The Specialists

Nicolas Batum's Big Breakout

Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Nicolas Batum was acquired to be a difference-maker on a Charlotte team that desperately needed one, and now he’s finally beginning to play the part. Looking more comfortable in his new surroundings and with different teammates than he had to begin the year, Batum’s arrow is pointed firmly in the upward direction.

 

We’ve got Hassan Whiteside ensuring nobody questions his abilities this time around, Terrence Jones claiming the Rockets’ power forward position as his own and Khris Middleton as the value acquisition to target in your league.

 

Statistics accurate as of Monday, November 16

 

Steals

 

Gold Star: Jae Crowder, F Boston Celtics

            I just don’t get how Crowder is only rostered in 65% of Yahoo leagues. Realizing his field goal percentage is sitting at a meager 35.4%, Crowder averages just 8.8 shots per game, Put another way: There are well over 100 NBA players—including names like Jeremy Lin, Isaiah Canaan and even teammate Evan Turner—who shoot the rock more than Clam Crowder, who has quickly become New England’s favorite bowl of soup.

            Through his first nine games of the season, Crowder has a ridiculous 28 steals, with 13 of them coming in the last seven days alone. On pace to absolutely shatter his career-high 63 steals set during his rookie season, Crowder is going to be an even bigger value when the career 41.0% shooter can find a more consistent shot.  

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No Discounts: Monta Ellis, G Indiana Pacers

            Rotoworld’s Dr. A identified Monta having it all in our inaugural buy-low roundtable last week, and hopefully you were paying attention. After a painfully slow start through six games in which Ellis (and several others Pacers) looked lost, Monta now has 20-plus in two of his last four games and should have an easier road ahead than what he’s had to go through. To begin the year, Ellis has faced some tough individual defensive matchups in guys like Dwayne Wade, DeMar DeRozan, Avery Bradley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rodney Hood…that’s not going to last forever.

            Ellis has a steal in four straight games, and he collected eight of them while playing in just three games this week. With 140-plus steals in each of the last three seasons, expect the veteran to trend upward as he continues to find his role in Indiana as the Pacers form their new identity.

 

Bargain Bin: Khris Middleton, G/F Milwaukee Bucks

            It’s been a disappointing start for those with Middleton on the roster, so this is a nice opportunity to buy low. A career 44.7% shooter, Middleton is connecting on just 36.3% of his attempts this season. Considering he’s hitting on a career-best 44.2% from long distance (1.9 3PM/game) as well as 88.2% from the foul line, I’m confident the numbers will balance out.

The big item to focus on with K-Midz is minutes, and he’s averaging a whopping 37 through the first 10 games. Although he hasn’t been quite as prolific as expected, Middleton has seven steals in his last two games, playing a combined 84-plus minutes during that stretch. Once his shot straightens out, Middleton’s across-the-board is going to become so obvious that you’ll wish he was on your team.  

 

3-Pointers

 

Gold Star: Eric Gordon, SG New Orleans Pelicans

            The veteran shooting guard is averaging an absurd 8.2 3PA through his first 10 contests, connecting at a 37.8% clip. Without Tyreke Evans (knee surgery) and with both Jrue Holiday (leg) and Anthony Davis (hip) in and out of the lineup, Gordon has had to take on a larger than expected role at the start of his contract season. Isn’t it amazing how that sets up so nicely?

            Despite the pleasant beginnings, this is a player I’d be selling to the highest bidder without any hesitation. Davis will take a backseat to nobody so long as he’s on the floor, Evans’ return promises to impact Gordon’s production, Holiday is only going to get more involved as the season progresses and I never can trust Gordon’s health. Considering you can point to EJ’s 13 triples this week as a difference-maker and sell for more a profit before the market crashes, now is the time to make a move.

 

No Discounts: Nicolas Batum, G/F Charlotte Hornets

            Batum is a man on fire and there is no team with an extinguisher. Sinking an absurd 15 triples this week alone, it’s all beginning to blossom as the potential (of the opportunity) turns into production for the insanely talented Batum. We knew he’d have enormous upside as the focal point of everything Charlotte tries to do, and Batum now has gone for 20-plus in three straight contests.

            If you want Batum on your team—you do—you’re going to have to overpay to get him. It’s hard to see the logic in departing with a clear No. 1 capable of contributing across the stat sheet when things are going well, but some can still be swayed by big names instead of big games. If you wanted to swing big by offering someone like Rudy Gobert or Al Horford in a deal for Batum, I could definitely get behind it. I’m that high on him.

 

Bargain Bin: Nemanja Bjelica, PF Minnesota Timberwolves

            The Bjelica hot takes should be pretty good after two games with minutes in the mid-20s, but foul trouble (nine) is the only thing that’s going to keep this guy off the floor. Sinking nine triples this week and connecting at better than 40% for the season, Bjelica can be had for a fraction of what it would’ve cost you 7-10 days ago.

 

Blocks

 

Gold Star: Hassan Whiteside, C Miami Heat

            Hassan Whiteside has been coming since January, and it looks like he’s motivated to do more than get his 2K rating up in his contract season. With 14 blocks through his last three games alone, Whiteside has 36 total swats, good for an absurd average of 4.0 per game. On top of his rim protection, Whiteside has the same number of games (three) where he’s scored 20 or more points as he does where he’s been held to under 10 points.

            His teammates are looking for him, Whiteside is stepping up to the challenge of becoming a more consistent threat and he’s playing more minutes (29.5) than he did at any point last season. Miami is still learning how to utilize Whiteside properly while the big man is still learning about himself. There is plenty of room for additional growth here.

 

No Discounts: Terrence Jones, F Houston Rockets

            An excellent buy-low candidate as early as just last week, Jones’ stock is alive and well after two big stat-stuffing games for a banged up Rockets squad. Averaging 23 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 2.0 3-pointers over his last two contests, Houston needs everything TJ is providing in order to come close to scraping the surface of their potential.

            When things are going well for Jones, he’s a multi-category contributor with a ceiling only limited by the fact that he plays on such a talented team. Capable of helping you in blocks, triples, points, rebounds and field goal percentage, it’s easy to see why Jones’ versatile game commands so much attention.

 

Bargain Bin: Amir Johnson, F/C Boston Celtics

            Johnson seems to have a new place in Brad Steven’s rotation, and it’s resulted in him averaging right around 33 minutes per game over his last two. Over that stretch, Johnson has combined for 26 points, 13 rebounds, four dimes, three steals and six blocks while shooting 11-of-19 from the field. Those numbers won’t jump out of the box score and smack you in the face, but that doesn’t mean the performances should be overlooked.

            Despite a ton of big men on the roster and a rotation that’s anything but set, Johnson provides one thing that the others simply can’t: Rim protection. The Celtics pride themselves on their defense, and Johnson’s most familiar calling card is what he’s capable of doing at that end of the floor. If you’re desperate for blocks, Johnson makes for a low-risk but intriguing speculative addition.


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