"If these teams are so bad, why do you keep watching?" my wife asked. It was a logical question. Friday evening, the rebuilding Celtics were blowing a 22-point third quarter lead to the also miserable Bucks on the Garden's home parquet. New wunderkind coach Brad Stevens was running his newly installed "everyone stand around and pray for a point guard" offense. It didn't work. The Bucks won and Jon Henson celebrated like it was their best win of the season, which it might be.
Week 1 of the NBA has proved something: this is going to be an odd season with a surprising amount of bad teams. As an NBA Fan, it will be frustrating. But as an NBA Fantasy Player, there will be a lot of unknown names getting a surprising amount of play on teams that will be tough to watch. This might be a year when box scores are preferable to NBA League Pass.
So what have we learned? Let's get to it:
New Jersey Sports Fans Deserve Better
I lived in Cleveland for six years. I know sports fan heartache. New Jersey sports fans deserve better. Like the Ravens winning two Super Bowls in Baltimore after leaving Cleveland, we are witnessing a similar "success after moving" story with these Nets. Their Friday night, 101-100 victory over the Heat had to have many Newark residents shaking their heads. This is the best team Russian oil money can buy it will succeed. Fantasy-wise, I like what I see from Paul Pierce. He's lost weight, is still being assertive with his shot, and wants to prove he still has gas in the tank. Improved percentages and maybe assists should be expected, as he gets more open shots on a better offensive team. (Scroll to the finish for more on NJ.) In our hyper-competitive RotoWire keeper league, I just traded for Pierce, giving up Carlos Boozer and Chris Kaman in the process. #PutYourMoneyWhereYourMouthIs.
El Hombre Indestructible!
You can NOT deny the joy of yelling "VITOR!" Be it during a Celtics game or the rare appearance on SportsCenter, El Hombre Indestructible will give Boston fans something to cheer for. (Hey, it's a desperate situation). Faverani is the only legitimate center on the roster and should get plenty of minutes, resulting in steady block and rebound numbers. I poo-poo'd him in the preseason, because, frankly, who has better stats in the NBA than in Spain? VITOR, that's who! But he'll also have a few nights of bad FG percentage. His success at the foul line should crawl back up to 75 percent once he gets comfortable. Grab him.
As the pre-season showed, Vitor has good hands:
Phoenix Is a Fantasy Goldmine
Yeah, I said it. And I'm saying it after the Gortat trade. Phoenix will give Goran Dragic (duh), Eric Bledsoe and Miles Plumlee major minutes, which is a first for both Bledsoe and the surprising Plumlee. Meanwhile, there is no reason to rush Alex Len's return from ankle injury, and I'm guessing we see a lot of a lot of 12-to-15 minute lines from the rookie. That means a lot of time for Plumlee, as well as the expected gunning from the backcourt. Plus, Bledsoe should be motivated knowing he'll be a restricted free agent at the end of the year. Two-point-guard offenses are fun to watch. Channing Frye is a sneaky play for cheap treys especially when he gets his legs back. And once the Suns realize PJ Tucker is 28-years-old, look for Markieff (not Marcus) Morris' minutes to grow.
J.A. Adande Gets It
NBA scribe, Northwestern alum (Go Cats!) and now ESPN NBA sideline reporter, J. A. Adande will be a welcome addition to broadcasts if he keeps making videos like this:
Shout out to @jadande.
Hayward Is Legit
It seemed like the entire Jazz lineup was on everyone's Sleeper List this preseason. While everyone was gaga over Favors and Kanter, and understandably so, Gordon Hayward will stuff the most complete stat line, especially during Trey Burke's recovery from a broken finger. Hayward's 6.5 assist average in the first two games looks pretty darn good for any fantasy squad with weak point guards. Trade for him now with any owner worried about Burke's return.
Paging Cody Zeller
I thought Cody Zeller was hands down the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. I know, many folks love Victor Oladipo, but he has Nelson and Afflalo ahead of him and is changing positions. Well, who thought Zeller would struggle with Josh McRoberts ahead of him? Big Al missed Friday's game with an ankle issue, yet Zeller still came off the bench versus Cleveland. Really, coach Clifford? Bismack Biyombo gets 37 minutes to Zeller's 19? The Horncats won, so I should be quiet. But Zeller's owners have reason to worry.
It is really hard to think of the Lakers tanking, but you have noticed that Nick Young and Jodie Meeks are in the starting lineup, right? One of those guys still start when Kobe returns. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. Might they be Riggin' for Wiggins? Could Gasol be on the trade block this winter? On Sunday, D'Antoni benched Young and Meeks for Xavier Henry (he of the awesome 22-point opening night) and Steve Blake. We'll see
Only One Week!?
Wow, Russell Westbrook returns after missing only one week. His owners (that would include me in two leagues) MUST be feeling good about that third-round pick or low-auction price. Play him immediately, as he already played 33 minutes Sunday, with 21 points and seven assists.
Whoa, did anyone expect that? If you say "yes," you are lying. Opening night doesn't seem like a one-game fluke, either. MCW had a 26-4-10-3 line Saturday against D-Rose and the Bulls. The kid has poise. Please tell me you saw that sick end-of-game behind the back pass to Hawes on Saturday. Come Monday, reality set in with a 4-17 FG's, no steal performance in the loss (Sixers first loss!) to Golden State.
Free Agent Pick-Ups?
Michael Carter-Williams (PHI): Duh.
Miles Plumlee (PHO): He's getting 33 minutes a game with Gortat in Washington. Looked like a no-brainer move until his zero-point effort against OKC on Sunday. Really, Miles, couldn't out-quick Kendrick Perkins? Still the opportunity is there.
Vitor Faverani (BOS): He should continue to get real minutes as Boston's only legit center. I wouldn't worry about Sunday's stumble in Detroit you may have noticed the Pistons have a few decent bigs.
Tobias Harris (ORL): He was a big sleeper who may have been cut early due to his severe ankle sprain. He'll be resting for a couple of weeks, but if he's available, stash him on your bench, as he's worth it.
Martell Webster (WAS): The Wizards are already on "made another bad draft pick" watch. Webster is providing solid three-pointers, points and rebounds off the bench for Washington. Ariza's old legs can only hold up for so long.
Josh McRoberts (CHA): Check his position eligibility. In Yahoo, he's a F-C, so I like the pickup. He's averaged 24-plus minutes through three games and will give you cheap threes from a frontcourt position. Also, see Channing Frye (PHO).
James Anderson (PHI): He's getting major minutes as a starter in Philly, where they would be crazy to mess with this early chemistry. But he's looking like a defensive specialist with an early 23.5 percent clip from the floor. He's a deep league pickup only.
BONUS: Yours truly actually attended the last New Jersey Nets game. Below is a shot of me and my son Sam courtside. While Jay-Z didn't recognize us, we were able to get DeShawn Stevenson to give us his trademark face-in-hand "you don't see me" hand wave on demand during the waning minutes of the game. My son and I will take that to our grave. Thank you, DeShawn (and thank you Gary Vaynerchuk @garyvee for the tickets).