NBA

Young Pistons, Spurs have a lot to offer

Young Pistons, Spurs have a lot to offer
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« I am not smiling. I am resplendent. »

« You are smiling. At whatever you’re watching over and over. »

« I am more than smiling at these John Wall highlights. Because they brim with splendor. Thus? I. Am. Resplendent. »

This was me, attempting to quantify for my daughter the dopamine jackpot that was Wall’s Clipper debut. A chirpy, chippy 15 points in 24 minutes.

He stopped, popped, crossed up, and repeatedly treated poor Austin Reeves like a cat toy. He flashed some vintage « accelerated deceleration » for a couple of agonizing successful layups.

But what was resplendent?

His brief, beatific interview on his way up the tunnel: « First game back in a long time, a great team… great competition. Peace out, man. Hell yeah. »

Hell yeah, I woke up the one other Bullets fan I know in Pasadena; my 14-year-old son, the proud owner of more John Wall T-shirts than anyone else in the Pacific Time Zone — and informed him he was wearing a Wall shirt to school the next day. (It’s going to be good to get in on the ground floor of Wall fanship at John Muir High School.)

High school is a good place to pivot from. Because any high school, like the first week of any NBA campaign, is replete with resplendent optimism … brought on by a total and utter lack of perspective. But it’s kinda fun to live in illogical extremes. For a week or so. Not for four years.

Two-to-three games are an acceptable sample size within a fantasy football season. In fantasy hoops, it’s barely a statistical sneeze. But like with John Wall, there are a few teams and a lineup or two that, while not resplendent, are pleasant fantasy surprises.

So far, I have two favorite lineups:

Bojan Bogdanovic, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey

Lottery-sourced upside. Middling expectations. Mediocre depth. Such is the stuff great young fantasy lineups are made — for an irrationally skewed three NBA games. But someone’s gotta be the best.

And three games in? This is the most potent offensive lineup in the NBA by a metric ton. Averaging 57.7 PPG in 21.9 MPG. Per NBA.com’s EverythingMachineTM (my term), that’s the most potent lineup of this young season by nearly 10 PPG. How does this one-week juggernaut run roughshod?

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By taking more 3s than anyone (18.7). Making more 3s than anyone (8.0). Assisting on more baskets than anyone (14.7).

These traits one would assume. But the secret sauce is that little PFD column second from the right — 11.0 Personal Fouls Drawn. That’s also more fouls drawn than anybody (11.0), which leads to more free throws attempted (12.3) than anybody.

And here’s the thing; Cade Cunningham has underperformed. This is why it’s important to pay attention to young teams far from contention, but only recently removed from winning the Draft Lottery. Upside, upside, upside.

Jaden Ivey is for real. It’s not his 17.7 PPG, or 5.3 RPG, or 6.0 APG, or 1.7 3PG. It’s Ivey’s 23.5 Usage Rate, which is a strong early sign that he and Cunningham are going to coexist just fine.

And Saddiq Bey was one of my most-drafted players this season not because I’m smart — it’s because he happened to be hanging around in too many eighth rounds for my draft board’s liking. Did he not amaze you with some of those big games last season? Like the 51 points he dropped on the Banchero-less Magic?

Detroit is overstuffed with high-lottery talent. A couple of solid mid-first rounders getting heavy minutes (Bey and Isaiah Stewart.) And not much else, at least in terms of fantasy upside.

The question mark here for fantasy is PF. Is this just going to be a matchup-based timeshare? So far, the answer is no, because Bojan Bogdanovic — one of the most underrated late-round PFs in fantasy – has vacuumed up 31.1 minutes a night. This is more than enough time for him to make a tooth, given his efficiency from deep (3.7 3PG).

It’s just three games. But the consolidated MPG and Usage within this lineup mean more fantasy-wise, long-term, than those 57.7 PPG.

Jakob Poeltl, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Tre Jones and Jeremy Sochan

Years ago, there was a season I refused to type Gregg Popovich’s name without significant arm-twisting. I wanted to simply refer to him as The Vortex of Fantasy Doom®. It was my geek protest against the havoc his invention of Load Management, his randomized rest of star players, and his flat, no-name, low-MPG rotations wreaked upon the confines of Fantasyland.

All is forgiven.

Because the last couple of editions of Popovich’s Spurs evolved into surefire sources of two-to-three draft steals. In this starless Spurs universe, if you get over 30 MPG, you will be a top-75 roto player. None of these Spurs excel at anything. But they’re solid at everything.

Tre Jones is a perfect example of this solid-at-everything dynamic. He’s averaging 29.9 MPG, 14.3 PPG, 4.5 APG, 4.0 RPG, 0.8 3PG, and 2.3 Blocks+Steals. (And this is with a middling 58.6 TS%.)

Jakob Poeltl is top-100ish, averaging 15.5 PTS, 10.5 RPG, and 3.5 APG.

But Keldon Johnson (20.5 PPG) and Devin Vassell (19.8 PPG) are both sniffing the top 40 off eighth-round ADPs. That isn’t superstar production, but those are the kind of ROIs on late-round investments that make a good fantasy team a championship fantasy team.

A resplendent fantasy team.

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