Fantasy Basketball Values: Yes, Nic Claxton's breakout is for real
Week 9 of the NBA season is behind us, and now it's time to reflect, overreact and assess the fantasy basketball landscape. We're a third of the way through the NBA season and equipped with plenty of data to evaluate player performance. With Week 10 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.
Aaron Gordon - SF/PF, Denver Nuggets
Current per-game rank: 71
The Denver Nuggets are just one game behind the Memphis Grizzlies for first place in the Western Conference, and it's not only because of Nikola Jokic. Aaron Gordon has quietly been one of the most consistent and reliable players for the Nuggets alongside Jokic.
Gordon is having his best statistical season in nearly five years, averaging 17.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 threes, 1.7 stocks with 1.6 turnovers per contest. He's also made strides in his efficiency, raising his field-goal percentage each year since joining the Nuggets. And this year, he's converting almost 62 percent of his shots from the field, 69% from on 2-point FGs and 39% from three-point range. He's also on pace to post the highest effective FG percentage of his career.
And Gordon's been even better lately, providing fifth-round value to fantasy managers and raising his scoring to over 20+ per contest over the past two weeks. Much of this growth offensively is coming with Michael Porter Jr. sidelined. Gordon's usage rate is nearly three percent higher with Porter Jr. off the floor this season. In those 13 games, Gordon is averaging over a 20% usage rate and scoring over three more points than when MPJ plays.
Nuggets HC Michael Malone stated that MPJ could return sometime in the next seven to 10 days, but nothing is set in stone. While Gordon's usage and scoring have gone up with MPJ off the floor, the rest of his stats are fairly similar. So MPJ's eventual return only slightly devalues Gordon. If or when MPJ does come back, I wouldn't rush to sell Gordon because he's carved out an important role for a contending team.
Nic Claxton - C, Brooklyn Nets
Current per-game rank: 78
It's no secret that the Nets lacked a formidable defender and rim protector since trading Jarrett Allen a few years ago, but Nic Claxton has emerged as one of the most promising young bigs in the NBA this season.
Some questioned how he'd fit playing with Ben Simmons, but the two coexist and have a +3.0 net rating when on the floor together. And I'm pretty sure no one expected Claxton would be leading the league in FG percentage (74%), two-point FG percentage (74%) and effective FG percentage (74%) 10 weeks into the NBA season.
He's been one of the best-value fantasy picks this season relative to his preseason ADP of 127, and over the past two weeks, he's been third-round value thanks to one of the best games of his career in Week 9:
Nic Claxton has been an elite rim protector and shot blocker this year. He showed it again last night with a career high 6 blocks. pic.twitter.com/IH0yjFeXfk
— Brooklyn Netcast (@BrooklynNetcast) December 17, 2022
He's swatted 11 shots in his last three games and is averaging a career-best 2.4 blocks this season, which is second in the NBA. He's putting up career-highs across the board in every fantasy category except for free-throw percentage, so this breakout is for real.
Claxton has established himself as a foundational piece for a win-now team, and fantasy managers should sit back and enjoy the ride. If there's an opportunity to trade for him, do it, but it will be tough to pry him away without giving up a top-50 player in return.
Tyler Herro - PG/SG, Miami Heat
Current per-game rank: 35
Tyler Herro is playing like an All-Star right now. Over his past two weeks, Herro is 10th in per-game value after averaging 25.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 5.0 threes, 1.1 steals with 2.7 turnovers per game in his last seven games. His shooting splits over that span are absurd, too — 50/51/93, and that's after attempting 17 shots, almost 10 three-pointers and four free throws a game. He had a two-game stretch in Week 9 where he went full super-Herro.
Just sit back and enjoy the Boy Wonder masterclass 🪄 pic.twitter.com/KQoh6wSbUC
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) December 16, 2022
Herro's preseason ADP was 74, so to see him providing third-round value 10 weeks into the NBA season has him squarely in the conversation for one of the most improved fantasy players this year. He's a walking bucket and could be looking at his first All-Star appearance while also carrying fantasy managers to the playoffs. He's currently the 13th-most rostered player on the best teams in Yahoo Public leagues.
Herbert Jones - SG/SF/PF, New Orleans Pelicans
Current per-game rank: 139
The second-year pro has missed nine games this season due to injuries and has been underperforming relative to his ADP. While his counting stats are similar to his rookie campaign (when he finished 78th in per-game value), his efficiency from the field and the free-throw line is down.
Since coming back from his latest injury four games ago, Herb Jones is averaging 8.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.3 threes, 1.5 steals, 0.0 blocks and 0.5 turnovers in 26 minutes per contest. The steals are misleading because he racked up five steals in Monday's loss to the Bucks, but his minutes are trending up, as he's played at least 31 minutes in his previous two outings.
This is a good buy-low spot for Jones because his minutes are steadily rising, and his production hasn't popped off enough to warrant taking him off the trade block. Despite the injuries, he's still averaging a shade under two stocks per game after averaging 2.5 last year, so the stock potential is there.
Michael Porter Jr. - SF/PF, Denver Nuggets
Current per-game rank: 76
The last report (almost a week ago) that provided insight into Porter Jr's return was that he still needed to start doing live contact work. Which, as a fantasy manager, doesn't sound promising.
Fortunately, the narrative has changed this week. Porter Jr.'s been upgraded to "doubtful" on the Nuggets' past two injury reports, and his return could come as soon as this weekend.
Hopefully, he'll be taking contact in practice soon, as he's been doing volume shot work:
At Nuggets shootaround: Michael Porter Jr.’s still doubtful for tonight, so unlikely he returns vs. Memphis (but there’s still a possibility). Friday at home vs. Portland feels most realistic. He looks good though. Just saw him make 14-straight 3s to end practice.
— Harrison Wind (@HarrisonWind) December 20, 2022
Porter Jr. is still 76th in per-game value despite missing almost half of the regular season, so I'd be looking to acquire him. It's a considerable risk to trade for a player with a storied injury history, but I'd be more hesitant if the injury involved anything related to his back. His return would extract some of the usage from Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown, but the Nuggets will remain a very fantasy-friendly team when he returns.
Brandon Ingram - SG/SF/PF, New Orleans Pelicans
Current per-game rank: 53
I am still trying to figure out what's going on with Brandon Ingram. The timeline for his toe injury continues to move to the right, and fantasy managers are unfortunately forced to leave him on IL until more information is available. The most recent timeline appears to be "after the New Year," which makes me wonder if he's dealing with a Desmond Bane-like injury that's had him sidelined for over a month.
The Pelicans are fourth in the Western Conference and are doing just fine without one of their franchise players. So there's no need to rush him back to the court, but from a fantasy perspective, you're stuck because you can't get fair market value in a trade. After all, there's no timetable for his return, and he's often unavailable when you need him.
So, fantasy managers who have Ingram will have to wait and see and hope he returns soon, fully healthy, and can return to providing top-60 value in fantasy.