The fantasy basketball season is almost here and it’s time to do some preparation work before the big draft. For the next few weeks at BFantasyHoops, you’re going to see every team’s fantasy preview right here… And with every preview, there is going to be a TL;DR section if you scroll down. So far, I’ve covered the Eastern Conference and now I’ve just started the Western Conference with the previous post on the Los Angeles Clippers. This time we’re staying in Hollywood.
Notable Arrivals: Luol Deng (Miami), Timofey Mozgov (Cleveland), Jose Calderon (New York), Yi Jianlian (China), Brandon Ingram (rookie) and Ivica Zubac (rookie)
Notable Departures: Kobe Bryant (retired), Roy Hibbert (Charlotte), Brandon Bass (Los Angeles) and Robert Sacre (New Orleans)
Am I glad to see Byron Scott gone. Lakers fans, rejoice! After what seems like years of tanking, it’s finally time to kickstart the rebuild. The front office brought in a man who has never lost a game in his coaching career. Hopefully Luke Walton can help change the bad habits that the young players developed under Byron Scott’s tenure and help them get closer to their potential. If Walton brings a little of the Warriors’ philosophy to Hollywood, this young lakers team tis going to be fun to watch. The learning curve is still rather steep but at least they’re heading to the right direction and hopefully their fantasy stock will be better than last year. Let’s take a look at what players you should target and avoid on this Lakers team.
D’Angelo Russell – Byron Scott leaving is music to Russell’s fantasy stock. This man has ice in his veins and he’s no longer in Scott’s doghouse. Walton already instilled a vote of confidence publicly to D.Lo and this is his opportunity to make the most out of it. Last season, he averaged 13.2 points on 41.0 percent from the field and 73.7 percent from the charity stripe. He also had 3.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.6 triples, 1.2 steals and 2.5 turnovers in only 28.2 minutes per game in his rookie year. That’s not good enough for top-150 value last season. However, with Kobe’s farewell tour finally finished, someone’s got to eat up his 32.2 usage rate and Russell is the primary beneficiary of this. His usage rate of 24.1 percent will likely see an increase and this should be his breakout year. There’s some risk involved with picking Russell but he’s in an ideal situation to blossom right now. His ADP is hovering around the 98th pick but I’m definitely targeting him in the top-75 vicinity.
Jordan Clarkson -Lakers was a fantasy wasteland last season and no good came out of it. Despite leading all Lakers in fantasy value last year, Jordan Clarkson only had tenth round value. Clarkson averaged 15.5 points on 43.3 percent from the field and 80.4 percent from the line. He also grabbed 4.0 rebounds, dished 2.4 assists to go along with 1.4 triples and 1.1 steals in 32.3 minutes per game. With Kobe Bryant out of the picture, Clarkson is expected to be one of the main beneficiary from his departure and should have a decent improvement from last year. His minutes will likely get bumped up to the 34-36 minutes as Luke Walton will probably give a lot of run to Clarkson and Russell for them to develop as leaders on the team. Just a little reminder on Clarkson’s ability. He had top-50 fantasy value in his rookie year when Kobe was down injured. He probably won’t replicate that performance since he’s not really a point guard anymore but his ADP at 103 is really low. You could snipe him off a couple rounds earlier for some top-75 upside.
Luol Deng – Deng had himself a solid year and really stepped it up after the All-Star break with Bosh going down with blood clots. Deng had top-60 value in 9-cat after the break as a small ball four, averaging 15.2 points on 48.4 percent from the field, 8.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 treys in 34.1 minutes per game. With his strong play, he earned himself a 4-year, $72 million contract with the Lakers (umm…he’s 31). He’s going to be a great veteran presence to have for the young core of the Lakers. Although Deng is most likely the starting small forward on opening night with Brandon Ingram on the bench, it’s hard to see Deng play 34 minutes per game. His upside is limited but he still has some low-end value that comes from his solid efficient game with a decent amount of boards, threes, steals and low turnovers. His value definitely takes a boost if he’s playing more a small ball four, and you should keep a close eye on this in the preseason games. His ADP is hovering around 104 but you can target him maybe a round earlier.
Larry Nance – Between Nance and Julius Randle, I’d prefer the prior. Randle will likely be the favourite to start but Nance is the fantasy friendly player between the two. Towards the end of last season, Nance took the starting gig from Randle for the last 22 games under Scott’s tenure. In the 22 games as a starter, Nance averaged 7.3 points on 55.6 percent shooting, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.4 blocks in 23.1 minutes per game. They don’t seem like much but if his minutes increase a slight bit, he could end up contributing stats across the board. He’s been working on improving his jump shot and with his versatility and athletic abilities, he could fit better in Walton’s system or a small ball line up. Between Nance and Randle, the prior could potentially be the Draymond-lite for Walton and his new team. He’s definitely the more appealing one fantasy wise with his ability to grab defensive stats and I wouldn’t mind using a late-round flier for him.
Julius Randle – After playing just one game in his rookie year, Randle had a healthy season by playing in 81 games, averaging 11.3 points on 42.9 percent shooting, 10.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.4 blocks in 28.2 minutes per game. His sole contribution in rebounds didn’t make the top-150 value last season, unless your league takes into account of double-doubles. Towards the end of last season, Randle lost his starting spot to Nance and had multiple cases of being in Scott’s doghouse. With Scott gone, Randle believers can probably take a sigh of relief but who knows what Walton will do to his lineups. Both players could potentially fill the role of a center in a small ball lineup. If Randle can develop the three point shot, which he has worked on this offseason, his value takes a boost but I don’t quite see that happening. He’s still young but his fantasy upside is capped by the lack of triple-one stats and his field goal percentage is really low for a power forward, so you’re really getting a lot of negatives without much positives coming from him. His ADP is hovering around 118, which is around the ninth or tenth round in 12-team leagues. That’s a bit of a stretch for me and I’m staying clear away from him.
Brandon Ingram – The number two overall pick of last summer’s NBA draft went to the Lakers. In his lone year at Duke, Ingram played well and showed off his offensive repertoire. With his strong play, he even had comparisons to Kevin Durant. His game is fantasy friendly but I don’t think it’ll translate to the NBA this year. He even struggled against pros in the Summer League, averaging 12.2 points on 41.2 percent shooting, 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and 0.1 threes. He was pushed around and now that he’s in the NBA, players are going to be too big and strong for Ingram to handle. He’s a work in progress for the Lakers and having the ultimate professional in Deng to learn from is a good move by the front office. He’s going to be behind Deng in the rotations and it’ll be hard to see Ingram play more than 26-28 minutes per game. He could potentially be a triple-one threat with good points and rebounds in the long run, so you might want to snap him up in dynasty leagues. Short term look, it’ll take some time for him to adjust to the NBA and he could possibly make blips on your fantasy radar in the second half of the season but is he worth your stash? His ADP is at top-120 but I’ll let the others deal with him this year.
- Early–Rounds: None
- Mid–Rounds: D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson
- Late–Rounds: Larry Nance
- Deep-Leagues: Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Timofey Mozgov
- Busts: Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram
- Sleepers: D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson
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