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Central Division Fantasy Basketball Preview


FanDuel DraftKings daily fantasy basketball

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 Central Division.

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Central Division Fantasy Preview

Chicago Bulls

Can Jabari Parker and Zach LaVine stay healthy?

It's, umm, possible! Parker has played 82 games over the past two seasons. LaVine has played in 71. The Bulls are betting on both players being able to stay on the court this year, but should you bet on that with your fantasy team?

The advanced stats on both players looked bad last year, with both players finishing with a negative offensive and defensive box plus/minus (BPM) and a negative player impact plus/minus (PIPM). LaVine shot 38.3 percent from the field in 24 games last season. Parker shot much better than LaVine, but I have concerns about what else he brings to the table. I'm not sure I want to draft LaVine at his current top-70 ADP, but taking a chance on Parker around the 120 range could pay off.

Is Lauri Markkanen a baby Dirk?

I live in the Dallas area. Driving home from work the other day, Dirk Nowitzki was being interviewed on the radio about Luka Doncic. Dirk was asked about where he sees Doncic's development at age-19 versus where Dirk was at age-19 and Dirk was just completely in awe of how much better Doncic is at this point than he was.

This got me thinking about the NBA player with the most Dirk comparisons, Chicago's Lauri Markkanen. The Finnish power forward is the same height as Dirk and the two's per 36 minute stats early in their career share some similarities. Here's a chart:

Player Points Per 36 Rebounds Per 36 Free Throw % Three Point % True Shooting %
Lauri Markkanen - Rookie Season 18.4 9.1 84.3 36.2 55.2
Dirk Nowitzki - Second Season 17.6 6.5 83.0 37.9 56.4

There are a lot of similarities there. Markkanen seems to already be ahead of Dirk as a rebounder, with his shooting numbers just a little bit off. I'm not trying to suggest that Lauri Markkanen is on his way to being a top-20 player in league history because Markkanen still has a lot of work to do to become even the average defender that Dirk was, but his offensive numbers could present a close approximation of Dirk's early numbers. He'll need more playing time and to sustain his shooting percentages on a higher workload, but the upside is there and he can be a great fantasy pick.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Will Kevin Love be a solo star again?

The last time Kevin Love was the top option on an NBA team, the 2013-2014 Minnesota Timberwolves finished 40-42. The second best BPM on that team belonged to Corey Brewer, so there's a good idea of the kind of help Love had. In his final season with the Wolves, Love averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game along with a career-high 4.4 assists. The list of players to average 26/12/4 or better in a season includes Love and just six other names: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Billy Cunningham, Bob McAdoo, and Oscar Robertson. Sure, it's been a few years and few injuries since then and the 2018-2019 Cavaliers have a better supporting cast than Love had in Minneapolis, but Love's upside as the top option in Cleveland is hard to deny. I don't expect the assists to return thanks to the presence of George Hill and Collin Sexton, but Love's scoring ceiling is still what it was there, especially with the increase in his three point shooting percentages over the past few seasons.

Is it Cedi time?

With Rodney Hood still not signed, Cleveland seems prepared to open the season with Cedi Osman taking LeBron James's spot in the starting lineup. Osman, who is currently having himself a good time on Turkey's national team, showed a lot of potential as a rookie, but I've seen him ranked ahead of guys like Bobby Portis, Rajon Rondo, and Justise Winslow in some fantasy rankings already. The 36.8 percent shooting from deep as a rookie looked good, but can he hold up in a larger role?

Detroit Pistons

Will Luke Kennard ever make Pistons fans forget Donovan Mitchell?

The Detroit Pistons chose Luke Kennard one spot before Donovan Mitchell in the 2017 NBA Draft and thus far have definitely regretted that decision. But Kennard isn't mincemeat; the former Duke Blue Devil has a decent shot to end up starting at the two this season for the Pistons. He started the final four games of last season for Detroit and -- #SMALLSAMPLESIZEALERT -- averaged 15.8 points per game and shot 55.6 percent from three. Obviously unsustainable, but it is a good chance to see what Kennard can do at his very best. (Speaking of Kennard, the luck-adjusted on/off data from last year has Detroit's offense and defense being better with Kennard on the court than off the court. It's not outside the realm of possibilities to project Kennard's impact leading to him having a bigger role than Reggie Bullock, right? *waits for Pistons fans to exist and answer*)

Did we forget about Blake Griffin?

Short answer: yes.

Slightly less short answer: It definitely feels like the world has forgotten about Blake Griffin. He's, like, a borderline top-50 fantasy guy at this point and I'm really not sure what I can say to change anyone's mind about that because...I don't know where my mind is on that? The move from the Clippers to the Pistons in the middle of last season led to a change in Griffin's role. The ball was in his hands more often and he was used in more of a playmaking role, with his assist rate rising from 25.6 percent in 33 games with Los Angeles to 31.5 percent in his 25 Detroit games. Griffin increasing his assists maintaining a similar usage rate could be great news, but injuries have zapped some of his athleticism, leading to a career-low rebounding rate last season. Griffin is tough to judge because we're not sure how to project his career from this point. He started shooting threes last season as an astronomically higher rate than before -- if that keeps up AND a fully healthy Griffin is able to regain some of that bounce that made him a dangerous interior threat, fantasy owners could be thrilled with getting him at his current cost, but he also seems just as likely to get worse.

Indiana Pacers

Will Myles Turner make his next move?

Heading into last season, Myles Turner was a popular pick to be THE guy to break out, but Turner ultimately was limited to just 65 games with an elbow issue. His per game stats featured a decrease in points, rebounds, and blocks, but that was also accompanied by a drop in minutes. His per 36 stats looked nearly identical last year to the numbers he posted during the 2016-2017 season.

There's obviously some reasons to worry when a third-year player doesn't show improvement over the previous season. Turner should improve. He's got the ability to step out and hit from the perimeter and the size/speed to defend against modern NBA centers. He's got to improve on his actual recognition on the defensive end and needs to hit his jumpers more consistently, but this could be the year that Turner does what we thought he was going to do last year, right?

Which Tyreke Evans did Indiana get?

It really feels like Tyreke Evans is the kind of guy who is constantly oscillating between "man, he's just a journeyman already" and "still capable of being a big impact player." His single season with Memphis last year definitely leaned towards the latter, with Evans averaging more points per game than in any year since his rookie season while improving his shooting, his three point shooting, his rebounding, and his assist totals from the 2016-2017 season. Evans won't be starting for the Pacers, but he's an intriguing player who should see big minutes off the bench and could challenge for Sixth Man of the Year if plays at the same level he did last season. Can I confidently say that Evans isn't going to revert back to some of the more inconsistent moments he had in New Orleans? Nah, but at his current ADP (around the 100 range) you should consider betting on Evans to continue what he didn't finish with the Grizzlies.

Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis!

I'm not even sure what to say about Giannis Antetokounmpo. You're drafting him early because he's one of the league's best players, but could he be even better than expected this season? The Greek Freak shot over 30 percent from deep for the first time last season while taking 1.9 threes per game. You don't necessarily want someone hovering around the 30 percent mark to be shooting that often, but the development of a reliable perimeter game for Antetokounmpo would signal a new dimension for the Bucks offensively. New head coach Mike Budenholzer could help that -- last year, the Hawks ranked sixth in three point attempt rate and 16th in three point percentage while the Bucks were 25th in three point attempt rate and 21st in percentage. Atlanta was also ninth in pace, while Milwaukee was 21st. A faster Bucks team can give Antetokounmpo could possessions; a Bucks team shooting more threes can lead to more scoring from Antetokounmpo if his marginal per year improvement in his three point shooting percentage continues to go along with a slight increase in attempts.

What do we expect from Brook Lopez?

Serious question. I spent all of last season shifting my opinion on Lopez back and forth -- the Lakers would barely play him and I'd assume they were embracing their young players and then two nights later he'd play 27 minutes and score 19 points. Lopez was inconsistent last season, but on a contending team like the Bucks he should have a solidified role. As the third offensive option, Lopez is unlikely to put up the same scoring numbers he did late in his Nets career, but there's not a world where I can imagine a healthy Lopez being any worse than last season. Also wouldn't be surprised to see him rebound the ball a lot better than he did over the past two seasons.




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