Good day and welcome to what my intern Bruce has just informed me is the eighth season of Roundball Stew.
At this time of year, I’m always struck by how easy it is (if not irresistible) to overreact wildly to the first box scores we see. There’s something simultaneously fun and agonizing about looking at our teams and making irrational proclamations before any of our guys have even played a handful of games.
In the spirit of that, I decided to try a little exercise. On Wednesday, before the majority of the league took the court on the first big night of the year (14 games), I wrote down a quick outlook on 10 players who caught my attention leading up to the season. (Note: I have not changed those outlooks since they were originally written on Wednesday.) Then, on Thursday, after everyone played, I went back and wrote a reaction to what they did. Make sense? It should once you see it, so let’s waste no more time and get this going, beginning with...
Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, DEN
What I Wrote Wednesday Morning: I’m willing to overlook what may be a bad FG% and a lot of turnovers, because this 19-year-old plays with a lot of swagger, and I’m convinced he’s going to be pretty dynamic.
What He Did Wednesday Night: 17 points, five boards, nine assists, three treys, 11 turnovers.
Postmortem: And when I said “swagger” above, what I meant was extreme nonchalance. In all seriousness though, as careless as some of those turnovers were, Mudiay’s outing was extremely encouraging, especially his shooting (6-of-13 from the field), and his ability to hit 3s (3-of-5, including a nice step-back). Also, when Mudiay wasn’t making a stupid pass, he really did look good, threading some impressive passes for layups and dunk shots. All in all, it certainly looks like you’ll be throwing turnovers if you’ve got Mudiay in a Head-to-Head league, but given what we saw on Wednesday, it very well might be worth it.
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What I Wrote Wednesday Morning: I’m eager to see what he can do in his first full season under Jason Kidd, and I take last year’s percentage spike (38.0 / 64.3 in Philly, 42.9 / 78.0 in Milwaukee) as a sign of good things to come.
What He Did Wednesday Night: 20 points, five boards, four assists, a steal and six TO’s (6-of-17 from the field, 8-of-9 from the line).
Postmortem: What was that about improved shooting? Obviously MCW is anything but invincible in that regard, but I remain hopeful that he can shoot somewhere in the low-40’s as opposed to the 30’s. Also, given that he was left in the game to pile up numbers even while Milwaukee was getting shellacked (they lost by 25 Wednesday), I’d say better days are certainly ahead, and for the moment I’m still excited about MCW this season. But if he shoots 6-of-17 again on Friday…
Otto Porter, SF, WAS
What I Wrote Wednesday Morning: Porter had a postseason mini-breakout last year (10.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.2 3s in 10 games), and that was with Paul Pierce on the roster. He should be able to do even more now that the starting SF job is all his.
What He Did Wednesday Night: Seven points, eight boards, five assists, two steals and a trey in 37 minutes.
Postmortem: We could nitpick and say we’re not pleased with the 3-of-10 shooting, but overall this was a big-time start (in a quiet, understated sort of way) for Porter, who I expect to be a gem of a Util option all season long.
Al Jefferson, PF/C, CHA
What I Wrote Wednesday Morning: His “down” year wasn’t that bad when he was on the court (16.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 0.7 spg, 1.3 bpg), and I expect him to land closer to 20 and 10 now that he’s in a contract year.
What He Did Wednesday Night: 17 points, five boards and a steal in 22 minutes.
Postmortem: Initially I was concerned that Big Al had gotten injured, but later it came to light that the Heat just decided to ruin all of our evenings by going small in the second half. As annoying as this was, 22 minutes should be the exception rather than the rule with Jefferson, and I’m going to stop writing about this and move on before I get all annoyed about it again.
Marcus Smart, PG, BOS
What I Wrote Wednesday Morning: Another player I expect to be sneaky valuable in the mold of Porter. Can picture him averaging something in the ballpark of 10-4-4 with some steals and 3s.
What He Did Wednesday Night: 13 points, two boards, five assists, two steals, a block and three treys.
Postmortem: Maybe the happiest number of all here is one we haven’t mentioned yet – 32 minutes, as the Celtics, for one night at least, went small and found a way to get enough playing time for Smart, Isaiah Thomas (29 minutes, 27 points) and Avery Bradley (33 minutes, four points). They won’t always have the luxury of playing the Sixers, but even so, Smart looks ready to contribute in a low-end, quietly helpful kind of way.
Bradley Beal, SG, WAS
What I Wrote Wednesday Morning: I actually swore him off in a late-season edition of Roundball Stew last year, then completely reversed course while watching him dominate during the playoffs (23.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.7 bpg, 2.3 3s in 10 games). Bottom line: I don’t care that he’s had recurring leg trouble; the upside here is too big to pass up.
What He Did Wednesday Night: 24 points, six boards, two 3s and a block in 38 minutes.
Postmortem: Beal has never averaged better than 17.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg or 3.3 apg in his three years in the league, but after last season’s playoff run he may be ready for a true regular season breakout. And as for the injury concerns (an average of 18 missed games per year), I’d be inclined to pretend I’m ignorant of the history and just hope that all legs stay fully functional for the duration of the season. As I said above, the upside here is too big to preemptively panic.
Gary Harris, SG, DEN
What I Wrote Wednesday Morning: Digging much deeper, Harris – just 2 percent owned in Yahoo leagues – could be a popular waiver wire add as the starting SG in Denver and a decent source of 3s and steals.
What He Did Wednesday Night: Five points, five boards, five assists, three steals, a block and a trey in 29 minutes.
Postmortem: If you like symmetry (5-5-5), this was a flat-out great night, and I will say Harris looked good when he was out there on Wednesday. The only issue here – and what may make Harris a better pickup in deeper formats – is another five: the number of shots he got in the opener. With that said, there’s certainly a chance for Harris to be more aggressive going forward, and I’d gladly add him if you have an open roster spot to see how it pans out.
Tobias Harris, SF/PF, ORL
What I Wrote Wednesday Morning: He used to be one of my favorite players to draft, but the combo of a new coach he’s historically had friction with, durability issues (missed 14 games last year, 21 the year before that) and weak defensive stats (0.9 spg, 0.5 bpg the last two seasons) has me staying away.
What He Did Wednesday Night: 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a block in 31 minutes.
Postmortem: My concerns about Skiles may not end up being an issue, but in terms of production, this is mostly what I was talking about with Harris. A dynamic all-around threat when he first arrived in Orlando (17.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 1.4 bpg, 1.0 3s in 27 games back in 2012-13), he’s now looking more like a points/boards guy who occasionally chips in a 3.
George Hill, PG/SG, IND
What I Wrote Wednesday Morning: He had a nice half season last year (16.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 5.1 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.6 3s in 43 games), but I think he fades back toward his bland 2013-14 stats (10.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.5 apg) with Paul George back and Monta Ellis joining the 317 area code.
What He Did Wed/Thurs Night (2 games): 19.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.5 spg, 4.0 3s in 38 minutes per game.
Postmortem: I was wrong, okay? Even with George healthy and Monta in town, it looks like there’s plenty of room for Hill to produce in points and 3’s, even if his assists do look like they’re set to take a hit.
Jerian Grant, PG, NYK
What I Wrote Wednesday Morning: It may not happen right away, but you’ve gotta like Grant’s position on the depth chart with only Jose Calderon ahead of him. Plus, my cousin Eli drafted him in my hometown league, and he’s annoyingly good at identifying late-round sleepers.
What He Did Wed/Thurs Night (2 games): 7.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.0 apg, 1.5 spg in 27 minutes per game.
Postmortem: He doesn’t look like much of a 3-point shooter (0-of-4 in the preseason, 0-of-1 in two regular season games), but I would certainly try to find room to add Grant, who was owned in just 16 percent of Yahoo leagues as of Friday morning.
Other Random Thoughts from Week 1 So Far: Over the final two months last season, Danilo Gallinari was the No. 11 player on Basketball Monster’s 9-category leaderboard (18.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.3 spg, 2.8 3s in 24 games). Based on what I saw Wednesday (23 points, eight boards, three assists, a steal, three blocks, three treys and one mohawk), Gallinari looks ready to crank out top-20 value all season long. He was flying all over the court against Houston. … Keep a close eye on Magic rookie Mario Hezonja. His debut wasn’t anything spectacular (11 points, three boards, two assists, three treys in 25 minutes), but the 20-year-old has a very buttery jumper. … Speaking of impressive rookies, I was somewhat floored by Jahlil Okafor’s debut. Sure, he had eight turnovers, but beyond his numbers (26 points, seven rebounds, a steal and two blocks), I couldn’t help but notice his confidence. Okafor was definitely playing with some sort of obliviousness to the fact that 19-year-old bigs are supposed to struggle to adjust to the NBA, as he attacked like he was sure no one could stop him. Also encouraging: 6-of-6 from the free throw line after going 8-of-9 in the preseason, a small sample size, but still a hint that his college FT woes (51.0 percent at Duke) could be in the past.
My 30-Deep Squad
For those who care about such things as 30-team expert leagues, I wanted to pass along a quick look at my team in the league known as 30-Deep. After pulling the No. 3 overall pick (Stephen Curry) and winning the title two years ago, and with the No. 5 pick (Chris Paul) taking me to the finals last year, I somehow got the No. 1 pick this year. Here’s how the team turned out in a snake draft where my first and second picks were 59 spots apart…
PG – Isaiah Thomas (No. 60) – I think Thomas and Smart (and to a lesser extent, Avery Bradley) can all contribute this year. It helps that Thomas can crank out high volume very quickly (latest example: 27 points in 29 minutes on Wednesday).
SG – Alec Burks (No. 120) – Was pleased with myself for landing him before I found out he was coming off the bench on Wednesday. Was again pleased when he posted productive numbers off of said bench (18 points, six rebounds in 26 minutes).
SF – Trevor Ariza (No. 61) – Shot poorly in the opener (2-of-10), but he’s still the same player who posted 1.9 spg and 2.4 3s last year.
PF – Anthony Davis (No. 1) – After a 4-of-20 opener, posted 25 and 10 with two steals, two blocks and a career-high three treys on Wednesday. Doesn’t matter that the Pelicans have struggled early; insane numbers are coming.
C – Jusuf Nurkic (No. 121) – This was a mistake. In a league this deep I should’ve drafted someone who was healthy, but Nurkic was the last C with real upside left when I picked. However, even though he’s left me in a bad spot (and by bad spot, I mean starting Boris Diaw) in this league, he’s still a great stash in standard formats.
G – Gary Harris (No. 181) – See above. 5-5-5 for life.
F – Doug McDermott (No. 180) – If the first two games are any indication, he’s hardly even startable in a format this deep (8.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.5 3s in 18 minutes per game).
Util – Will Barton (No. 241) – Could do worse this late than a guy you know can put up numbers when given a chance. The high-energy Barton had 11 points, four rebounds, a steal and a trey in 20 minutes in the opener.
Too ugly to discuss. See you next week.