Zach LaVine, PG, Minnesota – Flip Saunders shocked the Fantasy world when he announced that Zach LaVine would be starting in the absence of Ricky Rubio instead of Mo Williams. Flip held true to his word last night, as LaVine started, played a team-high 34 minutes and dished out nine assists. After recommending Mo Williams earlier in the week, I have no choice but to backtrack. The Wolves, currently sitting at 2-5 and 13th in the West, appear to prefer giving the minutes to the kid (which makes a lot of sense). Do not let expectations get out of hand just yet, as LaVine’s college numbers were nothing spectacular and neither have his pro numbers been thus far (until last night’s game). Learning the game while playing against the best in the world is no easy task. LaVine averaged 9.4 points per game (PPG) with 1.3 three-pointers made (3PM), 2.5 rebounds per game (RPG), 1.8 assists per game (APG), 0.9 steals per game (SPG) and 0.3 blocks per game (BPG) in just under 24.5 minutes per game (MPG). All of this came with a 20.1 percent usage rate (USG%) which is bound to rise in the Timberwolves’ offense sans Rubio for seven to eight weeks. The minutes will be there but he’s not going to be a dominant scorer, and may have his minutes scaled back if he continues to shoot 31.3 percent. Williams gives them the better chance to win, so he may factor more into closer games. Expect northwards of 30 MPG with sporadic production, although, the assists and steals should be pretty consistent. He’s a temporary role player for Fantasy teams, especially the ones who lost Rubio.
Donald Sloan, PG, Indiana – Apparently A.J. Price’s 22 point outburst on Monday night was a bit of an anomaly. That same Monday night showdown against the Jazz was also Sloan’s worst showing by far, so it appeared the tables were
turning in terms of minutes. However, Sloan recovered nicely last night by producing 15 points (PTS), six rebounds (REB), three assists (AST) and one steal (STL). He also converted on three of his five three-point attempts. It’s hard to expect consistency from a guy who has never played over 24.3 minutes in any situation at an NBA level until now. He only has until C.J. Watson comes back to fully audition for a spot in the rotation. Watson was higher on the depth chart to begin the year, and 14, five and five should not be enough to change Frank Vogel’s mind. Still, he’s worth hanging onto just in case, and is a must-start in yearly leagues until/if Watson ever overtakes him.
Anthony Morrow, SG, Oklahoma City – Three words: lights out shooter. Morrow has always been a guy that can flat out shoot, but now the decimated Thunder need all the help they can get in just about every aspect of the game. A career 43 percent three-point shooter is shooting 83.3 percent so far so that number is naturally going to come crashing back down to Earth. The same size is incredibly small (two games) but all signs point to a well above average stretch (compared to his career numbers) on the horizon. His usage rate is five percent higher than ever before, he’s averaging the most rebounds per minute of his career and he’s coming off a game where he played 32 minutes. The last time he averaged 32 minutes was 2010 where he averaged 13.2 PPG, 1.9 3PM, 3.0 REB, 1.0 AST and 0.7 STL. Factor in the usage rate increase combined with a better situation for his Fantasy production and we could be looking at 17 PPG, 2.5 3PM and a STL for the foreseeable future. The minutes will be there, although, Jeremy Lamb isn’t as bad as he has shown the last few games. Drop Lamb to get Morrow, though, if you are deciding between the two.
Gerald Green, SG/SF, Phoenix – Coach Jeff Hornacek has stated his commitment time and time again to playing a small lineup including two to three of his star point guards, and yet, Gerald Green has averaged 23.5 PPG the last two games. Green, who showed vast improvement last season largely while Bledsoe was injured, is continuing to prove his worth to the team. The amazing part is that he’s averaging 15 PPG in just 21.6 MPG on 41.5 percent FG! On a per-36 minute basis, that means he’s taking almost 20 shots with a full allotment of minutes. “Afraid” is not a word in his vocabulary but there aren’t many more minutes to go around in the rotation. Maybe he climbs up to around 23 MPG, but he’s destined for inconsistency even with all the shots he takes. If you can sell high for another player who’s 15 PPG will be more consistent, I would certainly entertain that offer. Minutes are the only thing holding Green back, though, so he would take a giant leap in overall value if one of the guards were to go down.
Arron Afflalo, SG/SF, Denver – Afflalo has gone from one of the biggest breakouts in 2013-14 to…..BENCHED! Coach Brain Shaw has turned this once proud franchise into a dumpster fire thus far. Denver is 1-6 and allowing 111.1 PPG. After trading Evan Fournier to get Afflalo back, the thought was they’d allow him to play the big minutes and shine like he had the previous two seasons. His minutes would be the lowest he’s registered per game since 2009 if they continue. Now is a perfect time to buy low on Arron because he’s not this bad. The rotation will stabilize and he should be one of the few on this team getting consistent production. Expectations (including minutes projection) should be somewhat tempered from last season because he likely won’t come close to 18 PPG.
Enes Kanter, PF/C, Utah Jazz – It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s………a Mehmet Okur wannabe? Kanter’s minutes are down compared to last season (as I had previously predicted), however, his Fantasy value has appreciated. How? Staying true to his word, Kanter has incorporated the three ball into his repertoire and is scoring more partially because of it. Maybe the added motivation of Rudy Gobert developing as an NBA-caliber defender is fueling Kanter’s fire. Sadly Kanter’s defensive rating has actually worsened this season, as he’s allowing an estimated two more points per 100 possessions. If Kanter can continue to hit nearly 2.0 threes per game, he’ll be the most valuable he’s been in his career despite 25-ish minutes per game. The 18.6 PP36 suggest more minutes could take him to the next level but, more than likely, his defense will cause him to sit more in the near future. The team really should be exploring both Derrick Favors and Gobert on the court at the same time and see how defensively dominant the frontcourt can be. If they commit to that lineup, they could be the poor man’s Pelicans (and that’s a really really good thing).