The NBA is back and boy have we seen things nobody could have expected, and I mean NOBODY. Cleveland finds themselves atop of the conference at 3-0 at the time of this writing. James Harden also blocked out all the noise to drop 44/17 in the first Rockets game of the season. The title-contending Clippers got destroyed by 51 against Luka and his Mavs, the Knicks humbled Giannis and the Bucks at the world’s most famous arena, and the injury bug is still potent, striking Karl-Anthony Towns (dislocated wrist) and Spencer Dinwiddie (partially torn ACL) which will cost him the whole season. Let’s see how things are looking in the East and what players started off nicely.
The Nets. I have to discuss the Nets first. I have them finishing 6th in the East and I still stand by it, but for the first three games of the season, they are 2-1 and look good. Very good actually. Kevin Durant looks like, well, Kevin Durant again and is so far making me look dumb for passing up on him for Jayson Tatum in one of my fantasy drafts. I still stand with JT though. Durant is averaging a little over 30 minutes, shooting over 50% from the field, and scoring 26.7 points with a few assists and rebounds. Kyrie Irving has also come back with a vengeance and dare I say has impressed me more than KD. He is averaging nearly 30 points with 6 assists on a ludicrous 61% field goal percentage. Now, these numbers will most likely regress. For all my KD & Kyrie owners out there you guys should be very happy with the production. But, and this is a big but, the reason I am not that high on Brooklyn is that both players will sit games and that started on Monday the 28th against Memphis. They will miss more games, and maybe my predicted chemistry issues will come into play. But for now, enjoy the ride. Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen are the other two Nets that have impressed me. LeVert seems to be leading the bench unit well and is a very good scorer that can get you a few steals and more than enough rebounds for a guard. Allen, the center Nash should be starting and giving over 25 minutes is also another player that his owners should be happy with and expect more out of as the season progresses.
Now for the elephant in the room. The Cavs. Does the East still run through Cleveland? No, no it does not. The Cavs are on fire coming off a pumping against the Embiid-less Sixers, but this winning is not something that I think will continue, but perhaps maybe they won’t be the worst team in the league. There are a couple of guys in Cleveland that have looked good. First off, if Larry Nance Jr. is on any waiver wire, go get him in. Kevin Love and Isaac Okoro will be out on Tuesday. Love may also miss a little bit more time which would allow LNJ more and more minutes in the frontcourt as the other main guy there for Cleveland is Andre Drummond who has started off nicely. A nightly double-double threat that you can always count on for rebounds and stocks at an elite level. The backcourt has also been great. Darius Garland has been a nice surprise and should have the chances to continue as his spot, minutes, and role are nailed. It’s all up to him and he is worthy of a look and perhaps a chance in many of your teams depending on who you have. Collin Sexton, the other half of the backcourt, has also been very good. He is an excellent source of scoring but not really much else. He is averaging 27 points with almost 4 assists, while Garland is averaging 19 points with a little over 8 assists. Many Cavs players seem poised to have a good year.
Now that I got those two teams off my chest, let’s look at some standout players and some others that may be sitting on some of your waiver wires that are worth a look at.
- Domantas Sabonis – Sabonis was just named as the player of the week for the conference and deservedly so. He averaged 24.3 points with 11 rebounds and 7 assists. He is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves and is probably one of the best players on your fantasy teams. This production should continue as he is the best player on the Pacers and I do not see him slowing down. He should have another All-Star season where he will average around what he is right now. His numbers may drop slightly but don’t be surprised if they don’t. They might even go up! Sabonis owners, well done on drafting a guy that will be a consistently great producer
- Trae Young – Trae had an underwhelming preseason, but that form did not follow into the regular season. He has come in guns blazing averaging 36.5 points and 8 assists. That 36.5 number will come down, but the assists will be something that stays and might even increase. Trae will be again one of the best players you can have and as long as he is healthy. I do not see him slowing down this season.
- Ben Simmons – Simmons, one of the league’s best defenders will always be there to give you a bit of everything. His excellent defense has led him to average, so far, at least, 2.3 blocks and 1.7 steals a game. Those may be inflated numbers and they will come down probably but with Ben, you can always expect near triple-double value every night as long as he is healthy.
- Khris Middleton – One of my favorite players out there. He is arguably the most efficient player in the league, and so far I can go as far as saying that he has outshined the 2X MVP and teammate, Giannis Anetetokoumpo. He has come in averaging 26.7 points with 7.3 rebounds and 6 assists. Middleton is absolutely great and is burning me as well along with those who did not draft him. I tried trading for him before the games even started but to no avail. Now there is for sure no way! Enjoy K-Mid owners.
Potential Waiver Wire Adds:
- OG Anunoby – OG has a 37.1% ownership on ESPN and 85% on Yahoo. That is a huge discrepancy, so for all my ESPN guys, take a look at OG. He is a nailed on player for Nick Nurse and has played 36 minutes in both outings so far. Now he obviously isn’t a top option ahead of Pascal Siakam and whatnot, but he can get you stocks at a great rate and haul in rebounds too.
- Chris Boucher – Another Raptor is Boucher. If Boucher gets 25+ minutes as he did against San Antonio on the 26th then we will see more of that stat line of 22/10 with 7, yes 7 blocks! Well, maybe not with 7 blocks, but Boucher is a per 36 monster, so keep an eye out on him, and if you have the room bring him on for the week.
- Cole Anthony – The rookie out of UNC has come in and has backed up Markelle Fultz. A role that will last all season, I presume, but as a backup, he has had respectable numbers and performances. He has averaged 9 points with around 5 rebounds and 5 assists in only 18 minutes. The number of minutes he gets could be off-putting but the production could be worth it as a backend guy on your roster. I, for one, have picked him up in place of Devin Vassell in one of my leagues.
- Wendell Carter Jr. – WCJ is rostered in 25.1% of leagues on ESPN & 79% on Yahoo. He plays an average of 28 minutes and should be a good source of rebounds and blocks. He hasn’t been the best so far, but his latest performance against Golden State on the 27th is promising for him. He put up a double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds. WCJ seems to be ready to have a better year under a much better coach in Billy Donovan. Keep your eye on him.
Overall, it has been an unexpected start to the season, with many things changing quickly. We see the Cavs atop the East and by next week maybe they’ll be towards the bottom. Maybe we’ll see another 50 point blowout. Who knows? My Knicks have started off in a better way than anyone expected. If you were to tell me that the Knicks would be 1-2 after playing Indiana, Philly, and Milwaukee, I would have gladly taken it. Now they face the undefeated Cavs on Tuesday, the 29th. A win there would mean a New York Knicks 2-game winning streak and me hyperventilating over my screen contemplating how RJ would look with a ring. In all seriousness though, it is good to have basketball back and good to have fantasy back! Hope your squads have all started nicely and you are sitting on winning records!