It feels good to be writing about real basketball again and I’m happy to report that there were no serious injuries on Thursday (unless you count Michael Beasley). So what did we learn? LaVar Ball needs to stop saying his son is better than Stephen Curry, Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek has lost his mind and the Clippers, Thunder and Raptors look legit. Let’s dive right into the action!
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Raptors 117, Bulls 100
To the surprise of no one, the Raptors absolutely dismantled the Bulls in the first game of the season for both teams. Kyle Lowry had 12 points with four rebounds, nine assists, one steal and one 3-pointer in 31 minutes, while DeMar DeRozan notched 11 points with six rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block and five turnovers. Neither player dominated, but it’s not like they needed to against the tanking Bulls. Lowry looks like he’s in great shape and DeRozan said he wants to lead the team in assists, so expect big things from both these studs.
Jonas Valanciunas had one of the games of his life with 23 points, 15 rebounds, two assists and two steals in 31 minutes. Everyone, including myself, was ready to write him off because he’s disappointed us year after year, but maybe he’s ready to realize his potential. I’d need to see him do this against a team not named the Bulls before I get too crazy, but what a start for the big man.
The Raptors haven’t had a reliable small forward in years, but now they have three quality options in Norman Powell, C.J. Miles and OG Anunoby. Powell is the guy you want on your fantasy team and lived up to the offseason hype with 15 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal and three 3-pointers in 25 minutes. C.J. Miles had the hot hand with 22 points, five rebounds and six 3-pointers in 20 minutes and will be a boom-or-bust option going forward. As for the rookie, Anunoby (nine points, three rebounds, two assists and one 3-pointer in 17 minutes) is just a stash in deeper leagues and dynasty formats, but I came away from this game very impressed.
Delon Wright has had some terrible luck with injuries in the past few years, but the dude can play and he saw minutes at both guard spots in the win. He finished with 13 points, two rebounds, five assists and one steal in 23 minutes and should at least be on your watch list going forward. For what it’s worth, I think he’s good enough to be a starting PG in this league and I have several shares of him in dynasty formats.
The Bulls didn’t show much fight in this one, but to be fair they got that out of their system in practice this week (right, Bobby Portis?). Kidding aside, Robin Lopez was their best player with 18 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal and one turnover in 32 minutes, and he’s going to be a reliable low-end center to own until the Bulls want to take a long look at Cristiano Felicio. Lauri Markkanen got the start at power forward and fared well with 17 points, eight rebounds, one block and two 3-pointers in 33 minutes, and he basically has no competition for minutes until Portis returns in seven games (Nikola Mirotic is out for at least a few weeks). The rookie should be picked up.
Justin Holiday had 15 points with four rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and four 3-pointers in 35 minutes, but hit just 5-of-16 shots. Sure he’s worth owning, but I won’t call him a must-start player. Jerian Grant started at point guard and scored seven points with two rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two turnovers in 27 minutes, and he’ll get a chance to run away with the job with Kris Dunn (finger) out another week or two. Denzel Valentine added 12 points with two rebounds and four 3-pointers in 26 minutes and is just a name to monitor for now. Someone on that team has to score.
Thunder 105, Knicks 84
Carmelo Anthony didn’t have to wait long to get revenge on his former team, dropping 22 points on 8-of-20 shooting with one rebound, one assist, a pair of blocks and steals with three triples. He looks like a great fit on his new team and the same thing can be said for Paul George (28 points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and six 3-pointers. "Yeah, that chapter's closed. That chapter's closed. No more Knicks talk," Anthony said to ESPN's Royce Young after the game. "We can just focus on the Thunder and moving forward and what we have to do as a team and organization. I can say that chapter's closed."
The NBA’s triple-double record holder added another one to his resume, as Westbrook piled up 21 points, 16 assists, 10 rebounds, one block and seven turnovers. The Thunder won’t play against the Knicks every night, but the early returns suggest that OKC’s big three are going to mesh really well.
Steven Adams is the only other player on the Thunder that will hold consistent fantasy value this season and he got off to a roaring start with 12 points, five rebounds, one assist, three blocks and five steals in 30 minutes on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the field. With Enes Kanter gone, this should be Adams’ best season yet.
The Knicks are a dumpster fire this season and coach Jeff Hornacek only needed one game to agitate fantasy owners. Willy Hernangomez played just three garbage time minutes and coach Hornacek cited his defense as the reason. That seems odd because Kanter has never played defense in his life. "I have to wait for my moment, my chance to be on the court,” Hernangomez said. “When the team needs me, I'll be there. So I just have to keep working and waiting for my moment.” Treat him like a stash until Hornacek wakes up.
As for Kanter, he had 10 points, seven rebounds, three steals and four turnovers in 22 minutes, while O’Quinn notched six points, 10 rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes. I don’t want either of them on my fantasy teams.
No. 8 overall pick Frank Ntilikina was used as the third-string PG and played just eight minutes, so I guess the Knicks don’t know they’re supposed to be rebuilding and developing their young talent. Until this rotation figures itself out, the only players you can trust in New York right now are Kristaps Porzingis (31 points, 12 rebounds) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (eight points, two triples), but you probably knew that already. By the way, what in the world do the Knicks see in Ron Baker?
Clippers 108, Lakers 92
The Clippers proved they are miles ahead of the Lakers even without Chris Paul, and they still have the look of a top-5 team in the West. Blake Griffin looked healthy as ever with 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and three 3-pointers in 34 minutes. He’s the clear focal point of the offense and his 3-point shot is finally respectable — he attempted 6 triples. Of course, the big question with Blake is whether or not he can stay healthy. DeAndre Jordan was absolutely dominant with 14 points, 24 rebounds and a steal, and while he didn’t block a shot, he made all four of his free throws. I’m not sure what has gotten into DJ and Andre Drummond with their improved free throw shooting but I’m loving it.
Patrick Beverley scored 10 points with three rebounds, one assist, two steals, one block and two 3-pointers in 24 minutes, but his biggest contribution was putting Lonzo Ball in his place. They call him Mr. 94 feet for a reason. Milos Teodosic got the start in the first unit next to Beverley, finishing with six points, one rebound, six assists and two 3-pointers in 21 minutes. It wasn’t his best night, but Teodosic is going to be a ton of fun to own this season and will be better going forward. Lou Williams scored 12 points with three rebounds, six assists, two steals and one 3-pointer in 25 minutes, while Austin Rivers flopped with two points on 11 shots. Going forward, the six Clippers that must be owned are Griffin, Jordan, Danilo Gallinari (11 points, five rebounds), Teodosic, Beverley and Lou.
Lonzo Ball didn’t live up to the hype in his NBA regular-season debut with three points, nine rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer in 29 minutes on 1-of-6 shooting, as Beverley was all over him. Opposing players are going to be motivated to harass Ball all season long because his father won’t stop running his mouth, but he’s in a dream spot to bounce back on Friday vs. Phoenix.
Perhaps the most disappointing player of the night was Brandon Ingram, as his struggles from the preseason clearly carried over. He had 12 points with five rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes, but shot just 3-of-15 from the field. He has no confidence right now and is still getting bullied around, so I wouldn’t recommend deploying him in lineups until he heats up. Maybe he should give Kobe Bryant’s old locker to Kuzma.
Julius Randle had a rough go on Thursday and scored nine points with six rebounds, one assist and one block in 18 minutes, while Kyle Kuzma came off the bench as well for eight points, four rebounds, one assist and two steals in 18 minutes. I think Kuzma will be the top forward to own in Los Angeles late in the season, but Larry Nance has the hot hand right now and posted 14 points with 12 rebounds and one block in 30 minutes in the first unit.
Brook Lopez added 20 points, six rebounds, two assists and a full line, while Jordan Clarkson dropped 18 points off the bench. Expect Clarkson’s value to take a hit when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope returns from his suspension (one more game).