The first Monday of the NBA season is now directly behind us, and we have a scalding-hot slate of nine games to digest.
On one level, it’s easy to see this as a night headlined by fantasy (and real-life) superstars — including Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Karl-Anthony Towns. But the main priority here is what the box scores mean for fantasy leagues, and (hopefully) you already had confirmation that your first-round pick is good.
So while we won’t be spending excessive time on the stat lines from the biggest names… here are nine fantasy takeaways from a nine-game NBA Monday:
Zach LaVine is officially unstoppable. After a 34-point explosion on Monday (with two steals, a block and five 3s), LaVine is third in the NBA in scoring early on (32.3 ppg), behind only Kemba Walker and I can’t believe I didn’t draft Nikola Mirotic in more leagues (33.0 ppg). LaVine is shooting 61.8 percent from the field and 83.3 from the line (on 8.0 attempts), with 0.7 spg, 1.3 bpg and 3.0 3s, leaving him as the No. 18 player in 9-category leagues so far. Obviously those stats are going to fall off to some extent, so if you can sell high and get a big return, then I’d say go for it. The counter argument is that this is a 23-year-old who’s always been a freak athlete, and looks headed for a monster breakout season that we did not give enough weight in our drafts (Yahoo ADP: 63.7). At some point Lauri Markkanen is going to come back and be a focal point of this offense as well, but there’s plenty of room for LaVine to put up a wildly fun fantasy season in the Windy City.
Apparently, Danny Green … is back. Remember 2014-15? Danny Green does. That was the year he posted the best numbers of his career: 11.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.1 bpg and 2.4 3s — good for No. 23 overall value in 9-category leagues. It’s not like he’s been useless in fantasy since then, more that he’s been maddening, with 7.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.0 spg, 0.9 bpg and 1.6 3s (on 38.4 percent shooting) over the last three seasons combined. Suddenly, it’s looking a lot like four years ago for Green, who after 16 points, six boards, two assists, a steal, two blocks and four treys on Monday, is now averaging 11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.3 bpg and 3.0 3s for the 4-0 Raptors. His 9-category ranking? 35th. Because this is Danny Green, you know he might let you down. Because this is Danny Green, you also know you need to run and add him if you play in one of the 50 percent of leagues where he’s still available.
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Good times have returned for Markieff Morris. It’s been a perplexing last couple of seasons for Markieff. A couple of years ago (2016-17), he was a really useful fantasy option — the no. 78 overall player, behind averages of 14.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.1 spg, 0.6 bpg and 0.9 3s. Last year, after a delayed start to the season due to sports hernia surgery, he never really found any sort of groove, and fell all the way to No. 126 in the rankings. So far in 2018-19, he looks a lot more like the 2016-17 edition, and put up an eye-catching 28 points, nine boards and a career-high six treys (with a steal and a block) in just 25 minutes on Monday. If he’s somehow still out there in your league, Morris (on 56 percent of Yahoo rosters) is a must-add. As for Kelly Oubre (22 points in 39 minutes), it was nice to see him finally get extended run as Washington went small with Ian Mahinmi (back spasms) leaving early, and Wednesday night at Golden State certainly could be another good setup for Oubre.
Lonzo Ball may have just taken the starting PG job in LA. LeBron (32-8-14) nearly triple-doubled for the first time with the Lakers, Kyle Kuzma (37 points) broke out with Brandon Ingram suspended and Josh Hart and JaVale McGee continued to impress. But maybe the biggest fantasy headline from a wild OT loss for L.A. was the continued rise of Lonzo Ball. His line wasn’t anything stunning (14-6-6 with three treys and one steal), but he shot it well (5-of-9), had just one turnover, and the question came up during the NBA TV broadcast if Ball should be the Lakers starting PG over Rajon Rondo going forward. Here’s his case: After a dud of an opener (seven points, four boards, one assist), Lonzo has now put up two nearly identical back-to-back games of 14-6-6 and 14-6-4, shooting 10-of-19 with just one turnover in those two games combined. A win or two would help his cause with the Lakers now 0-3, but Ball still gets two more games of Rondo suspended to prove he belongs in the starting five.
About that Spurs’ PG situation… Bryn Forbes continues to look like an intriguing waiver pickup (16 points, four 3s), but he only had one assist. Meanwhile, DeMar DeRozan had a career-high 14 of them (along with 32 points and eight boards), matching LeBron’s 32-8-14 line exactly. DeRozan is now averaging 9.0 apg through three games with the Spurs, and it looks like the move to San Antonio is taking his already ascending playmaking skills (5.2 apg last year) to another level. As for Patty Mills, he played a season-high 31 minutes and hit the game-deciding jumper, but had just 12 points and three assists as he continues to be pretty irrelevant in fantasy leagues early on.
Fringe fantasy values are flying in all different directions in New York. Also all over the place in New York: playing time. Trey Burke (19 points, five rebounds, four assists in 22 minutes) has been a pretty solid fantasy option so far despite his playing time wavering. The same can’t be said for Allonzo Trier, who had four points and four dimes in just 17 minutes, and has now alternated decent and bad games — directly in line with how much he’s playing. I understand wanting to be patient with Trier for another game or two, but I wouldn’t hesitate to drop him if there’s someone you want to add. And perhaps that someone is Mario Hezonja, who — just like Trier — has had two good games and two bad games this season after 18 points, two treys and two steals in a season-high 30 minutes on Wednesday. Hezonja certainly looks like a direct beneficiary of the Kevin Knox injury, and is worth an add right now (39 percent owned in Yahoo). Meanwhile, Noah Vonleh continued to be a per-36-minute monster (11 points, five boards and two blocks in 19 minutes), and Damyean Dotson had his second straight double-digit scoring game (14 points, eight boards, two steals and four 3s in 32 minutes) and should at least be on your fantasy watch list.
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In other waiver wire developments… Wesley Matthews (33 percent owned in Yahoo leagues) put up 20 points with four assists and four 3s, and is now averaging 18.0 ppg on the season. Just tread carefully with that field goal percentage. Matthews is at 38.6 percent through three games, and has shot 39.5 the last three seasons combined. … The Garrett Temple Express predictably lost a significant amount of steam (six points in 36 minutes), though Dillon Brooks (foot soreness) and Chandler Parsons (knee) both left early. I would give Temple at least one more chance if you added him, while I can understand if you’re running out of patience already with Kyle Anderson (four points, not much else in a “season-high” 21 minutes).
Andrew Wiggins left early; says he’s fine. Wiggins’ strong early season dipped into a pothole when he left Monday’s game with a quad contusion after eight minutes. The good news is it doesn’t sound like anything serious, and Wiggins says he’s playing when the Timberwolves head for his hometown of Toronto on Wednesday night. Speaking of Minnesota, Derrick Rose slowed down considerably (11 points, five assists, 4-of-12 shooting) with Jimmy Butler back. And speaking of injuries, it was a pretty quiet night on that front, with Klay Thompson leaving a blowout win early due to a “mild” left ankle sprain. (The Warriors are off until Wednesday night.) Also out of Golden State, word from the Warriors is that DeMarcus Cousins (Achilles) "continues to make good progress" with his rehab. There's still no clear timetable, though, and he hasn't yet been cleared for scrimmages.
We do have a semi-official Will Barton timetable: 5-6 weeks. The other notable injury news from Monday came out of Denver. We didn’t see a ton from Torrey Craig or Trey Lyles sans Barton on Sunday night, though if I was adding one of them it would be Craig, who started and put up five points and nine rebounds with a steal, a block and a trey. Lyles had six points, four boards, three assists and three steals, and is in an early-season shooting funk (27.8 percent through three games).
Other Things to Know: Kris Dunn returned from fatherhood to put up a 9-4-7 line in his season debut, and remains one of my most intriguing players to watch this season. … Nikola Vucevic followed up his huge triple double from the other night with another big line (24 points, 12 boards), and is the No. 14 player so far. … Dennis Smith Jr. shot just 2-of-11, and is now at an alarming 34.1 percent from the floor this season. … Jae Crowder put up 15 points with eight boards and two treys off the bench, continuing to look like a decent waiver wire add. … Nik Stauskas has now alternated good games and bad ones after 15 points and eight rebounds on Monday. … Coming off a 31-point, six-trey game on Saturday, Evan Fournier dished out a career-high 10 assists. … Jonathan Isaac had a breakout game with 18 points, 12 boards and two treys, though it came with a very un-Isaac one steal and no blocks. … Just three games on the schedule on Tuesday: Sixers-Pistons, Clippers-Pelicans and Kings-Nuggets, where we’ll get another look at the Torrey Craig-Trey Lyles showdown for relevance, and see what kind of numbers Nikola Jokic can uncork on the Kings.