We're midway through the third week of the NBA season, and I decided to take a quick tour around the league to discuss some of the early fantasy takeaways for all 30 teams. Let's kick things off with the Eastern Conference squads first.
The Hawks are leading the Southeast Division off the strength of their dynamic duo, Dejounte Murray and Trae Young. My premonition is holding true, with Murray (15) outperforming Young (46) on a per-game basis to start the year. John Collins has cooled off after a hot start, sliding from 6th to 28th in per-game value in the past week. De'Andre Hunter is only valuable for points and rebounds, while Clint Capela continues to fend off backup C Oneyka Okongwu. Okongwu can be dropped in all 10-team points and H2H leagues but is still a hold in 12-team leagues.
The Celtics are leading the Central Division with a 4-2 record thanks to the All-NBA play of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum is top three in per-game value while Brown is showing out too, ranking 41st. Brown has career-highs in points, rebounds, FT percentage and blocks through the first six games.
Marcus Smart, Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon are cannibalizing each other and are all not worth rostering in 10-team leagues. White is the least desirable of the three and shouldn't be rostered in 12-team leagues, either. Positional scarcity keeps Big Al Horford afloat in 12-team leagues, but he's also been a disappointment two and a half weeks through the season.
Outside of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving being top-10 in per-game value, the Nets I'm most interested in rostering are Nic Claxton and Royce O'Neale. Claxton is an excellent buy candidate for his rebounding and blocks. He's not a notable name in fantasy, so acquiring him shouldn't cost much on the trade market. I've talked about O'Neale a lot, so pick him up in all H2H leagues.
The frustrations of rostering Ben Simmons are already setting in as he's missed consecutive games to start Week 3. He's averaging six rebounds and seven assists, so at least he's giving some counting stats despite his reluctance to shoot the basketball.
The Hornets are led by Gordon Hayward, PJ Washington and Dennis Smith Jr. It's impressive they've managed to string together three wins in seven games. DSJ is 35th in per-game value compared to Washington (89th) and Hayward at 129th. DSJ is available in 34% of Yahoo leagues, so if you see him on waivers, pick him up immediately no matter the league size. He'll continue to feast as long as Terry Rozier and LaMelo Ball are sidelined. And, if you're looking for a cheap source of rebounds and assists, pick up Mason Plumlee. He's horrendous at shooting free throws (I mean, look at the guys shooting form, yuck), but he's worth streaming in 12-team leagues if you need counting stats in those categories.
It looks like Zach LaVine has returned after putting the Bulls on his back in a win over the Nets on Tuesday night. Nikola Vucevic (32nd) and DeMar DeRozan (37th) are sustaining their third-round values. But I've been most impressed with Ayo Dosunmu's efficiency to start the year. He's 65th in per-game value with shooting splits of 52/43/100 along with 1.7 threes per game. Alex Caruso will forever be a steals specialist (1.6/game) off the bench. And once Andre Drummond is back from injury, he's worth adding in 12-team points and H2H leagues.
Fantasy managers anxiously await the return of Darius Garland. He's missed the Cavs previous five games with an eye injury, but he practiced on Tuesday, a sign he could return to the court in short order. Donovan Mitchell is on a tear, providing first-round value and putting up monster numbers. He's benefitted from Garland's absence, but still, he's posting career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, threes and steals per game. No wonder he's ninth in per-game value thus far.
Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley started a bit slow but are steadily recovering, as Allen is 85th and Mobley is 75th in per-game value. Mobley's rebounds have taken a slight dip from his rookie campaign, while Allen's scoring, efficiency and block rates are down from a year ago. Keep Caris LeVert rostered in 12-team points and H2H leagues. The 41-point outing was likely an outlier but he remains a good source for steals, rebounds and assists as long as Garland is out.
After a week of panic, fantasy managers who drafted Cade Cunningham can rest easy. He finished the second week of the season 56th in per-game value. Bojan Bogdanovic is arguably playing the best basketball of his life and ranks 20th through Wednesday. I featured Bogey in my weekly riser and fallers column and think fantasy managers should sell. He’s shooting an unsustainable 53% from the field and 51% from the three. On the flipside, Saadiq Bey has been volatile to start the year and is a strong buy-low candidate, ranking 105th in fantasy.
Jaden Ivey is acclimating well to the NBA, and he’ll improve on his per-game rank of 155 as the season wears on. Isaiah Stewart is doing what fantasy managers expected; 13 points with ten rebounds per night and a three-pointer. Any boost in blocks or steals would be significant, considering he’s just outside top-100 status.
Anyway, he's back from this early-season ankle sprain and is already swatting shots at an elite rate. His numbers are scattered, so this might be a good time to buy low on the big man, even though a real-life trade is likely on the horizon. Tyrese Haliburton is as advertised — he's 13th in per-game value and fourth in the NBA in assists through Wednesday. He's a cheat code for his ability to rack up points, assists and steals at a high rate, plus maintaining top-tier shooting splits. Buddy Hield picked up where he left off last season with Indiana, averaging 17.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists with 4.0 triples per night. That's good for 40th in per-game value to start the season, and Sir Bennedict Mathurin continues his torrid scoring pace, netting 20.4 points per game off the bench.
That leads the NBA, and he's a rookie!
South Beach never felt so undesirable. Jimmy Butler quietly continues to be a top-20 player, and Tyler Herro remains a bucket. Kyle Lowry's scoring output is the lowest since the 2012-2013 season, but he remains useful for threes, steals, dimes and rebounds from the point guard position. He's cracked the top 75 in per-game value, but what's up with Bam Adebayo? His ADP was 22 in the preseason, but his scoring, rebounding and assists are down from last year. He's just 87th in per-game value, so there's room for improvement. I'd label Bam a buy-low candidate because there's still plenty of basketball left in the season. Max Strus and Caleb Martin are streamable options in 12-team H2H leagues.
The only undefeated team in the Association is the 6-0 Bucks. They're the only team with three players in the top 25 in per-game value, too. Giannis Antetokounmpo (18th), Brook Lopez (11th) and Jrue Holiday (25th). That's impressive but remember, All-Star Khris Middleton is still out of commission rehabbing a wrist injury, so expect some regression once he returns to the floor. Bobby Portis is averaging a double-double off the bench in under 25 minutes per night. The Bucks are winning on the defensive end, ranking first in Defensive Rating. Imagine how good they'll look once their offense kicks in; they're just 16th in Offensive Rating through six games.
The struggle is real for RJ Barrett. After signing an extension this offseason, many hoped he'd take it up another notch. Well, that hasn't happened, as he's ranked outside the top 200 in fantasy. Julius Randle is 116th in per-game value due to poor shooting and a decline in assists. As I predicted, his turnovers and assists are down now that Jalen Brunson is the primary ball-handler for the Knicks. Brunson is the best fantasy asset in New York, and there might be a small buy window while he struggles from the free-throw line. Don't be surprised if Isaiah Hartenstein supplants Mitchell Robinson because they're almost in a near-even timeshare. It's becoming evident that Hartenstein has a higher fantasy ceiling than Mitchell. Hartenstein is 89th, and Robinson is 115th thus far.
The tallest starting lineup in basketball is a sight to see. Rookie Paolo Banchero has been setting all kinds of records to start his career but ranks 109th in per-game value, which is the best on the Magic. Franz Wagner, a player I was high on coming into the season, has been disappointing with averages of 15.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists with 1.3 stocks and 43/19/82 shooting splits. Bol Bol has been one of the best pickups of the year, and Wendell Carter Jr. continues to be a double-double threat every night. But it's annoying that he can't block shots as a 6'10" center.
The Sixers are 4-4, and Joel Embiid has missed his past two games with a non-COVID-related illness. Embiid is 49th in per-game value, and if you look across categories, he's down in nearly every one from a year ago. Maybe it's the plantar fasciitis, but Embiid is not playing at the MVP level fantasy managers expected. James Harden, on the other hand, got his mojo back and is doing it all. He's 10th in per-game value while ranking second in the NBA in assists. Tyrese Maxey took a significant leap back into the top 60 after a few monster performances in Week 2. And, much to my surprise, Tobias Harris carries the second-highest per-game ranking on the Sixers through Wednesday. He's 34th even though he's the fourth option in the Sixers' offense and shooting an uncharacteristically low mark from the free-throw line (58%). De'Anthony Melton is another player surging, cracking top-60 value thanks to being ninth in the NBA in steals per game (2.0) with strong shooting peripherals.
Pascal Siakam is averaging a career-high in points, rebounds and assists through Wednesday and is 31st in per-game value. He gets center eligibility in Yahoo leagues, so that's a sneaky Taysom Hill-like advantage considering his versatility across categories. I'm growing concerned about Fred VanVleet, however. His scoring is down dramatically from last year (20.3 to 13.3 ppg), his usage rate is down 7.4% this season and he's dealing with a back issue. If the back issue lingers, this could become a headache of missed games for fantasy managers. Still, he's giving fantasy managers the assists, threes, steals and FT percentage. He ranks 16th through Wednesday.
Scottie Barnes' numbers are on par with last season, and he ranks 47th while OG Anunoby entered top-30 status. According to Stathead, Anunoby is one of the three players averaging at least 2.5 steals and one block per game this season (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Delon Wright are the others).
The Wizards have two players in the top 45: Bradley Beal (45th) and Kristaps Porzingis (39th). Beal's scoring is down, and he attributes it to having to play more of a ball-handler/playmaking type role with the injury to Delon Wright. Delon Wright will miss a few weeks with a hamstring injury so expect the Point-Beal trend to continue as long as the Wizards are down a trusted ball-handler. Porzingis is healthy and looking worthy of his fourth-round ADP. Kyle Kuzma is in the top 90, while Monte Morris has fallen outside the top 100.
If you have an IL spot open, I'd use it on Wright. He's only 6% rostered, and given his defensive upside and Beal's trust in him running the offense, he could emerge as a viable asset beyond streaming in the future.