You can never really tell, until you've seen them play together, how well NBA players will fit together on a team. Some pairings are inspired, like Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett or Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Others, like Gasol and Dwight Howard, or Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, never really click.
Will this season's new player combinations click? Twelve games might not be enough time to really make an assessment, but based on what we've seen so far, we should be able to make an implication.
There were major doubts about putting Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, and the Pistons' early play has confirmed them. Smith has had his moments - 21 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, five steals, four blocks, and two three-pointers against the Kings on Wednesday, for example – but lining up at small forward is basically encouraging Smoove to take a lot more threes than he should. That perimeter play is hurting his other numbers, which are down across the board, and that's why we saw the Pistons bring Smith off the bench Friday night in favor of starting a conventional lineup with Kyle Singler at small forward.
The Dwight Howard/James Harden combo got off to a bumpy start. The debate as to whether or not Howard's skills have diminished somewhat due to injury continues to rage. Kevin McHale's offense, which has Harden, Jeremy Lin and others dribbling on the perimeter an awful lot, doesn't necessarily create one-on-one opportunities for Howard in the post. With that said, Howard has put up some monster lines of late, including a season-high 33 points and 11 rebounds against the Mavs on Wednesday.
Of course, Howard's big game wasn't enough to get the Rockets a win. Dallas knocked off the Rockets, thanks in part to another outstanding effort from new arrival Monta Ellis, who has been a surprisingly effective complement to Dirk Nowitzki. That duo combined to score 72 of Dallas' 123 points in the win.
The best fit of all is probably Andre Iguodala and the Warriors. Iguodala has jumped into Mark Jackson's rotation seamlessly, helping to solidify Golden State's perimeter defense. On offense, he's had to take on a much larger role than originally anticipated. With backup point guard Toney Douglas (stress fracture) and now Steph Curry (concussion) sidelined, Iguodala has become the team's quarterback. Iggy racked up 14 assists in Wednesday's overtime loss to the Grizzlies, giving owners great fantasy value despite a poor shooting night (3-for-14).
The Next Big Star
Any doubts about Paul George's status as an elite player should be eliminated, especially after his duel with Carmelo Anthony in the Pacers' overtime win over the Knicks this week. For me, the most interesting thing about George's emergence as a superstar is that it's coming in his fourth year in the league.
I feel like a lot of NBA fans expect instant success from players coming out of the draft. But in reality, George's career arc makes a lot of sense – and is a big reason that, generally speaking, I'd rather draft a second or third-year college player than a freshman. (Perhaps I'm sensitive to impatience with developing players because, as a Knicks fan, I haven't seen my team develop a young player correctly since Patrick Ewing?)
That being the case, I think it is a mistake to look at young players like Derrick Williams (4%), Tristan Thompson (76%), Jonas Valanciunas (79%) and Iman Shumpert (24%) and think they've hit their ceiling in terms of fantasy value. In fact, a player like Williams might be an outstanding buy low candidate, especially if recent trade rumors are accurate.
Picks for the Week
All percent-owned stats are from Yahoo!
Kobe Bryant (98%) - Hey, he's not 100 percent owned, so he's fair game for this column. And in an utterly unsurprising turn of events, it sounds like he'll be back on the court much sooner than anyone anticipated.
Jared Sullinger (30%) - He scored 19 points and grabbed a career-high 17 boards in his first career start on Wednesday. It seems safe to say he's earned a longer look in the starting five.
Mike Dunleavy Jr. (8%) - Dunleavy has moved into the starting lineup while Jimmy Butler is sidelined by a case of turf toe. That's the sort of injury that can linger, and the Bulls have struggled to find a scorer to complement Derrick Rose, so this promotion might last a while.
Luke Ridnour (6%) - Ridnour started at point guard and led the Bucks in scoring Wednesday. With Brandon Knight's status uncertain, Ridnour should be a decent play for the time being.
Steven Adams (5%) - The Thunder's rookie center is already looking like one of the steals of the 2013 draft and has produced quality numbers when given the opportunity (six points, seven rebounds, two assists and three blocks in 24 minutes against the Clippers on Thursday). He'd get a big boost in value if he can jump over Kendrick Perkins on the depth chart, so keep an eye on Scott Brooks' lineups.
Shane Larkin (1%) - The rookie from Miami has already won a pretty significant role in coach Rick Carlisle's rotation. Carlisle reportedly envisions Larkins' role as a change-of-pace player off the bench, similar to J.J. Barea during the Mavs' title run in 2011.
Beno Udrih (1%) - It appears that Udrih has leapt over Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton (back/hip) on the Knicks' depth chart, and his game against the Pacers on Wednesday (18 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three three-pointers) certainly raised some eyebrows. But don't lose sight of the fact that some of those numbers came on late-clock heaves that happened to fall. That game will almost certainly be his best of the season.