Two weeks into the 2017-18 NBA season, it’s time for another shakeup of our rest-of-season fantasy basketball rankings.
We’re still firmly parked in small-sample-size territory, with no team having played more than eight games heading into Wednesday, but certain players are already making their average draft position look regrettable (both for positive and negative reasons). The fantasy community as a whole prognosticated breakout seasons for Aaron Gordon and Victor Oladipo, but we still may have been too low on them in retrospect. Meanwhile, Eric Bledsoe remains in Phoenix purgatory, Julius Randle’s contract year is off to a rocky start, and the Sacramento Kings have already embarked upon their first veteran-rest days.
What does all of this mean for fantasy owners? For those in nine-category, head-to-head leagues, these rankings should help shine a light on how to value players moving forward. Below the rankings, read more about some notable risers and fallers from the week.
Aaron Gordon, PF, Orlando Magic: The fantasy community on average had Gordon ranked nearly 20 spots higher than his average draft position, and in retrospect, we still may have undersold his breakout potential. Through five games, the fourth-year forward has poured in 21.0 points on 54.9 percent shooting, 9.0 rebounds, 2.6 triples, 2.4 assists, 1.0 blocks and 0.8 steals in 30.3 minutes per game, giving him top-20 value on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues. Considering he averaged 0.6 triples on 28.9 percent shooting across his first three seasons, his output from deep—he’s shooting 58.8 percent!—easily qualifies as the biggest surprise of his early-season output. Though he figures to regress to the mean somewhat, Gordon’s breakout is real, and it’s spectacular. As such, he’s a top-50 rest-of-season value, and owners should not attempt to sell high on him barring a godfather offer.
Eric Bledsoe, PG, Phoenix Suns: Bledsoe received a mention in last week’s rest-of-season rankings, but he plunged even further this week. With no foreseeable end to his exile from the Suns—general manager Ryan McDonough told Scott Bordow of AZCentral.com, “We are open to doing a deal whenever the best offer presents itself”—there’s a non-zero chance that Phoenix waits until after Dec. 15, when players who signed as free agents this summer are eligible to be traded. You should still hold Bledsoe (or buy low on him if another owner is panicking), but set your expectations low for him over the next few weeks. He’s best treated as a long-term stash, similar to Isaiah Thomas or Nic Batum.
Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana Pacers: Much like Gordon, the entire fantasy community both loved Oladipo and still may have been too low on him. He scored a season-low 14 points in the Pacers’ rout of the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, yet he’s still posting top-20 value on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues with season-long averages of 23.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.3 triples and 1.7 steals in just 30.8 minutes per game. Myles Turner’s imminent return from a concussion may cut into Oladipo’s production moving forward, but fantasy owners should still treat him as someone with top-40 upside on the year. Don’t attempt to sell high unless you receive a true bounty in return.
Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers: After an up-and-down start to the season, Julius Randle appears to be settling into his bench role, as he’s averaging 12.6 points on 67.6 percent shooting, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 blocks and 0.6 steals over his past five games. Fantasy owners should be most concerned with one number, though: his limited number of minutes. With Kyle Kuzma and Larry Nance Jr. siphoning playing time from him, Randle has yet to play more than 24 minutes in a game this year. Barring an injury, he appears to be stuck in a value-sucking timeshare, so owners who spent a top-75 pick on him should adjust their expectations accordingly. If he has a few big games in a row, shop him before your fellow leaguemates realize the limits to his upside.
Andre Drummond, C, Detroit Pistons: Fantasy owners who weren’t scared off by Drummond’s dismal free-throw shooting must be delighted. Not only is the Pistons center his typical nightly double-double threat—he’s averaging 12.5 points on 51.2 percent shooting and 14.1 rebounds through eight games—but he’s also shooting a career-best 70.0 percent from the charity stripe and averaging career highs in assist (2.9) and steals (2.1) per game. If Drummond’s improved free-throw shooting is “for real,” as Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy recently claimed, he’ll no longer be cancerous in roto leagues. He’s currently ranked among the top 30 in per-game value for nine-category formats, and fantasy owners should treat him as a top-50 asset moving forward.
George Hill, PG, Sacramento Kings: After putting up surprisingly game efforts over the first week of the season, the Kings are starting to go off the rails. They rested their veterans in a 27-point thumping at the hands of Washington on Sunday, and an 18-point thrashing against Indiana on Tuesday raised major concerns about the fantasy stocks of their veteran players, most notably Hill. After handing him a three-year, $57 million contract in free agency, Sacramento had to expect more than the 9.5 points on 44.9 percent shooting, 3.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 0.7 triples it’s gotten out of Hill in 28.3 minutes across six games. With rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox routinely outplaying him and the Kings holding a one-way ticket to the lottery dais, it’s fair to question whether Hill has a feasible path toward top-100 upside this season.
Clint Capela, PF/C, Houston Rockets: Drummond isn’t the only free-throw-challenged big man shooting shockingly well from the charity stripe thus far this season. Though it’s an admittedly small sample, Capela has gone 14-of-18 on free-throw attempts through his first eight games, a marked increase over the 53.1 percent he shot last season. Coupled with career-high marks in points (13.5), rebounds (11.3) and blocks (1.4), is it any wonder why Capela is posting top-25 value on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues? Once Chris Paul returns from his knee injury, the Rockets will have a second All-Star floor general feeding Capela a steady diet of lobs and relying on him as a pick-and-roll rim-runner, so a top-50 campaign isn’t out of the question moving forward. For now, he falls just outside of that range, but he’ll continue rising if this production proves sustainable.
Nerlens Noel, C, Dallas Mavericks: On the flip side of the “shockingly productive centers” conversation is Noel, who eschewed a long-term contract offer from the Mavericks this offseason to bet on himself in unrestricted free agency next summer. That’s looking like a mistake through eight games, as Noel is averaging only 7.3 points on 61.1 percent shooting, 6.3 rebounds, 0.9 blocks and 9.9 steals in 19.4 minutes per game. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is showing no urgency in relying more heavily upon Noel even though the team is hemorrhaging the second-most points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com, which begs the question of how he’ll live up to his draft-day price of 98.7. Given his ability to be a defensive difference-maker, Noel is still worth owning in leagues of all sizes, but owners should recalibrate their expectations for him until Carlisle begins leaning on him more frequently.
All ownership percentages via ESPN.com. All average draft position info via FantasyPros. All rankings via Basketball Monster are based on nine-category leagues and are current heading into Wednesday, Nov. 1.