Paolo Banchero, Onyeka Okongwu and P.J. Washington make strong impression
The best fantasy basketball managers make a habit of looking at the NBA schedule, examining box scores and scouring the news for any tidbit that can help give them the edge in their leagues.
Luckily, Eric Moody does all that work for you each and every Thursday with the Fantasy 30, helping answer the tough questions such as who to start, who are the best fantasy basketball sleepers out there and what’s the latest injury news with key players around the league.
Here’s the latest fantasy news from each of the 30 teams around the league.
Atlanta Hawks: Onyeka Okongwu has rewarded fantasy managers who took a late round flier on him. He finished with 13 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes against the Rockets in Tuesday’s season opener, but most importantly he outplayed Clint Capela. Okongwu is a legitimate candidate to replace Capela as the team’s starter. Last season, he averaged 15.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per 40 minutes. Okongwu, the No. 6 overall pick in 2020, is available in 84.8% of ESPN leagues.
Boston Celtics: The Celtics’ inability to reach an agreement on a rookie scale extension with Grant Williams may be a costly one. It was a big night for him against the 76ers on Tuesday: 15 points, one rebound, one assist and three triples in 24 minutes. Williams is available in 94.7% of ESPN leagues and should see steady minutes while Robert Williams III is out.
Brooklyn Nets: Those who believed in Nic Claxton as a fantasy sleeper were rewarded by his performance against the Pelicans. He finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 25 minutes. This is a great example of what fantasy managers can expect moving forward from Claxton. He’s still available in 65.2% of ESPN leagues.
Charlotte Hornets: On Wednesday night the Hornets defeated the Spurs by 27 points. This was their largest win in a season opener in franchise history. P.J. Washington‘s performance convinced me that his roster percentage should be higher than 65.8% in ESPN leagues. A breakout season for Washington could be possible due to Miles Bridges’ legal issues off the court. H finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and three blocks in 30 minutes. Go get Washington.
Chicago Bulls: Nikola Vucevic‘s huge performance against the Heat on Wednesday night must have delighted fantasy managers. In addition to his 15 points and 17 rebounds, he also had two assists and three blocks. As Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball are both struggling with knee injuries, Vucevic should continue to see a high usage rate along with DeMar DeRozan, whose 37 points were the most by a Bull in a season opener since Michael Jordan in 1995.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Donovan Mitchell became the first Cavaliers player to score at least 31 points in a season opener since LeBron James in 2009 (38 points). With Darius Garland out early due to an eye injury, Mitchell saw extra opportunities against the Raptors. Garland took a shot to his eye from Gary Trent Jr., but there was no mention of a concussion. Let’s hope Garland can return soon. If he does miss time, Caris LeVert is someone fantasy managers should pick up. He’s available in 53.3% of ESPN leagues.
Dallas Mavericks: Spencer Dinwiddie is expected to fill the void left by Jalen Brunson‘s departure to the Knicks. It makes sense; he is capable of providing fantasy managers with points, 3-pointers and assists. Saddled with early foul trouble in the opener, Dinwiddie had 15 points, four rebounds, and three assists in 28 minutes against the Suns on Wednesday. Keep an eye on his production going forward.
Denver Nuggets: Aaron Gordon finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Jazz on Wednesday. The veteran forward is available in 53.4% of ESPN leagues. Gordon is a better option in points leagues due to his mediocre rebounds and field goal percentage. In other Nuggets news, Jamal Murray missed all of last season recovering from left ACL surgery and left the season-opener with an apparent right ankle injury. Fortunately, the injury didn’t appear to be serious. Early this season he may have a minutes restriction and could be limited in back-to-back games, so be sure to factor that in if you’re rostering him.
Detroit Pistons: Jaden Ivey is the perfect complement to Cade Cunningham due to his ability to play on or off the ball, and we saw that against the Magic on Wednesday night. In 32 minutes, the No. 5 overall pick in 2022 had 19 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals. He’s still available in 32.6% of ESPN leagues, but that won’t last if he strings together a few more impressive games.
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry entered the season with an average draft position of 11.8 and delivered a vintage performance on Tuesday against the Lakers. He led the Warriors with 33 points on a night when the Warriors raised another championship banner. Curry is now 34 years old, believe it or not, and he along with the rest of the Warriors veterans could see their minutes pulled back to preserve them for the long season. The Warriors have 15 back-to-backs this season, and this is something to keep in mind and watch closely.
Houston Rockets: Kevin Porter Jr. had 21 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals against the Hawks on Wednesday in his first game since his lucrative contract extension. Porter is one of the leaders on this young Rockets team, which posted the worst record in the NBA the last two seasons. Rookie first-rounder Tari Eason scored eight points and dished out seven assists in 15 minutes off the bench. Eason’s strong Summer League performance makes him worth stashing. Eason is available in 88.1% of ESPN leagues.
Indiana Pacers: The Pacers selected Bennedict Mathurin with the No. 6 pick back in June, the earliest pick since taking Rik Smits with the No. 2 pick in 1988. Mathurin joins a young Indiana team going through a rebuild and he wasted no time getting going in his NBA debut, putting up 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. Mathurin’s stat line was eerily similar to his Summer League averages of 19.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 1.3 SPG. He also averaged 19.8 PPG in the preseason. Mathurin is available in 80.8% of ESPN leagues. Go pick him up.
LA Clippers: John Wall has mentioned publicly that he feels healthy and motivated for the first time in years. Wall will probably be guarded by the third best defender on the opposing team when he shares the floor with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. This is good news for his fantasy prospects. When he last played in the 2020-21 season, Wall (available in 30.1% of ESPN leagues) averaged 20.6 points, 6.9 assists and 1.1 steals.
Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers’ loss to the Warriors on Tuesday night wasn’t filled with many positives. However, Kendrick Nunn‘s performance was one that caught the attention of fantasy managers. He looked healthy and played well in his return after missing all of last season. Nunn (available in 88.7% of ESPN leagues) had 13 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals. He was the only Lakers player to contribute double figure scoring off the bench.
Memphis Grizzlies: Steven Adams continues to be a valuable source of rebounds and other defensive stats. On Wednesday, he had 14 rebounds, a steal and a block against the Knicks. Adams is still available in 54% of ESPN leagues, and he’s a great addition to your fantasy team if you can overlook or absorb his awful free throw percentage (54.7% in his career).
Miami Heat: Tyler Herro‘s ascension into the starting lineup this season has positioned Max Strus as a key contributor with the second unit for the Heat. In 16 spot starts last season, Strus averaged 16.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 4.1 triples per game. He scored 22 points and made five 3s against the Bulls on Wednesday. You can find Strus in 97.1% of ESPN leagues if you need help with points and triples.
Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton will miss the first few weeks of the regular season after undergoing wrist surgery and Pat Connaughton will miss several weeks due to a right calf strain. For the Bucks, Jordan Nwora can help fill the void. He averaged 16.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per 40 minutes last season. Nwora is available in 99.4% of ESPN leagues.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Rudy Gobert averaged 15.6 PPG, 14.7 RPG and 2.1 BPG last season with the Jazz. Now with the Timberwolves, it only took him one game to make his presence felt with his new teammates. Gobert had 23 points and 16 rebounds. As the first game showed, it’s possible for him to coexist with Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt, and Gobert has a strong chance to again be among the league leaders in blocks, rebounds and field goal percentage.
New Orleans Pelicans: It was well deserved that Zion Williamson received such positive buzz. In addition to his 25 points, he had nine rebounds, three assists and four steals. Williamson scored at least 20 points in the paint for the 45th time in his career. In spite of the fact that Williamson did not play last season, that’s the second-most in the league since his rookie season from 2019-20, trailing only Giannis Antetokounmpo (74). His average draft position leading up to the season was 27.9 and if he can stay healthy, that could be one of the biggest steals of the year.
New York Knicks: Isaiah Hartenstein signed a two-year deal worth $16 million in July to become the Knicks’ backup center. That’s relevant because Hartenstein outplayed Knicks starter Mitchell Robinson against the Grizzlies. In 40 minutes, he scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds. It’s a great start for Hartenstein to carve out a significant role on his new team, and he’s available in 94.2% of ESPN leagues.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the third Thunder player with 30 points, five rebounds and five assists in a season opener since the team moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. Kevin Durant did it in 2011 and Russell Westbrook did it in 2016. Josh Giddey has a double-double against the Timberwolves, but fantasy managers should keep an eye on Aleksej Pokusevski, who has an opportunity to shine given the Thunder’s lack of frontcourt depth. He contributed in multiple statistical areas and is available in 88.2% of ESPN leagues.
Orlando Magic: Paolo Banchero is a gifted offensive talent who was selected No. 1 overall in the draft to help improve the Magic, who ranked 29th in points per game and 30th in offensive rating a season ago. Against the Pistons on Wednesday night, he exceeded expectations and became the third player over the last 30 years with 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in his NBA debut. He’s the first to accomplish this feat since LeBron James in 2003.
Philadelphia 76ers: Tyrese Maxey‘s fantasy ceiling is tied to James Harden and Joel Embiid. Maxey’s involvement with Harden will be interesting to watch. Harden recorded 75 touches compared to 41 touches for Maxey when both players were on the court. The big difference for Maxey was how long he held onto the ball. When Harden was on the court, Maxey averaged 2.6 seconds per touch. That jumped to 5.0 seconds when Harden was off. When Maxey plays off the ball, I think he is at his best. He scored 21 in the season opener.
Phoenix Suns: During the last five seasons, Chris Paul has finished inside the top-20 in category formats four times. And in each of his last three seasons, Paul has played 65 games or more in all of them. On Wednesday, Paul struggled against the Mavericks and was subbed out with 6:41 left in the game. Dallas then outscored the Suns and won by two points on a late game-winner by Damion Lee. My advice as a fantasy manager would be not to panic, but to have a contingency plan in place in case the situation worsens.
Portland Trail Blazers: Jerami Grant delivered a superb performance against the Kings on Wednesday. He led the Trail Blazers in scoring in his first game with the team. Grant became the first Trail Blazer with 20 points and eight rebounds in a debut since Shareef Abdur-Rahim in 2004. This is a contract season for Grant, and he could have a career-year as Portland’s No. 2 or 3 offensive option.
Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox became the first Kings player with 30 points, five rebounds and five assists in a season opener since Oscar Robertson in 1966 for the Cincinnati Royals. Fox continued where he left off last season. In the 16 games following the trade of Tyrese Haliburton, Fox averaged 29.0 PPG, 6.8 APG, and 4.3 RPG. Fox is well positioned to finish inside the top 75, but he could finish even higher.
San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs’ inexperience was evident against the Hornets on Wednesday in the blowout loss. The San Antonio roster has an average age of 23.34 years old, making it the youngest in Popovich’s 27 years in the city. When you manage a fantasy squad that includes Spurs, it’s important to have patience. Devin Vassell, Tre Jones, Keldon Johnson and Jakob Poeltl are all going to be excellent fantasy options this season.
Toronto Raptors: Scottie Barnes had an impressive performance against the Cavaliers on Wednesday night, with 15 points, three rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block. Last season’s Rookie of the Year provides fantasy managers with a very fantasy friendly skill set due to his ability to contribute in numerous statistical areas. That was evident with his 14 double-doubles as a rookie. OG Anunoby (18 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals, one block) had an equally impressive performance and remains available in 16.7% of ESPN leagues.
Utah Jazz: The Timberwolves drafted Walker Kessler in this year’s draft after he averaged 11.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game at Auburn in his final collegiate season. He was subsequently traded to the Jazz in the Rudy Gobert deal, and Kessler paid immediate dividends in his NBA debut. As Jarred Vanderbilt and Kelly Olynyk got into foul trouble, Kessler played 24 minutes and finished with a double-double. Keep Kessler (available in 93.% of ESPN leagues) on your watch list or stash him in deeper leagues. It could pay off nicely over time.
Washington Wizards: Kristaps Porzingis‘ usage and upside after being traded to the Wizards should captivate fantasy managers. The veteran big man averaged 22.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.9 APG and 1.5 BPG for Washington last season. That said, everyone knows that Porzingis’ inability to stay healthy looms as a primary concern. It didn’t take long for that to come into play, either, as he sprained his left ankle in pregame introductions against the Pacers. It was the same ankle Porzingis was treated for during preseason. Despite it, he played well, and it does not appear to be a serious injury.