We’re taking a new approach this season.
Rather than focusing on dissecting the value of just a handful of individuals, The Specialists (Version 2.0) will now consist of a three-pronged approach in each particular category. You won’t see names like Stephen Curry or Kawhi Leonard because first-round picks are ineligible to appear in this column, but everyone else is fair game.
The idea is to provide owners with different tiers of talent in order to explore different avenues of improvement for the roster, whether blockbuster trade or waiver wire pickup. The categories will rotate and the players will be judged based on week-to-week performances, not their overall body of work.
Stats accurate as of Monday, November 2.
Gold Star: Nikola Mirotic, F Chicago Bulls
An absolute stud in both reality and fantasy, Mirotic’s game was made for this moment. Well on his way to crushing his ADP (65.0 on Yahoo!) in a system that is going to feature him, Mirotic looks like his floor is as a top-50 player. He’s 13-of-28 from deep over his first four contests.
No Discounts: George Hill, G Indiana Pacers
Hill attempted 193 triples in just 43 games last season, and he’s already launched 20 (making 11) through three games this year. With Monta Ellis struggling and the Pacers desperate to find offensive production outside of what Paul George brings to the table, those who have Hill on the roster won’t be anxious to send him away.
Write off the former No. 2 overall pick if you want, but Marvin the Martian has buried eight triples over his last two contests, with a double-double in two of his first three to begin the year. The veteran has had (temporary) stretches of fantasy value previously, but he’s usually had more competition than Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky for minutes…Thompson is best targeted in leagues that feature 14-plus teams…we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel, but the minutes are going to be there and he’s fired away 12 times over the first two games already.
Gold Star: DeAndre Jordan, C Los Angeles Clippers
Jordan’s struggles from the foul line are well documented, but that’s not why he’s on your team. My favorite candidate (yes, ahead of Andre Drummond and Rudy Gobert) to lead the league blocked shots this season, Jordan is averaging an absurd 5.0 swats through his first three games. He’s the clear defensive anchor on a team that desperately needs him to play the role of rim protector and just paid him handsomely to do exactly that.
No Discounts: Roy Hibbert, C Los Angeles Lakers
Have you seen the Lakers’ depth chart after Hibbert for what this team can offer inside? It isn’t pretty, and Tarik Black was the only active 5-man behind Hibbert in Los Angeles’ third game of the season…I was surprised when the big fella was getting drafted behind players like teammate D’Angelo Russell, and although he won’t score, Hibbert should provide a reasonably priced source of blocks all year long. The Lakers don’t have the personnel to play small, and nobody is coming for his minutes (currently at 25 per game).
Bargain Bin: Clint Capela, C Houston Rockets
I’ll be surprised if Dwight Howard (back) makes it through 60 games this season. If the team is going to rest him in some back-to-back sets, that means Howard is going to have to stay healthy virtually all year just to clear 70 contests…I’ll wager against that every day, and twice on Sunday. Capela is a special athlete capable of being an instant difference-maker if the minutes are there…right now he’s just a worthy long-term investment (read: stash) in deeper formats.
Bledsoe finished with 127 steals and 45 blocks last season…I’d be disappointed if he finishes with fewer than 150 steals and 60 blocks this year…that’s how much I believe in his mini-LeBron upside. We’ve already seen what (near) peak Bledsoe is capable of this season, and although it’s early, the Clipper castoff looks poised to reward teams that reached for him in Round 2.
Maybe Favors was a little lost in all of the Gobert offseason shuffle, but I still can’t find a good reason he was coming off the board behind Al Jefferson. The Party Man is averaging 21.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.3 blocks in the early going, and especially with Gordon Hayward struggling, Favors is going to be relied upon to be a constant source of production on both ends of the floor.
No Discounts: Pau Gasol, F/C Chicago Bulls
Gasol was being valued this season based on what he did just one year prior, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do it again. He may not score like we saw in his first Windy City go-around, but Gasol’s defensive activity will allow for a new path to both value creation and retention, especially if he can continue to contribute in the steals department…something to keep in mind: he’s registered more than 50 just once in a single season
Bargain Bin: Jae Crowder, F Boston Celtics
Crowder is one of a few on the Celtics’ roster that is actually locked into his minutes, and his eight steals to begin the year isn’t some type of fluke. Very much in the DeMarre Carroll mode when it comes to what type of fantasy player he can be, Crowder deserves a roster spot—and has real value— in leagues with at least 12 teams. He’s got the confidence of his front office ($35 million deal), his coach (Brad Stevens loves him) and a role that should grow going forward.