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FANTASY CHECK-IN: Faces of Old and New

It’s a wonderful day to be a Nets fan!

Coming off an offseason that can best be described as an emotional roller coaster, I for one think I can speak for all of us when I say I’m just relieved this team is intact. That is, ignoring the three men (Seth Curry, Joe Harris, and T.J. Warren) on the injury report. Despite their absences, when the men in black-and-white take the court tonight in the ‘Clays, faces both old and new will be in the arena, literally and figuratively. I can’t wait to be in attendance with Nets Nation.

As a fan, it’s always fun to root for those men in black-and-white, but just as it is in other sports, many turn to the fantasy world to make the season more exciting. Fantasy basketball is as interesting as any other fantasy sport — especially if you’re in the know. To help you get slightly ahead of your mates in your fantasy basketball league, let’s take a dive into the fantasy impact every man defending the Clays has going into the season.

Rankings and rostered percentage (%ROST) are based on ESPN’s default head-to-head settings.

The Superstars:

You know what you’re getting from these two. Barring health, both players will be cornerstones for your fantasy team.

Kevin Durant: 15th overall (SF3), 99.9 %ROST

Through all the drama and uncertainty surrounding Durant this past offseason, one thing was for sure: he was going to be a walking bucket wherever he was. Luckily for the Nets faithful, he rescinded the trade request he gave to Joe Tsai back in June, and will be back for his third stint with Brooklyn. Coming off the third highest scoring season of his career — 29.9 points per on 52 percent shooting — it would be foolish not to expect the Slim Reaper to be amongst the league leaders in scoring again. You can’t forget his 7.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game last season as well, as each rebound nets you one fantasy point while each dime gives you two. There’s a reason he’s being selected this high in drafts.

Kyrie Irving: 34th overall, (PG16), 99.6 %ROST

Durant’s partner in crime, Irving is perhaps the most polarizing player in basketball today. While many like to rag on him for his off-the-court antics, it’s his wizardry on the hardwood that made the world fall in love with him. Averaging 27.4 points last year and just narrowly missing the 50/40/90 club, everybody knows Kai is the definition of a hooper. He has a counter to every counter a defender can throw at him. The attention he draws from the defense and willingness to kick out gives him a high assist ceiling, as he averaged 5.8 per game last year, which helps his fantasy upside. He’s also known to sneakily grab a few boards here and there and poke the ball away from the lesser-skilled dribbler across from him. Realistically, that’s everybody in the NBA.

The Sleeper Star:

Although not a scorer to write home about, this player delivers in every other aspect of the game that can drive his fantasy value through the roof.

Ben Simmons: 62nd overall (PG28), 93.1 %ROST

We get it. Simmons can’t shoot or won’t or whatever. But, that doesn’t make him any less of a player. Finally making his regular season debut tonight in the Barc tonight, Simmons will get a chance to show why many think he’s the perfect piece alongside Durant and Irving. He’s one of the most versatile defenders in basketball, he makes passes most can’t even see, and he rebounds the ball like a big. He’s made the All-Star team every year he’s played aside from his rookie season, and there’s a reason for that. He impacts the game without a highly developed offense game, and that can help you big time in fantasy. In the 2020-21 season, Simmons averaged around seven rebounds, seven assists, and two steals per game. That’s 29 fantasy points per game without accounting for a single field goal attempt. That’s E-L-I-T-E. While his scoring will probably go down with him now playing alongside two offensive juggernauts, his assists will likely go up along with his rebounding as the Nets lack frontcourt options.

Intriguing Bench Pieces:

These players will play vital roles for the Nets, but their involvement can go beyond just the hardwood, as they could fill holes on your fantasy team.

Nicolas Claxton: 127th overall (C34), 34.8 %ROST

Speaking of the frontcourt, the man holding down the paint for the Nets this year will be none other than Claxton after signing a two year, $20 million contract to stay in Brooklyn this offseason. For the first time in his four-year career, Claxton is the clear-cut starting center. No Jarrett Allen. No DeAndre Jordan. No LaMarcus Aldridge. No Andre Drummond. Claxton has steadily seen his numbers improve over the years, as he finished with averages of 8.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game last year while shooting 67 percent from the field. That was in 20.7 minutes played per game. His per 36? 15.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. It wouldn’t be crazy to see a jump in that realm as he fully takes over the starting center role on a Nets team that drastically needs rebounding and an inside presence on both ends of the floor. You just want to see an increase in stamina. At the 127th overall ranking, Claxton can be a major steal in fantasy basketball.

Joe Harris: 208th overall (SG72), 3.2 %ROST

Joey Buckets. Lumberjack Joe. Beef Jerky Joe. The nicknames never end for Harris, especially if Ian Eagle’s on the call. You can call him whatever you want, but the bottom line is Harris is a crucial piece to this Nets team. There’s a reason he’s the fourth highest paid player annually on the team. It was clear as day his presence was missed when he went down with an ankle injury last year, as the Nets needed his sharpshooting abilities and size. Harris is among the most efficient snipers from beyond the arc in basketball history, leading the league in three-point percentage in two out of the past four seasons. His 46.6 percent clip last year would’ve been first in the NBA again had he played enough games. He’s traditionally given the Nets around 14 points per game, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see that number hover a bit lower with Seth Curry returning and some of the new additions. Still, his other-wordly efficiency from deep will keep him on the court long enough to reach fantasy relevance in addition to his consistent work on the boards.

The Specialists:

Just like in regular basketball, there’s upside in having specialists on your fantasy basketball team — these three players are some of the best at what they do.

Seth Curry: 159th overall (SG55), 24.1 %ROST

Harris isn’t the only player on the roster that can rival “randomized” Google advertisements in terms of striking accuracy. In 19 games with Brooklyn last season, Curry shot 46.8 percent from deep and ended the year sixth in the NBA in that category with his time in Philadelphia accounting for most of it. The biggest difference between Harris and Curry? The ability to put the ball on the floor. Curry can create his own separation, and will have the freedom to do so with the second unit. The main concerns for Curry is how he recovers from his left ankle surgery this offseason and the packed guard rotation in the locker room. Harris has a clear role in the forward rotation, but things could get really funky in terms of lineups due to the unique roster Brooklyn currently harbors. That may be the main thing holding Curry back when he returns to the lineup, but his talent can not be denied.

Patty Mills: 243rd overall (PG67), 1.9 %ROST

A fan favorite, Mills brings championship grit to a team looking to capture their first Larry O’Brien trophy in franchise history. While that won’t show up in fantasy basketball, Bala Pat has been a deadeye from deep his entire career. Last year with the Nets, he scored 11.4 points per game while shooting 40 percent from behind the arc; the latter being good enough for 25th in the entire NBA. Outside of this and a couple of dimes, Mills doesn’t bring much to the table in fantasy. He can be a good piece for your team in deeper leagues, as all it takes is two triples to give you 10 fantasy points. Besides, Brooklyn loves Patty Mills.

Keep Watch:

While they’re not guarantees, these bunch of hoopers could be the microwave off your bench in fantasy basketball in due time.

Royce O’Neale: 188th overall (SF57), 2.7 %ROST

My personal favorite addition to the team this offseason, O’Neale brings consistency to a team that hasn’t seen consistency since Durant and Irving signed with the team back in 2019. Knock on wood at least. I don’t want fingers pointing at me if O’Neale starts stinking it up. I did jinx Patty Mills last year, as he went on a pretty bad skid after I wrote an article talking about how well he was doing. Putting one of our favorite Aussies aside, O’Neale can hit the three ball at a consistent clip, never shooting it less than 37.7% in a season since his rookie year, and he should see an increase in catch-and-shoot opportunities in Brooklyn. He plays hard-nosed defense and will grab you around five rebounds per game with a willingness to swing the rock around the floor on offense. While his career average of 6.2 points per game doesn’t particularly jump out at you, he does the little things very well. If he does see a very noticeable jump in three-point attempts, his fantasy value can skyrocket with each made triple netting you five fantasy points.

Cam Thomas: Unranked, 0.4 %ROST

Going into his second year in the Association, one thing is distinctly known about Thomas — he can put the leather ball in the steel rim. While his 8.5 points per game last year doesn’t stick out, the eye test will tell you Killa Cam is a natural-born scorer. Just ask Knicks fans. For what it’s worth, he’s the highest scorer in Summer League history, averaging 27.2 points per game; discounting guys who only played a game or two. Marcus Banks is the technical all-time leader, scoring 42 points in his only appearance in the 2007-08 Summer League season. I still give it to Cam. One-half of the beloved Japanese implants on the roster, Thomas has to show improvement in his ability to pass and defend to see real playing time. His shot-creating ability will get him some burn with the second unit, but unless head coach Steve Nash sees growth in the aforementioned categories it’s unlikely Thomas sees the floor more. If he does, then he can be an interesting player in fantasy.

Day’Ron Sharpe: Unranked, 0.2 %ROST

The second sophomore to appear on this list, Sharpe is the only other traditional center on the roster behind Claxton. This reason alone warrants you to pay attention. While the Nets will likely go the small ball route fairly often with either Simmons, Markieff Morris, or Yuta Watanabe at center, Sharpe can be fantasy relevant if — god please forbid — Claxton goes down or he continues his momentum from the preseason. In 18.5 minutes played per game this preseason, he averaged a solid 9.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while garnering a steal and block in every game but one. First Jarrett Allen was the young lanky center on the Nets roster, then it was Claxton, now it’s Sharpe. Allen turned out pretty good while Claxton seems to be on a similar trajectory… what will happen with Sharpe? Best pay attention.

T.J. Warren: 226th overall (SF82), 2.5 %ROST

Perhaps the biggest wildcard amongst the new faces, Warren has proven to be a prolific scorer before being bitten by the injury bug. He flirted with 20 points per game for three years before being shut down in the 2020-21 season due to stress fractures in his left foot. While Warren will sit on the injury report until at least his reassessment in November, his return would mean instant shot creation ability off the bench with a second unit that lacks that crucial element on offense. If he can return to form, Warren will be a dangerous piece for both the Nets and your fantasy team.

Depending on how many spots you have on your injured reserve, he’s worth a stash once the clock ticks closer to his return.

Outside Looking In:

Although they each play a crucial role for the Nets, these players likely won’t contribute much to fantasy basketball barring a breakout or sudden need.

Markieff Morris and Yuta Watanabe:

Both new additions to the team, Morris and Watanabe were brought to the team for similar needs. Size, strength, and toughness. The Celtics exposed the Nets’ lack of those three elements badly in the first round of the playoffs last year, and the hope is this duo can help subdue that weakness. While their playstyle is much needed on the court, their fantasy relevance is pretty low. If Morris is relied on heavily in small ball or Watanabe has a sudden leap in shooting, then they can become fantasy relevant. For now, go throw some elbows and dive on the floor guys. We need it.

Edmond Sumner and Kessler Edwards:

The Nets rotation is just too loaded for either of these two to get consistent burn where it’s worth a roster spot on your fantasy team. But, as we saw with Edwards in the past, you never know when your number is going to get called. Stay ready.

David Duke Jr. and Alondes Williams:

Our beloved two-way players! Of course, it’s almost impossible to be fantasy relevant as a two-way, but we’ve seen crazier things. I’m sure many of you remember Duke Jr.’s crazy run back when nearly the Nets entire roster was sidelined with the health and safety protocols. While something drastic like that hopefully never happens again, you never know. Crazier things have happened. Russell Wilson is being hilariously outplayed by Geno Smith in 2022. Who knew?