Here are a few Monday morning thoughts from the Hoops Lab as we prepare for week 7 of the fantasy basketball season. Please note that the Fantasy Basketball Rest of Season Rankings will also be updated on Mondays, so check them out in preparation for this week’s games. Between the rankings and this article, we’ll also help you identify some good Buy Low/Sell High candidates. So, without further ado, let’s dig deeper into it.
LeBron is back and Lakers rolling?
LeBron James returned after missing five games with a groin problem, picking up where he left off to the tune of 30.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 4.0 APG, 4.0 3PG, 2.0 SPG and 1.0 BPG at 34.0 MPG in his first two games back .
James returned just in time for Anthony Davis to sit down while he treated a calf problem. In the six games before sitting Saturday, Davis had scored at least 24 points with at least 14 rebounds in all six during that stretch, averaging 31.8 PPG, 17.0 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 2.5 APG and 2.0 SPG. Perhaps most notably, he averaged 0.0 3PG during those games, dealing all of his damage within the arc, which may be why he shot 61.7 FG% during that period.
The Lakers seem to have found their level as a team, winning five of their last six games, though admittedly the level of competition hasn’t exactly been great.
On the fantasy front, it’s notable that the other Lakers settled into prolific roles, with LeBron or Davis fielding video game numbers. Russell Westbrook averaged 15.2 PPG, 10.0 APG, 4.4 RPG and 1.8 3PG in the five games James was out; Lonnie Walker IV (available in 72.7% of leagues) averages 19.4 PPG (52.0 FG%, 88.9 FT%), 2.6 3PG, 1.7 APG, 1.6 RPG, and 0 .8 SPG in last seven games; and Dennis Schroder (available in 75.8% of the leagues) scored 21 points, 6 assists, 3 3-pointers and 3 rebounds in the final game with Davis (and the combative Patrick Beverley) sitting. Will there be room for everyone to produce with both LeBron and Davis on the lineup?
Hopefully health will allow us to start answering that question this week.
Warriors finding their level?
After starting the season 0-7 on the road, the Warriors have now won two of their last three away from home, including Sunday’s 23-point breakdown in Minnesota. More than that, the team that unexpectedly started the campaign with a score of less than .500 6-9 in 15 games has now won five of their last six appearances, with the only loss coming in the match where they lost all of their primary players had.
The biggest new contributors to the major turnaround are two of the oldest contributors on the team. Draymond Green (available in 20.4% of leagues) has an average of 11.0 PPG, 8.6 APG, 5.8 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 0.8 3PG and 0.6 SPG during that stretch, while Klay Thompson has rediscovered his shooting stroke. Thompson turned in his first 40-point game of the season during that stretch, averaging 24.0 PPG (53.8 FG%, 80.0 FT%), 5.6 3PG, 3.0 RPG, 1.6 APG and 1.2 SPG.
While Stephen Curry is great, and guys like Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole are the future, the Warriors (and fantasy rosters) just aren’t the same without Draymond and Klay playing at a high level as well. Now that they have found their level, I expect that only injury can push them off the field this season.
76ers overcome problems thanks to Milton & Melton
Five games ago, Tyrese Maxey broke a bone in his foot and joined James Harden (foot) on the sidelines. Four games ago, Joel Embiid (foot) was also forced to step aside.
Yet somehow the 76ers have won three of their last four games, punctuated by their 30-point victory in Orlando on Sunday. Tobias Harris has played well, averaging 22.8 PPG (51.3 FG%, 88.9 FT%), 6.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.3 3PG and 0.8 SPG during those four games, but the real story is the 76ers’ new backcourt.
Shake Milton (available in 85.2% of leagues) led the way, averaging 23.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 6.6 APG, 2.6 3PG, and 0.8 SPG in 38.6 MPG during his last five appearances.
De’Anthony Melton (available in 69.7% of leagues) doesn’t want to be outdone, having at least three steals in five games in a row and averaging 17.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.8 SPG, 3.8 APG and 3.4 3PG during his last five.
It will be interesting to see if they can continue to put out such large numbers when Embiid returns, but until they show any sign of slowing down (or Harden and/or Maxey return), the Milton/Melton duo should be universally rostered and in most competitions.
Zion’s 100 game celebration
Zion Williamson is expected to play his 100th career game on Monday. In his career he has averaged 25.3 PPG at 60.0 FG%. According to ESPN SIG, no player who debuted in the shot-clock era has ever averaged 25 points on 60% shooting in his first 100 career games. In fact, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin McHale and Wilt Chamberlain are the only players to have done it over a 100 game span in the shot clock era. So keep an eye out.
If Zion snaps shots at his usual clip on Monday, he’ll have a chance to make NBA history. And quietly, if you’ve got Zion on your Fantasy Hoops team, and he’s setting the goal, it might not be the worst idea to put out some feelers in your league, see if anyone’s interested in trading for an NBA history maker at full cost. After all, he’s only in his 100th game and we’re well into the fourth NBA season since he was drafted. Just say it.
Pacers who are playing ball quietly
On one occasion, at an awards show, Lil Mama jumped on stage and crashed Jay Z and Alisha Keys’ performance. When that performance ended with all three of them freezing in a final pose, someone on the air described the image as if Lil Mama photoshopped herself into the scene.
I think about that when I watch the Eastern Conference playoffs a quarter into the season. The names on the list read like an expected who’s who of the conference…with the Pacers seemingly photoshopped at the four seeds. The Pacers were expected to be a deep lottery team that could spark a full rebuild at any moment by trading veterans Miles Turner and/or Buddy Hield, likely to the Lakers. Instead, the Pacers have won seven of their last 10 games and are a team no one really wants to play against.
They are also a team with lots of fantasy hoops charisma, led by Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton leads the NBA in assists per game…by a lot. His 11.1 APG is nearly two per game more than Trae Young’s 9.4 in second place, and more than three more than Mike Conley’s 7.9 in fifth. In category competitions, Haliburton could win assists for you himself. In point competitions, Haliburton’s elite playing skills helped him move to sixth most fantasy points during the first near fourth of the season. But Haliburton is far from the only FBA story involving the Pacers.
What about the aforementioned Turner and Hield? In his last 10 games, Turner has averaged 20.0 PPG (59.6 FG%, 85.2 FT%), 8.6 RPG, 2.2 BPG and 1.8 3PG in 29.4 MPG. Hield remains a professional scorer and has averaged 18.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.9 3PG, 2.7 APG and 1.3 SPG in his last 15 appearances. They’re excellent for the Pacers, but keep in mind that if they were traded this season, it’s unlikely they’d end up on a team with that much room to operate. If I have them on my fantasy hoop list and I can swing them, I’d probably try moving either or both while their values are at relative peaks.
I would also keep in mind what a potential trade could mean for players like Jalen Smith (available in 60.7% of leagues) and Bennedict Mathurin (available in 42.8% of leagues). Both Smith and Mathurin already have fantastic campaigns and there is no guarantee that Turner or Smith will be moved, but if they were, Smith and Mathurin are both very young players with a lot of advantage, and their values would go up quite a bit. bit as the featured player at their position. Just something to keep in mind, as potential tiebreakers when you have to decide between sharing for them versus other players of similar caliber.