This article is part of our Rebound & Rant series.
Traditionally, bad NBA teams would push the pace of play figuring "heck, if we can't match their talent, maybe we can be in better shape". See Paul Westhead's Nuggets teams from the early 90's. Then the Golden State Warriors proved you didn't need a center to win and everything went to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks for half court offenses. (Click here to hear my old man rant, at minute 46 of "Sell High Candidates", about what happened to NBA centers).
Pace of play is a nice way to seek out fantasy sleepers. More shots per game translates to more stats. DFS ballers have been looking at pace for years. Roughly ten games into the season, we have Brooklyn, the Lakers and Phoenix as number one, two and three in team possessions per game (thank you, TeamRankings.com). So let's take a deeper dive into the depth charts for the speedy Nets, Lakers and Suns.
Brooklyn Ranks #1 at 110.2 Possessions Per Game
The Nets are averaging 111.9 points per game, second only to the super-team Warriors. We love to talk about the Nets when it's DFS time on the podcast. The Nets and their opponent will score in bunches. The problem is in picking which Net will explode. D'Angelo Russell, the only big name in Brooklyn, seems like the obvious choice, but he ranks 162 on Yahoo (Season (avg)). At 95% ownership on Yahoo, no one will deal him on the cheap. The two sleeper delights have been Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Yahoo Season (avg) Rank of 62) and new starter Allen Crabbe (116 rank). RHJ's move to starting power forward has gone very well, with early career highs in points per game (14.5), field goal and free throw shooting percentage. The 22-year-old is earning his minutes spike – hopefully an increase in rebounds (only 4.9 per game) will soon follow.
I've pointed to Allen Crabbe before as a sleeper. He's started the past two games over SG Caris LeVert. Crabbe is in the second season of a four year contract worth $75 million. LeVert is in the second year of a two year deal for $3.2 million total. Who do you think Nets management is vested in?
The Junkyard Dawg DeMarre Carroll is in a very interesting spot with Brooklyn. The 31-year veteran and R&R favorite seems a little long in the tooth to be part of the Nets' rebuilding plan. I suspect Brooklyn will happily swap Carroll for draft picks and/or younger talent come the February trade deadline. Carroll currently ranks 66th for Season (avg) on Yahoo, yet only owned in 69% of leagues. He's a nice free agent pick up for now, but trade him before February.
The Lakers Rank #2 at 107.2 Possessions Per Game
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is playing on a one year deal, meaning he's fishing for that next big contract. Early returns have been mixed, but remember that twice KCP has averaged 1.4 steals per game. He's a 3-and-D guy that can help with steals, made threes (1.6 per game sounds about right) and better than 82% from the charity stripe. For some teams, he's a nice fit. Yahoo ranks him #85 for Season (avg). I expect that to improve.
With the injury to Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Kuzma could be looking at some big time minutes backing up both Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram. He's already proven he can create his own shot, rebound and drain threes. There is a lot to like and frankly the Kuzma hype train doesn't really need my help. He ranks #72 on Yahoo Season (avg), which should increase with added minutes and a few more blocks. Kuzma blocked half a shot per game his junior year at Utah – expect his 0.1 per game with the Lakers to go up.
Check out these Kuzma highlights versus Portland from November 2nd. I particularly like the baseline move early in the highlights:
And don't look now, but Brook Lopez is starting to look comfortable in LA. Over his past three games, he's averaged 27.3 points, 4.7 boards, 2.0 blocks and 3.7 made threes per game. Trade for him now, before it's too late. Those rebounds got to come up, right?
Phoenix Ranks #3 at 106.8 Possessions Per Game
The Phoenix Suns train wreck might be taking a step back in pace of play now that they've acquired 1980's throwback Greg Monroe. Actually, scratch that, as the Suns intend to trade Monroe. We'll see. Who is going to take Monroe? Milwaukee has been shopping him for almost two years. The guy is 6-11 and yet has zero blocks in five games this season. How is that possible?
But I digress. Obviously Devin Booker is the guy to own in Phoenix. But I'm starting to believe that 27-year-old rookie Mike James will have value in 12-team leagues. Assists are always hard to come by, and he's averaged almost five in his last four games. I really doubt Phoenix can get a legitimate point guard for Monroe. And Tyler Ulis seems determined to prove he can't shoot.
T.J. Warren is proving to be the real deal. Warren has started all eleven games for the Suns. He's averaging 20.3 points, 7.1 boards, 1.0 block over his past seven games while shooting 50% from the field. Is this the year he stays healthy?
Finally, someone hopefully will rise from the Marquese Chriss versus Dragan Bender mess at power forward. Neither youngster seems ready for the big stage, but both will have ample opportunity to prove themselves. Chriss is my choice for end-of-the-bench stash due to the blocked shots. But neither sophomore can shoot.
Well, that's it for my pace of play babblings. This fantasy train wreck has hit the END OF THE LINE! CHOO-CHOO!
(BTW, if you enjoy this little column, give our Friday NBA podcast a try, where I usually join Shannon McKeown and D.J. Trainer for some epic NBA conversations.)