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The first Sunday of the NBA regular season did not disappoint, thanks in large part to some of the game’s developing stars. Miles Bridges went off as the Hornets picked up a big win on the road, while Ja Morant and Jalen Green both had big nights in losing efforts. Below is a look at Sunday’s six-game slate, and we’ll begin in Brooklyn.
Hornets 111, Nets 95
In case there was anyone who may have believed that Miles Bridges’ 30-point effort in Friday’s win over the Cavaliers was a fluke, he offered evidence to the contrary Sunday afternoon. Shooting 9-of-16 from the field and 11-of-12 from the foul line, Bridges lit up the Nets for 32 points while also tallying nine rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block and three 3-pointers. He finished one point shy of his career-high, and is just the second player in franchise history to score 30 or more twice in the Hornets’ first three games of a season (Kemba Walker being the other).
Bridges had a Yahoo ADP of 93.0, and that number was even lower on other sites. But there were some fantasy managers who took the plunge earlier in their league drafts, and they’ve been rewarded thus far. Those who may have valued P.J. Washington (5/6/1/2 with one 3-pointer in 26 minutes) more in drafts can’t be pleased, as he’s gotten off to a slow start. Washington has been used at both the center (checking in for Mason Plumlee as one of Charlotte’s first subs) and power forward spots thus far.
I wouldn’t advise managers who have him rostered to give up on Washington just yet, but the clock is ticking. Managers who are satisfied with their current allotment of power forwards/centers may want to entertain the possibility of buying low.
For Brooklyn, Kevin Durant (38/5/3/1 with two 3-pointers) had a big game, while LaMarcus Aldridge (9/8/0/1/2) and Bruce Brown (8/7/0/1/2 with one 3-pointer) performed well off the bench. Blake Griffin (rest) was given the day off, which resulted in a spot start for Jevon Carter (3/2/1/2/1 with one 3-pointer) and rotation minutes for Brown (DNP-CD in the first two games).
Steve Nash is still in the process of solidifying his rotation, a task that was made more difficult by the uncertainty surrounding Kyrie Irving. And that makes it difficult to fully commit to Brown as a fantasy option. But it feels safe to assume that he’ll be a part of Brooklyn’s “final” rotation when the time comes.
James Harden (15/7/8/1/1 with two 3-pointers and eight turnovers) attempted just one free throw, and he has nine attempts through three games. That’s a major concern, as the foul line has traditionally been a place where The Beard can make up for those occasionally high turnover counts. Nash said after the game that he believes officials haven’t been giving Harden the calls that he deserves, due to the league looking to avoid calling fouls that come as a result of unnatural movements by the offensive player. Maybe there’s a legitimate argument to be made, or maybe this was a coach going to the Phil Jackson playbook of planting a seed in the minds of the officials. But keep an eye on Harden’s free throw numbers on Monday when the Nets host the Wizards.
Magic 110, Knicks 104
Two nights removed from getting blown out by the Knicks at home, the Magic rebounded in a big way to get Jamahl Mosley his first official win as an NBA head coach. Playing in front of family and friends Cole Anthony had a huge night, going for 29 points, 16 rebounds (a career-high), eight assists, one steal and five 3-pointers. His career-high in rebounds prior to Sunday: nine, and he had a total of seven in Orlando’s first two games of the season. Simply put, Anthony’s first career double-double was an outlier, but those who have him rostered will certainly take it. More important, as far as long-term fantasy value is concerned, was Anthony shooting 9-of-16 from the field and committing just one turnover.
Terrence Ross went off in the fourth, scoring all 22 of his points to go along with one rebound, three assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. Having missed both of his field goal attempts in the first three quarters, Ross was 6-of-9 in the fourth. Orlando not being at full strength means that he has some value presently, but he isn’t a great option long-term. Mo Bamba (10/13/2) didn’t accumulate any defensive stats and did not shoot well, but those who have him rostered still got a double-double.
Wendell Carter Jr. (10/9/1/1/4 with one 3-pointer) continued his good start to the season, and should not be available in any leagues. If he is, do not hesitate to pick him up. Orlando may not have looked good in either of their first two games, but the Carter/Bamba partnership has been a bright spot. And Franz Wagner (10/7/2/2 with one 3-pointer) should not be lurking on waiver wires in standard leagues, given Orlando’s lack of bodies on the wing. That may change as the Magic get healthier, but he’s capable of providing full lines on a consistent basis.
The most noteworthy happenings for the Knicks were injury-related. Mitchell Robinson (10/10/1/2/3) had his right foot, the one that he broke last season, stepped on and spent some time on the bench. But the young big was back on the court, ultimately playing 33 minutes before fouling out. Health and foul trouble are the biggest concerns for “Flex,” and he’s dodged a couple bullets through the Knicks’ first three games (the apparent hamstring tweak Friday night).
RJ Barrett exited briefly during the second half due to an unknown issue, but he was able to return. Barrett hasn’t had the ball in his hands as much as he did last season, and it’s been a bit of a struggle. He shot 5-of-17 in Sunday’s loss, and is now 14-of-36 from the field (4-of-19 3-pointers) through three games. The positive is that he dished out five assists, so there are other ways in which he can impact a game. There’s no reason to five up on Barrett just yet. I’d be more concerned about Kemba Walker (10 points, three assists and two 3-pointers in 19 minutes) than Barrett at this early point in the season.
Taj Gibson (four rebounds and one assist) made his return from paternity leave, playing 12 minutes. His return meant fewer minutes for Obi Toppin (2/2/1 in 12 minutes) and Jericho Sims was a DNP-CD. Toppin playing just 12 minutes is a concern, with the Knicks still without Nerlens Noel (knee), and Tom Thibodeau still hesitant to play the second-year forward alongside Julius Randle (30/16/3/2/4 with two 3-pointers) for long stretches. Toppin has upside, but it may not be realized if he isn’t approaching 20 minutes per game.
Celtics 107, Rockets 97
Rookie Jalen Green, who NBC Sports Edge colleague Jared Johnson believes should be nicknamed “Money,” had his first big performance Sunday night. Shooting 11-of-18 from the field, he scored a career-high 30 points with four rebounds, three assists, one steal, two blocks and a Rockets rookie-record eight 3-pointers. Green, and the rest of Houston’s young players, are going to get a lot of run as the franchise continues its rebuild. While there will be hiccups along the way, a player like Green should be a fixture in any fantasy lineup.
Fellow rookie Alperen Sengun played 19 points off the bench and did not shoot the ball well, going 1-of-5 from the field, but he did post a full line (7/4/4/3/1). Due to his passing ability and basketball IQ, it can be argued that Sengun is Houston’s best playmaker. He isn’t out of place when Stephen Silas goes to a 5-out offense, and in time should prove to be a better fit alongside Christian Wood (20/9/1/1 with two 3-pointers) than veteran Daniel Theis. If there’s a concern regarding the fantasy value of Houston’s young talents, it’s the slow start of Kevin Porter Jr.
He finished Sunday’s game with 15 points, three rebounds, three assists, three 3-pointers and eight turnovers. KPJ didn’t shoot the ball well, either, going 5-of-12 from the field and 2-of-4 from the foul line. Through three games he has 16 assists and 19 turnovers, while shooting 16-of-40 from the field and 3-of-6 from the foul line. Being a bit deficient in one category isn’t a major issue, but KPJ is well beyond that right now. Hopefully, the more reps he gets running the Rockets offense, the more efficient he’ll be.
For Boston, Al Horford (17/10/1/3/3 with one 3-pointer) posted his second double-double in as many games and was impactful on both ends of the floor. The veteran post had a Yahoo ADP of 105.1, and at this rate, Horford will approach “steal” territory before too long. Should fantasy managers consider the possibility of striking while the iron is hot and selling high? I’d hold onto him, due to his solid start and the fact that Horford is eligible at both power forward and center. That kind of roster versatility should not be overlooked.
Jayson Tatum (31/9/2/1/1 with four 3-pointers) had a big night, with Dennis Schroder (18/5/5/1 with one 3-pointer) and Grant Williams (18/3/2 with five 3-pointers) both posting noteworthy lines. Schroder started for the injured Jaylen Brown who, after missing time due to COVID protocols, is now dealing with a sore left knee. That makes Schroder a player worth holding onto for the time being, especially with Marcus Smart off to a slow start.
As for Williams, he’s now 9-of-13 from three on the season. By comparison, he averaged 0.8 3-pointers per game last season, while making just 37.2% of his attempts. If Williams can knock down perimeter shots on a consistent basis, that would go a long way towards ensuring that he remains in Ime Udoka’s rotation.
76ers 115, Thunder 103
Due to a sore right knee, Philadelphia center Joel Embiid (22/9/6/1/3 with two 3-pointers) was considered to be questionable for Sunday’s game. He ultimately played, logging 33 minutes to help the 76ers rebound from Friday’s disappointing loss to the Nets. It’s a good thing that Embiid was able to play, as Philadelphia was down a center Sunday night. Andre Drummond sat due to a sprained right ankle, and Philadelphia played without a true pivot for about six minutes in this one.
The good news for Doc Rivers is that his team will only play three games this coming week, with no back-to-backs. That should help with regard to Embiid’s minutes, especially if Drummond has to miss more than one game due to the ankle injury.
Seth Curry went off for 23 points in the first quarter, finishing with 28 to go along with three rebounds, three assists, one steal and seven 3-pointers. While many, myself included, focused on Tyrese Maxey (14/5/2/0/1) with Ben Simmons sidelined, Curry is an attractive fantasy option right now. Points and 3-pointers are going to be there consistently, and he’s capable of serving as a primary playmaker on occasion. He’s rostered in 91% of Yahoo leagues, which is a fair percentage for Curry.
As discussed in these parts in Saturday’s Daily Dose, Oklahoma City is a difficult team to read from a fantasy standpoint. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (29/6/8/1/1 with one 3-pointer) is the clear top option, but what happens beyond him? Josh Giddey appears to be next in line, and the rookie put forth a very good performance against Philadelphia. In 34 minutes he accounted for 19 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, four steals and one 3-pointer, while turning the ball over twice. The fact that Giddey is already playing 30-plus minutes is a great sign for later in the season, when the Thunder give their young players all the time that they need.
Derrick Favors (6/5/1/1) was back in the starting lineup, but played just 19 minutes. Isaiah Roby, who started Friday night, was a DNP-CD, with rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (five points, four rebounds and one 3-pointer) and Mike Muscala (9/2/1/2 with three 3-pointers) playing 14 and 16 minutes, respectively. Good luck predicting what will happen there, and the same can be said for Aleksej Pokusevski (seven minutes) and Theo Maledon (13 minutes). With the way that the Thunder are currently managing their rotation, neither is productive enough to justify being rostered right now.
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Warriors 119, Kings 107
Stephen Curry (27/7/10/3 with four 3-pointers) put up a good stat line as the Warriors moved to 3-0 on the season, but he was made to work had for a lot of his looks. Curry shot 9-of-21 from the field (4-of-15 3-pointers), a far cry from his 16-of-25 performance in Thursday’s win over the Clippers. The credit for this should go to Tyrese Haliburton (8/7/9/0/2 with two 3-pointers) and Davion Mitchell (22/1/4 with three 3-pointers), who were entrusted with the task of defending Curry for most of the night. Haliburton didn’t offer much from a scoring standpoint, but the overall line was solid.
As for Mitchell, the rookie established a new career-high in points, and he isn’t going to have many nights where he fails to put up any defensive stats. And the offensive “explosion” comes after he scored a total of five points in Sacramento’s first two games. “Off Night” is a somewhat difficult sell in standard leagues to the slow offensive start, but he’s played at least 24 minutes in all three games (32 in each of the last two). Fantasy managers looking to add depth to their guard spots may want to consider rolling the dice on Mitchell now, because in a couple weeks time it may be too late to do so.
De’Aaron Fox (17/5/6 with one 3-pointer) had a tough night, as he shot 1-of-6 from three and committed seven turnovers. And things nearly got worse with about three minutes remaining in the fourth, as Fox appeared to tweak his left knee on a fall. After a brief period on the bench, Fox was back on the court to finish things out. And he’ll have some time to rest, as the Kings won’t play again until Wednesday in Phoenix. Harrison Barnes (24/7/1 with five 3-pointers) continues to roll offensively, and is a bonafide “sell high” candidate. He has been a top-100 player in 9-cat in three of the last five seasons, but Barnes is currently threatening top-15 value with his hot start. Obviously it’s early, so we’ll see if he can maintain this pace.
Outside of Curry, the focus on the Golden State side of things should be Jordan Poole. He has scored 20 points or more in two of the Warriors’ three games this season, going for 22 along with three rebounds, three assists, three steals, one block and two 2-pointers in 32 minutes Sunday night. The concern here is consistency; in between the quality offensive showings against the Lakers and Kings, he scored nine points on 4-of-14 shooting in Thursday’s win over the Clippers. But Poole has shown an ability to contribute in other areas, which helps when considering his fantasy floor with Klay Thompson sidelined. Poole had a Yahoo ADP of 110.8, and he’s got a good shot at hanging in the top-100 until Thompson is cleared to return.
Damion Lee (11 points, four rebounds and one 3-pointer) and Gary Payton II (10 points, one rebound, one steal and two 3-pointers) gave the Warriors good minutes off the bench, but neither should be considered for more than a low-cost DFS roster filler at this point in the season. Both benefitted from Andre Iguodala being sidelined due to a hip injury.
Lakers 121, Grizzlies 118
Even though Ja Morant missed the free throw that would have tied the game at 119 in the final seconds, few will forget the show that he put on at Staples Center. Morant shot 13-of-21 from the field and 9-of-11 from the foul line, pumping in 40 points, with three rebounds, ten assists, three steals and five 3-pointers in 38 minutes. Yes, he turned the ball over six times. But that can be overlooked due to Morant’s overall line, including the 3-point shooting.
He was 5-of-7 Sunday night, improving to 8-of-18 on the season. By comparison, he shot 30.3% from three with an average of 1.2 makes per game last season. If Morant can get into the mid- to upper-30s with increased volume, his fantasy value would be considerably higher. For the sake of his 9-cat prospects, we’re hoping that he’ll prove Sunday’s six-turnover night to be a blip on the radar.
Desmond Bane (17/5/4/2 with two 3-pointers) and De’Anthony Melton (13/3/3/3 with three 3-pointers) continue to provide solid value as starters, while Jaren Jackson Jr. (12/5/0/1/2 with two 3-pointers) had a difficult time in his matchup with Anthony Davis. No shame in that, but Jackson has shot 3-of-12 from the field in two of Memphis’ three games played. Steven Adams (14/16/6 with four turnovers) had a couple costly drops down the stretch, but overall it was a good night for the veteran big. As he and Morant continue to improve their chemistry, Adams should prove to be a solid center in most fantasy leagues.
As for the Lakers, it was a big night for Carmelo Anthony. Now ranked ninth on the league’s all-time scoring list, as he passed the great Moses Malone, Anthony posted a line of 28 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal, two blocks and six 3-pointers in 28 minutes off the bench. While his long-term fantasy value may be up for debate in the eyes of some, Anthony is a must-have right now due to the Lakers’ health issues on the wings. This was his first full line of the season, but Melo is now 12-of-18 from beyond the arc. Managers in need of points and 3-pointers need to strongly consider Anthony, who (as of Sunday night) was rostered in just 27% of Yahoo leagues.
Davis (22/8/2/0/4 with one 3-pointer) bounced back from his 6-of-18 showing in Friday’s loss to the Suns, and Russell Westbrook (13/7/13/4 with one 3-pointer) posted his second double-double in as many games. But he wasn’t efficient in doing so, shooting 5-of-15 from the field and committing nine turnovers (he had eight in the prior two games, combined).
The inefficiency, especially when considering that Westbrook is sharing touches with Davis and LeBron James (19/6/6/2/2 with four 3-pointers), makes him a very tough sell in 9-cat leagues right now. And even in 8-cat formats, the percentages are tough to overlook. Whether you have Westbrook rostered, or are entertaining the possibility of pulling off a trade, patience is the best approach for the time being.