Hello and welcome back to the NBA Roundtable! Last week the Rotoworld Hoops crew discussed which players we owned the most shares of (check that out here), but this week we’re going to open things up a bit and just talk about the biggest takeaways/observations of the first 1.5 weeks. Steve Alexander will kick things off for us this week!
Steve Alexander (@docktora)
Avery Bradley looks horrible, and by horrible, I mean really, really bad. I honestly thought he was going to get it together and bounce back, but I've already dropped him to pick up hot free agents. Maybe he'll get it going eventually, but he started the season off with eight points, has gotten progressively worse from there, and is shooting just 26 percent on the season.
Zach LaVine is who I thought he was. He's averaging 32.3 points and is shooting 62 percent from the floor, while most of his shots aren't even touching the rim. He's also ticked off that his teammates aren't feeding him more when he's hot, which is all the time,
I wish I wouldn't have slept on JaVale McGee. He's averaging 15 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks, and looks like he's going to be a big part of what the Lakers do this season. If I had a do-over, I'd be drafting McGee as my second or third center.
Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer)
For a player I think is the real deal, I'll go with Blake Griffin. While he won't be able to keep up his incredible pace (36.3, 11.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 3.7 treys and only 0.7 turnovers), I think he is a terrific position to set career-highs in multiple statistical categories this season. With the way the Pistons are using him, as a point-forward that facilitates the offense, he should have an opportunity to stuff the stat sheet every single night. He currently ranks second in the NBA in minutes per game and is eighth in the league in Usage Rate. That is a beautiful recipe for fantasy success. Congrats if you drafted him.
Honorable mention goes to Khris Middleton. He's a monster.
For a player it is time to drop, I'll go with Avery Brady. I was higher on Bradley than most coming into this season, but he has been awful for the Clippers. He is averaging just 4.3 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 27.3 minutes; and is shooting an abysmal 25.8 percent from the floor. With as much depth as the Clippers have at guard, it's only a matter of time before he starts seeing his playing time reduced. Time to cut bait.
For a player that will be volatile all season, I'll go with D'Angelo Russell. His assist numbers have been solid and he's had some good scoring nights, but he's shooting just 35.3% from the floor. He'll have plenty of big games, but duds mixed in there as well.
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Jonas Nader (@JonasNader)
Caris LeVert is the early frontrunner for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award and was probably Rotoworld’s best sleeper pick so far. Prior to Wednesday, LeVert ranked 5th in the NBA in true shooting percentage among players who have averaged 25+ minutes. He leads the Nets in usage rate (25.7%), and even after he finally cooled on Wednesday, he’s returning 4th-round value right now and is obliterating his late-round ADP.
Jaren Jackson Jr. is everything I thought he’d be and more. His post game has developed very quickly, so it looks like we’re seeing the dividends of his offseason workouts with Kevin Garnett. JJJ’s not even hitting his 3-point shot right now (16.7%) which was money in college and during the Summer League, and his 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes is still well short of where I think he’ll finish — remember, he had the highest block rate of any first round center prospect over the past 15 years. He’s around the top-50 in 9-category rankings with a ton of room for growth.
I can’t remember a player coming out of nowhere as emphatically as Rodney McGruder since Hassan Whiteside and Robert Covington a few years ago. He has nearly doubled his per-36 minute averages from last season, and when people ask me if he’s for real, I have no clue what to say. I’m still skeptical because this guy brought nothing to the table in fantasy in his first two years, but if you have him you have to stick with him and hope that you got a gem on your hands.
Myles Turner is the most scrutinized top-50 fantasy player in recent memory. A lot of people are blasting this guy, and while he’s off to an admittedly slow start on offense, he’s still ranked 43rd in 9-category leagues because of his efficiency and 1.8 blocks per game. Even with a modest improvement on offense (shoot the ball man!), Turner could easily climb into the early rounds.
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People are panicking. There are so many overreactions in the first couple weeks, making this an ideal time to buy low or sell high. As an example, I just flipped Lou Williams and De’Aaron Fox for a slumping Jrue Holiday. Holiday’s FG% (31.6) is a mile away from his 49.4% last season, so his fantasy owner panicked after a 3-game sample size. Holiday was a first-round value last season and is going to right the ship any day now.
Injuries and rest were glaring concerns last season, and we’re already off to a rocky start in 2018-19. Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard already needed a maintenance day after one week, and there are already too many injuries to bother listing. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come.
Ryan Knaus (@Knaus_RW)
I was happily drafting Kyle Anderson in the 80-100 range throughout the summer, though I avoided him the moment 'heel soreness' arose in early October (it didn't help that coach J.B. Bickerstaff referred to it as "an Achilles thing"). He's looked healthy and perhaps my bigger concern should have been his role in Memphis. I was expecting an increase in shot attempts and playmaking duties, but instead Slo-Mo's usage rate (14.0%) is lowest on the entire roster -- lower than Dillon Brooks, Shelvin Mack, Garrett Temple and Wayne Selden. Anderson has only started one game and should steadily improve as he adapts to his new environs, so I'm holding him, but if he's still this quiet in mid-November there will be a reckoning.
The Cavaliers are horrendous, and I'm desperate to unload Kevin Love for equitable value while I still can. Cleveland is 0-4 and they're coming off blowout losses (at home) to the Hawks and Nets. To quote Love, it's "alarming." The team's resident All-Star isn't helping matters by shooting a category-killing 32.3% from the field on high-volume attempts, and he's not contributing any defensive stats, but that's not what worries me. Instead, it's the prospect of the Cavs tanking sooner than later, sporadically resting Love, limiting his minutes, etc. He could be traded in late January but there's obviously no guarantee a deal will coalesce around Love, who just inked a four-year, $120 million extension. The FG% will rise and I'm not giving him up cheap, since he still has early-round upside, but the moment he drops consecutive 20/20 games I'll be shopping him.
Quick-Hit Takeaways: JaVale McGee has been legitimately productive and the Lakers have no depth behind him, so he should sustain nice value as a blocks/boards/FG% guy...Zach LaVine's efficiency will inevitably decline, but he's already a steal for owners and I'm thrilled to own him in multiple leagues...Josh Hart looks terrific and was vastly underrated based on his ADP...Danny Green has turned back the clock with his sneaky 9-cat ways in Toronto, and I don't see why low-end roto value wouldn't be sustainable...Markieff Morris is loving life as a small-ball center and is sitting on top-20 value (!), so enjoy it while it lasts...just in case their owners buy into the small-sample-size struggles, it's time to float buy-low offers for Klay Thompson, Goran Dragic, Draymond Green, Jrue Holiday and Ricky Rubio (who has legitimately been brutal). And if you own Markelle Fultz, good luck.
Jared Johnson (@JaredJ831)
When Dwane Casey got the ax in Toronto I thought that maybe, just maybe, this would finally be the year that the Raptors would unleash Jonas Valanciunas (they are paying him $16.5 million this season, after all). Unfortunately, it looks like Nick Nurse is just Dwane Casey 2.0, except exponentially worse for JV. Nurse will be mixing and matching the starting five all year long, which, again, unfortunately, means that more often than not Serge Ibaka will be the starting five-man with Valanciunas coming off the bench. What's even worse is that the Raptors stand undefeated through their first five games of the season, so thus far, there's been zero incentive for Nurse to change his approach. Valanciunas has shown us in the past that he's capable of attaining mid-round value even in limited minutes, but it looks like we can all let the dream die of seeing JV fully reach his potential; maybe ever.
Matt Stroup (@MattStroup)
I’ll begin my remarks with Bradley “Real Deal” Beal, who isn’t included here merely because of the rhyming factor. The fact is, we already knew Beal was really good, but he appears set to potentially take things to another level this season. Beal has been the No. 29 and No. 38 player in 9-category leagues the last two seasons, and currently sits 23rd after scoring 23 points in just 19 minutes last night (Beal had a bruised sternum and the Wizards lost by 22, hence the low minutes). He has also hit his current value while shooting an uncharacteristically low 61.5 percent from the line, so — in short — watch out.
As for a player we should consider dropping, I’ll nominate Kyle Anderson. He hasn’t hit a 3-pointer yet and is averaging an Avery Bradley-esque 4.3 ppg. He did have nine boards (with five points) in a season-high 29 minutes on Wednesday if you’re looking for a glimmer of hope, and while you might want to wait another game or three, Anderson is creeping closer and closer to the waiver wire.
For a player who might be annoying and volatile all season long, I’m starting to wonder about Kevin Love. Yes, he’s putting up good counting stats — including 19.0 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 3.5 apg and 1.8 3s, but he’s shooting a dreadful 32.3 percent from the field. Even worse, he’s out for Thursday's game with foot soreness. I didn’t end up with Love in that many leagues, but this is a note to self to deal him away as soon as he’s playing well enough for me to think that maybe I shouldn’t trade him.
Mike Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher)
Stephen Curry is really, really good. Sure, it’s been five games, but this has been a trend for a while. So far this year, Curry has a 72.9 TS% on a 29.7 usage rate, which is obviously uncharted territory for high-volume scoring efficiency. In the preseason, but Stephen Curry had a ridiculous 77.6 TS% on a 29.0 usage rate over his 81 minutes thanks to 6.2 made treys per 36. It’s easy to focus on his ankle issues, but Curry was unbelievably efficient last season at a 67.5 TS% on a 28.9 usage rate during his 2018 regular-season games. If he’s healthy, he has a real shot at MVP.
Zach LaVine’s 30-point streak looks legit. Much like Curry, LaVine’s preseason stats suggested he would be off to a high-scoring start. In the preseason, he had a 30.8 usage rate and a 63.1 TS%. LaVine has topped both of those numbers in the regular season with a 32.2 usage rate an a 69.5 TS%. Why? LaVine has tore it up as a driver with 11.5 points per game off drives to put him in the top five in the league. He’s getting to the line more and almost half of his shots have come in the paint. He won’t be near 70 TS%, but LaVine is looking like a near lock to score close to 25 per game.
The Cavs are bad. Really, really bad. They rank dead last in net rating at -14.4, and it’s not like they’ve faced stiff competition with their two home losses coming against the Hawks and Nets in blowout losses (also Raptors and Wolves on the road). If they can’t get a win at home next Tuesday at home against the Hawks this time around, it might be a while before they get a win. This could be bad news for guys like Kevin Love, George Hill or any deep-league veterans you’re relying on in fantasy. I also wrote this just before it was announced Love is out today, so yeah. Not good.
After talk of the short shot clock in Vegas, the Hawks aren’t messing around with a league-leading 109.0 pace, but basically the whole league is like the Road Runner and not even Acme's best trap can stop them. A whopping 20 teams have a pace higher than the Pelicans’ league-leading 101.6 from last season. To tie it together to another trend, could all this pace be a factor in some soft-tissue injuries? Fatigued muscles are much more likely to be strained, so it may not be long before medical staffs impact how some players log so many possessions.
David Leggieri (@legsanity)
I think Ish Smith is the real deal. Pistons coach Dwane Casey has stated that he likes playing Ish with Reggie Jackson because he likes having multiple ball-handlers on the floor. We know Casey likes this from his time in Toronto, when he would sometimes play three point guards together at once. He's currently shooting a career-high number of threes per game and is knocking them down at over 50%. Ish isn't going to be a superstar, by any means, but he makes for a great add off the wire.
I think De'Aaron Fox is here to stay. He was so-so in his rookie year, but he's looked solid to start the 2018-19 season. He's the Kings point guard of the future and they're gonna let him run the show. It helps that their defense is bad and that they'll be playing fast to try to work their way back into games. He's still not a 3-point shooter, but he'll help a good bit in assists and steals.
I'm out on Mo Bamba for now. Obviously, if you're in a deep league or dynasty/keeper, you're hanging onto him. If you're in a 10 or 12 team league and drafted him hoping for him to be good in the short-term, I think you're safe to drop him. He's blocking shots, but isn't playing enough to really contribute elsewhere. His offensive game is still raw and he's behind Nikola Vucevic, who's started out hot. I think Bamba will be better as the season goes along, especially if the Magic do trade Vooch, but he's safe to move on from for a hot waiver add.
Gordon Hayward is going to be frustrating to own this year. He's on a 25-minute limit, for the time being, and has already sat a game for rest due to ankle soreness. There's no denying his talent and fantasy value, but his gradual re-integration coupled with the Celtics crowded roster, he's going to be up and down. Hopefully he works his way back and is able to play 30 minutes a night consistently to remove some of the headaches, but it might be awhile.