Dallas Mavericks vs. Sacramento Kings
The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Sacramento Kings 105-99 in the Sunday matinee game. Viewers were treated to the full “Luka Doncic Experience,” as he had a near triple-double, 23 points (10-21 FG, 1-7 3PT), eight rebounds, 10 assists, one steal, one block, and three turnovers. Doncic also picked up a technical foul midway through the third quarter after an expletive-filled barrage, that followed three-quarters of Doncic’s patented palms up, pouty-face routine. Oh, and he made this ridiculous, back-breaking three-pointer to round out the experience:
Luka. that works. pic.twitter.com/uJjYysnv20
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) October 31, 2021
Doncic controlled this game from start to finish and mostly got whatever he wanted. He remains ridiculously good and one expects that both his scoring and efficiency will tick up as the season progresses. Not even Jason Kidd can mess this up, right?
Maxi Kleber got a spot start with Kristaps Porzingis sidelined due to injury and was playing well before he strained his back. In just seven minutes of play, Kleber scored seven points (3-3 FG, 1-1 3PT) and grabbed five rebounds. Hopefully, Kleber’s injury isn’t too serious, he had a breakout game against the San Antoni Spurs on October 28, when he scored 12 points (4-8 3PT), grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out two assists, swiped one steal, and blocked a ridiculous six shots. He’s the 93rd ranked player in total value, per Yahoo this season.
Dorian Finney-Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. had rough shooting nights, but both scored in double figures. Finney-Smith’s final line: 13 points (5-13 FG, 1-6 3PT), six rebounds, two steals, one block, and one turnover. Hardaway Jr.’s final line: 16 points (5-14 FG, 4-11 3PT), three rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two turnovers. Finney-Smith is off to a terrible shooting start this season but is otherwise providing defensive value. For the season, he’s averaging eight points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal, and zero-point-seven blocks, while shooting 32.2% from the field, 18.8% from three, and 70% from the free-throw line. Finney-Smith is not a great shooter, but he’s better than this—he’s a career 34.3% from three. Hardaway Jr is off to a slow start from the field as well, shooting just 40%, but is at least making his threes at a 38.6% clip.
Dwight Powell had an efficient night, finishing the game with 12 points (4-5 FG, 1-1 3PT), eight rebounds, one assist, one steal, block, and one turnover. It does not look like Reggie Bullock will be duplicating his solid play from a season ago. His production and efficiency are down from a season ago and he’s averaging 10 fewer minutes. In 2020-21, he averaged 10.9 points, three rebounds, one assist and zero-point-eight steals, while shooting 44.3% from the field, 41% from three, and 90.9% from the line in 30 mpg. This season, he’s averaging 6.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, zero-point-seven assists, and has failed to record a steal, while shooting 35.9% from the field, 31% from three, and 50% (2-4) from the free-throw line.
De’Aaron Fox continues to struggle through the Kings’ first six games, averaging 18.5 points, five rebounds, six assists, one steal, and four turnovers while shooting 37.7% from the field, 17.1% from three, and 61.3% from the free-throw line. The percentages are bad all around and Fox continues his downward trend as a free-throw shooter. Fantasy managers have reason to be disappointed as Fox had his best season last year and many were expecting him to take another step forward this season. Fox should play better this season, but we are talking about “THE KANGZ” where the vibes are perpetually off. Hopefully, this isn’t a season-long slump. On the night, he tallied 14 points (5-16 FG, 1-4 3PT), eight rebounds, four assists, and three turnovers.
Tyrese Haliburton continues to rack up the defensive stats and struggle from the three-point line. Against the Mavericks, he tallied 14 points (5-14 FG, 1-4 3PT), six rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and one turnover. He’s shooting just 30% (6-20) from three this season. Maybe most concerning is the fact that he’s taking two fewer threes this season. He’s averaging three three-point attempts this season compared to five three-point attempts last season. Rather than re-litigate some of the things I said last weekend, I’ll just say, I’m closely monitoring Haliburton’s usage (15.6% this season compared to 17.5% last season) and development as an on-ball creator this season. Davion Mitchell isn’t better than Haliburton and might never be, but he can do things with the ball that Haliburton simply can’t. This driving layup by Mitchell in the second quarter is a great example of his explosiveness and quick-twitch ability. Watch as he puts Jalen Brunson in jail, changing pace, and comes to a jump-stop before exploding up for a lefty layup in traffic. This is a play Haliburton simply doesn’t have the functional athleticism to make.
Harrison Barnes had by far his worst shooting night of the season, scoring 15 points (5-16 FG, 1-8 3PT) and adding 10 rebounds, five assists, three steals, and one turnover. I had my doubts about whether or not Barnes could reproduce the numbers from his breakout season last year, but Barnes seems to be aging like fine wine. I don’t expect him to average 10 rebounds per game, as he’s doing at the moment, or shoot 45% from three for a full season, but with Haliburton and Fox struggling to some degree, there are points and usage to be claimed. Barnes is carrying a 21.8% usage rate this season, much higher than his 16.9% usage rate last season.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but STOP DOUBTING RICHAUN HOLMES! Besides Harrison Barnes, Holmes is by far the most consistent player on the Kings roster and he had another strong game against the Mavericks. His final stat line on the night: 22 points (9-15 FG, 1-1 3PT), 13 rebounds, two steals, and one turnover. After six games Holmes is averaging 16.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, one assist, 0.7 steals, 1.5 blocks, and 0.8 turnovers. Those scoring and rebounding numbers would be career-highs if they kept up all year. Oh, and he’s shooting 71.4% from the field and 94.1% (16-17) from the free-throw line. Holmes ranks 10th in total value, per Yahoo!
Buddy Hield had a rough shooting night, but chipped in admirably on the boards, finishing the game with 11 points (4-13 FG, 3-12 3PT), eight rebounds, one assist, one steal, and three turnovers. Davion Mitchell had a quiet night, finishing the game with six points (3-8 FG, 0-3 3PT), three assists, one block, and two turnovers. However, Jalen Brunson’s 3-for-10 night from the field can partly be attributed to Mitchell’s defense.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets’ strong start to the season continued apace on Sunday night, as they beat the Portland Trail Blazers 125-113. This was the type of steady, 48-minute performance that makes you think the Hornets could avoid the play-in and snag one of the Eastern Conference’s top-six playoff seeds. Things won’t always be this rosy, but it was an encouraging, well-rounded game for maybe the league’s most exciting team. Six players scored in double figures—Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges, Terry Rozier, LaMelo Ball, Kelly Oubre, and P.J. Washington. Amid their strong start to the season, it was easy to forget that the Hornets have been playing without Terry Rozier, their leading scorer from a season ago. He returned to the court last night and immediately started hitting threes.
Rozier finished the night with 14 points (4-10 from the field, 4-9 from three), two rebounds, five assists, one steal, and three turnovers in 32 minutes of play. He didn’t show any lingering effects from his ankle injuries. Rozier has quietly been one of the best spot-up three-point shooters in the league the past few seasons. He shot 43% on spot-up threes last season and that skillset is a perfect compliment to LaMelo Ball‘s pass-first style of play. It should come as no surprise then, that Ball had arguably his best game of the season against the Trail Blazers. Ball finished the night with 27 points ( 10-20 FG, 4-9 3PT), nine rebounds, seven assists, one steal, and crucially, just one turnover. He was plus-fifteen and had a strong third-quarter surge that changed the tenor of the game.
Before Ball’s strong second-half, I was prepared to bring up his quietly inefficient start to the season. LaMelo Ball’s early season performances have been buoyed by his unsustainably hot three-point shooting. Currently, Ball’s three-point percentage, 41.2%, is actually higher than his overall field goal percentage, 40.8%. Ball shot 43.6% from the field and 35.2% from three in his rookie year, for comparison. At the time of the writing of this article, NBA.com’s tracking data did not include stats from the Hornets vs. Trail Blazer game, but after six games LaMelo Ball was shooting a ridiculous 61.5% (8-13) on catch-and-shoot threes. Furthermore, Ball has been getting to the rim less often and scoring less efficiently when he does get there this season. Just 39% of his shots have come from less than 10-feet this season and he’s shooting just 41% on those shots, (again, these numbers do not include Sunday night’s game). Last year those numbers were 44.1% frequency and 51.2% efficiency. Rozier’s return should help Ball get back to last season’s proficiency and volume at the rim. Ball is a compelling prospect, he has very clear areas for improvement—rim finishing, mid-range shooting, and shot selection at times—but he remains exciting and more importantly, impactful, despite those flaws. He had his floater working last night, which is an important counterbalance to failing to get all the way to the basket.
Miles Bridges had a somewhat quiet scoring night by his lofty early-season standards but was still hyper-efficient and impactful with 19 points (6-12 FG, 3-7 3PT), six rebounds, nine assists, one block, and zero turnovers. The nine assists were a career-high for Bridges and could speak to the impact of Rozier’s return and a hot shooting night for Kelly Oubre. Put plainly, in the absence of a Damian Lillard explosion, the Hornets looked like the better, deeper team in this game. Speaking of Oubre, he was on fire in this game, especially from three-point range. Oubre finished the game with 26 points (8-14 FG, 6-11 3PT), seven rebounds, five assists, two steals, and one turnover. Not to brag, but I’m feeling vindicated for predicting a bounce-back season for Oubre in the pre-season. Oubre has scored in double figures in five of the Hornets’ first seven games, providing some much-needed scoring and defensive playmaking off the bench. For the season, he’s averaging 16.3 points, five rebounds, one assist, and one steal, and zero-point-three turnovers, while shooting 43.5% from the field, 39.6% from three, and 65% from the free-throw line. The free-throw percentage should rise, but otherwise, the Hornets (and fantasy managers) would be ecstatic if Oubre can maintain these numbers for a full season.
Gordon Hayward was happy to let the young guys rock in this game. Hayward had a low-volume high-efficiency performance, finishing the night with 12 points (5-8 FG, 2-3 3PT), five rebounds, and one turnover. P.J. Washington had his best scoring game of the season and finished the evening with 17 points (8-8 FG, 1-1 3PT), two rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. It has been an underwhelming start to the season for Washington, as he’s missed two games due to knee soreness and hasn’t been all that productive when he’s been on the court. He’s averaging just eight points, four rebounds, two assists, 0.8 steals, one block, and one turnover while shooting 47% from the field, 28.6% from three, and 100% from the free-throw line this season. Last season, he averaged 12.9 points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block, and two turnovers, while shooting 44% from the field, 38.6% from three, and 74.5% from the free-throw line. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for Washington.
Trail Blazers Notes
The Blazers fell to 3-3 on the season after losing this game and Damian Lillard‘s wretched start to the season continued. Lillard managed to notch a double-double (points and assists), but it was another inefficient shooting performance. I’m confident Damian Lillard will break out of this slump eventually, but fantasy managers are going to have to hold steady and be patient until he turns the corner. Remember that Lillard played through an abdominal injury during the Olympics, which could be part of the reason for his slow start. Here is Lillard’s full stat line for the night: 14 points (5-20 FG, 2-14 3PT), four rebounds, 12 assists, and two turnovers. The Blazers had five players in double figures, themselves, but all of them except Anfernee Simons had negative plus/minus numbers. CJ McCollum was more potent than his backcourt mate and finished the game with 25 points (10-24 FG, 4-11 3PT), two rebounds, eight assists, and two turnovers.
Jusuf Nurkic was efficient, but with only nine shot attempts, and the Hornets mostly bombing away from three-point range you never felt like he had a major impact on the game. Nurkic’s final line: 13 points (5-9 FG, 0-2 3PT), 14 rebounds, one assist, two steals, one block, and four turnovers. Norman Powell was solid, if unimpressive, finishing the game with 14 points (6-15 FG, 2-9 3PT), three rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Robert Covington was up to his usual tricks, blocking shots and being inefficient from the field—six points (2-6 3PT), four rebounds, and two blocks. Anfernee Simons was the unsung hero on the night and it appears that he has finally taken the steps forward that had been predicted the past two offseasons. Simons scored 19 points (6-9 FG, 5-8 3PT), one rebound, one assist, and one turnover (plus-2). For the season, he’s averaging 13.7 points, two rebounds, and two assists, and zero-point-eight turnovers, while shooting 49.2% from the field, 44.7% from three, and 100% (3-3) from the free-throw line.
The Nassir Little vs. Larry Nace Jr. battle for minutes had a clear winner in Nassir Little to start the season, but with Powell back from injury and Little no longer starting in his stead, things seem to be taking a positive turn for Nance believers and fantasy managers. They played nearly the same amount of minutes last night, 18:28 for Little and 17:58 for Nance. As expected Nance had a fuller stat line, eight points (4-5 FG), seven rebounds, one assist, one steal, two blocks, and one turnover. Hopefully, with Powell’s scoring once again part of the equation, Nance’s superior defense will make him more of a priority for Chauncy Billups. Little continued to shoot the ball well but didn’t provide any defensive stats—eight points (2-3 3PT), six rebounds, and one turnover. Little has been efficient this season and appears to have the trust of the coaching staff. Due to his hot shooting—19-36 (52.8%) from the field and 8-of-16 (50%) from three—and higher minute totals he’s been the more reliable option, but history suggests Nance should finish the season with better production if he stays healthy.
Utah Jazz vs. Milwaukee Bucks
In maybe the most thrilling game last night, the Utah Jazz beat the Milwaukee Bucks 107-99, led by Donovan Mitchell‘s 28 points. Mitchell had been fairly inefficient and turnover-prone, so far this season. For the season, he’s averaging 23 points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal, 0.3 blocks, and three turnovers, with shooting splits of 40/31/92. His scoring and efficiency from everywhere but the free-throw line are down from last season. Last night’s victory over the Bucks was the first time Mitchell has shot better than 45% from the field this season. Many, including me, believed that Mitchell’s efficiency would improve this season, so this could be a sign that Mitchell is about to turn the corner and find his rhythm. Mitchell’s final line on the night: 28 points (10-18 FG, 4-9 3Pt), four rebounds, two assists, two steals, and four turnovers.
Rudy Gobert had a quiet scoring night, but as usual, contributed on the glass and on the defensive end—nine points (2-3 FG, 5-6 FT) 13 rebounds, two assists, one steal, four blocks, and two turnovers. Mike Conley isn’t playmaking as much as he did last season, but he is shooting well from this field this season, two trends that continued in this game. Conley scored 20 points (6-11 FG, 4-7 3PT), and added three rebounds, two assists, and two turnovers. For the season, Conley is averaging 13.6 points, one rebound, three assists, one steal, and two turnovers. The rebound and assist numbers are down from last season. Conley averaged three rebounds and six assists a season ago.
Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson also scored in double figures. Bogdanovic’s final line: 14 points (3-9 FG, 1-5 3PT), five rebounds, one assist, and one turnover. Clarkson’s final line: 15 points (6-17 FG, 0-7 3PT), two rebounds, one assist, two steals, and two turnovers.
The Bucks continue to be short-handed. None of Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, or Donte DiVincenzo played in this game and Rodney Hood left the game with a bruised hand after about 11 minutes. At least, Bobby Portis is back.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was efficient from the field, and productive across the board, but took a surprising 11 threes in this game. His final line: 25 points (10-20 FG, 3-11 3PT), seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, two blocks, and two turnovers. Giannis’ numbers this year are almost identical to last season’s and fantasy managers just have to hope that he stays healthy all year.
Grayson Allen is playing 29.2 mpg and has scored in double figures in all seven of the Bucks’ games this season. Allen is the 53rd ranked player in total value, per Yahoo this season. On the night, he tallied 18 points (6-14 FG, 5-10 3PT), six rebounds, and one turnover. For the season, he’s averaging 13.7 points, four rebounds, one assist, 0.7 steals, and 0.6 turnovers.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, George Hill, and Bobby Portis all scored in double figures, as well. Portis finished the game with 15 points (6-15 FG, 1-5 3PT), five rebounds, one assist, and one turnover. The Bucks are fairly shallow at the power forward and center spots, especially with Lopez sidelined. As a result, Portis should be a decent source of points, rebounds, and threes once he gets into a better rhythm after starting the season out due to injury himself.
George Hill is NBA-old at 35 years of age and should see his minutes come down once Jrue Holiday returns, from injury, but for now, Hill is averaging 27 mpg and providing some low-end production. His final line on the night: 11 points (5-10, 1-2 3PT), six rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one turnover. Thanasis was active and productive in this game, finishing with a well-rounded stat line of 10 points (5-15 FG, 0-2 3PT), nine rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
Jordan Nwora remains tantalizing, yet inconsistent.
Detroit Pistons vs. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets dismantled the rebuilding Detroit Pistons 117-91. Unfortunately for viewers, Cade Cunningham sat out this game due to injury management, and Kevin Durant was ejected late in the third quarter after he was called for a flagrant-2 foul on Kelly Olynyk. In typical Kevin Durant fashion, however, he scored 23 points before being tossed. His final line on the night: 23 points (10-13 FG, 1-1 3PT), one rebound, five assists, one block, and three turnovers.
James Harden is finding his footing, as he finished this game with his 13th triple-double as a Net and his 14th triple-double through three quarters in his career—18 points (6-9 FG, 4-7 3PT), 10 rebounds, 12 assists, and five turnovers. In the Nets’ previous game against the Indiana Pacers on October 29, Harden scored 29 points and was 16/19 from the free-throw line. Harden was always going to turn it around, so fantasy managers can relax and enjoy the ride once again. Harden may fall short of the efficiency from his peak years in Houston, but he should still provide plenty of value this season. Even after the slow start, he ranks 14th in total value, per Yahoo.
Joe Harris, DeAndre’ Bembry, and LaMarcus Aldridge all scored in double figures. Harris’ final line: 12 points (5-9 FG, 2-4 3PT), four rebounds, one assist, and one turnover. Bembry’s final line: 15 points (6-8 FG, 1-2 3PT), seven rebounds, one assist, two steals, and two turnovers. Aldridge’s final line: 16 points (7-8 FG), three rebounds, one assist, and two turnovers.
Bruce Brown and Patty Mills had quiet nights: Mills scored seven points (3-7 FG, 1-2 3PT) and dished out two assists. Brown scored just two points (1-4 FG, 0-1 3PT), but tallied four rebounds, two assists, and three steals. Jervon Carter played less (17 minutes) than both Brown, (22 minutes) who started, and Bembry (23 minutes).
It was a relatively quiet night for everyone in a Pistons uniform in this game, as no player scored more than 13 points. To illustrate just how poor of a showing this was for the pistons, Cory Joseph (13 points) and Josh Jackson (12 points)—two players who are largely irrelevant in anything but the deepest of leagues—were the top-two scorers for the Pistons last night. Jerami Grant completed the double-digit scoring triumvirate with 11 points. Grant’s final line: 11 points (5-15 FG, 1-5 3PT), four rebounds, one steal, and four turnovers. Josh Jackson’s final line: 12 points (4-11 FG, 2-5 3PT), five rebounds, three assists, and one block.
If you put too much stock in Jerami Grant’s breakout season last year, you might be feeling pretty sour right about now. I was skeptical about the repeatability of Grant’s performance last season, but even if he drops off a little from last season’s averages, he should be better than he’s been so far this season. In 2020-21, Grant averaged 22.3 points, four rebounds, two assists, 0.6 steals, one block, and two turnovers, with shooting splits of 42/35/84. This season, Grant is averaging 16 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block, and two turnovers, with shooting splits of 35/25/80. I’d expect Grant’s shooting percentages to improve as the season progresses.
Saddiq Bey did some surprise playmaking in this game, finishing the night with nine points (4-8 FG, 1-4 3PT), three rebounds, six assists, one steal, one block, and one turnover. Bey is taking more shots and scoring more, but he’s yet to find the mark from three. For the season, he’s averaging 15.8 points, eight rebounds, two assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.5 blocks, while shooting 43% from the field, 31.6% from three, and 69.2% from the free-throw line. He finished last season with shooting splits of 40/38/84.
Isaiah Stewart‘s sophomore slump continued in this game, as he ended his night with just five points (2-4 FG, 1-2 3PT) and one rebound. Although Stewart is the starting center, he’s playing just 22.7 mpg, nearly identical to his average last season, 21.4 mpg. As a result, there hasn’t been much meaningful improvement in Stewart’s production and he’s actually playing fewer minutes than backup center Kelly Olynyk (24.2 mpg). One has to hope that Cade Cunningham being in the lineup more consistently leads to more easy looks for Stewart.
Olynyk has, unsurprisingly, been unable to reproduce his halcyon Houston Rockets performance from a season ago, but he’s not far off his full-season numbers from last year. So far this season, Olynyk is averaging 13.7 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, and 0.7 blocks, with shooting splits of 47/30/65. Last season, Olynyk averaged 13.5 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal, and 0.6 blocks, with shooting splits of 48/34/82. Olynyk’s too good of a shooter for his three-point and free-throw shooting to remain down. Another player who might benefit from Cade Cunningham getting consistent minutes and looking good. It’s almost like the Detroit Pistons are really counting on Cade Cunningham being good!
It’s early (I can only say this for so long), but Killian Hayes still doesn’t look very good. His final line on the night: six points (1-5 FG, 0-1), two rebounds, two assists, five steals, and four turnovers. You love to see the steal numbers at least.
Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Houston Rockets 95-85, a final score that belies the relative control the Lakers had throughout the game. The Lakers led by 28 points at one point in the fourth quarter. The Lakers are now 4-3, having won four games in a row, albeit against mostly subpar competition. The Death Star is rounding into form, sort of.
Russell Westbrook is still helplessly trying to recalibrate the sights on his right arm, but he kept the turnovers down against the Rockets and did his usual stat-sheet stuffing. He finished the contest with 20 points (9-22 FG, 2-4 3PT), eight rebounds, nine assists, one steal, and two turnovers.
Anthony Davis has not reached peak ‘Brow status, but he’s fairly close, averaging 24.7 points, 11.4 rebounds, two assists, 0.7 steals, two blocks, and two turnovers this season, with shooting splits of 49/17/75. Besides the poor three-point shooting (3-17), there’s little to take issue with in Davis’s stat line and you could easily see his field goal percentage and free-throw percentage improving as the season continues. His final line on the night: 16 points (7-17 FG, 0-1 3PT), 13 rebounds, two assists, one block, and three turnovers.
LeBron James sat out the Spurs and Thunder back-to-back on October 26 and 27 but returned for the Lakers’ last two games. James had an off-shooting night but was otherwise effective. His final line: 15 points (6-19 FG, 0-6 3PT), seven rebounds, eight assists, four steals, one block, and two turnovers. James is averaging 2.4 steals a game, which would be a career-high for a full season. I doubt James can keep it up, however, as his steal numbers have generally trended downward as he’s aged. So far this season, those who believed LeBron would finally cede some of the ball-handling and playmaking duties with Russell Westbrook joining the team have been proven right. James’ 28.8% usage rate is the lowest it’s been since his rookie season, 27.6%. The trend of Russell Westbrook’s teammates’ rebound totals dropping is also continuing as James is averaging just 5.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists.
Carmelo Anthony is hot from long-range at the moment, as he led the Lakers in scoring with 23 points (8-14 FG, 5-8 3PT) and added three rebounds, two steals, and four blocks. I have no idea where all these defensive stats are coming from, but Anthony does have quick hands. On the season, Anthony is averaging 16.7 points, three rebounds, three assists, 0.7 steals, one block, and one turnover, with shooting splits of 50/52/78. On the one hand, it was reasonable to expect that Anthony would get every opportunity to succeed this season, in part, because of his relationship with James. And it makes sense that he’s shooting well since he’s receiving passes from one of the best passers to ever play the game of basketball in LeBron James. On the other hand, he’s not going to shoot 50% from three all year and I doubt he can maintain his block per game average. That said, it’s clear Anthony has a place in 14-team leagues and is at least a streamer in 12-team leagues for as long as he’s hot from three.
DeAndre Jordan is trying to con all of us into believing in him by blocking 1.4 shots a game so far this season. I’ve held strong up to this point and suggest you do the same, but it’s worth monitoring.
You have to feel bad for Christian Wood. Before he signed with the Rockets and had a solid season last year, his doubters could say he was productive only in a small sample and mostly against backups. He mostly put all of those concerns to bed last year, but now people will surely call him a good stats/bad team guy, given the low-stakes of the 2021-22 Rockets season. Wood finished last night’s game with 16 points (7-15 FG, 1-5 3PT), 13 rebounds, two assists, and three turnovers. For the season, Wood is averaging, 19.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, one assist, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks, and one turnover, with shooting splits of 46/40/57. There’s room for Wood to improve from the field and at the free-throw line, but you have to wonder if accommodating the Rockets’ wealth of prospects and playing so many minutes with another big is putting Wood in the best position to succeed.
Jalen Green‘s roller coaster of a rookie season continued in this game as he finished the game with just seven points (2-8 FG, 0-4 3PT), five rebounds, five assists, one steal, and four turnovers. The rebounding and assist totals from this game are all above his season averages and he took six free-throw attempts in this game, which is also higher than his season average. After failing to shoot a single free-throw through the first four games of his career, Green shot nine free-throws against the Utah Jazz on October 28 and six tonight. I imagine this has been a point of emphasis in film sessions, so it’s nice to see Green be able to make an immediate adjustment.
Kevin Porter Jr. had a decent game, finishing the night with 13 points (6-13 FG, 1-5 3PT), nine rebounds, four assists, two steals, and six turnovers. Turnovers have been a problem for Porter Jr, as he’s averaging five a game, and the Rockets as a team this season.
Jae’Sean Tate can’t seem to find his shooting stroke this season, but he’s at least been productive in other areas. He finished this game with six points (3-7 FG, 0-2 3PT), six rebounds, one assist, two blocks, and three turnovers. On the one hand, a trade would likely mean fewer minutes for Tate; on the other hand, playing with better players would have to benefit him. Tate’s usage rate is slightly higher than it was last season—18.3% compared to 16.1%—but he’s playing just 24 mpg compared to 29.2 mpg last season.
Daniel Theis has been a serious disappointment this season. After playing well and being one of a rare breed of efficient free-throw shooting big men who can also block the occasional shot last season, Theis just isn’t doing much of anything this year. He finished this game with three points (1-5 FG, 0-2 3PT) and four rebounds. Theis has yet to record a steal and has just two blocks this season. To make matters worse, Theis is shooting 42.1% from the field—a serious problem for an “efficient big”—25% from three, and 81.8% from the free-throw line. At least, he’s still making his free throws.
Alperen Sengun is clearly the non-Wood big man to have on your roster in fantasy. He’s playing 19.2 mpg, only slightly lower than Theis’ 22 mpg and he’s been much more dynamic and productive on the defensive end. While Theis has yet to record a steal this season, Sengun has recorded 15 steals. Sengun has more steals, assists, and blocks than Theis so far this season and he’s taken twice as many free throws. Once again, I ask, would Theis benefit from a trade? Or has he lost the athleticism required to be an impactful undersized center? I know one thing for sure, moving Theis to the bench or trading him would be a massive boon for fantasy managers. Sengun finished this game with 11 points (3-7 FG, 0-1 3PT), seven rebounds, two assists, three steals, and four turnovers.