Having all of the Fantasy Unicorn contributors working on this site is kind of like having a super-stacked fantasy basketball team. With that, I want to incorporate monthly roundtable discussions to present a variety of hot fantasy takes. This edition focuses on just over a week of NBA action in October, with your boy throwing questions at Jay, Rhett, Rohan, Jeff, and Kyle.
For Redraft Leagues: Who has impressed you and surpassed your expectations so far? Who are you trying to buy low on? Who are you ready to cut your losses on?
My most impressive player relative to ADP so far has been Brandon Ingram. We knew he could score and rebound, and a lot of his bump in production could come from Jrue and Zion being out, but I’m not sure anyone was expecting him to average 27.3/9.5/4.8/.8/1.3 with 3.5 3’s on 50/50/73 shooting. Hitting 50% on 7 3PT attempts a game is just ridiculous, and I expect it will drop off soon, but I’m along for the ride. Once Jrue/Zion come back from injury it will be interesting to see how his production levels out, but at the same time, I am starting to doubt Jrue Holiday. He’s averaging 37mpg, but with 18% usage compared to his 25.4% last year. Other notable players with 18% usage: But 10/4/7/1/1 with .5 3’s on 30/11/67 is not what I expected from a borderline first-round pick, especially with Zion being out. I’m hoping that these two games off will let him reset, and he can come back to top 20 production.
Brandon Ingram, Devonte Graham, and even Tristan Thompson – these are all names that have surpassed my expectations through a week of action. One player in particular who has really made me raise an eyebrow though is Malcolm Brogdon. The soon-to-be 27-year old is the eighth-overall fantasy player in 9-cat leagues through his first four games, averaging 22 points, 2 threes, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 34.4 minutes with a great (but not wholly unexpected) free throw average of 95.7%. While these numbers are great, the stat that is most impressive to me is his 11.3 assists. Brogdon has never been an elite facilitator. The most assists he’s ever averaged as a pro is 4.2 (2016-17). While the evidence points to some regression, I actually expect Brogdon to average a career-high in dimes until Oladipo returns. His big preseason assists are looking less fluky by the day. As for a player I’m looking to buy low, Jrue Holiday is the first name that comes to mind. After all, that was said about Jrue by the Pelicans coaching staff and management, it would be surprising if he didn’t finish with top 20 value. Lastly, a player I would cut ties with if I owned him is Dennis Smith Jr. He was a popular late-round flier pick this year but has thus far been shelved in favor of several other options in New York, averaging a meager 8.7 minutes per game. Luckily, if you drafted him in your redraft league, you didn’t have to invest heavily, meaning it shouldn’t be too painful to cut and run.
R.J. Barrett has really pleasantly surprised me. I do own him in a league, and I am a tortured Knicks diehard, but I’m not sure that people had projected that R.J. would be so impactful so quickly. He’s averaging 20 points a game (mild surprise), almost 2 made threes a game (this will probably normalize down to 1.5 max) on an excellent 3-point percentage (47%, unsustainable, but let’s see where he ends up), more than 7 rebounds (excellent for someone eligible for your shooting guard slot), and 2 steals. He will tank your free throw percentage if he keeps clanking those away, but he wasn’t expected to be a plus from the line anyway. He’s shown a good ability to drive hard to the basket in man coverage, attack closeouts, shoot off the curl and knockdown spot-up jumpers. He even ran the point to close out the Knicks’ first win. He won’t have a problem getting buckets all year for a team that needs every point it can get. The steals could be real too, as he is mostly being used as an oversized shooting guard whose length pays off in the passing lanes.
I’d try to buy low on Mike Conley and Aaron Gordon if you can. Conley’s off to a dismal start. Call me crazy, but I think he’ll start shooting better than 15% from 3 and 20% from the field. After more than a decade of Grit And Grind, he has to adjust to something new, and it may take a few games, but I’m optimistic because he’s a high IQ, hard-working vet. I know I’m not the only one on this train, as someone made me a buy-low offer for him in our auction league. Aaron Gordon‘s field goal percentage is also an atrocity so far this season, just under 30%. He’s doing the other things that make him attractive with PF eligibility (almost 4 assists and more than 1 steal per game). His minutes and attempts (3s and total) are down a touch from last season. I expect these to normalize to 2018-19 levels when he regains confidence in his shot (let’s hope those Fultz yips are not contagious). His contract is attractive, and his best numbers might not be in Orlando…stay tuned.
Cut Bait: Every Knick not named R.J. Barrett or Julius Randle. I love Mitchell Robinson and his Block Party Show, but he hasn’t learned to stay out of foul trouble, and even if he did, Fiz might start Bobby Portis over him just for fun. For this season, you may find great value on the trade market for a Robinson optimist. The rotations are a mess and there have already been rumblings about discontent with minutes. It’s going to be frustrating to own any of those guys given the situation. The point guard committee might point to a cut bait situation on DSJ specifically. Aside from that, there isn’t much bait to cut, because I don’t think too many people believed in many of these guys as real fantasy producers this season anyway.
In limited minutes, 23 mpg to be exact, Dejounte Murray has produced 3rd round value with averages of 14.7 pts 8.3 rebs 6 asts 2 asts 0.7 blks with 54.5% and 87.5% shooting splits. Dejounte can be had in the 8th to 9th rounds in drafts. If and when Coach Pop decides to lift his minutes restriction, I can see Dejounte maintaining Top 50 numbers for this season. I’m trying to buy low on Mike Conley in every league I’m in. He can’t be this bad for long I reckon. Honestly, the only player I want to cut bait in is Enes Kanter. I have him on one of my leagues and I just can’t bear to see him on my roster. I can see his role diminish by the time we get to fantasy playoffs.
What player take did you have in the preseason that you are now beginning to doubt?
I can’t talk about disappointment and doubt without talking about my Pacers. In the preseason I thought that TJ Warren would be able to provide the Pacers with some much-needed offense, that his 3PT shooting was real, and that he was going to be a solid fantasy contributor…Boy do I look wrong. Through 3 losses Warren is 11% (1/9) from 3, is only shooting 40% from the field, has only gotten to the FT Line once, averaging under 3 rebounds per game, and is very lost on defense (even though he had 5 steals last game, he had 0 the previous two). I’m not sure who gets the blame between TJ or the coaching/scheme, but I’m nervous about his fantasy production moving forward. If he can bring his 3PT shooting up, grab 4 rebounds a game, get 3 FTA/g, and can find his place in their defense to be more consistent with steals, he could return top 100…but that is a lot of things that have to go right, and I’m not overly optimistic.
Kevin Huerter had a great end of the season campaign last year but so far, there is no encouragement of that happening this year. Entering the season with lingering right knee pain, that could affect his minutes and production in an already crowded Atlanta Hawks background. A great alternative is Lule Kennard but Huerter is a great stash option with a high ceiling when he gets hot.
One of my favorite sleeper picks through the offseason and preseason was Jakob Poeltl. My thought was that he was the only true, serviceable Center in San Antonio, and that Pop would essentially have to grant him a relatively sizable role. Oops. Pop’s gonna Pop, I guess. Through their first few games of the season, the Spurs have opted to start Trey Lyles at the Center position. Time will tell if this is a theme we can expect to persist, but at this point, Poeltl isn’t looking like the steal I thought he would be.
Forget doubt, I’ve seen enough; I am ready to admit I was straight-up wrong. I did not think Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be able to do what he’s doing this season, and I thought he was overrated on draft boards. He had a fine preseason that I did not put much stock into because it was preseason, and I was most worried about how he would perform against more focused defenses. I had no doubts about the stocks or ancillary playmaking. I knew he was good, but offensively, I thought he was being thrust into a role in which I didn’t think he was ready to perform efficiently. So far, his usage is up 10% versus last year and he’s actually improved his true shooting. His PER is up nearly 80% (23.7 vs. 13.4). His assist rate is about the same while his turnover rate is less than half what it was last year. It’s not likely he’s going to keep all this up for the season, but he will stabilize at a level comfortably above where I had him for this year. He’s looked great at creating very makable shots in a way he should be able to sustain throughout the season. He’s got my favorite types of drives, the herky-jerky, deceptive ones where it seems like he’s making a new decision with each step, and the defense ends up baffled as to whether a shot, dribble, or pass is going to happen in the next millisecond. It’s Donovan Mitchell-esque. This level of playmaking is beyond that of your typical sophomore.
Kristaps Porzingis will not play more than 60 games and over 30mins per. Had I known that Porzingis will play more than 30 minutes this season, I would have given him a good hard look. I think that Porzingis will rest soon but he will surpass 60 games in my opinion. He’s on pace to produce Top 20 numbers this season and I cringe at the thought of not having any shares of him this season.
Thinking long term: What players are on your watch list for potential increased value post all-star break?
Someone I would watch out for post ASB is Jarrett Culver. This is somewhat of a boom-or-bust prediction, but if the Timberwolves end up out of the playoff race and/or they get active in trading Teague without getting a PG back, Culver could step in as point guard and see a massive bump in usage/value. The Wolves had a chance to take Coby White after trading up, but they chose Culver instead and have talked all preseason about how he can run the point as well as defend 1-3. There’s also an interview with a Wolves insider that mentioned in 2-3 years, he wouldn’t be surprised if Culver and Towns were the only two players still with the team from this current roster. An organization putting anyone on the same level as Towns is music to my ears, and exactly the reason they should be wanting to get him as many minutes as possible. Considering he has little to no value right now and high upside starting PG’s on the Waiver Wire aren’t going to exist in February, you should monitor the situation throughout the year and keep a very close eye come trade deadline.
My usual go-to guy after the All-Star break was Ricky Rubio when he was with the Utah Jazz. It’s odd how Rubio starts posting superstar stats after just posting regular starter stats. Continuing on the Jazz trend, Rudy Gobert is my early favorite for this. The whole Jazz team so far looks sluggish. May it be from the FIBA World Cup or chemistry issues but it is still early. Gobert has been posting top 150 stats as of the moment and you can pounce on that opportunity while you can in the buy-low market.
A player I believe could see a potential uptick in value over the latter portion of the season is Jarrett Culver. Culver was a guy I liked coming into the season. In fact, he was my 4th-overall fantasy prospect coming out of the draft, just ahead of RJ Barrett. He showed out in preseason but is now being somewhat marginalized to start the regular season as Minnesota is opting to start Andrew Wiggins and Treveon Graham on the wing. In addition to those two guys, Culver has Josh Okogie and even Shabazz Napier to contend with for playing time at the moment. My thought is that once (if?) the Timberwolves are eliminated from playoff contention down the stretch, they’ll turn to their promising, young assets – 6th-overall pick Jarrett Culver obviously being the most notable.
I like Brandon Clarke here. By then, the trio of bright young pieces in Memphis can develop some chemistry. A healthy mix of spread pick and roll with Ja and some high low action with JJJ can be a great recipe for offensive production for Clarke. Furthermore, a minutes increase is completely plausible, as management and the coaching staff will want to have their young core get reps together while they phase out of the playoff picture and vets like Joe Val and Jae Crowder, get some rest.
For me its Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Bruno Fernando. I am now having doubts as to whether Jrue Holiday will continue to play come fantasy playoffs if the Pelicans don’t turn it around soon. I can see NAW being given mid 20s minutes by that time and that will give him ample time to produce. He has a nice all around game and I just think that Alvin Gentry will give him some run Post All Star Break for him to develop. I can see star potential in him. Meanwhile, Bruno Fernando to me will be the starting center of the Atlanta Hawks after the All Star games. He has just a great feel for the game defensively. When the Hawks try to snag a playoff berth, they will have give Fernando some burn and I can see him produce Top 100 numbers Post ASB.
Who do you think is the most fun player to have on your roster this season?
The most fun player on my roster is Dejounte Murray, which may sound like a weird choice at first glance considering I have guys like Ingram, Bam, or Drummond. However, this summer in my 12T dynasty I traded Wall+Gasol for Murray+Brook Lopez with the belief that Murray would come back from the injury strong while Wall would not. So far this season in 23mpg, Murray has averaged 14.7/8.3/6.0/2.0/.7 on 54FG% and 86 FT% (I’m punting 3’s so thankfully I don’t have to consider his 0.3 3’s at 20%). The Spurs are talking about getting his minutes up closer to 30, and while they are also talking about sitting him on some B2Bs, he would average 19/11/8/2.5/1 if his averages kept up. That would be fantastic production from a 23-year-old PG coming off an ACL tear, and about what Wall put up in his age 23 season on 36 minutes a game, so I find it fun watching myself be right so far with hopefully more validation to come!
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the most exciting players to watch both in fantasy and in real life. Being on an Oklahoma City Thunder team that is tanking, SGA is unleashed in the starting lineup together with Chris Paul and Steven Adams. We all knew he could ball for the Clippers but expecting him to post top-25 stats this early in the season is impressive. Expect this production to subside however but if you have him, ride the wave for now.
What’s more fun than grabbing a potential league-winner off waivers? My original pick here was going to be PJ Washington (another potential redraft waiver steal) just for the pleasure of saying “I told you so.” However, Washington will have to play runner-up here as Kendrick Nunn has looked friggin’ good. While some brushed Nunn off as a simple Summer League one-off, I pounced on him in a couple of dynasty leagues. Taking that low-risk shot seems well worth it at this point as Nunn is the 38th-overall fantasy asset at the time of my writing this (4 games in). The return of Jimmy Butler certainly put a damper on Nunn’s hype. Even so, Nunn looks like he’s here to stay, and should be a blast to own this season just as we all predicted… right?
I feel he’s been getting almost too much love from the internet the past couple of years, but Nikola Jokic is probably the most fun. I’ve got him in one league, and man has that been fun. I’m a sucker for good passing, and getting it at the center position is a treat. Outlet passes, top of the key, high post, low post, over the defense, threading the needle, he’s got it all. He’s got the beautiful old-school, below the rim swagger about him too. He made a meme out of himself and his stylistic opposite, Hassan Whiteside, in week 1 already. Expect many more dimes, triple-doubles, and memes.