The Bergens are coming, AHHH. The Bergens are coming, AHHH. The Bergens are coming, AHHH. The Bergens are coming, AHHH.
For those without kids, that’s Branch in “Trolls” overreacting because he’s scared of success (and friendship), just like so many fantasy basketball players will overreact to the first couple games, when regular bench rotations guys will be proclaimed breakouts of the season, and busts will be said to abound as the rust gets knocked off the boots.
However, while we definitely don’t want to overreact, let’s remember: Branch ended up being right. You don’t want to be caught with that average penny stock and telling yourself, “any day now, it’s gunna go crazy!” [Checks portfolio, sighs with depression, gets back to basketball.] Keep an eye on minutes, rotations and usage more than the general stat lines in these early going.
And with that piece of nonsensical advice, let’s get on with the show! Here’s what caught my eye in the 12 games of the unofficial official opening night in The Association.
Charlotte Hornets 116, Atlanta Hawks 110
It’s probably too late, but add Jalen Johnson now if he’s available. He showed the hype train leading into the season was worth the gas, coming off the bench to score 21 points (9-13 FG, 103 3PT, 2-4 FT) with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block in 29 minutes. Toot ToooooT!
If you’re new to owned Trae Young (23-9-1, 5 turnovers, 4-19 FG, 1-9 3PT), welcome to the grind. But, hey, 14-of-15 from the line! Don’t panic on Okongwu, who got just 19 minutes to Clint Capela’s 29. And don’t expect five steals from Saddiq Bey any more, but he’ll be a quality fantasy player this year.
Mark Williams paid earlier dividends for his believers – which seems like about everyone leading into the season – with a 13-point, 15-rebound dub-dub and 4 STONKS. Gordon Hayward may just have some left in the tank, using that old man Point Forward game to drop 10-8-7-1-1 (6 turnovers) in the opener.
Cleveland Cavaliers 114, Brooklyn Nets 113
Two fantasy headlines in one game, as Max Strus went bananas from beyond the arc, hitting 7-of-13 and finishing with 27 points along with 12 boards, 2 assists, a steal and a block. No word yet on when Jarrett Allen’s injury (not expected to be too long), so feel free to stream a ride on the Strus Caboose while it’s featured in the starting lineup.
It was a CAMXPLOSION on the Nets side, featuring a 36-point banger by Cam Thomas (13-21 FG, 2-5 3PT, 8-11) with a 45.2(!) usage rate against the small-ball lineups. But we all know what follows a BOOOM with this type of player …
Nice little start by Dennis Smith Jr. off the bench, hitting 4-of-5 from the field, 2-of-3 from deep for 10 points, with 4 boards and an assist in 16 minutes. One to keep on a minutes watch, but may be tough with Point Ben Simmons (4-10-9-0-1) now healthy (for now).
Dallas Mavericks 126, San Antonio Spurs 119
Luka Doncic opens with a 33-13-10 triple-double, but it was the rookie Dereck Lively II with 31 minutes off the bench tightening up our fantasy pants, finishing with a 16-10-1-1-1 statline, 7-of-8 from the field. If he’s there, GRAB HIM!
Victor Wembanyama-lama-ding-dong had his opener a little spoiled with 5 fouls and 5 turnovers, will be occur often and is why ya don’t overreach for rookies even when they are mythical creatures from Loch Ness. He still finished a respectable 15-5-2-2-1 with three 3s, and to his credit battled through and played well down the stretch.
The Spurs are just going to be fun fantasy fodder all season, leading with my pick for Most Improved Player of the Year, Devin Vassell, who posted 23-5-3-2-0, going 9-of-17 from the field, 1-of-6 from deep. If you have a roster spot, scoop up Tre Jones, who may of been dropped in standard leagues when news broke Jeremy Sochan (13-8-5-1-0) would start at point guard. Tre got 25 minutes of run, which should be plenty for him to produce for fantasy, and finished with 16-5-6 and nice efficiency (5-7 FG, 2-3 3PT, 4-4 FT). He also finished the game as point guard.
OK City Thunder 124, Chicago Bulls 104
Let’s see, checking the Thunder box score … yep, all checks out.
Let’s see, checking the Bulls box score … yuck.
New Orleans Pelicans 111, Memphis Grizzlies 104
Pretty much all as expected for the Pels. Nice to see CJ McCollum (24-4-6-2-1) off to an efficient start (8-16 FG, 6-11 3PT, 2-2 FT).
Congrats to those addicted to their phones who first got the sad Steven Adams news and nabbed Xavier Tillman, who finished 17-12-4-3-1 and hit a three. Desmond Bane looking into the Pels’ eyes and said “Speak of the Devil, and he shall appear” (I assume there will be lots of Dark Knight quotes in fantasy roundups this year, so figure I’d get it started), then posted 31 points (11-22 FG, 5-10 3PT, 4-5 FT), 5 boards, 5 dimes, 2 steal and a block. And then he lost, because Batman always wins.
Boston Celtics 108, New York Knick 104
Uhhhhh, Kristaps Porzingis might be a problem. It’s not just that he hit 4-of-9 three-pointers (along with 8 boards and 4 blocks), it’s that he was teeing it up off the pick-n-pop from about six feet from behind the arch. You can’t guard that. It’s as impressive as this one guy I know who hits drives off a tee stuck in a pencil – a pencil tee [that’s actually me; not so humble brag!].
Jayson Tatum kicked off his MVP campaign in style with 34-11-4-2-1 on solid percentages, while Jaylen Brown (11-6-5-1-9; 4-11 FG, o-fer-4 3PT) kicked his fantasy owners in the nads – he’ll be fiiiiiine.
Not the start I was looking for by Quentin Grimes (11 points, 3 threes, a board and that’s it in 23 minutes), who I traded a 1st rounder for in the off-season Razzball dynasty league. Immanuel Quickley was far more productive, scoring 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting (3-6 3PT), snagging 6 boards and a steal, and dishing 4 assists in 28 minutes. [Deep breath, it’s just one game.]
Along the same lines, Isaiah Hartenstein (7-8-2) played four more minutes than Mitchell Robinson (2-6-1 and 2 steals). Fouls were part of the equation, but I-Hart definitely looked better in this one, and might not be an overreaction to swap Mitch for Hart in standard leagues.
Miami Heat 103, Detroit Piston 102
The Damian Lillard-less Miami Heat fought off a late run by the Pistons to hold onto the win, but from a fantasy perspective the Pistons were the highlight on opening night.
Cade Cunningham scored 30 points without a trip to the free throw line (13-27 FG, 4-9 3PT), adding 3 boards, 9 dimes, a steal and a block. But how about Detroit’s Twin Powers [copywritten, it’s mine!] Isaiah Stewart posted 14-12-2 and hit 2-of-3 from deep, but Jalen Duren shot 8-of-11 (17 points), also grabbed 14 boards and added 4 dimes and blocks each. Duren and Cunningham showed a repertoire, and it looks like Duren will have decent assists numbers for a big guy this season just by handing the ball off to a hot Cade off the pick. Marvin Bagley III produced, too, to the tune of 8-8-3 with a block in 16 minutes. And a wise man once said, Wiseman can be dropped in all leagues.
Auser Thompson was as expected: bad shooting (1-7 FG, 1-3 3PT, 1-2 FT) and busy elsewhere, finishing with 7 boards, 3 assists and 5(!) blocks in 27 starter minutes.
A solid opener for Kevin Love (13-10-2 with 3 threes), who’s probably reliable in the early going until Father Time catches up to him. Caleb Martin was a no show; Tyler Herro chucked up a lot of shots; and Jaime Jaquez Jr. started off his career with 6 points, 2 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals in 13 minutes … and Kyle Lowry is apparently the new PJ Tucker, finishing 0-fer-1 from the field in 32 minutes.
Orlando Magic 116, Houston Rockets 86
It’s just one game, but I’m sticking with my mantra to not trust any Rockets players to fulfill their ADP other than Alperen Sengun (14-8-6 in 28 minutes; 6-11 FG) … and Tari Eason when he returns).
Cole Anthony had the hot hand for Orlando, leading the way with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting. All around solid games by the Magic rotation as they managed to blow out Houston twice in one game. And a promising opening 14 minutes from Jonathan Isaac – 11 points (4-6 FG, 1-3 3PT, 2-3 FT), 4 boards and a block.
Toronto Raptors 97, Minnesota Timberwolves 94
Did Scottie Barnes really hate Fred VanVleet THAT much? Not only did he post a mouth-watering fantasy line (17-8-5-2-5), you could tell he was enjoying the heck out of his time on the floor. Jakob Poeltl was kinda ho-hum with a 7-11-1-1-1 line on 3-of-3 shooting, and split minutes right down the middle with Precious Achiuwa (8 points, 8 boards). Wait and watch on that development.
Double-doubles with 4 blocks for both Rudy Gobert and Karl Anthony-Towns, though the later was rusty in the efficiency effort (8-25 FG, 2-10 3PT). Only 10 assists from the Wolves’ starters, but likely due to just a bunch of first-game bricks being laid.
L.A. Clippers 123, Portland Trail Blazers 111
Biggest takeaway from this game is that streaming players going up against the Blazers will be a thing until further notice. Ivica Zubac had an easy go of it with 20 points (8-10 FG), 12 boards and 4 blocks, while Paul George (27-3-6-3-0) and Kahwi Leonard (23-5-6-1-1-) combined for 9-of-12 from deep in a cruise of a win.
Bones Hyland made an early statement of the bench with 17 points (6-11 FG, 3-8 3pt, 2-2 FT) 3 dimes in 22 minutes.
It was a rough first outing for Scoot Henderson, who needed garbage time to squeak out an 11-3-4 line, going o-fer-four from behind the arc. Nothing to be alarmed about, as a 19-year-old up against three future HOFers in his first run was a tough task.
DeAndre Ayton (4-12-1-3-1) was limited to 23 minutes partly due to foul trouble. That aside, he has me worried early, as he looked far from rejuvenated from being away from the Suns. Hopefully he brings the energy in home opener of his new setting. Different early “ugh” for Anfernee Simons (18-2-4-2-0; 6-14 FG, 2-6 3PT, 4-4 FT), whose usage rate was only 23.3 and played only 27 minutes due to blowout. Blazers will likely be on the wrong end of a lot of blowouts, so his upside could be limited if the usage rate isn’t in the high 20s (which I expect it to be as the dust settles).
Indiana Pacers 143, Washington Wizards 120
This game looked like it was played on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as both teams pushed the tempo from the get-go and combined for 203 FG attempts.
An encouraging opening night for Bennedict Mathurin, posting 18 points (6-15 FG, 2-6 3PT, 4-4), 4 boards, 5 assists and 2 steals. His growth in fantasy this year comes from the counting stats. Bruce Brown nailed 6-of-8 from behind the arch; Buddy Hield hit 4-of-7, per usual. Tyrese Halibuton did his best Tyrese Haliburton impression on opening night (20-3-11-1-2).
But the biggest takeaway here was an impressive 22 minutes from Andrew Nembhard, posting 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, 4 boards and 10 assists. He was among the breakouts of the rookie class last year, and looks like he’ll get just enough minutes to be a standard league fantasy asset if he keeps it up.
An intriguing opening-night line of 9 points, 7 boards, 5 assists and a steal from Deni Avdija in just 21 minutes. Minutes will be spread around for the Wizards this year, but I’m definitely on Deni breakout watch, especially if Wizards plan to play fast. (I don’t know if it was just my wonky computer connection, but it looks like his feet are juiced with that pink bunny energizer stuff.)
Maybe prediction, maybe overreaction, but I think people who drafted Jordan Poole (18-2-5-1-1; 7-18 FG, 0-6 3PT, 4-5 FT) will regret not taking Tyus Jones (16-3-6-1-1; 7-12 FG, 2-4 3PT, 0-1 FT) a few rounds later instead.
Sacramento Kings 130, Utah Jazz 114
Point of interest for me in this one was the minutes divide between Kevin Huerter (7-5-2; 1-5 3PT), Malik Monk (10-2-7 with 2 blocks; 2-9 3PT) and Chris Duarte (9-2-1; 3-4 3PT), which was 24, 23 and 15, respectively. I would love to see Monk earn the most out of the trio, but what we saw is what we saw and that’s the way it’s probably going to be.
Big first game from Harrison Barnes, scoring 33 points on 11-of-16 shooting, 5-of-7 from deep and a perfect 6-for-6 at the line – which might be his best game of the season, so feel free to tease from offers out there. Kris Murray picked up where his rookie season left off, nailing 4-of-9 from deep while finishing with a 15-8-1-1-2 stat line. An uptick in his counting stats this year and he’ll easily beat his ADP.
The Jazz guard rotation outside of Jordan Clarkson (24-4-6) could be a quagmire for a while. I like Kris Dunn (8-1-2-2-0 in 16 minutes) to ultimately prove he’s the better play, but this situation may take a while to clarify. Nice start for John Collins on his new team, scoring 15 points (6-11 FG, 1-3 3PT, 2-2 FT) with 11 boards, 2 assists and a steal. But a rough one for everyone’s favorite Utah Ranger, Walker Kessler (8-8-0-0-1), but no need to panic.
WHEWWWW, what a humdinger of an opening night. The NBA is back! Remember, have patience in the first few games. As my grandma used to say, overreactions are how the blind pig lost its way [totally made that up].