NBA Roundtable: Are the Bucks for Real?
NBA Roundtable: Are the Bucks for Real?

This article is part of our NBA Roundtable series.

Welcome to the Week 3 edition of the RotoWire NBA Roundtable. Each week, a panel of our NBA staff writers get together to answer a handful of questions pertaining to what's going on around the league – both in the fantasy world and in real-life.

This week, we take on a coaching change in Cleveland, the Bucks' hot start, Gordon Hayward, and more:

1. With the Cavaliers likely to move away from playing veterans heavy minutes, which young players on the roster are worth potentially acquiring?

James Anderson: Nance, Cedi, Hood, Sexton, Clarkson — in that order. Still don't trust them to give guys like Nance the proper minutes every night, but Nance, Cedi and Hood should be owned in the majority of formats.

Jeff Stotts: I like Cedi Osman. He's already getting a ton of minutes and has had some nice games sandwiched around a few poor performances.

Mike Barner: I'm not really high on any of them, but if I have to pick one, I'll go with Larry Nance Jr. Even when Kevin Love does eventually return, Nance could find himself starting at center over Tristan Thompson as the season progresses.

Alex Barutha: Since Love has been out, only Cedi Osman and Rodney Hood have cracked 30 minutes in any given game. Osman shouldn't be on any waiver wires, but you never know after he had a few shaky performances. Hood is worth a look, though he's only a scorer and won't get you consistent stats anywhere else. Adding Hood versus streaming the spot could end up being a wash.

Shannon McKeown: Despite a solid effort on Tuesday, I'm not a big believer in Sam Dekker, who is currently filling in for Kevin Love. Instead, I expect Collin Sexton, Rodney Hood, Cedi Osman and Larry Nance Jr. to be the best fantasy options for the Cavs. Jordan Clarkson also deserves a mention, but he doesn't offer anything outside of scoring and there's a good chance the Cavs move him this year.

2. After a 7-0 start, where do the Bucks rank for you in the hierarchy of the Eastern Conference?

Anderson: I think they will be in the mix with Toronto and Boston for the No. 1 seed. They're still behind those two in terms of probability they reach the NBA Finals.

Stotts: They're in the upper echelon with Toronto and Boston. Khris Middleton remains criminally underrated. The offense is humming and thriving under Mike Budenholzer.

Barner: I rank them third behind the Celtics and Raptors. While I don't think the Bucks could eliminate either of those teams in the playoffs, the Sixers could have trouble beating them if they face each other.

Barutha: I think the Bucks are just as competitive as the Raptors, Celtics and 76ers. A No. 1 seed would shock me, but I think it's reasonable to believe Milwaukee will finish ahead of the 76ers.

McKeown: I currently list the Bucks No. 1 in the Eastern Conference, a hair in front of the Celtics and Raptors. And, unlike 80% of this panel, I'm not a homer.

Jason Rubin: I'm placing the Bucks third in the East even with their polished record. Milwaukee has been incredible on the defensive end of the floor highlighted by a NBA's second best defensive rating at (98.2). The Celtics sport the best defensive rating, and it's only a matter of time before Irving and Hayward officially settle in, hence having them at No. 2 in my rankings followed by the Raptors.

3. The Sacramento Kings are 5-3 through their first eight games. Do you buy them as a team that can stay out of the basement of the Western Conference this year?

Anderson: Still don't think they get to 30 wins.

Stotts: I think they can stay out of the basement but remaining in the playoff picture might be asking too much. The Western Conference standings are a bit of a mess right now. I didn't expect Houston and OKC, and even Minnesota, to struggle this much to start the year and you have to think some sort of return to the norm is coming. But an improved Buddy Hield has been a welcome surprise and Nemanja Bjelica has become a must-own.

Barner: I don't think they'll be one of the worst teams in the West, but I also don't think they'll make the playoffs. I do expect De'Aaron Fox to continue his breakout campaign.

Barutha: Sacramento will probably end up close to the basement considering the overall strength of the West, but I think there's a scenario where the Kings finish over Dallas and Phoenix. The Kings' young players don't individually have as high of a ceiling as some other teams, but they've generally improved year-over-year, and I think we're seeing the culmination of that this season.

McKeown: The Kings are starting to intrigue, and I like some of their building blocks, but I expect this to be similar to the Magic's fast start last season – Orlando started the season 6-2 before falling off a cliff. De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley and Willie Cauley-Stein are nice pieces to build around, and the Kings will be better than recent seasons, but they won't sniff .500.

Rubin: Absolutely not, but this is no knock on a team that boasts a backcourt ready for the future. Buddy Hield is getting better every year in a league that has never valued shooters more highly, while De'Aaron Fox is coming into his own as slasher and a distributor. They play in the West, and have beaten up on mostly weak opponents, which is why I'm pumping the breaks. Although, unlike Shaq, I don't believe Vlade Divac sucks.

4. Gordon Hayward remains limited to roughly 25 minutes per game and hasn't looked like himself in a crowded Celtics' offense. Are you willing to sell-low on Hayward, or is he someone you're targeting for a bounceback as the season goes on?

Anderson: His best days are ahead of him this season. Obviously depends what I could get back, but I'm guessing I'd end up being patient if I had shares.

Stotts: If you own or want to own Hayward then you have to play the long game. He's going to get nights off and he needs time to shake off the accumulated rust from missing an entire season. I think you can run the risk if you trust in the rest of your team but struggling teams may not be able to handle his growing pains.

Barner: While I wouldn't be trading for him, I also wouldn't sell him now based on the likely limited return he would bring back. Keep him on your bench until his minutes restriction is lifted.

Barutha: I think he'll bounce back. I anticipated a better start, but my guess is that we'll see him more involved after the All-Star break.

McKeown: At best, Hayward will elevate himself to the No. 3 option on this Celtics team. Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum are the two clear lead dogs. I do expect Hayward to bounce back and post a respectable line (15-5-3, maybe?), but he'll never produce at the same level we saw in Utah again. That probably puts him as a hold, if I owned any shares.

5. Given what we know through two-plus weeks, rank the top five teams in the Western Conference.

Anderson: Warriors, Nuggets, Jazz, Pelicans, Blazers

Stotts: Golden State, Denver, New Orleans, Utah, Portland

Barner: Warriors, Pelicans, Rockets, Trail Blazers and Nuggets. I think the Pelicans are going to be a really tough out in the playoffs. The Rockets are not looking good right now, but I also expect them to upgrade their roster via trade at some point.

Barutha: I'm very prepared for this to age poorly in two months: Warriors, Pelicans, Jazz, Rockets, Nuggets

McKeown: Warriors, Pelicans, Nuggets, Jazz, Rockets. I need to see how well the Rockets perform after James Harden's return before even considering their removal from the top 5.

Rubin: Warriors, Nuggets, Spurs, Pelicans, Jazz

6. Which player has been the biggest pleasant surprise for your fantasy teams thus far?

Anderson: Most of my surprises have been unpleasant, because I expected all the guys I bought/drafted to be good. I loved Khris Middleton but he's still been surprisingly dominant (more valuable than Giannis in fantasy thus far). Exhibit A of Jason Kidd being a bad coach: Swap Middleton's long 2's for 3's and he's an easy max player. His efficiency will probably tick down, but it's been a great ride thus far.

Stotts:DeAndre Jordan becoming a top 20 player has been fun. He's shooting 81 percent from the free-throw line and been a double-double machine. He's being more of a facilitator in Dallas and narrowly missed out on a triple-double.

Barner: I can't believe the start Nemanja Bjelica is off to. He's getting 28 minutes a night and has cashed in the playing time for 15.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, three assists, 1.3 steals, one block and 2.3 three-pointers per contest. That's a meaty stat line. I'm not sure he can keep this up, but enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Barutha:DeAndre Jordan turning into an 80 percent free-throw shooter and dishing three assists per game is huge. He performed well in both categories during the preseason and, thankfully, it's translated into the regular season.

McKeown: This is a three-way tie between Zach Lavine, Trae Young and Serge Ibaka. All three have outperformed their draft-day price tags and should continue to do so.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Whalen
RotoWire's NBA Editor and host of the RotoWire NBA Podcast. Nick was awarded the FSWA Best Podcast -- All Sports award in 2017 and 2018. Many years ago, Stromile Swift gave Nick his unbelievably sweaty headband after a preseason game. Despite its failure to match his school colors, Nick went on to wear that headband for the entirety of his sixth grade basketball season. Catch Nick on Twitter @wha1en.
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