What a great week it’s been. All seems right when I can open up my League Pass on Wednesday night and flip through eight early games. To be honest with you, it’s almost a bit overwhelming. Almost. Do I love this game or what? More than I can express in words. But I’m not here to wax poetic about the NBA. I’m here to talk Fantasy Hoops.
We have a few early trends happening and a number of players who are already outperforming our expectations for them. Some could be in for a legitimate rise, while many others are likely to fall back down to earth. This week I’ll give you my thoughts on a few players everyone seems to be talking about after their Week 1 performances.
Russell Westbrook (PG, OKC)
Can you believe the start Westbrook’s off to? He is currently the top-ranked Fantasy basketballer, per Yahoo!’s standard rankings; just some unreal numbers. He has hit 93.6 percent of his free throws on 10.3 attempts. It’s hard to believe that he’s taken 31 free-throw attempts in his first three games. He’s also scored 22.3 points per game. The rebounds (6.7) and assists (7.3) aren’t much of a surprise, but his overall offensive game really has been elevated this season. He still hasn’t made any 3-pointers this season, and we didn’t expect to get much out of him in that category, but I do like that he’s only taking one trey per game. His limited 3-point attempts are a major reason why he’s shooting over 46 percent from the floor. While his free-throw percentage is certainly to drop, if he could maintain his efficiency from the floor he could remain as a Top 20 Fantasy talent.
Wilson Chandler (F, NYK)
Well look what we have here. Chandler is the second-ranked player, per Yahoo!, and it’s mostly thanks to his opening night performance (22 points, 16 rebounds, two steals, three blocks). He’s averaging a double-double after three games, but his rebounding will surely go down, even though this team is without David Lee in the middle and there are more boards to snag. I expect him to fall back into the mid-six rebounds per game range. I also fully expect his blocks to fall from the three per game he’s at now to about 1.2 per game this season. He’s one of the few players in the league who can give you one three/steal/block per game. He’s not going to be a Top 20 player, but he should be owned in all leagues.
Danny Granger (SF, IND)
I am honestly not surprised by his start. I’m a big Granger fan and, as we know, when he’s healthy he’s a Top Five talent. He’ll continue to play at this level as long as his body will allow him to.
Roy Hibbert (C, IND)
The big fella was the darling of the preseason, becoming the top “sleeper” among Fantasy experts heading into the late-October drafts. He is really stepping up and providing great value, mainly in his go-to categories like points, rebounds and blocks. The two stat categories that he’s surprisingly excelling in are assists (4.7) and FT% (86.4 percent on 7.3 attempts). He’s a decent passer for a big man, but his assists should drop down to the 2.0-2.5 level. I also see his FT% dropping below 80 percent when all is said and done. That should still keep him among the Top 40-50 players in the game.
Nicolas Batum (SG/SF, POR)
Batum is another player who has lived up to the early hype. He’ll continue to improve this season, which should keep him among the top value players. You can pretty much count on one steal/three/block per game. The one blip early on is his FT%, which sits at 50 percent on the season. The good news: he’s only taken two free throws in the first three games.
James Jones (SF, MIA)
Without Mike Miller in the lineup, Jones has stepped up and become the top option off the bench for the Heat. Jones really only adds value from the three-point line, which is good enough for me since he could realistically lead the league in threes made this year. The evidence of him living beyond the arc is the fact that he has yet to take a free-throw attempt this season.
Arron Afflalo (SG, DEN)
He’s really surprised many Fantasy owners this season with his early play. The fact that a shooting guard who is averaging 14.0 points per game is also shooting 63.6 percent from the floor is pretty impressive. His percentages will definitely go down, obviously, which will cause him to lose some value. His peripherals are decent, but nothing really stands out except his FG%, points, and the 1.7 threes per game he’s made. With a decrease in FG% you’re looking at a fringe starter in 10-team leagues.
Ben Gordon (SG, DET)
Is it true? Is Gordon finally back? It seems at the very least he is back to being an impact player. He’s averaging 21.7 points over the first three games and shooting a mind-boggling 65.6 percent from the floor. Didn’t this guy make just 41 percent of his field goals last season? As is typical, though, Gordon gives you points, threes, a few steals, and a high FT%. Once that FG% comes back down to a more reasonable level he might lose some of his high value. I would look to move him if possible.
Landry Fields (SG/SF, NYK)
Landry has scored 11 points in each of the first three games this season, and has made 50 percent of his field-goal attempts. He’s also rebounding the ball well, grabbing 7.3 boards per game early on. The problem here with Landry is that he doesn’t play much defense. He also hasn’t gotten to the free-throw line since opening night. I would pick up Landry, but make sure you maintain realistic expectations on the rookie.
Thaddeus Young (SF, PHI)
Young is another player who is benefitting from a hot start from the field. He is averaging 10.7 points on 58.3 percent shooting from the floor. His steals are a nice bonus, but the fact that he’s made only one 3-pointer on two attempts this season worries me. If he’s not going to hit his free throws, dish the ball or block shots he at least needs to hit his 3-pointers. Pick him up in deep leagues, but I wouldn’t get too excited about slotting him in as a starter in 12-team leagues.
Josh McRoberts (PF/C, IND)
Yet another Pacer who looks good this season, McRoberts is showing some skill off the glass and in the paint with 9.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He’ll score his points in a efficient manner, but he’s not going to average more than 11-12 points per game this season. Also, I’d like to see him continue to contribute defensively before I get really excited about slotting him in. If he can keep his steals and blocks above one per game over a month’s time I’ll start believing that he’s a legit defensive contributor.
Remember that we’re still early in the season. There are going to be dozens of guys who pick up their game over the next month, so don’t panic or get too down on your team. The key is to realize that these early value rankings are nothing more than a small sample size. Seeing Carlo Delfino ranked as a Top-10 Fantasy player so far reflects on the fact that the season is still just getting under way.
Tom Lorenzo was a finalist for the FSWA’s Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year award in 2009. You can contact him with questions at Lorenzo@RotoExperts.com.