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Fantasy Basketball Week 9 Player Trends: Kyle Kuzma on rise

Dalton Del Don
·6 min read
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Fantasy stock up

Nerlens Noel, New York Knicks

Noel quickly became one of the hottest waiver wire adds of the season after it was revealed Mitchell Robinson fractured his hand and was expected to miss 4-6 weeks. The former No. 6 pick wasn’t seeing as many minutes as fantasy managers expected under defensive-minded coach Tom Thibodeau in New York, but Noel is about to see a lot more run now moving into the starting lineup. He was averaging 2.0 blocks and 0.9 steals in just 18:10 minutes per game this season after incredibly ranking as a top-85 fantasy player last year despite seeing just 18:29 mpg mostly off the bench (he ranks No. 3 in BL% this season). Few if any players are going to help your fantasy squad in blocks/steals more than Noel over the next six weeks, so he’s a must-add in all leagues.

Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

Williamson is improving as hoped in year two, including going off for a career-high 36 points last week while shooting 14-of-15 from the field. The outside shot hasn’t been there, but Williamson has been unstoppable in the pick-and-roll, and most importantly, he’s becoming more active on the defensive end (1.0 steals per game, 0.7 blocks per game). Williamson has yet to turn 21 years old, and he’s not even fully in shape, and yet few post scorers can match him right now. This is simply unfair, and Williamson is by far the biggest help in field goal% among all players in fantasy hoops. He’s been a top-20 fantasy player over the last two weeks in 9-cat leagues, and it’s going to be scary once he reaches his potential. Teammate Brandon Ingram also deserves a mention as a fantasy riser, even with Zion breaking out. Ingram has taken his game to the next level this season, and while New Orleans has disappointed, both Pelicans should provide third-round type fantasy value over the rest of the year.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - FEBRUARY 09: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans shoots against the Houston Rockets during the second half at the Smoothie King Center on February 09, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Zion Williamson has been on a fantasy tear, taking a step forward in his second NBA season. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

He’s produced first-round fantasy value after having a Yahoo ADP of 30, so Vucevic has been a big fantasy hit. While he may appear like someone to trade right now, his value should remain sky-high while Orlando deals with so many injuries, including Aaron Gordon still missing time with a severe ankle sprain likely to keep him out another 2-4 weeks. Vucevic has been fantastic all season no matter who’s been on the court, but his Usage Rate jumps from 28.6% to 31.4 with Gordon off the floor, which would rank top-10 in the league this season. Vucevic’s old-school game (he’s third in the NBA with 10.3 post-ups per game) has translated into fantasy stardom this season.

LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

The rookie deserves another mention here, as he continues to impress in a big way. Ball has averaged 20.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 3.1 threes since entering the starting lineup eight games ago, remarkably producing top-25 fantasy value in 9-cat leagues. Ball is 19 years old and already one of the best passers in the league, and while his recent shooting from three is likely to regress, his willingness to fire away and him sitting at 79.7% from the line are both highly encouraging signs for the rookie who entered with so many shooting questions. Ball looks like a future nightly triple-double threat, and any slight chance of him not remaining in the starting five likely vanished once Devonte Graham left Sunday’s game with a knee injury. While barely having a top-100 Yahoo ADP this year, Ball is going to go awfully high in 2021 fantasy drafts.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

KAT returned to action after missing nearly a month, and thankfully he looks 100% healthy back on the court. Towns became Minnesota’s franchise leader in three-pointers during Sunday’s win, and he’s been the No. 2 fantasy player per game this season, so performance certainly hasn’t been an issue when healthy (and the month off should also help with his wrist injury). D’Angelo Russell continues to miss time with leg soreness, and he’s a legit durability concern moving forward. Since last season, Towns’ Usage Rate jumps to a career-high 29.9% when DLo is off the court. If any player deserves some good fortune their way, it’s KAT. As an aside with the Timberwolves, rookie teammate Anthony Edwards ranks an eye-opening 473 out of 474 players in the advanced/geeky stat LEBRON.

Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers

He’s averaged 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 2.0 threes while shooting 49.3% from the floor over six starts this season, something Kuzma did to begin the second half of Sunday’s game after Anthony Davis left after aggravating his Achilles injury. Kuzma had already been playing well this month, and it appears he’s about to see a big role expansion, making him a must-add in any fantasy leagues in which he’s available.

Fantasy stock down

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

Booker is scoring more lately (while on fire from the field) and should be a better fantasy asset moving forward, but the addition of Chris Paul in the desert has no doubt hurt his value. That’s highlighted by Booker’s drop in assist numbers, but it goes deeper when you consider Phoenix has gone from top-10 in Pace last season to second-to-last this year. Of course, it’s not all CP3’s fault, as Booker also somehow hasn’t recorded a single steal or block in any of his past four games. After averaging 27.2 points and 7.1 assists during the second half of last season as a 23-year-old, Booker was typically taken toward the 1st/2nd round turn of fantasy drafts, but he hasn’t been even a top-90 fantasy player in 9-cat leagues so far in 20/21.

Hassan Whiteside, Sacramento Kings

The extra frustrating aspect with Whiteside’s season is that he’s been a fantasy bust despite Marvin Bagley remaining a huge disappointment. Whiteside is averaging just 13.5 minutes over the last four games even with Bagley missing the last two, as last season’s shot-block leader (by 0.5 bpg!) is barely seeing time off the bench on a team on pace to finish historically bad in Defensive Efficiency. Despite the downturn in minutes, Whiteside is hurting fantasy managers’ FT% just as badly as last season, as his career remains extremely up-and-down. In fact, after barely checking in as a top-100 fantasy player in 18/19, Whiteside was arguably the steal of fantasy drafts last year, when he finished as a top-10 player. He ranks as the No. 287 fantasy player this season (with a No. 58 Yahoo ADP).

Eric Bledsoe, New Orleans Pelicans

After checking in as a top-100 fantasy player seven straight seasons, Bledsoe currently ranks outside the top-200, as the move to New Orleans has been a fantasy bust. His shooting has nowhere to go but up (65.3% from the line), but coming off a 1-9 performance (all threes) during Sunday’s loss, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bledsoe dropped from many frustrated fantasy teams.

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