Read below for points-league rankings and reaction.
Points-league rankings and reaction
Given that I had a 76ers tattoo branded on my left ankle when I was a teenager in the late 90s during the ascension of Allen Iverson, I can understand why my opinions might appear less than objective when it comes to evaluating the team's roster. Then again, I was fairly modest in ranking Ben Simmons third among rookies for fantasy purposes entering the season, which now appears awfully conservative, given his amazing production through two weeks as a professional point forward. Simmons joins triple-double machine and unquestioned all-timer Oscar Robertson as the only two players to being their NBA careers by averaging at least 18.4 points, 7.7 assists and 9.1 rebounds through seven games.
In the context of the Player Rater, Simmons is "just" 43rd among NBA players on the season, but this index is a better tool for evaluating value in category leagues that demand statistical balance, like roto formats.
In this weekly content series, I instead focus on standard ESPN points leagues, which equate each statistical contribution into a singular fantasy result. Which is to say, we covet volume in points leagues and not specialization. You can imagine then that Simmons' awesome blend of rebounding and assist production fuels rare success in such formats, as he's currently just behind Kristaps Porzingis for 14th overall in fantasy points per game using the standard ESPN scoring key.
The rare success Simmons is enjoying as a ball-dominant point guard who is somehow averaging 14.4 rebounding chances and is third in the NBA with 98.7 touches per game vaults him into the top 20 among fantasy commodities going forward.
Each week I'm asked to react to the growing sample of production and adjust rest-of-season rankings in ESPN points leagues based on the sustainability of what we've already witnessed this season. As I mentioned last week, think of these rankings as a guide as if you were drafting in a points league this week. You might even take Simmons higher than 18th overall, given this is just his first two weeks in the league.
Even though we're only 8.5 percent of the way into the season for most players (assuming seven games played as the common rate at this point), I think we should begin progressively readjusting and reassessing the market for value.
It's becoming clear with each big box score that a transformative shift has occurred for Orlando's Aaron Gordon, as he's reworked his outside shot and is enjoying a 65 percent leap in scoring production, thanks to increased efficiency and exposure, with 31.4 percent more shots (and much more from 3-point range) than last season. At some point, a growing sample of success, especially when usage rates are also dramatically shifting, demands our trust. Sticking in Orlando, I'm having a tough time trusting that Nikola Vucevic is suddenly a stretch center, but the numbers (1.9 3-pointers per game), reveal a real shift in usage and, thus, production. The Magic frontcourt is proving awesomely promising this season, which is reflected in the rankings this week.
With an eye on the top risers deeper in the rankings, it's worth wondering if the Pacers' Domantas Sabonis can sustain his double-double pattern once Myles Turner returns to the fold. Sabonis is currently 37th in fantasy points per game as the key big for Indiana, but we'll learn a lot about his stock over the coming weeks with Turner on the mend. For now, I'm going to be conservative with Sabonis, but suggest you roster him until the rotation really settles in Indiana.
If it's difficult to endorse Sabonis as an enduring fantasy starter, I have no reservations supporting Houston's Clint Capela as a top-30 asset for the rest of the season in this rebound-friendly format. Capela is besting the likes of Rudy Gobert and Joel Embiid in fantasy production, thanks to awesome rebounding efficiency and what could be the league's best pick-and-roll collective with James Harden and Chris Paul in the fold.
Speaking of substantial shifts in efficiency, Utah's Ricky Rubio is not only the same special distributor and defender he's long been, he now stretches the floor with nearly two made 3-pointers per game, adding needing scoring pop to his impressive fantasy stock. Getting cheap shares of Rubio and Rodney Hood could prove rewarding for those seeking an infusion of guard play at what should be reasonable pricing.
Among notable deflations in the rankings, Paul George is sacrificing a good bit of point production and is seeing a sizable downturn in complementary stats, such as rebounds and assists, while integrating into an offense that funnels through Russell Westbrook. There will be better days ahead for George, but I fear most of his value surfaces best in category formats, where his 2.7 steals and nice shooting clip translates to providing help at often scarce stats, whereas his loss of volume in a new role really curbs the appeal in points leagues.
I'd take his recent surge in scoring as a window to market George in points leagues, as I just don't see him matching the early-round price tag from drafts in this format. For some context, George is hovering in the 60s in fantasy points in standard points leagues right now as a direct peer of players like James Johnson and DeMarre Carroll. I'd honestly rather have Dwight Howard than George in this format for the rest of the way, signaling just how favorable points leagues are for rostering productive rebounders.
Given how friendly this format is for the double-double producers around the league, I suggest you bookmark this resource for rebounding opportunities as a quick resource for identifying value. For example, Sabonis is currently 12th in the league with 18.2 rebounding chances per game. Keep an eye on his rate once Turner returns to gauge his real value. Meanwhile, the Knicks' Enes Kanter is feasting on 20.7 such opportunities per game, fifth in the league and a measure of his promise as a top-60 prospect for the remainder of the season.