With Week 1 in the books and Week 2 already on its way, this is that prime week of the season for trading that I was talking about last week. Point being – we are probably about one week from knowing what many of the shadowy fantasy plays will ultimately look like. Yes, there will be plenty of surprises after next week, but once there is two-plus weeks of film and results on guys there will have been enough exposures for owners to know what they have.
In terms of rankings and current production, it’s certainly not time to be calling guys booms or busts, so you won’t see me crowing about LaMarcus Aldridge’s No. 41 rank, Al Jefferson’s DNPs, or worrying about Kawhi Leonard’s No. 90 rank or Gordon Hayward’s No. 82 rank. Or Serge Ibaka’s No. 213 rank.
Many teams treat this first week as an unofficial preseason and even the ones that aren’t doing that can look like they’re stuck in the preseason. It’s very easy to get caught up in this, so as I mentioned do your best to look deep into the numbers and try to understand how or why things are going down.
Aldridge is moving away from the hoop which I believe hurts his overall value, but he could get called back down there given the center issues in Portland.
Jefferson’s ankle was never going to heal quickly but it looks like he’s nearing a return. Will he miss his window to assert his dominance over his teammates or will he walk right through it, and even if he does command the cachet needed to hoist up 15-18 shots per game, is he going to have the same ability to produce the way he did in past campaigns?
Is Kawhi going to fade to the fringes of the Spurs’ system with the old Big Three doing their things and randoms like Boris Diaw stepping up? Or is he just a slow starter?
Hayward’s numbers are full of outliers, so you know what’s going on there.
Ibaka was tasked with creating his own shot, and along with a steady dose of trying to do too much, when Kevin Durant didn’t start smoothly it set the stage for some really bad offense by the Thunder as a whole. Will Ibaka benefit from having Westbrook back? Of course, and now he can let his offensive game blossom without having to force it.
I cherry picked these guys to talk about since they seemed to generate the most chatter around here, but really you can do the same exercise for every guy in the top-150. And if you’re good at that exercise, you just might swing a deal now that you could never conceive of having swung later.
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ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION
Chris Bosh missed last night’s game in his old Toronto stomping grounds due to the birth of his child and that set the stage for LeBron James (35 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, one block) to remind everybody of his presence, and Dwyane Wade also picked up slack with 20 points, six boards, five assists and two steals.
People have been sleeping on Mario Chalmers (five points, one three, four rebounds, seven assists, two steals) this season, as he has been extremely consistent year-over-year and projects to be a guy that picks up slack for the Big Three as they rest up for another chip.
Shane Battier (eight points, two threes, one steal, one block) and Ray Allen (14 points, three treys) picked up some slack as predicted, and Michael Beasley saw the first four minutes of his season and made the most of them with six points on two 3-point buckets. Assuming he doesn’t go and totally screw things up, the Heat are going to throw him into the fire to see what he has eventually, though there's no telling when that will be. They need to develop another impact scorer between now and the Finals in the worst way, just in case something happens to Wade or Bosh.
A HORSE IS A HORSE
It’s pretty damning that the Raptors need a front line of Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier to entice them to go to Jonas Valanciunas in the post, but that they did as the big man totaled 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting with nine rebounds and a block in 27 minutes. About half of the Raptors’ upcoming games in the next two weeks feature larger backcourts, so hopefully that will lead Dwane Casey to some water and also make him drink.
Of course, that would normally be an easy call with Rudy Gay turning in yet another inefficient night with just 3-of-10 makes on his way to 13 points, 10 rebounds, a steal and a three, but the Raps just love watching him chuck away. DeMar DeRozan hit 8-of-15 shots for 21 points, but reverted back to past form with just three assists and a steal to his credit and three misses from beyond the arc. Owners may want to keep the champagne on ice just a little bit longer.
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LET’S GET DEFENSIVE ABOUT IT
Derrick Favors struggled last night against the Nets with just six points, five boards and one steal but he isn’t on the top of anybody’s busts lists while averaging 11.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game to go with a steal and block. Still, his 44.7 percent mark from the field and 68.4 percent mark from the line and lower-than-projected defensive numbers have him buried with late-round value so far. Look for him to clean up the field goal shooting a bit and get those defensive numbers up, and from there the scoring and rebounding will improve, as well. Buy low.
Enes Kanter (21 points, eight rebounds, seven turnovers) is having the same problems with defense (0.0 steals, 0.5 blocks per game) but he’s already paying dividends scoring and on the glass with 17.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest. He has also started out the season shooting 91.7 percent from the line on 12 attempts, which won’t continue but stronger than normal foul shooting was one of the reasons I took him up to No. 46/80 (8/9 cat) in the Bruski 150. He’ll get the defense straightened out to lift him out of his current No. 60/93 rank.
Gordon Hayward scored 22 points with five rebounds, four assists and one three, but owners will be surprised at his No. 80/103 rank which is depressed by 40.3 percent field goal shooting and 66.7 percent foul shooting. He’ll get that turned around and if your opponent is tuned into the fact that his rank is low this might be a buy low moment, but good luck with that.
John Lucas was semi-serviceable with nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, seven rebounds, three assists, one steal and one three in 34 minutes supplemented by garbage time. If you started him in his four-game week this is probably paying the bills, for what it’s worth. Alec Burks scored 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting (no threes, 5-of-9 FTs) with five rebounds, four assists and three treys. He’s faltering in one area or another on most nights but he has shown the ability to post versatile lines, but whether he can put it all together and also survive Trey Burke’s return to exceed late-round value is certainly in question.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
The Nets put their feet on the throats of the Jazz early last night and never turned back, which led to abbreviated nights for just about everybody. Joe Johnson rebounded from a terrible outing with 12 points, two threes and two steals – which also qualifies as a good night for him. Deron Williams got a much-needed breather as he played just 24 minutes en route to 10 points and eight assists, and Brook Lopez went off with 27 points, seven rebounds, two steals and one block in just 25 minutes. Lopez is a first round value so far this season and while I like him as a fantasy play I would be trying to deal his somewhat overstated injury risk, especially if I have big men in reserve.
Kevin Garnett played just 14 minutes and that is bound to happen anytime the score and situation merit. Andrei Kirilenko had no need to play more than the 17 minutes he saw, scoring six points with five rebounds and no other stats. He’s coming around slower than most owners should have the patience for, which is a downgrade from the now-or-never flier recommendation I had been giving him last week. He still has the chance at elevating his game, it’s just that the slowness of his recovery sort of downgrades the chances he can do that.
The Pacers are the NBA’s only unbeaten team after winning in Detroit last night, and if only I trusted offshore books I’d have bet heavy on them, the Nets and the Clippers off the top of my head with their 10-to-1 type championship odds.
The Pacers, in particular, have to be considered the top threats to the Heat considering they’re improving after pushing Miami to the brink – and the Heat on the other hand are getting older and that’s it. And in terms of championship squads, the Heat don’t really stack up to other winners considering they beat a Scott Brooks-coached Thunder squad with major flaws and a Spurs team cashing social security checks.
Balanced and tough, the Pacers also fit well with fantasy owners given their consistency and defined roles. C.J. Watson filled in for George Hill and his annual early season hip issues, scoring 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting (including a three) with one rebound, five assists and one block. I’ll admit he has some slight intrigue in case the Pacers aren’t being forthcoming about Hill’s hip, but while I’m at it I might as well visit Area 51 and upload my secret JFK footage to YouTube.
Roy Hibbert (eight points, 10 rebounds, seven blocks, 34 minutes) is showing signs of breakout like many predicted, and I’m sort of kicking myself for not having him higher than the No. 32/36 rank (8/9 cat) that I had him at. Part of the beauty of the season that he’s about to have is that it’s going to be predicated very much by referee respect, as foul trouble has been a big concern for him but his reputation as a guy that goes straight up grew exponentially during the playoffs. In the end, these are the money guys that prognosticators get paid to take chances on. Will he jump up considerably from the 28-29 mpg he has averaged the past two years? He’s at 28 mpg in this short season so the jury is still out, but I think he can clear 31 mpg at the very least and with that comes all-but guaranteed early round value.
Lance Stephenson (10 points, six boards, seven assists, one steal, two threes, 39 minutes) and Paul George (31 points, 10 boards, four assists, four steals, four threes, 12-of-18 FGs) are making Danny Granger expendable, and while Stephenson won’t play 39 minutes when Granger and Hill are back he’s still going to hold his role and I don’t expect Granger to hurt him much, if at all. The combination of Hill and Granger will bring him back to earth a bit, though.
As for George the thing that kept me from being more bullish was the likelihood his high volume field goal percentage held him back, and right now at 52.9 percent on the year he’s nearly 10 percentage points ahead of last season. He’s also hitting 45 percent from deep and stealing the ball 0.5 times more per game than last season. Obviously these numbers can’t hold and he’s going to be passed over in the rankings by LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and probably Kevin Love at a minimum. Anthony Davis is already ahead of him and he still has room to grow, while James Harden should trend toward last season’s numbers if you can block out his early lackadaisical play, his teammates’ growth and his laundry list of nagging ailments.
If you have the chutzpah, anybody not named LeBron or Durant is probably acquirable in an early season blockbuster for George owners. And no, I wouldn’t blame you if you held tight as there is some degree of superstar ascension that overrides typical mathematical explanation here.
Brandon Jennings moved back into the starting lineup for the Pistons last night but aside from having their hands full with the Pacers there wasn’t much to note on their box. Jennings put up a familiar line of 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting with three rebounds, six assists, two steals and a three, which is understandable given the rust but also a reminder of prior sloppy nights.
Chauncey Billups stayed in the starting lineup at shooting guard but scored just four points on 2-of-5 shooting with three rebounds and one assist in 24 minutes. It’s going to be hard for Mo Cheeks to justify giving him that much run when lines like this start piling up, and that will cue larger roles for Rodney Stuckey (nine points, 16 minutes) and eventually Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (four minutes, five points). Will Bynum (five points, three assists, 16 minutes) will always be the guy that the Pistons call upon in a pinch, but beyond that it will be hard to predict when he’ll be usable.
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