The young season has already provided some serious ups and downs, surprises, and plenty of excitement. We’ve seen several 50-point games, a Derrick Rose time machine experience, some thrilling overtime finishes, and one Javale McGee three-pointer.
One thing I don’t get is why players need rest when they have been chilling on the beaches of Jamaica, hanging out in Paris, or making some extra change running basketball camps, which they don’t really run, but is a way for their high school buddies to capitalize on their name and make a few dollars.
Yet, here they are resting in week 2. Gordon Hayward, I get. I certainly don’t get Kawhi resting. He rested all last year!
In this piece, I will provide some info on the basketball and fantasy trends of the teams in the Association. We will start this week with the teams located on the Left Coast.
Golden State Warriors
Team Outlook – Still looking for a Fifth Temptation
Warriors are 8-1 and Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson have been taking turns demoralizing NBA defensive schemes. I am concerned about the “others,” as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston suddenly look old, Jordan Bell has not broken out, and Patrick McCaw must be on serious narcotics to think he will find a better situation than coming off the bench for the champs. With the pace of today’s NBA, you need nine guys.
I don’t think they look nearly as strong a team as last year. Other assemblages in the West are far deeper in terms of quality players. The death squad is no longer formidable, for a variety of reasons. Iggy is not the same, teams have adjusted, and many have created their own death lineups.
Steph Curry is playing like Steph Curry circa 2015, as he is making a ridiculous six 3’s a game and pouring in 33 PPG while shooting 52% from three-point land and 55% from the field. KD is just as lethal, and now that Klay Thompson has gotten the memo that the season has started, they will be great to have on your roster. Either one of the troika can keep your three-ball category out of peril. Don’t take that literally. You always need more than one guy, but I think you get my drift.
Draymond Green has started out slowly scoring but is still adding rebounds, blocks, dimes, and is focused on having his name in the DPOY conversation. Dray is dishing out 7 APG, which allows you to get by without having a tier 1 PG on your team. The good news ends there. Kevon Looney shows flashes, Damian Jones ditto, and I don’t know what Jordan Bell was working on over the summer, but I can’t see it. He was on a number of breakout lists in the offseason, but seems to have regressed. The same can be said of Quinn Cook, who provided good play and decent numbers off the bench. Jonas Jerebko won a game with a last minute tip in and provides some energy off the bench, but no one on the pine plays more than 17 minutes. The big four are all averaging over 30 minutes. This is not sustainable. Someone named Alfonzo McKinnie has been a bright spot off the bench.
You had a window and may still have a small one to buy low on Draymond, but act quickly. If you have an IR spot, you can stash DeMarcus Cousins. It will be interesting to see how he gets integrated. I would expect a slow start, but if you can afford to wait, I can see him coming on late in the season, with Coach Kerr taking turns resting one of the other four regularly.
Los Angeles Clippers
Team Outlook – Lob City No More
I thought Doc Rivers did an outstanding coaching job coaxing 42 victories out of an injury-laden squad last year, and is now trying to figure out who to play, now that they are all back with additional pieces. So what you have are 10 good players, but no great players. A 4-4 record is about as good as one can expect, and the mix will remain fluid, especially with so many decent wings. Tobias Harris comes closest to the star designation, with 21 PPG and 8.6 RPG with good percentages. Danilo Gallinari has averaged 20 PPG and 6 RPG, and more importantly, escaped the injury bug two weeks into the season, an accomplishment in and of itself. Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Milos Teodosic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are five guys vying for two spots.
In the middle, Marcin Gortat looks like a ghost of his former self, and is rapidly losing minutes to Montrezl Harrell, who should be owned everywhere. Boban Marjonovich can play against certain teams and certain opponents, but most opposing teams put him in the pick-and-roll and feast.
If Doc can keep this group in the playoff hunt, I will tip my hat to him again for a job well done.
Simply because of the timeshare, I shied away from Lou Will this year, who was absolutely fantastic last year, and is a much better passer than given credit for. He still is providing 17 PPG, 3 APG, three-pointers, and free throws. Also stay away from Beverley and Bradley. Funny how former Celtics don’t play as well once they get away from Brad Stevens. I think the guy to own is SGA, who I think will be the winner in the guard-minutes sweepstakes. If Beverley keeps antagonizing opponents, he may find himself in the hospital.
Gallo has been great so far, but owning him demands courage and Tums. He hasn’t played over 60 games in seven years, so maybe this year is the charm. Tobias is as solid as they come, and his continued ascension was no secret to any fantasy player. If you consider Boban’s per-36 minute numbers, he would come in at 27 PPG and 14 RPG, but God only knows what the other team’s big man numbers would look like. Harrell is currently at 13 PPG and 6 RPG with a gaudy 64% shooting percentage in only 20 mpg, and has already eclipsed Gortat. Look for his minutes and production to improve.
If you drafted Gortat, drop him. Harrell will render him non-productive, and besides, John Wall is not here to give Gortat easy lobs and layups. This looks like a team that could benefit from addition by subtraction. Let one guy get hurt, so all the rest could settle into their roles and watch Doc do his thing.
Los Angeles Lakers
Team Outlook -– The Island of Misfit Toys
This team is a collection of odd pieces. Young draft picks in Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart form one side of the equation, while the other side consists of free agent acquisitions, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley. In between these two groups, we find LeBron Raymone James Sr. LBJ is tasked to knit these two groups into a cohesive basketball team.
Sitting at 3-5 after a 0-4 start, the Lakers are looking better. Luke Walton is still experimenting with combinations and was given a setback when Rondo and Ingram had to sit out games due to their pugilistic activities. The first question is, “Who can play Robin to LBJ’s Batman?” None of the young’uns look Pippenish just yet, but there is potential. While many think they are a year away from being a playoff team, I have learned to never count out Raymone Sr.
Last season, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a 25-day period when he could not leave the state due to a probation violation. This was a tough period if he was on your fantasy team. The problem stemmed from a drunk driving arrest in Michigan, that KCP had pleaded down to a lesser charge of “allowing someone to operate a motor vehicle under the influence.” If you drafted KCP last year, you suffered through his period of only playing California games. Basically, the Lakers had an $18 million, 3-and-D asset who could not leave the state to play basketball because he pleaded guilty to letting someone else drive his car. Hopefully, you didn’t draft KCP this year, because he is guilty of losing his starting position to Josh Hart. Sorry to devote a whole paragraph for a player that you should drop, but it seemed like an interesting anecdote.
Josh Hart’s position is BP, Basketball Player. He always seems to make winning plays, either in the purple and gold or when he was at Villanova. So far, 12 PPG, 2 3’s, 4 RPG, and 1.75 SPG. He also plays inspired defense, which is a concept that many of his mates have not grasped yet. Snatch him if he is available in your league. I wondered about the Rondo fit at first, thinking he was only signed so Lonzo would not start, and Lavar would be forced to be quiet. But Rajon is providing PG leadership and 11 PPG and 7 APG. This thing is coming together since there are eight players averaging double figures, but from a fantasy standpoint you have to be careful. Ball and Rondo are splitting time, so proceed with caution. Ingram and Kuzma are scoring well, but not really giving enough production in other categories to merit the hype. If you can capitalize on the Lakers spotlight and swap one of them for a Tobias Harris, a Paul Millsap, or another more well-rounded forward, go for it. Which brings us to Mr. Shaqtin a fool himself, JaVale McGee, who is making all his owners look like geniuses. 15.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.25 BPG, and 63% from the floor is superior production, no matter who you are. Born Ready, whose government name is Lance Stephenson is averaging almost 11 points a game, but he is still Lance, which means he is not trustworthy enough to own. Oh, I almost forgot about Raymone Sr., who over the initial eight contests, is clearly coasting this year as some have suggested: 27.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 8.0 APG, 2 SPG, 1.5 3PM, while shooting over 50% from the floor.
Team Outlook– Let’s Play Halfcourt and Who Needs a GM?
The Suns have one victory and look like the Western Division’s worst team, but there are rays of hope. Devin Booker, who is currently on the shelf, is making a leap on top of last year’s leap, at least on the offensive end. Deandre Ayton, this year’s No. 1 draft choice, looks like the real deal, at least on the offensive end. TJ Warren is scoring well and shooting over 51% from the field. New coach Igor Kokoskov has quite a task, but at least he has the backing of Gregg Popovich. What he needs is some players dedicated to working hard on the less glamorous aspects of the game. If the Suns only played on the offensive end, they might have a better chance to win. It is very difficult to win NBA games without a decent floor general, and the Suns don’t have one. Just think, in the past three years, they have gotten rid of PG’s Goran Dragic, Brandon Knight, Isiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe, and Tyler Ulis. All would start on this team.
The aforementioned Booker is the real deal, and is quickly becoming a playmaker as well as a scorer. He may be the defacto PG upon his return. Deandre Ayton is doing 17 and 10, while shooting 62% from the field. He has a great shot at being Rookie of the Year. He will have nights when he gets bullied and abused on defense, but he and Booker form a formidable duo. Josh Jackson made great strides the last month of last season, but is struggling again, scoring only 7.6 points and shooting 37%. Clearly, he needs to grow the Afro back. Trevor Ariza was signed to teach the young pups professionalism and DEFENSE, but the task may be too large for him. Of the three PG options, Isaiah Canaan has experience, Elie Okobo the best offensive tools, and De’Anthony Melton is the best defender. Stay away from all of them. TJ Warren will score and not do much else, and is the only Sun worth owning after DB and DA. Give Igor your best wishes when you see him at Sam’s Club. You will see him in the aisle buying Tums, industrial size.
Team Outlook—These are Not Your Father’s Kings
The Kings are 6-3. Yes, you read that right, 6-3. True, the W’s have come against mostly middling teams, but we learned much from the three losses: Six points at home on opening night to the Jazz, and road losses to the Pels and Nuggets, who both look like playoff teams.
My buddy looked at me askance last year when I said the Kings were the big winners on draft day. He remembers the Kings who drafted Ben McLemore, Georgios Papagiannis, Thomas Robinson, and Marques Chriss all in the top 10.
In the 2017 draft, they added De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, and Harry Giles in the first round with Frank Mason in the second. Giles was recovering from injury, but the other three gained valuable NBA experience and have been contributors to this year’s early success. Add in the young veterans, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Yogi Ferrell, and you start to see a nice little rotation. The Kings may not make the playoffs this year, but Dave Joerger has the Kings playing very, very fast. They picked up the tough-minded Iman Shumpert in a trade last year and signed Nemanja Bjelica in free agency. Lastly, this year’s No. 2 overall draft choice, Marvin Bagley III looks like a 2018 Zach Randolph. More importantly, they are fun to watch. Don’t forget that we have yet to see Bogdan Bogdonavich, who was their best wing player last year.
De’Aaron Fox is playing the role of distributor and scorer (17.5 PPG, 7 APG, 1.5 SPG, 4 RPG) and had his first triple-double this week. The only negative is the poor three-point FG%. Buddy Hield is the long-range, unconscious sniper (19 PPG and 52% from the field). Willie Cauley-Stein indicated in camp that he wanted to get paid, and is playing like it. He made the jump in scoring and efficiency that I expected last year when I drafted him (17.4 PPG, 9 RPG, and 56% shooting). Surprisingly, the blocks are low, but that should improve. Nemanja Bjelica has been the surprise of this division, and I always wondered why Thibs didn’t play him more in Minnesota. He is a great stretch four who is contributing in every category. Stop reading this right now and see if he is still available in your league. Look at the numbers: 15.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3 APG, 2.3 3PM, and 2.25 stocks (steals plus blocks for the uninitiated) on 58% shooting from the floor. I can’t imagine the elevated shooting percentage continues, but Bjelica is a perfect fit for this team. Bagley adds 12 PPG and 7.4 RPG. By splitting time, it keeps both Bjelica and Bagley fresh, hungry, and out of foul trouble.
Odds and Ends
Don’t Drink and Draft – if you picked Ryan Anderson or KCP. Leave the Coronas alone until after the draft is complete next year