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.

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October 17 Update

We’re just a week away from the regular season tipping off, and the best ball lobbies are hopping. With a lot of fans catching some preseason games (or at least a few highlights on their social media accounts), we’ve got hype building across the league and it is causing chaos in draft rooms. Just this weekend, the morning after Victor Wembanyama’s latest dominant performance (24/4/4/3 in 23 minutes), I saw one user draft Wemby at the 1.01 on Underdog. The hype is real! But it’s not just the names on the marquee that are experiencing dramatic ADP shifts. In this final best ball article before the season gets underway, we’ll discuss some of the latest injury news and preseason takeaways that you should know before drafting your last few teams this week. 

NBA News

Daniel Gafford Cleared to Play

The Wizards are going to be awful this season, but they’d be a special kind of horrible in the frontcourt if Daniel Gafford missed time. Backing up the ultra-active center is the tired trio of Mike Muscala, Taj Gibson and Danilo Gallinari (coach Wes Unseld Jr. has said Gallo could play small ball five), which may be the worst center depth chart in the Association. Gafford should be a solid fantasy producer, especially at his current ADP, and we should have no issue taking him as a third big in most builds.

James Bouknight Has Knee Surgery; Out at Least 4 Weeks

Not a huge issue for Charlotte here, and James Bouknight wasn’t exactly in our draft plans to begin with. This should afford more playing time to guys like Bryce McGowans, Frank Ntilikina and Edmond Sumner over the first two or three weeks this season. 

Kai Jones Waived by Hornets

This is some of the most unfortunate news of the preseason. Kai Jones is pretty clearly going through a tough time mentally if you’re familiar with his social media actions over the last few weeks. He blocked multiple teammates who tried to reach out to him to check on his well-being, and long story short, Charlotte ended up cutting bait late last week. For best ball, this move does solidify the frontcourt minutes of guys like Mark Williams, P.J. Washington and Nick Richards, albeit in a very marginal manner. 

Miles Bridges Issued Criminal Summons

We don’t need to spend a ton of time on this subject, but it is very pertinent to our best ball drafts. Apparently, a warrant was out for Miles Bridges for violating a domestic violence protective order earlier this year in relation to his original arrest. My initial thoughts were that surely the league would extend his suspension, or the Hornets would cut him, but now we’ve got footage of him being back at practice, so I’m not sure what to think from a fantasy standpoint. We’ll let the legal process run its course and see what the basketball fall out ends up being, but for now I’m avoiding Bridges in my drafts after being quite excited about him as a value over the last month.

Jaden McDaniels to Miss 7-10 Days with Calf Issue

Jaden McDaniels is looking to have a bounceback season after his last campaign was cut short when he punched a wall the day before the regular season ended. After missing the Timberwolves play-in game and eventual first-round series, hope are high for McDaniels in Minnesota this year. This calf issue could cause a bit of a false start for his season, but the timeline given isn’t affecting my view of him much in drafts. He’s still a fine wing filler in your builds at his ADP.

Jarred Vanderbilt Uncertain for Regular Season Opener

Similar to McDaniels, I’m not too concerned about Jarred Vanderbilt’s issue for where he’s being drafted. He’s in a competition with Rui Hachimura for the Lakers fifth starting spot. His preseason absence could certainly affect how that battle is won early on in the year, but at Vandy’s current ADP of 172 on Underdog, I’m still fine to take a 15th- or 16th-round shot on a guy who was a fantasy-point-per-minute producer last year with a chance to start for the Lakers when healthy. 

Johnny Davis Expected to Miss 1-2 Weeks

Not much of an issue for our drafts, but not a great start for Johnny Davis, who is looking to rebound from a disappointing (and that may be putting it likely) rookie season. This should give Delon Wright the opportunity to win the backup point guard job to begin the regular season. For our draft purposes, it’s not bad news for any Tyus Jones shares you have early on in the year. 

Draymond Green Questionable for Season Opener

As the prognosis on Draymond Green continues to flip flop, we’ll keep our eye on this for DFS purposes. When it comes to our drafts, we shouldn’t miss more than 2-3 games from Green at worst to start the season. For where he’s being drafted (current ADP of 103 on Underdog) I have no concerns about the long-term outlook of any Draymond best ball shares. 

Preseason Game Notes & Insights

Orlando Magic

Jalen Suggs has apparently won the two-guard role in the Orlando starting lineup. This feels like the right move from a “move the franchise forward” standpoint, and we’ll get to see early on if Suggs has improved enough to become a mainstay in the Magic’s plans. For our best ball purposes, it makes Suggs a fantastic value late in drafts with his current ADP of 188 on Underdog. He’s one of my favorite late round guard choices headed into the final week of drafts. 

Washington Wizards

For anyone who has been paying close attention to the preseason, what’s going on in Washington on the wing is one of the biggest best ball storylines. Bilal Coulibaly, the seventh overall pick this past summer, is not just in the starting group but is producing impressive fantasy stat lines. It was one thing for Coulibaly to be in the starting lineup against Australian side Cairns and put up 5/6/3/3/1 in 20 minutes on four shots, but my interest truly got piqued when he remained in the first five against Charlotte two days later and put up 12/5/1/4/1 in a team high 28 minutes on 5/8 shooting. There’s still a chance Washington ends up sending Coulibaly to the G-League if he struggles out of the gate, but it appears that he has an opportunity to start for this team to begin the season. If that’s the case, he’s an extreme value in drafts at his current Underdog ADP of 173. He’s flashed his fantasy upside defensively, racking up 9 stocks in 48 preseason minutes thus far. Coulibaly’s rapid ascension looks like it could continue into his rookie season in the NBA and he’s one of the most intriguing late round options at wing in drafts. 

Milwaukee Bucks

Two guys to touch on here. First, Malik Beasley seems to have won the starting shooting guard spot for the Bucks to begin the season. He’s essentially free in drafts at his ADP of 190 on Underdog. I still prefer guys like Suggs and Payton Pritchard in the last round, but Beasley is certainly viable as you diversify your exposures. 

Second, there’s a bit of mystery surrounding the knee rehabilitation process for Khris Middleton. We talked about this a bit last week, and there still seems to be a lot of worry surrounding Middleton’s health based on his falling ADP, which now sits at 75 on Underdog, about 13 spots lower than where he was two weeks ago. I’ve read and listened to a lot of coverage about how Milwaukee’s high-performance team is bringing him along slowly and it appears this is all according to plan. He expects to be ready for opening night and while the massive minutes might not be there through the first week or two of the season, Middleton fully expects to be firing on all cylinders soon. I’ve been able to scoop up a few shares drafting him in the low-80s, and I think that will end up looking like great value once he gets his feet under him.

Boston Celtics

There currently seems to be no certainty on how Joe Mazzulla will structure his starting group. It may end up being a night-to-night thing where he shifts Jrue Holiday and Al Horford in and out of the lineup based on matchup. What we do know is it appears Derrick White is going to stick in the first five, making him a perfectly fine pick where he’s being drafted. It also keeps Horford in play as a late round grab if you need a big. Holiday is tricky, given his ADP of 66 is a much larger investment for a best ball roster than the latter two. I’ve been mostly staying away from Holiday unless he falls to me when needing a guard in the mid-to-late 70s. One guy who does appear to be in the nightly plans for the Celtics is Payton Pritchard. Any sort of rest of injury to White or Holiday should thrust Pritchard into an even bigger role for this team and at his current ADP of 189 on Underdog, he’s one of my favorite last round flyers, especially if I have no other Boston exposure. 

Brooklyn Nets

Ben Simmons remains a high-upside pick at his ADP of 99. That number has been steadily rising since the preseason began, and I’m glad I have a significant number of shares already. He’s going to have all the opportunity in the world to re-establish himself in Brooklyn this season and has been filling the stat sheet in preseason. I’m not quite looking to reach on him above this ADP unless I’m very guard-needy in drafts, but even in his darkest fantasy days Simmons has still been a fantasy point per minute producer. I expect him to be playing 30-plus minutes a night for the Nets. 

Cam Thomas still has a chance to snag the fifth starting spot in Brooklyn from Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O'Neale. Because he’s clearly gained favor with Jacque Vaughn this offseason, I’ve been snagging a lot more of Thomas late in drafts and I consider him a great upside pick at his ADP of 174 on Underdog. 

Detroit Pistons

The fifth overall pick in last summer’s draft, Ausar Thompson has been playing a huge role for Detroit this preseason. He’s all but sewn up a starting spot for the Pistons to begin the year, and they have all the incentive in the world to let him run wild from a minutes perspective this season. His ADP has been slowly climbing over the last week (currently at 92 on Underdog), but I’ve been reaching a bit when needed to get more shares in drafts. Thompson projects to be a guy that can fill up a box score and really explode on nights when his shot is falling. 

Utah Jazz

Does Talen Horton-Tucker have a stranglehold on a starting spot for Utah? If we’re to believe what we’ve seen from coach Hardy this preseason, that certainly seems to be the case. THT can disappear from a fantasy standpoint when playing alongside other high-usage players but that hasn’t been the case so far this preseason. He led the team in shot attempts the first two outings and then still managed to post 8/4/6/1 on four shots in 17 minutes against Portland over the weekend. I have plenty of Collin Sexton and Keyonte George shares, but I’ve been using the last few days to grab more THT late at his 173 ADP. 

Speaking of Sexton and George, I’m not quite sure what to make of the point guard position here. Jordan Clarkson started at the one on Saturday. I still think Sexton is the starting point guard on opening night but there’s no question coach Hardy has options, and the club really likes what they’ve seen from George. I’m still fine to grab shares of both, but I’m leaning more toward THT and George shares than Sexton, relative to their ADPs. 

Memphis Grizzlies

Desmond Bane has been on fire during the preseason. We’ve seen Bane noticeably improve year over year going back to his time at TCU. He’s averaging 21/4/4 in 25 minutes per game through his three preseason appearances. It’s fair to still have questions on whether he can keep up this type of production when the games start to count, but I’m more than willing to grab more shares of him over the next week to find out.

Derrick Rose appears to be the favorite to start at point guard until Ja Morant returns from suspension. If you want to grab him in the last round (and some folks are as he’s gained an ADP of 191), be my guest. I don’t think he has the upside I want from my late round picks, but he’ll certainly get solid minutes through the first 25 games this year if he can stay healthy. 

San Antonio Spurs

Look, I know it’s preseason, and I know I’m a homer. But holy s***, have you been watching Wemby? It feels like we’re going to see him do one or two things every night that we’ve never seen before on a basketball court. I’m still only looking to grab shares of him in the 20s, but I don’t blame anyone for reaching into the teens for him. The statistical upside is maybe even higher than we thought possible. Through two preseason appearances he’s averaging 22/5/2/1/2 in 21 minutes per game. As small of a sample size as can be, but still, if you’ve been watching these games, we’re witnessing something incredible about to begin. 

Maybe more importantly in terms of our drafts, we now have confirmation that Gregg Popovich is going to play Jeremy Sochan at the point this season. He won’t spend all of his time there, but I’m not surprised if Sochan ends up pushing Tre Jones to a sixth man role as the season progresses. Sochan is one of the highest upside wing picks you can still draft in the triple digits. 

Devin Vassell also bounced back from a disappointing first preseason outing in a big way at home last Friday, posting 21/1/3/1/1 in 22 minutes on just nine shots. The kid just signed the most lucrative contract in Spurs history and while his ADP continues to climb (sitting now at 85), I think it’s still more than fair to grab him a few picks higher if you need a guard. 

My 10 Most Drafted Players

As of 10/17/23

With this being the final best ball strategy article of draft season, here’s how my top exposures are looking on both sites.

Underdog

Mark Williams
Zion Williamson
Scoot Henderson
Mike Conley
Jalen Johnson
Devin Vassell
Amen Thompson
Kawhi Leonard
Jarace Walker
Jeremy Sochan

DraftKings

Amen Thompson
Scoot Henderson
Paul Reed
Cam Thomas
Jarace Walker
Darius Garland
Mark Williams
Naz Reid
Zach Collins
Tari Eason

Final Words

I appreciate you checking out these strategy articles, reading the ranks and watching the streams this preseason. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter (X) @KawhisenbergDFS or in the FTN NBA Discord channel with questions about best ball. Things will continue to shift leading up to tip off a week from today and I’m always down to chat strategy and answer questions. Lastly, make sure to stop by the final best ball livestream of the preseason this Friday at 1 p.m. ET where I’ll be joined by my FTN NBA Podcast co-host and our resident Cavaliers fan, Adam Pfeifer.