Fantasy Basketball
Joe Kaiser, ESPN Staff Writer 401d

Fantasy 30: Tobias Harris, Thaddeus Young finding 3-point stroke

Fantasy NBA, Fantasy, NBA

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 to surprising trends. No matter which team you call your own, this is all part of what makes the NBA great, so get on board!


From injury updates to emerging players to promising fill-ins, there is a lot to stay on top of around the NBA in the fourth week of the regular season.

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


Atlanta Hawks: Ersan Ilyasova remains out due to a bone bruise in his left knee and will miss both Friday's game against Detroit and Saturday's game against Washington. The veteran forward hasn't played since Oct. 27, and the soonest he could return to the court would be Monday at New Orleans. With Mike Muscala (ankle) also sidelined, Luke Babbitt and surprising rookie first-rounder John Collins are the main fill-ins at power forward while Ilyasova is out.

Boston Celtics: Al Horford took a blow to the head in Monday's game against Atlanta and entered the NBA's concussion protocol, forcing him to miss Wednesday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers. It remains to be seen how long Horford will be out, but we can't forget that Horford missed nine games early last season due to a concussion as well. Horford won't be rushed back, given the seriousness regarding numerous concussions, and you can expect Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis to get the majority of his minutes while he's out.

Brooklyn Nets: Not only are the Nets playing at the fastest pace in the NBA for the second straight season, they are in front by a wide margin. Through Wednesday, Brooklyn is averaging 109.2 possessions per game. To put that in perspective, no other team in the league is even averaging 106. While the Nets don't have a lot of great fantasy options, the extra possessions bode well for players like D'Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe -- four of the team's best fantasy players.

Charlotte Hornets: Losing Nicolas Batum for the opening month of the season was far from ideal for Charlotte, but the emergence of Jeremy Lamb has made for quite the silver lining. The 25-year-old finally is putting it together after once being highly regarded as the No. 12 overall pick in 2012. In 11 games this season, the rangy swingman is averaging career highs in minutes (30.4), points (17.4), rebounds (5.1), assists (3.3) and 3-pointers made (1.8). Lamb's numbers will fall once Batum returns in the coming weeks, making him a good trade-high candidate, but his surprising improvement means he'll still have a larger role than many expected.

Chicago Bulls: Bobby Portis opened eyes with 21 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 3-pointers in 24 minutes in his season debut against Toronto on Tuesday. Though Portis doesn't provide steals and blocks and isn't much of a distributor of the ball, he is a double-double threat who appears to have added the 3-pointer to his game. He should get at least 25 minutes a game on this depleted Bulls roster and is a must-own in 10- and 12-team leagues.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Through Wednesday, the Cavaliers ranked second in the league in offensive efficiency (108.9) and last in defensive efficiency (112.4). If you're playing daily fantasy or looking for streaming options for your season-long leagues, it's worth strongly considering anyone who is playing the Cavs' porous defense.

Dallas Mavericks: The idea that Nerlens Noel could be a valuable big man and a consistent source of rebounds, blocks and steals in Dallas is starting to look far-fetched. Noel's offensive shortcomings on a team that ranks 26th in offensive efficiency make it difficult for coach Rick Carlisle to find minutes for him, and as long as he's averaging right around 17 minutes a night, he carries very little fantasy value.

Denver Nuggets: Paul Millsap's days as a top-30 fantasy option may be over. The 32-year-old power forward has seen a decline in his numbers in his first season in Denver. His scoring (15.4 PPG), rebounding (6.3 RPG), assists (2.5 APG) and steals (1.0 SPG) are all down from last season, and part of the reason is that his minutes have dropped from 34.0 to 29.5 MPG. Millsap is No. 77 on ESPN's Player Rater.

Detroit Pistons: Before this season, Tobias Harris' previous career high for 3-point attempts per game was 3.8 -- set last season, when he started 48 of the 82 games he played in for the Pistons. I bring this up because he's far ahead of that pace this season and becoming a much bigger factor from long range. Through 11 games, Harris is attempting 6.4 3s and making 3.0 per game thanks to stellar 47.1 percent shooting from behind the arc.

Golden State Warriors: Kevin Durant missed Wednesday's game against Minnesota due to a thigh contusion, but he's expected to be back in the lineup for Saturday's home game against Philadelphia. Keep this in mind for any future games that Durant might miss: Andre Iguodala and Omri Casspi both stepped up nicely in his absence and played over 20 minutes in the win over the Timberwolves.

Houston Rockets: Don't look now, but Eric Gordon is up to No. 52 on the Player Rater, and the reason isn't just because of his 23.1 PPG but also because of he's making 3.9 3s per game. The veteran shooting guard leads the league with 11.2 3FGA per game and has the ultimate green light to let it fly under coach Mike D'Antoni.

Indiana Pacers: For years and years, Thaddeus Young was a virtual nonfactor from 3-point range, barely attempting any shots from beyond the arc despite a decent shooting percentage when he did let it fly. That's changed this season, as the 11-year veteran is taking (3.8 3FGA) and making (1.5 3PG) more 3s than ever before. When you add that to his ability to score, rebound and rack up assists, Young becomes a better fantasy option going forward. There's a reason he's ranked No. 35 on the Player Rater!

LA Clippers: The injury bug has bitten Danilo Gallinari ... again. The oft-injured stretch forward missed Tuesday's game against San Antonio because of a strained left glute and indicated that he could barely walk in recent days. He has already been ruled out for Friday's game at Oklahoma City and, considering his lengthy injury history, is a very risky player to have on your roster going forward. Gallinari has appeared in 63 games or more only twice in his eight seasons in the league. The last time: 2012-13.

Los Angeles Lakers: Last week, I had someone explain to me on Twitter that they were so done with Brook Lopez that they'd be willing to give him up for almost anything. Over the next three games, the veteran center went on to average 27.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 2.3 BPG and 3.7 3PG. The point here is to be careful about giving up on a player too early. All it took was an injury to Larry Nance Jr. to spring Lopez to a more prominent role in the Lakers' offense. Let's learn from that.

Memphis Grizzlies: Make sure you make a point to notice anytime one of your players is facing the Grizzlies, because it's one of the least favorable matchups in the league. Not only does Memphis have the third-ranked defense in the league (99.7 points allowed per 100 possessions), it also runs at the third-slowest pace in all the NBA (97.9 possessions per game). This isn't the recipe for fantasy upside.

Miami Heat: If you have Hassan Whiteside on your team, you probably took him in the second round of your snake draft or paid a heckuva lot for him in your auction draft. That's why it's so alarming to see him benched for the second half in a key game like he was on Monday against Golden State. When at his best, Whiteside can be a top-20 fantasy player, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra isn't going to put up with any nonsense, and through Whiteside's first six games of the season he is averaging only 27 MPG. Even if you overlook his drop in blocked shots (1.7 BPG), there is plenty to be concerned about with Whiteside this season.

Milwaukee Bucks: Eric Bledsoe is expected to make his Bucks debut on Friday against the Spurs in San Antonio. Bledsoe's arrival will likely lead to a drop in shot attempts and usage rate for Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker -- once he returns from the ACL injury -- but it remains to be seen just how severe those drop-offs will be. That's something to track in the weeks ahead.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Jimmy Butler doesn't look like anything close to the player in Minnesota that he was for Chicago in recent years, and you should be worried if you have him on your fantasy team. At first, it seemed like it might be a matter of him starting slowly and adjusting to his new surroundings, but Butler is playing more passively and lacking the confidence he displayed as the lead man with the Bulls, and the stats aren't pretty so far -- 14.7 PPG, 5 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.8 3PG and 43.1 FG percentage. These numbers may not seem bad for a lot of players, but they are an enormous step down for a player many, including myself, expected to be a top-25 fantasy player this season.

New Orleans Pelicans: So much for the idea that playing alongside Anthony Davis would cut into DeMarcus Cousins' fantasy production. The big man was ranked No. 2 overall on the Player Rater entering Thursday (28.9 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.9 BPG, 2.5 3PG). A big reason for his stat-stuffing success in New Orleans is the amount of time he's spending on the court. Cousins leads the league with 38.3 MPG, and if there's any concern going forward, it isn't that he's playing alongside Davis -- it's that he could wear down with that heavy workload.

New York Knicks: There may not be a better young player who is completely off the fantasy radar through the first month of the season than New York center Willy Hernangomez. One of the top rookies last season, Hernangomez has barely played in his second NBA season (9.3 MPG) and received several "DNP-Coach's Decision" box scores due to his defensive shortcomings. Considering how well he played as a rookie, though, and how efficient he was offensively, it's difficult to imagine this lasting for the duration of the season. If you're in a deep league with extra roster spots, pick up Hernangomez if he's available. It could very well pay off down the road.

Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder's 4-6 record entering Thursday doesn't really show it, but this is a team that appears to be improved on the defensive end of the court this season. Ranked 10th in defensive efficiency last season, OKC is second in the league in 2017-18, allowing only 97 points per 100 possessions. Only Boston ranks better. This tough defense under coach Billy Donovan is something to consider anytime one of your players is facing the Thunder this season. In some cases, you may want to go with a different player in a better matchup.

Orlando Magic: Elfrid Payton returned from an eight-game absence on Wednesday to post a double-double in a win over the Knicks, scoring 11 points and dishing out 11 assists to go with 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Payton could be a top-50 player this season if he continues to improve the way he did in the second half of last season, and his good showing against the Knicks is a positive indicator that he's over the hamstring injury.

Philadelphia 76ers: The one glaring hole in Ben Simmons' game from a fantasy perspective is his lack of 3-point shooting, which is one of the reasons he's not rated higher on the Player Rater (he's No. 41). Not only has Simmons failed to make a 3-pointer so far in 2017-18, he has attempted only six shots. By comparison, Antetokounmpo made 41 3s as a rookie in 2013-14.

Phoenix Suns: Let's talk Mike James for a second, shall we? The 27-year-old rookie point guard hasn't proved to be very efficient to this point, shooting just 38.6 percent, but he is showing that he can score, distribute, shoot the 3-ball and accumulate steals. He is starting in Phoenix, averaging 26.2 MPG in the past five contests, and is a must-own right now in 10- and 12-team leagues.

Portland Trail Blazers: CJ McCollum's 52.4 percent shooting from 3-point range probably isn't sustainable over the long haul, but there's no denying how well the sharpshooter is locked in right now. For as well as McCollum shoots the 3-ball, it's a minor miracle that he's taking only 6.3 3FGA per game.  Incredibly, the Portland shooting guard doesn't rank in the top 20 in 3s attempted this season.

Sacramento Kings: There are plenty of negatives you could focus on with the Kings, and the slow-paced style of their offense doesn't exactly make up for talent deficiency on this team, but let's focus on a positive: the play of Zach Randolph. The 17-year veteran leads the Kings in scoring with 12.8 PPG and has scored 16 or more in each of his past three games -- each coming against top-10 defenses (Boston, Oklahoma City, Detroit). Randolph hasn't been a coveted fantasy player in years, and he's more rosterable in points leagues than category leagues, but he's better than his reputation might indicate as one of the top players on the cellar-dwelling Kings.

San Antonio Spurs: A move to the starting lineup four games ago hasn't translated into better production out of Patty Mills, who moved into the starting five ahead of Dejounte Murray. Mills failed to reach double digits in scoring in two of those games, despite playing close to 30 minutes, and his current value is no more than that of a streaming 3-point specialist.

Toronto Raptors: The Raptors have not one but two centers whose production is completely dependent on the health of Jonas Valanciunas. When Valanciunas is healthy and in the lineup, Lucas Nogueira and Jakob Poeltl get about 10 to 15 minutes a game, carry very little fantasy value and aren't worth rostering. When the oft-injured Valanciunas is injured and out of the lineup, though, both Nogueira and Poeltl are valuable rebounders and shot-blockers who deserve spots on fantasy rosters.

Utah Jazz: It's almost as if Ricky Rubio is an entirely different player in his first season in Utah. Rubio had never averaged more than 11.1 PPG or fewer than 7.3 APG in his first six NBA seasons. In 11 games with the Jazz, the 27-year-old is at 15.8 PPG and 6 APG. He is also taking more than 5 3FGA, which is twice his previous high. This is something to continue to watch closely in the weeks and months ahead, because if Rubio plays like this, we're going to start thinking of him totally differently in terms of his fantasy value.

Washington Wizards: If you have Markieff Morris on your fantasy team, you're going to have to exercise some patience with the veteran power forward. He is shooting just 26.1 percent in his first three games since returning from hernia surgery and averaging 6.7 PPG and 3.7 RPG in just under 20 minutes a game. The best approach with Morris may be to leave him on the waiver wire while he knocks the rust off and pick him up after a few more games. Remember, he put up 14 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG and 0.9 3PG last season and will carry value once he's up to speed.

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