If nothing else, fantasy basketball owners should remember this after the first week of the 2016-17 NBA season: do not overreact to a few games, good or bad.
If you spent a late first-round pick on Anthony Davis, you’re undeniably thrilled after watching him erupt for 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks in a loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. Those who were torn between James Harden and Russell Westbrook with the No. 1 pick couldn’t have gone wrong, as Harden opened the season with a monster 34-point, 17-assist, eight-rebound effort, while Westbrook racked up two triple-doubles in his first three games.
Now isn’t the time to panic because Karl-Anthony Towns is currently ranked 39th in per-game fantasy value or because Mike Muscala and T.J. Warren are outpacing consensus first-round picks such as Chris Paul, Hassan Whiteside and Stephen Curry in per-game value. Small sample sizes lend themselves to statistical anomalies, which is why the first edition of my rest-of-season rankings doesn’t contain many significant changes toward the top.
Here’s a look at how I see players’ rest-of-season value shaking out, with explanations of a few notable moves below:
Myles Turner’s breakout is for real
Through one week, Myles Turner looks like this year’s C.J. McCollum: A player who the entire fantasy community pegged for a breakout campaign, except we all underestimated just how dominant he’d become. He’s currently seventh in the league in terms of per-game fantasy value after putting up 21.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks across his first three contests. Turner likely won’t return first-round value this year, but those who invested a mid-round pick in him should rightfully be encouraged by his scorching start. He was one of the rare players among the top 75 to move significantly up this week, jumping from 54 to 41.
Gorgui Dieng’s is, too
Remember when then-Minnesota Timberwolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell jerked around Gorgui Dieng’s minutes like a drunken sailor for the first three months of the 2015-16 season? Tom Thibodeau has shown no signs of repeating that mistake. Dieng has played at least 34 minutes in each of the Wolves’ first two contests, putting up 12 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block against the Memphis Grizzlies on opening night, and then 14 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and two blocks against the Sacramento Kings three days later. That usage sent him jumping from 67th in my preseason rankings to 56th now, and he may not be done rising yet.
Joel Embiid’s minutes limit isn’t a concern
Prior to the start of the season, I preached caution with regard to Joel Embiid’s fantasy value, as a restrictive minute limit figured to hamper his upside. Instead, “The Process” has put up 17.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks despite playing just 19.0 minutes per night across his two contests. With Jahlil Okafor working his way back from a torn meniscus and Nerlens Noel sidelined for the next month or so, Embiid may continue putting up huge per-minute numbers given his lack of competition for frontcourt touches. Since his playing-time restriction could shrink over the coming weeks, he jumped from 135th in my preseason rankings to 94th now.
Time to worry about Pau Gasol?
While it’s too early to overreact and cut an underperforming early-round pick, I’m admittedly concerned about Pau Gasol. Prior to his 20-point, 11-rebound outing against the Miami Heat on Sunday — one that came without LaMarcus Aldridge in the lineup — the 36-year-old averaged just 6.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 20.2 minutes across his first three games. San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich appears to have little tolerance for Gasol’s plodding defense, which could keep him chained to the bench far more than expected. I had Gasol ranked 32nd heading into the season, but he plunged 33 spots based on his early-season usage.
Pick up Justise Winslow and T.J. Warren now
I mentioned both Justise Winslow and T.J. Warren in this week’s edition of the Waiver Wire Watch, but it’s worth stressing since both are owned in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues: Rush to the waiver wire to scoop either (or both) of them up. Winslow is averaging 14.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks across three games, while Warren has gone off for 23.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 1.0 treys and 1.0 assists. The latter, who I had ranked 216th heading into the year, jumped up to 129th now, while Winslow went from 129th to 115th.