Here we go again. Again.
For the new folks welcome to your new addiction. For the already initiated – doesn’t it feel great to get the hoops back into your system?
Another Opening Night goes down in the books and the basketball universe did what the basketball universe does on Opening Night. That is, we overanalyze a trio of October regular season games while at the same time constantly reminding ourselves not to say anything that will sound stupid in about 10 days.
All the while we’re pivoting from theory to practice now that draft days have passed, which means it’s time to scrape together a loose game plan going forward. We’re going to set aside for today how to fix imbalances in your team or plan for the playoffs and go right to the best way for any owner to improve their team after the draft – and that’s the ol’ buy-and-sell.
This week and next week are critical weeks for the trading owner. Emotions about draft picks are always at their highest in the weeks right after the draft and in some cases the day after the draft, as owners look to get off of bad trends and climb onto good ones.
George Hill’s owners may have been wondering what they got themselves into last night. Hill, who was typically a calm and steady fantasy play last season – he disappeared. He scored seven points on just 2-of-8 shooting with two rebounds and no assists. Ouch.
The Pacers came out and tried to establish Paul George early, and Lance Stephenson stepped up with 19 points, five boards and seven assists, so when Hill couldn’t find the range the Pacers nicely sidestepped him and went with their other options.
Watching the game one might be tempted to think that Hill’s days as the primary ballhandler are numbered with George around. Somebody might look at backup point guard C.J. Watson’s 20 minutes and 5-2-3 popcorn stat line and start smelling quarterback controversy. Stephenson’s big night might lead somebody to believe that his emergence will stunt Hill’s production this season.
It’s pretty much cliché to talk about the fact that it’s just one game or it’s just one night, but the best lesson for fantasy owners here is that maybe not after one game, but after a handful of games folks start making evaluations and those will turn into trade offers and before you know it a fantasy season will be shaped by the carnage that follows.
Now is the time for you to start making your list of buy-lows and sell-highs. Your job right now is to not panic while looking for others that are doing just that.
Going back to Hill, in his first two games last season he was a mess. He opened with a reasonable enough eight points on 3-of-9 shooting with seven assists in an ugly win over the Raptors. The Pacers could barely initiate an offense that I remember writing about a lot back then. Hill wasn’t forcing the defense to guard him, and he was starting sets more than five feet above the 3-point line while constantly getting into trouble with the shot clock.
Following that the team lost to the basement-dwelling Bobcats and Hill dropped an eight-point, one-assist backbreaker onto owners. Just prior to that season one of the local writers had a poorly conceived hunch hit the newswires right around draft week, so the fantasy public was actually eye-balling D.J. Augustin as a threat to Hill’s role.
Two interesting things happened here. There was the early panic by some owners that caused them to sell Hill for whatever they could get and the ones that outright dropped him. That’s obviously way too reactive, but that’s what was out there.
It was what happened in the third game that serves as the best example of an early-season trading scenario. Hill and Co. found themselves in an ugly dog of a game against the Kings that set basketball back a couple hundred years. Indy had a 38-point quarter and Sacramento won the other three rounds, sending two teams that were both shooting less than 40 percent into two overtimes.
Hill’s final line was a biggie with 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block in a whopping 45 minutes, but he hit just 7-of-17 FGs and once again the Pacers looked hopeless on offense.
Seeing this big, inflated double-overtime line for Hill with him and his teammates all struggling, it was a signal for owners to sell-high on a late-round draft pick that they didn’t have high expectations for in the first place. They were right about Hill’s production being a fluke; they just picked the wrong side of the equation and lost the bet.
Now what can we learn from this? Iit’s easy to preach elementary wisdom and tell you something you already know – not to overreact to the season’s first few games. We're looking well beyond that to find the pivotal point when owner sentiments solidify and you or your competition feel like you have a handle on a player's outlook. The hook point occurs when somebody believes it's time to hop on or off a bandwagon that sets the stage for the early-season trade scenario.
If you ARE that owner or you’re going to do a deal with that owner, it’s time to drop what you’re doing and really think about the players at hand. Ask yourself what their teams may have been trying to accomplish in those first games.
In Indy, the Pacers are probably just trying to establish their No. 1 player first after a summer and fall of working on a system that revolves around George. In this respect, they’re building the foundation before they start to build upward and outward. Go back and look at the film and see exactly how he was covered and what actually held him back. Did he appear injured? Go back and look at past game logs and find out that he and his teammates had a similar bad start the year before and totally redeemed themselves.
The point is that while this seems like common sense, there is also a common urge to want to let up after your team is drafted – especially if you log hours prepping for draft season like many of you do. But this isn’t the time to do it. Start setting your strategy now and really dig into the handful of guys you think you can start working deals for.
Somebody in your league is going to want to hop on or off a train. If your laser-like focus can drill down into the right answer better or faster than your opponent, all while under the fog of the season’s first two weeks, you’ve got yourself a season-changing proposition.
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THE WESTBROOK OUTLOOK
Russell Westbrook owners were treated to some great news last night, as it was reported that he could return from his cleanup surgery in the next two weeks. That sound you hear is owners with a fourth round betting ticket cashing in their chips.
It’s conceivable that this is a sound return strategy but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was concerned that he may try to overdo it. With Scott Brooks and Sam Presti knowing they need home court advantage in the worst way this season, I can’t see them discouraging Westbrook from an early return if he pushes for it.
This will likely send Reggie Jackson owners that viewed him as a stop-gap solution into a tizzy, but that’s not how I view him and many around the league look at Jackson as a legitimate Most Improved Player candidate. I had him all the way up at No. 53 in yesterday’s final Bruski 150 and that would certainly go down with this news a little bit, but he’s ranked that high because of his staying power as the team’s sixth man.
The only wild card to me was whether or not Jeremy Lamb could steal significant portions of Jackson’s backup shooting guard minutes. I think once scoring isn’t in short supply for OKC that Lamb’s defensive shortcomings will hold him back a bit, but in any scenario I’m not panicking over Jackson and I’d be looking to pick him up in a buy low deal right away.
If I was reviewing the B150 ranks I’d probably end up seeing a 10 rank drop for Jackson, and Serge Ibaka would also have a slight downtick since he was slated to vie for No. 2 scorer honors with Westy out.
ST. PATRICK’S DAY
The Rockets found their diamond in the rough last year, and we found that same diamond over the summer after Patrick Beverley showed out late last year and cemented his status as one of our favorite sleepers. A closer examination of his numbers, including a review of his college marks, confirmed that he’s an explosive, versatile producer that to date has forced Kevin McHale to keep him on the court.
The last Bruski 150 moved Beverley up 3-5 rounds higher than any analyst I’ve seen at No. 43 in 8-cat leagues, and that was before Chandler Parsons broke news that Beverley was going to start tonight. Now we don’t know how permanent this is and Jeremy Lin isn’t going to go away, and furthermore I already had Beverley pegged for 26 mpg on the season. As I said in a quick update to the B150, owners can feel free to move him up 5-10 ranks over my extremely aggressive ranking if they want to stand shoulder to shoulder with me. Then again, you can also just leave him where he’s at and give him some cushion for an unexpected dip from his projected numbers. Or you could rank him where everybody else has him and he’s still a must-add player with this news. Everybody wins!
This really all boils down to Beverley’s defense and the fact that he offers so much in terms of an all-around game. He can score, hit threes, rebound, pass, steal, block the ball a little bit and hit free throws at a high rate. He gets the best of it playing in Houston’s up-tempo attack and he can be productive amidst a talented group of scorer/shooters. I mentioned that if anything were to ever happen to Lin I have little doubt he could vault himself into the top 15-30 plays in 8-cat.
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OFF TO THE RACES
Getting George Hill out of the way of course owners should not be reacting to one bad game. Elsewhere in the ORL/IND box score, Roy Hibbert immediately cashed in on all that potential with eight points, 16 rebounds, a steal and seven blocks before sending a jolt into owners by leaving the game with an apparent leg injury. Fortunately a report came quickly that he was not only okay but that he expected to play in New Orleans on Wednesday. Crisis averted.
Paul George wasted no time justifying his high draft selection, either, as he poured in 24 points with six boards, five assists, one steal, three blocks and three treys. As mentioned the Pacers made it a point to let him initiate offense, and I really liked what I saw from him operating at the elbow and elbow-extended. Defenders are really in a bind with his length and his first step, and they’re going to need to do what teams did to Dirk and get into his body to force him out. Good luck with that.
There was more good news for Pacers owners as David West blocked a career-high five shots with 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals in 31 minutes. I’m concerned about the team’s depth behind West, so if I’m creating the aforementioned list I’m starting with West in the sell-high column and going from there. He has surprised by holding his value in the past, but offensively I worry that a lack of quickness will eventually override his strength advantage and create a tendency toward 4-of-11 shooting lines like tonight’s.
Lance Stephenson slowly crept up the Bruski 150 all the way to 102 (ADP: 140) in its final release yesterday, so hopefully it was enough to land him on a lot of your teams. He scored 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting with seven rebounds, five assists and one block in 36 minutes, and frankly I’m not sure Danny Granger would do anything but mildly cut into his value if Granger was playing.
Stephenson has the athletic chops to hold his own on a tough defensive team, and as his game has become more refined he’s now capable of this type of line on any given night. Don’t get me wrong, there will be downs to go with the ups and a return by Granger won’t help, but I’ll be sticking around to see where things go for a younger player who will continue to improve.
For me the early regional game had as much cachet as any last night because of Victor Oladipo, for one because I projected him insanely high at No. 30 in the B150, but mostly because I wanted to see how he ran when the games counted.
Oladipo scored just 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting with three rebounds, two assists, one steal and three turnovers in 23 minutes off the bench, but there is no question that the Magic have a No. 1 overall talent in the rookie. He simply plays at a different speed than the rest of the players on the court, as if he’s the only guy with unlimited turbo. Watching he and George go heads up on occasion was easily the best matchup on a night in which Derrick Rose squared off with LeBron and Co. No, Oladipo didn’t have the night owners spending a mid-round pick hoped for, but the aggression with which he plays and the green light he is going to have all year equal money in the bank. And he won’t draw Indy’s solid defense every night.
Andrew Nicholson drew the start for injured Tobias Harris (ankle) and the one thing owners can say with certainty about Nicholson is that he can fill it up in a hurry. He’s also capable of a two-point, one-rebound dud, but last night is was the former as he posted 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting with four rebounds and a steal in just 19 minutes.
Jacque Vaughn sheepishly said after the game that he didn’t ride the hot hand because he wanted Jason Maxiell covering David West. Unless Harris’ ankle worsens it’s asking for too much to project anything but short-term use for Nicholson. Ironically he’ll be more valuable down the road when the Magic have lost their veterans to injury or trade, rather than this time-frame in which Harris and Glen Davis are both out.
Arron Afflalo was a semi-interesting guy to rank this year because minutes aren’t necessarily the issue for him, but the lack of versatility in his fantasy game kept him buried at 132 on the B150. That played out on Tuesday night, as he hit just 3-of-14 shots for nine points, three rebounds, one assist and one three in 33 minutes. His field goal percentage has plummeted as his shot attempts have increased in Orlando, and with no stats besides points and threes to speak of he must address his efficiency or he’ll be on and off the waiver wire all season.
Moe Harkless drew the assignment of covering George, so we’ll excuse a pedestrian 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting with one rebound, one steal and two threes in 23.5 minutes. He’ll be right behind Oladipo in terms of usurping minutes from the vets as the year goes on. And Nicholson will be behind Harkless to bring it all full circle.
FAILURE TO LAUNCH
The night’s marquee matchup between the Bulls and Heat wasn’t as close as the 107-95 score suggested, but for fantasy heads there was plenty to keep us busy.
Leading off there was the regular season return of Derrick Rose, who turned the ball over on his first possession but had two successful dribble drives after that. It was all downhill from there, though, as he finished with just 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting, one rebound, four assists, five turnovers and a pair of (figurative) broken ankles courtesy of Norris Cole.
I was later to the party than some, or most even, but I bought what Rose was selling during the preseason and I ushered him into the No. 12 slot of the Bruski 150. And of course, owners shouldn’t even bat an eyelash over last night’s results.
Rose looks like he has explosion back offensively, though some defensive issues from the past may become more pronounced until he knocks the rust all the way off. Last night the Heat simply used their usual trapping scheme and Rose couldn’t shake free from it - a common symptom of rust – as the timing required to negotiate a trap gets all thrown off.
Rose wasn’t the only fantasy story of intrigue, not with Jimmy Butler around and looking like the most athletic player on a star-studded court at times. Butler wasn’t flying under the radar in competitive leagues, but there has certainly been some wonder about whether or not he could a) score enough as a third or fourth option and b) whether or not he could lift his peripheral stats to a better place. His 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting with two threes, 6-of-7 makes from the line, three boards, three assists, five steals and a block in 30 foul-plagued minutes is a nice start toward addressing those issues.
Butler had an ADP of 73-93 depending on how good your league was, and the B150 has him at No. 67 and 47 in 8- and 9-cat leagues, respectively. In other words, don’t be surprised by bursts of production like this and I see no reason to go out of your way to sell high.
Deng joined Rose in the icebox and like Butler had an early dose of foul trouble, hitting just 2-of-8 shots for four points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals, while Carlos Boozer showed up to play with 31 points on 13-of-18 shooting, a perfect five free throws, seven rebounds, a steal and a block in 32.5 minutes.
For those of you that own Taj Gibson, he also got similar run with 10 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes, but oddly enough he did not register a steal or block. Those will come and this is a pretty solid start for the potential low-end value with injury upside.
As for Boozer, I had him ranked at No. 101 in the B150 after projecting him at 30 mpg (down 2.0 mpg) with an increase in FG% to go with a decrease in FGAs per-minute due to Rose’s return as well as a general decline in counting categories. Perhaps Rose can be a positive to Boozer’s value rather than a negative by getting him the ball in better spots, but I’ve traditionally been a sell-high guy when it comes to Boozer and it doesn’t look like I’m going to stop now. He has a well-established pattern of decline and his minutes should come down when his teammates aren’t dealing with foul trouble.
Joakim Noah (groin) didn’t look right last night and only lasted 20 minutes, and one has to wonder if the opener was against a random, middle-of-the-road team if he would have played. But because it was LeBron and the Heat, Noah did the usual which is pull himself together and go. It wasn’t all bad news as he grabbed 11 rebounds with two steals, two blocks and an otherwise uninspiring two points on 1-of-4 shooting. He gets a day off before Thursday’s game against the Knicks and owners should be watching closely for his status.
A RING FOR THE KING
For the Heat it was just another day at the office it seemed, as they received their championship rings and proceeded to control the game for most of the night. For those of you that spent big on LeBron James over at FanDuel, he disappointed with just 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting, six rebounds and one steal in 38 minutes.
Dwyane Wade was also quiet but more than serviceable, posting 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting with four rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. It's so far so good for owners that drafted the sliding Wade, and now they only have 81 more games to cross their fingers for.
The bench crew of Norris Cole (11 points, seven rebounds, three assists, one three, one steal, 21 minutes), Shane Battier (14 points, 5-of-6 FGs, 4-of-4 3PTs, 22 minutes) and Ray Allen (11 points, three treys, seven assists, 26 minutes) played their standard minutes but went above and beyond the call of duty – in other words owners don’t get used to this level of productivity.
The player I’m finding intriguing in Miami is none other than Super Mario Chalmers, who I ranked at around No. 85 in what was one of the easier projections of the draft season. His year-over-year production was almost identical last season, and it stands to reason that the Big Three will relinquish at least some duties with another year and another playoff run deep into June under their belts. In about 3-4 competitive, deep drafts I was in he practically went undrafted, so if you’re into late-mid round values at a late-round price he’s certainly available.
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THE BATTLE OF L.A.
So without Kobe Bryant in the fold most folks expected the Clippers to walk right over the Lakers en route to a clear definition of who owns L.A. But Blake Griffin and Co. fizzled out in the fourth quarter while the Lakers bench took over, spoiling Doc Rivers’ debut as head coach.
Fantasy-wise things weren’t quite as bad, as Chris Paul had 15 points, six boards, 11 assists and five steals while hitting just 5-of-13 shots. J.J. Redick was able to get loose for 13 points, two threes and three assists in 34 minutes, while Jared Dudley continued to fade with just five points, three boards, two assists and a three in 23 minutes.
Matt Barnes did Matt Barnes things with eight points, six boards, three assists, two steals and a three in 28 minutes, and Jamal Crawford scored a typical 15 points with three rebounds, three assists, and three treys in 26 minutes.
Dudley is definitely the odd-man out right now and probably for the foreseeable future, and if things continue as such the other three guys profile much like they did the season before which is obviously good news for their fantasy value.
DeAndre Jordan conjured images of NBA Jam throughout the night, and he looks poised to have the breakout that some thought he was going to have last season. Clearly Doc Rivers has either built his confidence or simply not squashed it like Vinny Del Negro regularly did, and when it was all done Jordan ended up with 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting with 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocks. He attempted just two free throws and made one, which in the grand scheme of things is a huge win as well as an unlikely trend going forward.
Blake Griffin hit 8-of-15 shots for 19 points but made just 3-of-10 freebies to go with his seven rebounds, three assists, one steal and four turnovers in 40 minutes. He wasn’t moving around so well in the fourth quarter and one has to wonder if it’s simple conditioning or the ankle injury from last week isn’t fully healed yet.
Back to Jordan, I had him rated at No. 79 and 63 in 8- and 9-cat Roto leagues, respectively, and outbursts like these are what he needs to offset the expected surge of missed free throws.
BUY LOW ON BEAN JR?
I’ve personally taken Kobe Bryant as high as the third round in some very early drafts and I even drafted him with $20 of $200 auction dollars just hours before his recent timetable was released. Mike D’Antoni sent Kobe falling down draft boards when he explained that the future Hall of Famer would need 2-3 weeks of full practice before returning – which is more of a drag because he hasn’t started practicing yet.
Kobe confirmed his coach’s assessment to Yahoo! Sports last night and offered some insight into what he’s doing on a nightly basis (read: as much as humanly possible). He also feathered in some quotes about making sure he’s at 100 percent, which is sure to conjure images of Derrick Rose in what appears to be a rebuilding season for the Lakers, last night’s win notwithstanding.
Q: Your naysayers don't expect you to come back the same because of your Achilles injury. What should we expect when you return?
Bryant: "Personally? I'm going to be the way I've always been. Maybe a little better. It's always interesting, it's motivating to hear people doubt me. The same guys put the nail in my coffin six years ago. They're still trying."
The thing with Kobe is that he’s talking like he’ll be the Mamba of old and he has a lengthy track record backing up his words. Would he overrate himself or withhold a diminished status from the media? It’s possible but I tend to think he’d rather face the music on that sort of thing rather than set himself up for heightened expectations. Face it, we’re in the dark on this, but a healthy-ish Kobe on a team with no alpha dogs (unless you want to count Swaggy) is going to have a very high ceiling.
It’s also comforting to read his blow-by-blow explanation of what he’s doing for rehab, as it sounds like he and his doctors know what they’re up against and are simply going through the process, rather than figuring out the scope of the injury as most major injuries go. As far as sidestepping questions about whether or not he would return before December, there were enough redacted expletives in the Yahoo piece to give the impression he was more irritated than revealing on the issue.
All in all it’s a touch-and-go situation any way you slice it, but I’d put Bean on the buy low list and start thinking of guys you can use to pry him away with. An owner that drafted him before the timeline got pushed back might be equally as irritated as Kobe was last night and turn him over for a middle-of-the-road player.
Back to the battle of L.A., the Lakers bench is an interesting smorgasbord of Mike D’Antoni-style pieces and then bizarro-D’Antoni pieces in Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill. As one commenter put it, the Lakers can go really small if they want and they can go really big if they want.
Last night the Lakers went small and more importantly they kept Steve Nash and Pau Gasol on the bench for the entire fourth quarter while the bench brought home the win. Perhaps D’Antoni was consciously saving them for tonight’s game at Golden State, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike D took a preseason like approach with those two early on here in order to save every possible minute for a late-season run.
Gasol did well not to disappoint in his 24 minutes with a big fat line of 15 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and one three to go with five giveaways, while Nash continued to disintegrate before our eyes with just three points (on a trey), one rebound and five assists in 21 minutes. It won’t always be this bad, but I can’t see things getting much better. He can’t get an edge on anybody and it makes everything that much harder for him nowadays.
The big question for a relatively shallow team has been which of the reserves will rise above the rest to provide consistent fantasy value. Once it became clear that Nash would be a full-blown preservation project this year, Jordan Farmar started going late in drafts and that was clearly the right choice. He’s not stopping anybody defensively but Mike D don’t care about that, and what he does care about is the 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting with four rebounds, six assists, one steal and two threes he put up in 27 minutes off the bench.
Steve Blake had once sat above Farmar in the rankings as the beneficiary of Kobe’s absence having shown some potential late last year, but he appears to have moved back toward a glue guy role so Farmar, Nick Young (13 points, 3-of-10 FGs, 6-of-8 FTs) and Xavier Henry (career-high 22 points, three treys, 3-of-8 FTs, six boards, one steal) can be primary scorers.
Young’s fantasy game leaves a lot to be desired and even with an expanded role he was only able to creep into the honorable mention section of the Bruski 150, but Farmar is a legitimate fantasy asset and one eventual injury to Nash away from a near full-time job. Nash told reporters after the game that something “strange” happened to him during the game but declined to elaborate, and I don’t know whether or not to call that a red flag or simply call it ‘Tuesday.’
The key to Farmar’s value is his ability to score, assist and hit threes, because he’s not paying the bills much of anywhere else. Maybe it’s just one game, but he also appears to have the team’s sixth man job locked up and that will give him a shot at low-end value to satiate owners while they stash him.
Henry on the other hand looks like an entirely different player, with quickness and scoring ability that translates well under D’Antoni. He has problems with free throw shooting and his peripherals don’t profile to suddenly change from bad to good.
In general this second tier of Lakers players below Gasol and Kobe (when he returns) is deep and interchangeable. So don’t be surprised to see a different guy go off every night between Jodie Meeks (13 points, three treys, 26 minutes), Wesley Johnson (three points, 1-of-11 FGs, three boards, one block, one three, 21 minutes), Chris Kaman (10 points, eight rebounds, one steal, two blocks, 20 minutes), Jordan Hill (12 points, 6-of-8 FGs, eight rebounds, one steal, one block, 18 minutes) and last night’s starting PF Shawne Williams (three points, 1-of-5 FGs, one steal, two blocks, 13 minute).
It will probably be too hard to figure out when Meeks is hot enough for use in standard leagues. Johnson is a mess shooting the ball but offers some versatility with 3-point shooting and defense for deep formats. Williams can obviously hit the three and add a small amount of defensive stats, but has a really short rope if we go by last night.
Kaman has enough of a green light in his limited minutes to threaten for low-end value, while Hill was once on the Bruski 150 before falling out after a disappearing act over the past few weeks. Hill actually profiles well for D’Antoni’s offense because he can get out and run and help keep the glass clean, and his fantasy game lends itself to a quick rise so owners will want to be ready to move if it looks like he is carving out a consistent role.
Complicating matters is Kobe’s eventual return, which threatens to throw a wet blanket on at least the wings in this group, and 30+ minutes subtracted from the pot is going to hurt everybody, regardless.
NEWS AND NOTES
Al Jefferson was questionable as of yesterday after dealing with some “pain and stiffness” in his hurt ankle. It’s not the worst news but it’s not the greatest omen to start the season off with. Harrison Barnes’ foot is going to keep him out for two games and his momentum has been totally stalled. Unfortunately for him he will have dug himself a small hole to get out of compared to where he stood a month ago as potential starter. Klay Thompson is the big beneficiary as he can solidify his role by simply shooting the lights out like he’s all but assured of doing. Still, I have Klay at No. 70 in 8-cat leagues and that’s much lower than most folks, as my fear is the shrinking pie in GSW due to their newfound depth.
Ty Lawson (groin) is a game-time decision tonight for Sacramento’s game, which I will be at reporting for Pro Basketball Talk. Talk about a scene. Vivek is going big at every juncture. Paul Millsap (Achilles) confirmed that he will play tonight. Metta World Peace looks like the starter and he profiles like a heavy minute guy whether he starts at PF or operates as the swing backup forward. I have him at No. 142 which qualifies as a stop-gap solution in standard formats. Jared Sullinger was suspended for a game for his domestic incident, but I still like him to slowly rise above his frontcourt mates as long as he can stay healthy. The Celtics did not pick up Jordan Crawford’s option, which may or may not be a reflection of how much they intend to play him going forward. They need guard penetration so they may reluctantly turn to him if Plan A doesn’t work out.