A loyal reader from Singapore asked about Harrison Barnes yesterday. Almost simultaneously, Bruce Wrigley’s weekly column examined the battle between Barnes and Brandon Rush for minutes at SF. Then the rookie started last night and scored 20 points on 8-11 shooting. Is he suddenly a hot fantasy commodity? Not exactly.
The Warriors were playing at home against Maccabi Haifa, which is hardly the best team in Israel, which is not the strongest foreign league. They do have a wealthy owner from Florida who is trying to build an international brand, but they should not be confused with Real Madrid and some of the other top European clubs. Donta Smith, who had a cup of coffee in the NBA six years ago, was their star last night with 28 points.
Barnes and Rush (who played 31 minutes off the bench) may alternate starts all month as coach Mark Jackson experiments. Let’s see how the North Carolina star looks against better opposition before comparing his fantasy value to Anthony Davis or Damian Lillard. Other Warriors looked fantastic last night; Festus Ezeli (15 PTS on 7-8 shooting, 8 REB, 2 BLK) is insurance for Andrew Bogut owners. David Lee got the night off, so Carl Landry (24 PTS, 8 REB) started. Stephen Curry survived 23 minutes without an injury, scored 13 points and dished out 10 assists.
Apologies for not previewing this game yesterday. NBA.com is so aggressively promoting two exhibition games to Canadians that nobody in this entire country can navigate to the Scores & Schedule page without being re-directed to an infuriating ad. They have ignored my complaints for two days, but the form letters are reassuring. Yahoo doesn’t bother to list the international exhibitions on its scoreboard, so I simply missed it.
Other Thursday Games
MIA @ LAC: Live morning basketball was a great way to wake up. I was shocked to see Dwyane Wade play 23 minutes; he was clearly not himself, shooting just 2-9 for 5 points. LeBron James (20) and Blake Griffin (19) put on a show for the Chinese crowd but the Clippers are no match without Chris Paul. In his place, Eric Bledsoe played 41 minutes and scored just four points. Willie Green starting at SG is another short-term solution; Jamal Crawford will get huge bench minutes until Chauncey Billups is ready to return from his Achilles injury.
NYY @ WAS: There seems to be a trend away from Amar’e Stoudemire in fantasy drafts, and he sat with a bruised knee last night. With Kurt Thomas at PF, and Mychel Thompson starting at SG, the Knicks sprinted to a 38-21 lead in the first quarter. J.R. Smith, in 28 bench minutes, poured in 20 points and Steve Novak couldn’t miss from deep — 21 points on 7-7 shooting. Pablo Prigioni, the league’s oldest rookie, had 14 PTS and 4 AST but is the third-string PG when everyone is healthy.
The Wizards went very small; Nene is struggling with a chronic foot problem, Emeka Okafor was ill and Trevor Booker has a hamstring strain. That left Kevin Seraphin as the only healthy big man and Brian Cook got 15 minutes as his backup. Point guard is also a mess until John Wall recovers from a stress fracture. A.J. Price started and Jannero Pargo got most of the bench minutes, while Shelvin Mack was an afterthought. As a deep league sleeper, keep an eye on Martell Webster, who had 12 PTS and 10 REB in 27 minutes.
PHI @ ORL: It was the Jrue Holiday show, with 27 points in 20 minutes. Kwame Brown started at C, but Lavoy Allen played 33 minutes off the bench. Spencer Hawes will look better at PF when Andrew Bynum is beside him. At SG, Jason Richardson will probably start, but Nick Young (22 PTS) will be better to own. Evan Turner (2-12 from the floor) did not have a great night but is being counted on for a breakout season.
The Magic started Nikola Vucevic at C (12 PTS, 10 REB, 1 BLK) and brought Gustavo Ayon off the bench. That could be an even split during the season, as the sophomore is likely to be inconsistent. PF Glen Davis (16 & 12) is reliable, and based on last night’s 14-point effort, rookie Andrew Nicholson will be his backup — at least until Al Harrington is up to speed. We’re calling E’Twaun Moore the backup PG, despite a miserable 2-13 night.
NOH @ CHA: With 2 ½ weeks until games that count, should we be worried about Greivis Vasquez? No. The starting PG came off the bench last night, played just 15 minutes and contributed little. Whether he’s nursing an unpublicized injury or just unhurried, you can ignore the line. Brian Roberts was by far the best Hornet — 16 PTS, 8 AST and +21 — in a spot start and may have cemented the backup role. #1 pick Anthony Davis (12 PTS, 9 REB) was solid, but Austin Rivers missed seven of eight shots and scored just 4 PTS in 34 minutes. Ryan Anderson continues to come off the bench, which will not help his counting stats compared to last season.
For Charlotte, the flip-flop of Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions as starting PG continued, and Ben Gordon got the call over Gerald Henderson at SG. It seems like the tinkering of a new coach to me. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was mediocre in just 16 minutes. I wasn’t sure Byron Mullens (leg) would play but he drained another three triples and chipped in 3 STL. He’s the only Bobcat I might consider drafting, as a late-round sleeper.
DET @ TOR: The Highway 401 rivalry resumes in Toronto. The game in Detroit on Wednesday was fast-paced and we can expect more of the same, possibly with a different cast of Pistons. Lawrence Frank is picking a shorter rotation for each game than many other coaches. There will be some “unexpected” DNP-CDs among players who saw big minutes the other night, while others like Kim English, Khris Middleton and Austin Daye may see their first action. I’m now leaning to Jason Maxiell as the starting PF more than Jonas Jerebko, with Charlie Villanueva still lurking.
Toronto fans will be thrilled to see Jonas Valanciunas on the court. Slowed by a calf strain, he played just 13 minutes on Wednesday and will again be on a short leash. Watch for Andrea Bargnani to get more open looks this year because JV will attract attention inside. John Lucas has been superb so far, but when Kyle Lowry (adductor) is healthy and unless/until Jose Calderon is traded, Lucas will be the third-string PG.
MIN @ IND: All eyes should be on Brandon Roy, whose comeback attempt is going great so far. I’m not advocating that you count on him as your #1 fantasy SG-SF, but in certain formats (shallow league, lots of bench spots) he’s worth a mid-round flyer. J.J. Barea is temporarily the PG, as Luke Ridnour had a sore back and of course, Ricky Rubio is unlikely to return before Christmas. Alexey Shved had an 0-fer in his debut but will improve.
Danny Granger and David West didn’t play the last game (Gerald Green and Tyler Hansbrough started) and D.J. Augustin ran the point, as George Hill was rested. Indiana is a playoff team, with few position battles — exactly the type of club that should take its time preparing for the regular season.
CLE @ CHI: It’s all about integrating new parts for the Cavs. C.J. Miles looks like the starting SG; rookie Dion Waiters was out of shape in the summer league, then benched for a lack of effort on Tuesday after 1-7 “shooting” and 4 TO in 14 minutes. Tristan Thompson was forced to take over from C Anderson Varejao last year when the latter got hurt, now they are learning to play together with the sophomore back at PF. Vaulting from nowhere into fantasy consideration, Jon Leuer could be a key reserve.
Chicago is a veteran team, waiting for its superstar leader Derrick Rose to return. Kirk Hinrich is the PG starter, with Nate Robinson trying to hold off rookie Marquis Teague for backup minutes. The Bulls are in “stay-healthy mode” for the whole preseason.
NOH @ HOU: What an insane schedule for New Orleans. Back-to-back road games serve no developmental purpose and tonight will be their third game in four nights. Their fatigue should make the Rockets look better than they are. I love Houston as a source of undervalued fantasy players. Kevin Martin could have a huge bounce-back year, and nobody seems to be giving Omer Asik or Patrick Patterson enough respect. Then there are the rookies. Good ones, with a chance to play right away. Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lamb and Donatas Motiejunas are all on my draft list. Royce White’s struggles with crippling anxiety are the only reason he might not be the best of the bunch.
DEN @ SAS: This should be fun. The high-flying, sprinting Nuggets haven’t played in six days and will be a more cohesive unit after all those practices. The Spurs roll out wave after wave of talented, disciplined players. However, neither team cares about the result. Jeff Nichols and I have been touting the entire Denver team for the last month; about the only uncertainty is whether Kosta Koufos or Timofey Mozgov will be the nominal starting center. Coach Karl likes a big, strong sidekick for undersized (but amazingly energetic) PF Kenneth Faried, then will bring in JaVale McGee, who has good chemistry with Andre Miller. JVMG remains the best Denver C to own.
For the Spurs, your guess at a lineup is as good as mine, possibly much better. Because they sat out the most recent game, expect the Big Old Three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to see more action tonight.
OKC @ UTA: There’s no hurry for the Thunder. They are one of the league’s best teams and they know it. Perry Jones III is becoming more interesting by the day; the rookie can play multiple positions and is gaining valuable experience while starters take it easy. That doesn’t mean he’s a great fantasy draft pick, because OKC uses a short rotation when the games count.
The Jazz have two new guys in the starting five; both are M. Williams in the box score. Mo is the PG, Marvin the SF and they could be overlooked in your draft. I really wish they would trade Paul Millsap. That would make Derrick Favors a superb fantasy pick, and Enes Kanter an even better sleeper. For now, they are overloaded up front.
POR @ PHO: The Blazers are another fantasy gold mine. Damian Lillard should be the second rookie off the board (yes, before MKG) and LaMarcus Aldridge is fully recovered from hip surgery. J.J. Hickson has never played better than he did last April: 14.8 PTS and 9.2 REB per game. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum are excellent picks, especially after the top SF are gone. Meyers Leonard is a rookie who should be in the rotation all year.
Phoenix has replaced 60% of its starters since last season. Goran Dragic takes over from the departed Steve Nash, veteran Luis Scola seems like just the right PF to pair with C Marcin Gortat and the often-disappointing Michael Beasley gets a needed change of scenery and the starting SF job. Yet another newcomer is Wesley Johnson, who was also inconsistent and frustrating in Minnesota. Remember to exclude Channing Frye from your draft list; he’s out with a heart problem that could cost him the entire season. Markieff Morris and Jermaine O’Neal figure to share Frye’s minutes.
$1,000 Fantasy Hoops Contest
It’s still 19 days away, but we have a Halloween treat for you. Join the one-day fantasy tournament for Sheridan Hoops readers at our partner site FanDuel. There’s a $2 entry fee, with 61 cash prizes totalling $1,000. First place wins $200, second $125, third $100 and so on. Pick nine players within a $60,000 salary cap and the team that compiles the most fantasy points — on October 31st only — wins.
For more details, including stat categories, how to play, and my team’s lineup, see the Oct. 9 Spin. Or, give FanDuel a try absolutely free; no credit card or deposit is required. They offer NFL leagues until the NBA begins, including free ones. Click their logo at the top of this page or in the sidebar to get started.
The Spin is here every morning by 9:00; there will be two fantasy articles tomorrow. On Saturday afternoon, Jeff Nichols’ series on strategy continues. During the season, he’ll preview the fantasy week ahead in that time slot. Follow us on Twitter — @SheridanFantasy — all season.