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Friday was a fun day in the NBA, as two of the game's greatest stars were close to full strength and able to help lead their respective teams to wins. Let's get into the Dose, which begins with the reigning MVP returning to action just two days after suffering what was feared to be a serious knee injury.
Nuggets 106, Mavericks 75
Just a couple days removed from injuring his right knee during the second quarter of Tuesday's loss to the Jazz, Nikola Jokic was back on the court Thursday night. And things worked out perfectly for both he and the Nuggets, while fantasy managers were likely hoping to see the MVP log at least 30 minutes. Jokic sat out the entire fourth quarter, finishing with 11 points (5-of-9 FGs), 16 rebounds, eight assists, one steal and one 3-pointer in just 25 minutes. The question in the short-term is what Denver plans to do with Jokic on Saturday, as the Nuggets will play the second game of a back-to-back in Minnesota. Jokic hasn't missed a game since December 13, 2017, so it will likely take a Herculean effort from the coaching staff and trainers to keep him sidelined.
Also of note was the change that Michael Malone made to his rotation. In hopes of getting more production from the second unit, the minutes of Will Barton were staggered. The shift worked out well for him, as he finished with 17 points (7-of-12 FGs, 1-of-1 FTs), five rebounds, six assists and two 3-pointers in 27 minutes. The assist total is what jumps out, as Barton entered Friday averaging 3.8 per game. If this change to the rotation gets him more time on the ball without Jokic, that would enhance his fantasy value. Barton was closest to providing top-50 value in 2017-18, a season in which he averaged a career-high 4.1 assists per game.
Jeff Green (14/3/1) and Aaron Gordon (13/5/2/1/1 with one 3-pointer) had good nights, but Michael Porter Jr. (12/3/1/1 with one 3-pointer) continues to struggle a bit offensively. MPJ was 5-of-12 from the field, which included a 1-of-6 mark from three, on the night, and he's now shooting just 35.9% from the field on the season. If you can possibly buy low on Porter and make a deal with a panicked manager, now would be the time to do that.
Dallas offered nothing as far as fantasy was concerned. Luka Doncic (16/6/4/2 with one 3-pointer) shot 5-of-18 from the field, and the only other double-digit scorer was Trey Burke (11/1/1/1 with one 3-pointer), who made the most of his minutes once the outcome was decided. Reggie Bullock made another start for the injured Kristaps Porzingis (back) and, outside of his scoring the first points of the game, had a rough night. He shot 2-of-6 from the field, tallying five points, two rebounds and one 3-pointer in 22 minutes. Tim Hardaway Jr. (3/3/2/2 with one 3-pointer) and Dorian Finney-Smith (2/1/0/1) were even worse, combining to shoot 1-of-14 from the field.
Hardaway can offer points/3-pointers value on most nights, but he's capable to tossing up the occasional dud. Finney-Smith is the better option for managers in need of defensive stats, but that isn't saying much.
Raptors 110, Magic 109
Friday's schedule offered up a showdown between the players selected fourth and fifth, respectively, in this summer's NBA Draft. Longtime friends Scottie Barnes and Jalen Suggs faced off in Toronto, with Barnes' Raptors taking home the 110-109 victory. And the versatile forward continues to produce, as he finished the win with a line of 21 points (9-of-14 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), nine rebounds, one assist, two steals, one block and one 3-pointer in 37 minutes. Barnes missed some time after taking a shot to the head, but he was able to return and help the Raptors hang on to win. He's a top-100 player in 9-cat formats, and with the trust that Nick Nurse has in the rookie, that likely represents Barnes' fantasy floor this season.
Gary Trent Jr. (19/3/2/2/1 with two 3-pointers) posted a full line, and Fred VanVleet (19/1/6 with three 3-pointers) just missed out on his second 20-point outing in as many games. He's 9-of-17 from three in the last two, a nice run after VanVleet went 6-of-27 in the Raptors' first four. He appears to be getting in a good rhythm, which is good news for the many fantasy managers who grabbed FVV before the end of the third round in their drafts. Lastly, Dalano Banton is approaching the point where deep league managers will want to entertain the thought of picking him up. He played 23 minutes, recording a line of 10 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals. The point total matches his career-high, which was set in Wednesday's win over the Pacers.
Based upon his numbers both last season and in Summer League play, Cole Anthony may be one of the biggest fantasy surprises in the first week of the season. He's a top-60 player in 9-cat formats, and posted a line of 24 points (7-of-13 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs), five rebounds, five assists and five 3-pointers in 34 minutes. Due to Anthony's play, Jamahl Mosley has maintained the same starting five, even with Gary Harris (11/1/3 with one 3-pointer in 27 minutes) back in the fold.
So long as Anthony and Jalen Suggs (21/2/4/0/1 with four 3-pointers in 30 minutes) continue to establish their chemistry, both appear to be safe bets to play at least 30 minutes per night. That being said, it may not be a bad idea for fantasy managers to consider selling high on Anthony, given his hot start. Wendell Carter Jr. (17/12/3 with one 3-pointer) and Mo Bamba (14/18/5/0/3 with two 3-pointers) once again had solid nights, and the pairing is working out quite well (outside of Orlando's 1-5 record).
Nets 105, Pacers 99
Much has been made about James Harden and his early-season struggles, with one of the issues being his sudden inability to get to the foul line. Having entered Friday with an average of just 3.0 free throws per game, The Beard bounced back in a big way as the Nets beat the Pacers in Brooklyn. Harden shot 16-of-19 from the stripe, recording a line of 29 points (5-of-11 FGs), eight rebounds, eight assists, one steal, two blocks, three 3-pointers and four turnovers in 35 minutes. Even with the slow start (by his standards), Harden is still just outside of the top-25 in 9-cat formats. Simply put, there was no reason for any fantasy managers to press the panic button regarding Harden.
LaMarcus Aldridge is the Net (other than Harden and Kevin Durant) to watch presently, as he has seemingly turned back the clock. In 28 minutes off the bench, he tallied 21 points (10-of-16 FGs, 1-of-3 FTs), eight rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot. Aldridge is still rostered in just 49% of Yahoo leagues, which is considerably low given his place within the Nets rotation. Patty Mills (5/3/2/1/1 with one 3-pointer) and Joe Harris (9/2/1 with one 3-pointer) have higher scoring averages than Aldridge, but he may be the one best equipped to serve as Brooklyn's third scoring option. If Aldridge is lurking on your league's waiver wire, now would be a good time to pick him up.
With Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring) down, T.J. McConnell filled the resulting void in the starting lineup. And he did not have a great night, shooting 4-of-14 from the field and finishing with eight points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals in 33 minutes. Friday certainly wasn't a good night for McConnell, but this doesn't change anything with regard to his fantasy value. He's still worth rostering, given Brogdon's lack of a timeline for return. Caris LeVert (back) went through a pregame workout but was not cleared to play; he appears to be close to returning, but that's been the assumption ahead of each of the Pacers' last two games.
And I'm a little concerned about Myles Turner. Outside of his 40-point explosion in an overtime loss to the Wizards, he has not offered much on the offensive end of the floor. Friday night he shot 2-of-7 from the field and 5-of-7 from the foul line, putting up nine points with nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and two blocks. The good news is that Turner put up a full line, outside of 3-pointers, and there's still value to be had in the rebounding and defensive stats. He remains a top-100 player at this early stage in the season, so hold onto Turner. But you have to wonder if Rick Carlisle will make a change to his lineup as the Pacers are now 1-5, and if that would mean splitting up Turner and Domantas Sabonis (16/7/6/3/1 with one 3-pointer in 35 minutes).
Torrey Craig (28/11/3 with four 3-pointers in 34 minutes) had a huge night, but he isn't worth picking up. Craig scored a total of 15 points in the Pacers' first five games.
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Heat 114, Hornets 99
Kyle Lowry (4/6/5/1/1 in 36 minutes) did not shoot the ball well, going 2-of-10 from the field, as he continues to deal with a right elbow injury. The veteran point guard will remain a fixture in the starting lineup, but fantasy managers will have to hold out hope that Lowry's elbow doesn't do too much harm to his field goal percentage. Jimmy Butler (32/10/5/1/1 with one 3-pointer) and Bam Adebayo (26/19/2/2/1) dominated while posting full stat lines, while Tyler Herro (26/5/6/1 with four 3-pointers) has now scored 26 points or more in three of his five games this season.
Sitting just outside of the top-50 in 9-cat formats, it would not come as a surprise if Herro cracked that threshold. And given his start to the season, he could fetch a nice haul for managers who may be considering he possibility of selling high. Personally, I'd hang onto Herro, due to his importance to the Heat rotation, and the freedom that he's given with the second unit.
LaMelo Ball (6/5/6/0/1) had a very rough night, shooting 2-of-14 from the field, but there's no need for alarm. He's still ranked within the top-50 in 9-cat formats; Friday's effort said more about the Heat defense than it did the second-year point guard. Miles Bridges (22/8/1/2/1 with two 3-pointers) and Gordon Hayward (23/6/4/0/1 with five 3-pointers) shot a combined 17-of-26 from the field, and Kelly Oubre (17/4/1/3 with three 3-pointers) had his best game as a Hornets starter. With Terry Rozier (sprained ankles) sidelined, Oubre has moved into the starting lineup, but the role change has not produced the statistical windfall that some managers were anticipating.
As a starter, he's averaging 14.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.5 3-pointers per game. That's what makes Oubre's showing Friday night so important, even if the stat line isn't particularly eye-opening. He shot 7-of-12 from the field, the second time in five starts that he's shot at least 50% from the field.
Kings 113, Pelicans 109
Harrison Barnes only attempted nine shots on the night, but he put together yet another solid stat line. The veteran forward, who had a Yahoo ADP of 102.8, recorded a line of 18 points (5-of-9 FGs, 6-of-6 FTs), 12 rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers in 34 minutes. Barnes currently sits just outside of the top-10 in 9-cat formats, something that is unlikely to remain the case all season long. But there's no reason why he can't, at the very least, be a top-100 player given the role that he plays within the Kings rotation. The played to watch in Sacramento is De'Aaron Fox, due to his slow start to the season.
Shooting just 38.8% from the field, Fox is ranked outside of the top-200 in 9-cat. Friday night he shot 9-of-21 from the field (1-of-7 3-pointers), finishing with 23 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four turnovers in 37 minutes. The inefficiency has been Fox's biggest issue thus far, as he's shooting below 40% from the field and 5-of-32 from three while also averaging just over four turnovers per game. Managers who have him rostered should exercise patience, as he has been a top-100 player each of the last three seasons. Next up for Fox are two tough point guard matchups, as the Kings will visit the Mavericks on Sunday and the Jazz Tuesday.
Richaun Holmes (21/6/1/0/1), Buddy Hield (20/6/1/2 with three 3-pointers) and Tyrese Haliburton (17/2/8/0/1 with one 3-pointer) all had good nights for the Kings. In the case of Hield, he's scored 20 or more in three of the last four games, and appears to be embracing his sixth man role (unlike a couple seasons ago). A top-50 player in 9-cat right now, Hield certainly has value as a reserve. There isn't much difference in Hield's usage when he's on the court with Fox (25.3) compared to without (24.3), but his turnover ratio is considerably better without (7.4, compared to 15.2 with Fox). That is something worth tracking as the season progresses.
The good news for New Orleans is that Josh Hart (quad) made his return to action, playing 22 minutes off the bench and finishing with six points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal and one blocked shot. Herbert Jones (12/1/0/2) remained in the starting lineup and played 25 minutes, while fellow rookie Trey Murphy (3/1/1 with one 3-pointer) logged 22 minutes off the bench. Jones and Murphy both stand to take hits once Hart is able to take on starter's minutes, so any managers who may have picked them up will want to look into finding a better option on the waiver wire.
Jonas Valanciunas (24/13/1/2/2 with one 3-pointer) and Brandon Ingram (22/6/6 with two 3-pointers) led the way, with the former shooting 10-of-14 from the field. However there was a negative for Valanciunas: five turnovers. He's gotten off to a very good start to the season, and the turnover count should be viewed as an anomaly. Valanciunas is averaging 1.7 turnovers per game on the season, and he had a total of five entering Friday's game.
Trail Blazers 111, Clippers 92
Paul George (42/8/2/1/1 with six 3-pointers in 34 minutes) went off Friday night, shooting 15-of-24 from the field and 6-of-9 from the foul line. But he didn't get much help from his teammates, and as a result, the Clippers took a 19-point loss. Luke Kennard (16/4/1/2 with four 3-pointers) produced a solid line in his 33 minutes off the bench, but the other four starters picked the wrong night to go cold. They combined to shoot 6-of-29, with Reggie Jackson (8/4/4/1 with two 3-pointers) being the most productive of the quartet.
Given how he played in the postseason, there was some hope that Jackson would be able to take advantage of Kawhi Leonard's absence and be a consistent offensive option. But it hasn't happened, as he's shooting a frigid 31.3% from the field. Jackson sits outside of the top-150, but he's still rostered in 97% of Yahoo leagues. And after looking very good in the Clippers' season opener, Eric Bledsoe (3/0/1/2 with one 3-pointer) hasn't been much better, also ranking outside of the top-150. Fantasy managers wanting to hold onto Jackson and/or Bledsoe due to their places within the Clippers rotation is understandable. But we aren't too far off from managers having their hands forced regarding Jackson and Bledsoe, given how poor they're shooting the ball.
One the Clippers did manage to do was cool off C.J. McCollum, who shot 6-of-18 from the field and put up a line of 14 points, one rebound, one assist, one steal, two blocks and two 3-pointers. With his career track record, and the way that he began this season, chalk this one up as a one-off for McCollum; he'll be fine. Damian Lillard (25/4/6/1 with five 3-pointers) has his best shooting performance of the season to date, as he was 9-of-17 from the field (5-of-7 3-pointers). There was no reason to even consider panicking due to Lillard's slow start, and he showed why Friday night.
Jusuf Nurkic (14/17/3/2/1) made the most of his 23 minutes, but how long will he take on this limited of a workload? Hopefully Nurkic is eventually pushed into the high-20s, a move that should enhance his fantasy value. Complaint aside, he has still be a top-100 player in 9-cat formats. Cody Zeller (9/7/2/1/1) played 20 minutes off the bench, which is great for him, but there's no need to even consider rostering him when Nurkic is healthy.
Lakers 113, Cavaliers 101
LeBron James (26/3/8/3/1 with one 3-pointer) made his return to the lineup after missing the two games prior due to a right ankle injury, and his return was one of the reasons why the Lakers managed to bounce back from their disappointing loss to the Thunder. But it wasn't all "seashells and balloons" for James, as he was 1-of-10 from three and also committed a game-high seven turnovers. He hasn't made a habit of racking out high-turnover counts, so there's no need to be concerned about Friday's effort becoming a trend.
The big question, with James back in action, was how he, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook would mesh. Davis (15/9/3/1/3 with one 3-pointer) was a bit quiet, but managed to come alive during the fourth quarter. As for Westbrook (19/6/5 with one 3-pointer), he shot 8-of-13 from the field and 2-of-3 from the foul line while making his lone 3-point attempt. Ranked outside of the top-150 in 9-cat, free throw shooting and turnovers have been Westbrook's biggest issues thus far. In theory, back-to-back games against the Rockets would help the Lakers in their quest to establish on-court chemistry. But we did just watch them lose to Oklahoma City, and Friday's win over the Cavs was closer than the final margin would indicate.
Lastly, it's time to roster Carmelo Anthony in most leagues. Rostered in 59% of Yahoo leagues, he's ranked just outside of the top-75 in 9-cat, and Melo had another big night Friday. Shooting 9-of-12 from the field, he tallied 24 points, five rebounds, one assist and six 3-pointers in 25 minutes. Anthony's defensive production isn't great, but you know what you're going to get from him at this point. Managers whose teams are in need of more scoring would be wise to consider Anthony if he's lurking on the waiver wire.
Flipping over to Cleveland, Ricky Rubio is in an even better position than Anthony as far as fantasy value is concerned. Rostered in 97% of Yahoo leagues, he sits just outside of the top-60 in 9-cat. Rubio had another good showing in this loss, putting up 18 points (6-of-15 FGs, 3-of-3 FTs), six rebounds, four assists, three steals and three 3-pointers in 32 minutes. With J.B. Bickerstaff willing to play Rubio alongside Darius Garland (18/1/11/1 with three 3-pointers and six turnovers) and/or Collin Sexton (9/3/3/2), the veteran point guard won't lack for minutes. That could very well change later in the season if the Cavs find themselves well out of the playoff hunt, but managers should not worry about that right now.
And Evan Mobley continues to impress, as he went for 23 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and one 3-pointer. The rookie forward/center is ranked 31st in 9-cat formats, and top-50 feels like a minimum expectation given what Mobley has shown thus far. Lauri Markkanen (17/3/1 with three 3-pointers) didn't offer much outside of the points and 3-pointers, which had not been the case prior to Friday. He's averaging 11.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.7 3-pointers per game, ranking just outside of the top-100 in 9-cat. Cleveland's jumbo frontcourt hasn't looked as awkward as many assumed it would, which is good news for both Markkanen and Mobley.