First and foremost, catch a free preview of NBA League Pass from October 28th through November 4th. Check your local listings because they’ll blackout local games. You don’t want to miss Philadelphia 76er Marquis Teague replicating Michael Carter-Williams’ debut performance or Evan Turner trying to recoup that alleged $10 million in free agency money should Rajon Rondo suffer a drastic setback. No? Maybe I’m preaching to the wrong audience.
Victor Oladipo requires surgery to reconstruct fractured bones under his right eye Saturday. The Magic have not provided a timeline for the second year guard who already missed the entire preseason with a sprained MCL, instead claiming an indefinite timetable. We’ll find out more about the recovery timetable post-surgery, but based on Jeff Stotts’ article, a 2-3 week hiatus seems plausible, dependent on fracture severity.
Three factors you should consider when targeting Oladipo: 1) the Magic play an extremely front loaded schedule and 16 of their first 23 games on the road, 2) the Magic have the worst fantasy playoff schedule of any team in any format and 3) the last time Oladipo played meaningful basketball was as a member of the USA Select Team. All this to say, once Oladipo returns to full form and game shape, his utility will be capped as the Magic play the fewest games (47) during the 2015 portion of the schedule. Be forewarned, coach Vaughn already stated prior to these injuries that he’d be relying on his bench and extending rotations through mid-November due to surplus road games.
In the meantime, look for rookie Elfrid Payton to receive ample minutes as primary ball handler with Luke Ridnour suffering a right quadricep contusion during Friday’s preseason finale. The stage is set for Louisiana’s own to make his NBA debut against his hometown Pelicans this Tuesday. I would recommend Kyle O’Quinn and Evan Fournier for the interim as well. Channing Frye’s return date from a sprained MCL remains a mystery, so I expect coach Jacque Vaughn to shift Tobias Harris down to small forward and surround him with O’Quinn and Fournier in the starting lineup. With only six teams in action opening night, the Magic among them, you can always drop O’Quinn or Fournier after the fact or keep them should they bear supple fruit. The opening night gambit is a trickier tactic in rotisserie leagues where game limits apply.
For anyone doubting O’Quinn, he averaged 10.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 0.7 steals in 24.2 minutes per game through eight preseason contests. As mentioned above, the Magic play an abundance of games early on (7 games through two weeks, 11 games through three weeks).
Anthony Morrow suffered a sprained MCL and could miss 4-6 weeks depending on the severity. Next man up is either Jeremy Lamb or Perry Jones III, polar opposites of each other. Lamb can occasionally knock down the outside shot while Jones fits the profile of an elite athlete struggling to add basketball player to his résumé. The former floundered from beyond the arc throughout preseason, converting 4-of-28 three-pointers, and the latter wasn’t too far behind, connecting on 6-of-21 from deep.
Coach Scott Brooks may look to start offensively inclined Reggie Jackson and use Andre Roberson as the starting small forward, but that’s purely speculation on my part. The rotations would need to stagger in a way that would have one of Russell Westbrook or Jackson on the court at all times in order to initiate the offense.
Sebastian Telfair is the wildcard of the group. Now 29-years-old, if he can cobble together a D.J. Augustin-type season until the cavalry returns, his ownership percentages might just crack the one-percent barrier. That said, I fully expect Russell Westbrook to play 38-40 minutes a night on his surgically altered meniscus, giving Telfair relevance in daily games only.
Klay Thompson last night: 35 points (13-26 FG, 4-12 3Pt, 5-6 FT), three rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in 36 minutes
Klay Thompson’s preseason: 21.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals, 3.1 three-pointers, 3.6 free-throw attempts, and 50 percent shooting in 26.7 minutes per game.
In case you were wondering, the preseason points, assists, blocks, free-throw attempts, three-pointers made and shooting percentage all eclipse his previous regular season per game averages. To paraphrase OutKast, ‘I’m sorry Mark Jackson, I am for real.’ Thompson appears reborn in Steve Kerr’s motion offense. For starters, I’ve seen him actively pass to teammates in halfcourt sets and pump fake at least once. He continues to dribble with his offhand, drive to the basket, and shoot off the dribble at elevated rates, all good signs. Plus, with defenses keying in on Stephen Curry, Thompson’s open looks increase drastically. He marches into the regular season riding high off the Team USA experience, but like all shooters, Wesley Matthews and Arron Afflalo prime examples from last season, I expect Thompson to hit a cold spell eventually. If you failed to grab Klay on draft day, your next best chance is contingent on that aforementioned and all but certain shooting lull.
CLASS IS IN SESSIONS
A 38-year-old Derek Fisher, a 37-year-old Mike James, and a newly acquired George Hill. What do they all have in common? Each player supplanted a healthy Darren Collison from the starting lineup throughout various times in his career. Next on that list may be journeyman Ramon Sessions. In Friday’s preseason game, Sessions provided 13 points (4-9 FG, 5-6 FT) and a game-high eight assists in 27 minutes against his former team, the Lakers, off the bench. Collison mailed in a three point (0-3 FG, 3-3 FT), two assist effort in 22 minutes. The final preseason numbers tip the scales in Collison’s favor by a miniscule margin. Don’t be shocked if and when coach Mike Malone splits their minutes or names Sessions the starting point guard. Former Kings guard Greivis Vasquez lasted 18 games before receiving the pink slip. Monitor the minutes closely and latch onto the better player. It sounds trite, but ultimately worked out for Isaiah Thomas owners last season.
THE PRICE IS WRONG, BOB BARKER
Ronnie Price started at point guard during Friday’s preseason concluder. He played three minutes on account of a sore right knee. Coach Byron Scott believes Price should be ready by Tuesday but remains pessimistic when it comes to league protocols. It was the fifth preseason game Price started at point guard.
Jeremy Lin led the Kobe-less Lakers with a team-high 19 points (6-12 FG, 2-6 3Pt, 5-6 FT), seven assists, one rebound, and one steal in 32 minutes off the bench. He glided to the rim effortlessly and probed the defense long enough to find Bob Sacre on three separate occasions for open jumpers. Buy Lin stock while supplies last, or however the phrase goes. The Lakers square off against his former team, the Rockets, to open the season Tuesday.
Behold the Lakers’ preseason per game leaders, courtesy of RealGM.com. Quite the mishmash unit of youths, amnesty, and Kobe.
Andrew Bogut recorded 12 points (6-6 FG, 0-2 FT), eight rebounds, and eight assists in 32 minutes against the Nuggets. He led all centers with 4.3 assists per game during the preseason, a figure that would have qualified him behind only Joakim Noah last season among all centers. Bogut recorded a seven-assist game, an eight-assist game, and two four-assist games this preseason. I’d prefer a 70-game season from the Australian seven-footer but won’t complain when the added offensive responsibilities provide well above waiver wire assist numbers.
Kyle Lowry finished with 12 points (3-5 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 6-9 FT), eight assists, and seven rebounds in 28 minutes against the Knicks. He rested plenty this preseason so don’t take much stock into his overall preseason numbers.
Joakim Noah contributed six points (3-6 FG), 17 rebounds, and nine assists in 32 minutes against the Timberwolves. So much for poopooing Noah’s assist potential. He mixed up his patterns, finding both cutters and open teammates on the perimeter. The offseason knee surgery and foreseeable swelling, addition of Pau Gasol, and return of Derrick Rose were enough to knock Noah down my draft board. He remains there for the time being.
Devin Harris compiled seven points (3-8 FG, 1-5 3Pt), seven assists, and five steals in 20 minutes off the bench against the Magic. Raymond Felton didn’t play for the sixth straight preseason game because of a sprained right ankle and he’s suspended the first four games of the regular season. With an all but certain point guard platoon, both Felton and Harris fall in line somewhere behind Jameer Nelson.
DID THE LAKERS ATTEMPT A THREE-POINTER?
Yes, yes they did. Byron Scott cringed every time. Some say his heart shrunk fifteen times its normal size, one for each three-point attempt in the 93-92 loss to the Kings.
DAN FORDEN AWARD*
Isaiah Canaan scored the final seven points in the Rockets’ 96-87 win over the Spurs. In total, Canaan splashed 5-of-6 three-pointers on his way to an 18-point night. In 13.4 minutes per game this preseason, the former Rio Grande Valley Viper averaged 10.4 points per game. A Patrick Beverley knee flare up could dramatically boost Canaan’s fantasy value this season.
- Klay Thompson, G, GSW: 35 points (13-26 FG, 4-12 3Pt, 5-6 FT)
- Derrick Rose, G, CHI: 27 points (12-23 FG, 3-7 3Pt)
- James Harden, G, HOU: 25 points (9-19 FG, 5-9 3Pt, 2-2 FT)
- Joakim Noah, C, CHI: 17 rebounds (9 offensive)
- Reggie Evans, F, SAC: 16 rebounds (7 offensive)
- Ed Davis, F, LAL: 13 rebounds (2 offensive)
- Terrence Jones, F, HOU: 13 rebounds (4 offensive)
- Nikola Vucevic, C, ORL: 13 rebounds (3 offensive)
- Stephen Curry, G, GSW: 11 assists (3 turnovers)
- Chris Paul, G, LAC: 11 assists (2 turnovers)
- Tony Parker, G, SAS: 10 assists (2 turnovers)
- Joakim Noah, C, CHI: 9 assists (3 turnovers)
- Thaddeus Young, F, MIN: 5 steals
- Devin Harris, G, DAL: 5 steals
- Six players tied with three steals
- Pau Gasol, C, CHI: 4 blocks
- Chris Kaman, C, POR: 3 blocks
- Khem Birch, F, MIA: 3 blocks
- James Harden, G, HOU: 5-9 3Pt
- Isaiah Canaan, G, HOU: 5-6 3Pt
- Thaddeus Young, F, MIN: 4-5 3Pt
- Damian Lillard, G, POR: 4-7 3Pt
- Dirk Nowitzki, F, DAL: 4-7 3Pt
- Klay Thompson, G, GSW: 4-12 3Pt
- Klay Thompson, G, GSW: 36 minutes
- Gordon Hayward, F, UTA: 35 minutes
- Terrence Jones, F, HOU: 35 minutes
*The Dan Forden Award is given to the player with the best long-distance shooting performance. It is named the Dan Forden Award after Dan Forden, audio technician for the Mortal Kombat series and the guy who popped up from the bottom right corner of the game and excitedly proclaimed “Toasty!”