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Points-league rankings and reaction
Consider this the unicorn edition of the rest-of-the-season rankings reshuffle in points leagues. An influx of incomparably rare talent has undoubtedly altered both the real and fantasy marketplaces, as NBA and imaginary general managers alike covet elite size and skill unicorns such as Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, among others.
Debates over whether Porzingis and Nikola Jokic are enduring top-10 fantasy values are already underway, as both are challenging conventional expectations of men their size.
Speaking of Porzingis, the true owner of the unicorn nickname enjoys a league-leading usage rate and is eighth overall in fantasy points per game in ESPN points leagues. With unrestrained usage at his disposal, the New York Knicks' centerpiece fits perfectly into ESPN's volume-driven scoring key for points leagues, a model that equates all stats on a one-to-one ratio. This means that while Porzingis is immensely valuable in category leagues, given an awesome blend of blocks and points, he translates just as well, if not better, into a format that craves players who compile big box scores.
Sticking with the atypical angle, how about a nearly 7-foot point guard in South Philly? Ben Simmons has added point guard eligibility in ESPN leagues to his fantasy profile in addition to power forward status, adding value and flexibility for fantasy managers. It's probably a good thing that only Oscar Robertson is his statistical peer in regard to building triple-doubles and diverse box scores at this early stage of his career.
I thought I was high on Simmons heading into the season, but he has vaulted into a new stratosphere of value in points leagues, averaging the 15th-most fantasy points in ESPN leagues. I think he's an ideal candidate for exposing the difference between category leagues and points formats, as Simmons often is found in the mid-40s on the Player Rater -- a model that celebrates balance across all stats -- yet is a clear top-20 asset in points leagues, given the volume-driven scoring model.
The most prominent change to the top of the rankings is the surge from the New Orleans Pelicans' duo of ultra-productive bigs. The "Brow" and "Boogie" are the only two players averaging more fantasy points than the "Greek Freak" this season. With Eric Bledsoe joining the Milwaukee Bucks, I think it's safe to trust the Pelicans' pair as the top two names in points leagues going forward, as Antetokounmpo could cede just a few touches and potential assists with the influx of skills Bledsoe presents.
In a shift to the format for this weekly market appraisal, I'm going to discuss the notable risers and fallers at each position in points leagues in the sections below.
Besides Simmons' gaining eligibility, the key narrative at point guard is Bledsoe's shift to the Bucks. I'm confident he plays close to an approximation of his strong Phoenix slash, but I have him at 46th overall instead of in the top 30, given some expectation of lower usage next to Antetokounmpo.
Stephen Curry vaulted past teammate Kevin Durant in the overall rankings, given that he is averaging nearly five more fantasy points per game at the moment, and it all appears entirely sustainable, considering how efficiently he can compile big scoring nights. Another riser at the position is Kemba Walker, as he is driving the Charlotte Hornets' offense to success with a career-best free throw rate. He's essentially Damian Lillard-light at this point.
Among those taking a hit in value, based on mounting statistical evidence, rookies Lonzo Ball and Dennis Smith Jr. just aren't compiling enough numbers, especially with inefficient scoring patterns. Of the veterans with deflated stock, Jrue Holiday just isn't asked to do a ton of scoring with the aforementioned crew of usage monsters atop the leaderboard. For some context, Holiday is 101st in fantasy points per game at the moment.
I think it's a great time to buy on Mike Conley, as his depressed production is going to last only so long. Considering his slow start, it's amazing to note that he is 40th in fantasy points per game at the moment and ahead of the likes of Ricky Rubio and Goran Dragic.
I've been far too low on DeMar DeRozan this season, as he is 12th overall in fantasy points per game and could actually see his rebounding and assist rates rise, given the precedents he set last season. I doubt most managers value DeRozan as highly as this scoring format does, so he's an ideal trade target if you can move some names, such as say Andrew Wiggins plus another piece for him.
The same goes for Victor Oladipo. I got a chance to see him and the Indiana Pacers take on my Philadelphia 76ers this past Friday, and he was a scoring menace with relentless energy. That team is going to funnel the offense through him all season, supporting a Kemba-like high floor.
Gary Harris is moving in the opposite direction; he's 151st in fantasy points per game and just doesn't compile enough in his 3-and-D role with Denver to accumulate value in this format. Will Barton is the guard to own from the Nuggets' roster in this format.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is similarly struggling in this scoring model, as teammate Jordan Clarkson is averaging more fantasy points. It's quite possible that both are buy-low candidates in category leagues, but I'd continue to fade them in this format, which demands big scoring numbers from shooting guards.
If he's still floating in your format in free agency or can be acquired on the cheap from someone's IR spot, Nicolas Batum's rich blend of assists and rebounds inflates his value in this format. Send out some offers before he returns and re-establishes value. For now, keep riding Jeremy Lamb, though, as he has been a top-40 fantasy producer in Batum's place.
Another eligibility angle of note is Evan Fournier gaining small forward status. Like Lamb, it's surprising to see Fournier prove so awesomely productive to start the season. Unlike Lamb, there isn't a rational end in sight for Fournier's busy offensive role. Orlando is funneling the offense through Fournier often, evidenced by his awesome assist rate.
Fournier is going to be tough to acquire for reasonable valuable, considering his hot start, so maybe the best counsel at the wing position is to pursue shares of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson of the Brooklyn Nets. RHJ is just behind Fournier at 33rd in fantasy points per game overall, a perch we never imagined for either but especially not for the Nets' defensive forward.
The Nets have the league's highest pace by about 5 percent and allow Hollis-Jefferson to switch all over the place on defense, which means his defensive rates are sustainable. Is Hollis-Jefferson a top-35 player? No, but I've ranked him 62nd going forward, and that could prove to be conservative.
Now is the time to deal for Kevin Love. The impression of his play doesn't match the fantasy results, as the market seems down on him at the moment despite his currently ranking 23rd in fantasy points per game.
If I'm buying on Love, I'd like to sell on Paul Millsap in trade talks, as he just isn't the same rebounding force from his time in Utah and Atlanta. The Miami Heat's James Johnson or Nets' DeMarre Carroll might end up being more valuable than Millsap in this format before long, if you needed some context as to how I perceive the Denver forward.
Enes Kanter has been stellar for the Knicks on the offensive glass, and that is reflected in his fantasy value, as he's 52nd overall in fantasy points per game. The Knicks, unlike the Thunder, don't seem to care about Kanter's interior defense, affording him heavy minutes.
If Kanter is the epitome of the undervalued rebounding hog in this format, then Brook Lopez is the overvalued asset, as he is dependent on scoring and doesn't do much else to compile fantasy points. I'd market Lopez and his name value while it still carries weight.