Basketball player

Zion Williamson’s outlook and more updates from fantastic basketball players

Special for Yahoo Sports

The start of the NBA regular season is fast approaching. With a significant amount of pre-season in our rearview mirror, we’re starting to get a better idea of ​​how some teams and players are performing over the long haul.

At this point, most teams have played three or four preseason games, which means their stars have probably played one or two. Nevertheless, we have enough sample to give us at least some tilt as to which players are trending in the right – or wrong – direction before matches start to count.

Upward trend

OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors

Despite being limited to just 43 games last season, Anunoby took a big step forward in his fourth NBA season. He’s averaged career highs in all fields, including 15.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. His biggest improvement came from behind the arc averaging 2.4 three-pointers on 39.8% shots. This efficiency was even more impressive considering the fact that he averaged 6.1 three-point attempts, almost double the previous season. He’s also proven to be a strong defenseman, averaging at least 1.4 steals over the past two seasons.

As the 2021-22 season approaches, Anunoby could be one step further and make a case for being one of the Top 30 Fantastic Options. He has scored at least 17 points in his four preseason games, including two games with over 20 points. More importantly, he managed a total of 13 for 24 (54.2%) behind the arc. This kind of efficiency is not sustainable in the long run, but it further illustrates that his production last season was no fluke. It should be set for an increase in volume.

Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

After dominating the playoff bubble, expectations were high for Herro last season. While he might not be up to par, he was also not a complete flop, averaging 15.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.0 three-pointers. per game. The problem, fantastically speaking, is that he only shot 43.9% from the field and contributed very little to the defense.

Tyler Herro has untapped the rise in the final draft series. (AP Photo / Lynne Sladky)

The Heat have made a few changes this offseason, including bringing in Kyle Lowry to start as point guard. Herro should however be an important member of their second unit and play important minutes. He scored at least 24 points in three of the Heat’s first four preseason games and scored eight three-pointers in total. If something were to happen to Lowry or Jimmy Butler, Herro could be pushed into an even bigger role. Basically it has a lot of benefits for a player who has a Yahoo ADP in the 120s.

Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors

The Warriors had some big depth issues last season. They lacked viable scoring options behind Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins, which created a bigger role for Poole as the season wore on. In his last 38 games, Poole has averaged 14.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 three-pointers in 24 minutes per game.

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While they have improved their depth to some extent, the Warriors are still badly in need of secondary scorers, especially with Klay Thompson (Achilles) likely out until December. Poole has started all four preseason games and will likely stay in that role, at least until Thompson returns. While fantasy managers probably shouldn’t expect much from him outside of scoring and the threes, his 23.2-point and 4.0-three-point pre-season averages should see him rise through the draft ranks. Fantasy. In Tuesday’s victory over the struggling Lakers, Poole scored 18 points, five rebounds and four assists in just 19 minutes.

Mo Bamba, Orlando Magic

Stuck behind Nikola Vucevic, Bamba hasn’t had many opportunities to contribute in his first two seasons in the league. After Vucevic was sold to the Bulls last season, we got a glimpse of what Bamba might be capable of. He’s averaged 11.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.2 three-pointers in his last 24 games. What’s even more impressive is that while he’s played more than before, he’s still only averaged 21 minutes per game during that streak.

After coming off the bench in his first preseason game, Bamba has started the last two games. He even started alongside Wendell Carter Jr. in their last game on Sunday and looked very comfortable, recording 27 minutes and posting 16 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and two three-pointers. Overall, he’s averaged 12.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.3 blocks and 1.3 three-pointers over three games. There’s no reason to believe he won’t have at least 20 to 25 minutes per game on average during the regular season, so Bamba became a viable target in the later rounds of your draft – especially if you have. need blocks.

Trey Murphy, New Orleans Pelicans

The 17th pick in the 2021 Draft had a strong Summer League performance in August, and he’s carried over to the preseason. In his preseason debut, Murphy scored 21 points and six three-pointers, followed by 20 points and six more three two nights later. In the Pelicans’ next show, Murphy drained three more three points on his way to 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and one steal.

In four appearances, he is averaging 17.5 points, 4.3 threes (53.1% 3PT), 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists. New head coach Willie Green has only good things to say about the rookie, who likely secured a place in the regular rotation – he could even compete for a starting position – ahead of the regular season.

Other notable ones: Lonzo Ball, Bones Hyland, Jordan Nwora, Miles Bridges, Daniel Gafford, Jalen Smith, Scottie Barnes, D’Angelo Russell, Precious Achiuwa, Desmond Bane, Josh Giddey

Downward trend

Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

Williamson is a special player. With his size and athleticism, the sky is the limit. After a monster season in which the Pelicans removed all sorts of minute restrictions, he had to be caught in the opening two or three rounds of most fantasy leagues this season.

As good as Williamson may be, there must be some level of concern about his current foot injury. He still hasn’t played in the preseason and hasn’t even been allowed to run at full speed yet. He is expected to have his foot scans this week, which would help the Pelicans determine the next steps in his rehabilitation. As he hasn’t even started racing yet, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him start the season on the sidelines, although the scan results are encouraging. Add to that the possibility that his minutes will be limited when he does eventually speak again and suddenly Williamson has a bit more risk than managers should hope to take in the second round.

Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers

If you’re playing in a points league, Westbrook is an absolutely elite option. He’s averaged a triple-double over four of the past five seasons. The numbers speak for themselves. The downside to rotary leagues, however, is that they can – and usually will – tank your percentages. Still, with what he can do with his counting stats, Westbrook remains a decidedly polarizing option.

The problem with Westbrook is that he’s in a very different situation now with the Lakers, playing alongside LeBron James, who can fill out the stats sheet in the same way. He also has Anthony Davis and a full roster around him, which likely means Westbrook won’t be asked to take on that much load. When he played alongside another can-do-it-all player at James Harden during the 2019-20 season, he “only” averaged 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game. .

Westbrook didn’t play in the Lakers’ first two preseason games, but his performances in the next two indicated he could be in line for a somewhat bumpy run with his new team. He didn’t score more than eight points in either game and had 15 turnovers to make with just nine assists. Westbrook looked a little better in Tuesday’s game against the Warriors (10 points, 10 rebounds, six assists), but he only shot 3 of 9 from the field and racked up five more turnovers in 28 minutes .

Other notable ones: Talen Horton-Tucker, Kyrie Irving, Jalen Suggs, Kevin Love, Malik Beasley, Isaiah Roby

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