Bold predictions for the 2019-20 fantasy NBA season

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Do you hear that? Nope, not the squeaking of kicks on NBA hardwood floors. Nope, not the cheering of fans in NBA arenas. Nope, not the talking of smack by NBA players. No, no ... what you're hearing is the surest sign that the NBA is back in action: It's the sound of stats pouring into NBA box scores.

If you actually hear that, then you know that you are fully primed for the 2019-20 fantasy NBA campaign. Your drafts are done, your starting lineups are set, and all that is left is to settle in, watch some live NBA action and have your fantasy teams come to life!

But before you get to that, take a minute to have a little outlandish fun with our experts. We asked them for their biggest, boldest predictions for the fantasy season that lies ahead. Here's where they've staked their claims:

John Cregan: Stephen Curry will be the 2019-20 fantasy MVP

We're only four seasons removed from Curry's 2015-16 fantasy GOAT campaign. His averages that season: 29.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 5.1 3s, 1.8 steals, 50.4 FG%, 90.7 FT%, 32.6 usage, 66.9 true shooting percentage.

Could Curry reach those heights again in his age 31 season? It's not a lock, but the conditions exist on one side of the ledger: volume. Post-Durant, temporarily Klay-less, Curry will be asked to dominate the ball at a rate not seen since 2015-16. The steals should continue to decline. But Curry's points, assists and rebounds could kick back up a notch.

James Harden is the favorite to rule Fantasyland in 2019-20. Even as a solo first option, Curry still may not be able to match Harden in terms of raw numerical weight. But Curry could edge Harden out if he shoots the lights out. Curry's heat pattern from the field the past five seasons -- one season hot, one season on fire -- says he's due for a 67.0-plus TS% scorcher.

Tom Carpenter: Ja Morant becomes the first rookie since Allen Iverson to average at least 23.5 PPG and 7.5 APG.

If you don't know the story behind Morant, check out this E:60 video with Clinton Yates and you'll see a rocket. Not just in the way he moves on the court but the speed of his ascent as one of the most talented players we've seen in a long time -- and that ascent is not going to slow down anytime soon.

Not only can this kid score, dish and play some D, he has a 3-point stroke that will come (36.3 3FG% in his final season at Murray State). Toss in massive usage in a young space-and-pace Memphis Grizzlies offense bereft of other scorers, and the table is set for monster production immediately.

In fact, I'll toss in a couple of bonus predictions: He wins Rookie of the Year for the NBA and fantasy, and with quality percentages and 3-point production, he is a top-10 fantasy pick next season.

Eric Karabell: I say a tough, motivated Jusuf Nurkic returns before the All-Star break and helps carry fantasy rosters to titles

Portland Trail Blazers center Nurkic is already among the most dropped players in ESPN leagues, as people took a chance on him late in drafts based on the name and probably did not realize he will miss at least half the season recovering from a terrible leg injury suffered in March.

Perhaps Nurkic is exactly what the Blazers -- and myriad fantasy teams -- need down the stretch of this long season, and it is a grand mistake to drop him. Look for him to play 30-plus games, averaging 15 points, 11 boards, 1.5 blocks and aiding nicely in percentages. Draft him if you can be patient, or add him from free agency before Christmas and you will not be sorry.

André Snellings: Pascal Siakam scores more fantasy points this season than Kawhi Leonard

Last season, Leonard was the Jedi Master of the Raptors while Siakam was seen as his Padawan learner. Siakam won the NBA Most Improved Player award, but Leonard won the Finals MVP as the clearly perceived superstar of the team.

This season, Leonard has taken his talents to the Clippers, where he joins a team that was already a well-rounded playoff squad before adding both Leonard and Paul George. Between Leonard's DNP maintenance days and his lesser responsibility, his regular-season numbers could slide.

Meanwhile, Siakam is poised to make another huge jump in both role and production for the Raptors. He was actually more effective than Leonard last season in many ways outside of scoring, and with Leonard gone, Siakam should average more than 20 PPG as well. Siakam projects as a potential top-10 player this season, higher even than his former teammate.

John Cregan: A healthy Robert Covington will finish higher on the Player Rater than Pascal Siakam

How could Covington (ADP: 118.9) possibly leap up 100 slots of value to beat out Siakam (ADP: 14.6)? Covington won't have to, because there's no way Siakam returns the investment at 14.6. Even if Siakam hits his lofty projections (22.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 3s, 1.4 steals, 1.2 blocks), he'll have a hard time cracking the Player Rater top 20.

A healthy Covington, starting a full season at power forward, just might overtake Siakam. Covington isn't going to beat Siakam in points per game. But Covington possesses all kinds of sneaky fantasy value. Covington is already elite in two categories: 3s and steals. A season in the post is going to goose his rebound and blocks rates.

Covington was averaging a career-high 14.5 points per game after the trade to Minnesota. If Andrew Wiggins struggles, Covington could emerge as a true No. 2 option on offense. This could be a Draymond Green-type situation, where a multifaceted big becomes elite despite pedestrian scoring numbers.

Joe Kaiser: Matisse Thybulle will be a top-50 fantasy player in roto leagues by the end of the season.

Thybulle didn't wow anyone offensively in college, but the ranginess and athleticism of the 76ers' rookie swingman is off the charts -- he averaged 3.5 steals and 2.3 blocks per game as a senior at the University of Washington -- convincing Philadelphia to select him 20th overall in the June draft. On the 76ers, the 22-year-old can settle in quickly as a defensive specialist, and if he earns 20-25 MPG as a rookie, he is capable of carrying a team in the steals department.

Eric Karabell: Matisse Thybulle will be a lite version of Robert Covington as a rookie

Thybulle is a legit defender who could see 20 minutes a night for a loaded squad with plenty of scorers. Sure, Joel Embiid might win MVP honors and Ben Simmons might hit a few 3-pointers -- I say he hits fewer than 15 -- but watch Thybulle play, and one must be impressed.

The first-round pick from Washington will pile on the steals and blocked shots, and if he can hit some 3-pointers, he has a real chance to be a lite version of Covington right away. Say Covington averages 13 points, 6 boards, 2 steals, 1.5 blocks and 2 3-pointers, which makes him a top-50 player and hopelessly underrated in fantasy. Thybulle can average 10 points, 4 boards, 2 steals, 1 block and 1.5 3-pointers, which is still helpful in roto formats -- and just wait until Year 2.

André Snellings: Dwight Howard finishes the season as a top-15 fantasy center

Howard currently has an ADP of 103.3, 31st among ESPN centers. He has returned to the Lakers, where he suffered one of his worst seasons several years ago, and this time he is expected to share center time with JaVale McGee on a team that may not always deploy a standard center because of Anthony Davis' versatility.

With that said, he has reportedly impressed the Lakers' coaches throughout camp and was efficiently productive in the preseason, such as his 12-point, 13-rebound, 6-assist, 4-steal, 1-block effort in 22 minutes against the Warriors. Howard averaged 16.5 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 1.6 BPG in 81 games played two seasons ago and projects as an efficient double-double candidate with good defensive numbers even in fewer minutes this season.