After a long, eventful offseason, we finally have basketball to watch. We’re a week into the season and we’ve already had multiple season-changing injuries, team controversies, major rookie impacts, and a couple of breakouts from former top-10 picks, including Orlando’s Aaron Gordon. As always, feel free to ask me any questions on Twitter, @JonSauber.
Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics
Not even a quarter into their opener, the Celtics’ season was turned on its head. Gordon Hayward went down with a gruesome injury that resulted in a dislocated ankle and a fractured tibia. Their championship aspirations are essentially gone, and now they will be relying on Kyrie Irving to carry the team, something he’s struggled with in the past. With Hayward done for the year, the Celtics will be relying even more on Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum this season. Those two will be the primary fantasy beneficiaries this season, with both seeing an increase in minutes and scoring production. I’d also watch out for Terry Rozier, who will be the Celtics’ primary ball handler off the bench.
Jeremy Lin, Brooklyn Nets
Although Hayward’s injury got more attention, Jeremy Lin’s could have just as much impact for his team. Lin is a quality guard who would’ve made for a really good backcourt combo when paired with D’Angelo Russell. Now, Russell will be the primary focus of the offense (more on that later), something he didn’t handle very well in Los Angeles. It could have benefited him to learn to play more off the ball, something that will not happen. It also damages Brooklyn’s season outlook, with their longshot opportunity to make the playoffs almost vanishing. I still expect this team to exceed the cellar-dwelling expectations, but their ceiling is much lower.
Eric Bledsoe and the Suns
The most controversial event of the week came courtesy of Eric Bledsoe, when he tweeted that he didn’t want to be in Phoenix. He then followed that up by telling the Suns’ general manager Ryan McDonough that he was at a hair salon. That’s a new one. Anyways, Bledsoe was sent home by the Suns and looks to be on his way out of Phoenix. While we wait to see the fantasy ramifications of his new destination, Mike James and Tyler Ulis will be the main beneficiaries in Phoenix. James looks like he will be the starter, but watch for Ulis to take that job from him if they don’t acquire anyone else. Both are worthy adds in standard formats until the situation gets sorted out.
Markelle Fultz and the Sixers
Leave it to the Sixers to have the weirdest injury situations in the NBA. This time, nobody knows what’s going on with Markelle Fultz. His shooting motion is downright bad, and nobody can agree on why. There are claims of shoulder soreness, which would make sense, but then why is Fultz even playing? It could also just be that Fultz decided to alter his shot, which would clearly be a huge mistake. His biggest flaw in his jumper was that he released on his way down instead of on the way up, which can be fixed. This new jumper is just ugly and is not falling. He’s been ruled out for the Sixers’ next three games, which should give him time to recover. Until then, hang onto him, because the upside is far too high to give up on this early in the season.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
There isn’t a whole lot to say about Ben Simmons that hasn’t been said, but I’ll give it a go. Simmons has been fantastic to start the season for the Sixers and has been exactly as advertised. He’s not going to shoot jumpers much, but he’s still a good scorer. He’ll rely on transition opportunities and his ability to get to the hoop at will to get most of his points. He has shown more of a willingness to shoot from the mid-range the last two games. If that starts to rise, and he eventually starts shooting threes, his value will continue to skyrocket. He’s someone I would try to acquire before his value gets too out of control because he has the chance to be a top-15 fantasy contributor this season.
Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls
Well, I’m a little surprised by this one. I was fairly harsh on the Bulls’ selection of Lauri Markkanen, mostly because of what they passed up on. However, Markkanen has rebounded more than I had expected to this point and has looked really good for Chicago. He’s making 45.5 percent of his threes this season, and that’s on 7.3 attempts per game. He’s been the sharpshooter that everyone had billed him as, and I don’t see any reason that won’t continue. Markkanen looks like the lone bright spot on a really bad team. Keep using him in DFS and try to find a way to get him in season-long leagues while you can still attribute his success to a small sample size.
D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets
Due to Jeremy Lin’s unfortunate injury, D’Angelo Russell is now a fantasy stud. He’s averaging 23 points per game, 5.5 assists per game and 4.5 rebounds per game for a team that needs someone to take shots. Fortunately, Russell is more than willing to do just that. He’s shooting nearly 40 percent from three on 5.8 attempts per game. He’s taking 18.8 shots per game, so the volume is there and should continue to be there the rest of the season. His biggest flaw is the number of turnovers he has, with 4.3 per game. However, he’s also taken the ball away from opponents, with 1.8 steals per season. The point is, D’Angelo Russell has been really good in Brooklyn, and he should continue to be really good the rest of the season.
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
Finally, we get to someone I’ve been high on since he was at Arizona, Aaron Gordon. Gordon was miscast as a three last year, pulling him away from the rim defensively. Then Serge Ibaka was traded and Gordon moved to the four where he belongs. Now, Gordon has flourished as a four in his two games this season. Against Brooklyn, Gordon put up 41 points, making all five of his three-point attempts and 14 of his 18 field goals. Gordon looks primed for a breakout, although after a performance like that, it may be too late to capitalize.