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Strength: Trae there to stay
Fourth-year point guard Trae Young recently signed a five-year, $207 million rookie maximum extension, so he is in Atlanta to stay. He’s already a superstar and is just 22 years of age, and it’s pretty clear what he’s capable of even this early into his career, even leading Atlanta a visit to the Eastern Conference Finals. Trae Young is pretty pricey in drafts and has an ADP of 12.7 right now, which is where it’s likely to stay, but keep in mind that Trae was outside of the top-50 for fantasy value on a per-game basis last season. He’s as electric as they come but his poor shooting (43.8% on high volume) and lack of stocks (0.8 steals and 0.2 blocks per game) really weights him down in these leagues, but remember he was a top-20 guy in his sophomore campaign due to some more steals and scoring more and at an almost identical shooting clip. Clint Capela will also be a Hawk for the next two seasons, as he just signed a two-year, $46 million extension to stay in Atlanta. Dissimilar to Young, Capela was just inside the top-25 for fantasy last season but has an ADP of 41.1, so it’s likely you’ll get last year’s leading rebounder at a discount.
Weakness: Getting out to run
If the Hawks were to improve on anything, it would be their tendencies to not get out and run the ball much. This was proven directly last year by their measly 10.0 fast break points per game, which ranked them 28th in the league. No one is to blame for this, as it’s just a matter of ripping down a board and getting out to run in a rapid fashion, so while it wouldn’t affect any players directly for fantasy purposes, it would allow more scoring opportunities across the board.
Strength: Full of athletes
Charlotte is a young, exciting, and incredibly athletic team that already has young leaders. LaMelo Ball is the first name that comes to anyone’s mind, as his first year as a pro was impressive to say the least. He was a top-75 guy last season but has plenty of room to improve, which is evident given his current ADP of 25.6. There’s a ton of hype around him so picking him here makes sense, but don’t expect his efficiency to be at an elite level off the bat. Terry Rozier is another young Charlotte guard that you can get much later (ADP of 66.3), but is more of a score-first guy with a ton of threes and solid surrounding stats. The Hornets also added Kelly Oubre, who is likely to go all over in drafts this year - he has a nice ceiling but was out of it last year, so taking a gamble on him in the later rounds may or may not prove to be worth it. We can’t leave Miles Bridges out of the “athlete” conversation as he’s already one of the best in-game dunkers in the league, but his value is based around boards and efficiency from the forward spot. He’s decent, but his upside is limited on a team with so many guys that can score.
Weakness: Rebounding (especially defensively)
While not an awful rebounding team, Charlotte could use some improvement in that category for the 2021-2022 season. They were ranked 19th overall in rebounding, which isn’t bad, but their defensive vs. offensive rebounding was night and day - they were great on the offensive glass as the sixth best team in that department last season, but struggled rebounding to end a defensive possession as the sixth worst team in the league in both defensive rebounding and defensive rebounding percentage. Besides Mason Plumlee (who wasn’t even on the team last year), no Hornets player averaged more than 6.8 boards per game as they often opted for the “small ball” way of play. The aforementioned Kelly Oubre should help with this number as he averaged 6.0 boards per game last year, and Mason Plumlee snagged 9.3 per game in Detroit last year. Plumlee’s a little boring but will usually help your fantasy team as long as he gets minutes in the mid-late 20s. P.J. Washington has played some center and averaged 6.5 boards per game last year along with some other sneaky stats. Washington was a late seventh-rounder last season but is currently being taken around rounds nine and ten in drafts, so he’s also available at a discount. It makes sense to be slightly wary about Washington’s outlook, however, as Gordon Hayward could take away some of his minutes, but both guys should be rostered.
Strength: Kyle Lowry in town
Father Time has not caught up to Kyle Lowry just yet, as he still almost managed top-50 value in his final season with the Raptors and is ready for a new start. He gives the team even more outside shooting and a leader who can read the game incredibly well and make plays that someone like Goran Dragic may not have been able to. Miami appears to be a much more capable team simply by adding Lowry, and while Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler run the offense a bit, it seems like Lowry will still get plenty of dimes. He has played in just 67.5% of games in his past two seasons, so while he’s productive when he’s playing, he is known to some have durability issues. As for Bam and Jimmy, they’re legitimate fantasy options that you could possibly get as late as early in the third round, which could end up being a steal (both were top-20 guys last year).
Weakness: Scoring opportunity
It’s safe to say that Miami fell apart in the playoffs last season as they got swept by the Bucks in the first round, but after what many would say was an unexpected trip to the Finals just a year prior, they know what they can do. The Heat actually ranked dead last in overall field goals attempted per game last season, which makes sense given their second-to-last ranking in the pace category. It may be how coach Erik Spoelstra and the team desire to operate, but in a modern NBA that’s so fast and high-scoring, this may be a necessary adjustment. And of course, more shots means more opportunity for fantasy value, so if there was any proof that Miami would be picking up the pace, everyone you’d normally draft could get bumped up a few spots on draft night.
Strength: Responsible young core
The young Orlando Magic got even younger after drafting Jalen Suggs fifth overall in the 2021 draft, but last year’s team actually did a great job of taking care of the ball as they were fifth best in the league at not turning the ball over. That speaks volumes for a team so young and in a complete rebuild mode, and the fact that they’re being pretty smart is a huge step in the right direction. Suggs is one of the most exciting rookies this year and should be drafted everywhere, even if the team gets back to full health (Markelle Fultz is eight months removed from ACL surgery). Another interesting young guy here is Jonathan Isaac, who missed all of last season with an ACL tear of his own and has fantasy potential through the roof. His status is up in the air for the opener, but he’s going to play this year, barring any setbacks. Just know that drafting him will require a bit of patience as the team eases him back into basketball shape.
Weakness: Overall defense
The youth are nowhere near perfect as we know, and there are still plenty of defensive mistakes being made (which is not uncommon). This was further shown last season by their defense in comparison to the league, ranking 26th in defensive rating, 25th in steals, and 22nd in blocks. As we’ve said, getting steals and blocks doesn’t automatically mean your team is good at defense, but the consistent and poor marks are worrisome. Gary Harris was acquired mid-season and will help with defense, but isn’t really on the fantasy radar as Orlando should favor development pretty early and often. Mo Bamba is another good defender, and he could have some sneaky value because of it. You can basically get him for free in fantasy drafts for the time being, and despite Wendell Carter Jr. being the starter (and being selected 30+ picks earlier in drafts), Bamba arguably has the higher ceiling and could be a fun late-round pick.
Strength: Revamped bench
Predominantly due to the blockbuster trade that sent Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Washington bench got a bit of an upgrade. They received Kentavious Caldwell-Pop, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell, who all look like they’re going to assume bench roles for the Wiz as far as we know. This may lessen their fantasy value a bit, but if anything, this may dissuade other managers from drafting them. Montrezl should assume a similar backup role, and despite shooting 62.2% from the floor last year, he was outside of the top-125 in a hair under 23 minutes per game. He’s good for an uptick in boards and FG%, but his all-around stats leave a bit to be desired. Caldwell-Pope is pretty boring unless you really need threes and is the only one of these three that won’t be usable most nights. Kyle Kuzma has a lot to prove after a down year and will be the number one option off the bench, getting more touches without anyone as ball-dominant as LeBron James wearing the same jersey as him. His game also isn’t incredibly fantasy friendly, but some scoring and triples with a handful of boards should be a safe bet, and he’ll be an extremely popular sleeper pick.
Weakness: Lack of star power
With Russ in L.A., the Wizards don’t have a ton of star power on their roster. Bradley Beal is a superstar and could lead the league in scoring, but besides him, no one’s name necessarily jumps off of the page. The NBA has turned into a league where you likely need at least two superstars to win a championship with all of these stacked teams being formed, and the Wizards just don’t have them. However, they did sign a serviceable point guard in Spencer Dinwiddie, who played just three games last year due to an ACL injury. He should be ready to go for opening night and is going in round six in drafts right now. The opportunity is exciting, but he may miss a lot of shots as the number two option on offense as long as all the starters are out there. For reference, he averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 dimes in 64 games of the 2019-2020 season when he was healthy, but didn’t even rank inside the top-150 due to rare steals (0.6 per game) and poor shooting on high volume (41.5% from the floor). However, keep in mind that if you do a field goal percentage punt, he becomes a top-100 guy in that season.