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Fantasy Basketball Hype Train: Isn't the NFL Supposed to be the Brutal Sport?

It's been a rough start to the 2017-18 NBA season. It was a bad omen in the preseason when likable players started going down with injuries to start a season where they were looking at big opportunities to break out -- including Seth Curry, Dante Exum, and Slam Dunk Contest winner Glenn Robinson III. Then Nikola Mirotic got his face broken by Bobby Portis in a Bulls practice on the first day of the NBA season. There was no reprieve when the games started, though, as barely 5 minutes into the first game of the year, Gordon Hayward suffered a brutal, season-ending leg injury in his debut as a Boston Celtic. That was followed by some less serious injuries (but injuries nonetheless) in the night cap, including to Draymond Green and a reaggrevation of an ongoing knee injury for Chris Paul. The second day of games wasn't much better, either, with a season-ending ruptured patella to star-crossed Nets point guard Jeremy Lin.

Much of the focus of the fantasy basketball world has been rightly focused on these injuries, and much of the early season hype surrounding breakouts and waiver wire adds has been swirling around the players who will be spending more time on the floor and earning more usage in the wake of these injuries. So let's drive the hype train through the wreckage of NBA hopes and dreams strewn in the wake of these injuries and look to pick up some valuable fantasy scraps in the wake of these disasters.

The Fantasy Basketball Hype Train is a season-long fantasy basketball feature where I can just have fun and write about the players me, you, and everyone else already wants to talk about. Are you ready for a ride on the fantasy basketball hype train?

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Living in a Post-Hayward World in Boston

Well, now Kyrie Irving has his big chance to lead a team. It hasn't looked great in some ways so far, though. His shooting average is looking drastically down after two losses as opposing defenses swarm him. He'll need to shoot better than 35.7% if he's going to be a return on the early second round investment fantasy owners made in him this year. The good news is he's racked up 13 assists and 6 steals so far, which are two areas where we were certainly hoping he'd improve this year, Hayward or not.

But we're not here on the hype train to talk about a stable (or slightly falling) asset like Kyrie Irving. We're interested in the surging stocks on Boston in the form of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier. I talked about Brown and Tatum in a preview piece I did before the opening night games. What I was watching out for then was how much of a role each would play in the offense and how the rotation would shake out. Those questions were quickly answered by the Hayward injury, which has now set in stone huge rotational roles for both players as well as big new roles in the offense.

Jaylen Brown has been the most popular add in fantasy. He's brought nice headline numbers -- 21.5 points per game on 50% shooting. He's looked aggressive attacking the basket and should continue to be one of the Celtics primary scoring threats. However, I worry about his full value as a fantasy asset. His value through two games has been entirely buoyed by the scoring and FG%, which I don't think are sustainable for a player like him in such a high usage role. I expect his shooting to end up at a much more pedestrian number in the mid 40s, which will lower his value in both categories. And without those boosts, he'll need to do other things to retain top 100 value, which he so far hasn't with below average free throw shooting and only 3 assists, 2 steals, and no blocks so far. I've certainly been adding him in leagues where I had a bad or injured player to drop, but I haven't been dumping guys whose statistical profiles I like better like T.J. Warren, Josh Richardson, and Taurean Prince, even after seeing them look a lot less impressive in their openers.

Jayson Tatum, meanwhile, has looked a lot less impressive than Brown on the floor so far, but I think he has more upside in the fantasy game. As a rookie, he has a lot of room to improve and should do so as he gets comfortable in his role. As opposed to Brown, Tatum's shooting numbers have nowhere to go but up from the uncharacteristically poor 8/19 on FGs and 5/8 on FTs in his first two NBA games. Tatum was considered perhaps the most polished shooter and scorer in the draft coming into the year. But better than that, Tatum has been a fantastic source of rebounds in his role as starting PF, pulling down 19 in 2 games, while he's also shown more flashes than Brown as a passer.

Tatum likely falls short of Brown in points and FG%, but he has the upside to catch and surpass him. Meanwhile, I expect Tatum to be the superior player when it comes to FT%, rebounds, assists, and probably blocks (neither player has one yet, but Tatum averaged 1.1 per game in college and is generally playing defense closer to the basket). They should post similar numbers in threes, steals, blocks, and turnovers. As a result, I'm more excited about laying a bet on Tatum than I am on Brown right now. I recently snagged Tatum to stash on the bench in a roto league to see if he improves, where I think his potentially well-rounded and efficient game will play well.

Finally, let's talk Terry Rozier. The four steals in the first game were pretty awesome. Then the 27 minutes in game two with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 3 treys were awesome. He's certainly a guy I'd grab in deep leagues. The steals, while not there in prior seasons, were at least showing up in the preseason. And we've always known he was a guy who could shoot and put up decent backup PG numbers in rebounds and assists. Whether you make a move for him in a standard league is a bit tougher. If you're just dropping Lin for him, sure.  But longterm his role is not set in stone. Once Marcus Morris comes back to take over at PF and let Tatum move to his natural position on the wing, Marcus Smart will move back to the primary 6th man role instead of Rozier. But it's not like Smart or Kyrie Irving have the reputations of being ironmen in the NBA. Smart has a history of ankle issues, while Irving has missed 20+ games in half of the seasons he's played in the NBA. If either one were to go down for any stretch, Rozier would become a high priority fantasy add once again.

Hype Diagnosis: There's a lot of opportunity in Boston, which all of the sudden is not so stacked. It just depends on how good these young players are. There's a lot of expectations for them, though, which are perhaps too high. I'll ride in the back of the train, but am not planning on driving this thing off the rails.


Jeremy Lin Can't Catch a Break

After most of a year where hamstring injuries held back the return of Linsanity in Brooklyn, we got to see flashes at the end of last year, with averages of 15.8 points, 5.0 assists, and 4.5 rebounds over his last 20 games. He came into this year fully healthy and ready to a group of intriguing young Nets players headlined by D'Angelo Russell to a not good, but not tanking level of glory this year. Then the first game happens, he lands awkwardly on his leg, and pop goes his patellar tendon.

I'm pretty sad about this as a fan -- a healthy Jeremy Lin is good for the game and makes the Nets more fun to watch. At least we will hopefully still get to see his haircuts on the sidelines. As a fantasy basketball prognosticator, and thankfully one not heavily invested in Jeremy Lin, life moves on. So what's the story in Brooklyn?

The big beneficiaries are Allen Crabbe and Caris LeVert, who will soak up the bulk of Lin's playing time in the backcourt alongside D'Angelo Russell. Crabbe looked especially impressive in his Nets debut, filling up the stat sheet with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 treys and great percentages in a wild bad team shootout between Brooklyn and the Indiana Pacers. He's the most likely guy to enter the starting lineup, and should be owned in all leagues where he's not owned already.

Caris LeVert meanwhile enters a big role as a secondary ball-handler. He's arguably the best option as a back-up PG on the roster (since the competition is Isaiah Whitehead) while he'll also now be the first wing off the bench if Crabbe enters the starting lineup. With his profile of decent shooting + assists + steals + rebounds, LeVert has a very fantasy friendly game for a SG/SF. If he were to really break out, I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up a better fantasy option than most of the guys I've mentioned here, including Brown, Tatum, and Crabbe. He certainly has a lot to prove to get to that point, but the basic skills are there. He probably should be owned in any competitive league 12 teams or deeper.

Finally, on the subject of the Nets, I'd be remiss to mention the efforts of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. RHJ is a proven source of rebounds, blocks, and steals. But he's been praised in the offseason for elevating the rest of his game. He showed off his new skills against the Pacers, hitting 3/4 from the field and 8/8 from the line, which is huge considering his past struggles as a shooter and from the line. He also could benefit in assists from the injury to Lin, where he could incorporated more into the regular offense and show off his underrated skills as a passer.

Hype Diagnosis: It's inevitable that a Nets hype train is going to have less passengers than a Celtics hype train. But I see that as more opportunity, as you can swoop in and grab Caris LeVert or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as perfectly good adds while Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are long gone.

By popular demand, RotoBaller has aggregated all of our fantasy basketball NBA waiver wire pickups into a running list of NBA waiver options, so bookmark the page and check back often for updates.

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