We're almost midway through the fourth 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. We discussed the Eastern Conference last week; now, let's move out west.
Luka Doncic is playing like the real-life MVP and the fantasy MVP. He ranks third in per-game value through Wednesday and is seeing an absurd 38 percent usage rate — which is on pace for the third-highest usage rate in NBA history. Doncic is on another level, leading the league in scoring and tracking to be the first player in NBA history to average at least 36 points with eight rebounds and eight assists in a season.
Christian Wood's situation, however, isn't ideal for fantasy, as he's only averaging 24.7 minutes per night while coming off the bench. The change in scenery hasn't been fruitful for the Mavericks' sixth man, and he is 129th in per-game value almost four weeks into the season. Spencer Dinwiddie is the only other Maverick worth rostering (outside of streaming).
The Northwest division is stacked. And the Nuggets are among the best teams in the NBA through 10 games with a 7-3 record. The Nuggets have a ton of fantasy appeal too. The undisputed 1.01 in fantasy drafts, Nikola Jokic, is 8th in per-game value and averaging a career-best 9.3 assists per game. Michael Porter Jr. is performing very close to his preseason ADP at 51, and Jamal Murray appears to be rounding into pre-injury form over the past week:
Jamal Murray last 4 games:
Starting to look like his old self. pic.twitter.com/U3AQy8XPPs
— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 8, 2022
Murray's minutes have gone from 26.6 in October to 29.4 in November, so the buy-low window is steadily closing. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a steals and threes machine and finds himself inside the top 70, while Aaron Gordon should also finish inside the top 100 this season.
Bones Hyland, man. He has the seventh shortest odds to win the Sixth man of the year award, but he's one of the most entertaining young players in the game today:
When I get that feeling..😮💨 pic.twitter.com/K32EwcIadi
— Bones Hyland (@BizzyBones11) November 6, 2022
Bones is an injury away from a must-roster in 10-team leagues, but he still holds plenty of value in 12-team points and H2H leagues.
I'm on a mission to make sure Bruce Brown is not on waivers in 12-team H2H leagues because he's so versatile, and I think he'll play his way into a top-100 player by the end of the season.
The Warriors are struggling, to say the least. They narrowly escaped with a victory over the Kings on Monday to earn their fourth win in 11 games. Stephen Curry has been phenomenal all year and is the top player in fantasy through Wednesday. He's on pace for career-highs in points, rebounds and field goal percentage at 34 years old. Andrew Wiggins has been the second-best player for the Warriors in real life and fantasy. He's channeled last year's NBA Finals energy into this season, ranking 25th in per-game value.
Draymond Green's best fantasy days are behind him. He needs to do more in the stocks department but remains a reliable source of rebounds and assists. Jordan Poole is a player I'd buy low on because he at least gives you points, assists, steals, threes and a high free-throw percentage. On the other hand, Klay Thompson only contributes points and threes at this stage in his career. Jonathan Kuminga looks to be a streamable asset in deeper leagues now that he's officially in the Warriors rotation.
The Rockets have a lot of talent but need more direction and leadership. It's not surprising that they have the worst record in basketball. Alperen Sengun is their highest-ranked fantasy player at 45. Then there's a considerable drop-off: Kevin Porter Jr (112), Eric Gordon (160), Jabari Smith Jr. (184) and Jalen Green (200).
Porter and Green are better for points leagues and Jabari Smith seems to have hit a rookie wall. I go into more detail on his outlook in my risers and fallers column, but in short, he needs to get it together quickly because Tari Eason is playing too well to be on the bench much longer. Hopefully, the Rockets trade Eric Gordon, and that'll open up more opportunities for players like KJ Martin, Jae'Sean Tate and Usman Garuba.
Paul George is 21st in per-game value and was named Western Conference Player of the Week for Week 3. He's been thriving in the alpha role for the Clippers while Kawhi Leonard remains out with lingering knee issues. There's still no timetable for his return, but Clippers head coach Ty Lue said, "He's progressing." It's still hard to discern the severity of his post-surgery knee problems, but this sounds like a positive development. Fantasy managers holding Leonard will have to continue to wait or trade him at a far lower cost than his third-round draft capital.
Ivica Zubac is racking up double-doubles, averaging 10.1 points with 11.4 rebounds this year. He ranks 43rd in per-game value, while Marcus Morris Sr. has been solid as well, ranking 73rd in per-game value almost four weeks into the season. I'd drop John Wall and Reggie Jackson in all 10- and 12-team leagues. Their timeshare is frustrating, and they only do little outside of assists.
The Lakeshow is a (insert expletive) show. At least Russell Westbrook is playing more like the player of old. He's provided third-round value in the past seven days and sixth-round value over the past two weeks. Anthony Davis (when healthy) continues to be an elite fantasy player, ranking 7th in per-game value. LeBron James' per-game value is hampered by low field-goal (44%) and free-throw percentages (68%) despite providing strong counting stats in points, rebounds and assists. Lonnie Walker IV is still an add in 12-team points and H2H leagues. Also, Troy Brown Jr. has emerged as a deep-league H2H streamer over the past week.
The Grizzlies are 7-4 and have one of the best offenses in the NBA. They're ninth in Offensive Rating primarily because of their stars, Ja Morant and Desmond Bane. Bane (22nd) ranks higher in fantasy than Morant (53) because Bane has fewer turnovers, but Morant is still putting up great numbers: 28.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.1 assists with 2.1 threes and 48/46/81 shooting splits. Dillon Brooks takes ill-advised shots every chance he gets, so I'd only roster him in a 12-team points league. Santi Aldama's honeymoon phase appears to be over, as he's only consistently contributing to stocks and rebounds. I would be okay with you dropping him in 12-team leagues even though he's playing 28 minutes per night.
After a brief stint in health and safety protocols, Rudy Gobert is back in the lineup. He leads the league in rebounding but only blocks 1.6 shots per game. Fantasy managers certainly expect more from the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. To no surprise, the arrival of Gobert has dampened Karl-Anthony Towns' rebounding and blocks. Still, KAT is 47th in per-game value and on pace to set a new career-high in assists per game with 5.6.
Anthony Edwards is slumping a bit though, ranking 102nd through Wednesday. His low free-throw percentage (68%) and high turnover rate (3.2) are depressing his value, but he's at least giving fantasy managers strong counting stats across the board. D'Angelo Russell seems like a square peg in a round hole. He's posting near career lows in several major categories and is 151st in per-game value. The Timberwolves are 5-6, and they might need to move DLo soon to get this team back on track.
The past couple of weeks have been rough for anyone rostering Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson or Herb Jones. Fortunately, they're all back now. CJ McCollum has been holding it down, ranking 35th in per-game value and is on pace to set career highs for rebounds (5.3) and assists per game (6.3). Jonas Valanciunas is 71st and enjoying a solid season with 14.4 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 53% from the field and 85% from the free-throw line.
Trey Murphy III remains one of the best fantasy waiver pickups in the early part of this season, ranking 66 in per-game value. But I expect his minutes to fluctuate with the Pelicans starters back and healthy. Larry Nance Jr remains a suitable stream in 12+ H2H leagues, too.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is an elite fantasy basketball player. He ranks 2nd in fantasy and is putting up a historic stat line. Should he finish the season averaging at least 30 points with four rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block per game, per Stathead, SGA would be the third player in NBA history to do so, joining Michael Jordan and Dwayne Wade.
Josh Giddey has been a disappointment early on, but he's also dealt with an ankle injury that forced him to miss three games. He's 174th in per-game value. Then there's a slew of Thunder players who aren't worth rostering in 10-team leagues but have some appeal in deeper leagues. Aleksej Pokusevski, Tre Mann and Lu Dort have streaming moments weekly. Personally, I'm invested in Jalen Williams long-term because the Thunder will eventually mail it in and give more minutes to their younger prospects.
The Suns are reeling off wins, going 7-3 through ten games this season. Mikal Bridges (30th in per-game value) is the Suns' highest-ranking fantasy player. Devin Booker is underachieving relative to his ADP in the second round, ranking 38th in per-game value to start the year. Chris Paul has an impressive 6.3:1.0 assist-to-turnover ratio, but I'm concerned by his lack of scoring. He's on pace for career lows in points, FG attempts and field-goal percentage. Paul's heel injury doesn't seem severe, but it will be something to monitor. Get Cameron Payne on your watchlist because he would be a must-add in all formats if Paul misses any time.
Deandre Ayton appears to have also taken a step back, ranking 112 and tracking to a career-low in rebounding. He's averaging 7.8 per game thus far, a far cry from his career mark of 10.4 per game.
Cameron Johnson is out for weeks after getting surgery to repair a torn meniscus, so Torrey Craig will hold some short-term value in deeper leagues while Johnson is on the mend.
Portland Trail Blazers
One of the surprise teams of the NBA, the Trail Blazers are 7-3 despite not having Damian Lillard for four games. Lillard is providing first-round value, and Anfernee Simons is starting to heat up, providing seventh-round value over the past two weeks. His ADP was over 100 at points in the preseason but still, he is outperforming his current ADP of 97 in drafts. Jerami Grant's production has been better than his ranking indicates, settling in as the third option in the Blazers' offense. Josh Hart is quietly becoming a Draymond Green-like stat stuffer with averages of 9.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
In a weird twist of events, Jusuf Nurkic learned how to shoot free throws. He's shooting 88% from the charity stripe compared to 67% for his career. And it's helped his ranking, which stands at 53 through Wednesday.
De'Aaron Fox is ballin' right now. I predicted his breakout in the preseason, and he's currently 25th in per-game value to start the year. Domantas Sabonis started slow but is finding his way again, averaging 22.0 points,12.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists in his previous three games. He's climbing up the rankings, moving into 71st through Wednesday. Sabonis' free throws are uncharacteristically low, so any improvement there will surely move him higher with this level of production.
Kevin Huerter being traded to the Kings will go down as one of the more underrated moves of the 2022 offseason. Huerter has been lethal from three-point range, dropping 3.9 per game and 16.9 points with 50/52/71 shooting splits. Harrison Barnes is a drop in 10- and 12-team leagues.
San Antonio Spurs
Keldon Johnson has emerged as one of the best catch-and-shoot shooters from three-point range in the NBA. His turnovers are a bit high (2.9 per game), but otherwise, he's been productive in every category except blocks. He's 53rd in per-game value.
23yo Keldon Johnson is a top 5 catch and shoot 3PT artist in the NBA (30/68—44.1%), but he’s also much more:
23/5/4…smooth PnR operator, ambidextrous pocket/skip passes, hitting pull-up 3s, is a killer from 6-10ft with his lil 1/2 jumper 1/2 float. Big body KJ an MIP candidate. pic.twitter.com/ooxlKzLqmW
— NBA University (@NBA_University) November 7, 2022
Devin Vassell's preseason ADP was 76.4 and he's been exceeding market expectations, ranking 50th through Wednesday. Jakob Poeltl is brutal from the charity stripe but is an asset to just about every other category in H2H leagues. He's a perfect player to roster in points leagues as well. Tre Jones has proven to be one of the best late-round point guards available and is thriving as the starting point guard for the young Spurs. He's in the top 100 and can rise up the rankings if he can raise his field goal percentage (42%). Jeremy Sochan is worth streaming in deeper leagues when the Spurs have a favorable schedule.
They are the best team in the Western Conference. Exactly how we all predicted it would be.
Lauri Markkanen is 16th in per-game value and has shown no signs of slowing down in his breakout campaign. Jordan Clarkson is doing more than just scoring, posting 4.6 rebounds with 5.2 assists, which are career-highs. He's playing the most minutes of his career, and he is also enjoying a mini breakout. The veterans Mike Conley and Kelly Olynyk hold top-80 value in 12-team leagues, while Collin Sexton remains a buy-low target.
The Jazz are top three in Offensive Rating and average the second-highest points per game thus far. You have to give credit where credit is due, and Jazz head coach Will Hardy has his players outperforming everyone's expectations.