Six of the Biggest Fantasy Basketball Questions for Next Season

Six of the Biggest Fantasy Basketball Questions for Next Season

The NBA regular season is in the books, and with it comes the end of the fantasy basketball campaign. However, it's never too early to start thinking about the upcoming basketball season.

Let's dig into some of the biggest question marks in the league heading into the offseason, and what each situation could mean for fantasy leagues in 2022-23.

Will the Trail Blazers trade Damian Lillard?

The Trail Blazers had hopes of making a playoff run, but those were quickly dashed when Lillard couldn't shake his early season abdominal injury. He appeared in only 29 games and wasn't his usual self when he was on the floor, averaging 24.0 points and shooting 40.2 percent from the field. With him out, the Blazers decided to blow things up, moving CJ McCollum, Norman Powell and Robert Covington by the time the trade deadline had passed.

Lillard should be healthy entering next season, but is Portland going to add veterans around him to try and return to the playoffs, or steer into a full rebuild by dealing him away? If Lillard were to remain in Portland, his usage rate would likely remain off the charts. However, if he were dealt to a contending team with other superstars around him, it might be difficult for him to average at least 28.8 points per game again, like he had done in back-to-back campaigns heading into this season.

Either way, given his near-bulletproof track record prior to this season, Lillard will be near the

The NBA regular season is in the books, and with it comes the end of the fantasy basketball campaign. However, it's never too early to start thinking about the upcoming basketball season.

Let's dig into some of the biggest question marks in the league heading into the offseason, and what each situation could mean for fantasy leagues in 2022-23.

Will the Trail Blazers trade Damian Lillard?

The Trail Blazers had hopes of making a playoff run, but those were quickly dashed when Lillard couldn't shake his early season abdominal injury. He appeared in only 29 games and wasn't his usual self when he was on the floor, averaging 24.0 points and shooting 40.2 percent from the field. With him out, the Blazers decided to blow things up, moving CJ McCollum, Norman Powell and Robert Covington by the time the trade deadline had passed.

Lillard should be healthy entering next season, but is Portland going to add veterans around him to try and return to the playoffs, or steer into a full rebuild by dealing him away? If Lillard were to remain in Portland, his usage rate would likely remain off the charts. However, if he were dealt to a contending team with other superstars around him, it might be difficult for him to average at least 28.8 points per game again, like he had done in back-to-back campaigns heading into this season.

Either way, given his near-bulletproof track record prior to this season, Lillard will be near the top of the list of fantasy bounceback candidates in 2022-23.

Can Zion Williamson stay healthy?

What a strange season it was for Williamson. He underwent offseason surgery to repair a fracture in his right foot, and we didn't learn about it until the end of September. He then had setback after setback, and strangely spent a lot of time away from the team at one point. In the end, he didn't play in a single game for a Pelicans team that was still able to crash the play-in tournament.

Reading the tea leaves, it seems like Williamson might not be happy in New Orleans. When the Pels first acquired McCollum at the trade deadline, there were reports that Williamson didn't even reach out to him initially to welcome him to the team. If he remains with the Pelicans and is healthy, he'll have a lot of talent around him in McCollum, Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas.

The most likely scenario is Williamson staying put, but how far up the board will managers be comfortable pulling the trigger? Two seasons ago, Williamson was a dominant force – especially in terms of points and field goal percentage – but the injury concerns will almost certainly knock him out of the top three rounds. Choosing to roster Williamson in 2022-23 will be a risky proposition, but it's one that could pay major dividends if he's able to get back on track.

How will Ben Simmons perform in Brooklyn?

Speaking of strange seasons, it's been a wild ride for Simmons. After collapsing in the playoffs last season, Simmons requested a trade from the 76ers, and decided to sit out until he was dealt. He did show up at one point after being repeatedly fined, but was infamously told to leave practice after he wasn't engaged at all. It took a while, but the 76ers finally relented, dealing him to the Nets in a move that landed them James Harden.

Simmons is on a new team, but he still hasn't taken the floor as he deals with a back injury. There is some hope that he will play at some point in the playoffs, but that's not exactly an ideal time for him to gel with his new teammates.

Regardless of whether Simmons plays during the playoffs, he'll have a full offseason under his belt after this summer. That should help him get acclimated to his new teammates, but his offensive role playing alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving could be limited. His likely limited usage rate, lack of three-point shooting and poor percentages could make him a drag in roto leagues, but his ability to rack up rebounds, assists and defensive stats will make him an appealing option in points leagues. Like Williamson, his lost 2021-22 campaign will knock him down draft boards, but prior to this season he did not have the same level of injury concerns.

Can Kawhi Leonard return to form?

The Clippers had an injury-riddled season with Leonard (knee) leading the way in that department. He didn't play a single game, and likely won't be available for the playoffs, even if the Clippers were to advance. His absence means that he hasn't played more than 60 games in any of the last five seasons.

Leonard has a checked injury history and will be 31 years old entering next season, so banking on his health to improve is risky. The Clippers will likely be cautious with him, and he might not play both games of a back-to-back set all season. His name recognition and past performance might make him an early-round selection in some leagues, but it might be best to let another fantasy manager take a chance on him. Even if Leonard is back to his old self, statistically, his best-case scenario is 65-to-70 games played.

What do the Lakers do with Russell Westbrook?

To say Westbrook's first season with the Lakers didn't work out would be an understatement. Not only did his fantasy production suffer, but the Lakers didn't even make the play-in tournament. Injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis were a factor, but Westbrook and his poor shooting ability never seemed like a good fit alongside James.

Westbrook won't be a free agent until after next season, so the Lakers will have to decide if they want to try and make it work with him, or cut their losses and deal him. The problem is, he's slated to earn over $47 million next season, which will make finding a trade partner difficult. It's hard to imagine Westbrook finding a way to bounce back in Los Angeles, so if he does remain with the Lakers, he'll head into 2022-23 with his fantasy value at an all-time low.

What impact will the returns of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. have on Nikola Jokic?

Jokic carried many fantasy managers to a championship this season. He was as good as it gets, averaging 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 three-pointers per game, while shooting 58.3 percent from the field and 81.0 percent from the free-throw line. He also rarely sat out, playing in a total of 74 games. 

One of the reasons why Jokic may have been so productive was that Porter (back) only appeared in nine games, while Murray (knee) didn't play at all. Jokic's usage rate spiked to 31.9 percent – up from 29.6 percent in 2020-21. Not only did that leave Jokic with added shot attempts and opportunities to rack up assists, but it also prevented the Nuggets from shooting to the top of the Western Conference standings. They had to fight to stay out of the play-in tournament, which resulted in Jokic logging heavy minutes and playing on a nightly basis until the very end.

It's difficult to argue against Jokic being the top overall pick in fantasy again next season. Even with Porter and Murray around – and playing well – in 2021-22, he averaged 35 minutes across 72 games, while posting similarly gaudy numbers. If you're lucky enough to draw the first pick in your draft, Jokic is as close to a no-brainer as it gets.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Barner
Mike started covering fantasy sports in 2007, joining RotoWire in 2010. In 2018, he was a finalist for the 2018 FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. In addition to RotoWire, Mike has written for Sportsline, Sports Illustrated, DK Live, RealTime Fantasy Sports, Lineup Lab and KFFL.com.
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