NBA news changes every day, but the Spin format is consistent. If one item has a huge fantasy impact, it leads. Then we look at the previous night’s games for anything (positive or negative) that might help you prepare for a draft or manage your team.
Next is a preview of tonight’s NBA games, in a speculative mode, pointing out what to watch for. That segment becomes even more important when the games count; it will include a few tips.
Finally, we mention our partner site FanDuel, where there is a $1,000 contest for our readers on October 31. Please scroll down to learn why I’m such a fan of daily and weekly fantasy leagues, and click the signup link to test your skill against me, Chris Sheridan and others from this site.
October 15 Results
BOS @ PHI: Whenever Kevin Garnett gets a night off, the intensity level drops for the Celtics. Hot rookie Jared Sullinger and inconsistent Darko Milicic started for Boston; the box score says Sully had only two TO and one of his shots blocked, but my impression was that he plays shorter than 6’9” because he can’t jump. Doc Rivers used 15 players, who all looked glad when this one was over. You don’t want to draw many conclusions from a 32-point blowout in the regular season, let alone an exhibition game.
The Sixers, who will be really good if Andrew Bynum benefits from the Synvisc-One injection he’s getting in both knees, started Lavoy Allen at C and a beefed-up Thaddeus Young at PF. Both looked good, but Spencer Hawes was even better in his 17:36 off the bench, with 17 points, 8 rebounds and four assists. We got a bit longer look at rookie guard Maalik Wayns (9 PTS, 8 AST) and Nick Young was on fire again, shooting it well and driving aggressively to draw fouls.
ORL @ CLE: That’s more like it. Kyrie Irving scored 22 points (11 of 11 on FT) and led his team to an overtime win. With only two more preseason games, the Cavs may be settling on C.J. Miles as the starting SF, rookie Dion Waiters at SG and Alonzo Gee backing up both wing spots. Miles had 17 points in 19 minutes and Gee chipped in 13 (plus 5 REB, 2 AST and 2 STL) in his 26 minutes. Cleveland used 16 players, some of whom will be cut soon. Jeremy Pargo got a 27-minute look as the backup PG but failed to impress.
Glen Davis was the go-to guy for the Magic. Big Baby scored 27 points and grabbed 8 boards, as Gustavo Ayon got the night off and Nikola Vucevic battled foul trouble. That let rookie Andrew Nicholson get 32 minutes off the bench; he responded with 14 PTS, 9 REB and 2 BLK but was -18, suggesting he needs work defensively. Arron Afflalo (hamstring) sat out again; undrafted DeQuan Jones, a 6’8” energy guy, started at SG but J.J. Redick (18 PTS, 8 AST) is way ahead of Jones on the depth chart. E-Twaun Moore (15 PTS, 7 AST) looks like the backup PG as Ishmael Smith (shoulder) has yet to play.
WAS @ BRK: After missing two games with food poisoning, Emeka Okafor gave the shorthanded Wizards some stability up front. Martell Webster (18 PTS) started at SF with Trevor Ariza (10) coming off the bench; that’s not a trend until it happens again. Again, three point guards took turns being ineffective. Jannero Pargo started, Shelvin Mack got the next call and A.J. Price played only 10:38; it’s a huge problem until John Wall is healthy.
The Nets, undefeated in Brooklyn, are completely ready. OK, maybe Mirza Teletovic has some adjusting to do; four fouls in less than 15 minutes kept him from bombing away. Andray Blatche is officially a new man. Two weeks ago, a New York Times article by Howard Beck reported that Blatche worked with John Lucas (not the Raptors guard, his dad, “a renowned guide to wayward souls”) for three months. Lucas drives his charges hard physically, weaving in psychological counseling and lifestyle adjustment, from better nutrition to sobriety. It’s easy to infer that Blatche loved to party and didn’t eat well. The slimmed-down version had 16 PTS, 8 REB and 2 STL off the bench last night; along with C.J. Watson, he makes the Nets’ bench dangerous.
HOU @ DAL: No Dirk Nowitzki, no problem. It’s nice to have Elton Brand standing by and Brandan Wright can back up PF or C. The real Mavericks can survive if Dirk needs a minor knee procedure and misses a few early-season games. Fantasy GMs have a tougher call, because you don’t want to use your first-round pick on a question mark. Rookie Jae Crowder filled it up (20 PTS in 15 minutes) but may not play enough to matter when the Mavs are at full strength. O.J. Mayo, the cut on his shooting hand healed, also dropped 20 and is a recommended target in your drafts. Delonte West has been suspended indefinitely for detrimental conduct; more details when we have them.
It was a scheduled day of rest for Jeremy Lin, so Toney Douglas started at PG and Scott Machado came off the bench. Kevin Martin, apparently no longer in the coach’s doghouse, led all scorers with 23 and Omer Asik, who was supposed to get the night off, grabbed 11 more rebounds. That was an unremarkable debut for rookie Royce White, whose anxiety issues may be an ongoing concern, but it’s good to see him on the court.
GSW @ DEN: Obviously, he could roll an ankle at any time, but Stephen Curry made his fantasy owners smile with 25 points in as many minutes. Klay Thompson (21) was also on target; they each drained four 3-pointers. David Lee (15) was the only other Warrior to show up. Two rookies were in the starting five; C Festus Ezeli had his quietest game and SF Harrison Barnes had his hands full against the Nuggets.
Denver still doesn’t have Wilson Chandler (hip) and gave Andre Miller a night off, so Corey Brewer (15 PTS) got extra run and Ben Uzoh backed up Ty Lawson. The big man rotation is puzzling. Coach Karl likes Timofey Mozgov to start beside Kenneth Faried and thinks JaVale McGee works best when Miller is on the court, but Kosta Koufos (13 REB in 16 minutes) is playing great. McGee is still the best of the three centers to own, but the gap seems to be closing.
POR @ SAC: The Blazers took a look at rookie Joel Freeland as the starting C, mostly because J.J. Hickson was being eased back in after missing a game with sore ribs. Meyers Leonard picked up 5 personal fouls in 15:20 off the bench; he’s still the third-best big on a thin roster. Damian Lillard won’t have the best A/T ratio in the league (3 AST, 4 TO last night) but he did score 20 points (including four triples) and is by far the best rookie PG in fantasy hoops. Will Barton returned sooner than I expected from his hamstring injury and has a chance to be the backup SG by opening night.
The Kings gave Aaron Brooks (16 PTS) a start and brought Isaiah Thomas off the bench for just 11 minutes. Don’t overreact; these things happen when coaches are in preseason mode. Jimmer Fredette might end up with PG minutes as well; he’s looked good so far. SF Travis Outlaw was another surprise starter; I’m continuing to monitor James Johnson (12 PTS in 17 bench minutes)as a possible sleeper.
October 16 Preview
ATL @ IND: Some coaches, like Larry Drew, use these games to conduct chemistry experiments. If you know what Josh Smith and Al Horford can do, why not start someone else? The Hawks haven’t used anything resembling their best lineup yet, and won’t tonight.
Indiana is just about ready to roll, though George Hill (thumb) is behind. D.J. Augustin is a capable PG replacement. Ian Mahinmi looked very good at C when Roy Hibbert was rested, so rookie Miles Plumlee may not play much once the games count. The most interesting new Pacer is Gerald Green, who can play both wing spots and score points in bunches.
BRK @ BOS: Back-to-back for the Nets, this one against a division rival. Given how listless the Celtics were last night, they can only be more interested this evening. There’s exactly two weeks until the first games that count, and the better the team, the less likely they are to go all-out too soon.
ORL @ DET: The Magic continues its Great Lakes tour after visiting Cleveland. The more I see of this team, the more I agree with Jeff — they are horrible. Tonight, they will also be tired. The Pistons may surprise people this year. Greg Monroe is a stud, Brandon Knight is eligible to take a big step forward and rookie Andre Drummond has been a revelation.
MIL @ CHI: As feared, Marquis Teague is a victim of his coach’s anti-rookie bias. “You have to learn how to be a pro first,’’ Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘Then you have to practice well. Then you have to learn the league. You have to learn your teammates. Once you do those things and you learn your job, you may get an opportunity to play.” SF Jimmy Butler is on the verge of regular backup minutes in his second Bulls season, so barring an injury to Kirk Hinrich or Nate Robinson, that may be the timetable for Teague.
CHA @ OKC: It’s a mismatch if the Thunder takes this game the least bit seriously. Instead, we’ll see more of Cole Aldrich and Perry Jones III (and less of their veterans) than you can expect in the regular season. Ironically, both could be overdrafted if they keep playing well.
The Bobcats have encouraged Byron Mullens to shoot threes, and so far it’s working. While his FG% and rebounding aren’t as good as typical PF-C, he will be a bargain with this new profile. The learning curve continues for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, whose upside exceeds his likely rookie-year production.
HAIFA @ MIN: The Maccabi Haifa team is on a goodwill tour. They aren’t considered among the favorites in the Israeli league — that would be Maccabi Tel Aviv — and while they have been linked to Allen Iverson, their current star is Donta Smith. In other words, this is a great night for coach Rick Adelman to reward his bench players and rest his starters. Kevin Love (elbow) should be available but there’s no need to rush him.
UTA @ LAL: Kind of unusual scheduling, as these two teams met in L.A. on Saturday. You’d expect this one to be in Utah. Nothing has really changed for the Lakers, who can afford to wait on Dwight Howard to be 100%, while finding out if Robert Sacre can play. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash know how to get themselves ready. The backup guard spots are up for grabs and Jordan Hill (back) will be in the mix, but Antawn Jamison is the key reserve.
For the Jazz, Enes Kanter has been tremendous. Fitter, faster, more confident — he’s the heir apparent to Al Jefferson and keeper leaguers should be especially interested. Paul Millsap missed two games to attend a funeral and will be back. To say that Derrick Favors disappointed in those two starts is partly about unrealistic expectations. Randy Foye, on the other hand, has been disappointing. FG% is never his strong suit, but 1-17 over three games is brutal. Alec Burks is standing by as a backup SG if Foye doesn’t find the range. Jamaal Tinsley looked solid (11 PTS, 5 AST, 1 TO in 17 minutes) as the backup PG.
$1,000 Sheridan Hoops Fantasy Contest
When you finish drafting your traditional fantasy teams, consider daily leagues. Join the one-day fantasy tournament for Sheridan Hoops readers at FanDuel. There’s a $2 entry fee and $1,000 in cash prizes. First place wins $200, second $125, third $100 and even 61st place doubles your investment. Pick nine players within a $60,000 salary cap and the team that compiles the most fantasy points — on October 31st only — wins. The rules are simple (see the October 9 Spin for details) but the salary cap makes it fascinating and challenging.
For me, the decision-making process is quite enjoyable. The best day of any traditional fantasy league is draft day. You prepare for hours, days or weeks, research players, and make the best list you can. Especially if you’ve read Jeff Nichols’ advice on strategy, you have a solid draft plan. There’s an adrenaline rush during the draft as you try to execute; it’s a bit like writing an exam, only it takes six months to get your final mark.
Sure, the day-to-day grind of a fantasy season is fun in its own way. As someone who grabbed Jeremy Lin and Nikola Pekovic as free agents last year, and who likes to trade, I enjoy it all. But the excitement of drafting used to be a once-a-year thing. Daily fantasy sports has changed all that. You know how Head-to-Head is really a series of one-week Roto leagues? You can “write off” a bad week and everyone starts 0-0 the next Monday. FanDuel offers a brand-new league every day.
Also, in H2H we focus more on matchups than in Roto, often “streaming” players who are up against a weak defensive team. Daily leagues (and the weekly FanDuel offerings) concentrate that even more. You can throw out players who are on a long road trip, slightly injured or facing a tough opponent. Presuming that you’ve done all the heavy studying for your traditional drafts, it’s easy to prepare for a one-day league — I can do it in 15 minutes, but usually take 30 because it’s fun. It’s more pop quiz than exam, and the results come almost immediately.
This process scratches a psychological itch for me. For lack of a better explanation, it’s the urge to turn chaos into order. I’m in a good mood while picking my team, and win or lose, I get to do it again the next day. If you are wired differently and don’t enjoy drafting, it may not be for you.
Starting October 30, I’ll be investing $100 each week in a variety of daily and weekly leagues. You can read about those adventures here every day. The large pools for small entry fees (like our tournament) are enticing, but they also have small leagues, limited to 20, 10, 5, 3 or even two owners. Clearly the odds of winning something increase as the number of opponents diminishes, and there are people grinding out a consistent profit in those leagues. The plan here is to investigate all the various options and see which ones suit me best.
If you want to check out FanDuel before joining, that couldn’t be easier. Just click the logo at the top of this page or in the sidebar. No deposit or credit card is required and there’s no obligation; in about a minute, you can be picking your team in a free league.
Follow the Sheridan Hoops fantasy team on Twitter — @SheridanFantasy — all season.