Otto Porter (22-years-old)
I blame DeMarre Carroll for the new influx of the ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ fantasy player.
Blame might not be the best word, actually for roto purposes it clearly isn’t the best word, but this season has seen late round or waiver wire names like Jae Crowder, Robert Covington and Will Barton thrown into the spotlight as viable top 60 fantasy players.
Otto Porter has tremendous upside for the Wizards as their starting small forward, because his skill-set of strong rebounding, three point shooting and defence is exactly what the team needs in their balanced (when healthy) line-up.
Number three picks typically have strong NBA careers. Looking back over the past 30 odd years and there’s some illustrious company who’ve been picked third overall. There’s been a heap of stars, loads of role players and some young guns – including his teammate Bradley Beal – who’ve yet to assert themselves so far (or play a single second, in the case of Joel Embiid).
His game reminds me of the guy he essentially saw out of town because of Porter’s own burgeoning skills and need for playing time, Trevor Ariza. Both players are long and athletic and neither player is what you call a typical ‘knock down shooter’, but they both put the ball in the basket, fill the lanes, defend 2-3 positions each and they generally do the little things that don’t make highlights but they stuff a box score.
Over his last eight games he’s played at least 30 minutes in each contest and he’s produced fantastic stats across the board, including a somewhat surprising 15.6 points a night on 54% shooting from the field. The rebounding (7.0) and steals (2.1) have been well above average for a small forward, as has the three point shooting (1.9 per on 41% shooting) while the turnover rate has been minuscule at 1.0 a night in 34.4 minutes a contest. During that same stretch he’s put up three 20 point performances, after having just two through his first 25 games of 2015-16 and just ONE (including the playoffs) all of last season.
Not to mention, I struggle to say his name normally, constantly quoting this classic line from The Simpsons.
Rodney Hood (23-years-old)
Alec Burks’ unfortunate fibula injury caused a waterfall affect for the Jazz’s wing depth, with Hood picking up the slack in both scoring and surprisingly play-making from the perimeter in Burks’ absence.
He wasn’t known as a particularly positive source of assists in his rookie season, having accumulated just 83 total assists in 50 games, for an average of 1.7 per game. But injury necessitates change and Hood has adopted this additional workload with aplomb and it has aided his fantasy value tremendously, as he sits at 2.7 assists per game on the year.
I thought Hood was going to be a blend between C.J. Miles and Michael Redd; that long-limbed lefty lurking around the three point arc and dropping threes and 20 point games like he was born to do it, but due to those injuries he’s had to expand his game quite early in his career. Redd is clearly an elite all-time scorer, which is why I figured Hood would be between Miles – a notoriously streaky bomber – and Redd, as he’s physically built more like Miles rather than the somewhat ‘grounded’ Redd.
The young Utah team’s injury toll has been significant, starting with soon-to-be sophomore guard Dante Exum wrecking his knee on a non-contact play before the season even started. Just 14 games into the season human roadblock Rudy Gobert went down, also with a knee injury, missing 18 games until his return last week. The aforementioned Burks was lost for 6-8 weeks with his latest injury, while Derrick Favors has missed their 10 games with a dodgy back.
Hood and Gordon Hayward have been the linchpins holding the Jazz in the playoff picture, with both players contributing well on both ends. Hood’s rebounding and defensive stats are somewhat of a surprise, as he was seen as a very one-dimensional player coming out of Duke in 2014.
He’s had games of 4 steals at Indiana and already has 11 games with at least 4 assists, after having just nine ALL of last season. That 11 game mark incidentally has him second on the team to only Gordon Hayward (18 such games) and ahead of both point guards Trey Burke (10) and Raul Neto (7), as well as combo guard Alec Burks (4).
Since a downright BRUTAL 1-13 shocker at Minnesota on 30 December, Hood has been on a really nice run. In his last six contests despite averaging just 30.5 minutes a night he’s produced 17.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steal, 2.8 threes and elite SG/SF shooting stats of 47% from the field and 89% (on 4.3 attempts) from the charity stripe.
Jusuf Nurkic (21-years-old)
He hasn’t quite earned himself the dap I heaped on him in my off-season industry mock for The Fantasy Fix, but the early signs are there for the hulking Bosnian center for the Nuggets, as he tries to follow up on a very promising rookie year.
The main reason for my optimism this season was those super-sexy rookie per-36 stats that hinted at potential fantasy greatness, along with what seemed to be an uninhibited march towards the starting center gig on a lottery-bound team.
Of course King Joffrey initially and then the umpteenth Nikola had other ideas when they were thrust into bigger roles than they or the team were likely expecting, with both players thriving when given larger roles. FYI there are 4 players named Nikola in the NBA, tied with Andre, Brandon, C.J., Jordan, Mike, Tony and Tyler for the fourth most, behind James with 7, Chris with 6, and Anthony/Kevin/Kyle with 5.
Useless facts aplenty as always in my articles folks, you’re welcome.
Last season he started 27 games for the Nuggets, averaging 8.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.4 blocks a night in just 23.4 minutes a game. Extrapolate his season stats to per-36 minute averages and you’re looking at a real fantasy beast in the Drummond-DeAndre mould: 13.9 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.7 steals and 2.2 blocks. Those defensive stats are huge, especially in rotisserie where only 10 players who qualify at center are averaging 1.0 steal a night this season.
Nurkic’s rebounding rate is absurd, as he’s pulled down 24.6% of his team’s rebound opportunities, which is actually higher than Andre Drummond’s league leading 24.3%. The sample size so far is too small to start labeling him the next big thing, but monitor his minutes as the season goes on if you don’t own him in dynasty leagues. If you can trade a guy who’s ‘topped out’ and on the downside of their career – Al Jefferson, Zach Randolph and Dwyane Wade for example – for a 22-year old with his potential, then do it now.
Cody Zeller (23-years-old)
I’m buying what Cody’s zelling.
The niche he’s found starting for the suddenly floundering Hornets is perfect for him; rebound, set picks, provide some rim protection and finish on the break. He’s not being asked to score 15 points a night or grab 12 rebounds or block 4 shots, but he can do those on any given night if he has to.
The Hornets get their flair and scoring from their perimeter guns in Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin, and while they lost Al Jefferson almost as soon as he re-appeared post-injury, it’s safe to say they’re not overly missing him and it’s because of Zeller.
With rotisserie there’s always room for a power forward or center who can his free throws and get the odd steal, which Zeller can do. His field goal percentage is well above average, his rebounding is solid, and he’s essentially looking like a better version of Mason Plumlee in terms of stats.
He’s had some ups and downs recently, but even with those downs (a couple of 2-7 performances and 6-7-8 point scoring nights – so not that bad) he’s still averaged 11.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.0 steal and 1.0 block per game over his last 8 games played, with 57% from the field and a respectable 73% clip at the line.
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