(Originally published on 10/15/18)
NBA opening week is about superstars. Tomorrow night we'll see Ben Simmons crash into the rim at full speed two dozen times and Kyrie Irving dribble the audience to sleep before taking a fadeaway three-pointer. Their ill-planned shots will likely fall because they are stars. But overall, basketball in November and December is sloppy and difficult to watch. The only thing in-shape during opening week are the pre-game and halftime hype videos. The game itself takes months to develop into a watchable product. Viewing some teams -- like Houston --will forever remain unbearable this season. But look at the stars! Look how good they look in suits and fanny packs as they enter the arena!
I'm here to tell you, with history as my ally, that one of those future NBA 2K-cover hawking superstars is probably on our free agent waiver wire right now.
The first week of the season always provides surprise performances that shakes up the free agent wire. Who can forget the 2016-17 Jonathon Simmonsopening night (20 points, 4 rebs, 3 assists, 3 three-pointers, 1 block) performance for the Spurs? That was his only 20-point game of the year. He didn't make three three-pointers in a game again until April 5 that season. Or 2017-18 Norman Powell who started the Raptors' season opener and exploded for 15 points, 4 rebounds 1 steal, 3 three-pointers in just 25 minutes. I believe my text to a A Team Has No Name that evening, exactly one year ago today, was: "NORM!" He was a non-factor for the rest of the season.
But, unknown fantasy superstars will be unveiled during the opening weeks of the season. History has shown this to be true. 2014-15 Draymond Green (drafted by RoidRage but dropped in the first week), 2014-15 Hassan Whiteside (midseason pickup) and 2017-18 Donovan Mitchell were fantasy afterthoughts that provided immense value to their respective teams.
But it's getting harder to find under-the-radar fantasy stars because fantasy general managers are getting cute. We are zagging when others zig and then zagging again on our zags to take us back somewhere near the zig. It's disastrous over-thinking. I drafted third-string center Willy Hernangomez and some dude named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander because each of their coaches provided throwaway quotes in a weekday morning media scrums about how they are vital pieces this season. PP 2020 drafted Cedi Osman, who continues the legacy of fringe NBA players like Damon Jones, Matthew Delladova and James Jones that cunningly befriend LeBron to inflate their values.
History tells us that PP 2020 and I are both wrong. If we know of them, chances are they aren't going to be the fantasy breakout stars we desire. The real fantasy heroes are still dormant on the free agent wire. Keep an eye on the boxscores because their identities are likely to be revealed this week.