The first week of the Fantasy season usually holds plenty of surprises, but this season took things to a different level entirely. With 13 new coaches and plenty of questions about how rotations and minutes would unfold, Fantasy owners eagerly anticipated the first few games to see who would break out early.
We're still dealing with very small sample sizes, but we've seen enough to get an idea who how teams are going to distribute shots and minutes. Shots and minutes, of course, are gold for Fantasy owners, who mine the waiver wires looking for a priceless vein among the useless rocks littering the world. After one week, we've seen nearly every team in the NBA play at least three times -- the lone exception being Denver, who we probably don't even want to watch at this point.
|1.||Lance Stephenson, G, Pacers||65|
|2.||Miles Plumlee, F, Suns||62|
|3.||Trevor Ariza, G, Wizards||61|
|4.||Vitor Faverani, C, Celtics||60|
|5.||P.J. Tucker, F, Suns||36|
|6.||Zaza Pachulia, C, Bucks||35|
|7.||Alec Burks, G, Jazz||33|
|8.||Xavier Henry, G, Lakers||32|
|9.||Andrew Nicholson, F, Magic||30|
|10.||Mario Chalmers, G, Heat||21|
It is easy to just pick up whatever flavor of the week has scored the most points among available players, but most Fantasy owners are looking for something more than the flavor of the week. You might have two or three players you are willing to cut from your bench for help on the wires, but you generally don't want to add just any old scrub.
We'll be taking a couple of views at waivers every week here to try to help you make the right choices. I'll be looking back at roster trends from the last week while my colleague, Joe Polito, will provide you with a weekly list of streaming options.
Most added players
Lance Stephenson, G, Pacers: The Pacers hardly missed Danny Granger a year ago, and Stephenson was a huge part of why. His development appears to have continued at a brisk pace in the early going this season, as he has been one of the best Fantasy guards in the league through one week. While I don't think Stephenson is going to keep shooting 59.5 percent from the field and 64.3 percent from three-point range (shockingly), there is plenty to be encouraged by with Stephenson's play so far. His usage rate is up to 19 percent -- a massive jump over a year ago -- when he finished just 15.2 percent of the team's possessions while he was on the floor. He is being asked to take on more playmaking duties and has responded well so far. Stephenson was useful in spurts last year and is well worth rostering in nearly all leagues, given his projected role. (75 percent owned; +56 percent)
Alec Burks, G, Jazz: Stocked with a plethora of recent lottery picks on the cusp of taking on larger roles, the Jazz had plenty of breakout candidates this season. The biggest early winner has been Burks, who has emerged as one of the team's primary ballhandlers and playmakers through the first three games. He has ostensibly been a sixth man off the bench, but only four players on the team have played more minutes than him. He is carrying a heavy load for a team that has no real options at point guard, posting a 26.2 usage rate through three games that leads the team by a wide margin. Burks has struggled with his jumper, making just six of 17 attempts from beyond 15 feet, but he has had great success getting to the rim, attempting more than five shots within five feet along with 6.7 free-three attempts. The Jazz will likely need to lean on Burks moving forward, and there aren't many contenders to take minutes from him. Adding Burks is the right move, if you see him on the wire. (60 percent owned; +29 percent)
Miles Plumlee, F, Suns: Plumlee is actually starting at center for the Suns this season due to the late trade of Marcin Gortat. By this time next week he'll have earned center eligibility, which will only increase his Fantasy viability. The question to answer is, "Is he viable right now?" Plumlee is exceptionally athletic for a player of his size, recording a 40.5-inch vertical leap at the combine coming out of college. He has made good use of that with the Suns so far and should continue to be a good fit on a team that wants to push the pace. He is playing with two quick point guards who can get into the paint, which should lead to easy buckets. At some point down the road, Plumlee could be forced to cede minutes to top pick Alex Len, but that is not coming anytime soon, given Len's ankle issues. Plumlee is a pretty limited player, but he has smartly avoided trying to do too much so far -- as of Sunday, only five of Plumlee's field-goal attempts have been from beyond five feet of the rim. Plumlee's situation seems reminiscent of Orlando's Nikola Vucevic last year, as a recent first-round pick who struggled to get off the bench on a playoff team before taking advantage of a big role on a lottery team. He probably won't average 15-plus points, but I would say he should be owned in all leagues at this point. (77 percent owned; +61 percent)
P.J. Tucker, F, Suns: Tucker is one of two Suns players featured here, and also the one I am least confident in moving forward. He is playing decent minutes on a team that doesn't really have any other options at his position, but he is also 28 and with a pretty decent track record of being little more than a role player in the NBA. Tucker entered the season with nearly 2,00 minutes of NBA experience under his belt, nearly all of which came last season after five years drifting through European basketball. He has been solid for the Suns early on, but his limited skill set doesn't make him particularly intriguing -- Tucker shot just 32.7 percent on jump shots last season, per Basketball-Reference.com. Tucker might peak around 50-percent ownership, but I don't see much of a reason to run out and grab him right now -- he'll be the type of player you see added and dropped on a nearly weekly basis. (33 percent owned; +27 percent)
Zaza Pachulia, C, Bucks: Given that the Bucks just gave center Larry Sanders $44 million a few weeks ago, it is an understatement to say the team's big-man rotation has been puzzling through the first week. Through three games, Pachulia has played 26 more minutes than Sanders, and it can't just be attributed to foul trouble -- Pachulia is averaging more than five personal fouls per 36 minutes. Pachulia is actually the team's leading scorer through three games while adding 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Pachulia isn't without skill, to be certain, but there is a reason the 29-year-old was available for a reasonable price this offseason; he simply isn't starting material. Sanders is too good to keep ceding minutes to Pachulia, though it is clear coach Larry Drew quite likes Pachulia, going back to their time in Atlanta together. He should settle into a 20-minutes-per-game role as a backup, but will be waiver-wire fodder all season long. (28 percent owned; +21 percent)
Most dropped players
Kelly Olynyk, C, Celtics: I expected Olynyk to play a decent role for the Celtics, given his ability to score on what should be a team that struggles to score. However, even talented rookies take a while to get acclimated to playing in the league. Olynyk's offensive abilities have yet to translate, and his defense obviously isn't going to garner him playing time. He's worth keeping an eye on, but there's probably no reason to own Olynyk in most 10-or 12-team leagues right now. (55 percent owned; -13 percent)
Steve Nash, G, Lakers: Nash is already talking about his body breaking down, and we're just three games into the season. That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise for a soon-to-be 40-year-old, but it has to be disappointing for anyone who was hoping for a bounce back. Nash has looked ineffective even when he has played, and we already know he won't be taking part in back-to-back games. At this point, nobody should be relying on Nash as a starter. You can keep him on the bench in the hopes that he figures it out, but there seems to be little upside right now. (75 percent owned; -12 percent)
Darren Collison, G, Clippers: In year's past, there were usually decent minutes available off the bench as the Clippers' backup to Chris Paul, given Vinny Del Negro's propensity to rest his stars during the regular season. Last season, for instance, Eric Bledsoe averaged 20.4 minutes per game, both as Paul's backup as well as a small-ball shooting guard. New Clippers coach Doc Rivers seems uninterested in limiting Paul's minutes, which has led to Darren Collison playing just 12.0 minutes per game off the bench in the first three games of the season. Collison isn't the type of guard who can slide over to shooting guard, so he looks like just a backup at this point. There is probably no reason to own him right now. (25 percent owned; -11 percent)
The Flavors of Next Week
-- by Joe Polito (@JoePo89)
Our free agent speculations to start the season had some hits (Miles Plumlee, Lance Stephenson, Will Bynum -- all averaging at least 29 Fantasy points per game) and some misses (Jamaal Tinsley and Jeremy Lamb were less than impressive).
This week we'll focus on some Week 1 surprises -- specifically that foreign guy on the Celtics who's blocking and rebounding his way to the top of the most added list. Through his first two games, Vitor Faverani is averaging 11.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.
Even if you don't buy into Faverani's impressive production, you can't help but like the fact that he's the only real center on Boston's roster. The Celtics' other options are either too short (Kris Humphries, Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass) or too flimsy on defense (Kelly Olynyk). At 6-foot-11, Faverani possesses the all-around skillset to play heavy minutes and fill the stat sheet. In his second game he logged 37 minutes, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked six shots to go along with 12 points.
His ownership has already jumped 55 percent from Week 1, but he still might be available in your league. That's probably also the reason Olynyk is the most dropped guy from the first week. Faverani's numbers plummeted in Boston's final game of Week 1, but it seemed circumstantial, with the Celtics needing Olynyk's shooting more than Faverani's blocks and rebounds. Plus, the Pistons' starting frontcourt wasn't giving up much in the rebound department, hauling in 11 offensive boards between them. The Celtics play four times in Week 2, so there are ample chances for Faverani to get back to the potential he showed in the first few contests. Given that he's in a time share, JaVale McGee is the kind of center I might cut ties with to add a speculative Faverani. It's a small sample size, but you'll have to strike while the iron's hot if you want to grab what could be this year's Nikola Vucevic.
Andrew Nicholson, PF, Magic (33 percent): If first-year Magic coach Jacque Vaughn was managing a Fantasy team, he'd have no choice but to bench Jason Maxiell for the younger, more talented Andrew Nicholson. Unfortunately, he has other things such as team defense to worry about, so Nicholson will be in a fight for minutes each game. Lately though, he's been winning this battle. Nicholson registered a double-double Sunday night while logging 26 minutes off the bench. He can score, rebound and has even added a three point shot to his arsenal, making him a versatile commodity for Fantasy when he's getting enough playing time. He's one of a few talented forwards on the Magic roster, so his minutes might decrease down the line when Tobias Harris comes back, but until then he's worth adding over a J.J. Hickson or Cody Zeller-type power forward.
Xavier Henry, SG, Lakers (32 percent): The Lakers have emerged as one of the more intriguing Fantasy teams so far this year, with lots of guys looking to prove themselves and lots of shots to be chucked. One of these guys is Henry, a one-and-done guard from Kansas who received plenty of hype coming out of high school and has since faded into oblivion. Now Henry is getting real minutes for the first time in his career and he scored 18 points in his first start of the season Sunday night. Coach Mike D'Antoni is probably looking for any possible reason to not start Nick Young, and right now Henry is that reason. Call it a hunch, but he seems like the kind of player whose production increases the more responsibility he's given -- a true starter as opposed to a quick-burst bench player. Solid shooting guards are hard to come by, so if you're not satisfied with Danny Green's 3.3 points per game, go ahead and pick up Henry for the upside – at least until Kobe Bryant comes back.
Jordan Farmar, PG, Lakers (20 percent): While Steve Nash lays down by the Lakers' bench resting his 39-year old back, Farmar will be in the game running D'Antoni's blitzkrieg offense and hoisting up threes. The Lakers have a back-to-back this week, guaranteeing Farmar increased minutes for at least one game. His numbers haven't been very impressive yet, but he could be worth an add as the sole beneficiary of Nash's missed time. This pickup might be best for category leagues where you need threes and assists, but it could turn into more if the Lakers decide that Farmar's playmaking abilities eventually move him ahead of Steve Blake on the depth chart. For now, consider him more of a desperation add if you drafted Nash or you're waiting for Rajon Rondo to return.