All of a sudden we are more than one-quarter of the way into the regular season. Some expected outcomes are coming to fruition, with Anthony Davis and his unibrow ascending to elite superstar status while the Warriors' coaching change has them seated as a legitimate contender in the league's toughest conference (Golden State ranks sixth in offensive rating and first in defensive rating).
We're also learning some surprising results, such as Marreese Speights enjoying a top-10 player efficiency rating on just 16.5 minutes per night, thanks in large part to a usage rate (27.9, tied with teammate Stephen Curry) often reserved for superstars or for the big man who never turns down an open look.
The first quarter of the season has also taught us to start any and all fantasy-relevant commodities versus the hapless Lakers defense, a group allowing nearly two more points per 100 possessions (111.4) than the next most generous group -- the Utah Jazz (109.6). In the team trends section below, we expound on Joe Kaiser's insightful Crossover post on the most helpful advanced metrics for fantasy investors, as I share some of the databases and resources I find most helpful when securing new commodities or simply setting lineups.
This week, we find the aforementioned Warriors claiming the lone two-game slate of the week, leaving some of the fringe fantasy assets -- such as surging Draymond Green (currently 26th on the Player Rater) -- as borderline starts in weekly formats. Otherwise, we find 10 teams playing three-game weeks with a rich week offering 19 squads with full four-game slates. In the player pickups section below, we discuss some valuable -- and widely available -- commodities for the coming week of NBA action.
"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
South Philly share: Tony Wroten was a top-10 fantasy asset for the first several weeks of the season thanks to a ball-dominant and heavy-usage role with reigning rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams sidelined for the first seven games of the season. Wroten is now the one ailing, having missed the past six games as of press time, but it's somewhat clear from their eight games together this season that both players can sustain starting status even in shallow fantasy formats. MCW ranks 13th in the league in usage rate (an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor), and Wroten is tied for ninth in the league with the Clippers' Blake Griffin in that telling metric.
Wroten's hot start was undoubtedly fueled by his Kobe-esque 32.8 usage rate with Carter-Williams sidelined, yet in their eight games together Wroten is still enjoying a healthy 27.5 usage rate, comparable to ball-dominant stars such as Monta Ellis and John Wall. There was certainly a sell-high window for Wroten, one that has since closed with his recent injury and the return of a heavy-usage backcourt partner, but sustainable fantasy value seems viable given the team's desperate need for offense, something Wroten can provide upon his impending return to the court.
Numbers game: The rich data now widely available for us fantasy nerds to peruse on sites such as 82games.com and the league's own player tracking database affords savvy fantasy investors in all formats -- especially in daily leagues -- an edge over users still seeking out surface stats found in traditional box scores. Kaiser shared some very helpful indexes in the aforementioned Crossover piece, and I'd like to add some of the sites and tools I use in preparing my lineups in weekly and "DFS" formats.
One of my favorite resources, although I'm not sure I want my league-mates knowing this, would be the position-specific information we can find at HoopsStats.com. Power forward is a famously fickle and thin position for fantasy purposes, the tight end of hoops if you will, but in using some advanced information we find that sourcing 4s playing the Timberwolves, Kings, Sixers, Heat or Hornets can prove quite productive and profitable thanks to the illuminating information we can find on the softest fronts for opposing power forwards. Toggle through different positions and you'll likely identify some telling information for specific lineup decisions.
Player pickups: Identifying players available in half or more of ESPN leagues
Devin Harris (9.6 percent owned), Dallas Mavericks: In his second stint in Dallas, Harris is producing 10-team-worthy numbers of late, as he ranks 20th on the Player Rater among point guard-eligible assets over the past seven days. With veteran guard Jameer Nelson having missed four of the past nine games with a lingering shoulder injury, Harris has averaged 28.3 minutes per game over the past nine games on his way to 1.7 3-pointers made per game, 4.1 assists per night and healthy percentages across the board. Compare this with 22.1 minutes and 1.1 3-pointers made per game and a lowly .413 shooting clip over his first 13 games and you have yourself a cheap streaming point guard fit for utility work or a value spot in daily fantasy lineups.
Zach LaVine (10.3), Minnesota Timberwolves: Just behind Harris at 21st among points guards on the Player Rater over the past seven days, this freakish athlete is surging in the lead role with Ricky Rubio sidelined for up to another month. With any early usage limitations clearly lifted, the UCLA product is averaging 38.5 minutes with a robust 20.2 usage rate and a healthy .499 true shooting percentage (a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws) over the past four games. Sticking in Minnesota, I recently talked up Corey Brewer (17.7 percent owned) on our fantasy hoops blog for his defensive prowess. Brewer ranks 13th among small forward-eligible assets over the past seven days thanks to consecutive five-steal outings.
Gorgui Dieng (35.7), Minnesota Timberwolves: It's a Twin Cities kind of week, I suppose, as yet another young asset on Flip Saunders' developing roster is shining with newfound freedom and minutes. In place of injured Nikola Pekovic, the Senegalese big man ranks 14th among power forward-eligible commodities over the past seven days on the Player Rater. Kaiser recently touched on Dieng's enduring value on the hoops blog, declaring we can "expect another month's worth of solid play" from the second-year big man.
Tyler Zeller (11.3), Boston Celtics: Similar to the shallow waters at power forward, center is another challenging position for many fantasy managers. Zeller recently feasted on the aforementioned Lakers defense and has averaged nearly 27 minutes with 13.8 points and 8.8 boards over his past four games. Compare this with just 16.1 minutes per night and minimal usage over his first 16 games, and news that coach Brad Stevens plans to keep Zeller as his starting center, and we should see his low ownership rate spike in this inviting four-game week to come.