The short first week of the 2010-11 NBA season is nearly in the books, which means it’s prime time for impatient fantasy owners to jump to conclusions. Below is a post that blends two of my favorite things: fantasy basketball (of course) and the classic film “Office Space.” For those of you deprived souls who have yet to see the movie, below is a clip that explains the relevance of the film to this post:
So, without further ado, here is a list of conclusions some fantasy owners may have jumped to after the first handful of games played this season, along with the related comments-from-the-mat in parentheses.
- Joe Johnson is fine (Yes!): There were some fear-mongers out there who said ominous things about the evil coach Larry Drew’s motion offense would do to JJ’s fantasy value. I, for one, had a hard time buying that. A quick look at his stats through three games shows that Johnson’s averaging a healthy 23/4/4, along with a steal and 1.3 threes per game. He is averaging four turnovers a game, but that number will come down eventually. The Hawks’ well-paid main man will be just fine in the ATL this season.
- Jrue Holiday is a bust (Could be): If you sprung on Holiday anywhere north of round 10, you’re really kicking yourself right now. After three games, the kid is playing 27:41 per game (up 3:30 from last year’s 24:11) and putting up 8.7 points (8.0 last year), a three (0.9 last year), 3 rebounds (2.6 last year), 3 assists (3.8 last year), 2 steals (1.1 last year) and 2.3 turnovers (2.1 last year). Holiday’s also shooting just 32.4 percent from the field (44.2 percent last year). Yikes. Lou Williams, who was unjustly overlooked in many drafts, is clearly outplaying Holiday at this point and another season of timeshares looks like more of a possibility than any of us thought a few weeks ago. Keep an eye on this situation.
- Luis Scola is the draft-day steal of the year (Accept it): After three games, the Argentinian beast is averaging 27.3/14/2/0.7/1, while shooting 56.9 percent from the field and 76.2 percent from the free-throw line. Yao Ming‘s return appears to be a non-factor for Scola, who is on an absolute roll right now. For a guy who went in rounds seven or eight of most drafts, he’s looking like a mighty-fine steal so far. He appears to be set for more than the 32:36 per game he saw last season, thanks in part to his ability to avoid foul trouble, and there’s no reason to think Scola can’t continue outperforming his average draft position.
- LeBron James is terrible (Think again): While we can probably forget about him averaging a triple-double for the season, don’t overreact to his disappointing numbers so far: 20.7 points, 1.7 threes, 5.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and 6.7 turnovers per game. He and his teammates are clearly figuring things out, and once that TO figure drops, James should get closer and closer to justifying his top-three draft position in the coming week or two. He is, after all, LeBron-freaking-James. If you’re somehow able to buy low on him (I heard about one guy being offered James for Kobe Bryant — on Thursday), take it and run.
- Kevin Love is disappointing (???): Our worst fears about what coach Kurt Rambis could do to Love’s fantasy value appear to be alive and well thus far. After three games of Love averaging 25:06 of playing time, Rambis has all of Love’s owners shouting some variation of WTF this week. To his credit, Love is still averaging 14/13, along with 1.3 assists and 0.7 threes per game, but of seeing him being benched and limited because of Anthony Tolliver is perplexing, to say the least. For now, Love’s owners are just left to wonder what kind of gaudy numbers he could be putting up with the 32-35 minutes he should be getting each night. Minny is still Minny, and Rambis is still Rambis — a risk some owners should’ve taken into account before drafting Love in round three.
- Dwight Howard‘s emerging offense is fantasy gold (No!): If you saw the first half of the Magic vs. Heat game on Friday, you were likely impressed by Howard’s nifty footwork, quick moves and offensive arsenal. Sure, it was against the likes of Joel Anthony and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, but it still showed some obvious progress from previous seasons. While this may appear to be a boon for Howard’s already-appealing stats, don’t be fooled into believing more points will lead to better fantasy value. This is because the more shots Howard takes and the more points he scores, the fewer offensive rebounds he’s able to position himself for. Through two games, Howard is averaging 8.5 rebounds, 0.5 on the offensive end. He’s averaging 3.6 offensive rebounds for his career. Monitor this development closely. If Howard continues to be shot-happy, one of his dominant stats will take a noticeable dip, further depressing his fantasy appeal.
- Danny Granger was drafted way too late (One step back): He’s off to a blazing start, averaging 27 points, 3.7 threes, 4.3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.3 blocks and 2.7 turnovers, all while shooting 51.7 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the line. For a dude who actually fell to the second round of more than a few drafts, Granger is looking like an absolute steal right now. But let’s wait at least another month before dubbing him fantasy steal of the year. He’s still Mr. DNP and, until he can prove otherwise, is a frustrating player to own, especially when you start to heavily rely on him. For leery owners, now is the time to sell high.
- Antawn Jamison is in trouble (Go wild): LeBron leaves Cleveland — good. J.J. Hickson gets the starting job — bad. Jamison thrived as the sixth man in Dallas back in 2003-04, but he doesn’t look on track to repeat that in Cleveland this season. After three games, Jamison is averaging 6/2/1, while shooting 31.8 percent from the field. He’s verbalized his confusion about his place on the Cavs and fantasy owners are probably verbalizing their confusion about why they decided to take him in rounds five or six. No, it’s not too early to start panicking.
- Gilbert Arenas is on repeat (Strike out): He still hasn’t played a game this season, thanks to a strained tendon in his ankle. It appears likely that Arenas will make his debut sometime this week, but this early injury looks like a portent of sinister things to come for his owners. It’s not just the physical risks that comes with Arenas — it’s the mental ones, too. He has at least two strikes by most fantasy owners’ counts and there’s a good chance he’ll swing and miss this season, too. “High risk, high reward” is Arenas’ long-winded middle name.
- Elton Brand is back (Jump again): Through three games, Brand has averaged 14.7 points, 9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.7 steals and 2 blocks, all while shooting 47.5 percent from the floor and 85.7 percent from the line. He’s not going to return to double-double form, but the solid rebounding and healthy mix of steals and blocks make Brand very much relevant again for fantasy basketball consideration. If his body can sustain the minutes and production, Brand will have been well-worth his late draft position. Scola and Brand are the early front-runners for fantasy steal of the year.
- Amar’e Stoudemire in round one was a mistake (Moot!): Fantasy owners should’ve known that STAT was in for poorer shooting from the field and more turnovers this season, but optimism made many think that his points, rebounds and blocks would outweigh those risks and, thus, make him a justifiable first-round pick. So far that’s definitely not the case. Once again, Stoudemire is proving to be the inadequate rebounder and shot-blocker that we’ve known him to be. It’s early, and Danilo Gallinari‘s bum wrist and production is a downer for Stoudemire’s space on the floor, but it looks like leaving the goggled man until round two was the wise way to go. You should’ve seen this coming.
- Stephen Curry… (Lose one turn): His injured ankle has limited his production and will cause him to miss a few games early on this season, but don’t read this as a foreboding of the rest of his season. Yes, your sexy first-round pick has left you high and dry for the first week or two of the season, but he’ll be fine to go again for the Don Nelson-esque Warriors soon enough.