Lakers at Warriors in Shanghai
With Kobe Bryant out, the Lakers have relied heavily on Pau Gasol and from the looks of things, he doesn’t look to be pau – that’s a Hawaiian word for finished. Learning! Anyway, he’s looked like his old self back at the power forward spot and he’s been coming off the board in the third round, which seems like a fair price. Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman have been competing with Jordan Hill to start next to Gasol. Hill has looked horrific, with only 3.2 points per game in his five outings. Meanwhile, Kaman has two double-doubles, had a 7-of-7 shooting game on Tuesday and has been protecting the basket well for the Lakers. If you miss the boat on a big, Kaman makes sense late.
Nick Young looks like he’ll be the second wing option for the Lakers once the Black Mamba comes back. He’s scored 12.6 points per game in just 24.6 minutes per game. The problem is that there’s not much else to accompany that scoring number. Swaggy P averaged just 2.2 boards, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.4 triples on 42.4 percent shooting, which is on par with his career numbers. If Mamba is around, Young won’t be able to muster up enough value for his lack of diversity on the stat sheet. Lastly, Steve Nash looks really old. No thanks.
A team that hasn’t been boring is the Warriors. They look like a fantasy factory this season with a litany of talented players. We all know what Stephen Curry can do and he’s been going off the board in the top five. David Lee is another guy that seems to be locked in with his role in the paint.
Besides that, the Warriors haven’t quite figured it out and that’s OK. Andre Iguodala was outstanding with 14 dimes and five steals in Friday morning’s contest. If you’ve been watching the NBATV Season Previews, you may have saw Iggy gush over the idea of having Curry and Klay Thompson. He’s one of the best at getting into the paint and hitting open shooters, which is something he hasn’t seen much of in his career.
Quick aside: 2013-14 is the best year I’ve ever seen to punt free throws. Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond, Iguodala, DeAndre Jordan, Thaddeus Young and Derrick Favors could all wind up on one fantasy team. That would be such a monster team.
OK, we’re back. Klay Thompson has looked terrific. He’s curling to the basket on screens a lot and he’s been able to get to the rim a lot easier. He shouldn’t have a problem matching his fifth-round value from last season. The big X-factor here is Harrison Barnes. For most of the offseason, the team has discussed playing him as a stretch four and that looks a little more likely now that Andrew Bogut suffered a back tweak on Monday. If he can get even just 10 minutes as a stretch four, it should make him a very valuable piece in fantasy leagues. Bogut is going to give owners migraines this year.
Grizzlies at Orlando
Mike Miller led the team with 19 points and it raises an interesting idea. The Grizzlies have discussed wanting to push the ball on offense more, but their lack of perimeter scoring could hinder their ability to do so. Memphis was dead last in 3-point attempts last year and the Knicks and Rockets actually each doubled up their total. Miller has a shot to lead the team in threes, but considering his chronic back issues, it’ll be hard to target him.
The Grizzlies are what they are otherwise. Mike Conley was one of the best point guards after the break last year and it’s strange how late he’s going in drafts. Marc Gasol has a five-star safety rating at the end of the first round and Zach Randolph is nice way to get cheap double-double stats. Ed Davis has looked good and would emerge as a pickup should Z-Bo or Gasol miss time.
The Magic may have come up with the worst record last year, but they have a handful of fantasy prospects this year. The most exciting of the bunch is Victor Oladipo and he displayed why on Friday. Mt. Oladipo erupted for 22 points, four boards, three assists, one steal and two 3-pointers on 6-of-12 shooting while making all eight free throws. Even though he doesn’t quite have his mid-range game NBA-ready yet, the rookie has been blowing by anyone trying to guard him, so his shots at the rim will offset what could be a jump-shooting percentage possible below 35 percent. If your league has people that watch preseason ball, you might want to pounce in the middle rounds. Go hard or go to Home Depot… Or something.
Nikola Vucevic is pretty safe to take in the late-early rounds. It seems without a shadow of a doubt Vucevic should have similar numbers to last year. He turned in third-round value last season and he seems to have a better understanding of how to defend on the ball, so the blocks could even go up. With Glen Davis still out, Tobias Harris should get his third-year campaign off to a rapid start. He has been sitting out with a mild ankle sprain, however, he should be ready to kick off the season healthy. The Magic are being cautious because they’re going to be in big trouble should he go down, too. Andrew Nicholson has been shooting threes since summer league, and he’s actually 5-of-11 from downtown in camp. He’d need both Harris and Big Baby to miss time in order to accumulate value in most leagues.
As for the rest of the wings and backcourt, Moe Harkless is having a nice October, scoring in double figures in all five games while averaging 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks. From the looks of things, he hasn’t fixed his jumper, but he’s taking a lot of shots at the rim just like he did last year. He’s a bit of a mini J-Smoove, so make sure you prepare for your percentage to take a hit with him on your team. Arron Afflalo is going to have to deal with trade rumors for most of the season and his preseason stats haven’t really done enough to negate the uncertainty of his role. He’s scored just 10.3 points per game with 0.0 steals and 0.8 triples while going to the line just 1.8 times per game. It’s probably a better idea to shoot for a guy with higher upside. Lastly, Jameer Nelson is another boring guy to take and his value is trending downward. He shot 1-of-7 from the field on Friday and was dead last in field goal percentage among qualifiers last season. With Oladipo likely handling the ball quite a bit, it makes more sense to shoot for someone with higher upside like Reggie Jackson, Brandon Knight or Michael Carter-Williams.
Pacers at Bulls
After watching this entire game, a few things look to be clear: Paul George is going to run the offense. It seemed like almost every play was drawn up for him or was a play in which he set someone else up. I might be in the minority here, but I think this season could be even better than last year.
Secondly, Roy Hibbert’s offensive game has looked much improved. He ran plenty of PNRs with George and was setting up on ball-side quite a bit. He put in a lot of work this offseason and it looks like it’s going to pay dividends.
David West hasn’t been as involved and the acquisition of Luis Scola won’t help his outlook either. He was a ghost in the first half with just two points, then turned it on in the second half with 15 points, which probably had something to do with Danny Granger going down with a calf injury.
Speaking of Granger, he aggravated his left calf injury in the third quarter and did not return. He looked great before the injury though, scoring 11 points with three 3-pointers on 4-of-7 from the floor. Batman has been going off the board way too early and it seems a host of people think he’s going to come back strong.
George Hill didn’t do much on offense and he’s likely going to have to produce differently. The good news is that he’s a solid 3-point shooter, so he can supplement his lower points and assist totals with treys, boards and steals. He had eight points, seven boards, one assist and one 3-pointer on 2-of-6 shooting on Friday.
Friday’s MVP was obviously Derrick Rose. Nightly preseason MVPs are a big deal, you know? Rose looked as fast as a comic-book character and was running circles around everyone. He was stoppin’ and poppin’ from beyond the arc, knocking down four, while continuing his assault on the restricted area. For about a year and half we’ve been wondering what he’s going look like on the court and he’s likely exceeded even the loftiest expectations. D-Rose is a top-end first round pick under normal circumstances, so he should be bumped down about 10 spots with the risk factored into his valuation. Basically, he’s this year’s version of Stephen Curry.
The other big story from Friday was that Joakim Noah will be shut down for at least a week. He’s in jeopardy of missing time in the regular season with an aggravation to his groin injury. Noah is an extremely risk pick and there are a slew of players that are much safer while offering similar upside. I wouldn’t start thinking about grabbing him until around pick 40. You can bump Taj Gibson up your draft board and maybe Nazr Mohammed in extremely deep leagues. To round out the forwards, Carlos Boozer just doesn’t fill up the stat sheet like he used to.
Jimmy Butler also sat out with knee soreness. It’s not really a concern since he warmed up for the game and wasn’t ruled out until moments before tip. He’s been a thief for much of the preseason and his 3-point shot looks improved compared to last year. It also helps that Mike Dunleavy has cooled off after a nice start to his preseason. Butler is a nice player to target, especially for owners needing some steals. Kirk Hinrich also suffered a concussion and could miss time.
Blazers at Clippers
Nicolas Batum looked good in his return with 14 points, five boards, one steal and two 3-pointers in 27 minutes. He’s locked in as a second-round pick in standard leagues and hopefully a freak injury doesn’t derail his season like last year. Terry Stotts used a lineup at one point that had Dorell Wright and Batum on the wings, which was interesting. That probably had something to do with Wesley Matthews (thigh contusion) sitting out. Wes should be fine, by the way, and is expected to play on Sunday. He’s going fairly cheap in drafts, too. Wright doesn’t look like an attractive pick in deep leagues after his tough 2012-13 season.
LaMarcus Aldridge was out with a knee issue on Friday. The good news is that he’s not expected to miss time, but he’s becoming a bigger gamble and is moving out of the second round in standard leagues. In his stead, Thomas Robinson made it look like Las Vegas Summer League II with 13 boards, seven points and one block. He’ll be a hot pickup should LMA have to miss time. At center, Robin Lopez has locked up his gig and pulled down 10 boards in 19 minutes on Friday. He has three double-digit rebounding games in limited minutes and evidentially he has a good grasp on Stotts’ system already. His backup, Meyers Leonard had a long overdue positive outing, shooting 4-of-4 for eight points with one board.
Reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard had his usual swagger with 16 points, four boards, two assists, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers in just 23 minutes. There’s no reason to think he can’t come close to matching his season. To be clear, it’ll be tough to match since it’s not often a guy plays 82 games at 38.6 minutes per night. It’s science. Mo Williams will back him up and hasn’t looked too bad this preseason. He’s still not worth targeting with all of his injuries.
Jordan brand might want to change their logo to DeAndre Jordan’s dunk face with the way DJ is ballin’ this month. Kidding aside, he has a ridiculous 19 blocks in four games and his timing is superb. It’s also no small feat to rack up those blocks with only 10 fouls, too. He has a shot to contend for the block crown, but it’ll be tough to target him with his horrible free throw shooting. He was 0-of-6 last night.
Blake Griffin returned from his sore ankle and he’s fine. The Poster Child is one of the most durable big man in the NBA. As for the other Mr. Reliable, CP3 had a down game, converting 2-of-11 attempts from the field for seven points with three assists. You should totally panic. Jamal Crawford got the start with Willie Green out and he’ll move the bench again. He’s expected to compete for Sixth Man of the Year, as per usual. Jared Dudley still hasn’t clicked yet and he saw just six shots on Friday. Duds has averaged only five shots per game in 27.6 minutes per game. This is all without Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick, too. I’d rank them Redick, Barnes, then Dudley.
Finally, Darren Collison went off with 31 points, including 15-of-16 from the line. He’s only a handcuff for Chris Paul since Redick and Co. are out, but it’s nice to see the Clippers are being rewarded on their cheap contract.
Thanks for reading! I think I went through about eight albums to write this.