It’s a weird start to the NBA season.
I’m sure it feels like that every year, but it really feels more volatile than usual this year to me.
The Durant-Westbrook double whammy is the biggest team hit I can remember in recent years. The length of their respective injuries could be the difference between contending for the championship – and missing the playoffs outright. (Still think trading James Harden was the right move, Sam Presti?)
And I think the ripples of those injuries are a perfect metaphor for the nascent NBA season: Anything is in play.
When LeBron James’ hometown return isn’t the most significant Fantasy Basketball news for week 1, you know you’ve got a strange year…
Russell Westbrook, OKC, PG
Still reeling from KD’s preseason injury, OKC’s fans can only blame terrorism for the loss of #2 beast Westbrook. Both these guys are gone for a month or 2, and these events are approaching cataclysmic in both Fantasy and reality. I had Russell Westbrook as the #1 Fantasy Basketball player in the game until KD came back. So now the consensus #1 pick (Durant) and the interim #1 player (Westbrook) are both gone for a very long time. More on this later…
Jose Calderon, NY, PG
This one didn’t send shockwaves through the NBA, but it did make Shane Larkin (son of Hall of Fame baseball shortstop Barry Larkin) Fantasy relevant. This pickup is NOT one of those situations where the young guy finally gets his break – and beasts for the rest of the season (see: Marshall, Kendall). Calderon is coming back in 2/3 weeks, but Larkin is worth a look if you need a PG for the next couple weeks…
Derrick Rose, CHI, PG
There’s no particular reason PGs got ravaged in Week 1 of the Fantasy Basketball season, but like I said above, it’s been a weird year. Now let’s not freak out: D-Rose basically just missed one game. He’s considered the perpetually ominous "day-to-day", but you’re telling me Rose owners aren’t sweating? (I don’t own Derrick Rose anywhere – on purpose.) Here are a couple numbers for you: 39, 10. Sounds like an awesome double double from Kevin Love on the T-Wolves, right? Nope. That’s the number of games Derrick Rose has played in the last 2 NBA seasons, respectively. Owners beware: It’s happening again…
Instead of naming individual players, I figured I’d just list the 4 NBA teams with the most volatile rotations in the league. The aforementioned OKC Thunder are trying to put a team together with Band-Aids and super glue. The Bucks have a new coach (Jason Kidd) who is continually experimenting with an inherited roster to find the magic formula. The Pacers are trying to establish a team identity after losing superstar Paul George to a freak injury, letting the intriguing Lance Stephenson leave in free agency and having alpha dog David West and starting PG (another one!) George Hill go down short-term. Oh, and the Sixers have a team comprised exclusively of 5th graders.
Rather than analyze every rotation player on these 4 teams (as every single player seems to have Fantasy value on any given night), here is an odd list of players you should be tracking in your Watch List: Tony Wroten, Chris Copeland, Perry Jones, Andre Roberson, Donald Sloan, Alexey Shved, Steven Adams, Henry Sims, Hollis Thompson, Lavoy Allen, Sebastian Telfair, Khris Middleton, Jerryd Bayless, etc.
Some of them are worth adding, some of them aren’t. Seems to change on a daily basis. Feel free to follow the numbers, but don’t be surprised if you use up your weekly add limits rather quickly…
Elfrid Payton, ORL, PG
He’s volatile (as all NBA rookies are), but check out the numbers from his game against the Raptors on Saturday: 30 minutes, 16 points, 6/12 from the field, 9 assists, 1 turnover. He’s got an ugly 36.4 FG% after 3 games in the league, but he’s gonna play a lot (possibly until Victor Oladipo comes back). If he’s not already scooped up, this is one of the NBA rookies to target. He passed the eye test for me Saturday…
Nerlens Noel, PHI, PF/C
While overhyped, N2 will be a Fantasy Beast at some point. Not sure if this season is his year, but he’s very intriguing. Against the Bucks, he shot 7/11 from the field with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. He followed up that performance by getting 2 points, 5 rebounds and 3 turnovers against Miami. Many people reached on Noel this year, but this is certainly an intriguing asset…
Andrew Wiggins, MIN, SF
It’s only 3 games, but Wiggins has disappointed. 7.3 PPG, 37.5 FG%, 42.9 FT%. Raise your hand if you saw this coming… On the plus side, he’s putting up better defensive stats than I anticipated: 1.7 steals/game, 0.7 blocks/game. He’ll be a stud one day, but maybe not this year…
I thought I’d pass along some goodies from the advanced stats world. These numbers could be clues to future Fantasy goodness…
Marcus Smart, BOS, PG
His offensive rating of 124.6 is among the best in the NBA. Only playing 20 minutes/game as a rookie…
Alexey Shved, PHI, PG
His assist % is 51.7, and that leads the entire NBA.
Tristan Thompson, CLE, PF/C
His offensive rebounding % of 25.5 leads the NBA.
New Cleveland’s usage problem:
LeBron is #3 in the NBA at 33.3, Kyrie Irving is just outside the top 20 at 27.7, Kevin Love (as predicted by me here) has fallen all the way down to 20.4…
In summation, it’s been a crazy start to the NBA season.
Lots of injuries, lots of intriguing rookies (in a historically significant draft class) and many many question marks.
We’re just getting started here, so it’s no surprise really. But things are going to change.
Get ready for the madness of the NBA.
And luckily for you, your tour guide’s a little crazy too.