While there were no games on Monday’s schedule, it was an important day in the NBA. Many teams had decisions to make regarding the contracts of current players, and while some managed to ink new deals others will be headed into a contract year. Will players such as John Collins and Lauri Markkanen, who did not come to terms on new deals, experience a “contract year” boost when it comes to their production? And will their teams run the risk of having them hit the open market next summer and leave for nothing? It will certainly be interesting to watch how this all plays out, and the impact that it will have on fantasy basketball.
Below is a look at some of the news and notes from the final day of the NBA offseason, with the regular season set to open Tuesday night.
Collins, Markkanen to be restricted free agents
The Hawks and Bulls not coming to terms with their respective starting power forwards may be the biggest news of the day, as both Collins and Markkanen will hit the open market next season. The teams will have the ability to match any offer sheet that is signed, but it’s worth noting that the two players are in far different situations. In the case of Collins the consistent production has been there, as he’s coming off of a season in which he averaged career-highs in points (21.6), rebounds (10.1), steals (0.8), blocks (1.6) and 3-pointers (1.4) with shooting splits of 58.3 percent from the field, 40.1 percent from three and 80.0 percent from the foul line.
Collins was a top-10 player in both 8- and 9-cat last season, and he has consistently been going in the second round of standard leagues. It’s possible that his defensive numbers take a hit with the addition of a healthy Clint Capela to the starting lineup, but I don’t expect much of a drop-off (if any) for Collins this season.
Markkanen’s situation in Chicago is a big different, because while he’s shown flashes of the potential that led to him being a lottery pick the consistency hasn’t been there. How much of that can be blamed on Jim Boylen is a conversation for another day, but it understandable that the new front office would like to see Markkanen produce consistently before fully committing to him financially. I’m expecting Billy Donovan’s arrival as head coach to benefit Markkanen, who played some center during the preseason in an attempt to force mismatches on the offensive end of the floor. Last season Markkanen produced close to top-100 value in 8- and 9-cat formats, falling just outside of that threshold in the latter.
Pels aim to play Zion 33-34 minutes per game
After having him minutes limited last season, Zion Williamson’s proverbial “training wheels” are likely to be removed in 2020-21. Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said on Monday that his aim is to have the second-year power forward play 33-34 minutes per night, with the team’s rotation going no deeper than nine players. “With Zion, we’ve really pushed it out,” Van Gundy said according to NOLA.com. “We’ve left him out there at times when we knew damn well he was tired. But how are we going to get him to handle that 33-, 34-minute workload on a nightly basis if we don’t do it?”
Williamson, when healthy, can produce at a high level due to this combination of size and athleticism. There are concerns to be taken into consideration, but as Van Gundy pointed out New Orleans won’t know if Zion can handle the workload if they don’t give him the opportunity to show that he can. It sounds like there’s a true commitment to playing the young forward starter’s minutes, which is good news when it comes to Williamson’s fantasy value. Can’t see him going in the first two rounds of standard leagues, but Zion should easily crack the top-50 even with the medical concerns.
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Anunoby, White among those who cash out
Monday was a good day for Raptors forward OG Anunoby and Spurs guard Derrick White, who both signed lucrative contract extensions with their respective teams. Anunoby, who came to terms on a four-year extension worth $72 million, is a breakout candidate heading into this season. The defensive production has always been there, and he’s coming off of a season in which he averaged career-highs in points (10.1), rebounds (5.3), assists (1.6), steals (1.4), blocks (0.7) and 3-pointers (1.3) while shooting nearly 51 percent from the field. He’s a solid mid-round option in all formats, and that may be Anunoby’s floor.
White signed a similar contract, with his number being $73 million over four years. For the entire 2019-20 season he threatened top-100 status in both 8- and 9-cat formats, but he was even better than that in the bubble. White was a top-40 player in both formats in Orlando, and among the more eye-opening numbers that he produced was the average of 3.1 3-pointers per game (he averaged 1.2 for the entire season). He’s currently sidelined after undergoing toe surgery, but White should still be a top-50 pick even though you will have to make use of an IL spot for the time being.
“Gravity” makes Nets sharpshooter a must-have
While much of the focus in Brooklyn has been on stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and with good reason as they are two of the best in the game, Joe Harris is seen as an essential member of the rotation. Not only a catch-and-shoot specialist, Harris’ ability to move off the ball can in turn open up driving lanes for the other players on the floor.
“We call it gravity,” Nets coach Steve Nash said according to The Athletic. “The defense is always going to gravitate towards him, which opens up space for playmakers. Making shots, that’s even more deadly.” During Brooklyn’s games in the bubble Harris was a top-40 player in both 8- and 9-cat, and while he may not have the ball in his hands as much there is good mid-round value to be had here.
Dubs rookie Wiseman could start Tuesday night
Due to a bout with COVID-19 James Wiseman wasn’t able to do a whole lot on the court during the preseason, with his most extensive action coming in Saturday’s intra-squad scrimmage. Add in the fact that he played in just three games during his lone season at Memphis, and it would be understandable to question whether or not he’ll have an immediate impact for the Warriors. But the reviews from the Bay Area have been positive, and Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that it is possible that Wiseman starts Tuesday’s season opener in Brooklyn.
“James is going to be our starting center before too long. It might happen Tuesday,” Kerr said according to The Athletic. “But clearly, he is our long-term starting center. When we feel he’s ready for that, we’ll put him out there. Then it’s a matter of minutes, how long he can play.”
Golden State will be without Draymond Green due to a foot injury, and while it is unknown just how much time he’ll miss he did travel with the team. If Wiseman doesn’t start then either Kevon Looney or Marquese Chriss will man the middle, with Chriss being the better short-term option of the two due to Looney’s medical history.
Ranked third on our preseason list of the top fantasy rookies, which is available in the Rotoworld 2020 Fantasy Basketball Draft Guide (the code HOLIDAY20 gets you 20 percent off until January 3), Wiseman should be one of the most impactful rookies in this year’s class.
Morris (knee) to miss Clippers season opener
The Clippers will be down a starter for Tuesday’s opener against the reigning champion Lakers, as Marcus Morris is still dealing with a right knee injury. Nicolas Batum started in his place during the preseason, and that will likely be the case Tuesday night as well. Batum could be a cheap filler while Morris is out, because while he had a bad 2019-20 season this is still a player who’s averaging 1.6 3-pointers per game while shooting nearly 36 percent from deep for his career. Playing alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George could provide the kick-start that Batum needs, and expecting some defensive production doesn’t feel like too much of an ask.
Another noteworthy piece of Clippers news was the team’s decision to sign Luke Kennard to a four-year extension worth $64 million. Simply put, it pays to be a capable perimeter shooter in the NBA. Kennard has yet to play an official game in L.A., but he’s a career 40 percent shooter from three who’s coming off of his best season as a pro. His usage will drop some due to the presence of Leonard and George, but Kennard could very well fill a role similar to that of Brooklyn’s Harris for the Clippers. He’s certainly worth using a late-round pick on in standard leagues.
Magic complete deals for Fultz, Isaac
Orlando was the big spender on Monday, as it signed Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac to contract extensions worth a total of $130 million. Fultz’s deal isn’t a particularly risky one from Orlando’s perspective even with his past medical issues, as the third year is a team option. He’s managed to stay healthy while with the Magic, and has made the starting point guard role his own. Fultz provided late-round value in the bubble, which isn’t great, but the reward outweighs the risk if you procrastinators are considering taking him slightly above that area of the draft.
As for Isaac, he isn’t expected to play at all this season after suffering a torn ACL at the end of last season. But that didn’t stop Orlando from signing him to an extension worth $80 million over four seasons, as Isaac has been a productive starter when healthy. A top-20 player in 9-cat during the pre-bubble portion of last season’s schedule, the slender forward was just outside of the top-40 in 8-cat. Isaac obviously won’t be an option in single-year leagues, but he’s definitely worth considering for keeper formats.
As for how Orlando will account for Isaac’s absence, last season it was James Ennis who filled the void at the three. But with Ennis currently sidelined due to a hamstring injury, Dwayne Bacon started during the preseason and played well. Bacon’s time in Charlotte did not go well, but the change of scenery may be just what the doctor ordered. He’s worth taking a late-round flier on.
Tuesday’s Schedule (all times Eastern)
Golden State at Brooklyn, 7:00 PM
Clippers at Lakers, 10:00 PM
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