The Washington Wizards surged to 4-1 with a win over the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday, marking the first time the team has opened a season this successfully through five games since the 2014-15 campaign. Once again, Montrezl Harrell was a fantasy force with his third career game with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
While Harrell has been stellar and Bradley Beal posted a season-high 27 points in the victory over Atlanta, it's forward Kyle Kuzma who merits more attention from fantasy managers. After posting 21 points and eight rebounds Thursday night, Kuzma now has at least eight boards in every game this season and is averaging a career-high 11.0 rebounds.
Kuzma's work on the glass doesn't appear fluky, as he's 23rd in the NBA with 16.8 rebounding chances per game, a tracking metric defined by the league as being the closest player to the ball at any point in time between when the ball has crossed below the rim to when it is fully rebounded.
Rostered in 75.1% of ESPN leagues, it seems Kuzma really might flirt with a double-double average in his debut season with the Wizards.
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks: 28 points (14-16 FG), 12 rebounds, 3 assists
The Sixers are getting some solid contributions from Tyrese Maxey amid Ben Simmons' absence. The second-year guard posted 16 points with a dozen combined rebounds and assists while leading the team in plus-minus rating in a win against Detroit. Maxey, rostered in just 18.5% of ESPN leagues, is starting to grow a bit as a facilitator out of sheer opportunity; he's leading Philadelphia with 54.8 passes per game. Joel Embiid, meanwhile, finally posted a huge line in tying Anthony Davis for second in the NBA in games with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds during the past five seasons.
Detroit is winless through four games for the second straight season, but there are some promising signs of growth from second-year wing Saddiq Bey. The Villanova product produced a team-high 19 points and has significantly upped his rebounding this season to 9.5 per game, thanks in part, like Kuzma, to a surge in rebounding chances.
The Spurs slid to 1-4 on the season after coughing up a 20-point lead to the Mavericks, matching the team's worst five-game start under Gregg Popovich. With DeMar DeRozan's high-usage game now in Chicago, Dejounte Murray has flourished as a fantasy option; he posted a season-high 23 points in the loss and finished two assists shy of a triple-double. This marked Murray's second game of the season with at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight dimes, while his career mark for such games in a season is three.
Even as Houston fell to Utah, it was nice to see rookie center Alperen Sengun set highs in minutes (24) and points (14). The playing time isn't there yet to trust him in fantasy leagues of 12 teams or fewer, but the fact he's sixth in the league in total steals and 179th in minutes played is intriguing.
It's time to consider Desmond Bane for your roster(s). The second-year shooting guard is tied for sixth in made 3-pointers thanks to a serious leap in volume from beyond the arc. One of the best collegiate shooters in his time at TCU, Bane sports an elite 42.9% career clip in the pros and is sustaining stellar efficiency (41.5%) this season despite nearly doubling his per-game output. It's not likely that he'll flirt with 20 PPG all season, but strong steal and assist rates help make him more than merely a shooting specialist.
Injuries of note
Portland's Norman Powell was upgraded to questionable due to a knee injury, with signs pointing to a return to the floor for the sharpshooting wing.
Indiana's Malcolm Brogdon has been ruled out for the team's matchup against Miami this evening. Caris LeVert's season debut could be on the way, though, as he's listed as questionable with back soreness.
Analytics advantage for Friday
Dallas plays the second night of a back-to-back in Denver. Fantasy managers might want to pursue Jalen Brunson as a plug-and-play option. The guard has scored in double figures in three of four games and is posting a career-high 35.8% assist percentage, which is the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted on while they were on the floor.
With Brunson upping his playmaking duties under Jason Kidd and Denver allowing 51.2 DraftKings points per game to point guards, he's a nice streaming option given he's rostered in just 9.6% of ESPN leagues.
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers: Turner is a strong shot-blocker with a high fantasy ceiling -- confirmed by posting 65 DraftKings points in the second game of the season -- as well as a low floor, with multiple games below 20 fantasy points already. The selling point for this evening is Brooklyn's smaller and older frontcourt and the fact the Nets rank 28th in rebounding percentage this season.
Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors: Found at a discount from the top pricing tier tonight, VanVleet brings real scoring and playmaking upside to the floor against an Orlando team allowing the eighth-most DraftKings points per game to shooting guards.