Separating Myth From Reality After Two Days of Fantasy Basketball
Well, that escalated quickly.
NBA fans and pundits alike have spent the last several months predicting and projecting the heck out of this NBA season, just to have everything turned on its head after 17 regular season games. There were plenty of reactions and overreactions to the three games played on Tuesday night, but after last night's 14-game slate, we're officially swimming in more of both than we could possibly even address.
For the sake of fantasy owners frantically trying to capitalize on people's overreacting to the first two nights of basketball, let's try to distinguish which performances are the most likely to be sustainable (which ones represent reality), versus which ones are aberrations that are unlikely to continue (we'll call those situations myths).
C.J. McCollum is currently the 2nd-ranked player in nine-category leagues.
Man, C.J. McCollum absolutely balled out in his first game of the season against the New Orleans Pelicans. He scored a career-high 37 points (including 22 in the first quarter), nailed 6 triples, grabbed 6 boards, added an assist and a steal, and didn't turn the ball over even once. He's been one of the most hyped-up players in fantasy hoops going into this season as a sleeper/breakout candidate, and he made everyone who tooted his horn this summer look extra smart in game number one.
Verdict: Reality - Sure, McCollum won't continue to put up a shooting split of 63.6% from the field, 66.7% from deep, and 100.0% from the line (he's at 43.7%/39.9%/70.0% for his career), and he'll probably turn the ball over at least a few times this season (2.0 per 36 minutes over his first two campaigns). That said, he's in for a huge role with the new-look Portland Trail Blazers as easily one of the best offensive options next to Damian Lillard, and he showed signs of this kind of potential in last year's playoffs and this year's preseason to back up the monster start. His 28.5% Usage Rate from the first game probably isn't way off reality either, and while he won't put up first-round numbers like this on an everyday basis, he could be a very solid early- to mid-round value by season's end. Go ahead and trade him for an early-round stud if you can, but otherwise, pat yourself on the back for a mid- to late-round selection well spent and enjoy the incoming points, threes, steals, and low turnovers.
Hassan Whiteside only played 20.0 minutes in the Heat season opener and looks like a bust.
Hassan Whiteside did not have a good start to the season. He only played 20 minutes in the opener versus Charlotte, hitting two of his four shots from the field for four points, while adding six boards, two blocks, and committing two turnovers and three fouls. He looked lost for long stretches, and those who were worried that he would turn into a pumpkin this season after his out-of-nowhere breakout last year felt like their fears were justified after this showing.
Verdict: Myth - Whiteside is not the next coming of Hakeem Olajuwon. Always keep that in mind when you're evaluating his third-round finish in nine-category leagues last season. With that said, he is someone who can give you plenty of fantasy goodness in limited minutes. Talk of coach Erik Spoelstra limiting Whiteside's playing time to 20-25 minutes this year caused his fantasy stock to drop a little, despite the fact that he was the 36th-ranked player in nine-category leagues last year in only 23.8 minutes per game. Yes, with healthier versions of Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts around in the Heat frontcourt, Whiteside's bound to lose a few touches, but you don't draft him for his points anyway. As long as he's in the rotation, the monster boards, blocks, field goal percentage, and low turnovers will be there. Don't panic just yet. It's not like Udonis Haslem is going to take that many of his minutes.
Nikola Mirotic is starting for the Chicago Bulls and playing like an All-Star through two games.
After a summer of speculation, Nikola Mirotic was ultimately added to the Chicago Bulls' starting lineup in place of Joakim Noah and has stuck there for two games so far. Mirotic has made his new coach, Fred Hoiberg, look good for making the decision, as the Bulls are 2-0 and Niko is averaging 18.5 points, 3.5 triples, 9.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 3.0 turnovers per contest, while shooting 52.4% from the field and a perfect 8-for-8 from the line.
Verdict: Reality - There's still a lot of debate about whether or not it's right to relegate the Bulls' heart and soul in Noah to a bench role, but all signs point to this being Mirotic's job to lose. With the injury history of both Noah and other Bulls big Pau Gasol in mind, there's little reason to think that Niko won't be called on for close to 30 minutes per night from here on out, regardless of whether he starts or not. He tore up fantasy after the All-Star Break last season and hasn't lost a step this year.
Dennis Schroder outplayed Jeff Teague in the Hawks' first game of the season and is currently the 16th-ranked player in nine-category leagues.
The Hawks suffered a disappointing loss in their first game of the season, dropping one to the Detroit Pistons. Jeff Teague wasn't all that great in 31.9 minutes, posting 18 points (7-for-16 from the field, 1-for-3 from deep), 2 rebounds, and 4 assists, but failing to record a single defensive stat and turning the ball over a whopping 5 times. Meanwhile, Dennis Schroder put up a much more efficient 20 points (8-for-14 from the field, 2-for-5 from deep), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and only committed a single turnover. As a result, Schroder is currently the 16th-ranked player in nine-category leagues, while Teague is the 242nd.
Verdict: Myth - Schroder is good and all, and he'll surely be a good sixth man for his team, but you don't need to drop anything of value to scoop him up off your waiver wire. Teague will be much better, while Schroder's performances will be inconsistent behind him at best. Schroder finished as the 243rd-ranked player in nine-category leagues last year in almost 20 minutes per game, and even a few more looks per contest won't fix that overnight. The assists and free throw percentage are nice, but there's not much else to like in his line in his current role. Teague is projected as our 14th-ranked fantasy player for the rest of the season, so don't panic on him at all. Schroder is still a respectable option as our 141st-ranked guy, and he could carve out decent standard-league value going forward, but you're not missing out on an early-round talent by passing on him for now.
Derrick Williams came off the Knicks bench and looked like an effective basketball player.
Derrick Williams hasn't done a whole lot in his four seasons since being selected second overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. Now on his third NBA team, Williams came in off the bench for the Knicks during their first game of the season against the Bucks and put up 24 points and seven boards, while shooting 8-for-17 from the floor, 1-for-3 from deep, and 7-for-9 from the charity stripe.
Verdict: Myth - Williams has shown plenty of flashes of being a competent basketball player in his five-year career, but the reality is that he's had more than enough opportunity to prove himself on teams lacking talent and has never really delivered on a consistent basis. He's still only 24 years old and you certainly can't blame the Knicks for taking a flier on him, but don't drop anything of value for him your in fantasy hoops league because of one game. His highest finish ever in nine-category leagues was 211th in 2012-13, back when he was averaging 24.6 minutes per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Knicks have a lot invested in rookie Kristaps Porzingis and have plenty of frontcourt depth in tow with Robin Lopez, Kyle O'Quinn, and even Kevin Seraphin all on the roster. There's not much of a chance that Williams manages to consistently wrestle enough minutes or touches away from those guys to be relevant in standard leagues, so he can safely be left on your waiver wire.
After two games, Ish Smith is a higher-ranked fantasy player in nine-category leagues than Anthony Davis.
Stop. Just stop.