It was a slow night for NBA basketball, but it was a big night for our country. Regardless of what side of the line you sit, I hope all of you avoid the divisive forces in our country and not grab the low-hanging fruit. There are good arguments on all sides of the line, but the political discussion in this country has been hijacked to the point where people just yell at each other. I don’t have the answers for how to improve all of this, other than to generally reject blasphemy when you see it and demand accountability when you can. Like yesterday. When you voted.
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Lowry Low Point
Kyle Lowry has been dominant in fantasy leagues prior to tonight, and the only thing that could stop fantasy’s No. 1 play so far was for him to inadvertently land on Serge Ibaka’s foot in the first half of last night’s game. Writhing in pain, screaming, and generally acting like Brandon Rush the other night, owners went into a frenzy only to learn a few hours later that he had only a sprain, was already receiving treatment, and left the arena in a walking boot.
I’m not a doctor, but I’ve blown both ankles up a million times and when it’s bad there is no treatment going on. Maybe some of y’all have had different experiences, but when I’ve had a severe sprain the ankle was immobile, iced, and elevated with little to no movement. A walking boot is a better sign than crutches, too, and though I expect him to miss some time – this could have been a lot worse.
Don’t be surprised if the Raptors use this time to showcase Jose Calderon for trade, and though Bryan Colangelo needs to win this season he’s probably smart enough to let Lowry heal properly before throwing him back on the court. If you want my totally speculative guess I’m going to say he returns on Sunday the 18th at home against the Magic. Until he returns, Calderon (eight points, two assists, four steals, 19 minutes) is well worth owning in any format as long as owners know that he may or may not have standalone value when Lowry comes back.
DeMar DeRozan showed his true colors again last night, hitting 2-of-10 shots for eight points and practically nothing else. Jonas Valanciunas went big with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting with six boards, one assist, and a 6-of-6 mark from the foul line. Value-wise he’s just on the outside of 12-team leagues looking in for 8- and 9-cat formats, but owners should know that this will be the worst of things and those shooting percentage are going to buoy his value. I’m still holding him in a 10-team daily league where there’s not a whole lot of patience for a slow ride. And this just in – Landry Fields (three points, 1-of-6 FGs) still isn’t worth your time.
Further into the deep league realm, Alan Anderson hit just 1-of-6 shots for three points, but he has been playing very well and is the type of guy that could mop up minutes while Lowry is out. Look at him if you need a scorer/3-point shooter. In the stash department, Terrence Ross had a good Summer but tailed off during the preseason and eventually disappeared this year. He had 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 14 minutes and hit a pair of threes. It was a building block effort so keep an eye to see if he can string a few of those together.
The Thunder rolled over the Raptors last night and left some pretty pedestrian fantasy numbers in its wake, but if you consider that no starter played more than 29 minutes last night things look a lot better. Serge Ibaka scored 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting with four boards, two assists, one steal, and two blocks in just 23 minutes, Kevin Durant scored 15 points with a tepid stat line, Russell Westbrook had 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting, eight assists, and two threes, and Kevin Martin rounded things out with 15 points and a nicely stocked line.
Owners of Ibaka, Durant, and Westbrook are likely disappointed to date, but this is going to be a fantasy machine all season long. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about Ibaka’s minutes and Westy’s field goal percentage and turnovers, but those issues were already built into my projections this season. Buy them all up as they won’t sit on the rankings sheet where they are right now for very long.
As for Martin’s top-20 ranking, call me crazy, but I think he can stay in that ballpark all season while he’s healthy. The Thunder are going to want Martin to prove his worth to the NBA world this season, even if Scott Brooks ‘cooled’ him on Sunday while he was going nuts. It was a scene reminiscent of last year’s playoffs, when Brooks benched Harden in Game 1 of the Finals after he dismantled the Spurs the series before. If you read somebody that rips on Harden for those Finals, and they don’t mention Brooks playing him 22 minutes in Game 1 because he wanted to play Derek Fisher 25 minutes, they haven’t done their homework and they are the mark.
Remember when Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee owners were breathing into a paper bag? Yeah, me neither. Owners can make a killing in the season’s first week whether it’s by trade, waiver wire acquisition, or by simply not panicking with their mid- and late-round talent (see Waiters, Dion). In the case of Faried and McGee you have two young players that are still earning their minutes in George Karl’s system. They have their weaknesses, and they make up for those weaknesses with jaw-dropping athleticism that will eventually win out.
Faried still isn’t playing a ton of minutes, but he’s producing with the minutes he’s getting now and put up another 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting with eight rebounds and a block over 23 minutes. McGee showed me some good stuff last night, playing with effort and making things happen on plays that he might have previously given up on. On one play, he lunged around a rebounder in an awkward fashion, poked the ball away, retrieved it, and scored in impressive fashion. I noted the hustle play as one that might earn him more minutes going forward. Last night he had 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting in just 18 minutes, with three rebounds and three blocks to boot.
Both guys are already putting up serviceable value in 10- and 12-team formats despite operating on the worst-case side of their spectrums, and owners would be wise to target them in trades and the like while there’s still some ambiguity about where their seasons are heading. And since we’re talking Nuggets assets that should be on the rise, Danilo Gallinari continued his shooting slump last night and is now 10-of-39 on the season. It’s probably linked to his ankle injury, and regardless that’s not going to continue and owners might be able to obtain him for 90 cents on the dollar. Nobody seems to be panicking about Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala, but they are also struggling in relation to their ADP. They’re fine, too. Their numbers will come around.
Knight and Day
Brandon Knight played like a rookie last night, hitting 1-of-6 shots for two points with plenty of ‘why did he do that’ moments. He still managed four rebounds, nine assists, one steal, and one block, which is the mark of an improving fantasy player – getting numbers when things aren’t going well. I’m not exactly bullish on Knight because he struggles in defensive and shooting categories, but there’s a silver lining to last night’s result.
The fantasy story of the night coming out of the Pistons’ loss was the resurgence of Rodney Stuckey, who has been dealing with an apparent inner-ear issue and finally got back on the board last night. He hit only 5-of-17 shots and is a work in progress in that department, but the 17 points, four rebounds, four assists, two threes, and a block are a very good look. He really shouldn’t have been dropped in most cases, but if he was go run and pick him up. He has early mid-round upside and shouldn’t fall beneath a late-round value this year.
Greg Monroe finally had that breakout game everybody was waiting for, scoring 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting with 10 boards, two assists, a steal, three blocks, and a perfect mark on seven attempts from the line. The only surprise here was that it didn’t happen sooner.
Bullish on Orlando
The Bulls beat the Magic at home on Tuesday, and let’s get the boring Bulls chat out of the way first. Rip Hamilton (seven points, not much else) continues to be a mediocre low-end play with injury risk. Kirk Hinrich continues to alternate between Atlanta Hinrich and Old Chicago Hinrich and last night was the latter, as he put up eight points with five rebounds, five assists, two steals, and two threes. With Nate Robinson (11 points, six assists) around to provide punch, I suspect this is how Hinrich’s year will go. Both are worth owning in 12-team leagues, and personally I like Lil’ Him because of Hinrich’s injury risk.
Joakim Noah blocked what seemed to be 100 Big Baby shots last night, but in the end it was merely five blocks to go with 20 points, nine boards, and four assists. It’s something to think about when your big men are playing against Orlando – Baby might break the league record this year for blocks against. Luol Deng had a big night with 23 points, eight boards, and four assists, and Carlos Boozer hit just 6-of-18 shots to go for 12 and eight with a few minor goodies. The bottom line here is that beyond the main characters, this team is extremely shallow and while most of these guys carry some injury risk – they should ball out when healthy.
Where I find plenty more intrigue is on the Orlando side of the ball, mainly because people are acting like J.J. Redick all of a sudden improved this year. He has been playing this way for two years now, but it took a Dwight Howard trade and housecleaning to open up the opportunity. I am a proud owner almost everywhere, and yes I think he can keep up top-half of the draft value in standard formats.
Don’t be surprised if the Magic actually show signs of life and, gulp, perhaps improve over prior year’s campaigns. They have some nice pieces and more than anything they move the ball, with no Dwight Howard around to demand offensive touches he really shouldn’t be getting.
On the top of the card, there might be a slight battle between Arron Afflalo (28 points, five rebounds, five assists, three treys, one steal, one block) and Glen Davis (16 points, 7-of-22 FGs, 10 rebounds) to see who will be the team’s No. 1 player. Normally this type of egoism might be disastrous, but in Orlando where neither guy will be able to outdo the other this could end up pushing them both harder.
E’Twaun Moore filled in for Jameer Nelson, who entered the year as an injury risk and is already out with three different ailments. Moore continued to look good with 17 points, three treys, five boards, and two assists. The Magic aren’t shy to let him call his own number, and those looking for a short-term play might luck into something better if Nelson stammers through the year.
Nikola Vucevic teased me throughout last year, but he never really panned out and didn’t do anything tremendously special this preseason until it was announced that he was the starter. Well don’t look now but he’s sporting mid-round value in this early season after last night’s 16-point, 10-rebound effort that included a steal and two blocks. John Denton of NBA.com wrote that the Magic changed their rotation to match up with the Bulls’ bigs, and I tend to think that Vucevic will need to stay red hot to keep anything above 30 minutes. Gustavo Ayon, Al Harrington, and eventually Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu are all going to see more minutes than they’re getting right now, which is 11 if you count Ayon’s two-assist, one-block effort last night.
Overall, though, this is going to be a fun team to watch, they have the look of a fantasy juggernaut, and they might just make the playoffs to spite Howard’s disciples.
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