling of their squad?

 

Daryl Morey and his minions are always trying to move the pieces around in order to make the puzzle complete. Houston’s front office has had a surprisingly effective run when it comes to acquiring key pieces of desire, but that was during a period of time in which there was more to work with—both in terms of assets and available cap space—and this particular roster is very top-heavy when it comes to how the money is allocated. It’s hard to imagine any club willingly lining up to take what’s left on Ryan Anderson’s deal (approximately $60M), especially if it means giving the Rockets the ability to swing a seismic move and become a player for a top-end free agent in a shallow class. 



Follow Ethan Norof on Twitter @Ethan_Norof for more fantasy basketball analysis, advice and all things Los Angeles Lakers.
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