Early fantasy surprises: Christian Wood, Paolo Banchero exceeding expectations

We're only a week into the 2022-23 NBA season but already some things look different than most expected. Some rotations are different. Some roles have changed.

Here are André Snellings, Eric Moody, Eric Karabell, Jim McCormick and John Cregan to offer up what they're most surprised about from the opening week of NBA action.

Wood's thriving off the bench

At this point, does anyone rostering Christian Wood want him to start? One can sniff at a two-game sample size and be a dreambuster with correct statements like "no big off the bench can sustain a Usage Rate of over 35 for an entire season." But who likes to listen to dreambusters? LET JAVALE START. -- Cregan

Banchero's instant impact

It looks like the Orlando Magic may be the fantasy basketball bonanza we never knew we needed. Since they lack depth, they may end up relying more on their starters than others in the league. One of those players who benefit from this is rookie Paolo Banchero. He has averaged 22.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.8 SPG and 1.5 BPG in 34 MPG. This season, Banchero has had a strong start and is on pace to surpass his average draft position of 56.9 in ESPN leagues. -- Moody

KAT's new fantasy profile

This is a sneaky one. On paper, Karl-Anthony Towns' volume of possession isn't too far off career norms. But the areas where he's getting vampired is A) where Rudy Gobert flourishes (blocks, rebounds) and B) provide that subtle fantasy edge that always nudged Towns a little higher than managers realized. -- Cregan

Sexton's limited role

The lack of playing time for Collin Sexton has been a bit alarming. I'd still want to hold onto him in most formats despite him averaging just 18.5 MPG and 8.8 shots per contest for a surprisingly competitive Utah roster. Maybe the team is being patient given last season's knee injury? It moreso reads like he's just their third guard behind Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson. Utah appears likely to engage in trade talks on several of their veterans at some point this season, so maybe there is a greater role ahead for Sexton. -- McCormick

Sengun's still a reserve

When the Rockets traded Christian Wood to the Mavericks this offseason, the assumption was that it was to create more minutes for Alperen Sengun to start. Instead, to begin the season, Sengun has continued in his role off the bench with first Bruno Fernando and then, after Fernando's knee injury, Usman Garuba starting in his stead. It seems that the Rockets are determined for Sengun to remain in his bench role for now. I've heard that the Rockets would like to see Sengun mature a bit more, and if so it's possible that he earns a starting role as the season goes along and he proves himself in his coaches' eyes. I personally feel like that will happen sooner rather than later, but for at least the first week, Sengun continues to maintain the smaller-than-expected role he held last season. -- Snellings

RoCo's dwindling contributions

We knew the Clippers would be plenty good and deep but veteran Robert Covington can't help them or fantasy managers much if he's playing fewer than 20 minutes per night, as he is now. Covington doesn't score traditionally so much anymore, but even last season he remained an underrated points league (and especially roto league) option thanks to his many steals and blocks, and he rebounded enough and hit enough 3-pointers to produce a well-rounded fantasy option. The loaded Clippers just don't seem to need him so far. Perhaps it changes, but it's tough to keep Covington rostered in fantasy at this point. -- Karabell

Zubac's expanded production

How well and much Ivica Zubac has played for the Clippers. As the lone true big in the rotation, he's been brilliant on the glass (11.8 RPG) and in protecting the paint (3.3 BPG). There will clearly be matchups that see the Clippers lean on smaller lineups, but Zubac has earned the trust of Ty Lue to the tune of a career-best 29 MPG. -- McCormick