By Nick Whalen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
What a first half-week it’s been in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard picked up where he left off, Karl-Anthony Towns is destroying everything in his path, the Warriors look shockingly vulnerable, and — perhaps most surprisingly — the Phoenix Suns are playing competent basketball.
As we look ahead to Week 2, the first full week of the season, it’s important to understand the impact of the schedule in weekly lineup leagues. Game counts are extremely vital, and maximizing your roster’s potential each week is a key to a successful fantasy season. Below is a breakdown of each team’s game count this week, as well as some key players to consider starting or leaving on the bench.
Teams with two games: BOS, MEM, MIN, WAS
Teams with three games: ATL, BRO, CHA, DAL, LAL, MIA, NOR, OKC, PHI, PHO, POR, TOR
Teams with four games: CHI, CLE, DEN, DET, GSW, HOU, IND, LAC, MIL, NYK, ORL, SAC, SAS, UTA
Sit: Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
First and foremost, the Grizzlies are on a two-game week, so Morant will face an uphill battle to exceed the value of four-game, or even three-game, players. That said, the rookie has been just fine through his first two games, averaging 12.0 points, 4.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.0 steals. The defensive production is a nice bonus, but Morant has committed 10 turnovers and attempted only two threes thus far. He’s also been somewhat limited in terms of workload, having played 25 and 28 minutes, respectively, against Miami and Chicago. His minutes will likely increase as the season wears on, but for now, new head coach Taylor Jenkins isn’t doing everyone rostering Morant any favors.
Sit: Alex Len, Atlanta Hawks
Perhaps my preseason faith in Alex Len was misguided, but while I’m not ready to pull the plug, the early results have not been encouraging. Len is averaging 22 minutes per game thus far, and he saw fewer than 20 minutes in Saturday’s win over Orlando. Perhaps some of that had to do with foul trouble — he picked up four personals — but Len simply hasn’t been an impact player at either end through two games. With three games on the schedule in Week 2, Len can still be started in many leagues, but it may be worth waiting until Atlanta’s four-game in Week 3 if you can afford it.
Start: Dewayne Dedmon, Sacramento Kings
Dedmon is off to somewhat of a disappointing start in his new home, but with four games on tap in Week 2, he’ll be in a good position to bounce back. Dedmon played just 35 combined minutes through the Kings’ first two games, but he jumped up to 28 minutes Saturday night against Utah. Dedmon did struggle in that contest — seven turnovers, 3-of-8 shooting — but with Marvin Bagley out for at least a few more weeks, Dedmon will continue to be in line for increased minutes.
Start: Derrick Rose, Detroit Pistons
Among the league’s most pleasant surprises thus far is Rose, who’s averaging better than 25 points per game through Detroit’s first three contests. He’s coming off of his best effort yet Saturday night against Philadelphia when he put up 31 points on 14 shots in just 27 minutes. Reggie Jackson was held out of that contest, and while the point guard is expected back Monday, his return shouldn’t have a major impact on Rose’s role in the rotation. The Pistons play four games in Week 2, including three against teams that enter the week in the bottom half of the league in defensive rating (yes, yes, I know, it’s early).
Sit: Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics
A so-so effort in Saturday’s blowout win over New York aside, Hayward has looked much more like his old self thus far. He went for 25 points in the opener against Philadelphia before putting up 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and three three-pointers against Toronto. A more aggressive Hayward is a good sign in the long term, but he’s likely best kept on the bench during a two-game Week 2. The same goes for teammate Marcus Smart, while Jayson Tatum is a bit more of a split decision.
Sit: Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons
Hopefully, you weren’t depending on Jackson for much in the first place, but he’s been off to a disastrous start, fantasy-wise, while being slowed by a back injury. Initially, the Pistons said they expected to get Jackson back for Monday’s game against Indiana, but he’s since been downgraded to doubtful. The Pistons are on a four-game week, but given what we’ve seen thus far, three games of Jackson likely won’t provide a ton of value. Jackson played only 35 total minutes in his first two games, and — injury aside — he’s been thoroughly outplayed by Derrick Rose.
Sit: Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Another marquee player on a two-game week, Jackson is probably worth sitting even after a 23-point, 11-rebound double-double on Friday. That was a much better showing than his debut against Miami when he was limited to 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting to go with just two rebounds. Encouragingly, Jackson has made 15 trips to the free throw line through two games, though the development of his three-point shot (1-of-9 thus far) will be something to monitor. Sit the 20 year old in Week 2 with the expectation of redeploying him for four-game Weeks 3 and 4.
Speaking of the Grizzlies, Jackson’s frontcourt mate, Jonas Valanciunas, can also be sat in Week 2.
Sit: Jeremy Lamb, Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have four games on the ledger, so Lamb is not a must-sit this week, but he’s dealing with a nagging hip injury that already cost him Saturday’s game against Cleveland. Lamb was unable to practice Sunday, which does not bode well for his status heading into Monday’s matchup with the Pistons in Detroit. Working in Lamb’s favor, though, is the fact that the Pacers do not play any back-to-backs in Week 2.
Start: Frank Kaminsky, Phoenix Suns
Full disclosure: I’m a Wisconsin alum. But even I never imagined I’d be writing a Frank Kaminsky hype paragraph less than a week into the season. At this point, Kaminsky is probably more of a waiver wire add than someone you’re worried about fitting into your lineup, but there’s a case to start the former Badgers start on a three-game week. He’s played 33 and 29 minutes in the two games without Deandre Ayton, and in that span, Kaminsky has posted 18.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
Granted, Kaminsky is yet to prove he can be counted upon for consistent fantasy production thus far in his career, but he’s worth serious consideration so long as Ayton remains out, which, for now, looks like it’ll be another month-and-a-half. Another thing to consider: One of Phoenix’s Week 2 games comes against a Warriors team that’s been, by far, the league’s worst defensive squad in the early going.
Wait-and-see: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
The big man missed Saturday’s game due to a sprained ankle, and the team is calling him questionable ahead of Monday’s meeting with the Hawks. Even in a three-game week, Embiid has top-20-player potential, but if he’s slowed — or held out of Monday’s game altogether — he may be worth sitting in favor of a four-game center.
Start: Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
Just a reminder: Butler is expected back to make his Heat debut on Tuesday against Atlanta. The All-Star swingman missed the first three games of the season while spending time with his girlfriend and newborn daughter.
Sit: Dwight Powell, Dallas Mavericks
Sunday marked Powell’s third straight absence to begin the season, but the Mavs delivered some positive news when they announced that the Stanford product is now considered day-to-day. The expectation is that Powell will make his debut at some point in Week 2, but on a three-game week, I would recommend keeping him on the bench. For one, there’s still a chance he could miss Tuesday’s matchup against the Nuggets. And even if he does play, Powell would likely be somewhat limited in his first action of the season. In the long-term, though, Powell carries significant upside as the likely starter at center next to Kristaps Porzingis.