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Atlantic Division Fantasy Basketball Preview


It might seem like the NBA season just ended, but we're just a month away from the start of the 2018-2019 NBA season! Time flies in basketball world.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be bringing you division-by-division analysis of the upcoming NBA season and providing you with some fantasy nuggets for each NBA team that can help you make the best decisions as you head into your fantasy basketball drafts.

Today, I'll be looking at the NBA's Atlantic Division.

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Atlantic Division Fantasy Preview

Boston Celtics

How does Gordon Hayward fit into this team?

Last year, the NBA world was deprived of seeing Gordon Hayward in a Celtics uniform for more than just a few minutes. I remember excitedly rushing home from work to watch the game, thinking "I'm only going to miss, like, a little over half the first quarter," and then opening up Twitter while walking up the stairs to my apartment and seeing the Hayward video. I'm not a Celtics fan, but it was still a deeply sad moment.

But Boston still ended up as the second seed in the East. Hayward comes back this year and will re-enter this starting lineup, but what kind of numbers will he put up? Depending on the development of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and h0w well Hayward recovers in terms of movement and speed, he's anywhere from the second option offensively to splitting shots with everyone not named Kyrie Irving. I think he's worth the risks in fantasy if you're able to get him outside of the top-50, but if Hayward starts to sneak up the rankings I'd be wary.

Don't forget Terry Rozier

Terry Rozier went from being the butt of all the "lol, Ainge wouldn't trade Terry for LeBron" type jokes to a solid NBA player last year when Kyrie Irving was out. While Irving being back and Hayward's return takes away shot opportunities from Rozier, he should be the team's best bench scorer and a solid fantasy play should any of Boston's starting backcourt pieces miss time.

Brooklyn Nets

Who will be the breakout player on this team?

There's not a ton of confidence when it comes to rating the individual pieces of this Nets team, which makes sense because Brooklyn isn't some awe-inspiring team when taken as a whole -- they'll be closer to the playoffs than to the bottom of the East, but will they be able to sneak into the postseason?

Still, there's fantasy value on every NBA team, especially ones where the players are so far down the board. The top rated Nets player on Yahoo! is Jarrett Allen at 46, but after that is D'Angelo Russell (71), Allen Crabbe (82), and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (113). But there are two names I'm keeping my eye on, especially at their current ADP. Caris Levert (148) should continue to improve as a scorer and a passer this season in head coach Kenny Atkinson's system and while he's coming off the bench for Brooklyn, he should be one of their most impressive performers. And then there's DeMarre Carroll down at 180, which seems like a good value for a starting stretch-four in the modern NBA. There's some unpredictability with Carroll because his contract is expiring and he could be a trade piece, but as long as he's in Brooklyn he'll play an important role.

Who'll be left out of the rotation?

One player that I love in Brooklyn but hate when it comes to his fantasy value is Shabazz Napier. Theoretically, he could excel as an off-ball shooter for this team, but the guard rotation is crowded and Napier could be the odd man out for now, though there are heavy whispers that a Spencer Dinwiddie trade could happen, which would make things easier for Napier. Still, I'm fading him in fantasy for now despite the strong shooting numbers he could potentially bring, but keep an eye on him as the season goes along.

New York Knicks

What's the value of New York's rookies?

Kristaps Porzingis will miss the first half of the season while recovering from an ACL tear, so the Knicks are going to be a very bad basketball team. The good news? We should see rookies Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson to varying degrees. I don't like Robinson's fantasy upside this year -- he showed out during Summer League, blocking shots and finishing efficiently around the basket, but he's a raw prospect who could see a lot of playing time in the G-League this year. Knox, though, can play both forward spots, spots up well, runs the floor, switches defensively -- he's going to do a lot in New York this season.

Tim Hardaway Jr. or Courtney Lee?

Yahoo! has Tim Hardaway Jr. ranked 73rd and Courtney Lee ranked 186th. While Hardaway averaged 5.5 points per game more than Lee, Lee had him beat in field goal percentage and free throw percentage and the players were nearly equal in assists, steals, and blocks per game. Lee's a really good value at this point, especially if you're getting your consistent scoring elsewhere.

Philadelphia 76ers

The second year of Ben Simmons

Yes, the fact that Ben Simmons does not shoot three pointers but will cost you a late first or early second round pick limits some of the things your team can do, but you can make up for that by either going heavy on the shooters in the next few rounds or by ignoring three pointers all together and focusing on the other categories. Simmons, entering his second NBA season, showed the ability to contribute in virtually every other facet of the game last season and should be better this year. Simmons was 13th in field goal percentage last year, fifth in assists per game, eighth in steals per game, 18th in rebounds per game -- he's a well-rounded player. His free throw shooting needs to improve, but getting a player who can help you this much in field goal percentage while also giving you passing is rare, with the list of guys in the top 20 of both categories consisting of Simmons, LeBron James, and no one else.

Finding value from a shallow bench

I'm covering the Sixers for another site this year, and my big worry after spending a lot of time looking up and down this lineup is the bench. Markelle Fultz has a ton of potential if his broken shot gets fixed, Wilson Chandler brings some solid production but may also be on the downswing of his career, and young players like Zhaire Smith, Shake Milton, and Furkan Korkmaz seem too green to be major contributors yet. One name I want to keep an eye on, though, is backup power forward Mike Muscala, who Yahoo! has ranked 230th right now. Muscala could get a lot of playing time in this frontcourt and has the shooting chops to create mismatches if Philadelphia uses him as stretch five in super small lineups. (Muscala also shot 91.9 percent from the free throw line last year.)

Toronto Raptors

Where are we ranking Kawhi?

Kawhi Leonard presents a lot of the same question marks that Gordon Hayward does, albeit with a different level of talent behind those questions, but I think that talent gives us an easy answer to the questions -- a healthy Leonard should play at the same level he did in San Antonio. He could end up even more efficient playing next to a point guard, Kyle Lowry, who is better than anyone he would have played with in San Antonio last season. I've seen most rankings about Leonard sitting just outside the top-10 and I am ALL about drafting him in that range if I'm picking there. I get the hesitance, but all signs suggest that the issues that plagued him last year are in the past.

Is Jonas Valanciunas underrated?

Here are Valanciunas's career stats per Basketball Reference:

Those last four seasons are #CONSISTENT. I really like knowing that you can draft someone as your second center and know exactly what he'll give you. I also like that the one thing that changed last season was that Valanciunas started stepping out on the perimeter more, hitting 40.5 percent from deep on one attempt per game. While the small sample we're working with there could very much turn out to just be noise, it's still an added bonus to drafting the Lithuanian big.

 




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