Welcome back, Dwight Howard! I got some flack for ranking him as my #1 center going into the season but yesterday's performance is exactly why I did so. Howard dominated the Bobcats by racking up 26 rebounds and 17 points. It was a dream debut for Howard in front of the home crowd. It was more of a bad dream for teammate Patrick Beverley. After being handed the starting PG spot, Beverley lasted only 10 minutes as he went down with a rib injury. We don't know how serious it is yet, but let's hope Beverley can make a speedy recovery and return to the lineup sooner rather than later. Jeremy Lin took over for Beverley and managed to put up very efficient numbers in his 31 minutes of action. Lin went 5-7 from the floor, 2-2 from 3-point land for 16 points, but as a point guard, it would've been nice to see more than just 2 assists. The bearded wonder, James Harden, didn't start the game off right but he certainly ended it well by scoring 16 of his 21 points in the 4th quarter. Harden also fell victim to injury early on with a tight lower back but, unlike Beverley, he was able to return. Omer Asik pulled down 14 rebounds in just 26 minutes of action but was only able to score 4 points. Asik and Howard accounted for 40 of the Rockets 54 rebounds. As I said yesterday, these two are going to wreak havoc on teams.
The new-look Detroit Pistons handled the Wizards and Greg Monroe stole the show. Monroe posted an excellent double-double with 24 points and 16 rebounds, the only blemish on the night for him was his 5 turnovers. Andre Drummond had an efficient game but got himself in foul trouble and didn't play the final 6 minutes of the game due to match-ups. One of my breakout candidates, Drummond, finished the game with 12 points and 8 rebounds and was extremely efficient going 6-7 from the field. Will Bynum came through big, filling in for the injured Brandon Jennings, scoring 19 points with 5 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. Newcomer Josh Smith had a decent debut, scoring 19 points and grabbing 5 rebounds with 5 assists to go with them. I expect more from Smith going forward, especially in the rebounding category and steals. Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups, led the team in 3-pointers, going 4-5 from beyond the arc and finishing the game with 16 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds.
Trevor Ariza was on fire for the Wizards as he went 6-11 from beyond the arc and finished the game with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Ariza tends to have games like this where he blows up occasionally, his problem is he can never be consistent. John Wall started his season off nicely, although he was highly inefficient going 8-21 with 20 points, 11 assists and 3 steals. Bradley Beal also had a bad shooting night, going 6-18 for 17 points, 2 assists and 4 rebounds. Both benches were absolutely woeful as not a single player off the bench scored more than 9 points for either team.
Both Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried fooled us and actually played last night. Lawson had a much more productive game than Faried, though. Faried came off the bench, only played 15 minutes and had 5 points and 5 boards. J.J. Hickson started in Faried's place and had 12 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. Ty Lawson played 36 minutes (I guess he's just fine), and led the Nuggets with 20 points and 8 assists. However, he could not do enough to get his team the victory and the Kings, led by DeMarcus Cousins' monster 30 point, 14 rebound performance, edged them out 90-88.
The Cavaliers stunned me, and I'm sure they stunned the majority of America by beating the Nets 98-94. However, perhaps what was even more stunning, is the fact that there was an Andrew Bynum sighting! And he wasn't on the bench wearing a suit! Yes, Andrew Bynum actually played in this game. Albeit only for 8 minutes but still, that's more than he amassed all of last season. Tristan Thompson proved me right and he led the Cavs with 18 points and 9 rebounds. Kyrie Irving had a nice game as well with 15 points and and 9 assists, outperforming Deron Williams by quite a bit. Deron only managed 7 points and 9 assists on the night. Brook Lopez led his team and everyone else, with a game high 21 points but disappointed once again on the glass with only 5 rebounds. Newcomers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce had decent debuts for their new team. Garnett fell shy of a double-double, posting 8 points and 10 rebounds. Pierce drained 3 out of his 4 three-pointers attempted and finished with 17 points and 4 rebounds.
I feel like this article wouldn't be complete without mentioning the baby 76ers defeating the defending champions 114-110. Dwyane Wade was held out of this game but the Heat should have been able to defeat the 76ers without him. Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Michael Carter-Williams propelled the 76ers to victory. All three of those guys posted 20+ points and it was Spencer Hawes, the center out of all people, that drained a 3-pointer to seal the victory. Spencer Hawes was one of my top 20 center's going into the season and with Nerlens Noel expected to miss the rest of the season now, I like him even more. Hawes finished with 24 points and 9 rebounds but it was rookie Michael Carter-Williams that stole the headlines. Williams was absolutely ridiculous. He finished with 22 points, was 6-10 from the field, 4-6 from 3-point land, dished out 12 assists, grabbed 7 rebounds, and most impressive of all, had 9 steals! He had more steals than THE ENTIRE MIAMI HEAT TEAM! An absolutely marvelous display from the rookie in his first ever NBA game. Well done, and I'm excited to see what he comes up with for an encore.
Before opening night tipped off, I had Lance Stephenson as my sleeper pick of the week and he turned in his second consecutive solid performance. Stephenson had 16 points, 4 assists and 8 rebounds on the night in a victory over the Pelicans. Paul George blew up for 32 points, 5 assists and 6 rebounds. Anthony Davis, our #2 ranked center, posted a double-double with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks. Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon had very productive nights, and very similar nights as well. Jrue shot 8-18 and finished with 24 points, 5 assists and 7 rebounds. Gordon shot 8-19 and fnished with 25 points, 1 assist, 3 rebounds and 2 steals. It's worth mentioning, Hibbert was pretty bad but he did manage 5 blocks, giving him 12 blocks already in just two games.
Let's take a real quick look at just some of the more impressive performances of last night and then we can look at the upcoming games.
The backcourt duo of Bledsoe and Dragic was just as dynamic as I thought it would be. Bledsoe finished with 22 points, 6 assists and 7 rebounds. Dragic wen for 26 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds. Miles Plumlee was very impressive, posting 18 points and 15 rebounds. Damian Lillard picked up where he left off and led all players with 32 points but provided little else.
Monta Ellis started his Dallas Mavericks career off with a bang, blowing up for 32 points on 11-17 shooting and added 8 assists but also had 7 turnovers. Vince Carter came off the bench to add 21 points and Dirk Nowitzki finished with 24 points of his own.
Durant went off for 42 points and 6 rebounds, Reggie Jackson was solid with 14 points, 3 assists and 5 steals, and Serge Ibaka finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds. Enes Kanter posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Derrick Favors played well with 15 points and 9 rebounds, Alec Burks, off the bench, outplayed all the Jazz players with 24 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds.
Kevin Love was phenomenal in the Wolves' victory over the Magic with 31 points and 17 rebounds. Ricky Rubio had 13 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds, and Nikola Vucevic came good with a double-double for the Magic with 22 points and 16 rebounds.
Friday November 1st
Portland Trail Blazers vs Denver Nuggets
Nicolas Batum and his owners will be hoping that he gets his shooting stroke back for this game. Batum went 3-9 with only 7 points in the Blazers opening loss to the Suns. He did manage to bring down 13 rebounds, however. If he can find his shot and continue crashing the boards at that rate, Batum will be a fantasy force. Faried owners hope to have him fully healthy for this game, he only manged 15 minutes in the opener, hopefully he can slowly work his way back to full speed.
Players to watch: Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, J.J. Hickson.
Dallas Mavericks vs Houston Rockets
Don't be surprised to see another 20+ rebound performance from Dwight Howard. The Mavs don't have a big man that can match up with Dwight Howard (not many teams do). They have Dalembert, who is tall, but Howard easily out-muscles him. The combo of Asik and Howard should cause the Mavericks to scramble for ideas on how to guard them. I expect both Asik and Howard to grab double digit rebounds once again. As of now, we do not know if Beverley will be able to play in this game so expect Lin to shoulder the majority of the minutes at PG for Houston. I expect Monta and Dirk to lead the Mavs in scoring once again.
Players to watch: James Harden, Dwight Howard, Omer Asik, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Jeremy Lin.
Westbrook will be out again for this game, that means a steady dose of Reggie Jackson is in order. If you need guard help, I would definitely recommend giving him a look while Westbrook is out. I'm looking for Ibaka to have a better scoring game than he did in the opener, and I am also looking for him to get some blocks, which he failed to do in the opener. Kevin Love, Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio will hope to have enough to take down Durant and his championship contending team.
Utah Jazz vs Phoenix Suns
Alec Burks impressed off the bench in the opening game for the Jazz and I'd like to see if he can string together two strong games in a row. Enes Kanter is coming off a double-double and Derrick Favors was a rebound shy of his own double-double. Once Trey Burke returns from injury, this Jazz team could be pretty good. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they're playoff good or anything, just better than expected.
Saturday November 2nd
Chicago Bulls vs Philadelphia 76ers
Michael Carter-Williams. Yes, Michael Carter-Williams will be the reason I want to watch this game. Not Derrick Rose. I want to see what he has in store after destroying the Miami Heat.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Indiana Pacers
How much will Andrew Bynum play in this game? That is the question that will surround the Cavs all season long. How many blocks will Roy Hibbert have this time? The Pacers don't have a point guard that can keep up with Kyrie Irving, I expect him to have a field day. Will Lance Stephenson continue his consistent play so far?
Sunday November 3rd
Boston Celtics vs Detroit Pistons
Several intriguing fantasy players here. Jeff Green led the Celtics in scoring in their opening game with 25 points and Brandon Bass was close behind him with 17 points. Both of these guys should be solid fantasy options for the rest of the year. The Celtics are so bad, there's not many options they have to rely on. An interesting deep sleeper is Vitor Faverani. The 25 year old Brazilian started at center for the Celtics and put up 13 points with 3 blocks and 3 rebounds. Faverani joined the Celtics from Valencia and could be an intriguing fantasy option in deeper leagues going forward. Obviously, it would be nice to see him crash the boards more, 3 rebounds from a 6 ft 11 center is unacceptable, but I'd definitely keep an eye on him and see how he progresses. Gerald Wallace had a terrible start to his Boston Celtic career, I expect him to bounce back against the Pistons.
Brooklyn Nets vs Orlando Magic
Victor Oladipo is having a solid start to his rookie campaign averaging 13 points, 3 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game through two games. Maurice Harkless has been a disappointment so far, especially after last night's game where he only played 19 minutes and scored just 2 points on 1-3 shooting. With Tobias Harris out injured, I expected Harkless to capitilaze on that but it has been Andrew Nicholson that's been making the most out of his opportunities. I touched on Nicholson in Part 1 of this edition and he continued to impress against the Timberwolves with 13 points and 7 rebounds in just 19 minutes. Arron Afflalo also stepped up his game against the Timberwolves after a lackluster start to the season, we'll see if he can build off that performance.
Washington Wizards vs Miami Heat
The Heat will hope to have Wade back for this game, but they really shouldn't need him. However, they shouldn't have needed him against the 76ers and look at what happened there. Wade is very fragile and Spoelstra is going to do what he can to make sure his body doesn't disintegrate before the playoffs. The newly acquired Polish Hammer only played 17 minutes in the Wizards opening game against the Pistons, I would expect Gortat to get more time on the floor against the Heat since they lack a true center. I'll be looking to see if Trevor Ariza can duplicate his performance against Detroit and if John Wall will continue his strong start.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs New York Knicks
Andrea Bargnani was booed off the court in New York's opening win against the Bucks. Welcome to New York, Andrea! He was terrible in his 17 minutes on the court, going 3-9 with 6 points, a measly 2 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 1 assist and 1 steal. He attempted to fire away from beyond the arc three times, and missed them all. It was a rough start to say the least, so let's see if Bargnani can snap out of it and produce for his new team.
Who has impressed you most so far? Who has been the most disappointing? What are your expectations for this season? Share your thoughts and your fantasy team with us in the comments or on twitter @asfarfaketeams.
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