Fantasy Basketball Values: The Poole is once again open and Dame is still smoking
Week 14 of the NBA season is behind us, and now it's time to reflect, overreact and assess the fantasy basketball landscape. We're nearly six weeks away from the fantasy playoffs, and we're equipped with plenty of data to evaluate player performance. With Week 15 underway, keeping tabs on the players showing sustained performance indicators or those due for a market correction is important if you're wondering if you should buy, sell or hold a specific player.
Let's dive into this week's risers and fallers.
Damian Lillard - PG/SG, Portland Trail Blazers
Current per-game rank:16
I can't not put "Dame Dolla" on this list after he dropped his fourth career 60-point game against the Utah Jazz last night. He's now tied with Michael Jordan and James Harden for the third-most 60-point games in league history, trailing only Kobe Bryant (6) and Wilt Chamberlain (32).
Yeah, Wilt was that dude. But Lillard is also him.
He's ranked third in per-game value over the last month and first over the past two weeks. He's dropped over 50 points twice in that span while averaging 39.5 points per game. Dame is doing literally everything to keep the Blazers in the playoff race while anchoring fantasy units in all formats. He's been wildly efficient over the past 14 days, shooting 54% from the field, 95% from the line and 43% from three while making over five per contest. And it's not just the scoring; Lillard's averaging over 12.5 rebounds and assists with one steal, too.
Josh Hart and Jusuf Nurkic left Wednesday's contest with injuries, so the Blazers will need to be even more dependent on Lillard in the near term, which should only boost his fantasy value even higher.
Jalen Williams - SG/SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
Current per-game rank: 146
The Thunder rookie has been as advertised, providing fifth-round value over the past two weeks in fantasy thanks to his combination of efficiency and lock-down defense. Look at how he swats Trae Young and then runs the length of the floor to finish for the dunk:
Defense into Offense! 😤
Jalen Williams erst mit dem Block, dann mit dem Dunk auf der anderen Seite. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/eUWypB0czD
— NBA Germany (@NBA_de) January 26, 2023
The efficiency is nothing new, as he's been over a 51% shooter for the season, but over the past 14 days, he's swiped two steals per contest as well. He's averaging the most points, rebounds, assists and steals this month, which is great to see, considering many of his fellow rookies are regressing, hitting that inevitable rookie wall.
That's not the case for Williams, as he's one of only three rookies to rank in the top 100 over the past month (along with Keegan Murray and Walker Kessler).
Surprisingly, he's only 52% rostered in Yahoo leagues, down 7% since yesterday. If he's available on waivers, pick him up expeditiously. Don't worry about the risk of him getting shut down later in the season; he's improving month over month and is a sure bet to make the first-team All-Rookie team by season's end.
Jordan Poole - PG/SG, Golden State Warriors
Current per-game rank: 139
OK, I know what you're thinking. Jordan Poole — the guy who pretty much got Steph Curry ejected in Wednesday's narrow victory over the Grizzlies? Yep, maybe I'm going off the deep end, but hey, he made up for it by hitting the game-winning layup and getting the Warriors back to .500. But the more encouraging news is that Poole will remain in the starting lineup going forward.
Steve Kerr shared his thoughts on why he thinks Poole plays better with the starters, and it makes sense, given how much attention is drawn to Steph:
Steve Kerr theorizes why Jordan Poole plays better when he starts games pic.twitter.com/OpLB8o8YvQ
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) January 23, 2023
And the numbers don't lie. Here's Poole's production as a starter versus off the bench this season:
Starter: 26.3 PTS, 3.2 REB, 4.2 AST, 44% FG, 89% FT, 33.2% USG
Reserve: 15.2 PTS, 2.2 REB, 4.7 AST, 43% FG, 82% FT, 25.8% USG
He's provided third-round value over the past two weeks, and now that he's entrenched with the starting unit, it's only up from here. His turnovers will always be a hindrance, but the upside is far too high and fantasy managers should hold their position. He's played in every game this season, and he doesn't have a rest or injury management program like Steph, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green or Andrew Wiggins.
The Poole party is back on.
Jakob Poeltl - C, San Antonio Spurs
Current per-game rank: 80
The Spurs big man is only playing 24 minutes a night over the past two months, and to no surprise, his production has suffered. He's been 123rd in per-game value over the past two weeks, but he's also been one of the hottest names circulating in trade rumors recently. I can't discern whether the Spurs keep him on ice to preserve his trade value or want to see more of Zach Collins. He'll also be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and by all indications, the Spurs aren't looking to extend him.
As a fantasy manager, I don't like what I'm seeing, and I'd be cautiously optimistic about his rest of the season outlook. His numbers are on par with last season's breakout (except for PPG, but even that's a small margin of decline). Still, I wouldn't feel comfortable buying into this dip because of the Spurs' record, the uncertainty around his future and his declining role.
Dillon Brooks - SF, Memphis Grizzlies
Current per-game rank: 227
Brooks should be on waivers in all H2H leagues with 12 teams or less.
He was serviceable while Desmond Bane was on the shelf with an injured toe, but it's been ugly for the Grizzlies forward since then. Despite having several above-average shooters on the roster, Brooks continues to hoist up bad shots on a nightly basis.
According to ShotQuality, Brooks is in the eighth percentile this season in points per possession. Given that this metric is graded out of 100, that's objectively horrendous. And shout out to Bryan Kalbrosky, who took a deep dive to confirm that the analytics match what we're all seeing: Terrible shot selection.
His inefficiency makes him very difficult to roster in H2H leagues because he doesn't accumulate enough assists to offset his turnover rate, plus he's shooting under 40% from the field with 15 shot attempts a game. The month of January really sealed the deal for me, as his scoring dipped from 17 per game to 12 while shooting 35% from the field. I'm staying as far as possible from Brooks in fantasy, and you should too.