Kevin Martin capably filling Harden's shoes
Talent will take a player only so far in the NBA and fantasy land. Often overlooked in determining a player's fantasy value is the role that player has on his NBA team. To maintain consistency and max out his stats, a player needs to have a defined role and embrace that role.
Take Kevin Martin, for example. Here is a guy who was the primary focus on offense during most of his tenures with the Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets -- until last season, when the ornery and demanding Kevin McHale took over as the Rockets' head coach. McHale's distribution of minutes and roles was ever-changing, and Martin had his worst all-around season in a long time.
Now with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Martin has a clearly defined role: replacing reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden as a lethal scoring option off the bench and help close out games when needed. Martin knows his role and has embraced it, which is why he has looked terrific so far; on Sunday, he scored 28 points and knocked down six of eight 3-point attempts.
Three games is a small sample size, but Martin is averaging 10.7 FGA and 5.7 3-point FGA per game; Harden averaged 10.1 FGA and 4.7 3-point FGA per game last season. In other words, so long as Martin can stay healthy -- which should be easier in his new role -- he should maintain production similar to what Harden did in that same sixth-man role last season.
In fact, with better shot selection, we could see his FG% rise into the upper 40s this season, following last season's abysmal 41.3 percent as his role continually changed under McHale.
• Carmelo Anthony followed up his 30-point performance in the opener with 27 points Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three other players in the Knicks' 67-year history have scored as many as 57 points in the team's first two games of a season. In 1962, Richie Guerin scored 57 points in wins over the Chicago Zephyrs and the Lakers; in 1970, Willis Reed contributed 58 points in victories over the Celtics and the Cincinnati Royals; and in 1993, Patrick Ewing poured in 76 points as the Knicks defeated the Celtics and the Cavaliers. Those are some legendary names that Melo has joined, and with Amaré Stoudemire out for the foreseeable future, Melo has a legit shot at pushing for the scoring title this season.
• Andrei Kirilenko had a solid all-around game with 17 points (6-for-7 FG), 6 boards, 3 dimes, 3 blocks, a 3-pointer and a steal. He should continue to perform at a good pace for the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, it may be wise to sell high on AK-47 sooner rather than later because his role will diminish some once Kevin Love returns. Plus, with his history of injuries, it's probably just a matter of time before the 31-year-old goes down for a stretch.
• Gustavo Ayon made his season debut Sunday, but he played just nine minutes off the bench. That was partly because Nikola Vucevic was busy dominating the Phoenix Suns' frontcourt to the tune of 18 points (9-of-16 FG) and 13 rebounds. He mustered only six points and four boards in 16 minutes against the Denver Nuggets in the opener, though. Consistency from game to game will be an issue for Vucevic this season, but he has every opportunity to succeed in the post-Dwight Howard era in Orlando.
• Steve Nash will miss the upcoming week with a fractured leg, but he could end up missing an entire month due to the injury, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. Steve Blake will start at the point in place of Nash, while Darius Morris and Chris Duhon will get a bump in action. None is particularly appetizing in fantasy terms, unless you're in very deep leagues.
• Just like the NFL, the NBA has instituted a concussion protocol, which means that rookie Anthony Davis won't be back on the floor until he passes a neurological examination. It sounds like his status is up in the air for Wednesday's tilt with the Philadelphia 76ers. That means those of you who have to set your weekly lineups Monday will have to give serious consideration to sitting him out, because the New Orleans Hornets play only two games this week, and he may miss at least one of them.
• Jason Richardson sprained an ankle Sunday and was quickly ruled out for Monday's game. The Sixers still have three more games on the platter this week, so he may still contribute stats later on. In the meantime, Dorell Wright and Nick Young will get a bump in minutes and touches.
Fastbreak Player of the Night
For those of you who are taking part in the Fastbreak game -- or any points league, for that matter -- you can check out my preview for the upcoming week here.
If you are doing the daily lineup version of the game, one player to target for Tuesday's light slate of games will be Joakim Noah at center. The Chicago Bulls face the thin frontcourt of the Orlando Magic, and despite Vucevic's aforementioned upside, Noah should have little trouble dominating the paint in this game. A repeat of the 35 Fastbreak points he popped off in the opener is well within reach.