Fantasy basketball, like all sports, is a game of nerves and reactions.
After the first week of the 2014 hoops campaign, owners and basketball fans alike have already come to rash conclusions. You know, the Cleveland Cavaliers are overrated and in trouble, Anthony Davis is the MVP, etc. One of those statements may be true, however, as The Brow is averaging a gaudy 28.5 points, 16 rebounds, and six blocks per game thus far. Now, granted, it’s only been two games, but he’s showing all signs of becoming the next superstar in this league, if he isn’t already. We’ll see if he can stay healthy and continue to play at a high level, but there’s no doubting that he was deserving of the first or second overall pick fantasy owners used on him this fall. Unfortunately, health is a huge part of the game, and during Week 1, fantasy owners had to monitor it.
-Can it get any worse for the Thunder? Don’t answer that. After watching their star Kevin Durant suffer a broken foot, now Russell Westbrook has been bit by the injury bug. He suffered a fractured hand on Thursday night, and underwent successful surgery. This type of injury usually keeps players out anywhere between 4-8 weeks, so don’t plan on using him in your fantasy lineups for a little bit. Hopefully Reggie Jackson (ankle) is cleared to play soon, so owners can have a serviceable replacement option. Sebastian Telfair will also play a good amount of minutes, making him worth a look in deeper leagues.
-Speaking of ankle injuries, Derrick Rose caused a collective inhale from all owners against the Cavs on Friday night, as he exited the game after tweaking his own ankle. He played very well during the 25 minutes he was out there, accumulating 20 points, four rebounds, four assists and shot 50 percent from the field. He missed Saturday’s contest, too, but stated he could have played if needed, but wanted to be on the safe side. Exhale, folks.
–Bradley Beal was taking one-handed free throws at practice this week, but is still over three weeks away from returning to the Wizards lineup. Beal is still recovering from a wrist injury, but as he continues to progress, Otto Porter Jr. will get some more run in Washington’s rotation. Keep monitoring Beal’s status, however, because when he returns, he could easily be a 20-point scorer for your roster.
Week 2 Schedule
*Games go from Nov. 3rd-9th
|ATL||3||@SA, @CHA, vs NY|
|BOS||4||@DAL, vs TOR, vs IND, @CHI|
|BKN||4||vs OKC, vs MIN, vs NY, vs ORL|
|CHA||4||@NO, vs MIA, vs ATL, @LAL|
|CHI||4||vs ORL, @MIL, @PHI, vs BOS|
|CLE||3||@POR, @UTA, @DEN|
|DAL||4||vs BOS, @POR, @UTA, vs MIA|
|DEN||4||vs SAC, @SAC, vs CLE, @POR|
|DET||3||vs NY, vs MIL, vs UTA|
|GSW||3||vs LAC, @HOU, @PHX|
|HOU||4||@PHI, @MIA, vs SA, vs GSW|
|IND||4||vs MIL, @WSH, @BOS, vs WSH|
|LAC||3||vs UTA, @GSW, vs POR|
|LAL||2||vs PHX, vs CHA|
|MEM||4||vs NO, @PHX, @OKC, @MIL|
|MIA||4||vs HOU, @CHA, vs MIN, @DAL|
|MIL||4||@IND, vs CHI, @DET, vs MEM|
|MIN||3||@BKN, @ORL, @MIA|
|NO||3||@MEM, vs CHA, @SA|
|NYK||4||vs WSH, @DET, @BKN, @ATL|
|OKC||4||@BKN, @TOR, vs MEM, vs SAC|
|ORL||4||@CHI, @PHI, vs MIN, @BKN|
|PHI||4||vs HOU, vs ORL, vs CHI, @TOR|
|PHX||4||@LAL, vs MEM, vs SAC, vs GSW|
|POR||4||vs CLE, vs DAL, @LAC, vs DEN|
|SAC||4||@DEN, vs DEN, @PHX, @OKC|
|SA||3||vs ATL, @HOU, vs NO|
|TOR||4||vs OKC, @BOS, vs WSH, vs PHI|
|UTA||4||@LAC, vs CLE, vs DAL, @DET|
|WSH||4||@NY, vs IND, @TOR, @IND|
Sadly, fantasy owners only get to pick on the Lakers’ putrid defensive unit twice, as Los Angeles is the only team in basketball to play just twice in Week 2. Meanwhile, eight teams will see a three-game slate, while the remaining 21 clubs will play four games during this week. So let’s get started and preview the good and the bad for the second week of the fantasy hoops campaign.
Teams I Like
Oklahoma City Thunder (@BKN, @TOR, vs MEM, vs SAC)
-The Thunder do have two tough matchups this week, but more importantly, they play four contests, and when you consider the amount of minutes he’s seen thus far, the added volume is great for a guy like Perry Jones. During the first three games of the year, the talented Jones is averaging 38 minutes per game to go along with 19.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and two triples per game. With both Westbrook and Durant sidelined, Jones’ usage is going to be beautiful, as he’s suddenly the Thunder’s most versatile scorer for the foreseeable future. A lock for at least 35 minutes, Jones will have a big role in this OKC offense, even when Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb are able to suit up. Heading into the weekend, no one in basketball had a higher usage rate than Westbrook, so Jones should be in line for a nice boost in work. Also, whether he plays the three or the four in spurts, Sacramento ranks inside the bottom-seven in defending both small forwards and power forwards to start the year, and that game should be pretty high-scoring. Meanwhile, the Nets are allowing over 105 points per game thus far, the second-most in the NBA. The only matchup that frightens me is against Memphis, so fire up Jones, and if he’s somehow available in your league, get him now, ask questions later.
-And, obviously, Serge Ibaka immediately becomes the Thunder’s best player, so his value rises, too. Behind the stupid high usage rates of Durant and Westbrook, Ibaka has never been looked at as an offensive weapon, but his scoring should improve over the course of the next month. And while you’re starting him each week anyway, Ibaka has some nice matchups against Memphis and the Kings, who both allow well over 1.5 blocks per game to opposing power forwards this year. Also, Kings’ opponents are averaging a league-leading eight blocks per contest to this point. Feel confident in Serge.
Orlando Magic (@CHI, @PHI, vs MIN, @BKN)
–Tobias Harris started 36 games for the Magic last year, and during those contests, he averaged a very healthy 15.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 12.4 field goal attempts and shot over 81 percent from the line. Now, through three starts this year, he’s averaging 16.7 points, seven boards, and a steal per game. Now that Orlando no longer has their goofy rotations, the talented Harris can be freed, especially with both Victor Oladipo and Channing Frye banged up. During these three games, Harris is averaging 15 shot attempts per game, and he’s actually averaging a strong 68 offensive touches per game, good for a top-40 rank among all players in basketball. Harris makes for an awesome fantasy option, but especially this week, as both the 76ers and Timberwolves rank inside the bottom-five in terms of fantasy points surrendered to small forwards (42.2 and 39 points per game, respectively). Both teams are also allowing over 8.5 rebounds per game to the position, too. Outside of that tough matchup against the Bulls, Harris is in a very nice spot this week.
-As for rookie point guard Elfrid Payton, he’s coming off a nice outing on Saturday where he just missed his first career double-double, tallying 16 points, three rebounds, and nine assists. He won’t help you at all with your field goal percentage, but he is a versatile player who will get you steals, assists, and rebounds, too. And while he plays reckless at times, that won’t kill him this week, facing a Philadelphia team that runs, runs, and runs some more, and as a result, allows their opponents to force turnovers, averaging 10.3 steals per game, the second-most in the league. Payton should be able to swipe a few passes from the turnover-prone Tony Wroten, and between the 76ers’ pace and Orlando wanting to run more this year, Payton should also see some nice volume, too.
Sacramento Kings (@DEN, vs DEN, @PHX, @OKC)
-I like the Kings again this week, as they play four games, all of which should be absolute shootouts. It all starts with a home-and-home against the Nuggets, but if you like fast-paced contests, this is the week for you. Outside of the Thunder, each team the Kings face this week rank inside the top-10 in pace, according to Hollinger stats.
As you can see, the Kings themselves rank seventh in pace, so these games should be very fun for fantasy purposes. Again, I loved Darren Collison last week, as well as entering the season. Thus far, he’s been terrific, touching the basketball a strong 96 times per game this season (ninth-most), averaging an extremely versatile 18 points, eight assists, six rebounds, and four steals to this point. Of course, it’s only been a couple of games, but he’s clearly fit this offense perfectly in place of Isaiah Thomas, and he’s always been a good source of steals. That bodes well for his matchups, as both the Warriors and Thunder are coughing up over two steals per game to opposing point guards thus far. Keep starting him confidently and reap the benefits.
Teams I Don’t Like
Atlanta Hawks (@SA, @CHA, vs NYK)
-An easy one here, but the Hawks are one of the few teams to only suit up three times this week. And, to make matters worse, two of their meetings are with some of the best defensive teams in basketball in San Antonio and Charlotte, both away outings, nonetheless. Also, their first game of the week isn’t until Wednesday, either. If Atlanta didn’t have such difficult matchups, maybe it wouldn’t matter that they only played three games. But this is a bad week for your Hawks.
Milwaukee Bucks (@IND, vs CHI, @DET, vs MEM)
-The Bucks, who really don’t have a clear-cut, must-start fantasy option outside of maybe Jabari Parker, do play four games, but man, are they tough. They start in Indiana, who aren’t the same defensive beast that they were last year, but are still a top-12 defensive unit at the moment. And obviously, the Bulls are a brutal unit to face between a very good defensive guard in Jimmy Butler, as well as arguably the best, toughest frontcourt in basketball. The Pistons, meanwhile, are allowing the eighth-fewest points per game, and have both Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe protecting the rim. Finally, the Grizzlies may have the best defense in the league, allowing the fewest points per game thus far, coming in at just 86.3 per game. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are playing at a very high level right now, and opponents are only shooting 37 percent at the rim against Gasol this year, while Randolph has been very tough, too. Also, the Grizzlies are inside the top-seven at defending each position (in terms of fantasy points) other than power forward.
Timofey Mozgov, Denver Nuggets- Mozgov isn’t going to provide you with 30-plus minutes most nights, but he’s still the starting center for a Nuggets unit that allows a healthy 82 shot attempts per game this year, so the rebounding chances will continue to be there in this fast-paced system. Mozgov has played in two games this year, grabbing 11 rebounds in one, but just two in the other. Still, I like his slate this week, facing a Portland unit that struggles on the glass, allowing 14 offensive rebounds (fourth-most) and 32 defensive rebounds per game (13th).
Alec Burks, Utah Jazz- Burks doesn’t have the greatest matchups this week, but they are exploitable. Utah’s wealthiest shooting guard has scored double-digit points in all three games this year, and is sinking 1.2 three-pointers per game. He’s probably their most talented scorer, and he could possibly light it up from three against a Cavaliers unit that struggled to defend the long ball last year, and is doing so again in 2014, allowing 9.5 triples per game, while Dallas is surrendering nearly 12 threes per contest to this point. Only the Lakers have been worse. Also, so far, 34.2 percent of the points scored against the Mavericks have come off three-pointers, the highest percentage in basketball. Meanwhile, Cleveland is right behind them, surrendering 28.1 percent of their total points from beyond the arc.
*Stats provided by TeamRankings and NBA.com