Jerami Grant, Detroit Pistons
Grant was expected to take on a big role in Detroit after signing a (questionable) hefty offseason contract, but few were predicting second-round type fantasy value. His Usage Rate is easily a career-high, and he’s putting up more than twice as many shots per game so far this season compared to last. Grant is the only player in the league averaging at least 25 points and 1.0 block per game, and there’s little reason to expect a big drop.
Killian Hayes tore his hip, Derrick Rose (No. 9 in Usage Rate!) is missing time with knee soreness, Josh Jackson is back to being Josh Jackson and Blake Griffin remains one of the most injury-prone players in the league (although maybe his new playing style keeps him healthier, as he’s yet to record a block this season), so Grant’s usage is likelier to increase than go down given Detroit’s situation. Delon Wright also gets a boost and is worth adding after a disappointingly slow start to the season. Treat Grant as a top-25 fantasy player moving forward (and treat yourself to this clip of ISO Andre Drummond).
Julius Randle, New York Knicks
The Knicks are off to a surprisingly not awful start thanks largely to Randle, who’s not only averaging career-highs in points per game (23.2) and rebounds per game (11.8) but is also nearly doubling his previous career-best mark in assists (7.1 per game). An unlikely fit on paper, new coach Tom Thibodeau and Randle appear to be a match, as the big man has been a top-30 fantasy player in 8-cat leagues while playing the second-most minutes in the NBA to open the season (teammate RJ Barrett leads the league). More defensive stats would be nice, but Randle is a walking double/double, and his massive improvement as a passer is huge news for his fantasy value.
Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks
While his timeline was always a bit of a mystery, fantasy managers have to be thrilled Porzingis is back just nine games into Dallas’ season. The Mavs will monitor his minutes (and he’ll almost certainly sit during the team’s six back-to-back sets over the season’s first half), and KP will always be a durability concern, but he was the No. 15 fantasy player in 9-cat leagues last year during his first season in Dallas while playing through a knee injury. The 25-year-old will essentially provide first-round fantasy value every night he’s out there, and managers who gambled on draft day are about to make a huge profit.
Cam Reddish, Atlanta Hawks
Reddish really came on down the stretch during his rookie season, and he should now enter Atlanta’s starting lineup after Bogdan Bogdanovic suffered a serious knee injury. The Hawks are deep but are suddenly dealing with multiple injuries, and Reddish’s game doesn’t require a ton of shots anyway, as he’s an across-the-board contributor. Grab Reddish without hesitation if he’s somehow still available in your league (52% rostered in Yahoo).
Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers
This week’s most popular pickup, Maxey should have a bunch of short-term fantasy value with the 76ers dealing with injuries and COVID-19 protocols. The situation led to the rookie firing up a whopping 33 shots (scoring 39 points) during Saturday’s game in which just six Philly players saw the court. The No. 21 pick of the draft out of Kentucky, Maxey is intriguing as a dynasty hold while also looking plenty helpful this week, and he’s still available in nearly 60% of Yahoo leagues.
Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings
Hield was expected to see increased fantasy value after Bogdan Bogdanovic left Sacramento during the offseason, but instead he hasn’t been a top-150 player despite averaging a career-high in minutes per game by a wide margin. Hield’s poor shooting (34.8 FG%) to start the season will regress (improve), but he’s dealing with an ankle injury and most importantly, has impressive rookie Tyrese Haliburton breathing down his neck to become the team’s starting shooting guard. Hield shouldn’t be dropped in fantasy leagues, but his preseason expectations need to be adjusted, and a move to the bench could soon happen. Haliburton is the real deal.
Robert Covington, Portland Trail Blazers
Covington contributes enough to the defensive categories (and will likely start shooting better) to remain helpful, but as feared, his fantasy value has taken a major hit with the offseason trade away from Houston, where he was a borderline top-25 asset. Averaging just 6.6 ppg so far, Covington looks more like a top-75 fantasy player in Portland.
Nerlens Noel, New York Knicks
Noel was one of my favorite centers to target in fantasy drafts with new defensive-minded coach Tom Thibodeau likely to favor him over Mitchell Robinson, who’s instead thrived while no longer fouling under Thibs. Noel was a top-85 fantasy player while seeing just 18:29 mpg off the bench last season, so he can be plenty helpful in limited minutes. However, he’s struggled mightily so far in New York, is currently dealing with an ankle sprain and knee soreness, and Taj Gibson is about ready to make his season debut, so Noel is a cut candidate.