There are a couple of things you learn in this job after a decade or so. One is to get off bad predictions as fast as you can. Two, don’t get too high or too low on things at the end of the first night of action. That’s an easy recipe for disaster.
I had C.J. McCollum ranked at No. 87 and 105 in 8- and 9-cat leagues, based on averages of 17.3 points, 15.8 field goals, 41 percent from the field, 83 percent foul shooting, 2.75 boards, 3.85 assists, 0.15 blocks, 1.2 steals and 2.24 turnovers per game in 32 minutes per contest and 74.5 games played.
That’s a damn good year for a promising young player who by all accounts ‘gets it’ and should give us a ton of excitement this season.
That said, I’m not ready to get off my projection after one night.
In order to best this projection, the thinking here is that McCollum will need to join this historic list of players that shot better than 42 percent while chucking up this volume of shots and threes (thank you Basketball-Reference.com for the numbers).
The fact that he plays for a bottom-tier team isn’t necessarily warming me up to the idea that he can hold his efficiency, because life is harder on a bad team, but especially when so many players before him haven’t been able to do it on good teams.
It’s a simple concept. The more you shoot the less you make.
But then again Steph Curry wasn’t thought of as Steph Curry until he was Steph Curry. Maybe McCollum can do it. And Isaiah Rider and Aaron Brooks made this list with less than 6.0 win shares, so things like this can happen.
I just don’t think one game against a team coming off a back-to-back against the champs, with a new coach and system, with everybody injured -- literally limping into the Rose Garden with a broken Jrue Holiday and cut-by-the-Sixers Ish Smith – as they’re looking ahead to another rematch against the Warriors – is definitive enough to believe whatever the hype is at this point.
If I up his field goal percentage to 44 percent, which is extremely optimistic on the volume I propose above, he finishes in the top 60-80 players. What if we up his field goal attempts because he’s really going to shoot the crap out of the ball? Are we saying he holds onto that efficiency? Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant are the most recent casualties of that line of thinking, but if he doesn’t completely fold percentage-wise then how far can he really climb?
My point is this – this might be the best sell-high moment you have on a guy this year. I don’t know how the average reader can see 37 points and the hyped up headlines and not think that he’s an early round play. Maybe he can be, but as you can see by the numbers he has an uphill climb.
The Blazers don’t play until Friday. McCollum owners, your clock is ticking.
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SIXTH MAN IN THE SKY
The Wolves played with heavy hearts and got a win in an emotional opener following the passing of Flip Saunders. Ricky Rubio had consistently slipped in drafts and came out firing to the tune of 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting with two rebounds, 14 assists, one steal, two treys and 6-of-7 makes from the line. Hopefully you drafted accordingly. Karl-Anthony Towns went for 14 and 12 in his debut but did not have a steal or block, and yet it was a total success as he most definitely looked the part.
Andrew Wiggins may have been struggling with a shoulder issue or maybe he just faded to the background with Rubio taking on so much offense. Either way, his 2-of-10 shooting for nine points (5-of-6 FTs) with practically no other stats is a perfect buy low opportunity. There’s been so much anti-hype about him on this site that you can probably steal him for a top-75 guy right about now.
Gorgui Dieng was very high in the B150 and came with a disclaimer about a slow start and that was definitely the case last night. He did manage to finish with a steal and two blocks, but even those came late and paired next to four points and four boards he was definitely ‘slow.’ Let’s see how he does in his next game before making sit/start choices.
SAME OLD STORY
We got answers on how the Lakers intend to deploy Kobe Bryant, as he logged 29 minutes and went 8-of-24 from the field for 24 points, three treys, four rebounds, one assist, two steals and 5-of-5 from the line. He really ran out of gas as the game went on and if anybody deserves some slack to be cut it’s a guy coming off two major injuries at his age. But therein lies the rub, and both owners and Lakers fans should hope that he stays in this mpg range but cuts those shots down by a third. That’s not how it works in L.A. so things should be interesting from night to night.
Roy Hibbert was able to live at the foul line and by virtue of 10 perfect free throws he went for 12 and 10 with four assists and two blocks in his 28 minutes. He has looked a bit edgy and definitely in better shape than he was in Indiana this past year. I’m not ruling him out as a top-100 guy but he has a lot to prove still. Julius Randle went for 15 and 11 but had no defensive stats. Get used to that.
D’Angelo Russell really fell down my rankings as it became clear that he wasn’t going to be a Towns-like rookie that is immediately effective like a veteran would be. That’s okay – very few players can clear that bar in their first year. He managed just four points on 2-of-7 shooting with three boards and two assists, and came away with some quotes that sounded like a guy frustrated his teammates weren’t catching passes. So basic rookie stuff. Jordan Clarkson, Kobe, the backup guards, and even Randle make Russell’s handling a luxury and not a necessity so the Lakers can bring him along slow, which is probably best for his development anyway. I think he has a 2-3 week ramp before he can be used but that’s just a wild guess.
Clarkson hit 5-of-12 shots for 14 points, four boards and three assists with no money counting stats. That’s the book on him and with other ballhandlers his assist numbers will be capped. My sense is that he will be a consistent late-round value and never really budge from that valuation.
FEELING IT OUT
The Jazz got tagged with a loss in Detroit and they looked like a team trying to figure out their new wealth of options on offense. Gordon Hayward was left out of the offense for spells and finished with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting, four rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block. I’d bet that doesn’t happen the next time out. Derrick Favors took advantage of Ersan Ilyasova to the tune of 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting with six boards, one steal and one block. With all the mouths to feed in Utah I’m not as high on him as most, but only by a round or two.
Rodney Hood fired off 15 shot attempts and missed all seven of his threes, finishing with 12 points, four boards and six assists. He’ll come back to center a little bit and give those looks back to Hayward, but I like his late-round floor and hint of mid-round upside. Alec Burks (18 points, six boards, one assist, no money counting stats) is just as talented and also a late-round value, but fantasy deficiencies make him a more stable late-round asset with less upside than Hood.
YOUR UNDEFEATED DETROIT PISTONS
Andre Drummond hit 5-of-11 shots last night and had a solid 18 and 10 with one steal and two blocks. He even hit 8-of-11 freebies, but don’t hold your breath waiting for that every night. He needs to be a high field goal percentage guy to sniff the hype in fantasy circles, and the bugaboo here is that Stan Van Gundy is feeding him in the post with an eye on the future. Right now he’s not looking like a great bet to go over 60 percent, and the hope is that he doesn’t tumble down toward 55 percent or worse.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been having a nice preseason and though his limited fantasy stat-set won’t change due to Jodie Meeks’ Jones fracture (foot), he will have a better floor. He should be owned in most standard formats. Marcus Morris is getting heavy minutes and can be evaluated as a late-round guy for now, while Stanley Johnson may not be worth the squeeze as a stash – though you may wait a week or so before making that evaluation. The 20-24 minutes freed up by Meeks’ injury can’t hurt.
Ersan Ilyasova (eight points, two threes, elbow issue, 22 minutes) has never been a big minute guy so if you’re squeezing late-round value in the next week or so that’s probably a win.
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS
The Hornets have an uphill climb no matter how one slices it and rumors about Steve Clifford’s job aren’t going to help matters, for what it’s worth. The good news was somewhat there, as Al Jefferson looks fit and ended up with 17 points and five boards with one steal, but he didn’t play the last 15:44 of the game as the Heat went small.
Similar good-news, bad-news stuff hit the rest of the lineup, as Jeremy Lin scored 17 points with two threes and 5-of-6 freebies but not much else, and Kemba Walker scored 19 points with 8-of-9 makes from the line, four boards, four assists, two steals, one block and one three. Walker managed to hit just 5-of-16 shots, though, and field goal percentage has been the big sap to his value. Nicolas Batum had a very Batum-like line of nine points on 3-of-12 shooting with six boards, three assists and two treys, and didn’t manage any defensive stats on the night.
P.J. Hairston (18 minutes, three points) didn’t do anything with his minutes and he’ll be a hot-hand guy that doesn’t get much run otherwise. The glut of power forwards saw Cody Zeller (seven points, 12 boards, one steal) and Marvin Williams (10 points, 10 boards, three assists, 0-for-5 3PTs) both get 30 and 38 minutes, respectively. Until one emerges owners can stay away. Frank Kaminsky saw just six minutes and that’s either one strike or two strikes with owners because he’s not projected to be more than a late-round value in most realistic scenarios. That’s not good math for a stash. Owners certainly shouldn’t move the needle after one game, even if the guys played to some of their stereotypes on Opening Night.
THE BATTLE FOR THE THERMOMETER
Questions about whether or not Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade could co-exist surrounded the preseason, and we got the answer from Dragic’s perspective last night as he managed just eight points, one board, six assists and two blocks in his 31 minutes. Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade scored 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting with three rebounds, five assists and one block in 29 minutes.
This seems like it’s going to take about 2-3 weeks before they really get the balance of who handles what figured out. They have barely played as a starting five with Chris Bosh (21 points, 10 boards, one steal, one block, two threes) going down last year and Hassan Whiteside being a relatively new addition. Still, one has to think that the Heat would rather play at Dragic’s tempo and have him going, while preserving Wade for the playoffs, but old dogs don’t learn new tricks and especially when the whole team is in a contract year.
Gerald Green continued to be a one-man bench with 19 points, one rebound, one assist and five treys, which was good for mid-round value on the night. Josh McRoberts’ knee issue is nowhere near progressed to the point folks in Miami made it seem about 2-3 weeks ago, as he played just 13 minutes with negligible stats. Owners can watch this action from the wire, but if he starts to show signs of health he will fit well in the second unit and might be a sneaky low-end value.
Hassan Whiteside played 20 minutes with four points, six boards and two blocks and got the Al Jefferson treatment last night. Udonis Haslem got the nod fairly early and has a fairly good history against him, so this was a matchup-based decision but it does highlight how green Whiteside is. His ride will be among the most interesting to follow this season, at least until we figure out what he’s going to be.
RETURN OF PAUL GEORGE
The Pacers didn’t have enough in the tank to get a win in Toronto, but we did see encouraging production from Paul George, Ian Mahinmi, George Hill and C.J. Miles. George hit just 4-of-17 shots, but a 9-of-10 mark at the line pushed him to 17 points, 12 boards, eight assists and three steals. The usage is what’s telling the story and I’m just glad I wasn’t on the anti-George train that rolled throughout the preseason.
Mahinmi went for 10 and eight with three assists, two steals and two blocks in his 25 minutes, and he has genuinely improved this season. He’s a fine low-end center. George Hill scored 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting with five treys, three boards, two assists, two steals and a block. Think of him as a past version playing off the ball but that’s a whole lot better. Miles had a normal ‘good’ night with 18 points and four treys, which is what you’re going for if you’re riding that ride. Monta Ellis managed just nine points on 3-of-11 shooting with six assists and two steals, and along with getting dinged up in the preseason he has to learn the new system. It could be a bumpy ride for the first few weeks.
DeMarre Carroll survived a tough fall to finish with 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and one trey, and Jonas Valanciunas went for an extremely efficient 21 and 15 with a block in the Raps’ win over the Pacers. Carroll’s theoretically improved usage was a thing last night and Jonas playing big minutes was a thing, and I’m just happy to have nabbed both on a few squads. They’re good assets for fantasy owners.
Kyle Lowry scored 23 points on 8-of-17 shooting with three rebounds, six assists, two steals and two treys, and DeMar DeRozan hit 7-of-17 shots for 25 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals, one three and 10-of-16 hits from the stripe. In other words, it was a day that ended in ‘Y.’
There was no clarity out of the power forward position, as Patrick Patterson’s eight points and two treys in 19 minutes were the best of the bunch. Yuck. Patterson has really blown a great chance to take a step forward so far.
The Cavs mopped up the Grizzlies on the SEGABABA and we saw another solid outing from Kevin Love (17 points, 13 boards, three assists, two treys). Adding onto yesterday’s positive comments, I really think the Cavs are going to try and get him involved more so look for a definitive step forward this season. The Grizzlies’ production was depressed within norms across the board. There’s not much to say about a game including two stable squads that ended early in the third quarter.
HOW’S IT GOINK?
The Knicks went into Milwaukee and punched the Bucks in the mouth, so some of these numbers have to be taken with a small grain of salt. Kristaps Porzingis hit 9-of-12 FTs and 3-of-11 FGs for 16 points, five boards, one steal, one block and one three in his 24 minutes. His ability to get to the line might be the saving grace for consistent late-round value. Robin Lopez (eight points, two boards, two blocks, 20 minutes) still looks slowed by knee issues and though he should be worth owning, it’s going to be a drag for a bit.
Sasha Vujacic got in on the act with 11 points, six boards, three assists, four steals and a trey in his 29-minute start for injured Arron Afflalo. Let’s see him do it again before anything but a short-term half-court heave of an add. Jerian Grant (10 points, five assists, three steals, 24 minutes) is the guy that owners should be focusing attention on as Derek Fisher would be a fool not to feed this guy minutes early and often. And I think he will feed him faster than everybody thinks he will, but not as fast as he should. I have him on quite a few 12-14 team squads as a stash.
Derrick Williams’ nice start in New York continued as he poured in 24 points in garbage time (he also added seven boards, a block and a three). If I hadn’t seen this act so many times I’d be telling you to pick him up. So I’m not. There’s a number of fantasy deficiencies that make that an easier call. Kyle O’Quinn is a much better pickup and should already have been owned, and he showed off with eight points, 11 boards, three assists, one steal and two blocks in 23 minutes. Looks like I was a year early here.
LESS IS MORE FOR MCW
Really the only thing that you can say for Milwaukee is that they were without Giannis Antetokounmpo (suspension), O.J. Mayo (hamstring) and Jabari Parker (knee surgery) and it screwed them all up. It also shows what little margin for error they have, even in the East.
Michael Carter-Williams (20 points, 6-of-17 FGs, 8-of-9 FTs, five boards, four assists, one steal, six turnovers) was asked to do a lot, and the key to both his fantasy and reality value is that he stays in his lane closer to 10 FGAs per game. Add in Jerryd Bayless (four points, 0-for-6 FGs) and Chris Copeland (eight points, 19 minutes) thrown into the starting lineup and it’s not hard to see how they got blown out by the Knicks of all teams. Owners won’t want to put a lot of stock into this game.
If there’s a guy worth being hyped or even overhyped right now it’s Kawhi Leonard, who might be my favorite basketball player going right now. He played great defense on Kevin Durant and dropped 32 points with eight boards, three steals and two blocks. It makes sense that he goes big to start the year and then LaMarcus Aldridge starts to eat in the second-third of the year. Aldridge hit 4-of-12 shots for 11 points, five boards and one block in his 32 minutes. It’s early so don’t panic, but I had him where I had him in the Bruski 150 for a reason.
It seems too dumb to bring up but if you want to try and get Danny Green (four points, 2-of-9 FGs, eight boards, one steal) from somebody who doesn’t know this is how it goes – now is the time.
HEY LOOK AT ME I’M PICKING THE THUNDER
The Thunder are my NBA champion pick and no I don’t feel great about it and yes I think the Warriors are tremendous. They just have so much talent that’s never been given a real chance due to coaching, front office missteps and injuries (in that order). They got good performances out of Dion Waiters (eight points, 21 minutes) and Enes Kanter (15 and 16, no steals or blocks, late-round asset), highlighting their newfound depth while playing a nice brand of ball that could be described as fluid.
Billy Donovan moved guys liberally in and out of the lineup based on feel, did smart stuff like offense/defense down the stretch, and of course – had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on his team. Westbrook (33 points, 12-of-23 FGs, three treys, 6-of-7 FTs, 10 assists, two steals) looks as sharp as ever and the Thunder looked like they’ve improved their ball movement. Durant hit just 6-of-19 shots for 22 points, six assists, two treys, 8-of-8 FTs and no steals or blocks, but after so much time off it’s an easy call to give him a pass in Game 1. Serge Ibaka had 10 points, five boards and two blocks and the needle doesn’t move here.
FLY PELICANS FLY (TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM)
The Pelicans had no business being so high in folks’ preseason predictions with the injury risk they carry across most of the team. The fact that these injuries happened so soon is unfortunate, and they have some very real risk of wearing out the guys that are on the floor right now. Case in point – Eric Gordon – this is a guy that shouldn’t be playing 41 minutes on the tail-end of a back-to-back. Anthony Davis, we love him, but he’s a guy that if you own him you’re like … a simple 36 would be nice.
They looked terrible but eventually their pride kicked in and they made it a game with the Blazers, and Davis in particular started looking beastly down the stretch with his second and third 3-point makes. Brow finished with 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting, 10 boards, two steals and two blocks. It really does feel like with players like Davis, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Rudy Gobert and DeMarcus Cousins that we’re in a new age of player.
Gordon scored 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting and I like him to exceed expectations this season, but I’d also call him an early sell-high guy while he’s hot and healthy. Ryan Anderson (21 points, nine boards, three treys, 39 minutes) is going to thrive in this uptempo offense and he should also exceed expectations, but like his teammates these big minutes are also a concern.
Ish Smith has supplanted Nate Robinson as the other point guard to consider picking up in New Orleans, and he turned in a typical line of seven points on 3-of-14 shooting with four rebounds, eight assists, two steals and one three in his 29 minutes. Jrue Holiday (12 points, three assists, 21 minutes) will be forced into action more quickly than anybody wants, but he’s still a ways from being in fantasy lineups.
THE FUN AND INTERESTING BABY BLAZERS
The Blazers have a nice little thing going even though they’re going to struggle with their talent level on most nights. Aside from the dynamic backcourt, they have a number of useful players and none of them have a high enough profile to gripe about anything. They also know they need to play over their heads on most nights, so they’ll probably gravitate toward what works faster than a team with bigger names, better pedigrees, and the like.
Bruski 150 poster boy Meyers Leonard came out cold, which prompted some detractors to actually make a point of that on the Internet, and he shockingly straightened things out to finish with 12 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and two threes on 5-of-12 shooting. If this is his bad night then you all know where this is heading. He logged 34 minutes last night and he’ll get starter’s minutes this season.
Damian Lillard may have dinged up his ankle because he’s having no problem playing off the ball whatsoever. He still banged in 8-of-21 shots for 21 points, five boards, 11 assists, two steals and a trey. He’s going to be fun to watch and own, with the only caveat being his efficiency of course. Al-Farouq Aminu (hamstring) got on the floor and went for nine and eight with a steal, two blocks and a trey. So far so good.
THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE
The Clippers relied on their newfound depth and the usual cast of characters to eventually put the Kings away late in the fourth quarter. Blake Griffin had his way with the twin towers look the Kings put out there, and finished with 33 points on 14-of-20 shooting, eight boards, four assists and no steals or blocks. That last part kept him from having a top-15 night.
Paul Pierce isn’t a real stable fantasy asset but he is a difference-maker for the Clips in reality land, as he put his stamp on the game late in his typical wily manner. Lance Stephenson (seven points, two rebounds, two assists, one three, one steal) made some early noise and looked fairly athletic, but wasn’t terribly in control. The 19 minutes he saw suggest that Doc isn’t ready to do anything crazy with his minutes. Jamal Crawford (11 points, one assist) will be minimized this year but it’s worth noting that he looked much better than he did in the playoffs against the Rockets. The Clips’ lack of depth killed all of them last season.
There wasn’t a whole lot to glean from the Kings game and that’s good news for their fans, as they held tough with the Clippers and there weren’t any glaring signs of trouble in the drama category. DeMarcus Cousins even seemed outright charming with the media after the game. His owners were probably just as tickled to see the big man hit 4-of-5 treys on a 32-point, 13-rebound, and three-assist night. He rounded the line out with eight turnovers, 8-of-11 freebies and one block, and if he is as disciplined with the deep ball as he was tonight it’s a bonafide new asset for owners. I’d say let’s try and chill because DeAndre Jordan is a habitual dare guy with threes because he feels like he can tempt his way into a block. He lost that bet badly last night.
Other things I noticed … Kosta Koufos (10 points, seven boards, one steal, two blocks) was everywhere and he’s a legitimate low-end center in standard formats. Willie Cauley-Stein (eight minutes) should have played more but Koufos was going well except for a bit of burnage at the hands of Blake Griffin. Karl should have given the rookie a look as a change-up but clearly he doesn’t trust him fully yet. It’s Game 1.
Marco Belinelli will get a lot of minutes for the foreseeable future and he’ll probably hover in the top 100-150 range. He hit just 3-of-12 shots last night but still finished with nine points, two boards, seven assists, one steal and three treys. He didn’t play up to his abilities, either. Rajon Rondo (25 minutes, four points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, 2-of-8 FGs) is getting all the rope to hang himself with and that will continue until the Kings feel pressure record-wise. Ben McLemore (20 minutes, five points, not much else) is probably looking at this much playing time as a baseline until he takes a major step forward. His lack of confidence and inability to make an impact on the game, despite tools to do so, is a longer-term issue for Karl and the Kings to solve.
As for Rondo, he’s not a value-add at this point and yes it is Game 1, but the concerns he would get the Allen-Rondo treatment already hit home in the fourth quarter last night. The rest of the time on the floor wasn’t great, either. It didn’t help that Doc Rivers knows exactly how to defend his former pupil.