Boban Marjanovic might be freed after all, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is here to stay, Julius Randle popped up on the injury report, Miami has moved on from Jimmy Butler and Dwight Howard heals really slow for a Superman. There was lots of news for a three-game Thursday, so let’s dive right in. For NBA news, fantasy advice and Jaren Jackson Jr. and Caris LeVert stats, follow me on Twitter here!
Observations from 76ers vs. Bulls
Markelle Fultz is going to be so volatile this season. The Bulls gave him 5+ feet of space pretty much every time he had the ball, but instead of trusting the new jumper he worked all summer on, Fultz would over-dribble. You could see a mindset change once he hit a jumper in the second quarter with the crowd urging him to be aggressive, but it only came in spurts. It’s possible that Fultz is loaded with talent AND a terrible fit with the other four starters, so this may be an experiment coach Brett Brown might want to scrap — Brown even admitted before the game that he would “pull out of it” if things don’t improve. He cleaned up in garbage time and finished with 12 points, four rebounds, five assists, two steal and one 3-pointer, but hit just 5-of-15 shots.
Ben Simmons may only be a six-category player with no triples, a high turnover rate and a poor free throw percentage, but he could still be a top-10 asset in 9-category leagues. The numbers he is putting up are insane and it’s not out of the question that he could average a triple-double with a combined 3.0 steals and blocks. He scored 13 points with 13 rebounds, 11 assists, one steal and two blocks in 34 minutes on Thursday and his owners are cruising right now.
Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis are going to eat first on this Bulls’ team. LaVine (30.8) and Portis (26.3) led the Bulls in preseason usage rate, and they put on a show vs. Philly on Thursday night — LaVine scored 30 points with five rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two 3-pointers in 33 minutes and Portis notched 20 points with 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block, no turnovers and three 3-pointers in 33 minutes. LaVine’s explosion is back and he was a top-60 player in his last healthy year (2016-17), so you have to love his outlook going forward. As for Portis, he could be a top-75, maybe top-60 play while Lauri Markkanen is sidelined, so either ride him until the wheels fall off or flip him for a better long-term option that could help you more in the fantasy playoffs. Always be thinking ahead.
I’m OK with dropping Jabari Parker in shallow leagues. I don’t have any shares and I hope most of you reading don’t either, but it’s clear that this has been a Titanic from the start. Parker got a quick hook in his first stint on the floor, coach Fred Hoiberg hates his defense (who doesn’t?) and his attitude has been poor since arriving in Chicago — he’s already blown off the media several times and hasn’t embraced coming off the bench. The eventual return of Lauri Markkanen is only going to make things worse.
Kris Dunn missed this game because his girlfriend gave birth to their son, so there’s no need to grab Cameron Payne off the wire. Payne was awful anyways, missing all of his shots for zero points and five assists.
I’m super high on Wendell Carter Jr., but foul trouble could be a constant theme this year. He played eight first half minutes with a pair of fouls, and only made it to 18 total minutes with another pair of fouls in the second half. With that said, he won’t be matched up with one of the NBA’s best centers in Joel Embiid every night, so better days are ahead for the rookie.
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Observations from Wizards vs. Heat
Derrick Jones Jr. can play. He’s never really been a stat stuffer, but that changed over the Summer League. He averaged 18.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.5 triples, 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks at that event, and after a foul-plagued season opener on Wednesday, he bounced back tonight with a career-high 17 points with five rebounds, one steal and one 3-pointer in 24 minutes. While not a standard-league pickup for now (the Heat could be getting a lot of bodies back soon), there is no reason for DJJ to be on the wire if you’re in a dynasty league.
I suddenly wish I had more John Wall shares. After a photo circulated of Wall in Vegas that made him look like he spent the summer lost at sea, Wall became an instant meme and the butt of a lot of jokes. However, he looked anything but washed on Thursday night, racking up 26 points with three rebounds, nine assists, one steal, three blocks and one 3-pointer in 36 minutes. His knees make a lot of owners nervous, but those fears kept his price way down on draft day. In hindsight, I wouldn’t mind going back in time and taking Wall in Round 3 or maybe the end of Round 2, but time will ultimately tell.
Josh Richardson is “the guy” for Miami this season. Remember when Pat Riley said he wanted Richardson to average 18 points per game? Well, that wasn’t just offseason talk and Richardson looks like he’s taken another leap. Through two games, the multi-category stud is averaging 24.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 block, 1.0 steal and 3.5 triples and has taken 21 shot attempts in each game. After finishing #32 overall in 9-cat last season, Richardson may be able to sneak into the top-25. Riley also poured water on the idea of a Jimmy Butler trade, saying that he’s already “pulled the plug.” Richardson’s owners no longer have to worry about how a trade will impact his value, at least for a while.
Ian Mahinmi got the start with Dwight Howard out, but it was hard to notice him as he plodded his way to three points in 12 minutes. Instead, check your waiver wire for Markieff Morris, as he’s available in 46% of Yahoo Leagues as I’m writing this. Morris will play some center while Howard is out in addition to his PF minutes, and he was solid on Thursday night with 11 points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two triples.
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Observations from Lakers vs. Blazers
Josh Hart is the truth. We’ve known this for a while, but coach Luke Walton is still starting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. That should change soon. Hart shook off a slow start and almost willed the Lakers to a win, scoring 20 points with four rebounds, one assist, three steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers in 27 minutes. He’s a must-own player and the Lakers have to find a way to get him 25+ minutes every night.
Lonzo Ball’s owners will need to be patient. The Lakers have made it clear that they will bring Lonzo along slowly because of his knee, and with Rajon Rondo appearing to be in mid-season form, they definitely have that luxury. I’d buy low on Lonzo if you can get him for cheap because his post-break run last season was something else, even with his shaky percentages and turnovers.
JaVale McGee isn’t getting enough love. The fantasy community spent a lot of time hyping up late-round fliers like Montrezl Harrell and Jakob Poeltl, but maybe we all overlooked McGee. After a dominant preseason, McGee started in the opener and had a really nice game with 11 points, eight rebounds, three blocks, one assist and a steal in 22 minutes. I think his minutes will be around 20 going forward, so I think he’s definitely worth picking up if you’re OK with his poor foul shooting.
Zach Collins is another big who turned heads in this game, racking up six points, six rebounds, six blocks, two assists and one steal in 26 minutes. He didn’t really stand out in the preseason, but he’s always had intriguing upside as a big that can hit 3s and swat shots at a high level. He took advantage of some Jusuf Nurkic foul trouble, but he’s firmly on the radar as a pickup on a Portland roster that is thin up front behind Nurk Alert.
News around the NBA:
Dwight Howard was ruled out for Thursday’s game a few hours before tip-off despite the Wizards calling this a minor injury almost a month ago. He reportedly needs more practice time, and coach Scott Brooks was non-committal about his status going forward. “He’s getting close. We just don’t feel like he’s quite there yet,” Brooks added. As previously mentioned, go add Morris if you can. As for Howard’s owners, this could be the beginning of a nightmare for a 32-year-old big with a long history of back issues.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said we can expect to see Boban Marjanovic on a nightly basis. “Boban deserved to play,” Doc Rivers said. “I said it last week: he’s going to play. He’s going to play every night, and on the nights he plays well, he’s going to keep playing.” I got asked a lot about Boban after his impressive opener, and it looks like Rivers answered the question for us. Boban has averaged 13.0 points and 8.6 rebounds in 25 career games in which he played more than 15 minutes, so pick him up and let’s see if Rivers keeps his word.
Julius Randle popped up on the injury report with left foot plantar fasciitis, an injury that could linger for weeks and even months in some cases. The only way for it to heal is rest, but the good news is he’s listed as probable which suggests it’s very minor. All we can do is wait until we hear more on Friday, but deep-league owners can monitor Cheick Diallo in case Randle’s foot forces him to miss time.
In addition to Boban, coach Doc Rivers said we’re going to see a lot of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander going forward. “Shai’s gonna play a lot,” Rivers said. “Shai’s a good basketball player. I don’t think we should be surprised if he plays a lot of minutes.” He played 28 minutes in the opener, scoring an efficient 11 points with two rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block. He was a stud at the Summer League and I think he’s the best point guard in his class, and it’s pretty cool that Rivers is willing to use him alongside Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams. There will be some bumps along the way, but his outlook is only going to improve.