The regular season is inching closer by the day, and most offseason moves have already been completed–barring a surprising Simmons/Beal/Dame trade before tipoff. Each team’s depth chart is mostly complete, so it makes sense to start analyzing how it could work come October. Before diving into the fantasy season, RotoBaller has you covered with some last-minute basketball depth chart recaps for each team, including some useful bits of analysis for players you want to keep on your radar.
The charts below are based on usage rates and minutes per game data from the 2021 season, while the rosters have been updated to reflect these offseason moves. The charts don’t include players drafted this past July, as we don’t have data about them regarding MPG/USG% in the NBA. That being said, comments will be made on rookies when deemed necessary in each team breakdown blurb.
Here are the current preseason depth charts for the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division.
Featured Promo: Our friends at Monkey Knife Fight are hooking you up. Get a 100% instant deposit match up to $50 with promo code BALLER with your first deposit. Claim your 100% instant deposit match now, and use our prop picks to get off on a winning foot! Sign Up Now!
Eastern Conference – Atlantic Division Depth Charts
New York Knicks
The Knicks enter 2022 having lost two players from last season’s rotation: PG Elfrid Payton, now a Phoenix Sun, and Reggie Bullock, he of the Dallas Mavs. Coach Thibs made Payton and Bullock his starting point and wing as they got to start 63 and 64 games respectively, though none of them got to post PER marks above 12, so you get an idea of how those subtractions shouldn’t factor into the 2022 Knicks campaign that much.
The fantastic addition of hometown-legend Kemba Walker on a ridiculous bargain of a deal for the next two years is quite the coup of New York’s offseason, and let’s not forget about the expensive-as-hell addition of Evan Fournier either as Bullock’s replacement at the SF position. The Knicks are (smartly) banking on reigning 6MOY Julius Randle keeping his numbers up (to that I say: temper your expectations, the 24-10-6-1 line might stay a dub-dub one but the dimes most probably go down), RJ Barrett improving his already great levels of play (17-6-3 on some monster 35 MPG), and Kemba bouncing back from a couple of stinky years in Beantown (good-not-great point-guard baseline of 19-4-5-1 per game).
No hesitation drafting any of those top-3 players in New York. Now, for the rest of the squad, I’m not so sure. Nerlens Noel looks like a steal because he won’t be chased by other GMs but can produce numbers–he’s definitely a WW priority at the very least. Mitchell Robinson will be “coming back” after only playing 31 games last season and he should man the paint, making him a solid late-round pick in most drafts given his upside (8-8 with 1.5 BPG last season on 27 MPG). I don’t love Fournier, but gotta acknowledge he’s adept at shooting and hitting three-pointers–watch out for that low FT percentage tho). IQ will be drafted after being a top-3 rookie last season, but the price might be too rich for my blood, and Topin could actually turn into the better sleeper to come out of New York in 2022 fantasy leagues if he breaks out.
The consensus opinion out there is that the Boston Celtics, by virtue of ponying up more than a few million on extensions this summer, are positioning themselves to make a splash in the trade market at some point leading up to the next trade deadline–or, in the longest of timelines, next offseason. That means they might land one of Beal/Simmons/Dame if they get the chance, though that would mean stretching things too much this early in the (still pre-) season.
Getting back to reality, Boston looks the same as the last few years but there are plenty of changes around this team. That’s probably because the go-to guys are the same (yes, draft Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown whatever it takes, they’re well worth it) but the pieces surrounding them have definitely changed. As much as I hate it, it looks like Al Horford (traded for him earlier this summer) will be the starting C above Robert Williams. Horford: good mid-draft pick; Williams: must-draft late-rounder, not joking about this in the slightest of ways.
In the backcourt we have to assume Dennis Schroeder will start at the point with Marcus Smart as the starting SG, leaving both Kris Dunn and Josh Richardson relegated to off-the-pine roles. Don’t pay a dime for any of those four unless you acquire them for depth. On the other hand, Enes Kanter should get productive enough minutes (11-11 dub-dub last year playing 25 MPG) but odds are he’s not that fantasy-relevant because of the Horford/Williams pairing (we hope) taking on a larger load.
Can’t say much about the Nets. Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving could get drafted with the top-3 picks in my fantasy leagues and I wouldn’t bat an eye. Seriously. When/If healthy, any of those three can bully his way to a no. 1 fantasy finish next season, even while sharing the court with each other. There is nothing crazy about paying big bucks for any of those three, so you know what to do.
Patty Mills is now in Brooklyn, and you should definitely go grab some shares of the reserve point guard without losing a second thinking about it. Mills has been one of my favorite under-the-radar, cheap assets for years, and he’s now surrounded by fantastic teammates–don’t overdraft him, though, but make him a WW priority to play here and there. Blake Griffin might approach a dub-dub average–DeAndre Jordan has already been bought out–after he put up a good 11-5-3 line already last season in just 25 MPG.
As for the remainder of players of the Nets, well, this team is clearly a random boom-or-bust generator nightly. It’d be Joe Harris one day. Bruce Brown another one, etc, etc… Anybody can eat, but nobody knows who will it be. Not worth losing draft picks on satellite Nets.
Writing about the 76ers at the time I’m doing it feels like a loss of time. Philly is most definitely trading Ben Simmons either before the start of the regular season or the minute they can convince anyone to do so once the ball gets rolling. And that will change absolutely everything regarding the Sixers roster, usage patterns, lineups, etc. about this squad. For now: draft JoJo, fade the rest. As simple as that.
It’d be too simple to stop the breakdown there until we know what happens with Ben, though, so let’s write a few more words. First of all, Dwight Howard is out and Andre Drummond was brought in to back up Embiid. Fantastic addition, fantastic late-round pick to make because no matter his role Drummond will be dub-dubbing more often than not. Dru wasn’t even close to his best days last season and even then finished 2021 putting up a 15-12-2-1-1 average line, so there’s that.
Danny Green was disastrous on a per-minute basis last year, playing way below league-average levels and making him a must-fade entering 2022. Seth Curry is lovely at three-pointers and freebies, but nothing more than WW fodder. Now, what you were all waiting for: yes, you should draft Ben Simmons even if we don’t know where the hell he’ll play most of the upcoming season. Benny does it all (yes, he can score too, he dropped 14+ PPG last year) and is a lock to finish with a 10-7-7-1 baseline no matter where he ends. He’s a top-50 fantasy player with upside for way more if he gets his “own” franchise instead of sharing it with another honcho (see: Embiid, Joel). Don’t be a fool–it’s not a trap–and draft Simmons any and every day of the week.
Impact Rookies: Scottie Barnes (SF/PF)
Copy-paste last year’s breakdown of the Raptors here and you’d be good. Such a shame I didn’t write these things a year ago, goddamit. Anyway, Toronto is staying put north of the border barring Kyle Lowry‘s departure, which isn’t that big a deal considering FVV is still in the 6ix and Goran Dragic went north of the border as part of Lowry’s sign-and-trade deal. Dragic put his future in Toronto a little bit on the line just hours after getting there, but he should still start the year–and why not finish it–up north.
Lowry wasn’t really a ballhogger so it’s not that he will open the door to anyone to double his dose of used possessions. In fact, no one really logged monster usage rates with Siakam getting the highest at just above 26%. Outside of the obvious fantasy-viable players in this team, there is one going a little bit cheaper with tremendous upside in Chris Boucher. Toronto re-inked Khem Birch, yes, but I’m not entirely sure Birch will be starting at the center position with Bouch playing like he did last season. I mean, the latter is not a developing kid (entering his age-29 season in 2022) but he was the most efficient player of the Raps last year on a healthy 24 MPG putting up a serious 13-7-1 line with 1.9 BPG on top of that.
I don’t think there is much depth in this squad, which means all starters (and Goran Dragic, assuming FVV mans the point) will eat big time. FVV, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Boucher/Birch should be the ones getting the largest runs… but Toronto just drafted SF/PF Scottie Barnes with the fourth-overall pick and above near-consensus-better-prospect Jalen Suggs. That makes everyone outside of FVV and Siakam a little bit shakier when it comes to projections. Will Barnes start? Will that affect how the bigs are deployed? Will Siakam play the wing-, or the big-man role? I believe in Barnes as a year-one performer in fantasy leagues, but I wouldn’t really risk a high pick on him–I’d absolutely draft Suggs way earlier than Barnes, is what I mean.