Hello and welcome back to the NBA Roundtable! With the new year quickly approaching, I asked the Rotoworld Hoops crew to come up with some bold predictions for the 2018 portion of the season. I’ll start us off with a little Terrence Jones talk…
Jonas Nader (@JonasNader)
Terrence Jones will be picked up by a non-playoff team and will become a hot waiver-wire add with top-75 value. Fantasy owners either love Jones for his 1-1-1 potential in the money categories (steals, blocks and triples) or hate him for his inconsistency and durability issues, but I’m jumping back on the hype train after catching a glimpse of him in the G-League — he’s back in the states after a small stint overseas. Through two games, he’s averaging 24.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 4.0 blocks and 1.5 triples on 62.1 percent shooting. Still only 25 years old, all Jones need is an opportunity and he will always have a home at the end of my fantasy roster.
Regardless of Joel Embiid’s health, Richaun Holmes will be a top-50 player in 2018. The 76ers are still giving Amir Johnson and Trevor Booker minutes at the expense of Holmes, but they have really struggled lately and I don’t see that trend continuing. Holmes has played some power forward since his college days, and he’s certainly versatile enough to play next to Embiid — those two guys have a 17.7 net rating beside each other this season. And if The Process does go down at some point, Holmes could be an early-round stud like we saw after the All-Star break last season when he was a top-35 player.
Kemba Walker, Marc Gasol and DeAndre Jordan will be the biggest names to be traded this season, as the Hornets, Grizzlies and Clippers are all in need of a major rebuild. Walker is the only asset in Charlotte that has enough trade value to acquire several picks and/or young prospects, as he’s still in his prime and has one of the best contracts in the NBA. Their front office has been impatient for years with win-now moves, but it’s time to blow the roster up because they are not on the path to becoming a contender.
As for Gasol, he already has one foot out the door and probably wants to join a contender while he’s still elite, and the Clippers will want to get something in return for Jordan before he inevitably walks as a free agent this summer. Some other names to watch are Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley, Nerlens Noel and George Hill.
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Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer)
* LeBron James will win the 2017-18 MVP award.
King James turns 33 years old this weekend. And no player has ever won the MVP award in their 15th season. But, then again, there’s never been a player quite like LeBron James. LBJ is averaging career-highs in assists, 3-pointers, and effective field goal percentage and he’s just shy of career-high in several other categories (field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, rebounds and blocks). He is on pace to become the first player in league history to average at least 27 points, nine dimes and eight boards, while shooting over 55 percent from the floor.
* Karl-Anthony Towns explodes in the second half.
KAT’s numbers are down a bit compared to his production from last season. However, it’s important to note that it wasn’t until the second half of the 2016-17 campaign that Towns really kicked his production into overdrive. Over the final 45 games of last season, Towns averaged 28.2 points (on 59.4 percent shooting) and 12.8 rebounds. And KAT shot 44.4 percent (55-for-124) from 3-point range in his final 41 starts. While he likely won’t match those numbers, I’m expecting Towns to significantly increase his fantasy production over the second half of this season as well.
* Nerlens Noel will get traded.
Noel’s 2017-18 season has been a nightmare. After failing to land a lucrative contract as a free-agent over the summer, he had to settle for a one-year $4.1 million qualifying offer with Dallas, which allows him to re-enter the market as an unrestricted FA next summer. However, Noel has been stuck in the doghouse since opening night and was unable to secure a consistent role in the rotation even when fully healthy. Now he’s sidelined after undergoing surgery on his left thumb. He’s expected to return in early January. At that point, I’d expect the Mavs to get him on the floor in hopes of boosting his trade value, as it appears unlikely they will re-sign him in July. If Noel is moved, and lands with a team willing to play him, he does have some intriguing upside. Last season, he was productive in limited minutes, averaging 15.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.7 blocks per-36 minutes. For his career, Noel averages 13.0 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 2.0 blocks per-36 minutes. #FreeNerlens
Matt Stroup (@MattStroup)
I like the Terrence Jones call. Just feels right. Even with some maddening playing-time issues last year for New Orleans, he still had some really productive stretches, including a run of 15 games (starting in early January) where he posted 14.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 1.1 bpg and 0.5 3s. You said all Jones needs is an opportunity, Jonas; I would add that all we need is more Terrence Jones in our fantasy leagues.
As for my predictions, I’ll start with this: Zach LaVine will come back hardly looking at all like he’s coming off major knee surgery. I base this on two things: 1) his age (still just 22 years old) and more importantly, 2) his status as a complete athletic freak. LaVine still hasn’t quite broken out as an elite fantasy asset, but did post 18.9 ppg, 3.0 apg, 0.9 spg and 2.6 3s last season, and I don’t think it’s crazy to think that he can put up 17-18 ppg with a lot of 3s once he’s up to speed for Chicago. And based on my bold prediction above, I’m not expecting that to take too long at all.
Marquese Chriss will be putting up big numbers during the home stretch. He’s been a monster disappointment so far during his second season, but the skill set and circumstances are still in place for Chriss to finish this season strong – just like he did last year. I would do everything I can to stash him away or buy low. It’s a very low-risk move with a lot of long-term upside.
Jared Johnson (@JaredJ831)
Tyreke Evans stays healthy
Evans hasn't had a healthy season since 2015, but I just feel like this is the year for him. You know he wants to prove that he's healthy and capable of making it through games in order to up his value as a free agent this summer, and while we recently saw him crop up on the injury report with a sore right knee (yes, that's the surgically repaired one that's given him a lot of trouble throughout his career), he played through it and I'd expect that trend to continue. He's been flirting with top-30 value thus far, and I doubt you'd be able to extract that sort of value in a trade, so I'd recommend just sticking with him.
Kanter has been a top-50 performer this season in 9-cat leagues with averages of 13.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.6 turnovers per contest in 25.9 minutes a night, but I just can't imagine him seeing that sort of playing time if the Knicks aren't chasing postseason success. Kanter could hit free agency this summer and jet for the team that gives him the best offer, so if New York does fall out of the playoff race, I see no reason why the 23-year-old Herangomez would continue to collect DNP-CDs while a likely soon-to-be-lost guy ups his value as a free agent. I'm firmly in the sell-high camp on Kanter.
Look, even if Mirotic and Bobby Portis have moved passed their preseason altercation (unlikely), Mirotic just doesn't make sense on that Chicago team; nor does Robin Lopez. Mirotic has actually played so well as of late that he's helped the Bulls go on a bit of a win streak, which is not good for the tank in Chicago. In my opinion, he's playing like a guy that wants to be traded, and I think there's a very good chance that the two veterans will get moved ahead of the trade deadline. If both these guys depart, that would give Portis the opportunity to start at the five-spot, giving him some appeal as a deep-league stash.
Mike Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher)
Jarrett Allen finally gets his runway cleared and becomes a top-75 player in 2018.
Wednesday was an important day because we really saw Tyler Zeller struggle against the Pelicans bigs. Allen is up to 25-of-32 from the line this season (78.1 percent) and 87.5 percent in December, so he’s really showing his upside. Plus, he has more 3-pointers as a pro than he did at Texas. Blocks are king and Allen looks like he can be an impact player there. Coach Kenny Atkinson said changes could be coming to the first unit and starting Allen makes a lot of sense.
Josh Hart pushes for minutes in the 30s and becomes a top-100 player in the last three months of the season.
He’s already showing he can play three positions, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is only on a one-year deal, the Lakers are starting to play Brandon Ingram at the four a little more, and most importantly Jordan Clarkson is reportedly on the trade block. He’s been a strong shooter, he’s putting up elite rebounding numbers for a guard and it helps to play on the fastest team for pace. I loved seeing him check in for Clarkson on Wednesday.
Davon Reed bursts on the scene to have value in deeper fantasy leagues.
The Suns are a mess. Josh Jackson flamed out as a wing next to T.J. Warren, the Suns are open to playing Devin Booker at three positions, and coach Jay Triano really wants guys to be defensive impact players. The team has been talking him up and he could in the rotation in early January.
Nik Stauskas takes over the starting job early next month and runs with it.
Sauce Castillo! The Nets are a mess right now and it’s starting to feel like DeMarre Carroll should shift over to play a lot more power forward.