Fantasy Basketball Starting Five: Week 10

Each week in the fantasy realm there is always a new story. With new matchups, new performances, and injuries to valued players. There are always moving pieces. The key to being a good fantasy owner and to have supreme power over your opponents is to be aware of the players dominating the NBA.

What this weekly column analyzes is the best players at each position in the NBA, and pieces together the dream fantasy team. Now, granted the week would not be concluded at that moment in time but with the short amount of games from Sundays-Thursdays, you as a fantasy owner and reader have a good idea of who put together the best performances from the week. 

PG – James Harden

2 GP – 38.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 7.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 47.7 FG%, 44.4 3PT%, 87 FT%

Harden can now count fully on one hand how many times he has made this list. And honestly, at this point, it should come as no surprise. Harden helped his candidacy for this list with a 51-point explosion in Wednesday night’s 116-122 loss to the Los Angelas Lakers. In that game versus the Lakers, he also contributed nine assists due in part to him having the ball in his hands when Chris Paul left early with an adductor strain. Harden’s 51 was aided by going 17-21 from the free-throw line and hitting four of his six three-point attempts.

The first game the Rockets played this week versus the Utah Jazz, Harden did not achieve as high a scoring output as he did versus the Lakers. Harden was only able to put 26 on the board in the Rockets 120-99 win. However, Harden still produced elsewhere versus the Jazz grabbing six rebounds and six assists.

This was not a runaway pick by any means as Russell Westbrook almost got the nod this week. Westbrook was able to put forth a stat line of 31 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 6.5 APG, 3.5 SPG, 39 FG%, 33.3 3PT %, and 81.8 FT% in two games played. Harden achieved this week’s honor over Westbrook due to a higher scoring average, more assists, and a higher efficiency from the field, the three-point line, and the free-throw line. Any other week and we would be seeing ‘Brodie’ getting his third nomination, but because Harden continues his quest for league-wide dominance it’s almost impossible to unseat him from this position.

SG – DeMar DeRozan

3 GP – 31.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1 BPG, 35.8 FG%, 64.2 3PT%, 81.8 FT%

It was only a matter of time before we saw the three-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan make his appearance on this list. All it took for him to do so was to achieve his career high in both points (45) as well as three-pointers made (6) in the Raptors 114-109 win over the 76ers Thursday night. DeRozan reminded the entire NBA that he is one of the best shooting guards we have in today’s NBA. Although the media attention and spotlight is not as exposed to DeRozan and the Raptors as other players and teams, this scoring eruption from DeRozan reminded the NBA world what he is capable of.

Basketball Society tries to acknowledge and appreciate when players achieve career-nights (take Joel Embiid’s November 15th performance of 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks versus the Lakers). DeRozan’s performance versus the 76ers warrants him a well-deserved spot on this list. To shed light on how impressive a performance he had Thursday night; in the Raptors two other victories this week over the Hornets and the Kings, DeRozan combined for 49 points. JUST barely surpassing his scoring output on Thursday.

Although DeRozan might not be the guy to contribute heavily in other categories, you can expect him to pour in 25-plus points per night. DeRozan has managed to meet or eclipse that 25 point marker six of the last eight games. While it took DeRozan a good length of time to make his debut on this list, don’t expect it to take as long the next time we see ‘Deebo’ here again.

SF – LeBron James

3 GP – 31 PPG, 6 RPG, 10.3 APG, 2 SPG, 1 BPG, 50 FG%, 43.4 3PT%, 93.7 FT%

Anybody surprised? You shouldn’t be, as this is LeBron James’ sixth time on this list. It’s almost getting to the point where you can pencil him into this line-up each week and you might as well keep him there. With Kevin Love playing the best basketball in his Cleveland tenure and Isaiah Thomas soon returning from a prolonged hip injury, LeBron and the Cavaliers will only pick up more steam as the season progresses. Does anybody else think that it’s scary how this Cavaliers side can get better than they already are? I thought so.

James’ best performance of the week came in dominant fashion in Sunday night’s 106-99 victory over the Washington Wizards. In that game, James recorded his sixth-triple double of the year with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 15 assists. While the other games in which James played this week did not see him collect as many rebounds and assists than his game against Washington, he more than made up for it with scoring totals of 39 and 34 points respectively. This week was an example of the switch LeBron has in terms of how he can control games. You need him to do it all: score, facilitate, and bring down rebounds? Look to Sunday night’s game. You want him to just have a high scoring night? Refer to Tuesday and Thursday night’s performances. A fantasy owners dream.

You almost come to expect these kinds of performances from one of the best players to ever play the game of basketball. With that being said, you can bet good money that you will see James again on this list within the next few weeks.

PF – Kyle Kuzma

2 GP – 31.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1 BPG, 66.6 FG%, 68.7 3PT%, 72.7 FT%

Taken with the 27th pick in last years draft, Kyle Kuzma has been lauded by many NBA analysts as this year’s draft steal. Good news for those in Laker Land. Kuzma is only the second rookie to make this list this year (Ben Simmons). Not only did Kuzma play near perfect basketball (not missing a shot until 8:07 left in the third quarter) and achieve a career-high in points (38), but he helped the Lakers knock off the hottest team in the NBA, the Houston Rockets.

 

While Kuzma has shown no fear as a rookie and continues to let it fly from beyond the arc, he has inserted himself into the rookie of the year conversation. Kuzma started off the Rockets game a perfect 9-9 from the field and showed how versatile his offensive game can be. Earlier in the week, with the Lakers’ tough 114-116 overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors, Kuzma continued to show his prowess on offense. Against the Warriors, Kuzma scored 25 points and collected six rebounds.

Much like DeRozan, you won’t get heavy fantasy contribution in other categories from Kuzma. What you get is a volume shooter who is capable of having nights like the one he had Wednesday night. Amongst all rookies, Kuzma stands second in terms of scoring at 17.4 only behind rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell who sits at 17.7. While it is hard for rookies to make this list, Kuzma offers the potential to possibly land here once more throughout the season.

C – Nikola Vucevic

2 GP – 22 PPG, 12 RPG, 6 APG, 1 BPG, 43.9 FG%, 40 3PT%, 100 FT%

In a week that was quiet for most of the centers throughout the NBA, Nikola Vucevic used this as a chance to make his first appearance on this list. While he was not dominant like much of the players previously mentioned on this list, Vucevic proved to be consistent enough to earn this spot. In the past seven games in which Vucevic has played, he has recorded a double-double in points and rebounds in all seven games, while also gathering a triple-double in one of those seven games versus the Atlanta Hawks on December 9th.

The performance that placed Vucevic onto this weeks list was his 24 point, 14 rebound, and seven assist outing versus the Detroit Pistons Sunday night. In that game, Vucevic also displayed his range from beyond the arc as he connected on four of six attempts from three. While his follow up performance versus the Chicago Bulls was a step down in terms of production, Vucevic still found a way to collect 10 rebounds and fight for 18 points. His assists totals were also something to take into account this week, as 12 assists between two games for a big man should be valued in any capacity regarding fantasy.

Vucevic is not to be overlooked as one of the leagues more dominant offensive centers. His career high in points (41) was achieved in only the second game of the 2017-2018 NBA season in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Now, although his performance this week will not skyrocket those who own him in fantasy leagues to victories, Vucevic’s production night-in and night-out is something that can still be relied upon.

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