Melo, Kevin Durant look in midseason form
Hoops fans woke to the delightful Christmas present of a day full of NBA action after a lockout-plagued offseason that looked grim at times.
We got a glimpse of how the shortened training camp and compressed schedule will affect the game, as teams averaged 96.1 points per game Sunday compared to last season's average of 99.6 points per game. As many suspected, scoring likely will be down, much as it was in the shortened season of 1998-1999, when teams averaged just 91.6 points per game. This won't drastically affect fantasy strategy, although elite scorers will carry slightly increased value. Players such as Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, who dropped 37 and 30 respectively, will be of serious help to fantasy teams if scoring is down across the board, so factor your valuation of players accordingly.
Brandon Bass was excellent off the bench Sunday, with 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes. That's what he can do - score at a high clip and get some boards -- but his peripheral numbers are lacking, so don't expect him to be an all-around fantasy contributor. Still, efficient scorers are valuable, especially in Roto formats, and Bass is worth owning despite his bench role. Carmelo Anthony had a monster game, scoring 37 points with eight rebounds, four 3-pointers, three assists, two steals and a block, while going 10-for-17 from the floor and 13-for-15 from the stripe. If Sunday's game was any indication, his numbers will be just fine in New York, but Amare Stoudemire's may suffer a bit, just like they did last season once 'Melo joined the Knicks. The addition of Tyson Chandler clogs the lane for Amare, and with 'Melo turning so many offensive possessions into 1-on-1 matchups, Amare's numbers could decline this year. Rookie Iman Shumpert looked good in limited action before leaving because of a sprained right knee that will keep him out 2-4 weeks, which means Toney Douglas should be a major fantasy force for the next month before Shumpert returns and Baron Davis joins the rotation. Douglas notched 19 points, two 3s and three steals in 35 minutes of play, and while he won't pour in assists, he will be a steady source of scoring and 3s manning the bulk of the Knicks' backcourt duties. Chris Bosh got in foul trouble and scored just 4 points with 7 rebounds in 24 minutes, and Udonis Haslem looked formidable on the boards as he has throughout his career, snagging 14 rebounds. Bosh has barely played with Haslem in the mix, and his presence this season could eat into Bosh's production. It's just one game, and Bosh should end up with numbers similar to last season, although with Haslem around it'll prove difficult for him to improve them. The Lakers looked pretty flat, although both Steve Blake and Troy Murphy look like they'll have some deep-league value coming off the bench. Blake had 12 points, going 2-for-6 on 3-pointers, and has proven in the past to be able to help fantasy teams from downtown. Murphy emerged to snare eight boards in 23 minutes off the bench, and as recently as the 2009-2010 season, he averaged 14.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 3s per game. He could pick up some of the slack left in Lamar Odom's absence, and is worth monitoring. Ryan Anderson came out gunning for the Magic, going 6-for-12 from beyond the arc, finishing with 25 points, 10 boards and two steals. He averaged 2.4 3s in 14 starts last season, and will rain treys this season. He won't average double-digit boards or more than a block per game, so he lacks some of the typical big man stats, but he should wind up among the league leaders in 3-pointers, which makes him worth starting in virtually every format. Kevin Durant dominated as usual, dropping 30, but Russell Westbrook struggled, going 6-for-17 from the floor for just 14 points while turning the ball over seven times. His numbers could easily take a step back this year with the emergence of James Harden (19 points, six rebounds, three assists, one 3-pointer in 32 minutes off the bench), who is a capable scorer and ball-handler. Ignore the fact that he's coming off the bench; Harden's skill set is made for fantasy hoops, and he's worth starting in all leagues as he finishes games for the Thunder and should average at least 30 minutes per night. DeAndre Jordan had just six points and five rebounds, but he swatted eight shots and looks to be primed to have a block party this season.
There's a full slate of 12 games Monday to satiate the appetite of NBA fans, and the Magic, Thunder, Mavericks, Lakers, Bulls and Warriors play in second games of back-to-backs. Don't be surprised if starters' minutes are slightly limited as players adjust to running up and down the floor again. Bench players such as Blake, Odom and Brandon Rush could see increased minutes as coaches try to avoid burning players out too quickly. Pay attention to how the Nets compensate for the absence of Brook Lopez, who is out at least six weeks because of a broken foot. Kris Humphries should see big minutes, and Mehmet Okur's contribution is worth monitoring as he adjusts to his new squad. We'll also get our first real glance at the Hornets' revamped roster, and just how well Chris Kaman and Emeka Okafor can coexist. Marcus Camby missed the final preseason game for the Blazers because of a sore knee, and although it's not considered serious, Nate McMillan likely will take it easy on the 15-year veteran.