Fantasy Hoops | Biggest Early Season Surprises

It seems like the majority opinion says that the NBA is the easiest sports league to predict. The Warriors will face their toughest opponent in the conference finals and inevitably move on to defeat a much weaker opponent from the East in the Finals.  

While this could be true, the NBA is full of surprises. In my opinion, when compared to the NFL, MLB and NHL, the NBA’s offseason is easily the most unpredictable, and players can get traded without warning at the trade deadline.  

Also, depth charts at the beginning of the season can be difficult to predict due to new rosters, rising young talent and different coaching strategies. Basically, the NBA seems predictable in Vegas, but it’s a roller coaster for fantasy players. These have been the biggest surprises of the first three weeks of the regular season.

DeMar DeRozan is an MVP candidate

There’s no questioning that DeMar DeRozan is one of the most talented small forwards in the NBA, but I thought his ceiling was capped. He is in his 10th season in the league, and he’s playing for a Spurs team coached by Gregg Popovich that historically emphasizes ball movement to get the best shot. I didn’t think a slasher like DeRozan would improve his numbers on the Spurs, but I was clearly wrong.

If he continues his current pace, he will set new career highs in per game averages of points, assists, rebounds, steals, field goal percentage and free throw percentage. Whether this is a product of his hard work, Popovich’s coaching scheme or both, DeRozan has blown all expectations out of the water so far this season.

DeAndre Jordan is a great free throw shooter

I’m not sure if this is an anomaly or not, but it’s definitely worth talking about. DeAndre Jordan is usually known for his Shaq-esque free throw prowess; he’s made over half of his free throws in just two of his 10 seasons, and his free throw percentage has never been higher than his field goal percentage. He must have taken some pointers from Dirk Nowitzki because he’s knocked down an astonishing 82.4 percent of his free throws this season, which paces all Mavericks that shoot at least one free throw per game. I don’t expect him to keep this up, but it’s certainly encouraging to see early success.

Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle are both valuable

During the draft, Julius Randle was ranked in the mid-40s, much higher than Nikola Mirotic. Most people thought that Mirotic would move to the bench and Randle would start, but it turned out to be the opposite. Mirotic has been awesome for the Pelicans, averaging over 22 points and 10 rebounds per game. Randle has only seen 23 minutes per game, but he’s a strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. He’s getting 17 points and 7 rebounds on a per game basis. Both players are even more reliable when Anthony Davis misses time, but they have standalone value too.

Nemanja Bjelica is a must-own player

As a Wolves fan, I can’t help but feel a little bitter about Bjelica’s success this season. He’s shooting a ridiculous and probably unsustainable 55.3 percent from 3-point territory. On an average night this season, Bjelica scores over 15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and nearly a block and a steal. Again, I don’t think the 30-year-old can sustain this level of efficiency, but he’s definitely earned playing time with Sacramento, and he’s going to be valuable moving forward.

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