Morant, Jokic, Westbrook, Young go nuts

Rough Start to Wednesday Night

The Rockets-Thunder game was postponed due to the Rockets having too many guys in the health protocol to field a team. Video surfaced of James Harden out in a club on Monday and several guys, including John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, were sent home after a group apparently went to an apartment for haircuts. Harden was fined $50,000 and will lose $284K for each missed game, while we’ll have to wait and see what the fallout is from the postponement. It was a bummer for those of you rostering Christian Wood and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a bit of a bummer on the true opening night of the NBA. I think it’s possible that we won’t see Harden play in a Rockets uniform this season. There’s still no word on how long the various players, including Harden, will have to be quarantined.

Here’s what you may have missed (the good and the bad) on an incredibly busy opening Wednesday night. Follow me on Twitter right here!

The Good

The Hawks – They looked fantastic against a Bulls team that didn’t exactly look like they were ready to play, falling 124-104 at home, while the Hawks couldn’t do anything wrong. Trae Young came as advertised, hitting 10-of-12 shots, 5-of-6 3-pointers and 12-of-14 free throws for 37 points, six boards, seven assists and four turnovers in just 26 minutes. His 37 on 12 shot attempts were the most points in NBA history for so few attempts. The bad news is that the Hawks are too deep in terms of fantasy. Danilo Gallinari, John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter all played well and joined Trae in double digits, although none of them scored more than 15 points. And seven players hit 3-pointers for the Hawks. Add in that they were without Clint Capela (Achilles) and Rajon Rondo (safety protocol) and things will get even more crowded once they’re back. Trae is the only sure fantasy bet for the Hawks, but from a reality standpoint, they were great defensively and have a team that can go inside or bomb 3-pointers at will offensively. The Hawks look like a serious playoff team and I’m not sad about reaching for Trae as high as No. 5 in some leagues. I am expecting different guys to step up for the Hawks every night, meaning that using Trae’s supporting cast will be like riding a roller coaster, especially when they’re all healthy.

Nikola Jokic & Michael Porter Jr. – Jokic abused the Kings for a monster 29-15-14 triple-double while hitting 11-of-18 shots, a 3-pointer and adding three blocks to a ridiculous line. This is why you took him in the first round. And Porter Jr. got the start over Will Barton and came through in a big way, racking up 24 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, three blocks and three 3-pointers on 9-of-15 shooting. What a great season debut for these two and this is exactly why I was reaching all over the place to get my hands on MPJ. Paul Millsap was fun with 16 points, seven boards, three assists and two 3-pointers, but he might begin to fade away as MPJ figures this thing out.

Ja Morant & Dillon Brooks – Morant when nuts, hitting 18-of-27 shots, a 3-pointer and 7-of-8 free throws for 44 points, two rebounds, nine assists, two steals, a block and just one turnover in 35 minutes. Yeah, Memphis lost to the Spurs, but I have no regrets for “reaching” for Morant in some leagues, at least according to some of my Twitter followers. Morant is going to blow up this season. Dillon Brooks might be sitting on your waiver wire and had 16 points, four boards, six assists, two steals and a 3-pointer in 33 minutes. He has the ability to do this every night.

Russell Westbrook – Westbrook triple-doubled in his Wizards debut with a 21-11-15 line but he didn’t have a steal, block or 3-pointer, hit 9-of-22 shots and 3-of-5 free throws, committed six turnovers and the Wizards didn’t win. My buddy, Brian Rosenworcel, called it the “emptiest triple-double ever” and I’m not going to argue with him. Hopefully, Westbrook’s back-to-back day offs aren’t going to be a total buzzkill on his fantasy season. Bradley Beal led the Wiz with 31 points and Thomas Bryant was quiet with 10 points, five boards and a block, but he should be better on most nights.

Brandon Ingram, J.J. Redick and the Pelicans – The Pelicans beat the Raptors as Brandon Ingram nearly triple-doubled with a 24-9-11 line with three steals, a block and three 3-pointers on 10-of-19 shooting. If you were worried about Zion Williamson hurting his numbers, don’t be. Zion had a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards, but also had six turnovers, Eric Bledsoe added 18 points and four triples in his Pels debut and Lonzo Ball came through with 16 points, four triples, a steal and two blocks, but also had just two assists. And J.J. Redick heated up off the bench for 23 points and six 3-pointers. He is probably sitting on your waiver wire if you want to pick up some 3-pointers. I love the Lonzo Ball line and think he’s going to have a big year with all those weapons to play with.

Giannis Antetokounmpo & the Bucks (in fantasyland) – Giannis was a beast, going for 35 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and three 3-pointers, even knocking down 6-of-8 free throw attempts. But… he also committed seven turnovers and missed the game-tying free throw with 0.4 seconds left on the clock. So even when the missed FTs aren’t hurting him in fantasy, the Bucks took a hit in reality last night. Khris Middleton was awesome with a 27-14-8 line with three triples and Jrue Holiday came through with 25 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, a block and a 3-pointer in his Bucks debut. Donte DiVincenzo had 15 points, five boards, three assists, two steals and three 3-pointers in the start and he might be available in your league. If he’s sitting out there, I think he’s worth grabbing if you have someone to drop.

Jayson Tatum & Jaylen Brown – Tatum hit a 3-pointer over Giannis to win the game for the Celtics, although I didn’t hear him call ‘bank,’ and Brown finished with 33 points and a full stat line in the win. They became the first Celtics duo to score 30 a piece on opening night. Tatum gets all the fantasy love in Boston, but Brown is going to be a monster this year. Jeff Teague played well off the bench with 19 points, three boards, four assists, two steals and four 3-pointers and is worth rostering, at least until Kemba Walker is ready to play. Marcus Smart was a dud, but I’ll touch on him later.

Luka Doncic – He shot it terribly, missing his first six shots but bounced back for a 32-8-6 line and hit 10-of-12 free throws with just one turnover. The free throws and TOs were great to see, while the poor shooting and the 0-for-6 from downtown will work themselves out as he plays his way into game shape. He might be a little pudgy right now.

Dejounte Murray, DeMar DeRozan, Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson – The Spurs looked good in a win over the Grizzlies despite getting torched by Ja Morant. Murray had 21 points, six boards, nine assists, two steals, a 3-pointer and just three turnovers in 31 minutes and hit 9-of-15 shots. DeRozan nearly triple-doubled with a 28-9-9 line with a steal and a block, and while he hit 14-of-15 free throws, he didn’t attempt a 3-pointer, as usual. Walker and Johnson each scored 16 points in starts for the Spurs. Walker had six boards, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers, while Johnson had five boards, three assists, three steals and a 3-pointer. Both guys are worth a look in all leagues as long as they’re starting for the Spurs.

Rudy Gobert & Joe Ingles – Gobert racked up 20 points and 17 boards and Joe Ingles came off the bench for 14 points, five boards, seven assists, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers in 27 minutes. Maybe Jingles is finally going to get back to form this year. He’s likely available in your league and is probably worth a pickup if you have someone to drop.

Terry Rozier & Gordon Hayward – Rozier dropped 42 points and 10 3-pointers with a full stat line, but it was against the Cavaliers and he’s not going to hit 15-of-23 shots on most nights. He was magical last night but I’m guessing that will be his best game of the season. Hayward, dealing with a hand fracture, hit 11-of-18 shots for 28 points, seven dimes and four 3-pointers, which was nice to see. He looks like a potential serious value pick this season after his draft stock dropped due to the injury.

Larry Nance Jr., Collin Sexton & Darius Garland – We’ve been waiting on Nance for three years and he racked up 13 points, 13 boards, eight assists, three steals, two blocks and a 3-pointer for one of the under-the-radar lines of the night. Make sure he’s not sitting out there. Sexton had 27 points, five assists and three 3-pointers, and Garland went off for 22 points, six boards, six assists and four 3-pointers, so things look promising for the young backcourt duo in Cleveland.

RJ Barrett, Julius Randle & Alec Burks – The Knicks were blown out but Barrett (26-8-5 on 11-of-15 shooting with three 3-pointers), Randle (17-9-9) and Burks (22 points) all looked great. Maybe Barrett is going to go off this year. I certainly hope he does, as I drafted him in several leagues.

Domantas Sabonis & the Pacers – Sabonis racked up a career-high 32 points, 13 boards, five assists and two 3-pointers, Myles Turner had eight blocks(!), Victor Oladipo looked spry and scored 22, and Malcolm Brogdon filled it up with 21 points, seven boards and eight dimes. The Pacers looked good last night.

Aaron Gordon & Evan Fournier – Aaron Gordon had 20 points, seven boards and four steals on 8-of-11 shooting and is getting better every year. Fournier hit 9-of-13 shots for 25 points, but I’m not expecting that often.

Goran Dragic – Dragic came off the bench and looked great with 20 points and seven assists. People sleep on him every year and he plays well every year. Bam Adebayo, as expected, double-doubled and played well for the Heat.

Buddy Hield & the Kings – Hield tipped in the game-winner in overtime and finished with 22 points, four boards, three assists, a steal and five 3-pointers. I’m in. Harrison Barnes had 21 points, nine boards, five assists and two steals, but I don’t really trust him, De’Aaron Fox scored 21, but hit just 8-of-20 shots, and Marvin Bagley was decent with 13 points and nine boards before fouling out. Baby steps.

Mikal Bridges & Deandre Ayton – Bridges hit 5-of-11 shots and four 3-pointers for 18 points, seven boards and two blocks in 36 minutes. He is primed for a breakout season and got off to a great start last night. Ayton was in foul trouble early but came on late, filling the stat sheet with 13 points, eight boards, a steal and two blocks in just 24 minutes. Chris Paul didn’t fill up the stat sheet in his Suns’ debut, but he did hit a dagger to seal the win for the Suns with his eighth point of the night.

Patrick Williams – The rookie started over Otto Porter Jr. for the Bulls and had 16 points, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer, and should be rostered in most leagues. He’s going to make some noise to be Rookie of the Year.

Shake Milton, Ben Simmons & Joel Embiid – Shake came off the bench for Philly with 19 points, three assists, three steals and two 3-pointers on 6-of-11 shooting and is worth a look on the waiver wire if he’s still sitting there. Embiid had 29 points, 14 boards, a block and a 3-pointer, and Simmons added 16 points, nine boards, seven assists, two steals and three blocks, but also hit just 2-of-6 free throws, as usual.

Josh Jackson – Jackson had a productive preseason for the Pistons and came through with a team-high 19 points, six boards, two assists, a steal and three 3-pointers on 8-of-14 shooting in 29 minutes off the bench. I guarantee you he (was/is) available in 12-team leagues and is worth a pickup just in case this isn’t a mirage. The rest of the Pistons were pretty awful on Wednesday.

Malik Beasley & Karl-Anthony Towns – Beas started for the Wolves and hit 10-of-18 shots and three 3-pointers for 23 points, four boards, two assists and a steal in 27 minutes and is officially worth a look in all fantasy leagues. KAT had a 22-11-7 line with a steal, a block and two 3-pointers on 6-of-10 shooting in 30 minutes. Not mind blowing, but a pretty stellar fantasy line for those of you who used your first pick on him.

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The Bad

The Blazers – What a disappointing start for the Blazers! They got crushed by the Jazz and only C.J. McCollum came through with a decent line of 23 points and three 3-pointers on 7-of-19 shooting. Damian Lillard fizzled with nine points and seven dimes on 4-of-12 shooting, Robert Covington had just one point with four boards, three assists and a steal on 0-of-3 shooting, and Derrick Jones Jr. and Jusuf Nurkic were both disappointing. Maybe Utah’s defense is just that good, or maybe the Blazers just had an off night, but don’t read too much into this. They’ll all bounce back in the next one, especially Lillard and Covington.

T.J. Warren – It was nice to Warren start after dealing with his plantar fasciitis, but he hit just 2-of-8 shots for five points and not much else. He was a Bubble beast last season, but it still felt like a bit of a mirage to me. He’s coming off an injury and still working his way back, and while I don’t think he’ll be quite as good as he was in the Bubble, he’ll be a heck of a lot better than he was on Wednesday.

Cody Zeller – Zeller broke his hand last night and could miss significant time. Bismack Biyombo looks like the big winner and had 11 points, four boards and a block on 5-of-5 shooting. BB might be worth a pickup if you need a center, but my guess is P.J. Washington, who scored just four points last night, will be the big winner if Zeller is out. Washington hit just 1-of-5 shots in 21 minutes but will bounce back in a big way. Don’t panic.

Marcus Smart – Smart started for Kemba Walker (knee) and we all had high hopes for him in Boston, but he missed all three of his shots for three points, seven assists and three blocks. Don’t give up on him, but beware that Jeff Teague looked good with 19 points off the bench. Smart will bounce back and Walker doesn’t sound close to a return.

LaMelo Ball – Ball played 16 minutes and missed all five of his shots in his debut, finishing with zero points, three assists and three turnovers. He will likely do more damage than good to your fantasy lineup, but I’m probably going to keep him around in the league I roster him in until we see him play a few more games.

Jamal Murray – Murray hit just 1-of-9 shots and missed all five of his triples for nine points and one assist for Denver. Ouch. He was a beast in the playoff Bubble last season and this is simply a case of opening-night jitters. He’ll be fine.

Hassan Whiteside – Richaun Holmes started at center and had six points, nine boards and a block, which was not great, but Whiteside played just 18 minutes off the bench for four points, nine board and a block. Whiteside was saved by the overtime session, or his line would have looked much worse. I’m concerned about his minutes, but let’s give the Kings a few more games and then see what happens. He’s too good to play so few minutes, in my opinion.

Coby White & Wendell Carter Jr. – White had a miserable first half but made up for some of it once the game was out of hand. He finished just 2-of-11 from the floor with one 3-pointer, nine points, seven assists and three turnovers in 30 minutes. It felt like he had more turnovers, but his line was decent when it was all said and done. He looked tentative and wasn’t looking for his shot, but hopefully it was just first-game jitters. WCJ had six points, six boards and two assists on 2-of-5 shooting in 26 minutes and we were hoping for more, especially with Clint Capela in street clothes. It’s early, so don’t panic on either one of them.

Ricky Rubio – Rubio started at the point for the Wolves but hit just 1-of-4 shots for three points, three assists and two steals in 25 minutes. He’s a second-half-of-the-season guy so it may take him a while to get going. But he won’t be this bad on most nights, so I’d recommend hanging in there, at least for a week or two.

Devin Vassell – The Spurs rookie was a steals master in the preseason but was nearly invisible in the opener, finishing with three points (a 3-pointer) on 1-of-4 shooting with a block. The good news is he played 20 minutes and still has plenty of time to improve. But the entire Spurs starting lineup looked good and Vassell is a guy you can probably cut if you’re sitting on him.

Danny Green – Green started for the Sixers and hit 1-of-6 shots for two points in just 18 minutes. This is not good and the Sixers like Shake Milton, who played 30 minutes and scored 19 points. It could be a long year for Green.

Troy Brown Jr. – I have/had high hopes for TBJ, but he was invisible last night in his 22 minutes, hitting just 1-of-3 shots and a 3-pointer for three points, three boards, one assist and nothing else. I’m going to give him another game or two, but if he doesn’t get better, I’ll quickly be moving on.

Jerami Grant, Delon Wright & Killian Hayes – Ugh. Grant hit 4-of-11 shots for nine points and one rebound, Wright hit 2-of-5 shots for five points and four assists in just 19 minutes, and Hayes hit 3-of-6 shots for seven points and three assists in 21 minutes. The 19 minutes for Wright are the most worrisome here and after being a total let down last season, this is an ominous start with the Pistons. Jared Johnson talked me into getting on the Wright bandwagon this season and while I’m not ready to fully give up, I’m probably going to only give him one or two more games to get my attention. He can do it all if he gets minutes, but Wednesday wasn’t promising, at all.

Happy Holidays and enjoy a super fun five-game slate on Christmas Day!

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