Ricky Rubio, Kyrie Irving make their debuts

December, 27, 2011

It's great to be playing fantasy hoops again. For people like me, it's great to be writing about it again. But the thing we're learning so far is why the NBA normally has a month or more of training camp and preseason.

For the first two or three weeks, there will be some ugliness. The Phoenix Suns, who were fourth in the league in 3-point shooting last season, went 5-for-25 from beyond the arc against the New Orleans Hornets on Monday. Tim Duncan -- to no one's surprise -- was limited to 21 minutes in the San Antonio Spurs' opener. Dallas Mavericks reserve Sean Williams threw up as he left the court, and that wasn't a commentary on the world champions getting blown out again. Camps opened only about three weeks ago. Players are still learning their team's offensive and defensive sets. Some, obviously, aren't quite in game condition.

On the other hand, I caught a bit of the Oklahoma City Thunder playing the Minnesota Timberwolves, and that was a fun game. Wolves and NBA fans will enjoy watching Ricky Rubio, who had six points and six assists in 26 minutes off the bench in his long-awaited NBA debut. But while Rubio will provide a lot of highlights -- he actually zipped a bounce pass between the legs of some Thunder player -- I'm not sure how much real fantasy value he'll have right away. The 21-year-old still needs to develop an overall offensive game.

Looking Back

• Among rookie point guards, Rubio was far more impressive in his debut than Kyrie Irving. The No. 1 overall pick managed just six points on 2-of-12 shooting against the Toronto Raptors, though he did give fantasy owners seven assists. I must admit, I was surprised to see Irving go as high as he did in fantasy drafts. His average draft position (ADP) on ESPN.com was 61.7, ahead of established players like Devin Harris, Tony Parker and Mike Conley. Again though, it's still essentially the preseason here. Fantasy owners will need to be patient.

• I didn't realize that D.C. was Kardashian Country. How else do you explain Washington Wizards fans' over-the-top booing of Kris Humphries? Well, Hump played the bad guy with gusto, amassing 21 points and 16 rebounds to lead his New Jersey Nets. Between the presence of Deron Williams and the absence of Brook Lopez, Humphries should continue to put up big numbers.

• Speaking of Lopez, remember his twin brother is still active. And Robin Lopez had himself quite an opener, scoring 21 points (on 8-of-12 shooting) against the New Orleans Hornets. Meanwhile, starting center Marcin Gortat had only 13 points in 21 minutes. Gortat broke his thumb in the final preseason game, offering this assessment to the Arizona Republic: "It's obviously uncomfortable. I thought it was going to be worse shooting but it's actually not that bad from the shooting standpoint. Battling for position, trying to push someone and hold your ground is really difficult. Defensively, it's going bother me. I can't dunk the ball. But it's not as terrible as I thought it would be." Lopez, who is virtually unowned in ESPN.com leagues, could provide decent production early on.

• Two players you should pluck from free agency ASAP: Spencer Hawes and Jonas Jerebko. Hawes nearly pulled off a triple-double in his opener: 10 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists against the Portland Trail Blazers. For as long as the fantasy world has known about him, Hawes is still only 23 years old. Maybe Doug Collins has finally lit a fire under him. He's currently available in more than 95 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Jerebko, of course, enjoyed a promising rookie season for the Detroit Pistons before missing all of 2010-11 with a torn Achilles. But the young Swede is back and, as the starting power forward, scored 17 points with five boards, a steal and a block in 38 minutes against the Indiana Pacers. Jerebko is available in nearly all ESPN.com leagues. While the currently suspended Charlie Villanueva will figure into the mix for the Pistons, Jerebko seems set as the starter.

Looking Ahead

Only five games on Tuesday, including the season debuts of the only two teams that haven't yet played, the Atlanta Hawks and Utah Jazz. The Jazz get a scheduling gift, hosting the weary Los Angeles Lakers, who will be playing for the third straight night (and in their third different city). I like C.J. Miles this season, and this certainly seems like a good matchup for him. The Lakers have already allowed 16 3-pointers, and neither of their first two opponents -- the Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings -- were even that successful from downtown in 2010-11. Miles can still be had in about 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues.



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