2022-23 Fantasy Basketball Central Division Preview

by Bill Yin
2021-22 Fantasy Basketball Division Preview - Central

I think this season we can finally discard the notion that the Eastern Conference is weak. That idea should’ve been tossed out of the window last season too. As you will see in this 2022-23 Fantasy Basketball Central Division Preview, the division boasts a fascinating group of teams ranging from sapling rebuilds to growing threats to contenders. In fact, I think this year’s NBA champion is right here in this division. 

Let’s kick things off from the “sapling rebuilds” category. The Pistons are not going to be in the playoff picture by any means, but they do have one very promising Cade Cunningham on their roster. I’ve seen him drafted as early as a late second-round pick in 9-category drafts and almost certainly gone before the fourth round. This is a totally reasonable place to select Cunningham, albeit with not much upside. However, the Pistons are going to be developing their young players this season and Cunningham will be seeing plenty of run.

The fifth overall pick from this year’s draft, Jaden Ivey, will be rounding out this starting lineup alongside Saddiq Bey, Marvin Bagley, and Isaiah Stewart. These guys will all be relevant in standard 12-team leagues. I’ll be keeping a careful eye on Isaiah Stewart, whose ADP will take a bit of a hit from a poor showing last season. There’s value to be found here.

Next up are the Indiana Pacers, who are a little better than the Pistons, but are probably capped as a play-in team. Like the Pistons, they have a lottery pick in Bennedict Mathurin (selected sixth) in their starting lineup alongside a lot of guys with plenty of fantasy upside. Tyrese Haliburton is a bonafide first-round player this season. And in the event Myles Turner gets moved, we are very intrigued by what that would mean for per-minute monsters Jalen Smith and Isaiah Jackson, who I’ve written about last season as a fantasy gem in the making. Jackson is capable of producing fourth-round value at a minimum should he play 30 minutes per game; the question is whether those opportunities will become available.

Conference Contenders

This next team is a solid “growing threat,” but arguably not quite there yet. The Chicago Bulls have not changed much; they’ve lost Tristan Thompson and Troy Brown Jr. Neither of these guys are relevant. They’ve added Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic. I’d be tempted to burn a last-round pick on Drummond due to sheer upside alone due to Drummond’s ability to produce stocks at an unbelievable level. But he’s just not that effective otherwise on the court.

Also, Nikola Vucevic is just a way better player. Zach LaVine signed a max contract but the second-round LaVine of old is probably gone. DeRozan just had one of his best seasons ever, and obviously, his usage takes away from LaVine’s scoring load. They’re both solid third or fourth-round picks, but I’d give LaVine the edge here. They’ll be looking for a playoff spot this season and both will be getting plenty of minutes.

I won’t go into too much detail on the Cleveland Cavaliers since I’ve written about them when Donovan Mitchell got traded, but they’re firmly in-between “growing threats” and “contenders”. 

And finally, the Milwaukee Bucks are my personal pick to win this year’s NBA championship. The Bucks' core of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton, should be making plenty of noise in the playoffs. They have changed nothing about their team, their defense is looking as good as ever, and Antetokounmpo is looking like the scariest player on the planet. Antetokounmpo is getting drafted somewhere between the second to fourth picks. Happily punt your FT% and your season’s looking gravy. Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton are pretty undervalued as well at current ADP. They’re going to be great value targets on draft night in the fourth and fifth rounds. 

2022-23 Fantasy Basketball Division Preview - Central

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New Faces in the Division

NBA Draft

Detroit Pistons - Jaden Ivey

Indiana Pacers - Bennedict Mathurin

Cleveland Cavaliers - Isaiah Mobley

Milwaukee Bucks - MarJon Beauchamp

I think Jaden Ivey and Bennedict Mathurin are both interesting players as far as fantasy value is concerned. I’m having a hard time estimating their impact, but both are worth late-round fliers. I don’t foresee much impact from Beauchamp because the Bucks aren’t rebuilding and won’t have many available minutes for the rookie. 


Impactful Additions

Indiana Pacers - Tyrese Haliburton

Cleveland Cavaliers - Donovan Mitchell

Having Haliburton here kind of feels like cheating, but nevertheless, he’s a relatively new face on the Pacers having been traded there last season. He’s quite clearly Indiana’s choice to become “The Guy,” and for good reason. Ignore his odd shooting form; Haliburton is absolute money from the perimeter being a career 41.2% 3 PT shooter and can dime with the best of them. There are concerns about his field goal % falling off a bit due to his increased volume this season, presumably, but grab him with a late first-round pick or early second and enjoy the ride. 

Donovan Mitchell is interesting but is probably overvalued at his ADP. He and Garland are both second-round picks right now, but neither will finish that high. There’s some cannibalization happening there, so I’m probably staying away from both of them unless I’m feeling gamble-y on draft night. Do you know what happened the last time I felt gamble-y on draft night? I picked Ben Simmons in the fifth round and he missed the whole season. Don’t be me.

Draft With Confidence

PG – Tyrese Haliburton, Cade Cunningham, Jrue Holiday, Darius Garland

SG – Zach LaVine, Donovan Mitchell

SF – Khris Middleton, DeMar DeRozan

PF – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jalen Smith

C – Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, Nikola Vucevic, Myles Turner

Category Specific Players (last season stats)

True Shooting (TS%) - shooting efficiency including 2pt field goals, 3pt field goals, and free throws

Effective Field Goal (eFG%) - adjust for the fact that a 3pt FG is worth more than a 2pt FG

USG% - an estimate of the % of team plays used by a player while they were on the floor

TOV - Turnovers committed per game

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PlayerPtsFG%3pt%eFG%TS%Pts Per 100 Poss
Giannis Antetokounmpo29.955.3.29.358.263.343.6
Donovan Mitchell25.944.835.553.357.237.8
DeMar DeRozan27.9.504.352.521.59037.7


PlayerRebReb Per 100 PossBlk
Jarrett Allen10.816.61.5
Evan Mobley8.312.21.7
Nikola Vucevic11.016.21.0


PlayerAssistsAssists per 100 PossUSG%TOV
Cade Cunningham6.18.327.53.7
Tyrese Haliburton (IND)9.613.020.33.2
Jrue Holiday6.89.923.52.7


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