The Brooklyn Nets have had an intriguing stretch of events since the last time we spoke. Going 7-3 during that span, we’ve seen a lot change since early November. People have fallen out of the lineup, others have stepped up big time due to injury, and the Nets are officially sitting atop the Eastern Conference with the Chicago Bulls. Despite all of the turmoil surrounding the Nets thus far, they’ve been able to perform well enough to maintain their status as one of the best teams in the league, though they’ve struggled against other teams with that label.
After coming back home to South Carolina from my week-long vacation to New York (where I stayed an extra two days just to see the Battle of the Boroughs in Barclays), I’m ready to talk about fantasy basketball, as so much has changed for our favorite players in black and white.
Performance of the Month: Kevin Durant vs. PHX on 11/27
Fantasy impact: 70 FP (fantasy points), highest for 11/27
Statistical output: 39 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, four steals, one block, 13/28 from the field (46.4%), 4/7 from three (57.1%), 9/11 from the stripe (81.8%)
Thanks to my annual listening of The Glue Guys podcast while on the westbound LIRR train towards Atlantic Terminal before the Knicks game, I now have mixed feelings about seeing Durant have extremely high scoring games. When Durant scores more than 30 points, the Nets are 3-4 (57% of Brooklyn’s losses), with the Golden State Warriors loss (more on that later) being the major outlier as Durant scored a season-low 19 points.
This Phoenix game is one of the four aforementioned losses, as Durant put up a season-high 39 points while playing a season-high 44.5 minutes. Whether this will remain a trend throughout the season has yet to be determined, though the Nets were 9-5 under the same conditions last year. The Nets are on pace for around 24 games where Durant scores more than 30, which is a drastic jump from 14 the previous year. Undoubtedly, this has to be because of the absence of Kyrie Irving, as that’s one less 26+ points per game player to share the rock with.
Anybody who has Durant on their fantasy team wouldn’t mind any of that though, as he’s currently the sixth highest scoring player in fantasy this year with the most field goals made in the NBA. The only thing Durant owners should be worried about at this point is injury and if he has an off night where he continues to put up shots at a high volume which costs you points.
Stock Up: Patty Mills
Fantasy impact: 31.7 FPPG (fantasy points per game), month high 50 FP on 11/14 vs. OKC
Key statistical averages: 17.4 points per game, 4.4 threes made per game, 50.6% from three
Mills has quickly turned into one of my favorite players since arriving in Brooklyn and the release of the second episode of The Bridge. A lot of that has to do with his elite three-point shooting. He’s currently second in the NBA in three-point percentage at 47.4% at a high volume, as he’s fourth in three-pointers made at 72. Quite honestly, that’s his entire value in fantasy. Things such as drawing out defenders, charges, and general energy don’t show up on the scoreboard, but it certainly impacts a team in real life.
However, this amazing output came to be from a tragic moment: Joe Harris’ injury. Prior to Joey Buckets’ injury, Mills played 24.5 minutes per game. Since then, he’s averaged 33.5; with the jump due to a Joe Harris-sized hole in the offense. Mills’ shooting has helped offset Harris’ injury, though it would obviously be nice to have both.
Fantasy owners should continue to play Mills with confidence, as he’s seeing quite a large share of the Brooklyn offense. Since Harris went down in the Oklahoma City Thunder game, Mills has attempted 11.7 field goal attempts per game. For reference, Harden has averaged 15.3 field goal attempts per game during that time span. In sports, with misfortune comes opportunity, and Mills has certainly capitalized on his.
Stock Down: Blake Griffin
Fantasy impact: 16 FPPG, month low 2 FP on 11/22 vs CLE
Key statistical averages: Four points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, 33% from the field, 0% from three on 1.6 attempts per game
I was honestly shocked with Blake being cut out of the rotation completely, as was he. I get the decision, however, as Blake has been putting up the worst shooting splits of his career. On the season, he’s shooting 31.8% from the field and an abysmal 16.1% from deep on 3.3 attempts per game. He’s still second in the league in charges drawn with 12 (Kyle Lowry, 13), despite not playing since November 22nd. With Blake reaching out to his former longtime Los Angeles Clippers teammate DeAndre Jordan, who also got benched by Steve Nash and the Nets last season, we’ll see how Griffin handles it. Being the professional and team player he is, there’s no reason we should suspect he’ll handle it any other way than that. However, fantasy owners can drop him from their team with confidence.
Opponent Performance of the Month: Stephen Curry on 11/16
Fantasy impact: 76 FP points
Statistical output: 37 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block, 12/19 (63.2%) from the field, 9/14 from three (64.3%), 4/4 from the stripe (100%)
I’ve never felt more helpless as a fan watching a game before, despite me not being able to do anything regardless. The second the ball touched Curry’s hands you felt as if he was going to score. It got so bad that the defense starting meeting Curry at halfcourt, and the crowd in Barclays was upset when Curry didn’t throw up 30+ foot bombs. Simply put, this kid from Davidson College is on another level, and I now understand how opponents feel when watching a Kevin Durant masterpiece.
Quick Look Ahead:
This next week will see the Nets play four games in total, including a back-to-back today and tomorrow. Thankfully for Brooklyn, the game today against the Dallas Mavericks is only an hour and 15 minute flight to Houston, where they’ll play the red-hot Rockets. Friday will see the Nets travel to State Farm Arena to play the Atlanta Hawks, and then the Little Caesars Arena to play the Detroit Pistons Sunday.
The most intriguing of those matchups has to be the Mavericks. Foremost, Luka Dončić’s availability is the main thing that you have to look at. Dallas is a completely different team without their young superstar as they’re 0-4 on the season without him and were 2-4 without him last year. However, Dallas is likely to have Kristaps Porziņģis back, which may give LaMarcus Aldridge problems as he’ll force Aldridge out of the paint to cover his three-point shot. On that note, as a team, Dallas allows the fifth least amount of threes per game (11.3) but rank 25th in terms of three-point percentage (36.5). It wouldn’t be shocking to see a three-point barrage this game. If Tim Hardaway Jr. is kept as Dallas’ spark plug on the bench, the duo of Reggie Bullock and Jalen Brunson will be starting if Luka does indeed sit out. Harden could have a field day against those two, as they’re not as equipped to defend him in comparison to Lonzo Ball/Alex Caruso. If they decide to throw doubles at Harden, expect Mills to get quite a few catch-and-shoot threes.
The Rockets have surprisingly been the hottest team in the NBA, winning six games in a row after starting 1-16 in large part due to Jae’Sean Tate. The sophomore has averaged around 16 points, six rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block per game while shooting about 58 percent from the field in those six games. He even had a 85 point fantasy performance on 12/1 when he put up 32 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and five blocks against the Thunder. If Durant gets that defensive assignment, it might get scary for Tate, especially if he defends Durant on the other side of the floor. Being listed as a 6’4” small forward, Durant could simply shoot over him, and their power forward Daniel Theis who is 6’8” — officially two inches shorter than Durant, but realistically four inches.
Brooklyn’s previous matchup against the Hawks on November 3rd is one of the three games where the Nets won when Durant scored more than 30 points. However, at the time, both Blake and Joey were starting… so needless to say it was a completely different situation. LaMarcus Aldridge will be able to match the size of Clint Capela better than Blake, while Young will give the Nets trouble more than last time. In the past six games, Young is averaging around 30 points, 11 assists, and five rebounds per game while shooting 42.2% from deep. Will De’Andre Bembry or Bruce Brown get extra burn to cover the Trae Young assignment? It’ll likely be Bembry as he’s put together a nice string of games together himself. Though he might not be a viable fantasy option, he could be a cheap daily fantasy sports option worth looking at.
The Pistons game will likely be much of the same we see from the Nets. Nothing is too out of the ordinary, as Detroit ranks 29th in points per game (98.9), 22nd in points allowed per game (108.5), and 30th in three-point percentage (29.9%). So long as Brooklyn is able to control the boards, the Pistons simply don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Nets.