Mostly NBA Notes: A look around the league

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Kyle Lowry has been the No. 1 fantasy player in 9-cat leagues over the beginning of the season, thanks to averaging 18.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 6.3 apg, 3.0 spg, 0.5 bpg and 2.0 3pt while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor and 94.4 percent from the charity stripe. And this was with him leaving his last game after just 16 minutes with an ankle injury (that's thankfully not a high-sprain). Lowry's overall numbers from last season are a bit misleading, as he was a top-10 player before a bacterial infection not only cost him a bunch of games but also resulted in him coming off the bench and playing limited minutes when he was able to return. Lowry was also highly productive the year prior after taking over starting duties for the first time as a member of the Rockets. There's always at least some concern when a non superstar joins a new team, especially when that involves a trade in which they didn't give up a ton (albeit a future lottery pick) and not a huge free agent contract, but it's safe to say at this point Lowry is going to be the key to Toronto's offense. There's little doubt at this point he needs to be viewed as a health risk and is due to see his FG percentage drop, but fantasy owners should enjoy the ride when he's in the lineup, as Lowry is the real deal.

Anderson Varejao has been a monster to start the season before sitting out the last game with knee soreness, averaging 14.0 ppg, 15.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.0 spg and 0.8 bpg. It's safe to call that type of production unsustainable but don't forget he did grab 11.5 rpg before having his year cut short last season, and the latest injury isn't expected to be serious. Varejao has always put up big rebounding numbers on a per minute basis and could easily see a career-high in playing time this season, and he also rarely turns the ball over. In fact, he's actually been the fifth-most valuable fantasy player per game so far this year, according to Basketball Monster. It sure seems like a lot of centers who went in the mid-to-late rounds are off to big fantasy starts this season, with the man who resembles Sideshow Bob leading the way.

Cousin Sal hidden camera at Brooklyn pizzeria part 2.

Speaking of bigs off to strong starts, although he cost a much higher draft pick, Marcin Gortat has been on fire over the first handful of games, getting a whopping 4.2 bpg, which easily leads the NBA. While no one should get overly excited about such a small sample (his career mark is just 1.1, but he got 1.5 last year when he began the campaign with a busted thumb), it's also nice to see Gortat's FG percentage actually improve this season compared to last (59.3 vs. 55.5), as there was some worry how much he'd miss Steve Nash. Phoenix's PACE ranks fifth highest in the league so far, so they remain uptempo. Few centers currently carry more fantasy value than Gortat.

Cell phone crashing prank.

It really is tough to write about a sport like the NBA (or MLB) after just a handful of games have been played, as any hot or cold stretch over a five-game span in the middle of the season wouldn't standout like one does now. With that caveat aside, we could be looking at the start of a true breakout season from Jrue Holiday. Fantasy owners were left disappointed when he took a step back in his third year in the league last season, but so far this year the opposite has been true, as he's averaging 18.0 ppg, 9.5 apg and 2.0 3pt. Holiday is seeing 39:00 mpg, and with Andre Iguodala gone, he's now clearly the team's centerpiece. He's committed an ugly 5.0 tpg, but that can be forgiven with him also hitting 85.7 percent of his free throws while also adding 4.0 rpg and 1.5 spg. Holiday may not be able to keep up this type of pace over a full season, but at just 22 years old, he's also not necessarily a sell-high candidate.

This dog is pretty legit.

Byron Mullens is yet another big who's been plenty valuable who came at an affordable cost at draft tables, but he's done so from a slightly different route - averaging 2.7 3pt so far this season. He's accomplished this by attempting 8.0 shots per game from behind the arc! Not surprisingly, that's an NBA high. And this didn't come out of nowhere, as he averaged 6.5 three pointers per game in the preseason. Mullens is 7-0, 275 lbs. He's not helping the Bobcats much by making 33.3 percent of his shots from downtown (and also hurting his chances at offensive rebounds taking himself so far away from the basket), so don't expect this to continue (well that and also natural regression), but he did quietly attempt 0.8 three pointers per game last season, so he's likely going to be among the league leaders in the category as far as big men are concerned. Mullens is just 23 and is looking at a bunch of minutes on a team that might have the least amount of talent in the NBA (although it's been nice to see Kemba Walker improve so much in the early going, and of course Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could have a bright future), so he's going to be a major factor in fantasy leagues this year. And just to reiterate, the 7-0, 275-pound Mullens has attempted 24 three-pointers this season. And zero free throws.

Man takes pregnancy test as a joke, finds testicular cancer.

After joining the starting lineup last season, Isaiah Thomas averaged 14.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 5.4 apg, 1.0 spg and 1.3 3pt while shooting 57.1 percent from the field and 84.1 percent from the line. He's remained in a starting role over the first five games this year, but his minutes are way down (23:00 mpg), and his production has suffered greatly as a result (1.4 apg). This shouldn't come as a total blindside to fantasy owners, as coach Keith Smart has shown a propensity to give erratic and unpredictable playing time, including this preseason. Still, it's nevertheless infuriating, as while Aaron Brooks is a nice backup point guard, he shouldn't be a threat to Thomas, especially at this point in their careers on a rebuilding team like Sacramento. Unless you're in a really shallow league, you should probably remain patient with Thomas, but it's no doubt been a discouraging start to the season so far.

An interesting read about the future of NBA statistics.

I for one didn't expect the Knicks to be the last undefeated team in the league this season (on a side note: no team that's started 1-4 has ever won an NBA title. The Lakers are currently 1-4, and Kobe Bryant isn't pleased about it), and yes, it's just three games, but one victory came against a Miami team (by 20 points) that looks like they may push 65+ wins this season. But what's more interesting than the three-game winning streak to open the year is how they've done it; after tying for the fourth-highest PACE last season, New York currently ranks dead last, with the team's Offensive Efficiency ranking second best only to Miami. So this means the Knicks are averaging the fewest possessions per game, but are scoring the most points per 100 possessions. Quite a difference from the Mike D'Antoni era. Of course, this isn't purely a coaching philosophy shift, as the Knicks also currently have the third-best Defensive Efficiency ranking, which in no small part has to do with Amar'e Stoudemire being out with an injury. Again, it's a really small sample, but some interesting stuff early on that further gives validation for those who think the team should trade Stoudemire. As for fantasy purposes, the new tempo certainly hasn't hurt so far, as J.R. Smith currently checks in as the 11th most valuable player while Carmelo Anthony is just one spot behind him at 12.

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