Joel Embiid: It’s already clear he’s going to be a major star if health permits. Embiid is going to remain on a minutes limit and will sit some back-to-backs, and his turnovers have been through the roof, but his per-36 minute numbers are 29.2 ppg, 11.8 rpg and 3.7 bpg, which is insane for a 22-year-old playing his first seven games in the NBA (who also didn’t start playing hoops until relatively recently). The big man has hit 1.0 3pg while also shooting 79.6 percent from the line, and he’s seven-feet tall. Embiid owns the second-highest Usage Rate (36.8) in the NBA, and fantasy owners are going to enjoy “The Process” for years to come.
DeMar DeRozan: After setting a career high with 23.5 ppg last season, he’s up to 34.0 to start the year, becoming the first player since Michael Jordan to score 30-plus points in eight of his first nine games. DeRozan still hasn’t developed a three-point shot, but he leads the NBA in scoring, and he’s helping fantasy owners with a 52.8 FG% on a league-high 24.2 FGA. It’s safe to call this unsustainable (it’s tough to excel this much from mid-range long term), but it’s clear DeRozan worked hard on his game throughout the offseason, and he’s a much-improved player in the midst of a full breakout. I’d be holding not selling.
Lucas Nogueira: He’s averaged 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 3.0 blocks over the past three contests and is seeing a big increase in minutes with Bismack Biyombo out of Toronto. Nogueira has actually been a top-10 player so far this season and is still available in nearly 60 percent of Yahoo leagues. Blocks are scarce, so he needs to be added in all formats.
Otto Porter: Despite coming off a nice third-year season in 2015/16, there was preseason talk Porter was fighting for a starting spot. He obviously earned it, and he’s rewarded Washington (and fantasy owners) with career highs in ppg (15.2), rpg (7.8), apg (1.7) and bpg (0.8) while shooting 55.2 percent from the field. Porter has been the No. 21 fantasy player in the early going, thanks in part to barely turning the ball over (0.8 tpg), as he’s been a rare bright spot for the Wizards.
T.J. Warren: The 23-year-old has been an absolute steal for those who drafted him, as Warren is putting up big numbers (20.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.1 spg). He’s attempting nearly twice as many shots this season (17.3) compared to last (9.4) and is limiting turnovers (1.0) despite seeing a big increase in minutes. It helps to play for a Suns team that leads the NBA in Pace as well.
Serge Ibaka: Leaving the Thunder (who had two of the top-10 players in Usage Rate last season) had many (including myself) bullish on Ibaka’s 2016/17 fantasy value. After all, he had been a top-20 player over a four-year stretch before dropping off last season. Instead, his value has sunken even further, as Ibaka has barely been a top-100 player during his early stint in Orlando. His minutes are down, and both his rpg (6.5) and bpg (1.3) are his lowest since his rookie campaign back in 2009/10. Ibaka has scored in single digits in three of his past five games, and fantasy owners just have to hope the slow start will improve after he gets more comfortable with new teammates.
Nikola Jokic: One of the most popular breakout candidates entering the year, it took an aggressive draft pick to secure Jokic entering the season. It’s early, but fantasy owners have to be panicking, as the combo with Jusuf Nurkic has worked out so poorly, Jokic has volunteered to come off the bench. It’s odd to see the 21-year-old take a step back during year two in the league, but Jokic has averaged just 6.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 0.1 bpg with a 40.5 FG% over the last two weeks, a seven-game span in which he hasn’t been a top-200 fantasy player. Just brutal for someone with such a high ADP.
Tim Frazier: He’s been a plenty valuable asset so far, but Jrue Holiday is going to make his season debut Friday, sending Frazier to the bench. There was no timetable for Holiday’s return to the court, but it’s safe to say this was earlier than expected (good for his family).
Dennis Schroder: Everyone wanted to see what Schroder could do as the starting point guard with Jeff Teague out of Atlanta, and the early returns have been highly disappointing, at least for his fantasy owners, as he hasn’t even been a top-150 player so far despite playing for a Hawks team that ranks No. 4 in Pace. All the turnovers (3.3) and the surprising lack of steals (0.4) have really hurt him in nine-cat leagues.
Klay Thompson: I’ll throw him on the downgrade list here since he’s barely been a top-75 player, and there’s likely some fantasy owners panicking since he’s now playing alongside both Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, but don’t forget Thompson got off to a similarly slow start last season. Moreover, his Usage Rate (22.7) isn’t much lower than last year’s (24.3), he’s seeing more mpg this year, and he’s still attempting a whopping 7.2 threes per game. The jump in turnovers seems like a fluke, and after shooting 20.8 percent from downtown over the first seven games, he’s at 63.2 percent over his last three, so Thompson’s shooting slump appears to be over, but hopefully his buy-low window isn’t.