NBA Preseason Stock Report

Tommy Beer
Rotoworld

The preseason slate officially concluded on Friday, and we have just two more days before the much anticipated 209-20 campaign commences. Over the last three weeks, there have been a handful of players that improved their fantasy stock thanks to impressive performances in the preseason, while others have failed to live up to expectations.

 

Stock up:
* Zach LaVine
Not only did Lavine average nearly a point per minute in the preseason (23.3 points per game in 24.1 mins), he was also incredibly efficient on the offensive end. He shot a scorching 59.3 percent from the floor, 56 percent from downtown (while averaging 3.5 made treys a night) and 83.3 percent from the free-throw stripe. Last season, he ranked 61st overall in nine-category fantasy formats after shooting a career-high 46.7 percent from the field. If he can boost that number up closer to 50% this year, and cut down on his turnovers, he has a great chance to crack the top-50 in 2019-20.

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* Kristaps Porzingis
KP's final numbers were solid (16.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.0 triples, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 1.8 turnovers per game), even though he struggled with his shot, converting 39.3% of his field-goal attempts. However, the most important takeaway from his preseason was the fact that he played in four games and didn't suffer any setbacks. Remember, coming into October, it had been 610 days since Porzingis last stepped foot on an NBA court. The Mavs will err on the side of caution, and KP will likely sit out at least 15 games due to "load management," but his upside remains remarkably enticing. 

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* Anfernee Simons
Simons jumped onto the fantasy radar in the Las Vegas Summer League, when he averaged 22.0 points and 4.3 boards in just 26 minutes of action. And he's played well in October as well (12.4 ppg and 2.2 made treys). For fantasy GM's that draft Dame Lillard with their first-round pick, or CJ McCollum a few rounds later, Simons should be considered a late-round handcuff in deeper leagues, as he'd have immediate value if either of those durable stars were sidelined.

* James Harden
It's not entirely accurate to say Harden's stock went up, because he already was universally viewed as top-three pick heading into the preseason. However, The Beard used the last month to remind folks that he's an absolute fantasy force, with or without Russell Westbrook playing alongside him. Harden led the league in total preseason points with 187. Steph Curry was second with 107. Harden also led the league in assists, with 54. Trae Young was second with 33. And Harden led the league in made triples with 26. Eric Gordon was second with 19. Harden scored 187 points in 173 minutes played and tallied more 3-pointers than turnovers. Not too shabby.

* Bogdan Bogdanovic
I list Bogdanovic here due to the drama unfolding in Sacramento. Buddy Hield has taken an aggressive stance with the Kings, intimating that if Sactown isn't willing to signing him to a massive extension by Monday's deadline, he may request a trade. If the Kings did move Hield and didn't get a starting SG in return, that would open up a ton of minutes for Bogey. And, that is all that is separating him from monster fantasy numbers. Playing for Serbia in the 2019 FIBA World Cup back in September, Bogdanovic showed what kind of production he is capable of posting as an offensive focal point of a quality team. Bogdanovic averaged 22.9 points, 4.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds in the tournament, earning a place on the World Cup All-Star Team. He was also incredibly efficient, shooting 55.6% from the floor, including 53% from downtown (and made more 3-pointers by himself than seven of the national teams), and 80% from the free-throw line.

* Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
As of September, my only concern for SGA was the presence of Chris Paul, and how that might impact Gilgeous-Alexander's playing time. Well, it's clear that OKC coach Billy Donovan is quite comfortable playing SGA off the ball, alongside CP3. In addition, the Thunder will stagger the two PG's minutes. Gilgeous-Alexander was awesome in the preseason, averaging 18.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 trey, 0.8 blocks, 3.0 turnovers per game, while shooting 50% shooting from the field and 89.5% from FT stripe, in 26.5 minutes a night. His stock is soaring. 

* Jonathan Isaac
We've been predicting an Isaac breakout for a while now. Is this finally the year!?! Mr. Isaac reminded us of his terrific all-around potential in the preseason, averaging 9.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 1.5 blocks and just 0.8 turnovers. Most importantly, he played in all six of the Magic's preseason's contests, logging over 24 minutes a night. If (big "if") he can stay healthy, Isaac should provide copious amounts of steals and blocks all year long.

 

Stock Down:
* Russell Westbrook
Heading into Friday's finale, Westbrook was dealing with two dislocated fingers on his right (shooting) hand. Then, Friday night vs. Miami, he injured his hand again. Afterward, coach Mike D'Antoni said Westbrook is "all right" but that he aggravated the injury. His finger issues shouldn't prevent him from playing, but Russ was extremely inefficient last season, even when fully healthy. In 2018-19, he shot 42.8% from the floor, only 29% from 3-point territory, and a career-worst 65.6% from the free-throw line. Per Basketball-Reference, he became just the fourth player in NBA history to attempt more than 20 shots per game and yet post an eFG% below 47%. Now he has to share the floor with Harden. I'm not willing to spend a top-30 pick on him in nine-category leagues.

* Delon Wright
Wright has been projected to enjoy a breakout season in Dallas after the Mavs signed him to a three-year deal, $29 million contract this summer. However, his production during the preseason left a lot to be desired, as he averaged just 4.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.2 turnovers per game on 38.1% shooting in 19.7 minutes a night. Yes, he posted big numbers for the Grizzlies down the stretch in 2018-19, but over his first four years in the NBA, he's never finished a season averaging more than nine points, four boards or three dimes. And we know Luka Doncic will be running the show in Dallas. I'm less confident than I was Wright than I was a month.

* Zion Williamson
While on the court, Zion looked unstoppable, averaging an incredible 23.3 points (on 71.4 percent shooting!), 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Unfortunately, Williamson won't step back on an NBA court for a few weeks. On Thursday night, the Pels stated that ZIon would not play Friday due to right knee soreness would stay in New Orleans to have further tests run on his knee. Pels fans and GM's that had already drafted him waited anxiously for an update. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN provided one the following day, reporting that although a severe injury had been ruled out, Zion is expected to miss a "period of weeks" to start the regular season. New Orleans will likely continue to err on the side of caution limit his minutes even after he is medically cleared. While he should be back on the floor by mid-November, assuming he avoids a setback, can we rely on him to stay healthy? Will he be able to carry his 280-pound frame through a marathon NBA season?

* Dennis Smith Jr.
DSJ tweaked his back at the start of camp, which is concerning considering he was sidelined for 10 of the Knicks final 14 games last season due to lingering lower back soreness. Smith sat out each of the Knicks' first two preseason contests, before returning for a matchup against the Hawks last Wednesday. He ended up finishing with just four points on 1-of-5 shooting, to go along with two rebounds, three assists, one block and three turnovers in 21 minutes. In the finale on Friday, Smith had nine boards and six assists, but struggled again with his shot, converting just two of his 12 attempts. After the game, Coach David Fizdale said that he is still undecided as to who will start at point guard in the Knicks season opener vs. San Antonio. Even if DSJ is named the starter (which I think is likely considering Smith was a primary piece in the trade for Porzingis), Fizdale said that he might play all three of his PG's. Thus, we are likely looking at a value-killing timeshare.

* Mitchell Robinson
Mitch Rob was another Knick that struggled this month, as he failed to live up to lofty expectations. He shot just 47.6% from the floor and, surprisingly, struggled defensively as well. Robinson is still too foul-prone (he averaged 6.0 fouls per-36 minutes), primarily because he is chasing blocks, especially on the perimeter. He posted the second-worst Defensive Rating on the team, as New York allowed 110.5 points per 100 possessions while he was on the floor. With Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis, Marcus Morris and Kevin Knox all fighting for minutes up front, Fizdale can go in other directions. I still like Mitch Rob in the third round, but I'm not quite as bullish as I once was.

* Blake Griffin
Griffin hobbled into the offseason due to a left knee injury that required surgery and enters this season battling a nagging a hamstring issue. The hammy injury cost him each of the Pistons' final three preseason contests. This obviously isn't overly encouraging for a player with a worrisome injury history that dates back to the start of his career. He averaged just 55 games played per season from 2014-15 through 2017-18. Coach Dwane Casey said on Friday that he doesn't expect Griffin's injury to linger into the regular season, but color me skeptical. I haven't drafted him anywhere, and don't plan to, as I highly doubt he lives up to his ADP.

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