The Hype Train Has Arrived
In the grand scheme of fantasy basketball, one game is barely a blip on the radar. But when that one game is a professional debut that reaches historic levels, it's hard not to get overly excited.
Michael Carter-Williams' debut from Wednesday night should have fantasy owners brimming with excitement. The rookie point guard had arguably the best rookie debut of the past 40 years. MCW put together a mind-blowing line in his debut, finishing with 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals, seven rebounds and four three-pointers in 36 minutes against the Heat. Per Basketball Reference's Game Score rating, which factors in categories across the board to determine a player's productivity in a single game, Carter-Williams finished with a score of 35.7. Lamar Odom (25.1) and LeBron James (24.7) rank second and third historically on the list, and there are plenty of other impressive names in the top-16, including David Robinson, Allen Iverson, Blake Griffin, Grant Hill and Anthony Davis.
Does this mean Carter-Williams should immediately be considered a Hall-of-Fame level talent, or even an All-Star caliber player? Of course not, but fantasy owners should view him as an immediate fantasy contributor who will likely end up as one of the bigger steals of the season.
Despite the exceptional debut, Carter-Williams has some question marks. His jump shot remains highly questionable, and he could be a huge drain on field-goal percentage this season. His scoring and three-point shooting will come and go in stretches. Turnovers could also be an issue in nine-category leagues. But he's set to receive a ton of minutes for the rebuilding Sixers, and he possess the skills to produce in multiple categories. While owners shouldn't expect nine steals (or even half that many), MCW's length and athleticism will pester smaller guards all season and could push him near the top of the leader board in the category. He'll also be a good contributor in rebounds and assists.
While they're stylistically very different players, MCW could be very similar to Ricky Rubio from a production standpoint.
Of course, owners shouldn't hesitate to shop him around. If a league mate is willing to give you a legitimate top-50 fantasy option, there's nothing wrong with selling high here. With that said, I'm a believer. Carter-Williams will be a fantasy contributor all season -- a legitimate top-75 option -- and I consider him the favorite for Rookie of the Year after Wednesday's debut.
The Hype Train has arrived, and I'm more than willing to be the conductor.
Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining, or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks - all players toss up a 2-for-10 game every now and then - unless they are extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time, rotation role or performance.
Patrick Patterson, F, SAC – Patterson's debut with the Kings wasn't very impressive, as he finished with just three points, six rebounds and three steals, but he still deserves a spot in the "Stock Up" portion due to his presence in the starting lineup. After battling with Jason Thompson for the starting power forward job throughout camp, Patterson received the first opportunity to be on the floor for tip-off. He saw 27 minutes of run compared to 16 for Thompson. And despite his struggles in the season opener, Patterson should hold on to the gig. His long-range game is a perfect fit alongside center DeMarcus Cousins' low-post game and should lead to plenty of open shots on the perimeter. Though Patterson won't offer much in the traditional big-man categories (rebounding, blocks, field-goal percentage), he has the rare ability to be a PF-eligible player who helps in three-point shooting and steals.
Miles Plumlee, F/C, PHO – The trade of Marcin Gortat to the Wizards last week created an opportunity for Plumlee to join the Suns starting five. Phoenix's long-term option at the position is still Alex Lens, but Plumlee appears primed for a big role this season. The second-year big man had an impressive debut with the Suns, finishing with 18 points (8-of-14 FG, 2-of-2 FT), 15 rebounds and three blocks in nearly 40 minutes of run. Len only logged eight minutes of action and should eat into Plumlee's playing time as the season wears on, but there's still plenty to like in the former Duke big man. Prospective owners shouldn't expect Plumlee to score at the levels we saw in Wednesday's opener on a regular basis, but he can be a solid contributor in rebounds and blocks going forward, making him worth a look in most standard formats.
Vitor Faverani, C, BOS – Meet the Celtics' new starting center. A relative unknown heading into fantasy draft season, Faverani was impressive enough during the preseason to beat out Kris Humphries, Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger for a spot in the starting lineup. At 6-11, 260, Faverani has legitimate size to man the pivot in the NBA. The Brazilian big man is considered more of an offensive-oriented presence, but he did a decent job rebounding and blocking shots in the preseason, so he could surprise in those categories. Deeper leagues will want to take a flier on Faverani if he's available, while some shallower or standard formats may want to wait and see how well he produces for a few games before taking the bait. There's also the possibility that the Celtics shuffle their big man rotation a lot this season while they both develop their young players and try to compete on a nightly basis.
Trey Burke, G, UTA – Burke had the splint removed from his broken finger on Wednesday. Barring any setbacks, the rookie out of Michigan could make his NBA debut in mid-November. Prior to suffering his injury, Burke was considered a favorite for Rookie of the Year honors, but prospective fantasy owners quickly soured on him once he hit the shelf. The current timetable would give Burke plenty of time to work his way into the ROY discussions while also being a huge boon to fantasy rosters. Surprisingly, Burke remains available in many standard leagues. Owners with extra room on their bench should consider stashing him away for the next couple weeks.
Russell Westbrook, G, OKC – The latest reports have Westbrook (knee) possibly returning in as little as two weeks. If that timetable holds, owners who grabbed Westbrook could be landing a first-round talent for the vast majority of the season at the cost of a third- or fourth-round pick.
Andrew Bynum, C, CLE – In one of the bigger surprises of opening night, Bynum was active for the Cavaliers' season opener. The oft-injured big man logged just eight minutes, finishing with three points, two rebounds and two blocks. After missing all of the 2012-13 season, there will be plenty of rust, and the Cavs will likely take things slow with Bynum. But owners who grabbed him late in drafts could be reaping the benefits of that calculated risk if Bynum can manage to round into form and stay healthy this year.
Kenneth Faried, F, DEN – After starting all 80 of his appearances last season, Faired took a backseat to J.J. Hickson in Wednesday's season opening loss to the Kings. To make matters worse, Faried managed to see just 15 minutes as part of Denver's reserve unit. First-year Nuggets coach Brian Shaw still seems to be ironing out his rotation, so Faried owners shouldn't make any rash decisions, but the energetic big man should be moved to a bench spot for the time being.
Ryan Anderson, F, NOR – Anderson was a surprise scratch just hours before Wednesday's season opener after being diagnosed with a chip fracture in his toe. The Pelicans' three-point shooting big man is expected to miss one-to-three weeks with the injury, making his downgrade a short-term issue for owners.
Derrick Williams, F, MIN – Originally thought to be in contention for the starting small forward job, Williams was a surprise Coach's Decision - DNP in Wednesday's season-opening win over the Magic. While Williams is a talented player, he never seems to be on the same page as Timberwovles coach Rick Adelman and will likely have a difficult time carving out a large role if the team stays healthy. Owners in standard leagues who were banking on Williams' many talents shining through should start targeting a replacement on the waiver wire.