The new-look Nets barely won their first game on Saturday over an injury-riddled Heat team, 128-124. Miami, without Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, or Meyers Leonard, was within three points with 15 seconds to play.
Steve Nash and his coaching staff have a lot to work on with the Kyrie Irving-Kevin Durant-James Harden Nets, and while that isn't a shock so soon after the blockbuster trade for Harden, it's been disappointing to see Brooklyn stumble through its last three games. The team fell to the lowly Cavaliers twice (once without Durant), and then struggled with the Heat. In that stretch, the Nets' defense has allowed career-high points to Collin Sexton (42) and Bam Adebayo (41).
There's an endless number of X's and O's to break down starting with the team's inability to defend forwards. There's a question of how Brooklyn will fill out its bench minutes with mostly deep reserves. But the fantasy impact of having three ball-dominant superstars has also been fascinating.
On Saturday, Harden, the NBA's three-time reigning scoring champion, attempted just eight field goals. That's the fewest tries he's had in a game since December 2016. He scored just 12 points, missing all five of his shots from long distance, though he nearly triple-doubled anyway. He scored 12 points with 11 assists, seven rebounds, and six turnovers. How Harden's role will change as the Nets continue experimenting with what works is unclear, but it may need to change. This team will have to out-offense its opponents with the roster as currently stands, and it didn't get a ton from one of the world's best at putting the ball through the hoop.
In the win, Durant scored 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting with four rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and four turnovers, and Irving scored 28 points on 10-of-17 with seven assists, six rebounds, one block, and two turnovers. Most interestingly, Joe Harris, who replaced Jeff Green as a starter, exploded for 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting from range. Could he be the player who benefits most from a team of super scorers drawing attention?
Let's keep watching and learning with these Nets. It's only been two games with the Big 3.
Now we'll run through the highs, lows, and mediums from all seven Saturday night games.
Bam Adebayo — Adebayo was the complete package in Miami's loss to Brooklyn. The 23-year-old is evolving even more quickly with Butler sidelined. His career-best 41 points came on 14-of-20 shooting (one made 3-pointer), and 12-of-14 free throws. He added nine assists, five rebounds, one steal, and just one turnover in 38 minutes. In the five games since Butler's been out quarantining, Adebayo's averaging 25.0 points on 58.9% shooting, 8.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 0.8 blocks and 0.6 steals per game.
Joel Embiid — Embiid was questionable heading into the night with back spasms, but played, and ultimately dominated the Pistons in a 114-110 win. He scored 33 points on 10-of-20 shooting (one 3-pointer), with 14 rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block, and just three turnovers.
Ben Simmons — Simmons was also questionable to play with general soreness, but finished with his highest point total of the season. He scored 20 on just seven field goal attempts, sinking 10-of-12 free throws. He also added nine rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and a block with just two turnovers.
Jarred Vanderbilt — Karl Anthony-Towns' replacement bigs are difficult to predict, but Vanderbilt had another great night in the Timberwolves' 120-110 win over the Pelicans. He scored a season-high 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting with 11 rebounds, two steals, and a block.
Naz Reid — Both Minnesota bigs played well to snap the team's four-game losing streak despite Towns and D'Angelo Russell (rest) not playing. Reid knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and all eight of his free throw attempts for 20 points to go along with four rebounds, two assists, and a block.
Donovan Mitchell — Mitchell starred for the Jazz in a 127-108 beatdown of the Warriors that was never close. He scored 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting (three made 3-pointers) with seven rebounds, six assists, a steal, and two turnovers.
Anthony Davis — The Lakers beat the Bulls, 101-90, because Davis was incredible. He scored 37 points on 14-of-21 shooting, made two 3-pointers, and added six rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block with one turnover in 28 minutes. You don't need me to tell you how good he is.
DeMarcus Cousins — With Christian Wood out of the lineup on Friday, Cousins scored just five points on 2-of-16 shooting. Twenty-four hours later, he scored 28 points in a game for the first time since April 2019, sinking four 3-pointers. He also grabbed 17 rebounds and dished five assists with four turnovers in the Rockets' 133-108 win over the Mavericks.
Eric Gordon — Without Victor Oladipo, Gordon got the green light to let the ball fly, so he launched nine 3-pointers, making six of them for a game-high 33 points. He also added three rebounds and two assists.
Nikola Jokic — Guess what? The No. 1 player in 9-cat leagues was dominant yet again in a 120-112 double-overtime win over the Suns. Jokic scored 29 points on 9-of-21 shooting with 22 rebounds, six assists, one steal, and six turnovers.
Chris Paul — Paul had to step up with Devin Booker sidelined due to a hamstring strain. He nearly triple-doubled with 21 points on 9-of-20 shooting (one made 3-pointer), 13 assists, nine rebounds, two steals, and two turnovers in 42 minutes.
Jae Crowder — Crowder's 3-pointer as time expired sent the game into a second overtime. Filling in for Booker in the starting lineup, he scored 21 points on 6-of-15 shooting (all makes from distance) with seven rebounds, three assists, one steal, and two turnovers in 45 minutes. Booker could be sidelined for up to a week, making Crowder a much more valuable fantasy play.
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Kendrick Nunn — Slotting in for the injured Herro, Nunn's come alive in the Heat rotation again. On Saturday, he scored 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting (four 3-pointers) and added five rebounds, three assists, and a steal with just one turnover. In his last five games, he's averaging 18.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.2 blocks and 2.6 made 3-pointers in 33.4 minutes per game.
Wayne Ellington — Ellington's hot shooting continued for Detroit as he knocked down 6-of-9 shots, including 4-of-6 3-pointers for 17 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. In his last four games, Ellington is averaging 18.8 points per game, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals, and 5.3 made 3-pointers in 30.5 minutes, yet he's only rostered in 16% of Yahoo! leagues.
Josh Jackson — Jackson's struggling, but he had a nice fantasy night on Saturday, scoring 11 points with a made 3-pointer, two assists, one rebound, and three blocks.
Brandon Ingram — It was a sloppy, seven-turnover game in 37 minutes from Ingram, but he still scored 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting (two made 3-pointers) with four rebounds, two assists, and a block.
Eric Bledsoe — Bledsoe had his highest-scoring night in a Pelicans uniform, knocking down 11-of-23 shots for 28 points. He added five rebounds, three assists, one steal, and a turnover.
Lonzo Ball — Shouts to Ball for a solid fantasy night, scoring 11 points on three made 3-pointers with seven assists, four rebounds, two steals, one block, and just one turnover in 30 minutes.
Mike Conley — He only scored 17 points, but he sunk 5-of-9 3-pointers and finished with three steals. He was a game-high plus-40!
Stephen Curry — It wasn't Golden State's night, but Curry still scored 27 points on 5-of-10 shooting from range with seven assists, seven rebounds, and just one turnover in 27 minutes.
Luka Doncic — The Mavs got smoked without Kristaps Porzingis, but Doncic played pretty well. He scored 26 points on 9-of-18 shooting including one 3-pointer and dished eight assists with five rebounds. He turned the ball over three times in 29 minutes.
Boban Marjanovic — Boban! Playing a season-high 19 minutes in Porzingis's absence, Marjanovic scored a season-high 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting with a season-high 12 rebounds. That's a lot of season-highs!
Jamal Murray — Murray's game-tying 3-pointer (that was maybe a travel) sent the game into its first OT. That he was even taking such a high-stakes shot was pretty shocking considering he'd been questionable to play prior to tip-off with a shoulder strain and a bruised elbow. Still, he finished with 26 points on 10-of-22 shooting (three made 3-pointers) with six rebounds, five assists, and a block.
Malik Beasley — The cold shooting for Beasley returned as the guard scored just 16 points on 6-of-18 shooting, including 2-of-8 from range. He added six rebounds and three assists with no other stats.
LeBron James — Davis carried most of L.A.'s scoring, and James chipped in a season-low 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting, with 11 rebounds, six assists, and two steals. He had six turnovers and didn't make either of his 3-point attempts. He only made 5-of-8 free throws, too. For a normal person, this wouldn't be a bad line. From James, it was subpar.
Zach LaVine — LaVine led the Bulls in scoring, but it was on a tough 9-of-23 shooting night. He finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and one steal, but he turned the ball over a whopping seven times.
John Wall — Wall wasn't amazing, but it was good to see him back on the floor for the first time since January 12th due to knee soreness. He only played 21 minutes and scored seven points on 3-of-9 shooting with eight assists and just one turnover. The shooting needs to improve, but his activity running the offense was promising.
Moe Harkless — Harkless only played 10 minutes against the Nets after suffering a thigh bruise accidentally knocking into Reggie Perry. He left the game and didn't return, missing the entire second half.
Cameron Johnson — Johnson didn't play in either of the Suns' overtimes due to cramping. It didn't look like anything more than that, but it's worth checking in on his status.