• ‘Twas the spectacle of Christmas, and all through the land

    the people had gathered to see Kyrie and Durant.

    Televisions and cell phones were all switched to ‘on’,

    in the hope of capturing the ferocious Zion.

    Our gatherings were limited with none such a hurry,

    allowing ample time to soak in some Curry.

    As day turned to night and lunch became tea,

    next on the menu was LeBron and AD.

    To round out the festivities, let’s end on a high

    with the incredible feats of the magnificent Kawhi.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Despite there being five games on the slate, all ended in reasonably comfortable victories. The fallout resulted in an inaccurate reflection of what the playing time might look like on a regular basis. That said, there were a handful of tidbits that can be taken away when deciphering which players could be worth a look in standard formats.

    Nicolas Batum, G/F, Los Angeles Clippers – Batum continues to thrive in his new setting and while his production will not be this good on most nights, he appears to be locked into a meaningful role for the time being. His fantasy-friendly game has been curtailed in recent times but it seems as though the Clippers’ confidence is moderately substantial. The upside is not what it used to be; however, he is worth a look as long as he is spending adequate time on the floor.

    Josh Hart, G/F, New Orleans Pelicans – The Pelicans are running a tight ship at the moment with seven players soaking up the majority of the playing time. Hart provides elite rebounding numbers from the guard position and can contribute multiple triples with a smattering of defensive numbers. He has gone through periods of standard league relevance in the past and if he is going to maintain a sixth-man type role, he should be considered as a viable asset.

    Dorian Finney-Smith, F, Dallas Mavericks – Finney-Smith is enjoying a sizeable role right now, something he is no stranger to. His fantasy ceiling is limited and while he will disappoint on occasions, he can usually be relied upon to provide multiple 3-pointers as well as some tasty steal numbers. Playing time is the key here and so as long as he is approaching 30 minutes per night, he is a player to consider.

    Isaiah Hartenstein, C, Denver Nuggets – This is one for those in deeper formats only at this point. In limited minutes, Hartenstein has looked more than capable of putting up decent contributions. His playing time is capped at around 10 minutes it would seem. However, in that time he typically records multiple rebounds to go with at least one block. He shoots the ball well from the field and is beginning to form some nice combinations with the second unit. Those in deep leagues should at least keep an eye on him to see if he can maintain his current trajectory.

    Drop Zone

    While it is inadvisable to make any rash decisions this early in the season, there are a couple of players who could be considered drop candidates. These are players who may not even be rostered in your league but could be those that some managers are holding onto ‘just in case’.

    Gary Harris, G, Denver Nuggets – Harris appears healthy but also appears to have lost a lot of his appeal, both in fantasy and reality. Outside of his defensive capabilities, we have seen very little thus far to suggest he is going to turn things around after a couple of sub-par seasons. If you are holding him, you are probably better off streaming his spot or targeting a hot waiver-wire option.

    Kevon Looney, C, Golden State Warriors – With James Wiseman looking incredible and Marquese Chriss playing well enough, Looney is not a player to be holding onto at this stage. The backup center role is likely to flip-flop based on the matchup but nonetheless, the playing time is simply insufficient for Looney to have any real value.

    Injury Report

    Jimmy Butler left Friday’s game due to ankle soreness and was unable to return

    D.J. Augustin returned to action after missing the Bucks’ first game due to a calf strain

    Robert Williams missed Friday’s game due to an illness

    Nicolas Claxton continues to sit out with a right knee injury

    Anthony Davis and LeBron James both played on Friday, as expected

    JaMychal Green is battling a calf strain and missed his second straight game

    Jamal Murray played through what is being described as calf tightness

    Kawhi Leonard suffered a laceration (requiring eight stitches) late in the game after taking an elbow from Serge Ibaka.

    Marcus Morris also missed Friday’s game due to right knee soreness

    Incredible Irving

    Kyrie Irving continued his rapid start to the season with another dominant performance on Friday. Despite the incredibly small sample size, Irving looks to be in mid-season form and is certainly paying dividends for those who drafted him. He fell as far as the third round in many leagues, a spot in which he should almost certainly return value.

    The Nets look fantastic as a unit right now and their offense is firing on all cylinders. In what was a second straight blowout, Irving went for 37 points including seven triples, adding eight assists, seven rebounds and one steal. He has shot over 60 percent in both games thus far while connecting on all of his attempts from the free-throw line.

    For Irving, the only real question is whether he can stay healthy for an extended period. If he bucks the trend and manages to remain on the floor, he should not only blow through his ADP but could end up being arguably the steal of many drafts.

    Zion being Zion

    The Pelicans went down to the Heat but not before Zion Williamson went for a 32-and-14 double-double. He also played a career-high 38 minutes, something the bodes very well for the future. His ability to score at the basket is undeniable and it seems as though the opposition’s only way of slowing him down is by sending him to the free-throw line.

    That leads us to his major fantasy flaw. He ended shooting 10-of-15 from the charity stripe, a significantly impactful number should you not be punting that category. His stroke appears to be decent enough with the primary issue being his inefficiency during times when he is lethargic. So much of his work is done inside the paint where he needs to exert himself, his time on the floor often leads to moments of exhaustion. Obviously, this is something he will continue to work on moving forward and as his game-fitness improves, the hope is that his free-throw percentage follows suit.

    His production on defense is also a big question mark. Despite translating well from college, he is yet to put it all together when it comes to positional play on the defensive end. His athleticism is simply not enough when it comes to defending in the NBA and although it leads to some emphatic blocks, they are few and far between.

    When breaking down his deficiencies, we do need to remind ourselves that he has only played 26 NBA games. He is right where he needs to be on the offensive end and with some fine-tuning and adept coaching, things could start to turn around in a hurry.

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