Week 8 of the NBA season is behind us, and now it’s time to reflect, overreact and assess the fantasy basketball landscape. We’re a third of the way through the NBA season and equipped with plenty of data to evaluate player performance. With Week 9 underground, keeping tabs on the players showing sustained performance indicators or those due for a market correction is important if you’re wondering if you should buy, sell or hold a specific player.
Let’s dive into this week’s risers and fallers.
Damien Lillard – PG/SG, Portland Trail Blazers
Current per game rank: 22
You don’t have to check your watch to know when it’s Dame Time. Damian Lillard only played in 15 games this season due to injuries, but he’s wasted no time since coming back from his latest calf ailment.
In his first three games back, Lillard averaged 32.3 points, 8.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 5.7 threes per game with 47/45/100 shooting splits. He finished Week 8 No. 1 in per-game value (edging out Joel Embid), which carried right into Week 9. He continued his heat check on Monday:
He only played 29 minutes, and if it weren’t for a blowout, Lillard had a legitimate shot at tying Clay Thompson‘s record of 14 in a game (more on him shortly).
The Blazers are 10-5 with Lillard in the lineup this season. Barring another injury, Lillard is on track to deliver first-round value again for fantasy managers who believed in his comeback this season.
Klay Thompson – SG/SF, Golden State Warriors
Current per-game rank: 81
Klay Thompson made it to the fallers list in week 3 because he was ranked 257th in per-game value after carrying a preseason ADP of 59. Regretfully, I didn’t call him a buy-low because I wanted to know if that version of Klay was the start of hitting rock bottom or actually rock bottom.
In retrospect, it What rock bottom because, since November 1, Klay has been averaging 21.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 4.5 threes and 1.5 stocks per game. He’s been providing fourth-round value since early November (48th) and is clearly out of his early-season slump.
He is far from washed, and if you think I’m wrong, look at his performance against the best team in the NBA, the Boston Celticsa few days ago:
He’ll still rest on some back-to-back sets, but Klay looks like he’s nearing mid-season form and playing close to fantasy managers’ expectations this season. I mean, the dude is throwing paper airplanes in press conferences now — he’s having fun again and scoring in bunches, so fantasy managers should enjoy the value he brings in H2H leagues for scoring, threes and stocks.
Kristaps Porzingis – PF/C, Washington Wizards
Current per game rank: 16
The Wizards aren’t a good basketball team, but they’ve produced three top-100 players in fantasy, led by the Unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis. He’s enjoying one of the best statistical seasons of his seven-year career and has only missed one game this season heading into Week 9.
Porzingis’ skillset has always been perfect for fantasy basketball because, as a big man, he can stretch the floor, rebound at a high rate and protect the rim. His preseason ADP was 46, so his performance has been phenomenal. Over the past two weeks, Porzingis is 8th in per-game value and 10th in total value.
And in typical fashion, as I’m writing this up, Porzingis left Monday’s contest with tightness in his back.
Porzingis has been the best player for the Wizards this season. He leads the Wizards in usage rate, and he’s quietly putting together an All-Star campaign-type resume. If any fantasy manager panics over Porzingis’ back injury, make a move — because he is one of the best bigs in fantasy.
Scottie Barnes – SG/SF, Toronto Raptors
Current per-game rank: 111
I’m not intentionally taking shots at the Toronto Raptors (Gary Trent Jr What on my fallers list last week), but I’ve let Scottie Barnes’ mediocre play carry on unchecked for too long. Barnes was the Rookie of the Year last season and took the fantasy world by storm with its versatility and all-encompassing, unique skillset.
Despite averaging more assists and threes made this season, Barnes is down in nearly every other fantasy-relevant category (points, rebounds, steals, FG percentage, free-throw percentage).
It doesn’t look like Barnes improved from last season, but it’s best to remember that he’s only 21 years old, and sometimes players hit a wall in their second year. A couple of trends I’ve noticed are that his rebounding has improved month over month, as he’s pulling down 9.2 boards/game in December compared to only 5.8 in October and 6.5 in November. But as his rebounds went up, his assists have gone down month over month. His shooting looks like it’s rounding into form, however, shooting over 50% compared to only 39% in November.
Given that he’s showing signs of life in scoring and rebounding with room for improvement in other areas, Barnes is a solid buy-low. He’s outside the top 100 in per-game value and is coming off a couple of poor games against Orlando on Friday and Sunday. His preseason ADP was 44, so he will have to step it up considerably to come close to his earlier ranking.
De’Aaron Fox – PG/SG, Sacramento Kings
Current per game rank: 38
One of the best guards in fantasy this season, De’Aaron Fox has been struggling over the past two weeks. He’s been 120th in per-game value over that span, registering 15 points, five rebounds and four assists while shooting 40% from the field.
But this isn’t a typical slump. Fox has been playing hurt.
Playing with an injury is nothing new in sports, but Fox admitted that his right foot has been bothering him for a while now; he injured it on November 5. He said the injury wouldn’t cost him any games, but he’s missed his last two contests with right foot soreness.
The Kings (14-11) are fifth in the Western Conference and second in the Pacific Division through Tuesday. The Kings will undoubtedly need Fox if they want to keep their standing in a tough conference, so the rest of the days are likely a good thing for their soon-to-be All-Star.
I’d buy low on Fox before he returns to the lineup (he’s questionable on Tuesday), but it might be tricky prying him away from a fantasy manager. Use his recent performance as a negotiating tactic over his full-season ranking, and you might have a shot!