The NBA has finally returned from its near-six-month hiatus. And for that, I am so very thankful. I couldn’t have asked for a better holiday gift this year than getting a five-game slate like we had on Christmas Day. Not even a Lexus wrapped in an over-sized bow could have outdone the NBA’s opening day. With that said, it’s time to get back to business. We have a Fantasy league (or leagues) to win.
Let’s run down some of the top newsmakers from early on and talk about their Fantasy impact. Starting with, yes, the most dreamy Spaniard to ever take to the basketball court since… Pau Gasol?
Spencer Hawes, C, PHI: Hawes missed posting a triple-double by one measly assist (10 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and one block). There’s a good chance this is the best line Hawes will post all season, but I think at the very least we learned that he’s definitely a Fantasy-worthy center in 10- or 12-team leagues. Hawes can rebound, play off the dribble, hit the occasional 3-pointer and block a shot or two. He doesn’t have a great upside, but he fits a need on this 76ers team as an athletic center who does most of the “dirty work.” He should get a look where needed.
Ricky Rubio, PG, MIN: I have to say this first: I love watching this kid play. He’s got great court vision, he can create offense and he’s one of those point guards whose size is a little deceiving. That said, he’s probably some months away from being a big-time Fantasy play. I still don’t think we’ve seen the last of Luke Ridnour at point for the T-Wolves, which will lead to a timeshare of sorts. Yeah, playing 25-27 minutes per night isn’t terrible, but when you consider how limited Rubio is as a Fantasy player, you want the extra minutes in this case so you can squeeze out every ounce of Fantasy value he has to give. Mainly, you’re looking at a PG who can give you plenty of assists, a decent amount of rebounds for a point guard, the occasional 3-pointer and, well, that’s about it. His scoring won’t go much above 10 points per game and he’s not going to give you a lot on the defensive side of the ball. If you can pick him up and stash him, I definitely would do it. But if you’re looking for immediate point guard help, there are likely better options out there.
Amir Johnson, C/PF, TOR: I’ve been a big Amir Johnson fan for some time now, seeing as I tend to buy into these young, highly athletic bigs who can jump through the roof. Yes, even though Tyrus Thomas has burned me over the years, I’m genuinely buying into Johnson. First, you have a situation where the team’s other starting “big,” Andrea Bargnani, doesn’t rebound well at all for a 7-footer. This leaves plenty of opportunities for Johnson to clean up off the glass. Not only can he rebound, but he’s got a knack for blocking shots (three blocks on Monday night). I also like Ed Davis, for pretty much all the same reasons I like Johnson, but right now Johnson is the better play simply because he’s getting the minutes. Don’t sleep on Davis, though. His moment will come.
Kemba Walker, G, CHA: Walker might be on the verge of exploding, with Bobcats starting point guard D.J. Augustin now battling with an ankle injury. We already have seen Walker post a nice line in his NBA debut (13 points, seven rebounds, three assists, one steal in 21 minutes). The problem is, he’s not an efficient shooter (3 of 10 from the floor) and, like most rookie point guards, he’s likely to struggle early with turnovers. That said, I’ve been hyping Walker during the preseason and it’s because the guy can score, dish and even rebound in the paint. I see him as a must-own in H2H formats, if at the very least it means blocking him from being a part of your opponent’s team. Just be prepared to take a FG% and TO hit if you start him.
Shaun Livingston, G, MIL: I loved seeing Livingston take off in his season debut, posting 14 points with four rebounds, six assists and one steal in 35 minutes. After Livingston suffered what seemed to be a career-ending injury back in 2007, I can’t help but root for the guy. The problem with getting all jazzed up about his Fantasy value is that there are far too many guards and wings on Milwaukee. He can easily get lost in the shuffle at times, especially with Scott Skiles calling the shots. With Carlos Delfino hurt and Stephen Jackson glued to the bench after fouling out in 17 minutes, Livingston got a chance to play heavy minutes. However, he probably won’t see much consistent playing time going forward. He’s a great story and worth a look in super-deep leagues, but I’m still not buying into him in 12-team leagues.
Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL: Gasol is off to a slow start, really struggling to be anything but a mediocre power forward. It’s funny to think – especially after so many have voiced their concerns about Gasol and Andrew Bynum not being able to coexist -that Gasol is better suited to play the power forward alongside Bynum. You’re going to have to deal with Gasol playing center for the next two games, but if you’re not a Gasol owner and the guy who does own him in your league is getting a little antsy, now might be the time to buy low.
Stephen Curry, PG, GSW: You definitely have to monitor Curry’s latest ankle injury, after he rolled it on Monday night. When healthy, Curry is easily a Top 10 Fantasy performer. The problem is he’s continued to struggle with both his ankles, which have limited him at times from reaching his full potential. I would not advise you to shop Curry, especially with this latest ankle injury and his value down. You just have to deal with it right now. I could see you moving him if he’s proves to be healthy over the next 2-3 weeks, but make sure you get another Top 10-12 talent in return.
Robin Lopez, C, PHX: Lopez posted a great line on Monday night against the Hornets with 21 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes. He looked good in the paint on the offensive side of the ball, but the problem with Lopez is that he’s not a true consistent contributor. He tends to have nice stretches, followed by a week’s worth of 6-and-4 performances. I think he has about 22-25 minutes per game in him, especially since he provides the Suns with some much-needed size, but he’s not good enough to be a day-to-day contributor.
Metta World Peace, SF, LAL: Peace is a perfect example of reading too much into early performances. With Mr. Peace shooting 50 percent from the floor, a perfect 1-for-1 from the line and not coughing up a single turnover in the first two games, of course he’s going to be rated high (15th overall). The truth is, Peace will shoot about 39 percent from the floor and 67 percent from the free-throw line, and certainly won’t post a zero turnover-rate over the course of a 66-game season. He’ll find his way outside of the Top 125 players when all is said and done. The lesson here is, don’t read too much into the early rankings. These things work themselves out over time.
Mike Bibby, PG, NY: Bibby is set to make his Knicks debut on Wednesday night, but that’s not to say you should add him in any 12-team standard leagues. Truth is, Bibby is nothing more than a backup point guard at this point in his career. He’ll step in to spell Toney Douglas at times, but he’s not going to make enough of an impact to be worth the add. Especially once Baron Davis returns from injury and/or coach D’Antoni falls in love with Jeremy Lin.
This was originally posted to RotoExperts.com.