Here are some breakdowns of last night’s action. Enjoy.
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I thought the Magic lost two days ago and incorrectly wrote that in yesterday's Dose because it feels like their 1-4 record is 1-10. They’ve played very well in losses and you just hope from their perspective that they don’t slip and have things avalanche.
There are all sorts of interesting going on in Scott Skiles’ first five games, and last night was the first night I thought we could see the minute-yanking we’ve all come to love with Skiles. Tobias Harris (16 points, five boards, two assists, one steal, one three) saw just 21 minutes and Elfrid Payton (five points, 2-of-8 FGs, two boards, seven assists, two steals, one block, one three) inched downward with 29 minutes. Evan Fournier and Victor Oladipo both played 46 and 48 minutes, respectively, and more on that in a second here.
Aaron Gordon was brought into the fold to the tune of 32 minutes after playing just four minutes the night before. To top it off, Nikola Vucevic had a non-contact knee sprain and looked like a guy that dodged a bullet in the locker room, but he’s still feeling pain and anytime you see non-contact stuff one’s ears perk up. He’s day-to-day.
Overall, as I said yesterday I think Skiles is going to grip the rope a bit tighter and rely on veterans until they can get their record evened out a bit. In the case of Gordon, his high-end talent matched real well against James Harden and Trevor Ariza and Skiles said as much after the game. Gordon finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, 5-of-7 hits at the line, eight boards and one block.
It was a top-65 effort on a night in which just under 200 guys played to put it into perspective. He’s a late-round value in 20 mpg on the year at 56.3 percent shooting, which seems very high when you consider that he’ll also be shooting threes. All in all there’s a decent amount of upside here, but a few different ways he won’t pan out. It’s the type of stuff that flier pickups are made of but I’m not comfortable telling you he’s a must-add guy.
That brings us to Fournier, who scored 29 points on 11-of-21 shooting (3-of-8 3PTs, 4-of-5 FTs) with six rebounds, four assists and one steal while also getting positive remarks from Skiles after the game for his defense on Harden. Some of that sounded like coach speak, but it’s a positive sign nonetheless for a guy not known for his defense. I think owners need to look at him a lot like Gordon. There are question marks about Skiles’ rotations and we’ve seen this sort of thing in the past, but enough upside to justify an add so long as you carry some recognition of the risk. If you’re sitting on a top-100 projected player that is well-situated, I’m not sure you make the move in either scenario.
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The Rockets are searching right now and a lot of it boils down to keeping the floor spread for Ty Lawson and James Harden, so Marcus Thornton is getting all sorts of run and making the most of it. Thornton hit 8-of-14 shots (including two threes) for 18 points, three rebounds, three assists and one steal in 29 minutes, and though the Rockets are struggling I’d bet Daryl Morey is working the phones trying to trade Thornton as we speak. If not or the CBA doesn’t allow it (not looking that one up tonight), it’s a great way to get a veteran some early touches so he doesn’t get too cantankerous. If you’re looking for a 1-2 week flier pickup he’s your guy.
Lawson scored 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting with two threes, four rebounds, eight assists, one steal and five turnovers in 41 minutes. Patrick Beverley left early with an illness to explain the high workload, and in general it’s going to take some luck for Lawson to meet his ADP this season. Because Harden.
Harden scored 28 points but hit just 6-of-22 shots last night and the addition of a player like Lawson is going to take some time to get used to. That doesn’t mean it can’t work, and nobody should be panicking on most players let alone the MVP candidate. Trevor Ariza got loose for 19 points, four treys, seven boards and three steals, and Dwight Howard made all 10 of his field goal attempts for a 23 and 14 night with no defensive stats.
I’d rather own Clint Capela than Howard this season. Capela had eight points, five boards, one steal, one block and a 4-of-5 mark from the field. They’re both hovering around the bottom of the top-100 when they play but Capela is doing it in nearly half the minutes. That said, the league isn’t hacking Capela yet and that’ll probably start happening as soon anytime he gets any real run. My lack of interest in owning Howard at all is most definitely at play here, too.
C.J. McCollum has had a very nice top-25 start over five games and he got hot in last night’s road win, hitting 10-of-13 shots for 27 points against a very good Jazz defense. He’s shooting 48.9 percent on 18.0 FGAs so far this year, which will drive a shooting guard’s value up the rankings pretty damn quick. There’s exactly zero chance he keeps that up. His 35.3 mpg will be tested soon with Gerald Henderson’s return, though I’d expect Terry Stotts to do everything he can to keep CJM on the court.
If I had to redo an 87/105 projection (8/9 cat) I’d probably shoot for something in the 60-80 range but making definitive statements at this time of year is still a fool’s errand.
Now for the other side of the spectrum – Meyers Leonard has been terrible in fantasy so far and there’s no way around it. You guys know that I’ll own my mess-ups but you’re dropping this guy at your own risk after just five percent of the season.
Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong and some time off with the ankle injury might not be a bad thing.
He dinged the same right ankle (with the slide-in move on the jumpshot) in the preseason and he had some weird nerve issue in his non-shooting hand to start the year. Lillard, McCollum and Aminu are chucking it up in ways that aren’t sustainable, and only two teams have less assists than the Blazers (13.7 per game). Only Stephen Curry can shoot with the type of efficiency that the backcourt is shooting with and all of this screams regression, scouting reports shifting offense away from the backcourt, and ultimately a decision to better involve guys like Leonard.
There’s also the issue of Leonard’s energy, which I would describe as low. I can’t help but wonder what the contract negotiation that didn’t result in an extension did after a summer of Portland talking him up as a core guy. There are also some issues with he and Mason Plumlee (12 points, 16 boards) playing together and I wouldn’t be surprised if they found a way to stagger their minutes if that doesn’t change. Plumlee, to date, is getting all the rebounds that Aminu isn’t getting to and handling a ton of his screen-work.
Is it possible that one thing (his body of work) became another (what we see now) the minute the regular season started? Sure. But the NBA has way too much ebb and flow for me to throw that pick in the trash so soon.
You don’t have to look hard to find definitive statements about Gordon Hayward’s usage decreasing this season, and watching the Jazz’s first few games you’ll see the young guys getting theirs. Each of Rodney Hood, Alec Burks and Trey Burke are all averaging more field goal attempts per minute than Captain America and his hipster haircut. How un-American! Kidding aside, once the young guys are done proving themselves and the Jazz want to get serious about getting their No. 1 scorer going, that trend will reverse itself and we’ll see where exactly the No. 18 offense wants to go with all this.
The question will be whether or not the Jazz will complement each other or work against themselves on offense. The latter has been the case with Hayward and the young guys when he is turned into a bystander. He forced the issue last night and hit just 7-of-20 shots as he’s clearly out of rhythm. Will his usage be eaten into? Maybe a little or maybe not at all. Again, it’s small sample size theatre right now. I can’t imagine that the Jazz don’t check all the boxes here – improving off one another, shifting the bulk of the usage back onto Hayward and getting ol’ Captain back to the early rounds where he belongs.
One interesting note from most of the Jazz writers and analysts was that they felt Utah might have been riding a bit too high after beating up on bottom-7 offenses in Philly, Detroit and Indy. All of the analysts agreed that they weren’t themselves defensively, and my general sense about this team is that their hype is exceeding their play. Look for them to get their act together in the next week or so when all the darling buzz wears off.
Chris Paul tweaked a groin and Blake Griffin banged his knee, but both injuries are thought to be minor and the Clippers escaped from Oracle with a four-point loss. It qualifies for moral victory territory even though the Clips won’t look at it that way. Griffin cooled off a tad with 23 points on 10-of-21 shooting, 10 boards, six assists and one block, and Paul was outclassed by Curry on a great statistical night of 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting with one trey, three rebounds, nine assists and three steals. J.J. Redick added 13 points, three triples and three assists as he hovers in mid-round territory, and DeAndre Jordan had a standard 11 and 13 night with two blocks.
Stephen Curry is doing things that we’ve never seen and we discussed his place in history on my podcast. Spoiler alert: He has no ceiling. He scored 31 points with five boards, four assists, one steal and seven treys, but you won’t hear me making fun of those declaring Anthony Davis the consensus No. 1 pick all preseason long. It’s way too early to declare a winner between he and Davis (I switched from Curry to Davis in the preseason), but what Steph has done is show that he has freaky upside in ways that rival AD. Until AD gets his teammates back, he’ll be behind Curry.
Behind Curry it’s hard to come to any conclusions – the Warriors have been out for blood every night out and you can see them riding Curry hard to go with the most potent attack. Eventually he’ll tire of that and look to conserve his energy, so it’s a great time to buy low on guys like Draymond Green (10 points, five boards, five assists) and his top-55 value, or Klay Thompson (16 points, five rebounds, five assists, zero threes) and his top 75-90 value. They barely exist in the media and their owners are probably trailing in the standings to some degree, so be there to swing when the pendulum heads back in the right direction.