The shortest offseason in NBA history is almost over, as we’re now just one sleep away from opening night. There may not be any games on the schedule for Monday, but there stands to be some activity as it is also rookie extension deadline day. On Sunday one player who was eligible for an extension signed a new deal, while a veteran who was eligible for the super-max agreed to terms on one of the richest contracts in NBA history. Below is a look at what happened on Sunday in the NBA.
Gobert, Jazz agree to five-year extension
Having already signed Donovan Mitchell to a new contract earlier this offseason, Utah took care of its other franchise cornerstone Sunday morning. Rudy Gobert agreed to terms on an extension worth $205 million over five years, the richest contract in league history for a center (and third-richest regardless of position). One of the league’s premier defenders, Gobert was a top-50 player in both 8- and 9-cat formats last season. I think he threatens top-25 status this season, and Gobert will be especially valuable in roto leagues due to his production as a rebounder and shot-blocker. And that field goal percentage won’t hurt, either. Gobert does put fantasy players in a position where they may have to punt on free throw percentage, but the rewards far outweigh the risks.
Kuzma goes the “two-plus-one” route
The Lakers have secured the future of Kyle Kuzma, as the two sides came to terms on a three-year deal worth $40 million. What’s important to note here is that Kuzma will have a player option for the final year of the deal (2023-24), and he will be 28 years old at that time. Produce over the next two years, and that could mean a serious financial windfall for Kuzma. Last season he struggled a bit, as LeBron James was fully healthy and Anthony Davis was added to the equation. Kuzma wasn’t even on the radar in standard leagues, ranking well outside of the top-200 in both 8- and 9-cat formats. But even with that being the case, I think he’s been undervalued some during draft season. With a season of experience in that sixth man role under his belt, look for Kuzma to bounce back and wind up being a value pick in most leagues.
Orlando looking for more 3-pointers from Vooch
Magic center Nikola Vucevic has been one of the league’s most productive centers in recent years, and in 2019-20 he was rewarded with the first All-Star Game appearance of his career. So what will he look to do for an encore? Make the 3-point shot an even bigger part of his offensive repertoire, as the behest of coach Steven Clifford. Clifford wants Vucevic to average at least eight attempts per game from beyond the arc, which at first glance is an interesting request of a career 33.5 percent shooter.
But Orlando had just five players average at least one 3-pointer per game last season: Vucevic (1.5), Evan Fournier (2.6), Terrence Ross (2.6), Aaron Gordon (1.2) and D.J. Augustin (1.2). Augustin is now in Milwaukee, so the Magic will need to make up for his contributions in that area somehow. One way to get Vucevic more looks from deep would be to have him play alongside backup center Khem Birch more, something that Clifford said was a possibility earlier this preseason. In those situations Vooch would be the four offensively, and the five defensively. It will be interesting to see if Vucevic threatens eight 3-point attempts per game once the regular season begins, and whether or not it takes away from his efficiency in the post. Either way, he should go no later than the second round in all leagues.
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Turner, Warren could be ready for Pacers opener
Indiana stands to welcome back two starters in time for Wednesday, as both Myles Turner (concussion) and T.J. Warren (plantar fasciitis, right foot) were full participants in Sunday’s session. I’d be a bit more concerned about Warren in the early going, as the foot injury is something that first popped up while in the bubble. He was one of the breakout stars down in Orlando, but it’s important to keep in mind that Victor Oladipo not being “himself” physically meant even more scoring opportunities for Warren. He’s definitely a middle-round player in all formats, but don’t expect scoring on the level that he reached at the end of last season.
As for Turner, he could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the head coaching change. Indiana was a bit stagnant at times offensively, and with two bigs (Turner and Domantas Sabonis) on the court quite often that proved to be a bad deal for the former. First-year head coach Nate Bjorkgren wants to ramp things up from a tempo standpoint, as Indiana ranked 21st in pace and 19th in offensive rating last season. In addition to playing faster, what could also help out Turner is having his minutes with Sabonis staggered even more than they were in 2019-20. Turner is certainly a capable face-up five, but having to hang out on the perimeter as much as he did last season appeared to do more harm than good when it came to his production.
Paul, Nader and Saric trending in the right direction
Phoenix's rotation should be closer to full for Wednesday's opener, as Chris Paul (ankle) and Abdel Nader (concussion) were both able to take part in Sunday's practice. While Nader is unlikely to be enough of a factor to merit fantasy consideration in standard leagues, the same can't be said for Paul. Last season he produced top-25 value, and there's the potential for more of the same in Phoenix playing alongside Devin Booker. But how concerned should we be about injuries? He played in 70 regular season games last season, but Paul made no more than 61 appearances in any of the three seasons prior. Selecting Paul in the third round of standard leagues may be a bit of a risk, but the potential reward makes it worthwhile. Keep an eye on Jevon Carter and Cameron Payne just in case.
As for Dario Saric, while he is also making strides in his recovery from a quad strain the most that he's been able to do in practice is some 5-on-0 work. That doesn't appear to bode well when it comes to his availability for Wednesday, because Monty Williams would be asking a lot of his reserve power forward to put him in game situations without any physical work in practice. Phoenix was able to use Saric as a small-ball five to great effect while in the bubble, and more of that could be in the cards this season. Currently rostered in just eight percent of Yahoo leagues, Saric could potentially be a nice pickup once he's fully up to speed.
Temple, Valentine return to practice in Chicago
The Bulls had two reserves join the team for practice on Sunday, with Garrett Temple (COVID-19) and Denzel Valentine (hamstring) finally being cleared. Don't really see either as being worthwhile fantasy options outside of extremely deep leagues, even though both are capable secondary playmakers. What is of concern in Chicago is that Tomas Satoransky (personal) has still yet to rejoin the team. With the veteran point guard out, the Bulls will likely have to look to Ryan Arcidiacono to back up Coby White for the time being. Arcidiacono doesn't bring much to the table from a fantasy standpoint, unfortunately.
Embiid (illness), Jones Jr. (back) and Simons (hamstring) among the other returnees
There was good news on the injury front in both Philadelphia and Portland on Sunday. 76ers star Joel Embiid was back on the practice floor in Philly, while the Blazers welcomed back Derrick Jones Jr. and Anfernee Simons. Embiid is a fantasy stud when he's on the court, but even with his offseason commitment to improving his body injuries remain a concern. Grabbing Dwight Howard in the late rounds of your league wouldn't be a bad idea, especially as insurance if you've already selected Embiid.
As for Portland, Jones technically didn't miss any practice time after suffering a scary fall during Friday's loss in Denver. But the fact that he was back on the court so soon is good news. Rodney Hood started and played 19 minutes Friday, and his perimeter shooting ability may be what keeps him in that role alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum with Jones coming off the bench. "Airplane Mode" can put up some defensive numbers, and his propensity for dunking means that his field goal percentage will be solid, but at best Jones is a late-round option in deeper leagues. Simons' return to practice improves Portland's perimeter depth, but hamstring injuries can be tricky. And given the young guard's struggles last season, it would be wiser to hop on the Gary Trent Jr. bandwagon.