This article is part of our NBA Roundtable series.
Welcome to the Week 7 edition of the RotoWire NBA Roundtable. Each week, a group of our NBA staffers get together to answer questions about the biggest topics of the week, both in fantasy basketball and the league overall.
This week, we talk surprise teams and players, League Pass favorites, Gordon Hayward's value and more.
1. Which early-season surprise team in the West are you buying as the most legitimate playoff contender: the Kings, Grizzlies or Clippers?James Anderson: Clippers. All it will take is one of Gasol (already banged up) or Conley to miss a couple weeks and I think the Grizzlies will miss. I didn't consider the Kings.
Nick Whalen: Right now it's hard not to say the Clippers, though, ironically, of these three teams they're the one that would benefit most in the long-term from another trip to the lottery in 2019. Memphis is in perpetual win-now mode when Conley and Gasol are healthy, and the Kings don't control their own pick. Regardless, the Clippers aren't going to pull the plug on this team, and as long as the Harris/Gallinari/Harrell frontcourt trio stays healthy, they'll be in the mix in the 6-to-8-seed range all season.
Ken Crites: The Grizzlies are the most legit if Conley and Gasol can stay healthy. Gasol is 33 years old and Conley is 31, so that's a big "if". You have to love Jaren Jackson's upside. Most soft NBA teams are not ready for the Memphis Grindhouse. Their slow style of play will work well all season, but I have my doubts come playoff time.
Shannon McKeown: None of them. San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans and Utah will all improve and knock the Kings, Clips and Grizzlies out of playoff contention.
Jeff Stotts: The Clippers. They've got a deep team with an established coach. Their offense is humming but they have maintained a defensive identity thanks to guys like Patrick Beverley
Jeff Edgerton: The Clippers appear to be the team least likely to see a course correction. Harris, Gallinari and SGA are playing better than most of the Lakers on their best day. Harrell and Williams round out the team as a true playoff contender.
Mike Barner: I think the Clippers can make the playoffs. Injuries killed them last year, but they have more depth at guard now and Montrezl Harrell has emerged as a force for them in the middle.
Alex Rikleen: Grizzlies, and by a lot. In 2016-17, when Marc Gasol and Mike Conley were both mostly healthy, they were a solid playoff team. Those two are older, but they're still excellent, and they have enough other players that I could see them winning a couple games in the playoffs.
2. As a fantasy owner, would you consider buying low on Gordon Hayward in hopes he starts looking more like his 2016-17 self?Anderson: Yes, because I think the price is pretty low in some leagues right now. I'd definitely buy low in dynasty leagues if I could.
Whalen: Of course it depends on the price, but I wouldn't be scrambling to acquire him unless the Celtics make a move to clear some of the clutter on the wing.
Crites: No, and I'm a Celtics fan. I'd instead buy low on Houston's Eric Gordon, if that's still possible. There are just too many mouths to feed in Boston. Hayward still looks a step slow. I've been begging for Boston to let him come off the bench, a move they finally made a few games ago. I suspect he'll stay in that role through January. The Celtics need him playing well in March and beyond. I don't think they are worried about Hayward's performance up until then.
McKeown: Buying low on Hayward makes sense, but no one should expect for him ever to return to his 2016-17 form. He was the only option in Utah and that will never be the case in Boston. His usage will never approach those heights again. Still, Hayward has shown improvement recently, and it's encouraging to see him top 30 minutes a handful of times the past three weeks.
Stotts: I would. You were always playing the long game with Hayward. Nothing about these expected struggles changes that.
Edgerton: Brad Stevens is considering giving Smart more time, which illustrates some misgivings about the current rotation. Hayward will pop for a big line here and there, but it wouldn't move the needle enough for me to make an offer.
Barner: I'm not that high on Hayward. The Celtics have so much depth that it's going to be very hard for him to duplicate his 27.6 percent usage rate from that season. It still might be worth trading for him if you don't have to give up much, but temper your expectations.
Rikleen: Yes, especially in H2H. It's been tough holding onto Hayward, but all that's really missing right now is his shooting -- the rest of his fantasy profile is pretty much intact. It may take a while, but you have to assume his career-low efficiency numbers will turn around eventually.
3. From a fantasy perspective, which player would you rather own for the next three years, and why: John Wall or Blake Griffin?Anderson: Griffin, he has aged much better than I thought he would. He has been able to have success without relying on his athleticism. I think when Wall's athleticism falls off in a year or two, he's going to fall off a cliff.
Whalen: Blake Griffin. Both players have injury question marks, but Blake is the superior player when healthy, and he continues to reinvent his game to match his physical abilities, whereas Wall's development seems to have stalled.
Crites: I'm usually PG-biased, but give me Griffin. Detroit is all in on point power forward. Washington can't wait to deal Wall and his giant contract. Wall's effort is inconsistent and Washington's offense is a mess. I think Griffin will continue dropping 5+ assists a game. Both are 29 years old, but Wall's knee injuries worry me more.
McKeown: Wall gets the edge. The Wizards point guard has been a perennial top-30 fantasy option for the past 5-6 season. Griffin has reached that level of fantasy production this year, but he usually slides in around the 40-60 range, in terms of overall value. Wall is also a year younger and has a cleaner injury history.
Edgerton: Even though Giffin's floor is more dependable right now, I would go with Wall due to age difference and injury potential.
Barner: This is close, but I'll go with Wall. Griffin has really increased his three-pointers made over the last couple of seasons, but it's also come at the expense of his field goal percentage. You can't count on him to provide much defensively, so Wall has an edge with his steals. Griffin has been injury prone and Wall is a year-and-a-half younger, as well.
Rikleen: Blake Griffin, because the top of the PG market is so saturated. I had eight PGs in my top-20 this pre-season. On the other hand, a big who passes like a PG is hard to come by. Both have pretty similar injury concerns, so that's a wash.
4. The Raptors have a 2.5-game lead on the Bucks and a 6.5-game lead on the Celtics entering Thursday. How (if at all) firmly is Toronto solidified as the top team in the East?Anderson: I think they have about an 80 percent chance of getting the No. 1 seed. If Kawhi misses a chunk of time or the Bucks/Celtics get ridiculously hot, they could fall to No. 2, but I don't really see that happening
Whalen: I think Toronto finishes with the best regular-season record, but it wouldn't surprise me if any of Boston, Philadelphia or Milwaukee ended up making the Finals. The Bucks have the best player of the four, but they might still be another supporting piece away.
Crites: I bet all three teams are within two games of each shortly after the All-Star break. They all have great upside. I love the coaching job Budenholzer is doing for the Bucks, but I guess anyone would have been a big improvement over Kidd. I no longer buy the argument that all the talent is out West. Add the Sixers with Butler, and this will be a fantastic four-horse race to The Finals.
McKeown: Many advanced metrics indicate that Milwaukee is the top performing team in the league. The Bucks have also faced the second-toughest strength of schedule thus far. In my mind, Milwaukee has solidified itself as the top team in the East.
Stotts: Can I say comfortably firm? They've played well at home and on the road, even when Kawhi has rested for load management.
Edgerton: The Raptors will stay at the top if they can keep Leonard on the floor and reconsider his back-to-back restrictions. Fred VanVleet can't save you every night.
Barner: I think the Celtics will make a run, but the Raptors will still hold onto the top seed. It's going to be fun to watch those two teams square off in the playoffs.
Rikleen: Not very solidified. Budenholzer has been the Bucks' coach for only a couple of months, and we've already seen huge gains -- but they'll continue to improve as that relationship strengthens and develops over time. The Celtics have significantly more talent than the Raptors, and I trust Brad Stevens to figure out what's ailing them. The Raptors are definitely the best now, and they may keep that title all season, but there's too much season still to go for them to feel any kind of security.
5. Which have been your favorite League Pass teams and/or players to watch this season?Anderson: Luka Doncic, Jaren Jackson, the Raptors, the Nuggets, Kemba Walker, Steph Curry, De'Aaron Fox
Whalen: New Orleans and Milwaukee have been a lot of fun, as have the Bulls, mostly for comedic reasons. In terms of specific players, I always make sure to check on Kyrie Irving, Jaren Jackson, Joel Embiid and Ersan Ilyasova.
Crites: Denver is so much fun to watch. The deft passing from the Joker's rolly-polly build is a blast to watch, plus all their young talent is blossoming at the right time. Of course, the LeBron James experiment in LA is such a fun curiosity.
McKeown: I live in the Milwaukee market, otherwise the Bucks would get the top spot (I'm not a Bucks fan). My vote goes to Denver, mainly because I'm in love with Nikola Jokic. And, sadly, I've spent a lot of time watching the Hawks due to my infatuation with Trae Young.
Stotts: I'm such a homer but I love watching Doncic. But since Dallas is technically within my market, I'll go with Portland and their backcourt.
Rikleen: The Knicks are weirdly fun. Even when they're losing, they seem to be going hard. From a pure basketball perspective, I love all the lineup changes, and I think that's keeping everyone hungry - they all have something to prove and to fight for. And they have some players who could develop into legitimate rotation pieces. Also, I'm from a big Michigan family, so it's very fun to see Trey Burke succeeding.
6. Montrezl Harrell and Pascal Siakam are two players exceeding expectations thus far. Who are some other players helping your fantasy teams more than you expected?Anderson: Jeremy Lamb has been huge for me. He's just really solid across the board. I have Jaren Jackson everywhere, so I thought he'd be good, but I didn't think he'd be this good this early. Josh Richardson is another guy I thought was undervalued, but he's surpassing my expectations.
Crites: Jerami Grant taking over the starting PF spot in OKC has proved very helpful. For deep leagues, don't miss the very steady, off-the-bench PG production from Fred VanVleet, who also gets the occasional start. Finally, I'm digging the double-double numbers with improved FT percentages (now 76%, up from 63%) from Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic and DeAndre Jordan have both seen crazy FT improvement.
McKeown: Nikola Vucevic deserves all the love. He's providing top-10 value after getting drafted in the 50-60 range. De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis both rank in the top 60, easily outpacing their draft day ranks.
Stotts: Justin Holiday and Buddy Hield. I was hoping Hield would take a step forward this season but I didn't expect he'd start this well. Holiday was suppose to be an injury fill in and has become a staple of my lineups.
Edgerton: I took Marc Gasol and fully expected to be disappointed, but I'm now riding him alongside Jarrett Allen, who is right where I thought he'd be. My Jaren Jackson pick is also working out well.
Barner: De'Aaron Fox and Danilo Gallinari have paid off for me, so far. Gallinari's injury history provided a discount for him on draft day, but he's been healthy so far and playing really well. I think Fox will be great throughout the season, but it might be approaching to the time to cash in and trade away Gallinari while he's still healthy.
Rikleen: I have E'Twaun Moore pretty much everywhere, and that's been great, but I'm going to go with Noah Vonleh. I had totally written him off as a bust lottery pick, but he's making some waves in New York. I'm an avid points-punter, so the lack of scoring doesn't bother me, and his defensive contributions have been great. But nothing compares to what Siakam and Harrell are doing - they are on a whole different level.