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Fantasy 30: Walker on the rise, Lopez falling, Westbrook worrisome

The only people who really understand how good Kemba Walker is in fantasy may be those who have him on their teams. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

We're not even three full weeks into the NBA season and already there is so much going on, from key injuries to struggling stars and surprising trends. No matter which team you call your own, this is all part of what makes the NBA great, so get on board!

Here's a list of the most fantasy-relevant news and notes for all 30 teams around the league heading into the week:

Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks (1-7) are in the basement in the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division, and there aren't a lot of great fantasy options on this rebuilding roster. But one who shouldn't be overlooked is second-year swingman Taurean Prince. The athletic wing is second on the team in scoring (13.8 PPG) behind Dennis Schroder (22.7 PPG) and is playing more than 31 MPG, which again ranks behind only Schroder. Prince shoots the 3 (48.1 3FG%, 1.6 3PG), hits the glass (6.1 RPG), is active defensively (1.5 SPG) and is a capable distributor (2.1 APG).

Boston Celtics: What a start to the season for Al Horford. While we're still in early November and sample size is small, there's a lot to like about the way the 31-year-old is playing in the absence of Gordon Hayward. Horford's 11.5 rebounds per 40 minutes is a rate he hasn't reached since his rookie season (12.4), his 61.1 true shooting percentage is far and away the best of his career, and his 5.5 assists per 40 minutes shows that his improvement as a distributor last season was no fluke.

Brooklyn Nets: One of the biggest factors to consider when looking at a player's fantasy production is the amount of time they're typically on the court, and right now that's the biggest concern regarding D'Angelo Russell. With Jeremy Lin lost for the season, many expected Russell to see a rise in minutes for this short-handed Nets backcourt, but so far the third-year guard is averaging only 26.4 MPG and has yet to be on the court for more than 30 minutes in any of the seven games he has played in. On the flip side, Russell is currently shooting a career-best 46.6 percent and also posting career highs in scoring (21.7 PPG), rebounds (4.1 RPG) and assists (5 APG).

Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker doesn't garner the accolades that Damian Lillard does, but the similarly undersized point guard is putting up Lillard-like numbers this season and shooting much more efficiently than the Portland star. Walker currently ranks No. 14 on ESPN's Player Rater, while Lillard comes in at No. 9, but the Hornets' point guard is shooting 48.4 percent from the field compared to Lillard's 40.5 percent. It's safe to say the only fantasy managers who fully appreciate Walker's fantasy value are the ones who have him on their team.

Chicago Bulls: Kris Dunn got a late start to his second NBA season, missing the Bulls' first four games due to a dislocated finger, and he has played 25.5 MPG in his first two games with his new team. While Dunn has played behind Jerian Grant thus far, there's a real chance he could take the starting job in the near future and grab the lion's share of the minutes at the point. Touted as a defensive-minded point guard when Minnesota selected him No. 5 overall in 2016, Dunn is an inefficient shooter but can become a fantasy asset on this undermanned Bulls roster in terms of assists, steals and rebounds.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson, one of the NBA's most durable players, strained his calf on Wednesday and is expected to miss three to four weeks. Veteran swingman Jae Crowder is expected to step into the starting lineup while Thompson is out, giving the Cavs a smaller starting five. In five starts this season, Crowder has averaged 25 MPG, which is basically the same playing time he has had in three games off the bench (24 MPG).

Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr. is easily the most exciting player to watch on the Mavericks this season, but he is heavily overhyped as a fantasy player. In his first seven NBA games, the dynamic rookie point guard is shooting just 39.8 percent from the field and 52 percent from the free throw line. He'd have to light it up in the other categories to make up for those percentages, but he's averaging 12.3 PPG, 5.1 APG, 0.9 SPG and 1 3PG. While his upside is high in the years ahead, he's a streamer right now.

Denver Nuggets: How good can Jamal Murray be? That's the question today after three consecutive games with more than 20 points and better than 50 percent shooting. From a fantasy standpoint, the concern with Murray is that he remains mostly just a scorer; he's averaging only 2.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 0.5 steals and is shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 23.7 percent from long range. His talent and upside is readily apparent, but right now, Murray is more valuable in points leagues than categories leagues.

Detroit Pistons: The sample size is small, but it might be time to pay a little closer attention to the home/road splits of Tobias Harris. The veteran forward is shooting 51.7 percent and averaging 24 points and six rebounds in three home games, and his road numbers are considerably worse -- 46.2 FG%, 18.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG. It's not uncommon for a player to be better at home than on the road, and Harris did shoot 2.8 percent better at home last season, but this drastic difference is something to keep an eye on if the trend continues. And if it does, use it to your advantage.

Golden State Warriors: One early-season trend for the Warriors is improved shooting out of a player many consider one of the best shooters of all time -- Klay Thompson. While Thompson is playing the same amount of minutes as last season (roughly 34 MPG) and taking right around the same amount of shots (16.6 FGA), his true shooting percentage of 61.9 percent is a career best for the seventh-year pro.

Houston Rockets: As far as buy-low candidates go, few are better right now than Houston's Trevor Ariza. The veteran has been a sneaky-good source of 3s and steals for the better part of a decade, and if he's available in your league because of a slow start (7.6 PPG, 5 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 29.6 FG%), don't hesitate to snag him before someone else does. Ariza is too talented of a player to have his numbers stay in this range.

Indiana Pacers: A concussion in the season opener against Brooklyn has caused Pacers center Myles Turner to miss the past seven games, but it sounds as though he's nearing a return to the court. Friday's road game at Philadelphia is a possible return date for the third-year standout, and if he misses that, the Pacers' next game is Sunday at New York.

LA Clippers: DeAndre Jordan's scoring is down three points a game from last season, thanks in part to a cold shooting start by his lofty standards. The good news is he's rebounding as well as ever before. His 15.3 RPG lead the league, ahead of Dwight Howard (14.5 RPG) and Andre Drummond (14.1 RPG).

Los Angeles Lakers: Raise your hand if you expected Brook Lopez to play less than 24 MPG after coming over to the Lakers in the trade for Russell over the summer. OK, now put your hand down. With the Lakers having an abundance of athletic forwards and rotating all of them -- Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and Kyle Kuzma -- in and out of the lineup, there's always a temptation to go small and force the other team to play without its center. That's hurting Lopez, and his numbers are way, way down (11.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.4 BPG) as a result. You're not going to be able to fetch much for him via trade -- maybe someone like Ariza, at best -- so the best thing to do is remain patient and hope his minutes rise in the near future.

Memphis Grizzlies: For many years, Tyreke Evans had one big weakness and couldn't seem to hide it: He couldn't shoot the 3. If you haven't noticed, that has changed. It started last season, when he connected on a career-best 43.8 percent of his shots from long range after (re)joining the Kings, and it has carried over to this season (45.7 percent). Yes, this is a small sample size, but currently the 28-year-old is on pace to set career highs in 3s attempted per game (4.4) and made (2.0).

Miami Heat: Hassan Whiteside returned Wednesday against Chicago after missing five games because of a bone bruise in his knee, and although he recorded a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds, he failed to block a shot. That's something to watch closely in the weeks ahead, because Whiteside's blocks fell drastically last season (from 3.7 BPG in 2015-16 to 2.1 BPG in 2016-17), and he currently has only one block in 63 minutes. Whiteside will drop into the mid-to-late 20s in the overall fantasy rankings if he sees another drop in his blocks this season.

Milwaukee Bucks: Thon Maker began the season as the Bucks' starting center with Greg Monroe coming off the bench, but now that Monroe is sidelined for two weeks, coach Jason Kidd has turned to John Henson over Maker in the starting five. The bottom line is Maker still has a ways to go to become an impact player in fantasy. The 20-year-old is averaging just 4.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG and shooting 35.1 percent in Milwaukee's first eight games.

Minnesota Timberwolves: It almost seemed like a misprint -- Towns scoring two points and grabbing five rebounds in 23 minutes against New Orleans. Credit the uncharacteristically bad performance to early foul trouble for the third-year star, and don't read more into it unless the 21-year-old has another bad game during Saturday's home contest against the Mavericks.

New Orleans Pelicans: Things will change when Rajon Rondo enters the rotation, but for now E'Twaun Moore is worthy of your attention. For one, the Purdue product is averaging close to 32 MPG, giving him ample opportunity to rack up stats. Secondly, he's doing just that, shooting 51.4 percent while averaging 10.9 PPG, 1.4 SPG and 1.5 3PG. As far as streaming options go, Moore is one of the better options to consider at this stage.

New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis didn't practice on Thursday and is questionable to play in Friday's home game against Phoenix. Those of you with Porzingis on your team will need to track his status closely for this one, as you won't want to miss out on his presence (27.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG) in your lineup against a bad Suns defense if he ends up playing.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook has been heavily impacted by the additions of Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, and it's safe to say Westbrook's numbers have suffered more than I anticipated. As of Thursday, he's all the way down at No. 30 on the Player Rater, as his scoring has dropped 12 PPG (from 31.6 to 19.6), his usage is down from 42.5 to 33.1, and his shots per game are down from 24 to 15.4. Even if you're being optimistic, Westbrook doesn't appear to be a top-eight fantasy option right now.

Orlando Magic: Chalk this up as something I never thought I'd see: Aaron Gordon shooting 57.7 percent from 3-point land. While that type of efficiency is not sustainable for anyone, let alone Gordon, it is both impressive and a good indication that the 22-year-old is much improved from long range in his fourth NBA season. Gordon looks to be well on his way to a career year, averaging 20.7 PPG and 8.7 RPG, and his impact as a 3-point shooter (2.5 3PG), distributor (2.3 APG) and defender (1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG) are welcome additions to his game.

Philadelphia 76ers: Watch any 76ers game this season and you will undoubtedly notice the rare passing ability of their bigs, from Joel Embiid to Ben Simmons, and one of the reasons it stands out is because of the 3-point prowess of Robert Covington -- who continues to be one of the most underrated players in the league. The 6-foot-9 small forward has a knack for creating just enough space to shoot the long-range jumper, and he's off to a torrid start, shooting 48.2 percent from behind the arc in the 76ers' first eight games. Covington's 3.4 3PG makes him hugely valuable in fantasy when you also factor in his 14.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 1.8 SPG.

Phoenix Suns: Suddenly the Suns are 4-4, with all four wins coming under interim head coach Jay Triano. What Triano has done well is identify the players who deserve minutes (such as Dragan Bender) and the ones who might still need more time (such as promising rookie Josh Jackson). Bender's fantasy value is rapidly on the rise under Triano, and he has played 21 minutes or more in four straight games, averaging 7.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.5 BPG and 1.5 3PG over that span. While the 19-year-old is still a streamer at best, he's showing flashes of the talent expected when the Suns took him No. 4 overall last June. Keep an eye on Bender -- the better he does, the more he will probably eat into Marquese Chriss' minutes.

Portland Trail Blazers: Al-Farouq Aminu sprained his right ankle in Wednesday's loss to Utah and has been ruled out for Thursday's game against the Lakers, giving Noah Vonleh a chance to step in and start at power forward in his second game of the season. Vonleh missed the early portion of the Blazers' schedule while recovering from a shoulder injury and will split minutes at the four with veteran Ed Davis and rookie Caleb Swanigan.

Sacramento Kings: Celtics coach Brad Stevens compared speedy Kings rookie De'Aaron Fox to Memphis' Mike Conley following Boston's win over Sacramento on Wednesday, and Wizards star John Wall is another player Fox has been compared to early in his NBA career. Not bad. Fox is doing a good job of taking care of the basketball (1.9 TPG in 27 MPG), and his 12.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 5.1 APG at this early stage of his rookie season makes him more than a streamer. Hold on to him if you have him.

San Antonio Spurs: Kawhi Leonard's mysterious quadriceps injury will keep him out for an eighth consecutive regular-season game on Thursday against Golden State, and it remains unclear just how long the star small forward will be sidelined. While those who have Leonard on their team are forced to remain patient, Leonard's absence continues to mean a higher usage and heavier workload for veterans LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay, which is good for their fantasy value.

Toronto Raptors: "At least he's consistent." That's a not-so-comforting way to describe the steady decline in Serge Ibaka's shot-blocking ability. After averaging 3.7 blocks in 2011-12, his third NBA season, Ibaka has seen that number drop every season since, to 3.0, 2.7, 2.4, 1.9, 1.6, 1.4 and now 1.0 in 2017-18. Much of Ibaka's fantasy value over the past eight seasons has been tied up in his ability to block shots, and without that part of his game, he's more of a typical big in today's NBA; he shoots the 3 and can give you right around 14 PPG and 5 RPG. That's what he is now.

Utah Jazz: Rookie shooting guard Donovan Mitchell still has to work on his consistency and efficiency, but there's already a lot to get excited about in regard to Utah's 2017 lottery pick. Mitchell scored 19 points against the Clippers last week, then set a career high with 22 points against the Lakers over the weekend. On Wednesday, he topped it with 29 points on 9-of-21 shooting against the Blazers. The Louisville product looks like one of the top instant impact rookies in the league, and he could be even more valuable as the season goes on; Rodney Hood is one of the least durable shooting guards in the game.

Washington Wizards: When Otto Porter Jr. missed Wednesday's game due to illness, Bradley Beal stepped up and scored 40 points on 12-of-25 shooting. File that away in the back of your brain, because it's not an accident that Beal took that many shots or scored that many points while Porter was unavailable. For what it's worth, Wall scored 21 on 10-of-18 shooting in that game.