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NBA Team Previews: Atlantic Division Fantasy Breakdown

Can you feel it in the air? It’s close. So close. NBA FANTASY BASKETBALL IS BACK! There have been a lot of moves this offseason, so let Fantrax get you prepared for the season with our NBA Team Preview Series. Let’s take a dive into the Atlantic Division.

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Team Previews:

Boston Celtics

Expected starting lineup: 

PG: Dennis Schroder

SG: Marcus Smart

SF: Jaylen Brown

PF: Jayson Tatum

C: Al Horford

Fantasy Relevant Bench Players: Payton Pritchard, Robert Williams, Jabari Parker, and Josh Richardson.

The Celtics are an interesting team this year. They’re starting relatively fresh, as they have a new coach in Ime Udoka, after former coach, Brad Stevens, moved to the front office and made some interesting moves. The Celtics’ biggest flaw last year was that they had a weak frontcourt. They’ve addressed that by giving Robert Williams a $54M deal, despite his lack of minutes this year. Horford is listed as the starter and should provide some stability, but Williams will get the bulk of the minutes. Schroder, Smart, Brown, and Tatum will all be rostered on fantasy teams, but Robert Williams is the Center to roster. Per 36 minutes, Robert Williams would average 15 PPG, 13 Rebs, 3 BLKs, 3 Asts, 2 Stls.

Sleepers: Payton Pritchard will get starters minutes if I had to bet. If his summer league numbers were any indication, he’ll be the team’s best 3 point shooter. He’s also a threat to average close to 5 Asts, should he get 25-30 minutes per game. Pick him up.

Busts: Dennis Schroder. He signed for a $5M, one-year deal. Well under the $80M he thought he would get with the Lakers. He’s signing another 1-year deal, which I understand, however, it makes him easily traded should the Celtics decide they want to see what they have in Pritchard. Further, Schroder will undoubtedly be needed for depth on a championship contender, by the trade deadline. Schroder’s role will be in flux all year. Pass on him.

Brooklyn Nets

Expected starting lineup: 

PG: James Harden

SG: Kyrie Irving (???)

SF: Joe Harris

PF: Kevin Durant

C: LaMarcus Aldridge

Fantasy Relevant Bench Players: Blake Griffin, Bruce Brown, Patty Mills, and Nic Claxton.

The Nets have quite a mess on their hands. NYC has a rule that you must be COVID vaccinated to attend large indoor gatherings, and Kyrie isn’t vaccinated as of this moment. There’s a very real chance Kyrie could miss every home game in NYC, California, and Toronto. Yikes. If he falls to you in drafts, you have to take him, but that’s not ideal. Harden and KD, alone, keep this team as a championship contender, but Kyrie takes this team to another level. Expect expanded roles from Patty Mills and Bruce Brown this year.

Sleepers: The sleeper list is completely up to Kyrie. If he’s out for over half the games, then Bruce Brown and Patty Mills become “must-roster” players with their potential minutes per game. Nic Claxton will also be the center who gets the most minutes, if I had to guess. Aldridge is just coming out of retirement from a health scare. Claxton per 36 minutes averaged: 13 PPG, 10 Rebs, 2 Blks.

Busts: Blake Griffin. He’s more of a name, than a fantasy asset this year. Still a very good player in real life, but the counting stats won’t be there with his low usage rate.

New York Knicks

Expected starting lineup: 

PG: Kemba Walker

SG: Evan Fournier

SF: RJ Barrett

PF: Julius Randle

C: Mitchell Robinson

Fantasy Relevant Bench Players: Derrick Rose and Alec Burks

I was disappointed with the Knicks’ offseason. They made the playoffs, for the first time since I can remember, on the strength of their defense and Julius Randle. They follow up their performance by getting Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier. Two players who will take usage away from Julius Randle, and also provide no additional defense. I don’t get it. I’m expecting a step back for the Knicks this year. Randle and Barrett are the only ones that can be depended on for consistent counting stats.

Sleepers: Thibs always figures out a way to get Derrick Rose 25 to 30 minutes per game. Expect that again this year. It will likely come at the expense of Kemba Walker, for defensive reasons.

Busts: Fournier. Don’t be confused by Fournier’s incredible performance in the Olympics. He has the role of a scorer for his country, but in the NBA, he shoots threes and that’s about it. You can get other shooters for cheaper this year in the draft. Pass.

Toronto Raptors

Expected starting lineup: 

PG: Fred VanVleet (FVV)

SG: Gary Trent Jr.

SF: OG Anunoby

PF: Pascal Siakam

C: Khem Birch

Fantasy Relevant Bench Players: Goran Dragic, Scottie Barnes, and Chris Boucher.

The Raptors sent Kyle Lowry to the Heat, as expected. This is a new-look Toronto Raptors that isn’t quite rebuilding because they’re good enough to make the playoffs, but new roles are there to be had. In the Raptors media day, FVV spoke about the respect the entire team had for Kyle Lowry, which made FVV and Pascal Siakam’s role on the team a little bit murky. Now that they are the unquestioned leaders of the team, it’s fair to expect a breakout year from Siakam (I’d draft him in the 2nd or 3rd round if he’s still there). While FVV will get all the minutes he can handle and has stacked the box score well every year. Chris Boucher will be the de facto starting Center and has double-double and blocks potential with every game he plays. Toronto can beat a lot of good teams this year. Don’t sleep on them.

Sleepers: Chris Boucher. I feel like I say this every year, but this year it’s even more true. Chris Boucher is ready to take a leap. The 6’9″ athletic marvel averages 20 PPG, 10 Rebs, and 3 blocks per 36 minutes. There’s a reason Khem Birch is in the league. He’s no scrub. But Boucher has a particular set of talents that can’t be kept on the bench.

Busts: Goran Dragic. I think Dragic will be deflated from his role change from Miami to Houston. Dragic is a starting guard in this league, and I don’t see a path for him to get more than 20 minutes per game with this team. Barnes, Trent Jr., and FVV will have the ball-handling duties. Further, I think the team views Dragic as a piece to be moved, as opposed to finding out what they have in Malachi Flynn.

Philadelphia 76ers

Expected starting lineup: 

PG: Tyrese Maxey

SG: Seth Curry

SF: Danny Green

PF: Tobias Harris

C: Joel Embiid

Fantasy Relevant Bench Players: Andre Drummond, Shake Milton, and Matisse Thybulle.

Ben Simmons is holding out, and I don’t blame him. Talk about a toxic work environment! To be scapegoated publicly, by your own teammates and coaches, while also believing that they’re where they are because of your efforts.  Time goes on, though, and the Sixers have a very flawed team without the defense and offensive versatility that Ben provides. As a result of that, this preview is almost useless until the Sixers figure out what they’re getting in return for Ben. You know you can count on Joel Embiid for usage rate, points, and boards. He’s a lock of a first-round draft pick. Maxey’s role will be different as the starting guard, as opposed to the scorer off the bench. Thybulle is there for 3 and D. Harris, Curry, and Green may all have down years now that their All-NBA point guard is being replaced. I’m not very high on the Sixers this year. Whether they get Dame, CJ, KAT, or whoever is on the block, this team was built for Simmons and Embiid. Not Embiid. That’s likely the reason they’re trying to get him to come back.

Sleepers: Andre Drummond. You’ll be able to get him for peanuts, compared to the value he can provide. Think of all the nights Embiid will be rested/injured due to his knees. That’s a free double-double for Andre Drummond, based on the minutes he’ll be provided alone. He’s a must-have if you can get him in the late rounds.

Busts: Tyrese Maxey. He’s not going to be a shoot-first guard in this offense. He’ll be required to create shots for guys like Danny Green and Seth Curry. I’m not fully convinced it will be a smooth transition. Be patient here.

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