Things to ponder three weeks into the season
*In watching Giannis Antetokounmpo twice this past week, I’m convinced he could lead the league in scoring this season. The one thing previously keeping him from becoming one of the truly elite players was a more-refined offensive game that he has taken to another level. Antetokounmpo is shooting 62.4 percent from the field due in part to his increased commitment to scoring inside. He has taken 55 percent of his shots within three feet of the basket, an increase of 49 percent from last season, while also reducing his percentage of 3-pointers attempted per night from 14.6 percent to 10.1 percent.
He’s also become more proficient from mid-range, hitting 44.4 percent of his shots between 10-16 feet. The offseason of honing his shot from that distance has translated as Antetokounmpo has attempted 8.3 percent of his shots from 10-16 feet, up from last season’s 6.4 percent. Granted, five games is a small sample size, but Antetokounmpo’s numbers and his desire to become an MVP-caliber performer justifies why he should have been one of the first three players off most draft boards regardless of format.
*Nuggets G Jamal Murray’s ADP was 115, as many envisioned he would be among the top candidates for a second-year breakout. Thus far, his numbers suggest he’s going to need Lawyers, Guns and Money to get loose.
Among the 408 players who had hit the court this season, Murray’s 3.9 PER is ranked 352nd. He’s the owner of the fifth-worst PER among players who had garnered at least 100 minutes entering Sunday’s play, trailing the Knicks’ Tim Hardaway, Jr. (0.8), J.R. Smith of the Cavs (1.1), Patty Mills of the Spurs (1.1) and the Grizzlies’ Andrew Harrison (3.6). Murray’s 28.8 field goal percentage has been the biggest culprit of his malaise that is made much worse by his “he couldn’t hit the Rocky Mountains even if you put him in the middle of them” accuracy from beyond the arc. He’s hit just two of his first 21 3-point attempts (9.5 percent) and has offered little on either side of the court.
That said, he’s sitting deep into the buy low category or is likely sitting on the waiver wire and can be had for cheap. The talent is too good and the Nuggets have committed to keeping Murray in the lineup for the time being. Denver is in play for a possible trade of Suns PG Eric Bledsoe, so keep an eye on that situation while also looking to see if Murray’s play perks up to expectations.
Most Fantasy-Friendly Matchups of the Week
Warriors at Clippers, Monday: Just because Chris Paul isn’t around doesn’t mean this won’t be the usual up-tempo late night filled with bushels of treys and dunks. DeAndre Jordan isn’t scoring much (nine points per game), but there will be more than enough shots attempted for him to stay close to his league-best 17.4 rebounds per game.
Pacers at Cavaliers, Wednesday: Life after Paul George has been bountiful on the offensive side for Indiana, which came into Sunday’s play averaging 114 points per game. The fourth-highest scoring team in the league travels to meet a Cavs squad ranked 10th at 106.3. The Myles Turner breakout is real (provided he’s healthy) as the third-year big is ripping it at a 31.9 PER clip as he faces Cavs center Kevin Love, whose 22.4 PER is nothing to sneeze at.
Thunder at Trail Blazers (Sunday): OKC’s Big Three of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George hit the Pacific Northwest to take on one the budding trio of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. Scoring won’t be an issue here.
Matchups to Exploit
Goran Dragic (Heat) vs. Timberwolves, Monday: Per 100 possessions, Minnesota owns the league’s worst defense at 116.9 points. The Heat are just 17th in offensive rating, yet Saturday’s loss to the Celtics was the first time this season Miami failed to score at least 100 points. Expect Dragic to be a key reason why they’ll start a new streak of hitting the century mark.
Suns at Nets, Tuesday: Phoenix is dead last in points allowed per game. Brooklyn is 29th. This is the best stack game of the young season, making players on both teams must-starts.
Clint Capela (Rockets) at Knicks, Wednesday: New York is last in rebounding per game as Kristaps Porzingis is the only Knicks player showing signs of effectively hitting the glass. Capela is averaging 10.8 rebounds per night and has pushed his blocked shots per game to nearly two per night as he has become one of the early season’s biggest Fantasy breakouts.
Best One-on-One Matchups This Week
Devin Booker vs. Beal (Suns at Wizards, Wednesday): Friday’s 34-point outing at the Trail Blazers was only the second time this season Booker shot better than 50 percent from the field, but his True Shooting Percentage (53.9) is on par with his career numbers. Beal is averaging 20.4 points per game despite shooting under 24 percent from beyond the arc. If both bring their A-games, this will be fun to watch.
Nurkic vs. Rudy Gobert (Trail Blazers at Jazz, Wednesday): Nurkic’s poor start from the field is overshadowed by the fact he comes into the week with four straight games with at least seven rebounds. The Stifle Tower was on full display this past week with 11 blocks while averaging 9.7 boards in his three games.
Kyrie Irving vs. Westbrook (Celtics at Thunder, Friday): Irving comes into the week with four straight games of at least 20 points. Westbrook had two triple-doubles this past week. Watch and enjoy.
TEAMS WITH FOUR GAMES
Celtics, Mavericks, Nuggets, Rockets, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Knicks, Magic, Suns, Trail Blazers, Spurs, Raptors, Jazz
TEAMS WITH THREE GAMES
Hawks, Bulls, Cavaliers, Pistons, Warriors, Bucks, Thunder, 76ers, Kings, Wizards
TEAMS WITH TWO GAMES