What a monumental past week in the NBA.
My 76ers won their first game in what one longtime beat writer deemed "the worst game I've ever watched. And it's not even close." That quite possibly isn't even hyperbole, but fantasy investors in K.J. McDaniels were rewarded with four blocks to go with 12 points and nine boards in the rare victory.
The Clemson product ranks ninth on the Player Rater over the past 15 days among NBA small forwards, two spots behind LeBron James. The block party McDaniels has enjoyed provides valuable differentiation at a deep position, as he's averaged 1.5 blocks over the past 15 games and 2.2 swats over the past five games. Throw in an average of 1.3 3-pointers and a steal per game over the past 15 days and comps to the Spurs' Danny Green become more legitimate by the box score.
Green, meanwhile, is tops among small forwards on the Player Rater over the past 15 days and second over the past seven thanks to a rich blend of stats that includes two steals, three 3-pointers made and 1.3 steals per game. McDaniels is available in 72.6 percent of ESPN leagues at press time, while Green is free in 43.1 percent of leagues. The most succinct counsel I can offer is that you add these swingmen in any and every format you can.
For the coming week, we're going to want to avoid any borderline Boston Celtics assets given an arduous and light slate. The Detroit Pistons face a similarly unsavory setup for the coming week of action, facing a Portland Trailblazers defense ranked fifth in the league in defensive rating (the number of points allowed by a defense per 100 possessions) in addition to the Phoenix Suns' 11th-ranked defense in the advanced metric.
Shares of the Milwaukee Bucks are trending bearish given the league's lone two-game slate for the coming week. Overall, this bodes to be a busy week given 18 teams with four-game slates, while 11 face three-game weeks. Below, we delve deeper into developing team and player trends.
"R" matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, their opponents' numbers in those categories, and their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played. The column to the right lists the team's total number of games scheduled ("G") as well as home games ("H"), and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that team's weekly schedule ("R").
Team trends: Notes and news from around the league
Game of the week: The NBA is dabbling again in weekend matinees -- a sure sign winter is coming -- with the Golden State Warriors heading to Dallas on Saturday afternoon to take on the Mavericks in a battle of super-powered offenses. The Mavs rank first in offensive rating (number of points scored per 100 possessions by a team), while the Warriors are fifth. Daily-league investors will find this early slate rich with options given the deep collection of fantasy-relevant commodities each roster claims. The Warriors rate first in defensive rating for the season, while the Mavs rate 14th in the metric thanks largely to the brilliant play of Tyson Chandler (third on the Player Rater among centers). League Pass was created for games like this.
Surging sophs: Another ESPN NBA Insider, "Coach" David Thorpe, shared his top 10 standout second-year players. Notable and widely available fantasy center commodities exist among the top crop of sophs, with the Timberwolves' Gorgui Dieng offering nearly a double-double per night on 30-plus minutes and useful contributions in blocks and steals over the past nine games. The Celtics' Kelly Olynyk is averaging 1.1 steals and 1.1 3-pointers on the season -- a valuable and rare blend from the stretch center.
Slumping Spurs: ESPN NBA Insider Kevin Pelton consistently offers telling analytical insights in his work. This statement rings true for his recent piece on the Spurs' struggles, a club struggling in relative regards to the elite efficiency we expect from the reigning champs: "Heading into Friday night's Southwest showdown with the division-leading Memphis Grizzlies, the Spurs rank 17th in the NBA in offensive rating at 108.2 points per 100 possessions, a hair better than the league average of 107.8."
Pelton finds reasonable reasons such as a litany of injuries and "rest" games for the Spurs' core talents, as well as rookie Kyle Anderson shooting .083 from the field. Check in on the owners of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Kawhi Leonard during this aberrational stretch of inefficiency during a buy-low window. And you already know that adding Green is a must.
Player pickups: Identifying players available in half (or more) of ESPN leagues
Greivis Vasquez (18.7 percent owned), Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry remains an elite fantasy point guard, but a deep rotation in Toronto offers Vasquez meaningful minutes in playing a dual role as point guard caddy and combo guard for the East's top team. Hardcore hoop heads recognize how Vasquez has thrived in previous stints as a starter, but even in a smaller share of opportunity you'll find the Venezuelan valuable given 12.9 points, 1.9 3-pointers and 4.6 assists in slightly more than 24 minutes per game over the past eight outings.
Wesley Johnson (7 percent), Los Angeles Lakers: What if I were to offer you a player eligible at shooting guard, small forward and power forward available in 93 percent of ESPN leagues averaging 1.7 blocks and 1.8 makes from beyond the arc over the past six games while netting 32.1 minutes per night? Minutes galore and free range to chase blocks on a listless defense offers Johnson, and those willing to take on his three-game slate, some sweet upside and versatility. Power forward, meanwhile, remains among the thinnest of positions in fantasy basketball, with Johnson rating seventh at the position on the Player Rater over the past seven days.
Nikola Mirotic (16.1 percent), Chicago Bulls: Inflated minutes thanks to Taj Gibson's recent injury have offered Mirotic some strong shine over the past several games. Over his past seven games, you'll find the product of Podgorica, Montenegro, producing 12.7 points, 8.4 boards and a rare combo of 3-pointers (1.4 per night), steals (.7) and blocks (1.4). Even as the Bulls face a rough slate of matchups as a team this week, the surging forward faces a Heat defense ranked 22nd in defensive rating versus power forwards over the past 10 games and a Brooklyn front rated 18th in curbing the position over that frame. Mirotic rates 13th on the Player Rater over the past seven days, just 3.1 shy of his ownership rate in ESPN leagues.