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Friday marked the end of the preseason, with there being eight games on the schedule. However, before the regular season gets going teams have to finalize their rosters, a process that got underway Friday night. Many teams used their final preseason games as a dress rehearsal of sorts, with the starters and rotation players getting most of the minutes in the first three quarters. Below is a look at Friday's key storylines, which included a couple players returning from injury and an All-Star suffering a knee injury.
Robinson returns as Knicks rally, while Wizards' Beal gets hurt
New York's 115-113 comeback win over Washington proved to be far more suspenseful than your standard preseason finale tends to be, with the home fans getting to celebrate both a victory and the return of Mitchell Robinson. Robinson, who underwent surgery after breaking his foot late last season, played 27 minutes off the bench and did not experience any pain. MitchRob, who still has some work to do from a conditioning standpoint (he said after the game that he's at about 50%), finished with six points (3-of-8 FGs), nine rebounds and two steals.
Following the game, Robinson said that he expects to be available for Wednesday's opener against Boston. And the Knicks could have their full center rotation in uniform. According to SNY's Ian Begley, Noel should be available Wednesday night after sitting due to a sore left knee. Add in Taj Gibson, who started and played 15 minutes, and New York should have three available options at the five.
The big news for Washington in this one wasn't the blown lead, but rather the right knee contusion that Bradley Beal suffered in the first half. The Wizards' All-NBA guard played just nine minutes, and after the game, coach Wes Unseld Jr. said that the injury didn't "seem" to be serious. Beal will have a few days to recover before Washington opens its season Wednesday night in Toronto. Raul Neto picked up the slack, scoring 25 points (10-1of-13 FGs, 3-of-4 FTs) with two rebounds, two assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 24 minutes off the bench. He and Aaron Holiday (14/7/4/1 with one 3-pointer in 23 minutes) both played well, and they'll provide the depth behind starting point guard Spencer Dinwiddie.
Bulls welcome back Williams, Bradley as the complete preseason
Chicago finished its preseason slate with an unblemished 4-0 record, beating the Grizzlies by a 118-105 final score. Zach LaVine (31/6/6/1/1 with four 3-pointers) and Nikola Vucevic (23/8/2/1 with one 3-pointer) looked good, but the more important development for Chicago was the return of Patrick Williams. Originally expected to miss 4-6 weeks due to a severely sprained ankle, the second-year forward was able to get back in three. He was immediately inserted into the starting lineup, playing 22 minutes and finishing with six points (2-of-6 FGs), three rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block and two 3-pointers (on three attempts).
Williams' defensive production is going to be there; the question is what happens on offense, as LaVine, Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan will all need their touches. That's where the 3-point shooting comes into play, as Williams attempted just 1.9 triples per game as a rookie. He shot 39.1% last season, and if Williams can do that on more attempts, his fantasy value should hold steady (if not increase). Also of note regarding Williams is that he got some run at center Friday night. With Tony Bradley (who made his Bulls debut Friday) having also missed time during the preseason, Chicago was giving backup center minutes to Alize Johnson. Using Williams at the five as part of a smaller lineup could also benefit him, with regard to fantasy value.
The biggest takeaway for Memphis was how sharp Jaren Jackson Jr. looked in his final tune-up. Shooting 7-of-12 from three, he finished with a line of 29 points (10-of-18 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), seven rebounds and two assists in 29 minutes. JJJ didn't put up any defensive stats, but that isn't a concern for a young big that averaged 1.1 steals and 1.6 blocks per game last season. If Jackson is able to knock down 3-pointers at a higher clip than he did last season (28.3%), look out. He has a Yahoo ADP of 50, and could easily exceed that number in 2021-22.
Heat pass "final exam" as many key contributors play
Miami's lineup Thursday night in Atlanta lacked many of the team's key players, as Erik Spoelstra left many of those guys home to rest up ahead of Friday's finale against the Celtics. Jimmy Butler (25/4/4/1 with one 3-pointer) made the most of his 25 minutes, shooting 7-of-14 from the field and 10-of-11 from the foul line, while Bam Adebayo (17/7/2/2/1) posted a full stat line. The fantasy values of those two was secure, but Tyler Herro had the kind of night that could push him up boards in late-drafting leagues. Shooting 10-of-15 from the field and 4-of-4 from the foul line, he ripped off 29 points, six rebounds, four assists, one steal and five 3-pointers in 23 minutes. Herro (Yahoo ADP: 115) will be a key reserve for the Heat, and he's worthy of a late-round look in most leagues.
Boston was down multiple starters, as Marcus Smart (suspension) Jaylen Brown (health and safety protocols) and Robert Williams (right knee) were all sidelined. As a result, the Celtics' starting lineup included Dennis Schroder, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams and Jabari Parker, with Jayson Tatum (23/8/1/1 with two 3-pointers) filling his usual role. Schroder (13/4/6/3/1 with one 3-pointer) and Langford (18/3/0/2/1 with four 3-pointers) both had their moments Friday night, with the latter capping what was a solid preseason.
Depending upon what happens with Brown between now and Wednesday, it would not be a surprise if Langford remained in the starting lineup for the opener. He isn't worth selecting if your league is holding its draft this weekend, but Langford could have some waiver wire value if he can build on his play during the preseason. Speaking of Wednesday, the Time Lord is expected to be available.
76ers' Simmons clears health and safety protocols
Philadelphia point guard Ben Simmons, who held out in an attempt to force a trade, is one step closer to rejoining his teammates. Friday morning it was reported by ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that Simmons cleared health and safety protocols, but he did travel with the team to Detroit for both teams' preseason finale. There's clearly going to be a "ramping-up" process once Simmons takes the court, which preserves the early-season value of a Tyrese Maxey (16/5/3/1 with two 3-pointers in Friday's 112-108 defeat). Seth Curry (16/5/3/1 with two 3-pointers) was the only projected starter that played for Philadelphia, and bigs Andre Drummond (17/7/3/1/2 in 21 minutes) and Paul Reed (15/7/2/2/2 in 30 minutes) both had good nights.
Drummond is an obvious late-round pick due to starter Joel Embiid's medical history, but Reed is worth tracking. The path to consistent playing time appears to be clogged, but Reed may offer too much promise for Doc Rivers to keep him out of the rotation. Isaiah Joe (14/3/3/0/1) shot 4-of-8 from three, but he faces even longer odds than Reed with regard to earning rotation minutes once the regular season begins.
Detroit was down three projected starters (Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey), with Saben Lee, Frank Jackson and Josh Jackson filling the resulting voids. None of those three will be worth grabbing off of your league's waiver wire ahead of the season opener, but Lee (eight assists without a turnover) would be the best option. One of either Jackson or Cory Joseph stands to see their minutes cut considerably once the regular season begins, and it's difficult to envision a scenario in which Joseph were that guy.
Bucks' Nwora struggles in spot start
With Khris Middleton having been ruled out for Friday's 114-103 loss to the Mavericks for personal reasons, second-year forward Jordan Nwora was inserted into the starting lineup. Nwora certainly doesn't lack for confidence, as evidenced by his team-high 17 field goal attempts, but he had a tough night percentage-wise. Shooting 6-of-17 from the field and 2-of-2 from the foul line, he finished with 15 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and one 3-pointer (on nine attempts) in 24 minutes.
Nwora wasn't on the radar in most fantasy leagues even before Friday, due to his being behind Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo (26/10/2/1 with two 3-pointers), and that won't change anytime soon. Fantasy managers considering the Bucks' supporting cast, beyond Brook Lopez, would be better off taking a flier on Grayson Allen. In 25 minutes, he accounted for 13 points (4-of-8 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), five rebounds and three 3-pointers. There were no defensive stats, but late-round targets tend to be specialists as opposed to players who can fill a stat line.
Going back to Antetokounmpo, he shot the ball very well during the preseason, and that includes 3-point range. His form looks much smoother than it has in years past, which has helped with the accuracy. If that translates to the regular season, the two-time MVP has a good chance of exceeding his Yahoo ADP (9).
Wood, Sengun dominate the boards in road defeat
Houston's preseason finale was a bad one, as they were trounced by the Spurs in San Antonio by a 126-98 score. But there there were positives to take from the loss, most notably the effort that Christian Wood (19/19/1 with one 3-pointer) and Alperen Sengun (15/12/1/1/3) put forth on the boards. They combined to corral 31 of the Rockets' 59 rebounds, while combining to shoot 13-of-27 from the field. Wood did have some negative aspects to his night, as he shot 2-of-6 from the foul line and committed a team-high six turnovers. The free throw shooting is a concern heading into the regular season, as Wood made just 63.1% of his attempts last season. He has a Yahoo ADP of 40, but if those free throw struggles carry over into this season, it may be difficult to make good on that draft position.
As for Sengun, the rookie had a very good preseason and looks ready to take on rotation minutes. He started Friday's game for the resting Daniel Theis, and will in all likelihood begin the season with the Rockets' second unit. But at this rate, Sengun may not be coming off the bench for too long, as his defense has been far more advanced than many expected it to be. Sengun has a Yahoo ADP of 164, but that number should increase as leagues that have yet to hold their drafts do so.
For the Spurs, guards Dejounte Murray (20/7/7/1/1 with three 3-pointers) and Derrick White (20/4/6/2/1 with three pointers) looked ready for the regular season, as they combined to shoot 13-of-27 from the field and 6-of-11 from three. Neither has been a great 3-point shooter since entering the NBA, with White (35.7%) boasting the slightly higher percentage. Murray has made just 33.2% of his 3-point attempts since entering the league, and the lack of 3-point production has limited his fantasy prospects. However, during the preseason he shot 40.0% from beyond the arc, with an average of 3.8 attempts per game. If Murray, who has a Yahoo ADP of 56, can come close to that rate of success during the regular season, he should be a top-50 player...minimum.
Warriors' Curry looks to be in midseason form
We're long past the point where a Stephen Curry offensive explosion would raise eyebrows; that's how good he has been for quite some time now. And he was excellent in Friday's 119-97 win over Portland, dropping a line of 41 points (13-of-23 FGs, 8-of-10 FTs), nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and seven 3-pointers (on 14 attempts) in 30 minutes of action. Curry was one of the key Warriors who did not play at all in the fourth quarter, as it was quite clear that Steve Kerr saw all that he needed to from his main options.
Curry will once again be a high first-round pick in all leagues, right there with Nikola Jokic and James Harden. But the Warrior that many fantasy managers are intrigued by is Jordan Poole, especially with Klay Thompson still working his way back to full strength. In 24 minutes Friday, Poole recorded a line of 16 points (7-of-15 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), three rebounds and one assist. The 0-of-4 night from deep and the lack of numbers outside of points should not be a concern, however, as Poole averaged 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.5 blocks and 4.0 3-pointers (on ten attempts) during the preseason.
Poole's Yahoo ADP is 111, which is fair given the role that he's likely to step into. That could change once the aforementioned Thompson is cleared to play, but Poole is a player who should be retained. Because the Warriors are highly unlikely to play Thompson heavy minutes right out of the gate. And a quick injury note on the Warriors, James Wiseman (knee surgery) will be re-evaluated on November 1, the team announced. Jonathan Kuminga (strained right patellar tendon) will be re-evaluated in a week.