Fantasy basketball stock watch: Evan Fournier rising, Austin Rivers falling

Evan Fournier highlights this week’s look at risers and fallers in fantasy hoops (AP Photo/John Raoux)

STOCK UP

Evan Fournier: It’s hard to believe, but Fournier has been the No. 10 ranked fantasy player so far this year. He’s averaging career-highs in ppg (22.0), rpg (4.3), apg (3.9), spg (1.4) and 3pt (2.9) while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor and 96.0 percent from the line. He leads the NBA in PPP on pick-and-rolls, although that certainly can be partly attributed to Elfrid Payton being sidelined. Fournier’s three-point shooting (55.6 percent) is sure to regress as well, so he’s a possible sell-high candidate, but he’s here to stay as a highly valuable fantasy commodity. He’s increased his scoring average every season he’s been in the league, just turned 25 years old last week, and the Magic’s Pace (106.4) ranks No. 3 in the NBA, so Fournier is sure looking like someone who’s going to massively outperform his ADP, even if he can’t quite keep up his early season production.

Eric Gordon: With Chris Paul out, Gordon is off to his best start ever, averaging career highs in ppg (24.9) and 3pt (3.7). He’s been a top-65 fantasy player despite a career-low in spg (0.3), which seems like a fluke given his extra playing time. Last year’s Sixth Man of the Year is loving life as a starter, as he’s averaging a whopping 12.4 three-pointers per game, which easily leads the NBA. To put that in perspective, last year Stephen Curry led the league with 10.0 3PA. Gordon’s Usage Rate (30.3) ranks No. 13 in the NBA, ahead of others such as Curry, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis and LeBron James. That’s obviously going to drop once Paul returns, making Gordon another sell-high candidate, but he’s no doubt been one of the most pleasant surprises of the early 2017/18 season.

Clint Capela: The big man is in the midst of a full breakout, shooting 72.3 percent from the field and more importantly, 77.8 percent from the line. The 23-year-old is one of only three players in the league averaging at least 11.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks this season, with Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis the others. As with teammate Gordon, it’s unclear what effect Chris Paul’s return will have on the rest of the roster, but Capela is currently the No. 22 fantasy player, one spot ahead of James Harden.

Marco Belinelli: Recovering from an Achilles injury, Belinelli is averaging career bests across the board and has quietly been a borderline top-50 fantasy player. Thriving with his new team in Atlanta, he’s one of only five players to average at least 3.0 3pt and 1.0 steals, with the others being Paul George, Robert Covington, Stephen Curry and James Harden – not bad company. Belinelli is still available in 60 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Domantas Sabonis: He’s averaged 12.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists over six starts this season, and while Sabonis’ value will take a hit once Myles Turner returns, the big man has been a revelation and has clearly earned playing time even when Indiana is at full strength. While considered more of a throw in as part of the Paul George deal, Sabonis was the 11th pick of the 2016 draft and has been a beast on the boards (particularly impressive on the offensive glass). Coach Nate McMillan has already said he’s open to using both Turner and Sabonis together in the frontcourt, and the latter is still available in more than 40 percent of leagues.

STOCK DOWN

Austin Rivers: Now starting with Chris Paul gone and Milos Teodosic out, Rivers was primed for a breakout this year, but he’s opened ice cold from the floor, shooting just 35.9 percent in the early going. He’s also shooting just 54.5 percent from the line while committing nearly as many turnovers (1.5) as he’s handing out assists (2.0). Rivers is sure to improve, and the Clippers’ Offensive Efficiency ranks No. 6 in the NBA, but he’s been a major disappointment so far.

Dwight Howard: This comes completely down to formats, as Howard has actually been a beast in points leagues, as he’s averaged a career-high 14.9 rpg (which is pretty remarkable considering this is his 14th year in the league). However, his TPG (3.9) are tied for a career-worst and even more painful has been his free throw shooting, which currently sits at an ugly 35.7 percent (including one game in which he went 0-for-9 from the stripe). This is especially hurtful given he’s attempted 8.0 freebies per game, which is the sixth most in the league. Again, Howard is plenty valuable in points leagues or if you punted FTs in H2H formats, but if you’re in a standard roto 9-cat league, he actually ranks dead last among fantasy players (No. 417).

Dennis Smith Jr.: His future prospects remain bright, but the rookie is shooting just 45.0 percent from the line (especially troubling for a point guard) and even worse dealing with a knee injury that dates back to his college days that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Dallas has been a disaster on defense this year and has the third lowest Pace (97.4) in the NBA while sporting a 1-7 record, so few things have gone right for the Mavs so far. Hopefully their prized rookie can get fully healthy and live up to the preseason hype soon.

Buddy Hield: A main piece of last year’s DeMarcus Cousins trade, the Kings hoped Hield would be a major part of their organization moving forward. The former No. 6 pick is still just 24 years old, so there’s plenty of time for growth, but the early returns haven’t exactly been encouraging. Getting a chance as a full-time starter on a team lacking offensive options, Hield is shooting just 35.4 percent from the floor and an anemic 22.6 percent from downtown. He’s especially reliant on scoring since he doesn’t offer much else, so it’s imperative Hield finds his outside shot. And fast, or he won’t be worth owning in fantasy leagues even with the bigger opportunity available.

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