Once most famous for being the inspiration for a hit rap song, Mo Bamba is finally staking his claim as a unique basketball talent. In a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, the Orlando Magic pivot secured four blocks and sank three 3-pointers in an impressive outing.
Bamba led the league in blocks during the preseason, earning him a starting role. One of just two starters for Orlando with a positive net rating in last night's 26-point loss, Bamba could continue to play a sizable role for a young team intent on developing talent.
We can often find difference-making statistical options in these early weeks of the season, with Bamba (rostered in just about 13% of ESPN leagues) and his elite block potential fitting the bill.
Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings: 36 points (10-19 FG), 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics: 46 points (16-30 FG), 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals
Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings: 2 points (1-5 FG), 2 rebounds, 4 assists
Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic: 10 points (3-14 FG), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 3 TO
ESPN's first regular season broadcast of 2021-22 included an epic box score. The Celtics and Knicks combined for 272 points, the second-most in any season opener in NBA history. Way back in 1990, the Warriors and Nuggets combined for 320 points in a game that featured just six made threes. Last night, the Celtics and Knicks combined for seven threes in the first OT period alone, tied for the most in any game over the last 25 seasons. Brown's career-high scoring night was almost enough for Boston, but Julius Randle built on last season's awesome numbers with 36 points -- the most by a Knicks player in a season opener since Carmelo Anthony had 37 on Christmas Day in 2011's lockout-delayed start.
The Hornets trailed by as many as 23 points against the Pacers, but went on a 24-0 run in the third quarter to change the outcome. Charlotte's comeback win was the third-largest deficit overcome to win a season opener over the last 25 seasons. LaMelo Ball had 31 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, becoming the third-youngest player with 30 points in a season opener in NBA history. Only Lamar Odom and John Drew were younger than Ball when achieving the same feat. You know, this guy might be good.
Sticking with Charlotte, the presence of Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mason Plumlee appears to have removed P.J. Washington as an important part of the rotation. It's obviously still early, but it looks like opportunities could prove limited for Washington.
Pacers rookie Chris Duarte got the start on Wednesday with Caris LeVert ailing. The 24-year-old rookie finished second on Indiana with 27 points and third in playing time, signaling real fantasy potential whenever tasked with a larger role.
Another rookie with a promising debut was Cleveland's Evan Mobley. The big man led the team with nine rebounds and was third on the roster with six assists in a game that showcased his diverse skill set. There is still a bit of a frontcourt logjam in Cleveland, but Mobley is the rare rookie with real fantasy appeal.
The 76ers' Tyrese Maxey started in place of a suspended Ben Simmons and responded with an efficient 20 points and 12 combined assists and rebounds in the win over the Pelicans. Maxey is rostered in under 10% of ESPN leagues, but could continue to play a sizable role if the "Simmons saga" drags out.
Injuries of note
The Miami Heat will be without Victor Oladipo this evening as he recovers from a knee injury.
Donte DiVincenzo and Bobby Portis remain sidelined for the Bucks. Grayson Allen figures to start in place of DiVincenzo. Jrue Holiday left Tuesday's win over the Nets early with a heel injury, but is listed as probable for tonight's matchup against Miami.
Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams are both listed as questionable for the Hawks, although neither claims much fantasy value in such a deep Atlanta rotation.
Analytics advantage for Thursday
Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka join Kawhi Leonard on the sideline for the Clippers this evening. This means Terance Mann could enjoy a larger role for Los Angeles. Recently extended and emerging as a key contributor on both sides of the floor for the Clippers, Mann saw his usage rate spike 6.6% last season in similar scenarios (only Luke Kennard's 7.8% leap in usage rate was higher). Meanwhile, Mann paced the Clippers with 21 more DraftKings points per 36 minutes with his veteran teammates off the floor. Mann is still a free agent in more than 80% of ESPN leagues.
Clint Capela, Atlanta Hawks: Found at a reasonable price point across major platforms, the reigning rebound king faces a Dallas team that ranked 17th in defensive rebounding percentage last season.
Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks: This young guard offers a reasonable path to 30 minutes and more than 20 fantasy points at close to the pricing floor. The Hawks are still seemingly thin at point-of-attack defense against lead guards, setting up Brunson with a nice bandwidth of outcomes.