Line of the Night
Karl-Anthony Towns’ torrid start to the season continued on Friday night, as he lit up the Hornets to the tune of 37 points (13-of-18 FGs, 7-of-13 FTs), 15 rebounds, eight assists, four 3-pointers, four steals, two swats and just two turnovers in a mere 28 minutes of play. The scary part about KAT is that at 24 years old, he’s basically just now scratching the surface on his true potential, so he’s set up for a monster season running in the Wolves revamped (and fantasy improved) system. He has an excellent shot of finishing No. 1 overall.
Hey, it’s just two games, but I can’t say I’m not nervous
Jrue Holiday had another muted performance during the Pelicans 123-116 loss to the Mavericks, as he went just 2-of-11 from the field (4-of-4 from the stripe) on his way to eight points, eight assists, four rebounds, two steals and zero turnovers in 33 minutes. Holiday has been oddly passive through New Orleans’ first two games of the year, often deferring to Brandon Ingram, and on Friday night he finished with fewer shot attempts than Lonzo Ball (16). His usage rate is down in the gutter at 18.5, and this certainly isn’t the start we were expecting from a guy the Pelicans were hyping up as a potential Darkhorse MVP candidate this season.
The good news for Jrue owners is that the Pelicans lost both those games, so you have to figure Alvin Gentry is going to be in his ear begging him to be more assertive with his shot selection. Holiday also isn’t a guy who necessarily needs a hefty usage rate to be effective, and the Pelicans run a very fantasy-friendly system, but he does need to be more involved than he has been. I’m sure he’ll figure it out soon enough, but if he’s struggling this much to find his shots now, I’m nervous about what this will look like once Zion Williamson (knee) gets back.
After going just 7-of-25 from the field in the Wizards’ season opener, efficiency was again an issue for Beal during Friday night’s win, as he finished just 7-of-22 from the field (3-of-11 from distance) and 0-of-1 from the line on his way to 17 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and three turnovers in 34 minutes. Given the lack of shooters and general talent in Washington, I was nervous about Beal dealing with some efficiency issues this season, and while it’s early, he’s proven me right thus far. Beal started the game by bricking his first four shots, and I’m concerned that Thomas Bryant (3-of-7) and Davis Bertans (3-of-9) were the only Washington players that logged over 20 minutes and connected on multiple 3-point attempts. Rui Hachimura went 0-of-4 from distance, Ish Smith 0-of-3 and Isaac Bonga missed his only attempt. In theory, Isaiah Thomas could help out with the spacing, but he’s looked washed for the past two years and starting the season injured doesn’t help his case.
Otto Porter was on a 24-minute limit on Friday, but he didn’t even get to that number and looked off while he was out there, going just 1-of-6 from the field on his way to four points, three rebounds, one 3-pointer, one steal and one turnover in 21 minutes. The Bulls said prior to the start of the season that they intended to manage Porter’s workload, so that’s why he had the minutes cap on the frontend of this back-to-back set, but it’s concerning that he didn’t even get to the number he was supposed to. He’s looked a step slow while he’s been out there, but the Bulls haven’t revealed him to be dealing with any sort of injury, so I have to assume he’s healthy; which kind of makes this worse. He’s been terrible in his first two games, and with Coby White, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine dominating the offense, he’s been operating with a meager 14.5 usage rate. A common criticism of Porter during his Washington days was his tendency to be overly passive, and that appears to be playing out again in the early goings of the 2019-20 season. I’m concerned – he just looks off.
After doing very little in his regular-season debut, Marc Gasol was somehow worse in his second game of the season, finishing 0-of-8 from the field and 1-of-2 from the stripe on his way to one point, five assists and three turnovers in 25 minutes. Gasol will turn 35 years old this season, and his numbers have been on a steady decline since 2016, so I’m not overly optimistic he’ll be able to turn things around. If he doesn’t show you something in his next game, I’d strongly consider cutting him.
Kemba Walker got off to another rough start on Friday night, missing his first six shots and going 1-of-9 from the field through the first half of action, but he got hot during the fourth quarter and finished with 22 points (8-of-22 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), six rebounds, two 3-pointers, two assists, two steals, two blocks and two turnovers in 36 minutes. Walker hasn’t gotten off to a great start in Boston, as he’s been shooting just 30% from the field through his first two games, but he’s also been getting good looks and simply missing a lot of shots he traditionally makes. On the plus side, he saw his usage rate bumped up to 27.4 on Friday night after seeing it at 24.9 in the regular-season opener, so hopefully, that’s a trend that continues.
After a 12-point dud in the opener, two straight nights of lame percentages and subpar assist totals, Walker’s owners may be panicking, so now would be the time to float out some buy-low offers. It’s worth noting that Brad Stevens’ point guards have put up first-round value every year since 2016.
Mike Conley was better on Friday night than he was in his 1-of-16 Utah debut, but not by much, as he finished with just 13 points (3-of-11 FGs, 6-of-6 FTs), three assists, one 3-pointer and four turnovers without any defensive stats over 31 minutes. Like Walker, Conley is simply bricking shots he’s consistently made over his 12-year-career, but I seriously doubt he’ll be clanging rim on wide-open looks all year long. The good news is that his usage has been at 28.8, which is a full two points higher than it was last year during his top-30 campaign in Memphis, so he’s clearly going to have a ton of opportunity on this Utah team. Some bumps should be expected when a guy switches jerseys, but it should only be a matter of time until he starts to find his groove and gel with his teammates. I’d try and get him now before that happens.
Lame Debut, Solid Game 2
Jonas Valanciunas (10 points, 13 rebounds, two turnovers in 18 minutes), Derrick Favors (16 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two turnovers in 22 minutes) and De’Aaron Fox (28 points, six rebounds, five assists, three treys, three turnovers) all bounced back on Friday night after less-than-stellar regular-season debuts. You’ve got nothing to worry about if you own these guys. Unfortunately, Fox did say that he hurt his hip in Friday's game, and there's a chance he'll need to skip Saturday's matchup with the Jazz. It doesn't sound like anything serious, but sitting out the second night of a back-to-back set with a game against one of the most physical teams in the league wouldn't be terribly surprising.
Delon Wright came off the bench behind Jalen Brunson on Friday night, but then started alongside Brunson (replacing Courtney Lee) to start the second half of action and finished with 20 points (8-of-12 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), seven rebounds, three assists, five steals and zero turnovers in 32 minutes. There’s a chance he was dropped in your league after his pedestrian preseason and lame Dallas debut, but after tonight’s gem, he should return to being owned everywhere. Make sure he’s not floating around on your waiver wire.
Devonte Graham drained another six triples in 28 minutes off the bench, finishing with 24 points, two rebounds, four assists and three turnovers. He’s gotten off to a scorching hot start this season, drilling six trey-bombs in back-to-back games while scoring 20-plus a night. The Hornets got blown out, so Graham closed the game over starter Terry Rozier, and that could be a common theme this season given the lack of talent on the roster. He’s worth grabbing everywhere until he cools off.
Josh Hart had another productive outing in 26 minutes off the bench, going 5-of-9 from the field and 5-of-6 from the stripe on his way to 16 points, nine rebounds, one 3-pointer, two steals and two turnovers. Alvin Gentry has been using a big, 12-man rotation to begin the year, but he said he’d be trimming that down over the next week. However, I don’t think that Hart is in any danger of losing minutes. He’s been the first guard off the bench and has logged more minutes than J.J. Redick in both games. E’Twaun Moore was the odd-man-out on Friday, and that’s a trend that could continue. Nickeil Alexander-Walker was amazing through Summer League and the preseason, but he’s gone just 3-of-19 from the field in his first two games, so he might only see minutes in the teens while the Pelicans are competitive. Hart was the Summer League MVP just last year, and he could shine in a sixth man role with the Pelicans. Give him a look.
Coby White hit 10-of-16 shots on his way to 25 points, six rebounds, four triples, two assists and zero turnovers in 30 minutes off the bench. It should only be a matter of time until he replaces Tomas Satoransky in the starting five and he should be owned in far more than just 53% of Yahoo! Leagues.
Kris Dunn ripped away another three steals to go with two blocks, four assists, one turnover and six points on 3-of-9 shooting in 26 minutes off the bench. He’s averaging 3.5 steals over his first two games, so he’s on the radar as a steals specialist.
Kyle Anderson hit 4-of-6 shots on his way to nine points, five rebounds, five assists, one 3-pointer, one steal, one block and zero turnovers in 20 minutes off the bench. SloMo won’t really blow you away, but he can be a sneaky low-end guy with his efficient, across-the-board production.
Aron Baynes logged 29 minutes as a starter and produced 15 points (6-of-10 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), seven rebounds, three assists, one steal, one 3-pointer and one turnover in an overtime loss to the Nuggets. He’s going to see quality minutes while Deandre Ayton (suspension) is out, and this is the sort of production you can expect.
Nemanja Bjelica started sans Marvin Bagley (thumb) and came through with nine points (3-of-5 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), seven rebounds, one 3-pointer, one assist, one steal and two turnovers across 28 minutes. He should be starting for the next 4-6 weeks, so he’s worth a look if you’ve got someone to cut.
Richaun Holmes finished with 10 points, six rebounds, two blocks and one turnover in 17 minutes off the bench, and while Bagley’s injury doesn’t directly impact Holmes, he should have the opportunity for at least a few more minutes a night. If he’s able to flirt with around 20 minutes per game, then he’ll be able to produce low-end value in deep leagues as a shot-blocking specialist.
Kent Bazemore had another impressive performance in 24 minutes off the bench, scoring nine points on 4-of-7 shooting to go with eight rebounds, five assists, one 3-pointer, two blocks and one turnover. Bazemore is a great fit in Portland, and his ability to bring you a little bit of everything with some elite defensive statistics makes him worth owning in deep leagues.
Shabazz Napier went just 1-of-6 from the field for five points, but also added nine dimes, six rebounds, one 3-pointer, one steal, two blocks and just two turnovers in 21 minutes off the bench. He’s been shooting just 15.4% from the field through his first two games, but he’s also averaging 8.0 assists a night, which puts him on the radar as a dimes-specialist in deep leagues.
Josh Okogie only missed once, going 5-of-6 from the field and 3-of-3 from the stripe on his way to 14 points, four rebounds, one 3-pointer, three assists, one steal and three turnovers in 27 minutes off the bench. He saw just 14 minutes in his regular-season debut, but still came through with a solid stat line, and he showed us last season he only needs minutes in the mid-20s to produce. He’s on the radar in deep leagues.
Robert Williams was limited by foul trouble, but still managed to chip in six points, six rebounds, one assist, two steals, one block and one turnover in 15 minutes off the bench. The Time Lord is still learning the game, but he’s defensive potential is extremely alluring, and it’s also worth noting that Daniel Theis tweaked an ankle on Friday night. Given that the Celtics have to fly to New York for tomorrow’s game, there’s certainly a chance Theis’ ankle will swell up on him, and if he’s forced to join Enes Kanter (knee) on the sidelines that would pave the way for Williams to start. He’s a must-own in deep leagues.