Fourteen games were played in the NBA on Wednesday. Dozens of players returned from or left with injuries, debuts were rife between rookies, traded players and free agent signees, and scores of players had surprising performances. There are too many things to talk about and too little time or space to talk about them, so let’s begin with the Heat vs. Sixers game. Note: My future Daily Dose columns will not be this long, for your sake and my own.
Miami at Philadelphia
Fantasy owners got a rude shock when Dwyane Wade was ruled out hours before tipoff due to "general soreness." The Heat billed it as a simple move to get D-Wade some rest on the second game of a back-to-back set, but it was made less routine by the fact that we're two days into the 2013-14 season. We knew Wade wasn't in peak condition during the preseason, as he hand-picked which games he'd sit out, and owners should be on red alert for more DNPs in upcoming back-to-back sets. To save you some research, the next such sets are Nov. 15/16, Nov. 19/20, and Dec. 27/28.
Miami was tired and disjointed to begin the game after playing Chicago on Tuesday (they didn't even attempt a FT until there were 1.2 seconds remaining in the first half), and despite rallying in the second half they eventually fell to a lively Sixers team which played with as much energy as we've seen from them in years. With Wade out of the lineup, LeBron James notched 25 points (four 3s) and 13 assists, while Chris Bosh had 22 points and 10 rebounds, (he had only 15 double-digit rebounding games in the regular season last year). Fill-in starter Roger Mason Jr. contributed three points in 15 minutes. Off the bench, Ray Allen drained four 3-pointers to finish with 16 points, Norris Cole added 10 points, and Rashard Lewis (who had a DNP-CD on Tuesday) scored nine points in 16 minutes. Udonis Haslem started at PF but fell out of the rotation quickly and had only two points in 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, the 76ers took a confident step toward the draft lottery with the 114-110 home victory. They jumped out to a 23-2 lead on perfect 10-of-10 FGs to begin the game, with rookie PG Michael Carter-Williams draining his first two shots (including a 3-pointer) with four assists and four steals before he took a seat after just nine minutes in the first quarter.
MCW's dazzling performance didn't end there and he finished with a line of 22 points (6-of-10 FGs, 6-of-8 FTs), four 3-pointers, seven rebounds, 12 assists, nine steals and just one turnover. I've harped on the threat that low FG percentages and TOs pose to his fantasy value, and I doubt he'll be anywhere near this efficient most nights, but the ostentatious steals and assist-to-turnover ratio are more than enough reason to be crowing if you drafted him. As a historical footnote worth remembering, MCW's nine steals set a new NBA rookie-debut record.
James Anderson started at SG to finish with eight points, six rebounds and two steals in 35 minutes. Evan Turner looked confident and aggressive on his way to a team-high 26 points on 10-of-19 FGs and 6-of-6 FTs (noteworthy given his career marks of 42.8 percent FGs and 74.4 percent FTs). Tony Wroten also shredded expectations in 23 bench minutes -- billed as a lousy shooter, he scored 14 points on 6-of-9 FGs with one 3-pointer, four rebounds, two assists and one steal in 23 minutes.
Spencer Hawes has his way most of the night vs. the Miami frontcourt, and as expected he was a focal point of the Sixers' offense. He has a solid fantasy outlook as long as he can stay healthy, thanks to adequate 3-point range to spread the court, above-average passing ability, a solid mid-range jumper, and zero competition for minutes.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a $6,000 Fantasy Basketball league that includes Thursday and Friday's NBA games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $1,200. Starts Thursday night at 8pm ET. Here's the link.
Brooklyn at Cleveland
Deron Williams, who made a brief cameo in the Nets' final preseason game, played only 22 minutes in their season-opening loss to the Cavs. He scored seven points with nine dimes and four giveaways, but his stats are secondary to his health. Anyone who drafted him (I'm not among them) knew they were taking a gamble on the health of D-Will's ankles, but with luck his minutes will slowly increase to the point where he's playing 36+ per game.
Paul Pierce came into his Nets' debut suffering from a jammed big toe and he was questionable to play until just before tip-off, but he finished with 17 points, four boards and two assists in 30 minutes, while shooting 3-of-4 from downtown. His primary backup, Andrei Kirilenko, was sidelined by back spasms that have bothered him for the past few weeks. AK traveled with the team and is hopeful to return to action on Friday. Alan Anderson scored nine points and played more minutes than any other reserve, but his playing time will be curtailed when AK returns. Kevin Garnett had a quiet debut with eight points and 10 boards, while Brook Lopez scored 21 points on 9-of-18 shooting, and swatted four shots.
The biggest news prior to this game revolved around Andrew Bynum (knee), who was cleared for limited minutes. He played one stint in the first half, posting three points, three rebounds, two assists and two blocks in a mere eight minutes of action. Is he worth a speculative pickup off the waiver wire? Definitely, but I wouldn't cut anyone with substantial, lasting value for him. His playing time will creep upward slowly and his knees, it should go without saying, will be a constant source of concern.
Tristan Thompson used his new right-handed shot to score a team-high 18 points on 8-of-13 FGs and 2-of-4 FTs, with nine rebounds and zero blocks. So far, so good for the ambidextrous big man. Anderson Varejao's return after missing the bulk of the 2012-13 season was nearly lost in the excitement, but his fantasy owners appreciated a quiet 11 points, eight boards, three assists, one block and zero turnovers. Bynum's return will nudge Varejao's minutes down a bit, but that may not be a bad thing if it reduces the odds of an injury.
The Cavs' SF job went to Earl Clark, as expected, and he notched nine points and eight boards in 27 minutes, while backup Alonzo Gee chipped in seven points in 19 minutes. Mike Brown has been clear that this is an ongoing position battle and he hopes one guy steps up to claim the job permanently, so it's a situation to monitor in the coming weeks.
It was a library-quiet debut for this year's No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett, who came off the bench for two points and five rebounds in 15 minutes. Tyler Zeller returned from his appendectomy, though if you blinked you missed his scoreless performance in four minutes.
Boston at Toronto
Brad Stevens finally unveiled his opening night starting lineup -- Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass, and rookie C Vitor Faverani. Faverani stood out the most with 13 points, three rebounds and three blocks in 27 minutes in the defeat, and his overseas experience should serve him well as he steps into a big role for the neophyte Celtics. Highly touted rookie Kelly Olynyk was less formidable with four points, zero rebounds, zero blocks and three turnovers off the bench. His lack of physicality wasn't an issue while he dominated at Summer League, but it will be relentlessly exposed by NBA teams, another reason Faverani earned the starting nod.
Celtics fans were fretting about Jeff Green's quiet preseason, during which he shot 32 percent from the field, and beat writer A. Sherrod Blakely didn't even consider him a lock to start this game. Green silenced concerns by scoring 25 points with two 3-pointers, five boards, two dimes, one steal, one block and only one turnover. He shot efficiently, got to the FT line nine times, and generally lived up to the billing as Boston's No. 1 option.
Brandon Bass dropped in an efficient 17 points on 6-of-7 FGs and 5-of-5 FTs in 32 minutes. It's important to remember that Jared Sullinger was out due to a one-game suspension. Bass has enough per-minute efficiency to have fantasy value if he flirts with 30 minutes per game, but that's not guaranteed. If you don't care about Bass' stellar FT shooting (86 percent last season, from the PF position), it should be safe to cut him loose.
The PG situation is up in the air until Rajon Rondo returns from ACL surgery. Avery Bradley had eight points, five rebounds, two steals, one block, four assists and four turnovers, while Jordan Crawford posted seven points and five assists in a reserve role. I've never been sold on either guy as a PG, particularly Crawford, but Bradley's potential for steals and 3-pointers (0-of-3 on Wednesday) at least earns him a temporary spot on standard-sized rosters.
Gerald Wallace played 40 minutes and had four steals in this game but otherwise it was a flashback to the 2012-13 season (which is a very bad thing). The veteran, who has been harping on his teammates for a lack of effort all preseason, finished with just three points on one FG attempt, with three rebounds and five turnovers. He's a borderline guy to own until we see flashes of his former athleticism.
Fantasy owners concerned about Kyle Lowry's finger injury were pleased to see him score 11 points with eight assists and two steals in 35 minutes. The torn tendon will require him to wear a splint for six weeks but he'll continue to play without limitations for as long he doesn't drastically aggravate it. The bad news is that Lowry was already a career 41.7 percent shooter coming off a career-worst year from the field, and his taped-up finger isn't going to help those numbers. He finished this game 2-of-8 from the field and 7-of-12 from the FT line, a caveat his owners will have to accept.
Amir Johnson (13 points, three rebounds) played 24 minutes, the same amount of playing time given to Tyler Hansbrough (seven points, 12 boards, three blocks). I own Johnson in a few leagues and I'm not particularly concerned, but I will be if this timeshare continues vs. Atlanta on Friday.
Washington at Detroit
John Wall (20 points, 11 assists) did not lead the Wizards in scoring during Wednesday's road loss. Neither did Bradley Beal (17 points on 6-of-18 shooting). Nene wasn't even close, scoring 12 points with three rebounds and one block in 30 minutes, but at least he didn't seem bothered by the knee and foot which troubled him this preseason.
It was Trevor Ariza who led Washington, scoring 28 points in a futile effort that included 6-of-11 shooting from downtown, 10 rebounds, three assists and one steal. He scored 20+ points on four occasions last year, and grabbed 10+ rebounds just twice. His big night reduced Martell Webster (five points in 21 minutes) to an afterthought.
For the Pistons, Brandon Jennings (mouth) missed the first of at least four games to open the season, as he recovers from a mandible fracture and impacted wisdom tooth. Rodney Stuckey (finger) warmed up in the afternoon but was quickly ruled out, leaving him day-to-day, so the Pistons started Chauncey Billups and Will Bynum in their backcourt. The duo combined for 35 points and 10 assists, with most of Billups' 16 points coming from beyond the arc. Peyton Siva played under one minute in his NBA debut but fellow rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had nine points (4-of-12 FGs), two assists and two steals in 27 minutes.
The much-anticipated debut of Detroit's over-sized frontcourt didn't disappoint. Andre Drummond was limited by foul trouble and didn't block any shots, but he scored 12 points with eight rebounds and there isn't the slightest doubt that he'll pick up the pace soon. Greg Monroe looked comfortable shifting further away from the hoop offensively as a PF, scoring a team-high 24 points on 6-of-15 FGs and a whopping 12-of-15 FTs, while high-profile addition Josh Smith added 19 points, five boards, five assists and one block. Seven of his 12 attempts came from beyond the arc, and he made three of them (43 percent). Go figure.
Orlando at Minnesota
Kevin Love, who ruined many a fantasy owner's season last year, looked like the 2012-13 season never happened in a 120-115 OT win vs. the visiting Magic. He drained 8-of-19 FGs and 12-of-16 FTs, with three triples, 17 rebounds and four assists. He scored 30+ points once last season, and grabbed 17+ rebounds four times.
It's clear that Kevin Martin has played a long time under Coach Rick Adelman. He ran fluidly through offensive sets on Wednesday and wound up with 23 points and three assists in 43 minutes, going 6-of-19 from the field but a perfect 9-of-9 from the FT line. Here's a fact worth remembering if you own K-Mart, or are looking for ways to boost your FT percentage -- Martin, a career 86.7 percent FT shooter, attempted nine FTs just once in 77 games with the Thunder last season, as Scott Brooks' offense left him to haunt the perimeter. He's back as a slashing, sharp-shooting threat in a system full of player movement and excellent passers, all of which spells success for his fantasy value. Alexey Shved has taken a backseat in the rotation, and even J.J. Barea (11 points, four assists) had 20 minutes to Shved's 15 minutes.
Rick Adelman had been very coy about who would start at SF, but ultimately he settled on the safest bet -- Corey Brewer. Ideally Brewer would provide defense and full-court energy off the bench, but Adelman obviously doesn't have much faith in Derrick Williams, Robbie Hummel or Shabazz Muhammad (all DNP-CDs).
Aaron Afflalo scored 28 points with three triples, nine rebounds and five assists, Jameer Nelson had 18 points and eight assists, and Nikola Vucevic was everywhere with 22 points, 16 boards, three assists, three steals and three blocks. The result was another loss, dropping the Magic to 0-2.
Memphis at San Antonio
Tim Duncan left this game with a bruised chest and for the moment we're listing him as day-to-day, but an update should be available on Thursday. Boris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard each scored 14 points to tie for the team lead, and San Antonio overcame Duncan's absence to win their opener behind a total team effort.
The Grizzlies were playing their first game under Coach Dave Joerger and they were horrible to watch in the first half on Wednesday, when they scored 27 points on 23 percent shooting. They avoided any ignominious records by rallying in the second half to finish with 94 points. Nobody scored more than Tony Allen, who had 15 points and three 3s for Memphis, and this is about as fluky a game (statistically) as you'll see from Memphis this season.
Oklahoma City at Utah
John Lucas III started at PG for Utah, with Jamaal Tinsley on the bench and rookie Trey Burke (finger) watching from the sidelines. Lucas had only eight points and five assists despite logging 37 minutes, and with Burke inching closer to a return Lucas isn't worth holding if there are better long-term players on your waiver wire. Gordon Hayward was quiet with 12 points and five assists, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter combined for a solid-but-unspectacular 29 points and 19 boards, and Alec Burks was very impressive off the bench with a team-high 24 points, six assists and six rebounds in just 32 minutes.
Everyone's favorite fill-in PG, Reggie Jackson, scored 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting with two threes, three assists and five steals. Russell Westbrook (knee surgery) has been practicing with the Thunder for the past week but his return date is still uncertain. Kevin Durant used 22-of-24 FT shooting to drop 42 points in his season debut, and the one-man show was enough to get OKC in the win column.
Denver at Sacramento
DeMarcus Cousins dominated this game. He was at his best down the stretch and finished with 30 points on 13-of-24 shooting, 14 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Mike Malone's offense looks, as promised, as though it's built to feature DMC. The second most impressive performance came from Isaiah Thomas, the inveterate gamer who shrugged off a bench role behind Greivis Vasquez to score 16 points in 29 minutes. He drained 3-of-4 shots from beyond the arc with four boards and five assists, all the while playing disruptive defense.
That's all great news for fantasy owners, since Vasquez also played well with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting and four assists and 34 minutes -- both guards were on the court to close out the game, which lends credence to Mike Malone's stated belief in Vasquez's versatility.
JaVale McGee flopped in his debut under Coach Brian Shaw, playing just 10 minutes due to foul trouble. He should have better luck vs. Robin Lopez and the Blazers on Friday. Starting PF J.J. Hickson had 12 points, nine boards and four blocks, while Kenneth Faried played just 15 minutes off the bench. It seems Faried is still limited by his hamstring injury, so give him a few more games before making any drastic moves with him.
L.A. Lakers at Golden State
The Lakers shot 44 percent from downtown but couldn't recapture their opening-night magic, falling on the road despite having seven players with double-digit points. Xavier Henry led the team with 36 minutes despite coming off the bench and is worth picking up as (at least) a short-term option until Kobe returns. Steve Blake (10 points, four assists) was the only other player to log 30+ minutes. Fellow veteran PG Steve Nash sat this one out, possibly just for rest in a back-to-back, but he said that "strange" things happened to him physically on Tuesday. He must be avoided.
The story for the Warriors was Klay Thompson, who scored a career-high 38 points on 15-of-19 shooting, with five 3-pointers. He staked his team to a 19-point lead in the first half, which ballooned to 33 points after three quarters, allowing plenty of rest for Steph Curry (10 points in 24 minutes), Andrew Bogut (18 minutes) and David Lee (24 points in 26 minutes).
Portland at Phoenix
The Suns started Miles Plumlee, whose play in training camp and the preseason was part of the reason the team felt comfortable shipping Marcin Gortat to Washington for an injured Emeka Okafor (neck) and a future first-round pick. He finished with 18 points, 15 boards and three blocks in 40 minutes, a brilliant return for owners who snatched him in the final rounds or claimed him off the WW once Gortat was traded. If he's still available, go get him.
At PF it was Channing Frye making his emotional return to the NBA after missing the entire 2012-13 season with an enlarged heart. His game would have been a success even if he'd gone scoreless with four turnovers, but he dropped in seven points with three rebounds in 22 minutes of action. At the SF spot it was P.J. Tucker who scored 18 points with a few triples in a starting role, while Gerald Green logged 17 minutes as a reserve. The Suns' new-look backcourt also thrived in the victory -- Goran Dragic had 26 points on 12-of-21 shooting with six rebounds, nine assists and one steal, while Eric Bledsoe added 22 points, seven boards and six dimes. With Phoenix looking to run at every opportunity, both guys could fill up the stat sheet on a nightly basis.
Portland lost with top-heavy production from their two stars -- Damian Lillard scored 32 points with six 3s, and LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points, but nobody else cracked double-digits. Even Portland's much-improved bench looked eerily similar to last year's league-worst crew, finishing with a combined 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting. Wesley Matthews played 33 minutes and seemed no worse for the wear, after dealing with an irregular heartbeat in the preseason.
Atlanta at Dallas
Paul Millsap came into his Hawks' debut with a lingering Achilles injury, but he posted a tried-and-true Millsap line with 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting, five boards, three assists, one steal and one block. Al Horford only had 11 points but he added five steals and four blocks for a line that left owners in category leagues drooling. DeMarre Carroll logged 34 minutes as the starting SF and he's worth picking up wherever he's available -- he finished with 14 points, seven boards, two 3-pointers and three steals, and there are no obvious challenges to his playing time.
I will admit that prior to turning on this game I didn't realize Cartier Martin signed with the Hawks. He did, and scored 17 points on Wednesday to prove it.
Monta Ellis, whom Dr. A has been hyping since his trade to the Mavs, poured in 32 points in the 118-109 win vs. Atlanta. He made 11-of-17 FGs and 8-of-8 FTs with four rebounds, eight assists and two steals. He also had seven TOs, but looked perfectly tailored to dart around Dirk Nowitzki, who dropped an efficient 24 points with four 3-pointers. Vince Carter began the season with 21 points, two 3s, four rebounds and a steal in 25 bench minutes. His defense and rebounding have actually improved at this late stage in his career, and as long as he's knocking down triples he's worth owning in most fantasy leagues.
Charlotte at Houston
Dwight Howard grabbed 26 rebounds in his Rockets debut. He also had 17 points, two assists and two blocks in 35 minutes, while hitting 8-of-14 FGs and 1-of-4 FTs, but those rebounds are the key stat. Dwight reached 26 rebounds once last year and cracked 20 on four occasions, but to do it on opening night is simply amazing (even if it was against a rebound-poor Bobcats squad). If you had any doubts about his health or focus, Dwight just answered them.
Meanwhile, Omer Asik started (at PF or C, take your pick) and posted four points, 14 boards, one steal and two blocks in 26 minutes. Omri Casspi was quiet with four points in 20 minutes, Terrence Jones (shoulder) didn't leave the bench despite saying he's totally healthy, and neither did Donatas Motiejunas. The takeaway is that Kevin McHale wasn't just messing around when he paired Dwight and Omer in the preseason -- he's actually committed to making it work. Asik has been high on 'most likely to be traded' lists but if the Rockets get out to a quick start with the 'twin towers' lineup, all bets are off.
What else? Patrick Beverley started at PG but hurt his ribs and left after just 10 minutes of action, allowing Jeremy Lin to rack up 16 points with two 3s off the bench. Fortunately, he said he expects to play Friday after being diagnosed with a pulled muscle under his ribs.
Al Jefferson's sprained ankle didn't prevent him from scoring 13 points with eight boards and two blocks vs. Dwight and the Rockets, and owners who burned a top-20 pick on him can feel better about the decision. Next to him in the frontcourt was veteran Josh McRoberts, who played 30 minutes to just 15 minutes for rookie Cody Zeller. Zeller had zero steals and one block off the bench, and his owners should get accustomed to a paucity of defensive stats.
This was a brutal test for the Bobcats, who are adjusting to Big Al's return in the middle while learning Steve Clifford's system and attempting to score on a Rockets team with Dwight Howard and Omer Asik in the starting lineup. They didn't have enough perimeter shooting to make the Rockets pay for their jumbo two-some at PF and C, yet Anthony Tolliver, a 6'8" combo forward with passable 3-point range, only played three minutes off the bench.
Indiana at New Orleans
The Pelicans' playoff aspirations took a hit before the game when Ryan Anderson was ruled out 1-3 weeks with a fractured toe. The good news is that despite suffering an opening-night loss at home, the starting backcourt showed all the promise GM Dell Demps saw when he inked Eric Gordon (25 points, two steals) to a massive contract and, this year, paired him with Jrue Holiday (24 points, seven rebounds, five assists). The odd man out was Tyreke Evans, who scored four points with three dimes vs. three turnovers, but it should be noted that Tyreke was just returning from an ankle injury, and thus may have been used less than will be typical.
Monty Williams decided to start Jason Smith at C which wasn't surprising considering Greg Stiemsma (two points, four fouls in 15 minutes) averaged 1.0 points in the preseason. Smith had eight points, two rebounds and one block before fouling out in 20 minutes, but if he keeps the C job he should do enough to serve as a backup fantasy option. Anthony Davis, meanwhile, lived up to expectations with 20 points, 12 rebounds, one steal and three blocks against one of the league's most air-tight defenses. Trade for him while you still can.
Roy Hibbert finished with only six points and four rebounds in 22 minutes, but it wasn't on account of his twisted knee -- he was mired in early foul trouble, missing a golden opportunity against a Hornets' squad without any big men physical enough to keep him out of the paint. Hibbs also blocked four shots in his limited action, which has him at 5.5 blocks per game through two contests. #DPOY
In the 'positives' category, Paul George again looked like an elite go-to option with 32 points, four 3s, six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Fantasy gold. George Hill bounced back with 19 points including four 3-pointers, but he also handed out four assists vs. three turnovers. He's not initiating the offense as often as he did last year, as we've documented elsewhere, and it's a problem which isn't likely to cease unless the Pacers start consistently losing games with Paul George as their primary playmaker (an unlikely scenario).
Finally, Lance Stephenson. He had another well-rounded line with 16 points, two 3s, eight boards and four assists in 41 minutes. Danny Granger's calf injury isn't expected to keep him out much longer than three weeks, but at this point I'm not sure it matters -- Stephenson looks fluid, physical and confident in the Pacers' system, and it will be hard for Granger to dislodge him as the starting SG.
Milwaukee at New York
Raymond Felton entered the game with a lingering hamstring injury but still played 34 minutes, finishing with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, three assists and three steals. The shocker of the night may have been Pablo Prigioni's unexpected start at SG, where he had seven points, five dimes, three steals and one 3-pointer in over 37 minutes. The veteran probably couldn't sustain that level of activity even if Mike Woodson wanted him to, and J.R. Smith's return in 10 days looms like a guillotine for Prigioni's fantasy value. Iman Shumpert scored 16 points in a start at SF while Metta World Peace (four points) and Andrea Bargnani (six points) both struggled in 17 minutes off the bench.
Felton's PG counterpart on the Bucks, Brandon Knight, wasn't as lucky as he aggravated an existing hamstring injury just two minutes into the game and did not return. Luke Ridnour had already been ruled out because of a sore back just prior to tip-off, leaving owners in deep leagues scrambling to evict him from their lineups. The absence of those two guards left the Bucks' PG spot to Gary Neal (16 points, five dimes in 32 minutes) and rookie Nate Wolters (nine points in 30 minutes). Knight's owners should check RW's player news page for updates but presumably since he aggravated the injury he'll be out at least a few more days, leaving him (to my mind) closer to 'doubtful' than 'questionable' for games on Friday and Saturday. Ridnour is day-to-day.
Larry Sanders' season got off to a lousy start thanks to foul trouble, as he went scoreless with one block in 12 minutes of action, leaving the bulk of the C minutes to Zaza Pachulia (13 points, 11 boards). Ersan Ilyasova (ankle) was expected to be limited, and he came off the bench to score 10 points in 20 minutes. He looked good while on the court and should promptly reclaim the SF spot from place-warmer Khris Middleton.
On a side note, J.R. Smith was officially cleared to play which means his five-game suspension is underway, and he'll return to action Nov. 10 vs. the Spurs.
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