Milwaukee Bucks – Before tip-off, Coach Jason Kidd stated that depth was the team’s strength and he wouldn’t hesitate to play a 10 or 11 man rotation. Unfortunately for Fantasy owners, Kidd proved true to his word. Eleven Bucks players
saw the floor in the opener against the Hornets. However, as a breath of fresh air compared to ex-Coach Larry Drew, three players received over 30 minutes: Brandon Knight (39), Jabari Parker (37) and Khris Middleton (36). Before you get too excited, you should be aware that this game took overtime to get decided on a Kemba Walker signature step back jumper. Most notably in the rotation, John Henson and Ersan Ilyaosva only saw 12 minutes apiece. So moving forward, here should be your take away on the Milwaukee rotation: Knight and Parker are nightly locks, Larry Sanders is the center to own and everyone else (including O.J. Mayo, who scored 17 points in 24 minutes) will be frustrating on a nightly basis. Oh Milwaukee, some things will never change.
Brandon Jennings, PG, Detroit – My prediction in the offseason was that bricklayers Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith would eventually get on Coach Stan Van Gundy’s nerves. Apparently, it only took the preseason for that to hold true for Jennings. Van Gundy only allowed Jennings to play 20 minutes, during which he only took four shots. Considering he toned down his shot launching, it’s surprising his play led to a lack of minutes. D.J. Augustin played 28 minutes and was praised by his coach after the game. “I thought he was playing better than Brandon, I guess.” There’s no need to panic just yet, as it was just one game, but the competition for minutes is definitely concerning. Augustin was productive last season for the Bulls, and actually registered a higher player efficiency rating (PER) than Jennings. If Jennings’ minutes dip to the mid-20s he will prove to be a bust, considering the likely field goal percentage (FG percent) ahead. Wait for a big game and trade him if you can get Top-20 point guard (PG) value.
Norris Cole, PG, Miami – Cole drew the start in game number one and boy did he deliver. In 28 minutes, Cole hit 9 of 15 shots (3 of 7 from beyond the arc) and registered 23 points (PTS), three rebounds (REB) and two assists (AST). Cole’s minutes edged former starter Mario Chalmers’ 25 minutes and rookie Shabazz Napier’s 15. A three man rotation at the position is not great for Fantasy purposes, but Cole will be hard to sit if he continues to play like this. He’s much quicker than Chalmers and can get to the basket in a similar fashion to Napier. By the end of the year, I expect Napier to run away with the job, but until that point Cole is the guard to own here. Even when he was starting, Chalmers was mostly a steal specialist anyway. He can be avoided in most formats while Cole should be added in 12-team leagues.
Isaiah Thomas, PG, Phoenix – Okay, so maybe IT2 was too low in my initial rankings. Thomas put up 23 points on 9 of 11 shooting in just 20 minutes in the opener. In terms of minutes, this is not an encouraging sign. Fantasy owners became used to 30-plus minutes last season while he was the starter for the Kings. Playing time won’t be so plentiful in a rotation that also includes Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. In fact, Thomas even benefitted from Eric Bledsoe’s third quarter ejection in order to reach the 20-minute plateau. There’s no arguing that he’s an excellent NBA player. The ongoing challenge is going to be the opportunity (or lack thereof) he has been dealt by signing with Phoenix. Bledsoe may get a one game suspension, so in the short term Thomas is an excellent play. In limited minutes it cannot be expected for him to shoot at such an efficient clip at all times. This means he’ll likely be inconsistent and come nowhere close to his production from last season. Thomas, who will likely compete for sixth man of the year, is still a sell-high candidate if someone believes in this monster single-game performance.
Courtney Lee, SG, Memphis – As one of those players who gives you barely enough to roster, Courtney Lee followed pattern in the opener. The two steals were nice, but 14 PTS, one REB and 3 AST are nothing special. He played 36 minutes in order to produce these numbers and Vince Carter/Quincy Pondexter should assure that won’t continue. Lee contributed a block and two 3-pointers made (3PM), and his career numbers suggest he’s actually decent in both categories (1.4 3-pointers per 36 and 0.4 BLK per-36 mins). He’s one of those guys that’s not incredibly fun to own but can fill in during emergencies. If 11 PTS, one 3PM, 2.5 REB, less than two AST and one STL are what you are looking for, Lee will give it to you. If you’re looking for more production than that, look elsewhere despite the starting role and big minutes.
Ben McLemore, SG, Sacramento – For those Xclusive Edge Package subscribers: you read the opening few lines on Nik Stauskas in the sleeper guards article. For the others, here it is: “It’s becoming pretty clear that Ben McLemore is not part of Sacramento’s future plans. McLemore, in just his first NBA season, played 26.7 minutes per game, which seems encouraging. However, he shot just 37.6 percent from the field and 32 percent from beyond the arc.” He started the opener and played 26 minutes but his dynasty value continued to tumble. He missed all five shots and finished with zero PTS, two REB and a STL. The minutes were up but more performances like this will lead to more playing time for the rookie Stauskas, who also registered 26 minutes. If you can only roster one, it’s a pretty easy choice: Stauskas. McLemore’s college dominance and talent just isn’t transferring to the pro game.
Perry Jones III/Lance Thomas, SF, Oklahoma City – Who is Lance Thomas? He started his high school career at Scotch Plains-Fairwood High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey and…….just kidding. His full bio can be found on wikipedia if you really want the whole backstory. He played at Duke from 2006-2010 and won a championship with them in 2010. He went undrafted in 2010, and has spent time in both the D-League and China over the last four years. With all the injuries on the Thunder roster, Lance seems to be getting his first real chance in the league. He played 15 MPG in 2011 with the Hornets (now Pelicans) and 10.9 MPG in 2012. If Wednesday was any indication, Thomas will easily surpass those numbers, at least in the first month or so. The big problem is that Thomas was a ridiculous minus-25. No other player on the Thunder was worse than minus-14 in the team’s 106-89 loss to Portland. So, while his numbers looked good, Perry Jones’ plus-2 looked better to Scott Brooks. Jones only made one of nine shots but he started and also played 31 minutes. Thomas’ line looks much better but the large deficit contributed. Jones is not a great Fantasy option at this point in his career, but he’s more valuable than Thomas. The return of Reggie Jackson soon should limit the need for Thomas to score double-digit points. Although his opener was intriguing, he can be left for waivers and Perry Jones should be on your watch list (until Kevin Durant returns).
Marcus Morris, PF, Phoenix – The matchup versus the Lakers called for one of the Morris brothers as a must-start. It was not expected for Marcus to step up and be that brother. Surprisingly he did and finished with 29 minutes played, 21 PTS (8-14 shooting), one REB, one AST and one STL. The real takeaway should be the fact that he drew the start for the suspended P.J. Tucker and played more minutes than Miles Plumlee. Coach Jeff Hornacek seems to be holding true to his word that he’ll be fine with smaller lineups and will play the best players in order to win. After a monster start to the 2013-14 season, Plumlee faded quickly. Alex Len is probably the better long term option but Hornacek wants to win now. Both of the Morris twins will play big minutes and Plumlee will see the bench moving forward. It will take a specific matchup for Miles to play more minutes than Marcus. For this reason, Marcus can be added in deeper formats and Markieff Morris remains a must-own/start.
Ed Davis, PF/C, Los Angeles Lakers – Yesterday marks two eye opening performances in a row for the 25- year-old Davis to begin the season. The loss of Julius Randle assures Davis will have no choice but to play big minutes off the bench on a nightly basis. Jordan Hill has been known to get in foul trouble at times so there will be nights that he’ll surpass the 30 minute mark (like Wednesday). All these factors suggest plenty of optimism for Davis. With over 5700 career minutes to base his numbers on, Davis’ per-36 numbers project to 12 PTS, 10.2 REB, 0.9 STL and 1.6 BLK. There’s upside here, especially on a fast-paced team (ranked second in Hollinger’s pace factor last season) that will likely get blown out semi-regularly. When the starters are benched, Davis will be in. He’s got that Amir Johnson feel to his potential numbers, so add him and value him as the poor man’s version. Smile, Fantasy owners.
Jusuf Nurkic/JaVale McGee, C, Denver – Who was the leading rebounder per-minute in the NBA preseason (having played more than 12 minutes)? Not Andre Drummond, nor Dwight Howard, Kevin Love or DeAndre Jordan, but rather Jusuf Nurkic! Wait, what? Nurkic’s performance clearly caught the eye of his coach, as he worked his way into the rotation in game one. JaVale McGee was assumed by most to be the backup center, but Nurkic edged him out in minutes. Neither played much (13 minutes compared to 9). J.J. Hickson was a DNP-Coach’s Decision likely due to the knee injury he was battling in the preseason, but he’ll see more minutes at power forward if/when he’s activated. Right now, neither of these guys are worth owning outside of deep leagues and choosing one is difficult. McGee’s ridiculous block per minute numbers suggest he’d be the one to own if Mozgov were to go down. Nurkic would probably see the bulk of the minutes. This is just a wait and watch situation in most leagues, but thought the minute differential was at least worth noting.