Fantasy Stock Up
Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
While further growth was expected from LaVine this season, he’s taken his game to another level, as he’s ranked as a top-15 fantasy player in 9-cat leagues (and top-10 in 8-cat). LaVine’s Usage Rate (29%) is actually a little lower than the last couple of seasons, but he’s still posting career-highs in True Shooting% (65.4), Rebound Rate and PER. To get an idea of just how dominant LaVine has been lately, he checks in as the No. 7 fantasy player in 9-cat leagues over the last week despite averaging a whopping 6.0 turnovers per game (it helps the Bulls are running the league’s second-fastest Pace). He may be a disaster defensively, but LaVine has become a fantasy star.
Derrick White, San Antonio Spurs
White’s minutes may be limited in the short term, but he’s recovered from his toe injury and is going to provide a huge boost to fantasy managers. The point guard averaged 18.9 points, 5.0 assists and 3.1 threes in the bubble, and the Spurs should again lean on the same small-ball style that was successful. White, who is PG/SG eligible, is still getting better, averaging both a block and a steal while seeing just 22 minutes per game during his brief action this season. He should be considered a top-60 type fantasy player in category leagues moving forward.
Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors
Wiggins continues to play far better in a Golden State uniform, and while he’s lost some volume on offense while sharing the court with Stephen Curry this season, he’s more than made up for it with improved efficiency and becoming much more active on the defensive end. Wiggins is averaging a career-high 1.5 blocks per game, which leads all non-big men in the NBA (and the advanced stats suggest he’s been one of the better defenders overall in the league this season). The Warriors pulled off a decent trade getting Wiggins for D’Angelo Russell (who ranks bottom-10 among 450+ players in Defensive RPM) and a lightly protected pick in a loaded 2021 draft.
Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets
It’s nice to see Hayward fully back to his old self again, and he’s even averaging career-highs in points per game (23.2), blocks (0.6), three-pointers (2.3) and True Shooting% (61.3). It’s a much better setup in Charlotte than on a loaded team in Boston, and a healthier Hayward is taking full advantage of his new opportunity. Hayward’s shooting has been off the charts while he’s greatly outperformed his preseason Yahoo ADP (No. 57), ranking as a borderline top-20 fantasy player this season.
Théo Maledon, Oklahoma City Thunder
George Hill continues to miss time with a thumb injury, and Maledon has taken advantage while starting in his place. This could only be a short-term boost, but Maledon has been the No. 65 ranked fantasy player over his three starts, and the praise by his coaching staff suggests he could get an extended look in the starting five. The rookie has impressed, and there aren’t exactly a ton of playmakers on Oklahoma City. Maledon is available in more than 85% of Yahoo leagues.
Aron Baynes, Toronto Raptors
Chris Boucher was my pick as the Fantasy Steal over the first quarter of the season, but it appears Nick Nurse is starting to trust Baynes more. Boucher has seen just 15.0 mpg off the bench over the last three contests, while Baynes has seen 25.0 during the same span (despite fouling out in one). Boucher remains the much-preferred fantasy player and shouldn’t be dropped, but Baynes is certainly worth adding (just 9% rostered) right now if you need a big man. Baynes has pulled down 26 boards over the last two games, making him a deeper league option with his minutes on the rise.
Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
Murray’s numbers are down this season, and while normally this would qualify him as a trade target, he’s suffered a bunch of injuries. The point guard has been dealing with a sprained shoulder, a bruised elbow (that’s likely affected his shooting) and a glute injury that currently makes it hurt to lift his leg and run, all helping suppress his early season numbers. Murray has instead watched Nikola Jokic emerge as an MVP candidate and could see a decrease in Usage Rate now with Michael Porter Jr. finally back in the rotation as well.
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
Rubio has struggled in his return to Minnesota, scoring double-digits just once so far this season. He moved back to the bench recently with D’Angelo Russell’s return, and after being the No. 61 fantasy player with the Suns last season, Rubio sits outside the top-200 this year on a thin Timberwolves team sporting the NBA’s second-worst Offensive Efficiency. Rubio is shooting an ugly 28.6% from the field over the last month (13 games), as his already shaky jumper has somehow taken a major step back. Rubio remains rostered in about half of Yahoo leagues, but he’s become droppable in 12-team formats.