From an epic game by one of the game's best young centers to key players returning from injury and more, the NBA continues to keep us on our toes.
Here's a look at the most fantasy relevant news and notes for all 30 teams around the league this week:
Atlanta Hawks: 7-foot center Dewayne Dedmon was a late-bloomer at USC and bounced around the league the past four seasons after going undrafted in 2013, playing for Golden State, Orlando, Philadelphia, Orlando (again) and San Antonio before signing a two-year deal with the Hawks over the offseason. All that led up to a career-night on Wednesday, when he racked up 20 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals and a 3-pointer against Sacramento. Dedmon is making an astounding 75 percent of his shots in his past five games, averaging 15.2 points and 9.8 rebounds in that span, and the 28-year-old should be on everyone's fantasy radar at this point; I ranked him No. 84 on my latest top-150 roto rankings this week.
Boston Celtics: So much has been said and written about the impressive starts by 19-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum and 21-year-old swingman Jaylen Brown, but one of the most overlooked aspects of the two emerging talents is how much coach Brad Stevens is using them. Through 15 games, Brown is averaging 31.9 minutes per game, while Tatum isn't far behind at 30.1 MPG. It'll be interesting to see if they can continue that heavy of a workload or if they start to wear down in the months ahead.
Brooklyn Nets: Knee problems have plagued D'Angelo Russell throughout his young NBA career, and again this season he finds himself missing time due to a knee issue; he sat out Tuesday's game against Boston and is expected to miss more. According to nbawowy.com, the two regulars on the Nets with the highest usage rate while Russell has been off the court this season are Trevor Booker (25.3) and Caris LeVert (24.8). Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (22.5), DeMarre Carroll (22.4) and Spencer Dinwiddie (21.3) aren't far behind, so file that away in your knowledge bank.
Charlotte Hornets: So much for easing Nicolas Batum back into the rotation. Batum started Wednesday against Cleveland in his season-debut and played 32 minutes -- second on the team behind Kemba Walker -- on his way to in impressive 16 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. The thing to watch here is the impact Batum's return has on Jeremy Lamb, and managers with Lamb couldn't have been happy to see him play only 22 minutes after being in the high 20s and low 30s during the first 12 games of the season.
Chicago Bulls: The Bobby Portis situation will change if Nikola Mirotic isn't traded and agrees to play on the Bulls once he returns from the facial injury sustained during his altercation with Portis last month. For now, though, Portis is exceeding expectations as a scorer and rebounder, averaging 15.8 PPG and 9.8 RPG while adding 1.4 3PG through his first four games of the season. Mirotic rejoined the Bulls this week for the first time since the incident but will sit out Friday's home game against the Hornets and won't travel for the team's upcoming four-game road trip. That means at least five more games where Portis will have an opportunity to put up big numbers as a scorer and rebounder.
Cleveland Cavaliers: The sample size is small, but in three games this season on the second of back-to-backs, LeBron James has averaged only 22.3 PPG. Compare that with the 31.3 PPG he has averaged in the seven games with one day of rest, and this is an early-season trend to stay on top of if you have LeBron on your squad. Last season, he averaged 28.3 PPG in 12 games with no rest and 26.6 PPG in 39 games with one day of rest.
Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr. is opening plenty of eyes early in his rookie season, thanks to his tremendous athleticism and highlight-reel dunks as an undersized point guard, but in fantasy leagues that include field goal percentage and turnovers, it's important to realize that Smith hurts you in those categories. He is shooting 40.6 percent from the field while taking 15.2 shots per game, and his 3.5 turnovers per game are the 11th most in the league.
Denver Nuggets: After Nikola Jokic, no regular on the Nuggets has a higher PER than Will Barton (17.8), and in fantasy the thing that sticks out about the do-everything reserve is his ability to positively impact so many categories. He's putting in 14.9 PPG, he's making 2.0 3PG, he's averaging better than five rebounds and three assists, and he's also chipping in with 1.2 steals per contest. As someone who is on only 61.7 percent of rosters in ESPN leagues, Barton is one of the most underrated fantasy players this season.
Detroit Pistons: Eric Karabell brought this up this week, and it is worth mentioning in this space as well: Ish Smith is not only one of the most underrated backup point guards in the NBA, he also carries some fantasy value in leagues where you need to chase down assists (4.3 APG). The downside of Smith is his inability to shoot the 3-pointer (0.1 3PG this season), and his lack of impact in the steals department (0.4 SPG).
Golden State Warriors: The Warriors are up to sixth in the league in defensive efficiency (101.8), trailing only Boston, Oklahoma City, Portland, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio. They are clearly improving on that side of the ball and starting to figure it out, which means the window to start just about anyone at any position against the Warriors is just about closed shut. Take note of this when building daily fantasy lineups and when you're looking for streamers in season-long leagues.
Houston Rockets: Chris Paul is due to return to the lineup and play in his second game of the season on Thursday against Phoenix. Paul labored through the season-opener a month ago and has been shut down ever since, which is understandable for a 32-year-old in his 13th NBA season, but if Paul can't get through the game against the Suns, it's going to be a strong indicator that he may not be able to stay healthy enough to be a reliable player for the Rockets or for your fantasy squad this season.
Indiana Pacers: Domantas Sabonis' 20.5 PER ranks second on the Pacers behind Victor Oladipo (21) and several areas of his game are already standing out for the second-year pro out of Gonzaga. For one, he's very efficient this season, shooting a blistering 62.7 percent under Nate McMillian's watch in Indiana. That's a huge shift from last season, when he made just 39.9 percent of his shots as a rookie in Oklahoma City. On top of that, Sabonis is an adept passer whose assists have risen from 1.0 to 2.8 per game and a vastly improved rebounder who is pulling down 9.5 boards a night compared to only 3.6 last season. While he won't block shots and isn't shooting 3-pointers like he did last season with the Thunder, Sabonis is a young center who can prove valuable on the right fantasy team.
LA Clippers: Blake Griffin's tangible shift towards becoming more of a 3-point threat has made him more valuable in that sense -- he's making 2.1 3PG -- but it has also led to a significant drop in his field goal percentage. A 51.5 percent shooter during his career, the eight-year pro is making just 43.4 percent of his shots this season. If you're in a category fantasy league, having Griffin on your team this season will require you to weigh how much field goal percentage matters compared to 3-pointers made.
Los Angeles Lakers: Kyle Kuzma is proving every game that his standout performance throughout the preseason was no fluke, and right now, coach Luke Walton seems to have more confidence in the rookie forward than ever. Kuzma is averaging 35.2 MPG in the Lakers' past five games, and while his shooting is down and his steals and blocks are almost non-existent, his confidence hasn't waned. To wit, his scoring (15.8 PPG) and rebounding (7.8) is more than you could ask from most rookies. Kuzma is a player you want to be trading for in your leagues, because he's going to get better -- not worse -- as the season progresses.
Memphis Grizzlies: There are several reasons to be concerned about Mike Conley based on how he's played so far this season. One is that he's dealing with a sore Achilles, which is never good. Secondly, his shooting is way down this season; the career 44.1 percent shooter is making just 38.1 percent of his shot this season. That'd be alright if he were adding more in other areas, but his assists (4.1 APG), rebounds (2.3 RPG) and steals (1.0 SPG) are all well below his career marks as well.
Miami Heat: James Johnson's numbers have trailed off considerably since Dion Waiters returned to the lineup. After looking like a potential All-Star while Waiters was out, Johnson has taken just 23 shots in his past four games, averaging 8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.8 APG and 1.3 SPG along the way.
Milwaukee Bucks: The addition of Eric Bledsoe on the Bucks makes the team more dynamic and strengthens its chances in the Eastern Conference going forward, but there's no overlooking how Bledsoe probably won't be a top-50 fantasy player on this loaded Bucks roster that also includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon and, eventually, Jabari Parker. Unless Bledsoe becomes much more efficient in the months ahead or starts to become more of a distributor and dishes 7-8 dimes a game, he's a player who will likely top out around 70 in the fantasy rankings this season.
Minnesota Timberwolves: There isn't a player in the league who is more of an asset in points leagues and a detriment in category leagues than Andrew Wiggins. The fourth-year swingman can score with the best of them, but even that number has dropped to 18.9 PPG this season due to the additions of Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague, but the real issue is that Wiggins continues to be below average compared to most wings around the league in terms of rebounding (4.2 RPG) and distributing (1.7 APG) and hasn't been anything special in terms of 3-pointers (1.4 3PG) or steals (1.2 SPG). If someone else in your category league thinks highly of Wiggins, he's a good trade-away candidate.
New Orleans Pelicans: Rajon Rondo played five minutes in his season-debut on Monday against the Hawks then played 14 minutes as a starter in Wednesday's loss to the Raptors. Rondo's playing time is going to continue to rise as he works his way back into playing shape in his return from core-muscle surgery, and E'Twaun Moore -- who moved to the bench against Toronto -- is the player whose value could take the biggest hit. Moore averaged 33 minutes his past two games, but that stands to fall as Rondo gets back to full strength and plays 25-30 minutes a night.
New York Knicks: Only one player in the league is averaging more than 2.0 steals this season - Paul George of the Thunder -- and after him, there are six players tied for second with 2.0 SPG. One of those guys is Knicks rangy rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina. The 6-foot-5 lottery pick still has a ways to go on the offensive side of the ball, as you'd expect from just about any 19-year-old, but his defensive prowess is already very evident. He has averaged 3.3 SPG in his last three games despite playing only 22.3 MPG. Don't expect this trend to slow down.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Steven Adams participated in non-contact portions of practice on Thursday, per Erik Horne of The Oklahoman, but he remains questionable for Friday's game at San Antonio. Interestingly, the Thunder are 3-0 since their starting center went down, but the opponents (Chicago, Dallas, LA Clippers) probably have something to do with that. Nevertheless, the absence of Adams has been a big loss for fantasy managers; his 65.2 FG% trails only Clint Capela (69.7 FG%) among players who are averaging at least 25 minutes a game.
Orlando Magic: It's rare to see a forward improve as much as a shooter in one offseason as Aaron Gordon has from his third to his fourth year in the NBA. Not only is Gordon attempting a career-high 4.6 3PG this season, he is making half of his attempts (2.3 per game) and is shattering his previous career-high with a 52.8 FG%. Watch a Magic game if you haven't already, and you will be shocked at his newfound confidence and improved form as a perimeter shooter.
Philadelphia 76ers: It feels unfair to overlook Ben Simmons after the type of game he played Wednesday against the Lakers, but when Joel Embiid plays like that (46 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 7 blocks, 2 3-pointers) he truly is one of the top players in the league. That translates to fantasy as well, but it comes with a big catch, as you know -- his durability and availability during the NBA's marathon-like regular season makes him a risky player to build your team around.
Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker has taken his game to a different level in his third season in the league. While his defense and overall effort on that side of the ball remain a work in progress, the advanced stats tell quite the story of his improvements offensively. Booker's PER has jumped from 12.00 as a rookie to 14.64 last season (still below the league average of 15) to 19.63 this season. He is averaging per-40-minute career highs in points (27.6), rebounds (5.6) and assists (4.7) while posting a career-best 57.5 true shooting percentage. There's a reason he moved into the top 20 in my updated roto rankings this week, one spot ahead of Klay Thompson.
Portland Trail Blazers: One of the most underrated aspects of CJ McCollum's game as a scorer and 3-point shooter is his ability to take care of the basketball. Not only does McCollum average 22.5 PPG, 3.3 3PG and contribute rebounds, assists and steals, he also turns it over an average of only 1.8 times in 36 minutes per game. That certainly adds to his value in category leagues that use turnovers.
Sacramento Kings: The Cavaliers remain the worst defensive team in the league, giving up a league-high 110.7 points per 100 possessions. Right after them, though, are the Kings, who have a defensive efficiency of 110.0. While the slow-paced nature of the Kings limits possessions in their games, their struggles on the defensive side of the ball make for the ultimate green light any time one of your players is facing them. See: Dewayne Dedmon.
San Antonio Spurs: Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News reported this week that Kawhi Leonard's ankle rehab is coming along slowly and that the small forward is still a few weeks away from a return to the lineup. At this point, it's reasonable to wonder whether Leonard will be able to play at the level we've been accustomed to seeing the past few seasons once he's back on the court. Continue to keep an eye on this situation, because when Leonard is at his best, he's a top-10 fantasy player.
Toronto Raptors: Norman Powell left Sunday's game early because of a hip injury and has missed the Raptors' past two games, leading to a starting role and more playing time for rookie first-rounder OG Anunoby out of Indiana. Now Delon Wright has been diagnosed with a dislocated right shoulder, sustained in the second quarter Wednesday vs. New Orleans, which will likely lead to more playing time for backup point guard Fred VanVleet in Toronto's upcoming games.
Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert is expected to miss four-to-six weeks due to a knee injury sustained on Friday against the Heat when Waiters fell into him, and the numbers show that Rodney Hood and Donovan Mitchell stand a chance to benefit most from a statistical standpoint while their important center is sidelined. According to nbawowy.com, Hood has a 34.6 usage rate when Gobert is off the floor this season, while the rookie Mitchell is at 30.0. Derrick Favors, meanwhile, the player most expect to step up in the frontcourt while Gobert is out, has a lower usage (19.9) without Gobert than one would think.
Washington Wizards: An underrated aspect of John Wall's fantasy value is his ability to block shots as a point guard. He is averaging 1.3 rejections per game, which puts him well ahead of anyone else at his position -- the next closest regular is Lonzo Ball with 0.9 BPG -- and works to your advantage in category leagues. Whether Wall can keep this pace up is debatable, but some regression is expected when you consider that he has never averaged more than 0.9 BPG in any of his previous seven NBA seasons, and that came way back in his second season (2011-12).