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Roundball Stew

Stew: Return of the Monk

by Matt Stroup
Updated On: October 19, 2018, 1:01 pm ET

As I sit here finishing this, the season started 60-something hours ago.

Yet here we are, making wild proclamations about all the brilliant — or terribly stupid — things we did in our drafts.

At this point of the season, we are either total geniuses or complete morons. We regret nothing, except for maybe everything. One minute we’ve assembled an unassailable juggernaut; the next, we’re holding the receipt for the car from National Lampoon’s Vacation.

It can be exhausting. So let’s stop being frantic for a second, and break down five notable stat lines we’ve seen so far. In the spirit of making ourselves feel better. Or in a couple of cases, probably worse…

Line #1: Andre Drummond — 24 points, 20 boards, and a block on Wednesday

To be clear, Drummond doesn’t land on this list because of the points and boards. It’s actually because of two smaller aspects of his stat line: the 3-for-4 from the free throw line, and even more notable, his 1-of-3 from downtown. The notion of Drummond shooting 3s almost seems like it might be a joke to some, and maybe we will have forgotten all about it a month or two from now. But what if it’s not actually a joke? If Drummond hits somewhere even close to one trey a game (0.6? 0.8?) while knocking down free throws at a rate close to last year (career-high 60.5 percent), he could surge past last year’s 9-category ranking — No. 22 overall — and take a bold leap into the top-15.

Line #2: Malik Monk — 18 points, four boards, two assists, a steal, two blocks and four treys on Wednesday

Monk had a forgettable — if not outright bad — rookie year, putting up 6.7 ppg on 36.0 percent shooting in 63 games. But one thing some of us (read: me) weren’t focused on enough, was just how strong Monk closed it out. Over his final six games last season, he put up 19.8 ppg and 3.7 3s with strong percentages (46.7 from the field, perfect from the line). Beyond that, he put up some standout peripheral numbers during the run: 3.8 apg, 0.7 spg and 0.7 bpg. Monk went on average 141st overall in Yahoo drafts, and if I was drafting a new team today I wouldn’t hesitate to take him inside the top-100.

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Line #3: Elfrid Payton — a 10-10-10 triple-double on Wednesday

I discussed Payton with Tommy Beer on the Rotoworld hoops podcast this week, and was wondering how a player who was just No. 129 in 9-category leagues last season had started to go relatively high in this year’s drafts. (For example, Elf went No. 71 overall in the 30-team (“30-Deep”) draft a bunch of the Rotoworld basketball crew plays in. And he went No. 66 overall in a draft I did with Mike Gallagher earlier this week — ahead of Kris Dunn, Goran Dragic, Jeff Teague and Trae Young, among others.)

On one level, the 10-10-10 line is some solid validation of the draft pick, but as we (over)analyze Elfrid’s first box score, the same concerns are still there: 0-for-2 from the free throw line and 0-for-2 on 3s for a player who shot just 64.9 percent on FTs and hit 0.5 3s a game last year. He certainly looked good running the show for the stretches of that game I saw, but I’m still not sure he has a clear path to standout fantasy value. 

Line #4: Deandre Ayton — 18 points, 10 boards, six assists with steal and a block on Wednesday

Here’s a ridiculous exercise: On the Basketball Monster 9-category leaderboard, as of Friday morning, Ayton is the No. 9 overall player. To underline how ridiculous this is, most players have obviously only played one game, and Nik Stauskas is currently holding down the No. 10 spot.

So while it only takes one game to make a huge leap — or big fall — at this point of the season, how far do we really think Ayton is going to drop? His percentages look like they’re going to be stellar. His defensive stats were consistently there throughout the preseason, and in the opener. At this point, would you really be shocked if Ayton cracked the top 25 for the season? Top 20? I certainly wouldn’t. And I’m starting to regret not drafting him more aggressively.

Which leads me to our final stat line:

Line #5: Kevin Love — 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one trey, 5-of-18 from the field and 10-of-14 from the line on Wednesday

One game into the season, how far are you willing to run with your overreactions? Would you trade Kevin Love — who may have single-handedly mauled your percentages for the week — in exchange for Deandre Ayton?

I don’t think that’s a crazy question. I also think it’s possible that the guy who drafted Ayton might say no. But since we’re on the topic, and since it’s seemingly been an eternity since Love put up absurd fantasy stats, here’s your reminder of just how high this bird once flew:

*2010-11: 20.2 ppg, 15.2 rpg, 1.2 3s (No. 4 in 9-category leagues)

*2011-12: 26.0 ppg, 13.4 rpg, 1.9 3s (No. 4 in 9-category leagues)

*2013-14: 26.1 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 4.4 apg, 2.5 3s (No. 6 in 9-category leagues)

Yes, that would be three seasons out of four that K. Love finished in the top six. From there, he teamed up with LeBron James in Cleveland, and his fantasy production fell more consistently into the top 35/top 40 range. But that’s just it. On a per-game basis last year playing with LeBron, Love was still the No. 26 overall player in 9-category leagues. Top 30ish is essentially his floor. And as the focal point of the Cleveland offense (again, that’s 18 FG attempts, 14 FT attempts in the opener), he’s got a real shot to return to his top-10 heyday, as crazy as that might sound.

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Other Random Thoughts: I really wish I’d gotten Nikola Mirotic in more leagues. He was the No. 40 player in 9-category leagues last season despite the chaotic start to his season, and now has a full season with what looks like a very fantasy friendly role in New Orleans (30 points, 11-of-20 shooting, 10 boards, six treys in the opener). … Even though he missed the opener, Kris Dunn is still one of my favorite breakout players this season. Must. Stay. Patient… After a 6-of-19 opener, I don’t think it’s too soon to be thinking about benching Dennis Smith Jr. until he proves he’s not going to completely sink your squad with bad shooting. It’s very possible I’m overreacting — in fact, I’d be almost disappointed if I wasn’t — but 6-of-19 is an ominous sign coming off a season where Smith was basically unstartable (No. 232 overall) in 9-category leagues.