2023-2024 Fantasy NBA Best Ball Diary (Oct. 10)
It’s officially NBA best ball season. Last month, my top 200 ranks for both Underdog and DraftKings dropped for free on FTN Fantasy and, just like last season, they will remain free throughout the lead-up to opening night Oct. 24. Make sure you check back into that rankings list frequently, as I expect to make (at the very least) weekly updates.
In this weekly article, I will discuss any developing trends, ADP shifts and strategies that I’m using in my own drafts. I will cover both sites offering NBA best ball tournaments and we’ll subsidize these articles with livestreams every Friday leading up to the NBA season. You can check out last week’s stream here, where my guest Mike Zakarian and I participated in an Underdog draft.
Draft season is the best season, so saddle up at Underdog Fantasy and if you’re a first-time depositor you can get a 100% deposit match bonus up to $100 with promo code FTN.
October 10 Update
Training camps are coming to a close, and most teams are playing their first preseason game by Tuesday. We’re just two weeks away from opening night and the GPPs on both Underdog and DraftKings are starting to fill with more pace. This is, in my opinion, leading to some soft draft rooms especially as preseason DFS gets underway and eyeballs are truly turning to the NBA. Let’s take a look at some of the news of the last week and then dive into some takeaways from the first five days of preseason action.
Reggie Bullock Signs with Houston
After reaching a buyout with the Spurs, Reggie Bullock quickly signed a deal to head down I-10 to Houston. His presence certainly doesn’t help the ceiling cases for guys like Dillon Brooks and Jae'Sean Tate on the wing, but we’re not too concerned with either of those guys anywhere but the end of drafts and I’m still comfortable taking Brooks where he’s being drafted as of this writing. They paid him $20 million a year to come contribute, Bullock is coming in off the scrap heap during camp. The Rockets will see their first preseason action Tuesday, so we’ll keep an eye on Bullock and how he may affect this wing rotation.
Khris Middleton Update
There’s been some concern around Khris Middleton’s troublesome knee and his recovery from surgery after he’s been practicing in a limited capacity to this point of camp. Adrian Griffin has been pretty evasive in media availability when asked to put a firm timeline or even give a clear update on what exactly is going on here. So here’s a summary of what we know. The Bucks are planning on Middleton being available on opening night in two weeks, though they aren’t setting a hard date for his full return acknowledging that things could change. Middleton has mostly been doing individual work during camp and has had multiple, planned, rest days. His “ramp up” has been slow but we know the team has said there have been “no setbacks” yet.
Interjecting my own thoughts on this situation now, I don’t think we have much to worry about. The Bucks have every reason to be cautious with Middleton while the team isn’t playing meaningful games and I’m not surprised to see that restraint continue on back-to-back sets this season. Middleton struggled with the knee last year, but we saw him playing full minutes in the Bucks first round series in April. I think, especially after an offseason procedure to clean things up, that we’ll be pleasantly surprised to grab Middleton shares as he slips in drafts a bit this week. For example, his ADP has fallen from the low-60s to 71.2 on Underdog in the last week and I was able to draft him at pick 79 late on Monday night. In my eyes, he’s quickly becoming a value pick in drafts as people shy away from the pick due to the uncertainty.
Jarrett Allen Out Two Weeks
Not too worried about this one as his timeline puts Allen ready to return by opening night. I’m a bit lower on Jarrett Allen than the field already so this doesn’t change much in my draft strategy. Allen is a high floor pick at big/center that is unlikely to be what stands between you and winning a tournament on either site.
Draymond Green Expected to Be Ready for Opening Night
Draymond Green appears to be ahead of schedule recovering from his ankle injury. The timeline that was originally forecasted to potentially keep him out for the first two weeks of the regular season has now been updated and the Warriors expect to have his services on opening night. I have no hesitations drafting Draymond at cost on both sites.
Preseason Game Notes & Insights
Dallas is playing its third preseason game as I write this. They’ve been overseas for the last two weeks, taking on the Timberwolves in an Abu Dhabi doubleheader and now participating in the “Luka Derby” against Real Madrid. The Mavs two first-rounders, Dereck Lively and Olivier-Maxence Prosper, started the first game and have a chance to break into the starting group by opening night. I think Lively has a much better shot at doing so, as he has started all three preseason games and carries more draft capital. He should find it easier to stick in this rotation than “O-Max,” but it’s certainly a situation to monitor. I’ve been grabbing a few Lively shares late in drafts on both sites.
Nothing wild to report here. Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns look ready to go after both guys competed in the FIBA World Cup. Jaden McDaniels is back and healthy after his season ending wall punch and Naz Reid is as active as ever with his new contract in tow. No major revelations for me relative to best ball.
Los Angeles Lakers
Golden State Warriors
Chris Paul got the start Saturday night in place of the injured Draymond Green. The Warriors’ first unit looked fine. Jonathan Kuminga was great in his 24 minutes, scoring 28 points and adding 8 boards and 4 assists. Moses Moody was also quite solid, providing some hope for the two former lottery picks adding more to the Warriors cause this season. I still like Kuminga in the later rounds because of his offensive upside when the opportunity presents itself. If you’re maxing the contests, I don’t think it’s out of the question to take a 16th-round shot on Brandin Podziemski, who was Golden State’s first-round pick in the summer. Podziemski played a team-high 26 minutes and posted 11/6/4/1/1 on 11 shots.
Only note I have here is to keep an eye on the backcourt. Coby White got the start alongside the normal starters in place of both Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu. If he somehow wins a starting spot, White would be a very interesting late-round flyer.
Unable to get a great read on the Bucks with none of their “big three” playing in the preseason opener. Malik Beasley appears to have the first crack at being the fifth starter come the regular season and is a fine late-round pick.
We got our first glimpse at the new-look Suns Sunday, and it went about as expected. Phoenix scored 46 first-quarter points and looked like the offensive juggernaut many predict them to be.
Ausar Thompson started and played 39 (!) minutes in the preseason opener against the Suns. He posted 12/10/6/1 on nine shots. Bojan Bogdanovic didn’t play in this one, so we’ll see if Thompson is able to sew up a starting spot before opening night. Jaden Ivey also came off the bench here in favor of Alec Burks. Ivey as the sixth man might be best for this team’s real hoops success, but it’s not a boost to his best ball value.
The Celtics, for whatever dumb reason, had a back-to-back in the preseason. Kristaps Porzingis looked great while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown did their thing. Jrue Holiday came off the bench which was an interesting twist and the biggest thing to watch going forward. Their “top six” guys sat out the second game. Payton Pritchard and his new contract extension appear, unsurprisingly, to be a nightly part of the plans along with Sam Hauser (to a lesser extent).
We discussed the reported Pacers starting group last week, and it appears that’s what we’ll see from Indy on opening night. Jarace Walker smashed in his team-high 27-minutes posting 19/9/4/2/1 and I still love him as a late round pick in drafts. I’m getting higher and higher on Bennedict Mathurin, who has won a starting spot and put up 18/7/2 in his 22 minutes on 13 shots.
No significant thoughts here. Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson are going to have every opportunity to carry this team with Ja Morant suspended. Luke Kennard and Ziaire Williams appear to be locked in a battle for the fifth starting spot. Derrick Rose started at point for the resting Marcus Smart and is the likely backup at the one for now.
Not much substance here either. Normal starters with a flat bench rotation behind them. I still think Sasha Vezenkov is a fine last-round flyer.
Jalen McDaniels is in the mix off the bench while Gradey Dick looks like he may have a hard time breaking into the first team rotation to begin the season. Not surprised if he spends some time with Raptors 905, but we’ll keep our eye on any news coming out of Toronto on that front.
Collin Sexton got the first crack at point in the starting group. That positional battle is one to keep an eye on throughout the preseason. Not surprised if we see them rotate through Sexton, Kris Dunn and rookie Keyonte George leading up to opening night.
Los Angeles Clippers
New York Knicks
San Antonio Spurs
I audibly giggled at least eight times watching Victor Wembanyama’s preseason debut Monday night. He is as advertised, full stop. I expect his ADP to rise leading up to the season, and I think it’s totally fair to take him in the mid-20s. Not a ton else to take away from this one. Zach Collins is still a great late-round value at big and Malakai Branham continues to be an interesting last-round flyer.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Overshadowed a bit by the Wemby hype, Chet Holmgren is also as advertised, full stop. He looks like a screaming value where he’s being drafted. He will rise up my ranks on both sites this week. I have some late-round hope for Ousmane Dieng, who played a team-high 26 minutes in the opener Monday.
Is Cam Thomas going to play a real role this year? He got the start Monday and took a team-high 14 shots in his 22 minutes. If he’s going to play 20-plus minutes a night this year with the upside of a starting role, he’s a massive value late in drafts. Ben Simmons also looked strong, posting 10/1/3/1 in his 14 minutes. I remain steadfast in my belief he could be a fantasy steal where he’s being drafted.
My 10 Most Drafted Players
As of 10/10/23
With each strategy article I will give an update on who my top 10 exposures are on both sites. On DraftKings, I haven’t figured out how to view my best ball exposures on web quite yet (if you know, holler at me) but we can view them on the mobile app. Here’s where things stand for me on both platforms as of today.
We’ll check in on all of the news, rumors and updates that continue to trickle out as the preseason kicks into high gear. I expect my rostership to continue to shift as we adjust for potential news and as the draft rooms are filled with more and more users getting their feet wet with this season’s outlook.
As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter (X) @KawhisenbergDFS or in the FTN Discord channel with questions about best ball and make sure to stop by the livestream this Friday at 1 p.m. ET.