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Fantasy Basketball Hype Train: Preseason Fun with Simmons and Kuzma

CHOO CHOO! I'm rolling out a new season-long fantasy basketball feature where I can just have fun and write about the players me, you, and everyone else already wants to talk about. Are you ready for a ride on the fantasy basketball hype train? Comfortable enough squeezed in your hype seat with all the other sweaty hype train passengers? Have you activated the hype ticket on your phone?

There's really no better time for hype than the NBA preseason. Everyone has hope, all the young and unproven players are out there playing their hearts out for a role, and all the proven vets are taking it easy, making the kids look even better in comparison. So we'll get it out of the way here: "blah, blah, it's just the preseason, take it with a grain of salt, I hate fun things, let's just skip straight to the Warriors-Cavs Finals because not only is the preseason meaningless, but so is the regular season, and maybe even life itself."

Ahem. Now that we got that Debbie Downer disclaimer out of the way, we can enjoy some exquisite hype. All aboard!

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NBA and DFS Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive Preseason Draft Kit, 10 In-Season Lineup/DFS tools, and daily Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!


Oh My God, Is That Ben Simmons's Music?

The first part of that header is a direct quote from Grizzlies head coach Dave Fizdale after seeing the Simmons make his debut in the Memphis-Philadelphia preseason game on Wednesday night. He said, "Oh my God. I don’t want to see that for the next 15 years. That kid, they’re not talking about him enough." Well, after an impressive 6 point, 7 rebound, 9 assist, 1 turnover debut where he showed off his speed, vision, and defensive versatility, everyone is talking about him now. My unscientific tally of Ben Simmons posts on the front page of NBA Reddit last night was approximately 26. Yea, I know, they only show 25 posts at a time on the front page, but he was that magical.

The hype is in high gear now, and fantasy owners are now starting to remember him as a top rookie option, rather than the kids coming out of the current draft in Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz (who struggled, missing 10 straight shots at one point, finishing 2 of 13 for 4 points). Needless to say, he's a top flight dynasty option who likely go in the 10-20 range in dynasty startups. But where should he be going in your redraft league?

Going into today, Simmons's ADP on Yahoo is 55 and his ADP on ESPN is 53. So let's say he's going to go around 54, which is in the middle of the 5th round in a 12 team league, around the same time as guys like LaMarcus Aldridge, Dennis Schroder, and Jrue Holiday. More advanced projection systems are a lot less sunny on him, though. Ones I've seen essentially say, sure he'll get boards and dimes, but they spit out points totals in the low teens with poor percentages, which drag down his overall value to the 100s. In that sense, last night's debut did little to assuage those concerns, as he scored only 6 points on 2 of 8 shooting. He at least made both his free throws.

The key question, then, is can he improve his scoring while shooting semi-respectively? That's something to watch out for as training camp continues. And if not, how much of a contribution will he make in the defensive stats? Because if you're not going to contribute in points, threes, or percentages, you'd better be killing it across the board elsewhere, a la Draymond Green. Simmons got a block in his opener, and has the size and athletic profile to contribute there. At LSU (which seems like a lifetime ago), he averaged 2.0 steals and 0.8 blocks in about 35 minutes per game. Those are actually better numbers than Draymond put up in his senior year at MSU (1.5 and 0.9). Draymond had a longer track record of blocking shots, topping 1.1 per game his junior year after 0.9 as a sophomore in only 25.5 mpg. Draymond also played a much more wide-ranging role on defense.

None of this is say Simmons is going to be like Draymond on defense. Although, this is the hype train... Anyway, I'm just saying he is long, athletic, intelligent, and playing a PF role on defense. His skill set produced a very nice combo of steals and blocks in college, and he has the skills and the opportunity to affect shots and produce stocks in the NBA, too. He'll need to do so sooner rather than later to reach his draft price as a non-scoring threat.

Hype diagnosis: Still over-priced like all rookies, but not as over-priced. The hype is real with this one.


Kyle Kuzma is a Runaway Hype Train

Summer League Hype + Preseason Hype + Lakers Hype

Okay, stat lines are boring and meaningless when you're not talking about the actual NBA season. But come on now, let's take a look Kuzma's stats so far in his professional career.

In the Summer League, where he was named Las Vegas Summer League Championship MVP:

21.9 points, 6.4 rebound, 2.7 assists, 3.4 threes, 1.1 steals, 1.4 blocks, 2.6 turnovers, .514 FG%, .750 FT% in 32 minutes per game.

Holy Giannis Antetokounmpo, Batman.

In the Preseason to date (through 3 games):

19.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 2.0 threes, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 1.0 turnovers, .621 FG%, .500 FT% in 27.5 minutes per game.

Not quite Holy Giannis anymore, but holy China Klay Thompson, maybe?

What can you read into this? It's not like he's going to shoot 62% in the regular season, right? And what do you make of his stats in Summer League vs. his stats in the preseason? If he's not draining 2/3 of his shots, you're still totally cool with Summer League Kuzma who's getting decent rebounds and defensive stats. But if Preseason Kuzma isn't hitting practically every shot he takes, his fantasy line is actually kind of useless through the first three games. That's the problem with small sample sizes, though, right? His 10 game sample of crazy shooting is creating hype, his 7 game sample of summer league is an endorsement that he can contribute across the board, and his 3 game sample of the preseason games is saying "but can he?"

So let's go back to college to ask a few questions. Is the shooting for real? Well, he always got to the basket and shot like gangbusters up close (56% on 9.0 attempts per game from 2 last year), so that's legit. But the three point shooting so far has been a surprise after he only shot 32.1% on 2.9 threes per game last year. But plenty of guys improve their three point shot, and it's certainly an upgrade to have Lonzo Ball creating open looks for you. So we'll take it.

How about in the other stats? The good news is, he rebounded in college, with 9.3 per game including an active 2.8 offensive boards in his final year. The bad news is, he rarely contributed in defensive stats with only 0.6 steals and 0.5 blocks his final year. Looks like the preseason is more accurate in that respect, rather than the Summer League (which isn't surprising -- there are a lot of terrible players in Summer League who chuck up a lot of terrible shots, making it easier for everyone to rack up higher than normal numbers of steals and blocks).

So is he worth a late round flyer in your fantasy league? Well if you're a Lakers fan you're going to take him whatever I say. Maybe even in like the 8th or 9th round, to make sure no other Lakers fan gets him. More power to you, buddy. But in sane leagues, he's the sort of guy who could continue to play himself into a role if he keeps draining shots like this. If the three point shooting is real, he'll get on the floor, even with the logjam at PF created by starter Julius Randle and the defensively superior Larry Nance Jr. The true upside is for Kuzma is if he makes them comfortable enough to trade Julius Randle before the season ends.

For now, it doesn't seem like he'll get the minutes to be the star Lakers fans are hoping for, and he won't produce outside of shooting/scoring enough to be a small minutes producer like Nance can be with his rebounding and defensive stats. Plus, his shot has to stop falling eventually, right?

Hype diagnosis: The hype is definitely coursing through my veins, but I think it's in a dangerous sort of way, like snake venom.


More Fantasy Basketball Draft Sleepers

By popular demand, RotoBaller has aggregated all of our fantasy basketball NBA waiver wire pickups into a running list of NBA waiver options, so bookmark the page and check back often for updates.

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