By Oscar Heanue, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
As a fantasy owner, it can be difficult to gauge the importance of the NBA preseason. The games are low-stakes and the sample-size is small, so it’s important to keep in mind that a bad preseason showing is not the end of the world. Still, the preseason can be a great way to get a look at young players, players in new roles, or players who have switched teams. In many cases, it can be the first chance to see how a player is going to respond to a new situation or how he developed over the offseason.
With that in mind, here is a look at some players whose preseason showings could have an impact on their fantasy basketball stock in the final days of draft season:
On The Rise
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the consensus First Team All-American and first overall pick in the 2018 Draft is having a smooth transition to the NBA. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed with Ayton’s first efforts as a Sun. The rookie big man has made a splash on both ends of the court, crushing the competition with averages of 18.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks in five preseason games. Shooting over 61 percent from the field, Ayton’s offensive game looks far ahead of the curve. While he already should have been on fantasy owners’ radars, Ayton’s early showing has vaulted him up draft boards.
While Ayton may be off draft boards early, another young center could provide strong two-way value to fantasy owners this season. Stepping into a starting role for the Nets, 20-year-old sophomore Jarrett Allen has, like Ayton, made an impression with his contributions on both ends of the floor. The Texas product scored 15 points per game, averaged 2.3 blocks, and shot over 56 percent in three starts. Allen is in line for an increased role this season with the Nets needing a long-term option at the center position. The big man’s strong preseason showing indicates that he’s the man for the job.
Enes Kanter — C, New York Knicks
It’s not only young guns who have impressed. One borough over from Allen, Enes Kanter, a seven-year veteran, confirmed that he was up to the task of being the primary big man for the Knicks in the absence of injured All-Star Kristaps Porzingis. In three preseason games, Kanter put up dominant averages of 16.3 points and 13.3 rebounds in only 22 minutes per game. Coming off a season in which he averaged a double-double and shot over 59 percent, Kanter is poised to be one of the focal points of a depleted Knicks roster. Though fantasy owners should take these games with a grain of salt, Kanter certainly looks like he could be a double-double machine again this season if the minutes are there.
Of course, big men weren’t the only preseason standouts. Prince, entering his third year in the league, was one of the most intriguing wings to watch in the early going. Slotted for a starting role on a rebuilding Hawks team, Prince settled nicely into a featured role on the preseason squad. Averaging 15.3 points and 2.3 three-pointers per game in just 27 minutes, Prince showed flashes of brilliance that may be point toward a breakout season. He already had a mini-breakout a year ago, but Prince’s strong shooting stroke and defensive contributions should have owners taking notice.
The former No. 2 overall pick and Duke product inked a deal to return to his hometown of Chicago this offseason. Parker’s career with the Bulls got off to a shaky start to say the least, as he averaged only 9.25 points per game in the preseason while shooting a dismal 26.5 percent from the field. The defensive issues that earned him criticism last season in Milwaukee were apparent too, as he finished with only two blocks and one steal in four games. Parker’s role on the Bulls remains to be seen, but he was benched for the team’s final two preseason contests and will face stiff competition from Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis for frontcourt minutes. Owners considering drafting Parker will want to consider the risks after an underwhelming early showing.
Marvin Bagley — PF, Sacramento Kings
Joining Parker on the list is another Duke power forward and second overall pick, Marvin Bagley. Unlike his fellow rookie big man Deandre Ayton, Bagley’s preseason raised questions about his readiness to contribute immediately.
Averaging a middling 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in four games, Bagley also struggled to contribute in other statistical areas. Shooting just 41 percent from the floor and hitting no three-pointers, Bagley did little to alleviate concerns about his questionable outside shot. Racking up just four assists and two steals in total over his four games, it seems as though Bagley — who appears likely to begin the season in a bench role — may take time before he contributes substantially outside of scoring and rebounding.
Trey Burke — PG, New York Knicks
After a bit of a career renaissance in New York at the end of last season, some believed Burke would be the man to fill the starting point guard spot for the Knicks this season. Things looked good for the former University of Michigan star when he got the starting nod in the first two games of the preseason, but he was moved to a bench role for the team’s following two contests. Burke did little to prove that he is the man for the job, averaging only 8.0 points per game on 38 percent shooting from the field. With Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay both contending for minutes at the point guard position, Burke’s role remains up in the air and the Knicks will likely continue to give all three players opportunities in the backcourt.
Spencer Dinwiddie — PG, Brooklyn Nets
In the wake of injuries in the Brooklyn backcourt, Dinwiddie surprised many last year after becoming both a major offensive option and a strong fantasy producer before the All-Star Break. Averaging 13.3 points and 6.7 assists over the first half of the 2017-18 season, the 25-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance. That said, when he has failed to produce, his numbers have been ugly. Dinwiddie averaged just 10 points per game on 38.1 percent shooting after the All-Star Break last season. Unfortunately for the Nets, that was the Dinwiddie who showed up in the early going. He shot just 28 percent from the field in three games. Moreover, he provided little defensive value, coming away with just one steal in three games. Three preseason games don’t make or break a season, but with D’Angelo Russell back healthy and Dinwiddie off to a shaky start, there’s not a ton of optimism around his fantasy stock. As of publication, Dinwiddie’s ADP barely cracks the top 140 in Yahoo leagues.