USATSI 19261556

Basketball is back, baby! The bounce of the ball, the squeak of the shoes and the sweat glistening off the screen were sounds and sights that were sorely missed. While many of the analysts on television do a fantastic job, nothing tickled my spine more than watching an offensive possession during a Suns game with the GZA Liquid Swords beat playing in the background.

Anyways, you’re here for fantasy tidbits, and fantasy tidbits I shall provide. Keep in mind that the sample sizes are extremely small as teams have only played two games, with a few teams with only one game under their belts.

ATLANTA HAWKS

  • Remember when many were saying that the addition of Dejounte Murray to the Hawks would negatively impact both he and Trae Young? As Shaggy so eloquently sang, “It wasn’t me.” What a start for the duo as Young dished out 13 dimes in both games while Murray handed out 11 and 9. The Hawks did play the Rockets and Magic in the first two games so let’s not go crowning them yet. In addition, only Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd back in 1996 were the only teammates to average at least nine dimes per game. It’s encouraging nonetheless. Young had a 34.1% usage rate while Murray was at 23.9%.
  • I came into the season withthe idea of Clint Capela starting but Onyeka Okongwu essentially splitting the center minutes down the middle. Well, Capela has played 26 and 32 minutes while Okongwu received 21 and 17 minutes.
  • John Collins is feasting! Is it due to the presence of Murray? Is it because he’s eating his vitamins? No one knows. What we do know is that he’s averaging 35 mpg and has converted 69% of his 13 field-goal attempts per game. He averaged around 30 mpg in each of the past two seasons. Coming into the season, I did think the efficiency could increase due to the presence of Murray. We shall see if it continues.
  • Atlanta was 26th in defensive efficiency last season. Through two games this season, they are 9th.

BOSTON CELTICS

  • Payton Pritchard was a DNP in both games.
  • Sam Hauser played only 3 minutes in the opener but received 13 minutes in the second game.
  • There was a report from Shams Charania that Robert Williams III could return after January. Brad Stevens pushed back and said that the initial timeline hasn’t changed. No one ever lies, right? And where there’s smoke there’s often fire.
  • The Celtics are tops in offensive efficiency through two games. They played Miami and Philadelphia, who were fifth and 12th in defensive efficiency last season.
  • Both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have a 32% usage rate to start the season.

BROOKLYN NETS

  • “Rolls” Royce O’Neale! He played 34 and 40 minutes. The points will rarely be voluminous but he’s been stuffing the stat sheet to start the season — 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks in the opener, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in the second game.
  • The Nets are dead-last in defensive efficiency.
  • Ben Simmons is averaging 4 field-goal attempts per game. In every other season during his career, that number was above 10. He is going to grab rebounds, dish out dimes and contribute defensive stats but, if he can’t mentally get over the hurdle of jacking up shots, then my bullish sentiment on him wanes.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS

  • Nick Richards was talked up by Steve Clifford over the summer and he’s received 22 and 26 minutes of run to begin the season. Rookie Mark Williams has played four minutes in one game.
  • With no LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier has stepped into the alpha role. The usage rate is 30% and he’s averaging 21.5 field-goal attempts per game. He’s been at 16 per game over the past two seasons.
  • The Hornets are sixth in points scored at 120.5 per game.

CHICAGO BULLS

  • Patrick Williams has started both games but has struggled. He’s averaging 5.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 0.5 blocks while shooting 36% from the field. Not great, Bob.
  • Ayo Dosunmu, on the other hand, has looked fantastic, averaging 12 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.5 blocks in place of Lonzo Ball. He’s attempted five treys per game and converted two, for a cool 40% rate.
  • Zach LaVine has not played yet due to knee soreness after espousing all offseason how great he felt. Even Billy Donovan was raving about his explosiveness. Liars! This is why I have trust issues.
  • DeMar DeRozan has been a demigod to start the season. Last season, the usage rate was around 7% higher with LaVine on the pine. The increase hasn’t been as robust this season but it’s still been at an elevated 33%.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

  • Caris LeVert won the starting small forward job. He played 35 minutes and produced 10 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists. He did shoot 2-of-7 from the field, though. Regardless, minutes are half the battle. Yo, Joe!
  • I did have some optimism for Isaac Okoro making an impact, especially since he’s been working on his jumper and showed proficiency during the preseason. He only played 12 minutes. I’m a stupid, stupid man.
  • Donovan Mitchell was his normal alpha self but Darius Garland suffered an eye injury so we won’t know the true split between the two until Garland returns to action.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

  • The talk in the offseason was that Spencer Dinwiddie would come off the bench. Well, he got the start and played 28 minutes. And you wonder why I’m such a cynical human being.
  • Luka Doncic was 13-for-13 from the line. That’s the final frontier for Luka. If he can conquer that, then… my brain cannot comprehend the extent of the awesomeness. During his earlier years with Real Madrid, he had two seasons over 80% from the line, so it’s always been in the bag.
  • Christian Wood did come off the bench and played 24 minutes. He garnered a ridiculous 41.2% usage rate!

DENVER NUGGETS

  • Preseason darling Zeke Nnaji had two DNPs. Good times.
  • Bones Hyland played 16 and 19 minutes despite Jamal Murray missing one of those games. More good times.
  • It was Bruce Brown who received the start in place of Murray. He played 31 minutes and produced 20 points, 1 rebound, 5 assists and 1 steal. In the other game when he came off the bench, he got 22 minutes of run and went for 8 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist. He provides a defensive element which fits better around Nikola Jokic. For fantasy, the multi-eligibility is nice as well.
  • Christian Braun played two minutes in the opener. With Murray out of the lineup, he played 23 minutes. Mike Malone talked positively about him during the offseason, from both a mental and physical perspective. He’s someone to keep an eye on.

DETROIT PISTONS

  • Jalen Duren is literally a boy amongst men, clocking in at 18 years and 338 days. He’s been a man amongst men, though, on the court, displaying his length, athleticism and mental strength. He’s played 22 and 24 minutes and grabbed 10 rebounds in each contest. The genie is out of the bottle and I don’t see how or why the Pistons would want to stuff it back in. With Bojan Bogdanovic locking down the power forward spot, Isaiah Stewart would probably see a role change, although, he could still get significant minutes backing up both the center and power forward positions.
  • Speaking of Isaiah Stewart, the 3-point shot has become a bigger part of the arsenal as he’s attempted 4 and 6 to start the season. Unfortunately, he’s only made 2.
  • Jaden Ivey is for real. When he’s dribbling with the ball, either everyone else is stuck in sand or he has the ability to freeze everyone while he saunters by. In two games, he’s averaged 18 points, 2.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.5 steals.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

  • Moses Moody has played 8 and 13 minutes to start the season. During the preseason, he was often the first one off the bench. Not so when the lights switched on.
  • Jonathan Kuminga was another bench player who I thought would have more of an impact. He’s played 13 and 8 minutes. Hmmm… are Moody and Kuminga playing rock/paper/scissors to see who gets to go onto the court?
  • JaMychal Green has been the main guy off the bench for the Warriors. He’s played 24 minutes in each contest, averaging 6.5 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal.
  • Andrew Wiggins has looked really, really good. He’s averaging 21.5 points, 7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2 steals and 1 block while converting 51% of his 15.5 field-goal attempts. I still don’t understand the 71% free-throw percentage when he’s knocking down 40% of his shots from downtown.
  • Klay Thompson is being eased into the season. He’s played 20 and 24 minutes.
  • The Warriors are second in defensive efficiency early in the season.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

  • Houston, we have a problem. Steven Silas has chosen to start Eric Gordon and Bruno Fernando over Tari Eason and Alperen Sengun. Shrug.
  • I wouldn’t worry about Sengun too much. The minutes may be lighter than I expected but he’s going to garner a ton of usage running the second unit. In the second game, he played 27 minutes and produced 23 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block. He has a 26.5% usage rate on the season.
  • I would hold onto Eason, although the ride may take longer than expected.

INDIANA PACERS

  • Bennedict Mathurin balled out during the preseason and is showing those performances were no fluke as he’s been doing his thing in the regular season. Through two games, he’s averaging 22.5 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal while shooting 50% from the field and 46% from downtown. He’s not starting and that could change in the not-so-distant future, but he’s flourishing in the microwave role, so why change it?
  • Isaiah Jackson was a popular selection in drafts due to his shot-blocking prowess and possibility of more playing time if Myles Turner got traded. Turner did not get traded but hasn’t played yet this season due to spraining his ankle in warmups. Despite that, Jackson has played 15 and 16 minutes.
  • Chris Duarte is the starter but he’s only played 20 and 17 minutes.
  • Terry Taylor has started at power forward while Jalen Smith has moved up to center. Neither have been good.
  • Andrew Nembhard did not play in the opener but then received 30 minutes in the second game. He attempted 12 shots and contributed 14 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. The Pacers had some interesting rotations during the second game, as they employed the “Wembanyama Package” at times, so a player like Nembhard could have some utility this season.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

  • Kawhi Leonard did not start but came off the bench and played 21 minutes. His sweat was too valuable to waste on the Lakers. We knew that he was going to sit back-to-backs, but now he’s only going to play half the games?
  • John Wall looked explosive and was able to drain the mid-range jumpers when defenses went under the screen. He had a 31.1% usage rate and helped contribute to the Clippers playing at the third-fastest pace so far this season. Last season, the Clippers were 18th in pace.
  • Ivica Zubac played 35 minutes and contributed 14 points, 17 rebounds, 1 assist and 5 blocks. I was thinking that Zubac would play more minutes this season due to Isaiah Hartenstein taking his talents to New York. I never envisioned 35 minutes, though, as my expectation was more in the 28-30 minute range. I expected Robert Covington to play more small-ball center but he only played 14 minutes in the opener.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

  • Russell Westbrook has indeed started the first two games but is shooting 30% from the field and 11% from downtown. Darvin Ham has intimated that he would move Westbrook to the bench if he feels like it gives the Lakers the best chance to win. I think that happens sooner than later. The Clippers had Ivica Zubac guard Westbrook at times and Westbrook couldn’t take advantage.
  • Damian Jones was a DNP in the first game and played seven minutes in the second game, and that was with Thomas Bryant out with an injury. Darvin Ham has decided to start Anthony Davis at center. Pete Zaya, Darius Soriano and Mike Trudell on the Lakers Film Room podcast mentioned that Jones had been the third-best center behind Bryant and Wenyen Gabriel during the preseason. Yuck.
  • Darvin Ham has been trying to instill a defensive mindset and wants the Lakers to run more in transition. The effort has been there and, after being 21st in defensive efficiency, the Lakers are 11th. They are also first in offensive pace.
  • Lonnie Walker IV has benefited from the starting role and uptempo style. He’s averaged 33 minutes, 15.5 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1 trey. The efficiency has been, and continues to be, an issue (39% field-goal percentage), but some of that is due to the 16% conversion rate from downtown. He’s a career 34% shooter from beyond the arc.
  • After getting hyped up during the offseason, Kendrick Nunn has averaged 17 minutes off the bench. He’s shooting 31% from the field and is averaging 2 turnovers per game.

MIAMI HEAT

  • Caleb Martin has indeed been the fifth starter, averaging 28.5 minutes, 5.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals.
  • Tyler Herro has entered the starting lineup and has been better! He’s averaged 35.5 minutes, 24 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block while shooting 50% from the field and 42% from downtown. The usage rate has been 25.3%.
  • Max Strus is the ultimate yin/yang fantasy player. In the opener, he played 31 minutes and contributed 22 points, 7 rebounds and 1 assist. In the second game, he played 24 minutes and produced 2 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

  • Jevon Carter got the start but only played 22 minutes.
  • Brook Lopez played 31 minutes and looked healthy. He was instrumental in making life difficult for Joel Embiid. He went for 17 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks while attempting 12 of his 16 shots from downtown.
  • Jordan Nwora played 16 minutes off the bench. That’s nothing to get too excited about but he’s 6-foot-8 and is a professional bucket-getter. He’s getting run due to Khris Middleton being out, but he’s someone to keep an eye on later in the season.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

  • Santi Aldama has been fantastic in the starting role, averaging 35 minutes, 13 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks. Pick him up and play him while Jaren Jackson Jr. is out.
  • Both Dillon Brooks and Ziarie Williams have been out. As a result, John Konchar has started and performed well. Konchar has nine career starts and he’s scored double-digits in four of those contests while grabbing at least nine rebounds in six of those games. He’s also racked up 13 steals and nine blocks.
  • With Aldama soaking up most of the power forward minutes, Brandon Clarke has played only 19 and 15 minutes.
  • Is Morant good? Ja.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

  • The rebounds have decreased for Karl-Anthony Towns while the assists have gone up. In addition, the turnovers have increased. He is still attempting over 17 shots per game, with 6.5 of those coming from downtown. He’s shooting 31% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc. Those numbers will both increase when he gets more comfortable playing in his new role. The main concern is the lack of defensive stats, as he has yet to rack up a steal or block.
  • Rudy Gobert has averaged 19.5 rebounds through two games. For s’s and giggles, I looked up where that would rank all time. It would be only 29th! Wilt Chamberlain averaged 27.2 rebounds during the 1960-61 season.
  • If you need some offensive juice, Jaylen Nowell is a viable option. While he only averages 19 minutes per game, he’s hoisting up 12.5 shots and averaging 15.5 points. He’s uber athletic and can get buckets.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

  • The Pelicans are second in offensive efficiency and 10th in defensive efficiency.
  • With Zion Williamson bullying defenders down low and C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram slicing and dicing on the perimeter, the Pelicans are a tough team to defend. Oh, I also forgot about Jonas Valanciunas, who only put up 30 points, 17 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 1 block.
  • Trey Murphy III is only averaging 22 minutes off the bench, but he’s contributing 12 points, 6 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 3 treys per game. He’s shooting 50% from the field and 54% from downtown. Those are obviously unsustainable but he’s a knock-down shooter and will get plenty of open looks playing alongside the bevy of offensive talent that the Pelicans have.

NEW YORK KNICKS

  • Cam Reddish almost broke Twitter with his 22-point game in the opener while playing 28 minutes. In the second game, he received 19 minutes and contributed 6 points and 4 rebounds. I am not falling for the banana in the tailpipe. If he is still a significant part of the rotation when Quentin Grimes returns to action, then I will reassess.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein played 40 minutes in the opener, but that was due to Mitchell Robinson foul trouble. In the second game, he received 21 minutes, which is what the normal allocation will likely be. He produced 6 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block.
  • Jalen Brunson is averaging 14.5 field-goal attempts and dishing out 7.5 dimes. The most shocking number, though, is the 0 turnovers through two games.
  • The Knicks are sixth in offensive efficiency.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

  • Aleksej Pokusevski received the start and played 25 minutes. The shooting efficiency is still a concern as he shot 3-of-10 from the field.
  • Kenrich Williams received the start at power forward while Pokusevki got the start at center.

ORLANDO MAGIC

  • Paolo Banchero is the real deal. He’s scoring from all three levels and garnering a 31.1% usage rate. He’s averaging 23.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 blocks! The efficiency isn’t great at 47% from the field and 16% from downtown, but he’s converting 80% of his free-throws.
  • Mo Bamba has played 12 and 15 minutes. I thought the playing time would be difficult with Wendell Carter Jr. and Paolo Banchero starting. Now you have Bol Bol playing 12 minutes per game and it’s a wrap.
  • Franz Wagner has played some point this season, bringing the ball up and navigating pick-and-roll action. His handle package is nice enough to break down defenders on the perimeter.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

  • Matisse Thybulle has played less than a minute in each of the first two contests.
  • Montrezl Harrell only played three minutes in the second game.
  • Philadelphia is 24th in defensive efficiency after being 12th last season.
  • Doc Rivers did put more of an emphasis on pushing the pace this season. They are sixth in pace after being 26th last season.

PHOENIX SUNS

  • Chris Paul only played 30 minutes in the opener and sat the final few minutes as Cameron Payne closed out the game. Paul was fine with the move and Monty Williams liked what Payne was doing and kept him out there. It’s probably nothing, but interesting nonetheless.
  • Through two games, Deandre Ayton is averaging 16.5 field-goal attempts. Last season, he was at 12, and his career-high mark is 14.9.
  • Damion Lee has played 20 and 31 minutes. He looks to be the microwave off the bench for Phoenix and has been in closing lineups, hitting the game-winner in the opener.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

  • Josh Hart won the starting small forward battle. He’s averaging 39.5 minutes, 14.5 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.5 steals. I Hart Josh.
  • I underestimated Jerami Grant coming into the season. Of course, our Eric Wong was all over him. There’s a reason why Eric wins everything. Grant is averaging 37.5 minutes, 15.5 points, 6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1 steal and 1 block.
  • Chauncey Billups closed with a lineup of Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Grant, Justise Winslow and Hart in the opener, which sparked them to a win in the opener.

SACRAMENTO KINGS

  • De’Aaron Fox breakout has been initiated. He put up 33 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals while converting 57% of his 21 field-goal attempts. He even went 5-of-9 from downtown and 4-for-5 from the free-throw line.
  • Terence Davis played 25 minutes off the bench and produced 14 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 1 block.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

  • Jeremy Sochan has started at power forward. He hasn’t done much but can provide some rebounds and defensive stats. He’s only 19 years old and should develop as the season progresses, as long as he stays in the rotation.
  • Josh Primo is great for dynasty leagues as many within the organization view him as a franchise player. That ceiling outcome would take time to come to fruition, though. In the meantime, Primo is a decent option off the bench. He played 26 and 21 minutes. While he’s only scored 10 and 3 points, he’s dished out 5 and 7 assists while racking up a steal and a block.
  • Rick Carlisle employed the Hack-a-Poeltl, sending Jakob Poeltl to the line 21 times. He made 13. Suck it, Carlisle. Poeltl is a career 52% free-throw shooter.

TORONTO RAPTORS

  • Pascal Siakam has taken his game to another level. He’s averaging 20.5 field goal attempts, 30 points, 11.5 rebounds, 6 assists and 1.5 steals. The free throw shooting has been poor, though, at 52%. The usage rate has been 34%. He’s the alpha of the Raptors.
  • Christian Koloko had buzz during the summer/preseason, as many of the vets wanted to play with him due to his ability to screen and do the dirty work. It’s translated into the regular season as he’s averaged 17.5 minutes, 4 rebounds and 1 block. Chris Boucher has been out, so it will be interesting to see if he maintains that role when Boucher returns.
  • Precious Achiuwa was a favorite of mine coming into the season due to his play at the end of last season. Unfortunately, he’s only averaged 17.5 minutes and is shooting 29% from the field and 20% from downtown. He’s grabbed some rebounds but hasn’t racked up any defensive stats.

UTAH JAZZ

  • The Jazz are 2-0 after beating the Nuggets and Timberwolves! What the??!!
  • Jarred Vanderbilt is only playing 21.5 minutes per game but he’s grabbing 13 rebounds per game with 2.5 steals and 2.5 assists.
  • Collin Sexton has played 19 and 21 minutes off the bench.
  • Malik Beasley has been the primary microwave, playing 25 and 30 minutes while hoisting 13 and 16 shots.
  • Jordan Clarkson is starting and averaging 32 minutes, 19.5 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
  • Mike Conley is starting and averaging 34 minutes and 9.5 assists.
  • Clarkson and Conley could be playing in order to increase their trade value, but both must be rostered, and played, until those trades manifest.
  • Walker Kessler has played 24 and 18 minutes. He grabbed 10 rebounds in the opener then blocked 4 shots in the second game.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

  • Deni Avdija is the starting small forward. He only played eight minutes in the opener due to injury but received 23 minutes in the second game. He’s a low-usage player so points won’t be voluminous. He did grab 10 rebounds and contribute 4 assists, 1 steal and 1 block.
  • Kyle Kuzma is beasting. The usage rate has been 26.7% and he’s averaged 34 minutes, 24 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block.
  • Delon Wright is great for defensive stats. He’s played 24 minutes and averaged 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks over two games.

(Top photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)



Source link