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Offseason Beat

Fantasy Hoops Mailbag

by Mike Gallagher
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

We all love basketball and it's probably given us some of the best memories of our lives, but it can be really sad sometimes. Really, really sad. Friday night was one of those nights.
 
It's a day later and many of us are still queasy as one of the NBA's best players is going to miss the 2014-15 season. Paul George's recovery makes everything else in the NBA world seem insignificant, but I have to say it’s pretty cool watching the NBA come together and support him. It’s an awesome league and commissioner Adam Silver has to be proud the way his guys are showing their class.
 
I don't want to spend too much time on what the Pacers are going to do because it still doesn't even feel right, but that's our job here.
 
The Pacers are in serious trouble this upcoming season. They've already lost Lance Stephenson to the Hornets, so now they're going to be missing out on 35.5 points per game from last season with plenty of other stats. In fact, here are the top-five lineups the Pacers used sans George and Lance (per NBA Wowy):

Yikes. They have basically replaced their best two players with Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles, both of whom are expected to start next to George Hill, David West and Roy Hibbert. The three returning starters will likely have a larger responsibility on offense, so you can move Hill, Hibbert and West up in your rankings. Considering how the Pacers used West in the playoffs, he should probably be the first guy off the board. He has a chance for a 17-9 guy with great percentages. Hibbert really can’t score and his minutes aren’t likely to increase, so he’s not much of a big winner. Hill should move into the middle rounds.
 
Both Miles and Stuckey have gone on stretches with high usage rates. so they both have a chance to get double-digit shots per game. The problem is that both guys haven’t seen their games translate to fantasy very well. Stuckey isn’t much of a 3-point shooter while Miles doesn’t do much outside of score. I’d grab Miles first for his 3-point upside.
 
The bench situation is also interesting. Chris Copeland played majority of his minutes at power forward last season, but he’ll likely see some action at small forward now. C.J. Watson should see more minutes at shooting guard, as well. He played just 19.3 percent of his minutes last season next to George Hill, which should definitely increase. Also, Solomon Hill didn’t do much in his rookie season with averages of 1.7 points, 1.5 boards, 0.2 steals and 0.3 triples in 8.1 minutes per game, but he’s likely to get in the rotation. He has a decent upside since he shot at least 39 percent from beyond the arc in each of his last two seasons at Arizona. The former Wildcat had an eye-catching summer league in 2013, averaging 12.0 points, 5.2 boards, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.0 triples on 48.9 percent from the field. Keep an eye on him. 
 
The Pacers are likely going to add a player, so we’ll see what happens. Get well soon, 24.
 
Before Friday’s devastating evening, I took some questions on Twitter about the upcoming season. I got some great questions and it just goes to show how knowledgeable you guys are. So, I just wanted to thank everyone for reading. 
 
You can follow me on Twitter @MikeSGallagher and look out for future mailbag tweets.

 

@ralfsunga @MikeSGallagher Which rookies outside of the lottery will make the most impact? Thanks!

 
In case you missed it, I covered my top 12 rookies for redraft leagues last weekend, so be sure to check that out here.
 
I love Rodney Hood. The Jazz have basically just two capable guys on the wings at Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, so his opportunity is definitely there. Besides those two, the Jazz only have Ian Clark, Carrick Felix, Steve Novak and Travis Leslie as competition to Hood.
 
He looked a lot more NBA ready than I thought and he really keeps his head in the game even when he doesn’t have the ball. The Jazz are dying for a 3-point shooter after ranking just 24th in makes and 25th in percentage in 2013-14. Hood shot 42.0 percent from deep on his 169 attempts at Duke last year, and 38.5 percent from there at summer league. I don’t think he’s quite standard-league ready yet, but the upside is definitely there.
 
I think second rounders K.J. McDaniels and Jordan McRae have a big opportunity in front of them in Philly. Jason Richardson will be back, but you’d think the 76ers keep his minutes down and they’d obviously love to deal him for literally anything. If Philly plays Thaddeus Young at power forward — I think they have to — that should open up some huge minutes at shooting guard and small forward.
 
Besides J-Rich, the only potential guys to get minutes on the wings are Tony Wroten, Hollis Thompson and Elliot Williams. Wroten really can’t do much with the ball out of his hands and not being able to shoot the ball outside of the restricted area makes for a bad fit once the team gets Joel Embiid back. In other words, I’d think Wroten gets more minutes as the backup point guard, which pushes Orlando Pro Summer League star Casper Ware down to No. 3 on the PG depth chart.
 
The team seems to be higher on McDaniels, so he’s definitely a guy who can get minutes and actually post a moderate usage rate. Plus, he’s a tremendous shot blocker on the wing and thrives in an up-tempo style — Philly led the NBA in pace.
 
Even though he was taken beyond the lottery last season and played in Australia last season, James Ennis is another guy I really like. Basically every other wing on the Heat has a lengthy injury history, and really just one of those guys needs to go down in order to launch Ennis to the 20s in minutes. I wouldn't be shocked if he gets 20 minutes even with the team at full strength. He has upside with a decent 3-point shot and should be able to contribute on defense.
 
@mister42  @MikeSGallagher what do we make of Isaiah Thomas this year? I was excited to keep him in dynasty.. but may have to opt for someone else.
 
We’re kind of in a holding pattern with Thomas right now. Some reports say Eric Bledsoe and the Suns are not on the best terms, but they’re probably just playing hardball.
 
If Bledsoe is back with the Suns, things won’t be looking great for IT3 — he’s wearing No. 3 now. Goran Dragic played 35.3 minutes per game while Bledsoe played 32.9 per game. Both certainly seemed capable of playing that workload, so that means there are a combined 27.8 minutes per game available at both guard spots. Although, one interesting thing is that Bledsoe shot 39.6 percent in the fourth quarter, so maybe was a bit tired and could have his minutes drop to around 30. To be clear, I don't think that's going to happen.
 
The Suns also have Gerald Green, who seems like he’s earned 20-24 minutes per game. Sure, they could play him at small forward. He did only shoot 39.2 percent from the field while with Bledsoe and Dragic, but the 3-pointers put his effective field goal percentage up to a solid 51.0. Plus, their defense wasn’t horrible with a defensive rating 109. That’s bad, but not horrible.
 
So, I’d say Thomas is looking at around 19-22 minutes per game with a healthy, Bledsoe-active team. That probably would make him just a late-round pick in standards. Of course, that changes big time with Bledsoe on another team.
 
 
@seacoaststrazz   @MikeSGallagher Where is a good spot to take Kawhi? Got burned taking him so early last year
 
I can’t begin to tell you guys how many frustrated people there were about Kawhi even before his metacarpal injury. However, he was still putting up fifth- or sixth-round value even before he went down.
 
When he did return on Feb. 26, it was on like Donkey Kong. He was the No. 5(!) fantasy player when he did return to the end of the season, and you’ve probably seen us blurb him on our Player News page and pimp him big time. 
 
On top of that, he completely took over in the postseason. After having just a somewhat low 40.7 percent of his shots come unassisted in the regular season, that number grew to 50.0 percent in the playoffs. Coach Gregg Popovich said he’s going to run more plays for Kawhi this year, which makes all too much sense. That means he has a shot to move his 12.8 points per game from 2013-14 to around 16 while also upping his treys.
 
Including the playoffs, Kawhi Leonard had a 52.0 effective field goal percentage on his jump shots and pull-ups last season. He just turned 23 about a month ago and has really just counted on his freakish frame and quickness, so adding some more moves makes him extremely dangerous. On top of that, his shot selection is top notch, and he’s a career 80.3 percent free throw shooter. The sky is the limit and he could easily be a top-five guy for the season just like he was in the last two months of 2013-14. If he slips out of the second round, there is something wrong with your league.
 
@coyle_marshall  @MikeSGallagher What do you think Julius Randle needs to improve on the most next season?
 
This is going to be a very popular question and it should be. There are a lot of lightning rods involved in this situation, and hey, it’s the Lakers. First and foremost, I think anyone who watched Carlos Boozer play last year knows he’s not an awe-inspiring guy in the Lakers starting lineup. You’d think they’d either want a floor-spacing guy or a player capable of scoring down low. Obviously, Booze is not a 3-point shooter and he was horrible on the block at both ends. I mentioned this stat in an NBA Week in Review a while ago, but here it is again: On defense he allowed his man to shoot a combined 52.0 percent on post-ups and as the pick-and-roll roll man. On the other hand, Boozer shot just 38.3 percent in those situations on offense last year (stats per Synergy).

OK, so let’s get to the question. I watched Randle a lot at summer league and I really liked what I saw. I thought his court awareness was great, he’s plus-passer, he has a lot of moves both with back to the basket and facing up, and he looks to be running PNRs pretty well. 

He will really need to improve on his jump shot. Randle made just 18 percent of his jumpers at Kentucky and that was basically the case at Vegas. Even if he doesn’t, I think he can still score the ball well from 4-8 feet. Plus, he’ll need to shoot at a high clip around the rim — that’s obvious.

On D, he was almost too active. Randle was over-rotating a lot and that will lead to fatigue and teams exploiting that tendency. He’ll have to trust his teammates a little more, but his instincts are definitely above par.

He’s a late-round target with upside and hopefully he’ll beat out Boozer for minutes to get in the high 20s.

 
@AthleticPoetics @MikeSGallagher Thoughts on Kyrie Irving' value and draft position -- this year -- with LeBron, and possibly Love, joining the team?
 
This is a #HotTake right here, folks. Simply put: I’m really worried about Kyrie’s fantasy value.
 
Only Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry started at point guard and had a higher usage rate than Kyrie last year, and I think we all know that’s going to take a huge hit. LeBron James ranked fifth in the NBA for usage, and Kevin Love ranked ninth overall. Usage rate is an underrated stat, so let’s just take a look at the elite usage guys ahead of Kyrie: Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Jefferson, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George and Stephen Curry.
 
Basically every one of those guys except DeRozan will be off the board in the first two rounds of your fantasy draft. Kyrie wasn’t even that great with his high usage rate last season, turning in third-round value on the season.
 
A common thing I’ve seen in columns and on Twitter is that Kyrie’s assists are going to go up, but I’m not sure about that. His best month of his career is just 7.2 assists per game, so he’s never even really gone on a month-long assist fest like just about every elite point guard will do. He's always been a score-first point guard, which makes sense because of the lack of talent around him. Still, great passers will get sub-par NBA players the ball in advantageous positions.
 
Unless he becomes a lights-out shooter from deep, I don’t think he’s worth a pick in the third round, especially considering his injury history.
 
@chaddrews  @MikeSGallagher love the article. I have a dynasty rookie draft Sunday. Not using %'s. Does this adjust your rankings? Who's the studs in 3-4 yrs
 
Thanks! In case you missed it, you can check out my Dynasty Ranks right here. It was done before free agency, but I’m surprised that not much has changed.
 
I think the first guy that comes to mind is Aaron Gordon. He was a dreadful free throw shooter at Tucson and he’s probably not going to shoot the ball well in the NBA either. I’d also be expecting Elfrid Payton and Marcus Smart to get a boost. Besides that, it should pretty much look similar.
 
@TimmyDrisk  @MikeSGallagher what is the ceiling for TJ Warren? I was surprised when he had the promise but after seeing him ball the dude can flat score
 
As far as ceilings go, I’m not quite sure Warren is going to be a star. I think his fantasy ceiling is a fourth-round guy because he’s not a very effective 3-point shooter. Warren will need to get his minutes in the 30s in order to do that, and I don’t think that’s going to happen in the first three years, which is how long P.J. Tucker’s contract is. Here's what I said about him last week: 
 

I’ll admit this one is a bit biased. Warren has such a great offensive game and he’s really a nice guy, too. While I was in Vegas, I had a little walk-and-talk chat with him and he was a real joy to be around. He’s a smart guy and threw out a lot of basketball jargon, which I always love to hear from young guys.
 
One thing I was encouraged the most about with Warren was how the Suns used him at summer league. He was lined up at power forward a lot, and they even had him out there at center. He’s a legit 6’8” and he has tremendous body control off the dribble. Obviously, his stats were great as Warren led the NCAA in field goal makes and was at the top of most offensive NCAA rankings next to Doug McDermott, so he’s shown he has some serious polish to his game. He shot a sterling 59.8 percent on his two-point shots at NC State, but he’ll have to add a 3-point shot to be a more well-rounded guy.
 
Coach Jeff Hornacek has run some wacky lineups out there and Warren would really be a nice fit with Goran Dragic,Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris. Of course, P.J. Tucker just got a new contract and will get the bulk of the minutes at the three.

 

@MisterJasonPTU @MikeSGallagher What the hell will the Bucks starting lineup look like? Minutes breakdown for each player? Thanks
 
This is probably my pet project of the summer. I’ve been watching just about every little video on the Bucks site and followed the Bucks very closely while I was at Las Vegas Summer League.
 
Right now, I really think their starting lineup should be Kendall Marshall, Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Larry Sanders. Knight isn't a great passer, and with Jabari's ability to score, a pass-first point guard is a much better fit. Plus, Knight is arguably a better SG than PG. If I ran the Bucks, I'd have my rotation look something like this:
 
Marshall 29, Knight 33, Antetokounmpo 32, Parker 34, Sanders 27, Bayless 21, Wolters 17, Henson 23, Middleton 24.
 
Yes, I would do anything I could to deal Zaza Pachulia, Ersan Ilyasova and O.J. Mayo
 
@tlionelli @MikeSGallagher what do you see happening w/ deron williams to start the year? trade, starter, come off the bench?

 
As bad as he was in the playoffs and at the beginning of the season, Deron was actually very good after the break. He averaged 15.5 points, 2.8 boards, 5.6 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.7 triples on 44.8 percent from the field in 33.8 minutes per game.
 
I don’t think there is any doubt that Deron will be the starter. Yeah, he was a complete disaster in the playoffs, but the Nets shouldn’t feel comfortable with Jarrett Jack as the starting point guard.
 
Their rotation is a bit in flux and Joe Johnson will likely have to play more shooting guard than he did last year. That could open up some minutes for guys like Bojan Bogdanovic. Plus, keep an eye out for Mirza Teletovic. One other aside: Mason Plumlee can’t play power forward and actually didn’t make a single shot outside of the paint last season.
 
@PhogForce5 @MikeSGallagher the possibility of a Lance letdown after getting paid.
 
I don’t think so. He’s a very good fit for the Hornets in relation to Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. Kemba touched and passed the ball more than any player last season, but he’s a capable guy off the ball, as well. Stephenson should be able to put up similar numbers in a very similar system, except for maybe less pick-and-roll plays. Of course, it should be interesting to see how Gerald Henderson does at the three.
 

@Yoloballhard  @Rotoworld_BK @MikeSGallagher who should (not will) start at the 2 for the @PelicansNBA and why ?

I think Eric Gordon has to start here. Tyreke Evans is the better player by far, but he’s the type of guy who dominates the ball. This is a similar story for guys like Jamal Crawford.

EJ (Eric Gordon Jr.) is a much better floor spacer than Evans, which is what the Pelicans will need for Jrue Holiday and superstar Anthony Davis. 'Reke had a 28.3 usage rate -- an elite number -- in the last month of the season, so he can carry the load for the second unit in around 27-30 minutes per game. 



@PretendGm  @MikeSGallagher Which 2 should i keep for the 2014-15 season? Afllalo/AveryBradley/GlenDavis/JaredSullinger? THANKS!

 
That’s an easy one: Arron Afflalo and Avery Bradley. Yes, Bradley was overpaid, but he has upside now that his 3-point range is coming together.
 
@VP90244  @MikeSGallagher what rd u taking oladipo in 12 tm std h2h 9 cat to maximize value? Dude is gonna go bonkers w 35+ minutes
 
If it’s an eight-cat league, you’re looking at late-fourth and early-fifth. However, he turned the ball over way too often and even a move to shooting guard shouldn’t curtail that troublesome area. I’d see him as a solid fifth-round guy in nine-cat.
 
I do think he has a chance to get up to 35 minutes, which could put him in the 2.0 steals, 1.3 triples, 16.0 points and 4.0 rebounds neighborhood. He also could be a 44 FG% and 80 FT% guy. In an eight-cat, he seriously has top-25 upside.

Mike Gallagher
Mike Gallagher has covered fantasy hoops for eight years and this season is his second with Rotoworld. You can find him on Twitter talking about a player's shots at the rim.