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RotoBaller NBA Recap: Tatum Booms Opening Night


Welcome to the RotoBaller NBA recap.  In this feature, we highlight three fantasy basketball takeaways from last night's slate of NBA games.

On opening night, we saw two marquee matchups between playoff favorites. One was a surprisingly non-competitive between two ascendant rivals in Boston and Philadelphia, while the other was a surprisingly competitive game where an Oklahoma City Thunder team missing its franchise player looked surprisingly frisky against the juggernaut Golden State Warriors.

Let's take it away with our opening night fantasy highlights (and lowlights).

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Jayson Tatum: He's So Good

Sure, it was one game where Kyrie Irving couldn't make a shot and Gordon Hayward was clearly still getting re-acclimated to the offense. But Jayson Tatum looked like he's taken yet another leap as a scorer, and despite the talent around him, is going to be a go-to scorer for the Celtics. Showing off even more diversity to his burgeoning mid-range game, Tatum's usage in the opener boomed despite the fact that there were supposedly "too many mouths to feed" with the return of Hayward.

Many owners were worried about his third/fourth round ADP given this situation, worried his usage would be capped and make it impossible to profit on that draft pick. This game shows we shouldn't have been so worried about his draft cost.

Tatum finished the night with 23 points going 9/17 from the field and 4/5 from the line. An all-around impressive performance, especially given his shot from three wasn't falling (1/5). He added a tidy 8 rebounds, too. The rebounds aren't going to come quite that high every night, but I think this game is a great sign that the shots will. With his scoring efficiency, more shots are all he needs to enter elite fantasy territory. As LeBron James said four times, "he's so good." Talent always wins, and Tatum might yet have upside over his ADP.

 

Golden State's Centers: Don't Get Too Attached

Jordan Bell was a sexy pick after the top 100 in fantasy drafts, especially for punt points teams. He played only 7 minutes. Kevon Looney, who impressed in last year's playoffs, soaked up all the backup minutes. And we got Damian Jones starting at center for the champs, blocking three shots and dunking everything thrown his way.

While Jones's performance was impressive, I'm not racing to the wire to drop anyone with real upside to add Jones to my fantasy team. For one thing, he's not going to hit 6/7 shots or block 3 every night. And other than that -- where was his value? He only had 3 rebounds. If he only goes 4/7 (for 8 points instead of 12), and blocks just 1 shot, this is a pretty empty stat line for a big playing 27 minutes. And there's the other issue -- the minutes.

I wouldn't count on 27 every night. Remember that basketball is a game of matchups, and the Warriors were playing a Thunder team that fielded one of the league's true behemoths in Steven Adams for a full 36 minutes of the game. The Warriors needed size on the floor. Not every matchup is going to involve someone like the Kiwi giant soaking up so many minutes, and those games will involve more small ball and more minutes by wings and smaller bigs like Bell, and less for a traditional center like Jones.

Jones will still get plenty of run based off this first effort and has a promising short-term slate, in an early schedule for the Warriors full of elite 7 footers -- in their next four games, the Warriors face Nikola Jokic, Deandre Ayton, Dwight Howard, and Enes Kanter. However, I think his minutes and production will fluctuate too much to make him reliable. And long-term, he's still just keeping the seat warm for DeMarcus Cousins. As for Jordan Bell... he's droppable on most 12 teamers, though I'm still holding out hope for nice value on my punt points teams even in limited minutes -- he only needed 14 mpg last year to have very nice value in those builds, after all.

 

Markelle Fultz: Still Not Good at Basketball

I might give Fultz one more shot in the second game against the Bulls' shaky defense, despite his dreadful 2/7, 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 3 turnover performance against Boston. But I'm not going to wait too long on picking up potential early-season breakouts to hold onto Fultz.

Really, what's his upside anyway?  On a team with two young stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, one of the game's elite shooters in J.J. Redick, and a coterie of useful players who are good at their niche roles like Robert Covington, Dario Saric, T.J. McConnell, and (once he returns from injury) Mike Muscala, isn't Fultz in a somewhat similar situation to the one we complained about with regards to Boston's players?

He's going to need to take a huge leap from where he's been to get the minutes and the shots he needs to have fantasy value. At this point, he hasn't even crossed the threshold where more shots from him is actually a good thing for your fantasy team.

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