It sounds strange to say it, but as we speak there is reasonably good professional basketball being played in Charlotte. Through their first seven games this year, the 4-3 Bobcats are already more than halfway to their total number of wins (seven) from last year.
Competitively speaking, the whole house of cards could be just one strong breeze from collapsing, but regardless of wins and losses, this much seems certain: Kemba Walker should continue onward with what has so far been a standout year.
Through his first seven games, Walker has been aggressively stomping the notion of a sophomore slump, averaging 19.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.1 apg and 2.9 spg, including 14 steals in his last three games (highlighted by a 26-point, six-rebound, seven-assist, eight-steal game last week -- known in the business as a 26-6-7-8). And though his current pace in scoring and steals may not quite be sustainable, I do think that this breakout we're seeing is legit.
Why? Because even during his sometimes erratic rookie year, Walker had the assets (quickness, explosiveness, a mean mid-range game) of a potential star. The only thing really missing (and still missing) was a reliable outside shot. But with his ability to attack off the dribble, Walker doesn't need to be an absolute deadeye to be effective. Going forward, I'm confident that he can continue averaging 17-plus ppg, 5-plus apg and somewhere around 1.7 or 1.8 spg, with room to improve on his current 0.4 threes (he averaged 1.0 per game as a rookie last year).
In sum, if you were able to draft him in a later round, you have every reason to continue grinning obnoxiously.
In other Bobcats news, MKG has made a surprisingly smooth transition to the NBA. The question on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist coming into the season was whether or not he could score enough to be a viable fantasy option as a rookie. So far, the answer to that question has been a very solid yes. MKG's jumper may still look like it's in high school, but the rest of his game looks quite NBA ready. Even after a smelly dud on Tuesday (two points in 17 minutes), he's averaging 11.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.1 spg and 1.7 bpg, providing excellent late round value, and forecasting monster potential in the seasons to come.
Speaking of promising young players, say hello to Harrison Barnes. Barnes broke out with his best game as a pro on Wednesday night, working the Hawks with a combo of post play and outside shooting to the tune of 19 points, 13 rebounds and a three in 40 minutes. We have to expect inconsistency, and I wouldn't expect anything exciting in terms of defensive stats (0.5 spg, 0.1 bpg so far), but Barnes has the look of a player who needs to be owned in most leagues.
Meanwhile, it's time to change the scouting report on Omer Asik. Entering this year, the general consensus on Asik was that he could rebound and block shots, but couldn't score. We should amend that to say that he hadn't been given the chance to prove he could score. Since going scoreless in a Ben Wallace-esque 19-rebound game on Nov. 2, the Rockets center has averaged 12.0 ppg in his last six, raising his season averages to 10.5 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 0.8 spg and 1.3 bpg. He may not quite maintain the pace in rebounding, but I think averaging a double-double is within Asik's reach.
At the risk of beating the obvious drum, I would like to recommend a buy low on Steve Nash. Much like Starsky and Hutch or Harold and Kumar, Nash plus D'Antoni just makes sense. And once Nash returns from his leg injury, the Lakers offense should start making some glorious music, with conductor Steve wearing the maestro jacket. It obviously won't be as easy to get Nash now as it would have been before the D'Antoni hiring, but it's worth checking in on the patience of the Nash owner in your league.
Also from the buy low files, consider the injured but improving Kyle Lowry, who has recently become somewhat prone to breaking down, but is an absolute monster fantasy point guard when healthy.
Meanwhile, Jamal Crawford is a player I would look to sell high. To be clear, I don't doubt his ability to continue scoring (20.5 ppg) and hitting threes (2.4) at a high level, but the Nick Young-esque averages in rebounds (1.9) and assists (1.1) are becoming a major hindrance to his value.
One other productive player I'd look to shop: Darren Collison, who's posting career-highs in in scoring (14.3), assists (6.7) and steals (1.2), but isn't hitting many threes (0.4) and doesn't have me convinced that he can quite maintain this production. And if he drops off to, let's say, 12 or so ppg and 6 or so apg without many threes, he becomes a mediocre fantasy option in a hurry.
Things to Do This Weekend!
1) Old Cell Phone Throw: Gather friends and old cell phones in open field; see who can throw cell phone the farthest.
2) Old Remote Throw: Same thing as Old Cell Phone Throw, but with outdated TV remotes instead.
3) Ice arm.