By Alex Barutha, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Bulls’ power forwards (Mirotic vs. Markkanen vs. Portis)
Mirotic may have won this job by default, as Markkanen played in just three of the team’s preseason games while nursing a back injury. But the two did start together on Friday. While Portis showed promise, his outside shooting is still a work in progress and his rebounding ability makes him a candidate to possibly see time at center in small-ball lineups off the pine.
Mirotic starting at power forward should provide the team with the kind of pace-and-space looks they’re going for under coach Fred Hoiberg. Keep in mind, however, Chicago’s starting five has one of the highest potentials in the league to get tinkered with. Just because Mirotic is getting the nod to start the season, there’s no guarantee he’ll see 30 minutes per night or remain in that spot for 82 games. Markkanen’s name is still worth flagging in a variety of fantasy formats, as there’s a reason they took him so high in this year’s draft.
Mavericks’ shooting guard (Curry vs. Ferrell)
Curry seemed to be the favorite to claim the starting shooting guard spot to open the season, but a stress reaction in his left tibia has left him sidelined for an undetermined amount of time. As a result, it appears Yogi Ferrell, who has been seen working with the first unit, will get the nod at the position. He played 26.0 minutes per game last season – a mark that could see a bump while Curry remains off the floor.
Celtics’ shooting guard (Brown vs. Smart)
Smart’s ability to function as a secondary ballhandler will probably result in him coming off the pine during the season, as the Celtics otherwise lack a high-impact player to back up Kyrie Irving (sorry, Terry Rozier). Brown looks to be the team’s starting shooting guard, though that doesn’t mean he has more fantasy value than Smart – it’s actually the opposite.
Brown is a respectable scorer and defender in his own right – that’s why he’s a starting shooting guard in the NBA. However, Smart is absolutely tenacious on defense and is a proficient enough playmaker to rack up a significant number of assists. Out of the two, Smart probably carries the most fantasy relevance heading into 2017-18. Smart saw 30.4 minutes per game last year, recording 10.6 points, 4.6 assists, 3.9 boards and 1.6 steals.
Cavaliers’ center (Love vs. Thompson)
The Cavaliers completely revamped their roster this offseason and ended up with too many talented, sub-par three point threats – namely, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade. In need of spacing, coach Tyronn Lue has opted to shift Kevin Love to center (2.4 threes per game at a 37.3 percent clip last season) and send Tristan Thompson to the bench.
Love’s already-high fantasy value should certainly receive a bump, as positioning him at center will put him in more opportunities for rebounds and should help him see more open looks from beyond the arc while opposing centers (think Marcin Gortat, Greg Monroe) try to close out on him. Love was already grabbing 11.1 boards per game with Tristan Thompson on the glass with him — don’t forget that Love averaged 15.2 (!) rebounds per game back in 2010-11. That’s not a prediction, but it’s certainly his best opportunity to re-establish himself as one of the league’s dominant rebounders.
Nuggets’ point guard (Murray vs. Mudiay)
Unfortunately, this is still up in the air. My thought was that it’s Murray’s job to lose. Well, Mudiay and Murray have been putting up relatively comparable stat lines throughout the preseason and coach Michael Malone has remained cryptic as ever about the situation. At this point, I’d still be most comfortable drafting Murray in fantasy because he can play both guard spots. Thta said, I’d certainly explore my other options first.
Clippers’ guards (Teodosic vs. Beverley and Williams vs. Rivers)
I’m convinced these four players will all split minutes with one another and see 24 minutes per game. Each of them have their strengths and weaknesses, though it’s hard to point at one guy and claim he’s significant better for the team than the other. If you’re playing a categorical format, you’ll want to chase Teodosic for assists, Beverely for steals (and maybe rebounds), Williams for points and probably not Rivers at all. Either way, it’s tough to imagine any player receiving the minutes to warrant selection earlier than the ninth round of any draft.
Lakers’ forwards (Ingram vs. Kuzma vs. Randle)
The Lakers are going to have to give Kuzma minutes, right? He’s averaging 19.2 points this preseason while never seeing 30 minutes in any game. And he’s doing it efficiently – 56.3 percent from the field. The problem is that he’s a forward, like Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle, who also have shown promise. One would think that Luol Deng’s and Corey Brewer’s minutes go to Kuzma at this point. Larry Nance still exists too, though.
I’m a little more worried for Randle’s role than Ingram’s. The Lakers were reportedly refusing to include Ingram in trade talks for Paul George over the summer, which demonstrates how highly the team values him. I’m comfortable drafting Ingram where I would have drafted him before Kuz-mania, but I might let Randle slip another round to be safe. Kuzma, himself, makes for one of the best late-round fliers when considering upside, as well.
Heat’s small forward (Winslow vs. McGruder vs. Richardson)
McGruder had been the starter in the preseason, but the Heat announced Thursday that a stress fracture in his leg will keep him out for the next 3-to-6 months. While McGruder is a fine player and coach Erik Spoelstra seems to enjoy playing him, I can’t convince myself that he’s better than Winslow or Richardson – or, at least, a better fantasy player.
With McGruder on the shelf until at least January, I envision Richardson and Winslow essentially sharing minutes until Spoelstra says something (please, say something). I wouldn’t take either guy higher than the 10th round until there’s any indication one of them will be seeing real starter’s minutes. Winslow will get you steals (1.4 in 34.7 minutes across 18 games last year) and Richardson will get you threes (1.4 in 30.5 minutes across 53 games last year).
Knicks (everyone except Porzingis and Hardaway, Jr.)
Porzingis and Hardaway Jr. should both see significant usage with Carmelo Anthony gone. They’re both skilled, proven players who should see 30 minutes per night, every night.
There are still four point guards on this team and I have no idea who will win the starting job. Would I give it to Ntilikina? Yes. Will coach Jeff Hornacek? No confidence. But, I do have confidence in Ntilikina having the biggest fantasy upside of any option. Ramon Sessions, Ron Baker and Jarrett Jack aren’t more than fringe backups. Ntilikina is raw, but the Knicks won’t be good and they’re probably better off giving him a trial by fire. He’s still a flier though – I’ll make that clear.
It’s also tough to predict is the team’s center situation – now occupied by both Enes Kanter and Willy Hernangomez. It’s still not clear who will start, but both have proven to be effective in limited minutes. Last season, Kanter posted 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds across 21.3 minutes while Hernangomez posted 8.2 points and 7.0 rebounds across 18.4 minutes. I don’t really think Joakim Noah will come back from suspension mid-season and disrupt things too much, either. In short, Hernangomez is a better rebounder while Kanter is a better scorer and they’ll likely both see enough run to warrant ownership across most formats.
Kings’ entire roster (everyone vs. everyone)
The Kings represent maybe the most frustrating team in the NBA from a fantasy perspective. They’re riddled with both quality veteran talent (George Hill, Zach Randolph) but also young up-and-comers (De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, etc.). It’s still unclear where the minutes will go and if there will ever really be a set rotation.
I’d feel safest drafting Hill, considering his massive contract and ability to play both guard spots, and Cauley-Stein, who is decidedly better than their other options at the position. The team is simply too deep otherwise to accurately predict the kind of workload any of these guys will be getting on a regular basis.