At last, we have “real” basketball games to recap and preview. All the material we’ve published so far — the Depth Chart, six Division Previews, rankings of players at each position by tiers, a series on strategy — has been designed to help you prepare for your draft.
Over the next three weeks, our opinions will change according to what happens on the court. In particular, we’re looking at probable rotations and trying to refine our playing-time estimates.
DEN @ LAC: The first all-NBA game of the preseason matched two highly entertaining teams. Chris Paul didn’t play, but Eric Bledsoe was outstanding in his place: 25 PTS, 8 REB, 6 AST and 5 STL more than make up for 5 TO. The Nuggets won — not that exhibition scores matter in the least — without Wilson Chandler and Andre Miller. Reserves Jordan Hamilton (17) and Corey Brewer (16) put up nice numbers; don’t overreact as they will find minutes hard to come by when the lineup is at full strength.
Real Madrid came to Memphis and played well, led by Rudy Fernandez with 16 points. The Grizzlies won by 12, using a very short rotation for this time of year. Four of the five starters played over 30 minutes and only three bench players played more than 7:35. There are no position battles in Tennessee. Marc Gasol was up for the game vs. his countrymen, with a nifty line of 16 PTS, 16 REB, 6 AST and 2 BLK.
Montepaschi Siena, winner of the Italian league the last six seasons, took on the Spurs in San Antonio. It was a 106-77 mismatch, even though Pop played everyone but the trainer. A total of 18 Spurs saw the floor, with Kawhi Leonard (21:51) by far the busiest. Tiago Splitter (back spasms) didn’t play and fantasy owners learned nothing we didn’t already know — the same versatility and depth that makes them a great real team can frustrate fantasy owners.
Dallas beat Alba Berlin in Germany, with national team stars Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman the most popular visitors. Kaman was impressive in his Mavericks debut with 7-9 shooting, 6 REB and 2 BLK.
One day earlier, the Boston Celtics lost to Fenerbahce Ulker in Turkey. The result wasn’t a complete surprise, but the big news for Celtics fans (and fantasy GMs) was a fine return to competition for Jeff Green. After a serious heart problem forced an entire year off, Green scored 16 points. I’m expecting him to come off the bench and see solid minutes at both PF and SF.
GSW @ LAL: This might be the best place to have courtside seats. There’s a huge buzz about this star-studded Lakers team, which will take its time getting ready for the season. The Warriors have talented rookie Harrison Barnes hoping to take over from Brandon Rush at SF, with Richard Jefferson still in the mix. There’s also a battle for backup minutes behind Andrew Bogut. With so many jobs at stake, the visitors figure to be more intense tonight.
WAS @ CHA: The Wizards have to solve a major PG problem with John Wall injured, so we’ll be watching Shelvin Mack and A.J. Price closely. There’s also word that Jordan Crawford will play some PG, which would be good news for rookie SG Bradley Beal and his owners. Charlotte can only improve on last year’s historically-awful season and all eyes are on Michael Kidd-Griffin, who should be good, but is hardly a savior in fantasy or real life.
MIA @ ATL: Same old Heat, plus Ray Allen. The evolving Hawks have replaced Joe Johnson with Louis Williams and brought in two 3-point specialists, Anthony Morrow and Kyle Korver. Josh Smith plays the 3 in their “big” lineup, but when he is at the 4, the wing rotation is something we will monitor closely all month.
ORL @ NOH: “At” New Orleans, but in Mexico City, even the Hornets are on the road. This could be fun for the fans but is unlikely to teach us much. In the giant absence of Dwight Howard, the Magic frontcourt is an area where astute fantasy owners can benefit. Just predict the minutes correctly among Glen Davis, Al Harrington, Gustavo Ayon, Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson, then estimate how each will produce in his new situation. Or, save time (and possible regret) by avoiding all of them.
Eric Gordon is hurt. Already. Before you write him off completely, Jeff Nichols advised yesterday that injured players can be fantasy sleepers. In particular, he cites a reluctance to be “burned” by the same player two years in a row. That’s exactly how I feel about Manu Ginobili, whose shooting-hand injury — a fluke, unlikely to be repeated — was hard for my teams to overcome last season. It isn’t logical, yet I’m actively shopping him. Please, someone make an offer.
That suggests Gordon could be available cheap from a similarly panicky seller in quite a few keeper leagues. There’s no indication that his current knee issues are as serious as last year. In a redraft league, especially if you have a deep bench, he could fall to bargain territory.
BOS @ EA7: The Celtics’ bonding-and-barnstorming tour stops in Milan to face EA7 Emporio Armani Milano. The Armani Jeans team lost to Montepaschi in the Italian League finals last season but will be no match for Boston if the visitors make more of an effort than they did on Friday in Istanbul.
We endorse FanDuel for anyone who likes the idea of daily — or weekly — fantasy games. My first experience was a free MLB league that spanned the last two days. Finished fifth of ten, mostly because my starting pitcher Matt Cain lost. Didn’t guess right on all my hitters, either — I’d expected the Baltimore-Texas game to be more high-scoring.
I’ve joined another free MLB league today. Adam Wainwright gets the ball, an inexpensive Gerald Laird is my C because he starts for the Tigers vs. LHP, and I’m using three Yankees lefty hitters against Jason Hammel. In baseball, you have to consider matchups and the SP position is absolutely crucial. I prefer the format in hoops, where a good player from any team is usable, the team result (W-L) is irrelevant and there are fewer positions to fill.
FanDuel already has NBA leagues open for October 30. Most interesting to me as a beginner is the $500 Tue NBA Dribbler, with a $1 entry fee, and an enticing prize pool:
1st – $125.00
2nd – $70.00
3rd – $40.00
4th – $30.00
5th – $20.00
Hah, you might say, if you’re quick at addition. That’s only $285 for the top five. Where does the other $215 go? Actually, it’s paid out to 46 other players, in modest diminishing amounts.
6th – 7th $10.00
8th – 11th $8.00
12th – 16th $6.00
17th – 24th $5.00
25th – 36th $4.00
37th – 51st $3.00
There are a maximum of 558 entries, so the site makes $58 running that league. Having been a serious horseplayer for many years, I’m used to a “take” of 20 percent or more. It could always be better, but this seems fair.
I definitely like the odds of tripling my money for a 51st-place finish. This is a must-play format every day. Low cost, short losing streaks and occasional big payoffs.
There’s another 10/30 league, the $2K Tue NBA Shot, that I’ll be joining for sure. It pays $300 for first, $200 for second, $125 for third and smaller prizes all the way back to 120th place. Not bad for a $2 entry fee.
For slightly higher rollers, the $1K Tue NBA Assist league costs $5 to join and is limited to just 223 owners. There are $10 leagues with a $3,000 prize pool and 335 teams, and/or $750 in prizes but only 84 teams. The site offers plenty of choices for whatever league suits your budget and confidence level, in all the major sports.
In addition to those large pools, FanDuel hosts leagues that are literally head-to-head — just you and one other player — and other leagues limited to three players, or five. Again, you can play from the $1 level, right up to $535 entry fees. Choose your own comfortable balance of cost, fun, style of play and competition. When I start to play for money, I’ll have a $100 weekly budget, which is about $14 bucks a day. Most of my leagues will be at the $1 and $2 level, with occasional dips into the $5 pool, and I’ll share all those experiences with you in this space.
To get started, just click here or on the FD logo (in the sidebar and at the top of this page.) It’s completely free to join, with no credit card or deposit required, and you can enter a free MLB (or NFL) league immediately. See you there!