Fantasy Basketball: One Reaction to All 30 NBA Teams' First Game
We, as NBA pundits and fans, spent the entire summer tirelessly analyzing, predicting, projecting, and prognosticating about every single team in the Association and the league as a whole. As sure as we thought we were about our conclusions, it took roughly 48 minutes of actual, real-life basketball to tear everything down.
Up to this point, all 30 teams in the NBA have played at least once (with the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets being the only teams that have played twice). With only 48-ish minutes of basketball in the books for each team, we urge you not to overreact when it comes to managing your fantasy squads. Questions have already started to pour in about dropping/selling studs and adding/buying nobodies and we are staging an intervention.
Granted, some things have actually changed based on injuries and how teams are using certain guys, but the point is that we should always consider the well-thought-out analysis from the months preceding the season when deciding how we react after one measly game. Let's not jump to too many conclusions.
In an attempt to distinguish between the truths and myths of the early fantasy basketball season, here are some (mostly) reasonable takes about each of the NBA's 30 teams from a fantasy perspective.
Ignore Marco Belinelli
Marco Belinelli admittedly went ham in the Hawks' first game with a line of 20 points, 4 triples, 3 boards, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Don't rush to add him, however, as the Hawks used a 12-man rotation (good luck predicting that) and Marco hasn't been a fantasy-relevant guy once in his 10-year career.
Buy/Add Jaylen Brown
Gordon Hayward is likely out for the season after suffering a gruesome ankle injury on opening night and possible sophomore breakout Jaylen Brown looks ready to pick up a lot of the slack for the Boston Celtics. Through two games, Brown looks legit with averages of 21.5 points, 2.0 threes, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.5 turnovers per contest. With a shooting split of 50.0% from the field and 71.4% from the free throw line, he needs to be owned by any means necessary.
Add Allen Crabbe & Caris LeVert
Jeremy Lin is done for the season with a ruptured patellar tendon, so either Allen Crabbe or Caris LeVert should take his spot in the starting lineup. Both Crabbe (12 points, 2 triples, 7 boards, an assist, 2 steals, a block, and 2 turnovers in 26.8 minutes) and LeVert (12 points, a triple, 2 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals, a block, and a turnover in 27.8) stuffed the stat sheet in Brooklyn's first game, so both look like solid adds until we see what's up.
Add Jeremy Lamb
Nicolas Batum is out for six-to-eight weeks with a torn ligament in his left elbow and Jeremy Lamb is taking his spot in Charlotte's starting five. In the first game of the season, Lamb scored 15 points, while adding 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal in 28.4 minutes, and looks like a good bet for standard-league value for at least as long as Batum is out.
Add Lauri Markkanen
Rookie Lauri Markkanen was not projected as the starter for the Chicago Bulls to begin this season, but an altercation between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis left Mirotic hospitalized and Portis suspended for eight games. Markkanen slid into the starting five on Thursday night, scoring 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting, with 2 triples, 8 boards, and a block. He'll have plenty of opportunity over the next couple weeks and should be owned everywhere.
Buy LeBron James
LeBron James slides further and further down fantasy draft boards with each passing year, but he really shouldn't. He looked ready to rule the post-Kyrie era and take a shot at another MVP award on opening night, exploding for 29 points, a triple, 16 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, and 4 turnovers in 41.2 minutes, while shooting 63.2% from the field and 4-for-4 from the line. His decline has to come eventually, but it ain't here yet.
Buy Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel is coming off the bench for the Mavericks (for some reason), but that didn't stop him from going for 16 points, 11 boards, a steal, and 3 blocks in less than 20 minutes on Wednesday night. If Noel's owner in your league is concerned about the bench role, make sure you pounce with a trade offer. Worst case, he gives you lines like that one in limited time, best case, he gets completely unleashed and realizes his early-round upside.
Hold Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray underwhelmed in the first game of the season (8 points on 2-for-6 shooting, 2 threes, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 turnovers in 20 minutes), but the important thing to keep in mind is that he got the start at point guard over Emmanuel Mudiay. He still has a great opportunity to break out this year, with the inside track to regular minutes and a very fantasy-friendly game. Don't make any rash decisions about him just yet.
Hold Tobias Harris
You might be tempted to sell high on Tobias Harris after a huge first game (27 points on 11-for-18 shooting, 4 threes, 10 boards, 3 assists, and only 1 turnover), but it's wiser to just pat yourself on the back for the mid- to late-round steal on draft day and reap the benefits yourself. Harris has always had big fantasy potential when healthy and getting minutes, and the stars seem to be perfectly aligned in both those areas to start this new campaign.
Golden State Warriors
Ignore Nick Young
After seeing Nick Young rack up 23 points on 8-for-9 shooting, 6 triples, and 2 rebounds in 26.0 minutes off the Warriors' bench on opening night, many people are rushing to waiver wires to add him. Let's not forget that sixth-man Andre Iguodala sat that game out with a sore back and Young is just a career 41.9% shooter. The chances that Swaggy P can maintain consistent fantasy value in his current bench role on a star-studded Dubs squad are pretty slim.
Buy Chris Paul
Chris Paul didn't shoot the ball particularly well in his first game as a member of the Houston Rockets (4 points on 2-for-9 shooting from the field), but he still filled up the box score, amassing 8 boards, 11 dimes, 2 steals, and a block. He then missed the Rockets' second game due to a sore knee, so his stock is pretty low by his standards right now, and you might be able to get him at a discount. CP3 has been a top-10 fantasy asset every season since 2006-07, so it's pretty safe to bet on his bouncing back.
Buy Myles Turner
This might be your last chance to acquire Myles Turner before he cements himself as one of the best centers in fantasy hoops. Turner was a beast in his first game of the season, putting up 21 points, a triple, 14 boards, 2 dimes, 4 blocks, and only 1 turnover, while shooting 8-for-13 from the field and a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. He's now The Man in Indiana, thus Turner's upside is massive, so you need to at least see what it would take to get him before one awesome game becomes several.
Los Angeles Clippers
Buy Danilo Gallinari
Danilo Gallinari struggled to find his shot a little bit in his first game as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers (3-for-13 from the field for 11 points), but he gave owners plenty of fantasy goodies otherwise, with 2 triples, 5 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals, a block, and no turnovers. The positive thing is that he was second on the team in minutes (33.1), so he should have plenty of opportunity to outplay his late-round average draft position (ADP) as the season goes on.
Los Angeles Lakers
Hold Lonzo Ball
Lonzo Ball was a bit of a dud in his NBA debut, putting up a line of 3 points, 1 triple, 9 boards, 4 assists, a steal, a block, and 2 turnovers, while shooting 1-for-6 from the field and 0-for-2 from the line. He was 3rd on the team in minutes, however, and had known pest Patrick Beverley draped all over him from the jump. He should get plenty of opportunity to thrive this season, and little bumps like this one shouldn't keep you from valuing him as the high-upside rookie that he is. Don't overreact.
Add Dillon Brooks
Dillon Brooks was the 45th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, but he had one of the best debut games of any rookie this season, scoring 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field and 5-for-7 from the line, while tossing in 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks, and 2 turnovers. He was tied with Marc Gasol for 2nd on the team in minutes (29.4) and could be in for a solid opportunity with starting power forward JaMychal Green sidelined for several weeks.
Add Kelly Olynyk
Kelly Olynyk appears to be the starting power forward for the Miami Heat this season, and his game is fantasy-friendly enough that that opportunity should put him on your radar. In a mere 21 minutes on opening night, Olynyk scored 10 points on 3-for-7 shooting from the field and 3-for-3 from the line, while adding a triple, 5 boards, and 3 assists. He's not a top priority on your waiver wire, but a solid option if it's been picked clean.
Enjoy Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo currently holds the league's season-high for points scored in a single game with 37 from the Bucks' season opener, and he tossed in 13 boards, 3 dimes, and 3 steals for good measure. No matter which pick you got him at in fantasy drafts from first overall onward, you're going to have fun owning him this season.
Sell Andrew Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins was impressive with 26 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the field on opening night for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he rounded out his predictably empty line out with only 5 boards, an assist, and nothing else. This serves as a reminder that Wiggins is nothing more than a high-volume scorer and an overrated fantasy asset because of his inability to give you anything else of value outside of points. Sell high on the high-scoring performance.
New Orleans Pelicans
Hold/Buy Jrue Holiday
Jrue Holiday put up a dud in his first game of this season, scoring only four points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field, while adding 6 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal, and 3 turnovers. Don't sweat it: Holiday's been a mid- to early-round asset in each of the last seven seasons when healthy and will bounce back pretty quickly.
New York Knicks
Hold Tim Hardaway Jr.
Tim Hardaway Jr. wasn't that great in the Knicks' opener, scoring only 8 points on 3-for-10 shooting from the field, while adding a mere 2 threes and an assist to round out an otherwise empty line. He flashed top-100 upside with a reserve role on the Atlanta Hawks last year, however, and the Knicks are paying him enough that it's hard to believe that he won't be more involved and productive going forward. Don't give up on him just yet.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Buy Steven Adams
Oklahoma City's studs (Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony) were predictably studly in their first game together, but it was Steven Adams' performance that stood out. Adams hit all five of his shots from the field and 2-for-3 from the line for 12 points, while adding a plethora of goodies in his 5 boards, 1 assist, 5 steals, and 3 blocks. The Thunder will need Adams' help on defense, so he should get plenty of minutes and therefore lots of opportunity to give fantasy owners a double-double with some defensive numbers on a nightly basis.
Buy Aaron Gordon
Aaron Gordon plays very well from a fantasy perspective when the Magic use him at his natural position of power forward. In the first game of the season, he flashed his potential as a nine-category threat, amassing 14 points, a three, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 sole turnover. The 4-for-13 shooting from the field wasn't that great, but the career 45.9% shooter should even out a bit there (and the 5-for-6 mark from the line was solid as well). The most encouraging thing in all this is that Gordon was 2nd on the team in shot attempts at 13, trailing only Evan Fournier's 17. The Magic look ready to lean more heavily on Gordon this year and his breakout potential is huge.
Buy Robert Covington
All the focus in Philadelphia is on the youngsters Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz, but Robert Covington has one of the most fantasy-friendly games in the league and shouldn't be overlooked. He gives the Sixers some much needed floor-spacing, is a solid defender, and grabs his fair share of boards as well, so he'll definitely get the necessary minutes to be a stud. He went off in the first game of the season for 29 points on 9-for-15 shooting, 7 triples, 7 boards, an assist, a steal, and 2 blocks. He won't give you that every game, but that kind of nine-category gem of a line is a perfect example of what he's capable of on any given night. If anyone thinks they're selling high on him, make them look silly.
Hold Marquese Chriss
The Phoenix Suns got demolished by 48 points in their first game, so you can pretty much throw out that one. There are lots of questions coming in about dropping Marquese Chriss after he managed just 2 points, a rebound, and a block through 12.1 minutes in the opener, so we're here to talk you off that ledge. Chriss was close to a top-100 player over the last two months of last season in only 26.7 minutes per game and is still only 20-years-old. If you're concerned that he didn't start, I'll remind you again that the Suns lost by 48 frickin' points, and I doubt they're tied to their starting five from here to game 82. Give the kid a bit more leash here, or you might regret it.
Portland Trail Blazers
Hold Jusuf Nurkic
Speaking of the Suns getting blown out by 48, it came at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers, so you can pretty much throw out all the stats on their side of the box score too. Jusuf Nurkic only played 23 minutes, and his 2-for-7 shooting from the field and 5 turnovers were a turnoff, but the low-end 11-point, 11-rebound double-double with an assist and a steal still showed what he's capable of. Give him a full complement of minutes and things should go right back to normal. Don't sell him off in any kind of panic.
Buy Willie Cauley-Stein
Willie Cauley-Stein looked like the real deal in the Kings' season opener, racking up 21 points, 10 boards, 1 assist, 3 blocks, and only 1 turnover, while shooting 10-for-15 from the field and 1-for-2 from the charity stripe. The first full season of WCS starting for the Kings looks like it'll be a fun one, so you should want all the shares of his stock that you can get. If an owner in your league is trying to sell high, pounce.
San Antonio Spurs
Add Danny Green
Danny Green has ranked outside the top-100 in nine-category leagues in each of the last two seasons, but he was a mid- to early-round asset in each of the four seasons prior to that. His performance of 17 points on 7-for-16 shooting, 3 threes, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 2 turnovers is a healthy reminder of what a darling he can be in nine-category fantasy leagues. It should be noted that he pulled this off in a game in which Kawhi Leonard was absent, but I'd still want to pick him up and see if he's truly returned to form. The upside is proven and very tantalizing.
Add Norman Powell
Norman Powell started for the Raptors on Thursday night, played 24.6 minutes (which likely would've been higher had it not been a blowout), and put up a line of 15 points, 3 triples, 4 rebounds, an assist, and a steal. If that role and kind of production continues, he should be owned in all standard-sized leagues.
Buy Ricky Rubio
Ricky Rubio's fresh start in Utah wasn't perfect, but there was still plenty to like. He only shot 3-for-9 from the field and 2-for-3 from the free throw line, but the 9 points, 1 three, 5 rebounds, 10 assists, and 2 steals show just how great he is at stuffing the stat sheet. His shooting has actually improved over the last half a year or so -- he shot 41.6% over the last three months of last season -- so he'll be a fantasy beast if he can put it all together. If you can buy low on this somewhat off first game, you should do so.
Sell Marcin Gortat
Marcin Gortat had an amazing first game of the season, racking up 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting, 17 boards, an assist, and 3 blocks in a healthy 34.4 minutes. Still, this is the same guy that ranked 219th over the last two months of last season in a mere 24.7 minutes per contest. When the Wizards get Markieff Morris back from injury and play smaller and faster teams than the 76ers, Gortat will become borderline obsolete at times. Sell high while the sellin' is good.