The end of each year is now deemed “Silly Season,” when resting vets on contenders and breakout youngsters on tanking teams play havoc with lineup decisions.
Three weeks into the season, I now declare this time of the year “Wacky Season,” with Wednesday night a perfect example. There are players who started injured coming back, the early-season wear and tear putting others on the IR; rotations and roles still in flux as teams are yet to settle fully into new lineups, with coaches trying new 5-guy sets each night; and rookies going off one night only to mostly observe from the bench the next. All the while, we’re trying to determine if the various hot/cold starts to the season are legit.
Two-plus weeks of play seems like enough of a sample size to make solid decisions, but it’s really not. I still feel like it’s a nightly game of whack-a-mole – thus it’s Whacky Season!
So, let’s observe a LOADED 14-game slate from the NBA last night, take what we can get, but still tamper down the urge to overreact too-too much.
Phoenix Suns 116, Chicago Bulls 116
Bradley Beal made his Suns debut with a rusty 13-4-4 in 24 minutes. Earlier in the day Wednesday, I talked trash about both Jusuf Nurkic and Greyson Allen – so of course they both go off against the Bulls. Nurkic busted out of his slump with 20 points (8-16 FG, 0-2 3PT, 4-6 FT), 17 boards, 8 assists and 2 steals, while Allen hit a career high 8-of-13 from deep on his way to a 26-8-4-1-2 stat line. If you believe in miracles – in this case that the Suns’ Big 3 will soon all, be healthy for an extended period of time – then a good chance to sell Allen here.
Keita Bates-Diop has gone from afterthought to starting PF, posted 7-5-3-1-3 in 31 minutes here and hit a crucial 3-pointer in overtime to save the game for Phoenix. If I squint hard enough I can see him returning 14-team value if he gets 25+ mpg.
Alex MF’n Caruso was bankin’ threes and blowing kisses to the crown during his 18-point (7-9 FG, 4-5 3PT, 1-2 FT), 4-board, 2-dime, 3-steal, 2-block performance in the Windy City. Such a beauty.
Washington Wizards 132, Charlotte Hornets 116
The Wizards should start a band called Kyle Kuzma & the Funky Rotation. Kuzma had an efficient 33-9-4 in 31 minutes, and then tonight the jam session highlighted the likes of Delon Wright (18-3-3-4-0 in 26 minutes), 17 minutes of Landry Shamat (15-1-2-1-1; 3-6 3PT) and Danilo Gallinari rocking the three-chord to the run of 4-for-7 in his 18-4-2 performance in 20 minutes.
Somehow there’s still a few leagues out there where Gordon Hayward (18-7-4-3-0) is not rostered. Brandon Miller went 13-5-2 with a steal and a three as he continues to waste away his starting opportunities – and that’s totally ok and to be expected from the rook. And LaMelo Ball is finding his rhythm with his second 30+ point game in a row (13-22 FG, 3-9 3PT, 5-7 FT), along with 4 boards, 7 dimes and a steal.
Indiana Pacers 134, Utah Jazz 118
Jalen Smith played a season high 25 minutes and produced a tasty 16-11-1-2-1 stat line in the process, as he was rewarded some extra run by coach Rick Carlisle as he and the bench unit built a comfortable lead in the second half. Currently, both Smith and Aaron Nesmith (24 points with 4 threes; 9-13 FG) are Top 100 players in 9-cat, and Obi Toppin (6-1-0-3-1 in 19 minutes) is just outside the Top 150 and likely droppable everywhere. An eyebrow raised for Bennedict Mathurin’s 38 minutes of run (22-9-4 with 4 threes and 2 steals).
Utah was tossing news bombs pre-game, first that Walker Kessler would be out for weeks not days, and then the announcement of Keyonte George and Ochai Agbaji would be entering the starting lineup – and the fans went wild! In fantasy land, Keyonte was proclaimed must start instantly, and the Mormon Church in celebration dropped its alcohol ban for the night, but only for dry red wine varietals of the Tuscany area. [Pause for readers to get the joke] Get it? Keyonte. Chianti. [Realize if you have to explain the joke it’s not a good joke] Aaaanyways, moving on.
George went 7-2-9 with a three and 3-of-8 from the field in 31 minutes. The added dimes here are nice, but I doubt that becomes the norm. Listen, nice young player developing here who will improve through the year, but don’t get too excited because the shiny new toy moved to the store entryway featured display. Jordan Clarkson went off for 33 points (12-26 FG, 1-3 3PT, 8-8 FT). And despite the Kessler news, Kelly Olynyk still came off the bench, had a lackluster game with some foul trouble, but definitely is at least a short term add everywhere.
Philadelphia 76ers 106, Boston Celtics 103
Not the most efficient night from Tyrese Maxey (11-27 FG, 3-11 3PT, 0-1 FT), but owners will take his 25-9-5-1-2 any day of the week and on Wednesday. Gotta give Maxey props for how he’s been playing. Wish I could say the same for De’Anthony Melton [my heart], who’s shooting (1-9 in this one) has to get better sometime. Nic Batum got 26 minutes (5-4-1-0-1 with a three) and can be a toolsy guy for deep leagues with those minutes, but the bench rotation is still in flux post-Harden trade.
Derrick White shot 6-of-18 from the field, 3-of-11 from deep, as he returned from injury with a 19-4-5-2-1. And another solid game from Sam Hauser (13-4-0-1-1 with 3 threes; 5-8 FG) who is humming along as a mid to deep player guy.
Houston Rockets 128, LA Lakers 94
‘Tis the season for Eason, as Tari Eason laced up the boots for the first time this season, posting 9-9-2 with a block and a three in just 14 minutes. He probably ends up settling in the 25-mpg range and is only a must have if you really like rooting for him – which I do.
The Rockets blew up the Lakers in this one, thanks to a lights out performance by Jalen Green (28-3-1; 11-15 FG, 5-6 3PT, 1-4 FT).
Rui Hachimura also suited up for the first time and was “Hach Hach Hach” like a weird Buster Poindexter remake: posting 24 points (10-14 FG, 2-3 3PT, 2-5 FT), 8 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block. Fine to ride him through LA’s injury madness, but not sure Rui is a regular 12-teamer quite yet.
Miami Heat 108, Memphis Grizzlies 102
Bam Bam Adebayo with another impressive performance (30-11-1-1-3). The “Is Josh Richardson Him-lite” question has been answered. Not close. But rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. deserves your attention. He played 21 minutes and posted 11 points (4-5 FG, 1-2 3PT, 2-3 FT), 3 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals. I predict his minutes continue to climb as the season goes. If anything, he’s a good steals streamer at the moment, and toeing the “useful” line in 14-teams. And a hat tip to Haywood Highsmith’s 14-2-1-1-3 line with 2 threes in 27 starter minutes – not sure that holds, but worth watching.
Bismarck Biyombo had 9 points, 10 boards, but no blocks from the starting position (30 minutes), while Santi Aldama posted 12-8-0-2-1 in 26 bench minutes.
Sacramento Kings 121, Portland Trail Blazers 118
Keon Ellis started at point guard for SacTown, scoring 4 points with 4 boards and 3 steals. The other starters were better in this one, meanwhile …. Wait a minute, who in the light beam is Keon Ellis? An undrafted rookie out of Alabama, Ellis the type who – as the kids like to say – has that dog in him. Ellis played 21 minutes and most likely moved up the rotation by Mike Brown to shake things up. Davion Mitchell still played 28 minutes and was off the bench with 16 points and 4 dimes.
Malik Monk, the main benefactor of Fox’s injury vacation, couldn’t buy a three, but willed the team to victory with a 23-6-10 stat line. And Domantas Sabonis shuttered any buy-low winder for him with 27-11-9-1-1 and 10-of-14 shooting.
Malcom Brogdan exited with a bum hammy and given the situation certainly won’t be rushed back. Skyler Mays took the reins with 18 points (8-15 FG, 0-2 3PT, 2-2 FT), 2 boards, 11 dimes and 2 steals. Scoot Henderson is near a return, but it’s worth grabbing Mays, who finished the 22-23 season No. 37 in 9-cat per game rankings … he only played 6 games at the end of the season, but you get the point.
Brooklyn Nets 100, LA Clippers 93
An old-school defensive battle, or just some all-around awful shooting in this one: take your pick. The two teams combined for just under 40% shooting; and on the flip side combined for 20 steals and 18 blocks.
Brooklyn’s “bigs” replacing Nix Claxton continue to post solid numbers, with Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale posting 12-9-2-1-3 and 12-10-2-0-3, respectively. Lonnie Walker continues to be a nice source of threes and points off the bench, scoring 21 on 8-of-16 shooting (3-7 3PT) in this one.
Typical good-not-great fantasy output from the New Clips. Paul George (24-7-1-3-1) and Kawhi Leonard (17-6-2-2-1) could be subtle buy low targets if their owners are spooked by the process of integrating James Harden (12-8-5-2-0).
New York Knicks 126, San Antonio Spurs 105
Outside of Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett – who both played well and had nearly identical stats across the board – the Knicks’ guard rotation continues to frustrate, and I’m not sure any of Quentin Grimes (19 minutes), Josh Hart (24 minutes), Donte DiVincenzo (20 minutes) or Immanuel Quickley (28 minutes) can be relied on in standard leagues at the moment – Quickley the closest as his usage rate is at least near the mid-20s. Nice turnaround game from Julius Randle (23-16-5-1-0; 8-19 FG, 2-6 3PT, 5-8 FT).
Devin Vassell was eased back in, coming off the bench for just 12 minutes. Efficient 16-6-5 line for Jeremy Sochan for those on his watch.
A note on Sochan: I’m a big believer in his fantasy game long term and would try to buy in dynasty leagues if you can. But he’s obviously a pet project of Pops, so it’s gunna be a little weird for a while.
Toronto Raptors 127, Dallas Mavericks 116
Dennis Schroder is undervalued in fantasy circles in the early going. He’s currently a Top 50 player in 9-cat; his 18-2-5-2-1 line in this one has become pretty reliable. Pascal Siakam scored a season high 31 points (15-25 FG, 0-5 3PT, 1-4 FT) but again not Stocks. His defensive numbers are way down so far this season, greatly limiting his value (currently outside the Top 150, eeesh).
Dereck Lively III was a scratch again, but Dwight Powell did little (5 points, 6 boards and a block in 24 minutes) to impede on the rookie’s role upon his return. Apparently Derrick Jones Jr. (15-5-1 with 3 blocks) only produces on Wednesdays to get me to mention him – here you go DJ! And we had a Richaun Holmes sighting! (But just a bucket, 3 boards and a single 10-cent piece for him.)
Oklahoma City Thunder 128, Cleveland Cavaliers 120
Let’s talk about Josh Giddey. I was asked a couple weeks ago if I was worried about Jalen Williams (15-4-2-1-0) taking away playmaking duties from the SLOB Wizard (Sorry, Josh, it’s gunna stick). I wasn’t, and still am not — especially because JALEN has been pretty ho-hum himself. However, I’m worried that rookie Cason Wallace is now taking minutes away with his hot start.
Giddey had a flashy first half with something like 6-5-5-1-1 at the break, but then only played about 6 minutes in the second half as OKC went to Wallace (14-3-2; 5-7 FG, 2-3 3PT, 2-2 FT), who is shooting a blistering 69% from the field and 57% from deep in the early going of his career. Surely those numbers will come down, and Giddey’s awful percentages (40/24/78) will (should?) level out to what we’re used to.
Giddey’s usage is actually up a tick from last year, while his Per 36 stats and MPGs are a bit down. I’m sticking with my guns here and chalking it up to a slow start and keeping Giddey in my Buy Low column. He’s currently ranked at 251 in 9-cat, but I believe he’s still a Top 100-125 player.
Aside from that conundrum, this game was all about Shai Gilgeous-Alexander doing SGA things: 43 points (15-22 FG, 1-2 3PT, 12-13 FT), 7 boards, 6 dimes, 2 steals and a block. He good.
Caris LeVert hit 13-of-16 free throws on his way to 29 points with 5 boards and 5 assists and 2 threes. Finally, a bit of a dud from Donovan Mitchell, hitting just 8-of-23, but still a decent 20-5-5 line for an off-night. Darius Garland looking a little better (15-3-9-2-1; but 8 turnovers). But this is clearly Mitchell’s team now, and expect him to continue to overperform ADP while Garland is more of a 5-6 rounder than the 3-4 he was drafted as.
Minnesota Timberwolves 122, New Orleans Pelicans 101
After going something like 3-for-57 from the line the other night, Rudy Gobert totally redeemed himself with a 9-of-12 showing in this blowout win, posting 17 boards, 21 boards and 2 blocks – just like the good ol’ days.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl started (11 points, 9 boards), which says all you need to know about the state of the injured Pels. Moving on …
Milwaukee Bucks 120, Detroit Pistons 118
Detroit cruised into this game with its 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse and afterward looked over to the Bucks bench and said, “Dude I almost had you” (RIP Paul Walker).
Same stuff from the Bucks as Lillard’s 3-ball is still off (2-12) but he’s winning FT% (12-13) for teams. He finished 34-2-3 with 3 steals. He’ll be fiiiiine. Jae Crowder started and played 37 minutes, but put up a similar line to his bench play (10-5-2 with a steal and 2 threes).
Zero blocks from Jalen Duren in his last four games, after recording 8 in his first three. But the assists (5) continue to be a nice addition. Cade Cunningham still not efficient (11-27) but tough to complain about a 33-8-8 line. And rookie Marcus Sasser continues to impress (26-6-2 with a steal and 3 threes, 11-17 FG), but it’s hard to see the minutes (29) remain as high when Detroit is close to full health.
Denver Nuggets 108, Golden State Warriors 105
Reggie Jackson resumed the starting point guard spot, as new broke before the game that Jamal Murray will be out for a while. Jackson posted a very usable 20-2-6 line with 3 threes in 32 minutes. A rare inefficient night from the field for Aaron Gordon (5-14 FG), but he’s averaging 11 boards, 5 dimes, nearly 2 steals and a block a game over his last four.
Kevon Looney (10-8-4-1-0) is always a solid streamer when Dray Dray is out. Dario Saric started this one but mustered just 4-8-2. And Chris Paul continues to slip to back-end standard value only, posting 9-5-4 with a steal in 27 minutes off the bench.