Fantasy basketball team-by-team review: Nirvana in Washington, a sleeper in Detroit and more

You won’t ever see me decline an invitation to Peter Luger Steak House, as their food truly is heavenly. That said, I’m a lover of buffets. Sure, the quality may not always be top-notch, but the quantity and diversity more than make up for it. Eric Wong, the Hall of Famer and winner of every fantasy basketball contest, is the Peter Luger of The Athletic fantasy hoops establishment. Seriously, if you want to be a better fantasy hoops player, digest what he cooks up for you. I, Son, am not as accomplished, but I can hold my own. In this piece, I will be the buffet, providing a smorgasbord of fantasy goodies. For those of you who complain that I skip over your favorite team, I will go through each team and give any thoughts that stand out to me. I am a Son of the people.

For context, remember that teams have played only six to eight games, so the sample sizes are extremely small. We should not be crowning anyone, or shoveling dirt into any graves.

For the week of Nov. 13 to 19:

  • Monday, Thursday and Saturday are streaming days with 4, 2 and 6 games, respectively
  • These are the teams with only 2 games: HOU, IND, LAC
  • Teams with back-to-backs: ATL, CHA, CHI, DAL (2), LAL, MEM, MIL, MIN, NOP, NYK, OKC, ORL, PHI, POR, SAS

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are statistically in-line with their numbers from last season across the board. I looked at pace, offensive/defensive efficiency, assist/turnover ratios, offensive rebounds and efficient field goal percentage. This team should continue to provide fantasy-friendly environments because they are fourth in pace, fifth in offensive efficiency but only 20th in defensive efficiency.

Jalen Johnson looks to have overtaken Saddiq Bey at power forward, as he’s started the past two games, playing an average of 35 minutes and racking up double-doubles in each contest. After playing 28 minutes in the first two games, Clint Capela has been in the 22-23-minute range, outside of one game with 28. Onyeka Okongwu has correspondingly been in the 25-minute range.

Boston Celtics

Damn, this team is freaking good. They’ve lost only one game this season to the Timberwolves (more on them later) and are first in offensive efficiency and fourth in defensive efficiency. After being 20th in pace last season, they are ninth this season. Interestingly, Boston was fifth in assisted field goals made last season. They are dead-last this season.

Derrick White missed two games and it was Al Horford who entered the starting lineup in his place. Sure, playing double-bigs against Minnesota makes sense, but the same lineup was employed against the Nets. With the acquisitions of Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday, there were thoughts that Jayson Tatum would lose usage. That’s exactly what’s happened, as his usage has gone from 32.7 to 29.8. But… but… but… playing around better players and not having to heave up “Kobe” shots at the end of a shot clock has boosted his efficiency big time — from 46% to 54%. Will that continue? Probably not, but Tatum could finish near 50% for the first time in his career.

Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn was 10th in defensive efficiency last season. Through seven games, they are 25th. They have played CLE, DAL, BOS and MIL, so that is likely skewing things. Offensively, a couple of things have changed, as they are shooting fewer three-pointers while getting out on the break more. Ben Simmons is probably a big reason for that. Simmons is averaging 6.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists while shooting 52% from the field and a laughable 25% from the line. The usage rate is only 11.8. That number was 15.7 last season. While he’s blocking a more-than-respectable 0.8 shots per game, the 0.5 steals are a bit concerning. He has a career average of 1.6, so that number will likely get back over 1.0 at some point.

Mikal Bridges was often going in the second round of drafts. He’s underwhelmed slightly, as he’s the 36th player on a per-game basis right now. The usage rate has decreased by 1.0 from last season but the points, rebounds, assists and percentages have all increased. It’s been the defensive stats that have come down — 0.9 steals and 0.4 blocks after notching 1.1 steals and 0.7 blocks last season. That was a big concern coming into the season, and the defensive numbers slipped when he made the move to Brooklyn last season. This could be the New World Order.

If I didn’t write about Cam Thomas, people would be throwing rotten internet tomatoes at my internet head. So through seven games, Thomas is averaging 28.7 points, 2.4 treys, 4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1 steal and 0.6 blocks while shooting 48% from the field and 84% from the line. The usage rate has been a whopping 31.8 with only 1.1 turnovers! My initial thought was that Thomas would revert back to a microwave role when Cameron Johnson returns from injury, but now I have some doubts. The contributions on defense, willingness to pass to the open shooter and ability to not only get buckets, but take care of the ball, could mean that this is real. Why not move Spencer Dinwiddie to the microwave role? I think that’s well within the range of outcomes now. Last season, Thomas was doing his thing when everyone was out, so this is a totally different situation. The trend is our friend here until new information is presented that forces us to reevaluate.

Due to injuries, Dorian Finney-Smith and Lonnie Walker IV have gotten run and could be viable pickups off the wire. Finney-Smith is rostered in 39% of Yahoo leagues while Walker is at 16%. DFS is averaging 32.4 minutes, 14 points on 10.6 shots and 5.6 rebounds. He is shooting 50% from the field and 44% from downtown. He’s a career 43%/35% shooter, so those numbers will come down, but he can be viable until the Nets get healthy. Walker is also averaging 10.5 shots and 15.5 points, but in only 21.7 minutes per game! He is also on a heater, converting 52% of his shots and 43% from downtown. His career numbers are 42%/35%. He doesn’t contribute much else, though.

Charlotte Hornets

The return of LaMelo Ball! Charlotte is third in pace, 17th in efficient field goal% and 12th in offensive efficiency. Last season, they were dead-last in both efficient field goal% and offensive efficiency. Defense is still a problem for this team, as they are 24th in defensive efficiency. As with Atlanta, Charlotte should provide plenty of fantasy-friendly games.

I need to talk about Gordon Hayward. He was going in the 150 range during the offseason and has been one of the steals of the draft season. He’s currently a Top 60 player on a per-game basis, averaging 17.3 points, 1.0 treys, 5.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks while shooting 48% from the field. The usage rate is 22.4. The one bugaboo is the 69% free-throw shooting, but he’s a career 82% shooter from the line. Can he stay healthy, though? He’s 33 years old and hasn’t exceeded 50 games in any of the past three seasons.

Miles Bridges can return in four games. I don’t see how he doesn’t see significant playing time. The team signed him to a one-year contract and he’s an unrestricted free agent after this season, so I’d imagine that they’d want to increase his value and flip him before the trade deadline. He averaged 35.5 minutes, 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.8 blocks last season. He may not be the same player after the long layoff and likely won’t see 35 minutes per game. That said, he will play enough to crimp the value of others. PJ Washington seems the most likely candidate to see a reduction in playing time.

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls still do not stampede, choosing to slog on offense. The front office decided to run it back, but things look to be close to imploding. Chicago is 3-5 and 22nd in defensive efficiency after being fifth last season. They scored 14% of their points off fastbreaks last season. They are at 11.3% this season. While they are still racking up steals, the Bulls are dead-last in defensive rebounds. No wonder they can’t get out on the break.

After some questions about the point guard position, Coby White has it by the horns. Jevon Carter is averaging only 15 minutes per game while Ayo Dosunmu is at 12. Patrick Williams is no longer starting and is outside the Top 200. Torrey Craig has replaced Williams in the starting lineup, but he’s very meh. He has racked up a steal in each of the three games, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Cleveland Cavaliers

All offseason, J.B. Bickerstaff emphasized playing with more pace, and the Cavs acquired Max Strus and Georges Niang to jack up more treys in order to space the floor for Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. After being dead-last in pace last season, the Cavs are 21st this season. As for treys, they launched 31.6 per game last season. They are at 36.3 so far this season. Unfortunately, the offensive efficiency has suffered, as they are 23rd this season after being eighth last season, but Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland have missed games. Cleveland is ninth in defensive efficiency after being first last season, but Jarrett Allen has also missed (a ton of) games.

Dallas Mavericks

After being 28th in pace last season, Dallas is eighth so far this season. A big reason why is that they have improved on the defensive glass and are able to get out in transition more. The defensive rebounding has gone from 31.2 to 32.7, while the fastbreak points have gone from 11 to 13. The defense has also improved, from 24th to 17th.

Grant Williams was a favorite of both mine and Eric’s in the offseason. He showed offensive chops in college, so I always knew he wasn’t a zero there. While he’s not a big usage guy, he’s a perfect fit alongside Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. He can pick-and-pop, be a hub in the middle or catch-and-shoot. His defensive versatility keeps him on the floor as well. He’s averaging 31.9 minutes, 15.1 points, 3.6 treys and 4.4 rebounds. He’s shooting a career-high 55% from the field. That is unsustainable, but he’s going to keep getting good looks. The 3.6 treys made is tied for the seventh-most in the league.

Dereck Lively II has been exactly what the doctor ordered for Dallas. His ability to clean the glass and protect the rim have been huge. In addition, the threat of Lively mashing down lobs has made Luka more unstoppable than he already is in the pick-and-roll. In the three games he wasn’t in foul trouble, Lively played an average of 30 minutes.

Denver Nuggets

7-1 (Yawn). Nikola Jokic yadda yadda yabba dabba dooo!!!

Denver continues to play methodically and highly-efficient on offense. They were 18th in defensive efficiency last season and are eighth so far this season. Has this team gotten better?!

With Jamal Murray out (hamstring), it was Reggie Jackson who got the start. He only played 24 minutes but that was due to the blowout nature of the game. Julian Strawther did play 19 minutes and went ballistic, shooting 8-of-13 from the field and 5-of-9 from downtown. The game was a blowout, so don’t go crazy, but he’s someone to keep in mind, especially since the team was raving about him all offseason. Murray is now out until December. Last season, Aaron Gordon saw the biggest usage bump (4.28), while Jackson saw a 2.16 increase.

Detroit Pistons

The return of Cade Cunningham has obviously made the offense better. The hiring of Monty Williams, though, has helped the defensive efficiency improve from 28th to 18th this season.

This focus on defense has affected Jaden Ivey, who is only averaging 20 minutes per game. Williams mentioned (lack of) defense as one of the reasons for the decreased role, while his ball-dominant ways fit better with the second unit.

Killian Hayes has benefited, starting all eight games and averaging 30.4 minutes, 9.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.4 steals. The shooting efficiency is rough at 38%, but he’s converting 35% of his attempts from downtown.

The guy to keep an eye on is Marcus Sasser, the 25th overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. He’s 23 years old and played four years in college. His calling card is his defense and toughness, but he was a career 36% shooter from downtown in college. After not getting much run to begin the season, he averaged 27.8 minutes over a four-game stretch, averaging 14 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.5 treys while shooting 52% from the field and 50% from downtown. Keep in mind that Alec Burks and Jaden Ivey were out due to injury. The shooting efficiency will regress, but there’s a chance Sasser has carved out a significant role with his play. We shall see how it plays out. I do think that Sasser could start alongside Cade at some point. The probabilities of that are small, but it’s within the range of outcomes. Sasser is rostered in 27% of Yahoo leagues.

Ausar Thompson is amazing. That is all.

Golden State Warriors

After leading the league in pace last season, the Warriors have dropped all the way down to 16th this season. The Chris Paul effect. That hasn’t affected their offensive efficiency, though, as they remain in the Top 10. Golden State was tops in three-point attempts at 43.2 per game last season. Through eight games this season, they are at 39.3 per game. They have also plummeted in the amount of fastbreak points, going from 14.5 to 10.3.

Last season, the Warriors struggled on the road, posting an 11-30 mark. So far this season, they are 5-1 on the road.

Chris Paul has started only two of eight games and has averaged 27.8 minutes. The 8.8 points are the first time under 10 in his career. He is still providing 7.8 dimes and 1.5 steals, though. Paul is only shooting 36% from the field and 13% from downtown. Those will likely get closer to his career averages of 47% and 36%. I think Paul fits extremely well with the Warriors, especially when Stephen Curry is off the floor. He’s able to orchestrate the offense and get quality shots for either himself or others. It’s all about melting that igloo that is surrounding him.

Andrew Wiggins is broken. He’s shooting 41% from the field, 17% from downtown and 53% from the line. In addition, he’s only playing 25 minutes per game. It’s like he has PTSD from whatever affected him last season. I don’t know what I’d do if I had him. It’s only been eight games and the shooting efficiency numbers are complete outliers. That said, he did deal with something last season and maybe it’s carried over? You probably have to hold for a bit, but I’m not sure how long of a leash I’d have, especially if he’s not getting 30 minutes of run.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets were a travesty last season and a source of fantasy goodies because they were 13th in pace while being 29th in defensive efficiency. Enter Ime Udoka, Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks. Houston now plays at the slowest pace in the league and is 16th in defensive efficiency. In addition, after being 28th in offensive efficiency, they are now a respectable 13th. They are assisting on 66.1% of made field goals now, after posting a 55.1% number last season. Interestingly, the shot diet has changed a bit. Last season, Houston was one of the top teams at scoring in the paint. That number has dropped 7% this season.

Just dropping in to say that Dillon Brooks will not continue shooting 59% from the field and 56% from downtown.

Alperen Sengun was a favorite of mine heading into this season. He is being utilized more in a Nikola Jokic role, seeing a 3% usage bump and dishing out 7.0 dimes compared to 3.9 last season. The turnovers have decreased as well. Playing 2.7 more minutes helps for the counting stats but there’s still room for improvement. He’s only blocking 0.2 shots after sending away 0.9 last season. In addition, he’s shooting only 57% from the free throw line. He’s more like a 70% shooter.

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers are second in pace. How fitting! They are fourth in offensive efficiency and have scored at least 120 points in six of seven games, which includes games of a 143, 155 and 152 points. Let us all take a moment of silence, bow your heads down and give reverence towards Tyrese Haliburton. Unfortunately for the Pacers, they are 27th in defensive efficiency. Fantasy goodies!!!

Obi Toppin is rostered in 40% of Yahoo leagues, but Aaron Nesmith, rostered in only 9% of leagues, is probably the better fantasy asset. Nesmith is averaging more points, treys and blocks. They are essentially splitting the power forward minutes down the middle.

Andrew Nembhard has booted T. J. McConnell from the rotation. If there’s a blowout or Haliburton is out with injury, then McConnell could resurface.

Los Angeles Clippers

James Harden made his debut with the Clippers on Monday. Harden garnered a 17.8 usage rate. Russell Westbrook led the team at 25.0. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were at 22.4 and 23.2, respectively. I don’t think that’s how things will remain going forward, as it’s going to take time to hammer out the dynamics and nuances. The Clippers are ninth in offensive efficiency and sixth in defensive efficiency. I’m curious to see how Harden affects both of those numbers.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers were 19th in offensive efficiency last season. They are 23rd this season. Gross. At least they are still playing good defense, sitting at 12th in defensive efficiency after being 13th last season.

LeBron James played 29 minutes in the opener, as the Lakers wanted to “preserve” him. He then received between 33-43 minutes in each of the next six games. (LOL!) LeBron is averaging 4.6 fewer shot attempts and 3.6 points from last season. He’s dishing out 0.9 fewer dimes but the defensive stats have spiked to 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks compared to 0.9 and 0.6 last season.

Austin Reaves has struggled a bit to start this season. He has seen a 4.8 usage increase but that’s come with 1.2 more turnovers and the shooting efficiency, part of what made him valuable, has plummeted. He’s shooting 43% from the field after posting a 52% mark last season. There is reason for optimism, though, as he went for 23 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists and a steal while shooting 9-of-14 from the field on Monday.

Memphis Grizzlies

1-6 to start the season. The offensive efficiency has tanked to 29th in the league after being 14th last season. In addition, the defense is 14th after being second best last season. Losing Steven Adams and Ja Morant has been big.

I’ve been a Ziaire Williams fan since the 2021 draft process. The first two seasons were littered with injuries, but he’s started all seven games this season. The stats aren’t eye-popping — 10.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 treys — but I think there’s more here. The team has him guarding point guards at times and initiating offense. He will never be the primary playmaker, especially when Morant returns, but he’s not strictly a catch-and-shoot player. Williams is rostered in 13% of Yahoo leagues.

Miami Heat

Miami has their culture and M.O., which is to train hard yet play slow. They are 21st in pace.

Point guard is an issue for the Heat, as Kyle Lowry is playing 30 minutes but averaging only 5.4 points while shooting 40% from the field. He is dishing out 4.7 dimes, racking up 1.4 steals and shooting 35% from downtown, though. That said, it looks like Tyler Herro has essentially taken over point guard duties. The usage rate has spiked from 25.6 to 29 this season and the assists have gone from 4.2 to 5.0.

I still have delusions that R.J. Hampton will be the point guard for the Heat at some point this season. Yes, I’m a stupid, stupid man.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are 10th in pace and offensive efficiency. That was the area they finished last season. With Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, we knew scoring wouldn’t be an issue. But, man, that defense. They were fourth in defensive efficiency last season. So far, they are all the way down at 26. Opponent field goal percentage is 48.8%, good for 24th in the league. Last season, it was second-best at 45.6%. Opponent three-point percentage is 37.3%, good for 21st. Last season, it was eighth-best at 35.4%.

Lillard is averaging 2.6 fewer minutes from last season, with a dip of 6.5 shots, 9.5 points, 3.6 trey attempts, 1.7 treys and 2.3 assists. Giannis is averaging 5.1 fewer points, with a dip of 3 shots, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

Minnesota Timberwolves

4-2 on the season, but 0-2 on the road. After being seventh in pace last season, Minnesota has dialed it down, playing at the 22nd-fastest pace. MIN was 11th in defensive efficiency last season, but is now tops in the league by a wide margin.

Naz Reid doesn’t start but is averaging 15.7 points in 23.8 minutes. He’s converting 46% of his attempts from downtown while shooting 92% from the line! That’s on 4.7 attempts from downtown and 2.3 from the line. His career numbers are 34% and 71%, respectively, so he’s not going to maintain that efficiency.

New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans is middle of the pack in pace and offensive efficiency, the same as last season. They’ve slipped on defense, though. when they were sixth in defensive efficiency — they are currently 19th.

CJ McCollum is out indefinitely with a collapsed lung, so Jordan Hawkins and Dyson Daniels will be the primary fill-ins. On Monday, Hawkins got the start and played 38 minutes, shooting 10-of-19 from the field and 7-of-14 from downtown for 31 points. He also chipped in 7 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. Daniels played 21 minutes and contributed 9 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block.

New York Knicks

Tom Thibodeu wants his teams to play good defense and be methodical on offense. New York is 27th in pace and third in defensive efficiency. Interestingly, the Knicks are ninth in fastbreak points after being 22nd last season. A big reason why is because they are fifth in steals per game. Last season, they were 25th. New York is also fouling less this season.

Jalen Brunson is shooting 40% from the field. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Woo saaah… Wooo saaah… He’s never finished below 46% in his career and posted marks of 49%, 50% and 52%, respectively, over the past three seasons. I will mortgage the house that he gets close to that mark again. Sorry, wifey and kids.

On the flip side, RJ Barrett is shooting 47% from the field and 44% from downtown. He has career marks of 42% and 34%. I believe the matrix will be making the necessary adjustments soon.

Julius Randle is shooting 29% from the field and 25% from downtown. What’s going on with these Knicks? He has career marks of 46% and 33%. Remember guys and girls, it’s only been seven games.

Oklahoma City Thunder

OKC is fifth in pace, the same as last season. They were 15th in offensive efficiency last season and are 11th so far this season. Defensively is where they have slipped a bit, going from 15th to 21st. That surprises me since they have Chet Holmgren this season, but maybe those 141 points the Warriors put up against them have skewed things.

A few weeks ago, Eric Wong wrote that one of the young Thunder players would disappoint: They all bring unique skills to the table, and the end result should be a very competitive Thunder team that is going to be lots of fun to watch. But fantasy-wise, it will be hard for all of them to live up to the high expectations of fantasy managers.” 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has scored 5.7 fewer points and seen the blocks get cut in half. The rebounds, assists and steals have increased, though. He’s still a Top 10 player. Holmgren is the 11th-ranked player on a per-game basis. Jalen Williams is right outside the Top 100 while Josh Giddey is outside the Top 200. Williams has scored more points and dished out more dimes, but the steals have plummeted from 1.4 to 0.6. Steals are so variable, though. Giddey is playing 2.5 fewer minutes, the points have gone from 16.6 to 12.7 due to 0.8 fewer shots and 8% decrease in efficiency, he’s grabbed 1.9 fewer rebounds, dished out 1.9 fewer dimes and the steals have gone from 0.8 to 0.4.

Cason Wallace is someone to keep an eye on. Wallace was the 10th overall pick in the 2023 draft. He was known as one of the best defenders in the class while being proficient on offense. To start the season, he’s averaged right at 23 minutes through seven games, getting one start. He’s already a part of the rotation and that could increase as the season progresses, depending on trades and injuries.Wallace is rostered in 3% of Yahoo leagues.

Orlando Magic

Orlando is 13th in pace, same as last season. They are 26th in offensive efficiency, also the same as last season. I admire the consistency. After being 12th in defensive efficiency last season, they are second best so far this season. They are a nightmare to play against with their length and switchability.

Franz Wagner is shooting 39% from the field, yet scoring the same 18 points per game as last year. That’s because he’s attempting three more shots. Franz shot 46% and 48%, respectively, in his first two seasons, so I’m not worried at all.

Jalen Suggs is… Jalen Suggs? Some were expecting a third-year leap but the shooting efficiency concerns still remain.

With Wendell Carter Jr. out, Goga Bitadze and Moritz Wagner will split the center duties. Goga is rostered in 25% of Yahoo leagues while Wagner is at 28%.

Philadelphia 76ers

Doc Rivers had the 76ers slog their way to the 27th-fastest pace. So far, Nick Nurse has the 76ers at 11th and they are first in fastbreak points and offensive efficiency. The defense hasn’t suffered either, as they are still Top 10.

With James Harden gone, Tyrese Maxey has filled in more than admirably. His usage rate was 23.9 last season and it’s only at 24.1 this season, but he’s a Top 10 player compared to Top 80. That’s because he’s playing 3.6 more minutes, attempting 2.5 more shots, scoring 5.2 more points, grabbing 1.6 more rebounds and dishing out 3.8 more dimes. He’s also shooting 50% from the field, 44% from downtown and 93% from the line. His career marks are 48%, 41% and 86%, so it’s plausible that they stay elevated. The free throw percentage is on a healthy five attempts per game as well.

Remember the Paul Reed hype over the summer? Those were good times. I did have concerns back then because Nurse only said that he may play Reed alongside Joel Embiid. He never said how many minutes or offer more details about it. That said, I was a coward and hedged, so I can’t victory lap, although I’m not one to victory lap in the first place. Reed is averaging 13.3 minutes per game this season.

Kelly Oubre Jr. was a hot commodity off the wire because he had played 29, 26, 30 and 35 minutes, respectively, hoisting up an average of 14.5 shots. He scored double-digit points in all of those contests, with two above 20. In the most recent contest, though, he played 27 minutes and attempted only five shots. Was it due to the blowout? Or was it due to the incorporation of the players acquired in the Harden trade? Something to monitor going forward.

Phoenix Suns

Phoenix is 15th in pace after being 18th last season. They are 13th in offensive efficiency, but have dealt with a plethora of injuries. They are 11th in defensive efficiency, but all of these numbers will change once Devin Booker and Bradley Beal are healthy.

Jusuf Nurkic is shooting only 37% from the field, but he’s dishing out 4.3 assists while racking up 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks. He’s a Top 70 player on a per-game basis and things could get better. Once Beal and Booker return to action, he could get easy looks.

Portland Trail Blazers

Portland is 24th in pace after being 17th last season. They are dead-last in offensive efficiency while surprisingly sitting 10th in defensive efficiency. Last season, they were 18th in offensive efficiency and 27th in defensive efficiency.

Unfortunately, the Blazers are dealing with injuries to Scoot Henderson, Anfernee Simons and Robert Williams. Malcolm Brogdon and Shaedon Sharpe are the biggest beneficiaries.

I’m not the biggest Deandre Ayton fan and posted a video on Twitter that showed him loafing around. That said, there’s no denying the rebounding and defensive contributions. He’s leading the league with 13.3 rebounds per game while racking up 2.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. His career average for steals is 0.7, so if you think the 2.3 steals are sustainable, then I have a buffet to sell you.

Toumani Camara intrigues me. He was drafted with the 52nd overall pick in the 2023 draft, but he flashed during Summer League and is receiving significant run with the Blazers. He’s played an average of 26.4 minutes in the past five games. He’s scored in double-figures just once and has serious shooting efficiency issues. That said, he’s young, athletic and can grab rebounds and rack up defensive stats. He’s rostered in 2% of Yahoo leagues.

Sacramento Kings

The Kings were 12th in pace last season and are 23rd this season. They are 25th in offensive efficiency after leading the league last season. Not having De’Aaron Fox is kind of a big deal, huh? Although Mike Brown has tried to make defense more of a priority this season, they are still ranked in the 20s.

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs were second in pace last season and are sixth this season. They were 29th in offensive efficiency last season and are 19th this season. That Victor Wembanyama guy is good, huh? Defensively, the team is still a mess. After being dead-last in defensive efficiency last season, they are 28th.

On the Spurs’ first back-to-back of the season, Wembanyama played in both games. The Spurs have 11 back-to-backs the rest of the season. I doubt he plays in all of them this season, but it’s a good sign regardless.

Toronto Raptors

Despite having a new coach, the Raptors are bottom five in pace again. Toronto was 15th in offensive efficiency last season, though, and are only 27th this season. Defensively, they’ve been very good, posting the fifth-best mark, compared to 13th last season.

Scottie Barnes has taken that leap. He’s literally doing it all and the efficiency has been chef’s kiss. He’s shooting 51% from the field and 42% from downtown. He looks mighty comfortable making it rain from downtown. Barnes is averaging 22.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 2.3 treys and 2.1 blocks. Not sure that blocks number sticks, but even if it comes back down to 1.0, that’s a helluva line. Barnes was a favorite of Eric’s in the offseason and I have him on eight of 26 teams.

Dennis Schroder was a late-round favorite of mine as well, as he was likely going to start, play 30 minutes and produce those precious dimes. He’s averaging 33.3 minutes, 16.9 points, 1.0 steals… and 8.9 dimes! I was expecting more like 5.0 dimes, so wowzers. In addition, his ADP was in the 140s and he’s posting Top 60 numbers. Not sure this is sustainable, especially the 41% shooting from downtown, so enjoy this heater while it lasts.

Pascal Siakam has been brutal to start the season, and it may not get better. Sure, the efficiency could improve, as it’s currently at 41%, compared to the 48% from last season. Unfortunately, the usage rate has dropped from 26.8 to 21.2. It was supposed to go up with Fred VanVleet gone. The counting stats across the board are down. He’s too good of a player not to bounce back, but not sure he sniffs Top 40 this season.

Utah Jazz

Utah is 13th in pace after being 11th last season. They are 15th in offensive efficiency after being 12th last season, so status quo. The defensive efficiency was 23rd last season, but it’s at 29th this season.

The big question in Utah is the point guard rotation. Will Hardy has a ton of options at his disposal and has decided to start Talen Horton-Tucker and Jordan Clarkson, while bringing Kris Dunn, Collin Sexton and Keyonte George off the bench. His reasoning was that he felt that Clarkson paired well with Lauri Markkanen and THT paired well with Clarkson. In addition, he liked having the veteran presence of Dunn to manage George and Sexton on the second unit. How long does this last, though? THT has had his moments and can put up counting stats, but the defense is still suspect and he’s shooting 38% from the field. George is the point guard of the future, but do they want to rush him into the role now? I wrote most of this piece on Tuesday and George has been inserted into the starting lineup for Wednesday’s game. Walker Kessler is out, so not sure if that’s the main reason. This is a fluid situation but the transition may have happened already. We shall see.

Kessler hasn’t made the leap as many expected. He is tied for third with 17 blocks but is 23rd in rebounds and has been inconsistent. He’s grabbed double-digit rebounds in three games but had four in each of the other two. He scored 15 and 22 points but notched four points in each of the other three. He’s played over 30 minutes just once and, if teams go small, he’s sitting on the bench. Paying over Top 100 for a three-category player is much different than paying a Top 50 price. Kessler is now out for a week or so due to an elbow issue. Kelly Olynyk is a must add if he’s available. He’s rostered on 37% of Yahoo teams.

Washington Wizards

Washington is where fantasy nirvana resides. The Wizards are tops in pace by a wide margin while being dead-last in defensive efficiency. Opponents receive the biggest fantasy points per minute boost of 14.75%, while opposing point guards, in particular, see a whopping 25.02% boost (stats courtesy of

I had some expectations that Bilal Coulibaly could start at some point, but I have doubts that will happen now. Jordan Poole is locked in at shooting guard while Kyle Kuzma is the power forward. He’s currently splitting minutes with Deni Avdija and I think Avdija will get significant run all season. The Wizards signed Avdija to a four-year, $55 million extension prior to the season and he’s has been playing very well, averaging 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 treys and 1.2 steals while shooting 56% from the field and 50% from downtown. He won’t maintain that efficiency, but the team obviously likes him. I think Coulibaly and Avdija split the small forward minutes all season, capping the upside for both.

(Photo of Washington Wizards: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

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