The third week of the NBA season is in the rearview, and now it's time to reflect, overreact and assess the fantasy basketball landscape. Week 4 is officially underway, and there's already a steady dose of overachievers in the market, along with players who've underwhelmed to start the year. It's still early in the season, so it'll beg the question of whether the first few weeks are representative of sustained performance or an eventual course correction.
Still, it's best to keep tabs along the way, so this weekly column will dive into the risers and fallers of fantasy hoops on a week-to-week basis.
OG Anunoby - SG/SF, Toronto Raptors
Current per-game rank: 14
OG Anunoby finds his way to the risers list after ranking 14th in per-game value through Tuesday. He's vastly outperforming his ADP of 61.6 and leads the NBA in steals with 3.0 per game. His scoring output is down from last season (17.1 to 15.9), but he's been more efficient with 47/39/80 shooting splits this season. Those efficiency gains and boost in steals are the primary drivers of his value nesting within the top 15 of fantasy basketball.
Also, Anunoby will benefit from the absence of Pascal Siakam. With Siakam reportedly set to miss multiple weeks with a groin injury, Pascal Siakam's 29.4 percent usage will be dispersed through the starters — mainly Anunoby and Fred VanVleet. Anunoby's usage rate cleared 20% in the last two games without Siakam, so hopefully, fantasy managers will see an uptick in his scoring in the short term.
I don't think he'll finish top-15 by the end of the season, but top-40 is in the cards if he can sustain this level of efficiency.
Tobias Harris - SF/PF, Philadelphia 76ers
Current per-game rank: 22
It looks like I'll be eating crow through three weeks of the fantasy season, because my initial take on Tobias Harris being a bust (relative to his ADP) was wrong. He's 22nd in per-game value through Tuesday and can sustain that value over the next month.
Harris would be the fourth option for the starting unit if the Sixers were healthy. But the Sixers' starting lineup isn't fully healthy, with James Harden sidelined with a foot injury that will keep him out for weeks. Harris' scoring is down from a year ago — and it makes sense, given he's been relegated to a spot-up shooting role in the Sixers' offense. But he's been efficient with fewer touches and has either maintained or improved in every other statistical category this year.
Harris is averaging 22.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 3.0 3PM, 1.0 steal and 1.0 block with 49/43/86 shooting splits in two games without Harden on the floor. Joel Embiid returned to the lineup on Monday, and Harris still had a 24% usage rate, his second-highest of the season.
Harris has been outstanding, but I'd be looking to sell high before James Harden returns.
Current per-game rank: 48
Much to the dismay of fantasy managers, Houston Rockets head coach Stephen Silas began the season bringing Alperen Sengun off the bench, citing that Bruno Fernando was a better fit with the starters and that "Al-P needs the ball to be successful."
It only took five games for Silas to realize that Sengun was better suited with the starters.
Since becoming a starter on October 28, Sengun has been providing second-round value (24th per game) and is thriving as one of the best young big men in the league. He's averaging 17.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 stocks and only 1.5 turnovers per game as a starter over his past six games.
Sengun made my honorable mentions list for fallers in Week 2 because he was 138th in per-game value. I told fantasy managers not to panic and, lo and behold, Sengun is now 48th; it’s funny how things can change so quickly. His improved efficiency from the field and charity stripe were unexpected, and he's also made strides in not turning over the ball at a high rate (outside of his first game of the year, when he turned the ball over six times).
Offensively, he's super talented, as he's already given Ivica Zubac and Karl Anthony-Towns the business. The knock on Sengun is his inability to guard pick-and-roll effectively, but the Rockets are atrocious at defense, ranking bottom-three in the NBA. So regardless of how bad his individual defense is, the Rockets need his playmaking, scoring and rebounding — all things that fantasy managers need.
If Sengun were available for trade, I'd buy.
Risers honorable mentions: Buddy Hield (36), Nic Claxton (48), Marcus Morris Sr. (52), Clint Capela (53), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (68)
D'Angelo Russell - PG/SG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Current per-game rank: 151
Timberwolves point guard D'Angelo Russell is underperforming. His numbers are abysmal through the first three weeks of the fantasy season:
Points per game = on pace for lowest since rookie season (13.4)
FG% = on pace for lowest of his career (38.3%)
3PM = on pace for lowest of his career (1.5)
3PT % = on pace for lowest of his career (27.8%)
Effective field goal percentage (eFG%) = on pace for the lowest of his career (44.6%)
True Shooting Percentage (TS %) = on pace for the lowest of his career (48%)
Usage rate = on pace for lowest since his rookie season (23.9%)
Turnovers per game = on pace for second-highest in his career (3.1)
But hey, it's not all bad for DLo! He's averaging career-highs in rebounds and steals per game through Tuesday.
I recognize I’m painting a doom-and-gloom picture, but I'm legitimately concerned. He's dropped to 151st in per-game value despite having a sixth-round ADP in the preseason. The Timberwolves offense runs through Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards (except for this play). And despite being the point guard, Russell is neck-and-neck with Towns in assists per game, reasonably close in potential assists and assist points created. Chris Finch likes passing bigs — he came from Denver, and if memory serves me correctly, they have a pretty, pretty good passing big man.
All this to say — it's been a down year for Russell, and I don't have faith it will get much better. If Russell is on your roster, try to trade him when he strings together a few good games. Otherwise, a real-life trade out of Minnesota may be the next best thing.
Jabari Smith Jr. - SF/PF, Houston Rockets
Current per-game rank: 184
O rookie, where art thou?
The third overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft came in as a stretch-four sniper, but it's been a rough start for the Auburn alum. Over Jabari Smith Jr.’s last six games, he's averaging 6.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.7 blocks with 2.0 turnovers and 25/24/75 shooting splits.
Congratulations, Jabari. You've hit the rookie wall.
Even though he's shooting miserably from the field, it's encouraging to see he's getting 28 minutes per game in his last six and 29.7 minutes per game for the season. He's 184th in per-game value, which makes him a drop in 10-team leagues, but I'd keep him rostered in 12-team leagues. He's young and figuring out how to adapt to the NBA, and we've seen spurts of his upside throughout the preseason that warranted selecting him as an eighth-round pick in fantasy drafts.
But beware — one of the sleepers of the 2022 draft is breathing down his neck in Tari Eason. Eason's minutes crept over 20+ in consecutive games, so there's a chance that Silas opts to give Eason more minutes at PF, sacrificing some of Smith's floor time. He'll need to get out of this funk in a matter of weeks, or he could find himself on the outside looking in of the Rockets rotation.
Fallers honorable mentions: Franz Wagner (132), Julius Randle (133), Jerami Grant (155), Jordan Poole (166), Jalen Smith (170), Josh Giddey (174)