NY @ ATL: J.R. Smith may start tonight, which is funny because he is getting rewarded for his crappy performance the other night with a promotion, and that flies in the face of everything Mike Woodson has been preaching about the so-called competition at shooting guard between he and Iman Shumpert.
Their values won’t hinge so much on whether they start or not, and instead on what they do in their relatively stable allotment of minutes going forward. Both guys are going to get significant run on a team forced to play small.
Andrea Bargnani will be under a microscope after predictably crashing to earth with just one rebound on Sunday. Already poised to play fast, if brittle Bargnani goes down the Knicks may start looking like the Sixers in a more ways than one.
Lou Williams (knee) went through some contact drills and he’ll soon be cleared for five-on-five, but he’s probably about a month away from any normal level of strength and conditioning. Depending on your format, you’ll want to take a stab at his potential mid-to-late round value sometime in the next few weeks. The Hawks are insanely shallow in the backcourt after Jeff Teague.
Tonight shapes up to be a good game for pace and production on both sides.
CLE @ MIN: Andrew Bynum will miss the Cavs’ next two games to attend to a family matter, and it might as well go down as prescribed rest in the grand scheme of things. If you are in a format that gives you flexibility with daily roster changes, bump his value up into the standard league discussion since he looks to have maintained some semblance of his prior skill level, even if the explosion isn’t there and his durability issues aren’t going away all year.
Look for Anthony Bennett (shoulder) to get some time in the rotation and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him have an ‘arrival’ at any time now. I say that with tongue in cheek because his fantasy value is deservedly in the tank and who knows if he’s conditioned well enough to play, but it’s just not that realistic that he goes 0-for-the-season.
On a greater level, I’ll be looking to see how the Cavs react on defense and to Mike Brown in general. It’s well past excuse-making time for Kyrie Irving’s bad defense and Dion Waiters has also worn out his welcome in that regard. If they don’t start doing the little things the season could easily take on a negative tone.
The Wolves are going to be a blast to watch this year and their key guys are locked into serious fantasy value. The key is their defined and complementary roles with Ricky Rubio poised to set a decades-best steals mark, and Kevin Love threatening to crack the truly elite tier of fantasy players including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis (you read that right, Paul George and James Harden are not on that list right now, a conversation for another time).
I don’t think Love’s assists will hold up but everything else is fair game. Kevin Martin is the team’s pure scorer and Nikola Pekovic delivers body blows down low. Sprinkle in Rick Adelman’s tutelage and it’s a dynamic setup. Enjoy.
TOR @ MEM: As mentioned Rudy Gay (ankle) will likely play but tonight’s action focuses on Dwane Casey to see if he has any say in what goes on for the Raptors on the court. Gay and DeMar DeRozan are out of control right now with the shot selection while the guy they need to develop in Jonas Valanciunas stands and watches the action. With much of the nation finally catching on to Casey’s bad judgment here, if nothing changes tonight then it will be a somewhat awesome indictment (unless you own JV).
Jerryd Bayless (knee) is listed as day-to-day and details are scarce, which is why Mike Miller was picked up in many leagues for his four-game week and current late-round production. Neither he nor Tony Allen truly took advantage of Bayless’ absence against the Pacers, which isn’t an indictment, and now Quincy Pondexter is also questionable after breaking his nose on Monday. We should also be watching to see if Marc Gasol can get his rebounding on track. Slight declines in his productivity last season and capable backups were two reasons I had him lower in my preseason rankings than most.
WAS @ SA: The Wizards got up for the Thunder and then rolled over for the Mavs last night, so by that logic they’ll be ready to play the Spurs tonight. As covered, from a fantasy perspective they’re mostly rolling but the Spurs have a way of dismantling inexperienced teams.
Kawhi Leonard started slow but is already making his way through the middle rounds and into the early rounds for per-game value. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, if he takes a step backward from last season’s No. 40 and 25 per-game ranks (8/9 cat) it would be a shock. I don’t expect him to move to my lofty preseason rank overnight, but the typically slow starter hasn’t even scratched the surface.
It seems logical that Tim Duncan plays after resting against the Sixers, but owners will want to be glued to the updates, per usual. Don’t look now but Danny Green is a top 45-65 play this year, proving why you don’t panic over one of the league’s best 3-point shooters two weeks into the season.
LAL @ DEN: I’d automatically be worried about the Lakers having a letdown traveling to the thin air of Denver, but Brian Shaw is hell-bent on making his running team a post-heavy team that doesn’t have much post presence. Wilson Chandler (hamstring) said he felt good in practice yesterday and he’s confident that he’ll make his season debut tonight. He should be owned in all formats for the chance he takes on a significant role for the Nugs. Jordan Hamilton and Anthony Randolph turn back into pumpkins tonight.
Owners should also be monitoring the JaVale McGee fallout, even if he wasn’t playing a ton of minutes. This the push that J.J. Hickson and Kenneth Faried’s owners needed to get them on track, in particular for Faried. No matter how much they paid Timofey Mozgov and no matter what his nominal offense could bring to Shaw’s post attack, it’s going to be hard to take Hickson off the court now as the team’s only reliable inside scorer.
Darrell Arthur could theoretically step up here, too, but we haven’t seen any signs of it so far. This shakeup has helped to free up Andre Miller, who is playing some small forward believe it or not, but Chandler’s return will put the lid on any real value there.
NO @ UTA: The Pelicans may be fired up after losing in a higher profile game against the Lakers, but either way they’re going to run into a buzzsaw in Utah. The Jazz aren’t as bad as their record suggests and after an 0-8 start they’re going to be plenty motivated to win at home. Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors have all shown their fantasy potential but their values have been depressed by inefficiency, as well as outliers that aren’t in their favor. Buying low is still a possibility for Kanter, while the other two will be a tougher lift but given their year-to-date rankings this might be the best chance owners get.
PHO @ POR: Goran Dragic is traveling to Portland for tonight’s game and the time away from the team has also served as nominal rest for his ankle, and if he can go it will be yet another test for Gerald Green’s staying power. It’s not out of the question for Jeff Hornacek to keep Dragic on the second unit with the same amount of minutes to offset his time spent playing next to Eric Bledsoe, and that could actually benefit everybody’s per-minute production if everything falls into place.
Speaking of falling into place, Markieff Morris is breaking out before our eyes and now he just needs to prove his consistency, which has been his undoing in the past. The system is the key here for him and Miles Plumlee, as well as their teammates obviously, but for Markieff it truly plays to his strengths and I actually like him coming off the bench against inferior competition.
LaMarcus Aldridge is currently ranked at No. 45/34 (8/9 cat) on a per-game basis. My Bruski 150 projections cumulatively: No. 52/39. So far so good on both he and Al Jefferson, AKA the source of most of my hate mail for the week prior to Opening Night.
BKY @ SAC: Andrei Kirilenko (back) will not join the Nets on their west coast road trip, and it may have slipped under the radar in this space but I’ve long given up on stashing him for the time-being in 12-14 team formats. I do think there will be a time this season in which he’s worth picking up, but the risk-reward quotient will start to make sense once he’s flashed some potential in a 15-20 minute outing – not before.
It’s fine to be patient with the whole team as they take time to heal and gel, but regular readers know I wasn’t overly high on any one of them except for Brook Lopez. It should be noted, however, that slow starts for Kirilenko and Kevin Garnett have allowed Paul Pierce to keep his membership in the old guys that won’t go away club.
Look for Sacramento to make at least one big change tonight, and maybe more, as Mike Malone isn’t messing around. He’s pissed and he has the full support of ownership as they collectively sort through the wreckage of Maloof’s past.
Marcus Thornton’s role could be on the chopping block, Ben McLemore is a prime target to get moved into the starting lineup, and sources have told me that it wouldn’t be shocking to see Isaiah Thomas moved into the starting lineup whenever McLemore is promoted. That doesn’t mean that’s the way it will go, but that’s the general feel for some folks in the know.
Patrick Patterson for Jason Thompson is also on the table. I’m adding McLemore where possible in competitive 12-14 team leagues and I’ll be doing it with an eye for the future, while IT2 is already a must-own player as he continues to smoke Greivis Vasquez, much to the chagrin of some in the press that used stereotypical reasoning to pigeon-hole the two players into cookie cutter evaluations.
Thompson and Patterson need to separate from one another before there is any great revelation in value, and if you want to get the jump on dumping MT23 I wouldn’t call you crazy.
OKC @ LAC: Scott Brooks is at it again giving six minutes per game to Derek Fisher when he shouldn’t be on the floor and those minutes should be going to Reggie Jackson. Jackson appears to be slotted into an 18-22 minute role (enhanced by overtime in his last game), and the hope here is that it’s related to his hip contusion but I don’t have to remind you of what we’re dealing with in Brooks.
For Jackson, my evaluation and many others’ evaluations included the notion that he would be the team’s sixth man when Russell Westbrook returns and hopefully that will still be the case, but he needs those six little minutes to form a foundation he can build on. If Brooks can’t quit Fisher then all bets are off.
There was a huge rush to pick up Steven Adams and he got Brooks’d in his first game post-rush, logging equal minutes with Kendrick “I dare you to bench me” Perkins while finishing with just two blocks to show for his effort. I hate to say it but it’s going to take an injury to Perkins for him to lose his 20 minutes per game, which means that Adams will struggle for consistency for the foreseeable future. Brooks and Sam Presti’s albatross will go down swinging all the way until the end, which is good for him and bad for them.
If you hadn’t noticed, too, Serge Ibaka is getting back on track and owners spending a high draft pick were all sorts of freaked out. The buy low window is ever-so-slightly ajar.
The Clippers will come in all sorts of fired up in this marquee matchup and there have been fireworks between the squads in the past, so it’s a perfect finale for Big Wednesday. We’ll want to watch to see if Matt Barnes’ return coincides with another off-night for J.J. Redick or if last game’s numbers were merely a coincidence. I think both of them and Jamal Crawford can all eat as long as Jared Dudley is stuck at the kiddie table.