We don’t need the fourth Thursday in November to celebrate the things we are thankful for, a realization that hit me earlier this week when a shot of a fresh out of the freezer Coca-Cola exploded through my nose upon reading the text, “Hey B. How are the kids doing?”
(Kids? Me? Uh….um…no…I’ve made it 44 years without having a child, and considering the state of affairs in my dating world, it’s 90-10 I’ll commit to Bachelor U on National Signing Day. I’m considered a four-star recruit and will be one of the huge signees good ‘ol BU will bring in.)
What the text actually meant was about this year’s rookie class and how they’re faring in Fantasy hoops as we approach the quarter turn of the season; which means it’s time to throw some Sonny Rollins on and have fun with PER (Player Efficiency Rating for you newbies. Since I’m somewhat in the Christmas spirit, I’ll even help you learn what it means).
With apologies to Celtics forward Jordan Mickey, whose robust five minutes of playing time resulted in a PER of 66.2, we’ll focus our attention on those rookies who have actually recorded significant time, which allows us to get a better gauge on how they’re faring:
Karl-Anthony Towns, PF/C, Timberwolves (21.9 PER)
The only rookie to cross the 20 PER barrier, Special K has exceeded his average draft value of 50.7, as his 9.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks have enhanced his 15.3 points per game. Towns has also shocked us with his free throw shooting, which was a question entering the season, by nailing nearly 81 percent of his trips to the line. His offensive rating of 107 is impressive, but it shouldn’t take long before his defensive rating of 99 hits triple-digits. Even scarier: his near 44 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Entering Thursday, Towns was the 17th best player in Fantasy basketball, ranking ahead of first rounders’ Chris Paul and John Wall.
If you grabbed him early in a keeper/dynasty league, we salute you, as Towns could well become an Anthony Davis-caliber performer very soon while also becoming a high-end buy in DFS formats.
Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Knicks (19.9 PER)
His bandwagon gets stuffed by the game, as the ‘Zinger just missed joining Towns in the cool kid’s club. The struggles will continue, but Porzingis has shown he’s not a Jeremy Lin-like flash in the pan that teases long-suffering Knicks fans. Perhaps most impressive about his work is his 8.7 rebounds per game, a bit of a surprise considering many pundits felt he lacked the bulk to mix it up down in the blocks on a nightly basis. That he’s shooting 53.5 percent from 16 feet and beyond is a strong indication Porzingis has the makings of an elite scorer. Once he improves his 34 percent shooting from three-point range, he will become a Top-25 pick, perhaps as early as next year.
Oh, he’s more than exceeded his ADP of 136.5, as Porzingis is rated as the 38th best player in Fantasy hoops, putting him just ahead of teammate Carmelo Anthony (41st overall). It’s not a stretch to say this is the last season ‘Melo is the first Knicks player off the boards. Already in the $7,500-$8,000 range in DFS formats, Porzingis will likely clear the 20 PER hurdle and remain there for quite some time.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Nets (13.8 PER)
The PER elevator took an uneasy ride down and nearly plummeted before landing on Jefferson, who was put on the dry dock this week after fracturing his right ankle. That’s well below average, especially since Hollis-Jefferson had worked his way into the starting lineup. While averaging just 5.2 points per game, RHJ was shooting a respectable 48.1 percent from the field, but it was his defensive presence that the Nets will miss, as he was recording 1.4 steals per game and pulling in 6.1 rebounds. He left ranked eighth in the NBA in steals percentage and seventh in defensive plus/minus, which leads one to think that he can become something like a Kawhi Leonard-caliber player in the next few years.
With the Nets heading nowhere fast — a fall made more painful by the fact that the Celtics own their first round pick — the loss of Hollis-Jefferson cost them the chance to further bolster his game. While he may not have made much of a Fantasy impact in one-year leagues, his return is worth watching for his keeper/dynasty owners.
Jahlil Okafor, C, 76ers (13.8 PER)
With an ADP of 92.7, Okafor has been a disappointment of sorts, ranking 179th overall. The 16.9 points and 1.5 blocked shots per game are about what we expected, yet the 7.9 rebounds and 44.9 field goal percentage is a letdown, especially the latter, considering the 6’11”, 275-pounder is supposed to make his living inside five feet from the basket.
Provided he avoids a defense of his Bare Knuckle Champion of Late Night Boston, Okafor has room to improve, mainly his choice and range of shooting. He belongs in most lineups, and I can see him building that PER into the 15-16 neck of the woods before the season ends.
Devin Booker, SG, Suns (13.6 PER)
Clip ‘N Save on Booker, who is beginning to see more time in the Suns’ rotation. He’s averaged 18 minutes per game in six of the last seven contests, including three games of 22 minutes or more. While the Suns are set (ouch…bad pun!) with Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight in the backcourt, few players in this draft class are brimming with talent like Booker, who is in the perfect offense for his skills. His offensive rating of 120 per 100 possessions is off the charts exciting, and his defensive rating of 108 shows he can be a solid stopper.
If the Suns can work more minutes for Booker (or if either Bledsoe or Knight goes down), he’s someone worth grabbing in deeper leagues. Booker is also a high risk/high reward player in DFS if you like taking wild guesses on how much Jeff Hornacek plans to use him that night.
Willie Cauley-Stein, PF/C, Kings (13.6 PER): He wasn’t getting too many minutes (18.1) before he dislocated his right finger, which will cost him six weeks. You have to be encouraged about his 60.6 field goal percentage, though.
Myles Turner, C, Pacers (13.5 PER): Could return late this month after breaking his left hand early last month. Blocked shots are there, but his 6.5 rebounds per 36 minutes are a bit of a letdown.
D’Angelo Russell, PG/SG, Lakers (12.4 PER): Comes into Thursday with double-digit scoring in four of his last five games. How nice of Byron Scott to actually play the second overall pick in the draft. He’ll become a Fantasy factor as the season goes on.
Nemanja Bjelica, PF, Timberwolves (12.1 PER): The ‘Wolves have themselves a legit sniper (117 offensive rating per 100 possessions), but his injury and the team’s depth up front have curbed his minutes. I liked him as a deep sleeper heading into the season, and while he doesn’t belong on a standard league roster now, Bjelica is worth keeping on deeper league rosters, as he could break out if given starter’s minutes.
Clearing the Bench
*Consider this a call out to Wolverine Studios, who will be launching DraftDay Sports: Pro Basketball 2016 either late this month or early next year. I’m still looking for the best basketball computer simulation, and they could be the answer. Grey Dog Software has Fast Break Pro Basketball 2013, and based on its features, could also be a contender (Not sure if there will be an update on it, but they do put out a college basketball game as well). Again, I promise to dedicate column space here to review, so let’s see what you’ve got, guys.
*It’s 77 degrees and sunny as I write this, so pardon me if I’m not in the mood for Christmas music.
*Somehow, I don’t think the doctors will clear me to attempt to make the roster of a semipro football team. Still feel there’s something left in the tank as my 45th approaches.
*Then again, finding a flag football league would be a happy median.
*Do I really want to purchase an iPad Pro?
*Night time in Astoria, Oregon is as perfect a moment in time you’ll ever experience, especially when the weather is cooler.
*Now I’m babbling. I’ll stop now.