Beside a few monster lines, it was a relatively quiet night in the association with just six games. And while we’re probably due for a few early season surprises still, this campaign is beginning to take shape and hopefully owners have been able to jump on some of the early trends before their competition did.
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Swish is Sweet
J.R. Smith is the No. 4 overall producer in 9-cat leagues right now and No. 9 producer in 8-cat leagues, as he continues to thrive in the role of Melo’s sidekick in New York. He scored 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting (including two threes) with four rebounds, three assists, and two steals. I don’t think the 42.8 percent career shooter can continue to shoot 49.3 percent, but it’s worth noting that this is the first time he has truly been unleashed. That type of comfort is hard to put a finger on, and regardless I don’t see the Knicks messing with his role unless he goes off his rocker, which is always possible. If you want to try to unload him at a peak, it makes business sense, but I’m not too concerned about a major decline even if Amare Stoudemire tries to return and muck things up.
Ronnie Brewer came into last night’s game averaging 10.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and an out-of-character 1.8 triples per game, and left with a three-point, three-rebound line in 17 minutes. It speaks to his overall role and tenuous value, so owners need to tread with caution here.
Jameer Nelson (groin) did not play and that gave another start to E’Twaun Moore, who put up 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting (including two threes) with three rebounds, eight assists, and one block. I’m not going to dismiss his chance at low-end value when Nelson returns, but it’s more likely that he falls into the 14-18 team range. J.J. Redick reminded folks of why I’m high on him this season, scoring 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting with four rebounds, seven assists, a steal, and a three. He’s putting up seventh round value and will probably stay on rosters all season long in most formats.
Moe Harkless finally put some of my optimistic words to good use with 10 points, seven boards, and four blocks in 19 minutes. He’s the guy the Magic want to step into the void at small forward, and it’s worth noting that the team really struggled as a whole in the two games that Harkless disappeared. He’s a speculation add in deeper formats until he can string together two good outings. Nikola Vucevic double-doubled with 12 points, 10 boards, two assists, and two blocks in 36 minutes, and while he could be shaky going forward I think he has shown enough to be owned in most formats.
So Many Weapons
Gerald Wallace and MarShon Brooks were both out due to their ankle injuries, and Joe Johnson finally took advantage of a reduced log-jam en route to 25 points, five boards, six assists, three treys, a steal, and a block. The effort moved him up to late-mid round value on the year, which should tell you all you need to know about his season. I’ve expressed my concerns about his value in various spaces on the site, but as long as he is hitting threes he won’t totally fall off. But his days as a dynamic across the board producer seem through with so many weapons around him and nobody longing for the days of iso-Joe.
The Nets generally beat up on a shallow and inexperienced Cavs squad, as Brook Lopez scored 23 points with seven boards, a steal, and four blocks, and Deron Williams went for 26 and 10. Kris Humphries returned to the form that had me ranking him so lowly to begin the year, scoring 12 points with six boards and a block in just 27 minutes. My guess is that we’ll see bursts of numbers here and there but a lot of inconsistency, especially if Andray Blatche (13 points, five boards, 19 minutes) continues to play with energy this year.
Don’t Make Me Ask Twice
Kyle Lowry (ankle) went to get the dreaded second opinion, which is curious after all of the talk about not needing a boot and the like. I gave a totally speculative guess for his return date the day after his injury (I said he’d return on Sunday), but I won’t even venture a guess after this news. Jose Calderon, in the meantime, has been a beast as he capped a solid night on Monday with a triple-double on Tuesday. He put up 13 points, 10 boards, 10 assists, and two threes, and is an obvious must-own player in all formats.
Jonas Valanciunas only committed two fouls and stayed on the court for 22 minutes, scoring nine points with eight boards, two assists, and two steals, so he’s heading back in the right direction. He’s still a stash only right now. Amir Johnson slowed up with seven points on 2-of-9 shooting with seven boards and no steals or blocks, but it’s hard to fault anybody for playing badly on the tail-end of a back-to-back following a triple-overtime game. Linas Kleiza matched the same shooting line with 10 points and four boards in 25 minutes, and he’ll be worth a look in deeper daily leagues for however long the backcourt is banged up.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
The blog Indy Cornrows put it best when they wrote that the Pacers looked like an NFL team with a strong defense and no offense, with the difference being that in the NBA that sort of thing doesn’t pan out quite as well. Throw in a struggling, injured opponent in the Raptors that was coming into Indy off a triple-overtime game the night before, and Pacers fans have to be beside themselves. George Hill took 20 shots and hit eight of them for 18 points but just two assists, which looked good next to Paul George’s 3-of-14 shooting line and David West’s 3-of-12 mark. All three made across-the-board contributions to save their fantasy nights, but the fact that they can’t get into any sort of offensive flow is killing the team.
Roy Hibbert stood out for his poor play, hitting 3-of-9 shots while missing easy look after easy look, but like the rest of the team he stands to break out of his funk once they eventually figure out life after Granger. Gerald Green (2-of-7 FGs, six points, five boards, one three, 28 minutes) fits that profile as he simply won’t hit just 36 percent of his shots all year, but the serious questions surrounding not just him but the whole team make him a drop candidate for those souls that have held on this long. I have him in a few weekly leagues and when the FAAB runs come up this weekend I’ll need to see a pretty bare wire to stay the course, barring a change. Lance Stephenson scored seven points with three rebounds, three assists, and one trey in 27 minutes, and over the last week he has been putting up very low-end 12-team value. He continues to show flashes of upside mixed with inconsistency, but these minutes in a starting role are very interesting.
Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao had huge nights but it wasn’t enough to deliver a win. Regardless, it’s clear that Varejao is going to benefit from the playmaking backcourt in Cleveland. He scored a career-high 35 points on 16-of-21 shooting with 18 rebounds and two steals, and is playing at a top-15 level when he’s in the lineup. That pace is going to be practically impossible for him to keep up, but owners shouldn’t summarily dismiss early round value out of Varejao. Irving, for his part, also secured a career-high with 34 points and a full stat line. He is already meeting the demands of his lofty ADP.
Dion Waiters hit just 3-of-16 shots, but he’s locked into a starting role and the good will eventually outweigh the bad. Technically, with late round value in 12-team leagues it already is. Alonzo Gee (four points, one rebound, two assists) also fits that description, albeit with less upside than the No. 4 overall pick. Tristan Thompson (14 points, five boards, no blocks) could explode one day, but he sure doesn’t play like it. I could see Tyler Zeller outperforming him in fantasy leagues even if the former plays more minutes.
The Wizards’ Requisite Stinker
I have gotten a lot of Kevin Seraphin questions and for good reason, as he has completely disappeared after being a consistent play dating back to the second half of last season. Unless there is an injury that isn’t being reported, it looks like Randy Wittman is simply going with Emeka Okafor and Trevor Booker right now. Booker left last night’s borderline blowout loss with a sprained ankle but returned to finish with eight points, eight boards, three assists, one steal, and two blocks in 27 minutes – a decent performance – and Okafor had eight points, nine boards, three blocks, and hit all six of his free throws in 27 minutes, as well. Seraphin scored five points with one rebound and two blocks in 15 minutes, and if there is a silver lining here it’s that the Wizards got blown out and as beat writer Craig Stouffer put it on Twitter, “the Wizards have their requisite stinker. Wittman can turn (the) page, change lineups.” This smells like a coach giving his veterans the benefit of the doubt early in the year, so I’m personally not dropping Seraphin just yet.
As for A.J. Price (2-of-12 FGs, six points, six assists), Bradley Beal (1-of-11 FGs, eight points), and Jordan Crawford (3-of-10 FGs, seven points, nine boards), it’s easy to move the needle backward given the various flaws in their stat lines. But when an entire team struggles this bad, I tend to be a bit more lenient as long as I believe the situation isn’t heading toward disaster. In the case of Price, he’s going to have low-end short-term value until John Wall returns, and Beal and Crawford are going to fight for value for much of the year. I like Beal in 12-team leagues as a stash, but he still has the look of an inconsistent rookie. Trevor Ariza (19 points, 7-of-18 FGs, full line) was the only bright spot last night, and with a few good games he has wandered into inconsistent, late mid-round value. He’s worth owning but is not a must-start player by any means.
Don’t Write Me Off
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (15 points, eight boards, one block) took a lot of flak early on for having no offensive game, but his non-scoring contributions were enough to keep him on 12-team rosters in my book. Well don’t look now but he’s an early round producer in the early going here and needs to be owned in all formats. I’m getting Byron Mullens (nine points, six boards, four dimes, two steals, two blocks) drop questions still and I don’t know why. He’s a mid-round producer and he still hasn’t reached his ceiling, even if he also has the chance of struggling due to an overall lack of talent. He appears to be getting tougher by the game, too, which bodes well for his chances of staying on the court. Ramon Sessions scored 21 points with five boards last night with Gerald Henderson (ankle) and Ben Gordon (personal) out, and is worth owning in all formats until he slows down.