The NBA is officially back, and while Wednesday felt more like a glorified Summer League with so many wacky rotations and unproven players getting a rare shot at minutes, it was just nice to sit back, relax and watch some basketball again after four months without sports.
There aren’t many resumption fantasy leagues going down for the eight remaining regular season games, so I’m looking ahead and using the restart as an opportunity to gauge the fantasy value of players for the 2020-21 season when REAL fantasy basketball returns. DFS is also going to be immensely popular during the restart, so I’ll mix in some fantasy nuggets for those folks as well. I’m not taking the scrimmages too seriously because most of the key players played sparingly (or not at all) and there was a lot of messy basketball due to a combination of rust and fatigue, so let’s just hit a few things that stood out to me. And yes, that means Bol Bol CONTENT!
Paul George looks great in Orlando debut
It's no secret that Paul George didn't look like himself before the pause, and he even talked about some "insecurities" he had with his health after coming off surgery to both shoulders. The long hiatus was just what the doctor ordered for George, who recently told reporters that he feels like himself again.
He had a cool 18 points (6-of-13 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs) in 19 minutes during Wednesday's scrimmage, adding five rebounds, three assists and four triples. He passed the eye test too, as he was aggressive off the pick-and-roll and was knocking down step-back and pull-up triples with confidence. It's important to remember that the last time George was fully healthy back in 2018-19 that he was the No. 3 player in 9-category leagues, posting 28.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.4 blocks and 3.8 triples. Still in his prime at age 30, I think George will prove in Orlando that he's still one of the NBA's best two-way players.
The Clippers are 5.5 games behind the Lakers for the No. 1 seed and are battling Denver and Utah for the No. 2 seed, so I would expect at least one rest-related DNP for George during the seeding games. Just be mindful of that in DFS.
Bol Bol makes noise in his first NBA action
The Nuggets only had eight available players on Wednesday with nearly half their team still making their way to Orlando, creating one of the wildest lineups in recent memory. And Nikola Jokic starting at point guard wasn't even the weirdest part - Coach Mike Malone went full galaxy brain for this game with perhaps the tallest lineup in NBA history, starting Jokic, Jerami Grant at SG, Bol Bol at SF, Paul Millsap at PF and Mason Plumlee at center. The result was exactly what you'd expect with some hilarious and often messy basketball, but at least we got our first look at Bol Bol in the NBA.
And let me tell you, all the hype and positive comments about Bol Bol from coach Mike Malone and teammates this week certainly seem warranted after that debut. The 7-2 rookie played a whopping 32 minutes with 16 points (6-of-14 shooting), 10 rebounds, one assist, six blocks, two triples and five turnovers. He reminded me a bit of Mitchell Robinson with the way he baited his opponent to shoot, backing off them slightly and then using his absurd wingspan to swat it out of the bubble. And credit to the Nuggets for playing to his strengths, as they used him as the anchor of a zone defense which kept him mostly in the paint where his lack of mobility on switches wouldn't matter.
Bol Bol showed his unicorn skill-set by pushing the ball up the floor after rebounds and even hitting a pull-up triple in transition, and I don't think a lot of people realize just how gifted he is as a shooter -- he hit 52% from 3-point range at Oregon on 2.8 attempts per game. His health was the biggest question mark entering the NBA, but the heavy workload Wednesday is a good sign and there are maybe two or three players in this class with his ceiling. I still think it's a long-shot that Bol Bol is a rotation player when the playoffs come around, but my goodness this front office knows how to find talent. Bol is undoubtedly one of my favorite stashes in dynasty formats and hopefully we'll get more chances to see him in Orlando. And if the Nuggets are willing to use him at three positions, that makes me hopeful that he could be a regular come next season.
Troy Brown Jr. runs the show for Washington
With no John Wall, Bradley Beal or Davis Bertans in Orlando, it was clear within the first few minutes of Wednesday’s action that this is Troy Brown Jr.’s show in Orlando. He finished with 12 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals and one triple in 25 minutes in a line that would’ve been much higher with some luck at the 3-point line (he was 1-of-7).
“I thought overall, he played a really solid game,” coach Scott Brooks said (h/t Fred Katz of The Athletic). “Some of the shots that he missed, I’m confident he will make some of those shots. A couple of passes he made were really good.” Brooks had always shown Brown Jr. some tough love, but he’s been singing a different tune since training camp and has been pumping his tires for weeks with nothing but praise.
And Brown is already seeing the dividends from that, saying that his confidence is “sky high.” He’s hoping to hone his skills as a point guard in Orlando, so he spent the break working on his quickness so he can guard opposing PGs. We also got a glimpse of his new burst in transition, as he was pushing the ball off rebounds. He looked more and more assertive in the pick-and-roll as the game progressed, and he should be among the usage leaders for the Wizards alongside Napier based on what we saw Wednesday.
Brown Jr. had a per-36 line of 16.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.3 triples with Beal off the court before the pause, so DFS fantasy managers will want to become very familiar with this guy.
Duncan Robinson continues to shoot the lights out
When someone asks who the best shooter in the NBA is that is not named Stephen Curry, Duncan Robinson and Davis Bertans are the only names I’ll consider. Robinson picked up right where he left off before the pause, hitting 5-of-8 triples and finishing with 18 points, two rebounds and one assist. And a few of them weren’t exactly wide-open either, as the Kings unsuccessfully tried to chase him off the line — he had a couple sick pump fakes to get just a slither of space to shoot.
Robinson is going to play a ton for the Heat and is going to reap the benefits of playing alongside two elite playmakers in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. It’s no wonder he leads the team with a plus/minus of +315 this season. He’s never going to be an exciting DFS option because he lacks the supporting stats, but in terms of 9-cat value his 4.8 triples per game over his last 20 appearances were enough to catapult him inside the top-80. And with the Heat looking to cut back on their mid-range shots, more long-range shots could be coming Robinson’s way — Miami attempted 44 triples in 40 minutes Wednesday… That's Houston territory.
Caris LeVert looking to lead the silly-season Nets
There were two takeaways about Brooklyn that were quite clear Wednesday. The first is that this Brooklyn team could legit go 0-8 in Orlando and get run out of the building several times, and the second is that Caris LeVert should be among the league leaders in usage/shots. He had a 33.3 usage rate Wednesday, way up from his season average of 28.0. He didn’t exactly have the most inspiring stat line with 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal while going 0-of-6 from beyond the arc, but you have to love that he attempted 18 shots in 22 minutes.
Consider this; When Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie were off the court, LeVert had a per-36 line of 31.5 points, 5.6 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 3.9 triples in a 327-minute sample. It’s also important to note that LeVert was red hot before the pause, averaging 24.0 points, 5.4 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 2.8 triples in his last 10 games. The Nets have very little to play for, so giving LeVert all the reps he can handle makes too much sense in the hope that he hits another developmental leap. And that sounds like their plan too… "We talked about doing simple better,” Coach Jacque Vaughn said. “That line of thinking will allow him to -- as players say -- ‘get into his bag' a bit, and showcase more than he’s done in the past.” Despite the poor line Wednesday, I think we're going to see some monster lines from him in Orlando.