Rookie/Sophomore Report

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·11 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.



Editor’s Note: Enjoy 15% off our NEW NBC Sports EDGE+ Subscription this holiday season and get every tool (Fantasy, DFS & Betting) for every game at a great low price. Use promo code HOLIDAY15 at checkout. Click here to Buy Now.

As bad as things were a couple weeks ago with regard to health and safety protocols, things have gotten even worse for the NBA. Numerous players, veterans and younger one alike, have been sidelined as a new variant of COVID-19 spreads. A few games have been postponed, and league rules have been changed so that teams can sign players with hardship exemptions that will not negatively impact their salary cap numbers. Where does this leave fantasy managers? Seemingly scraping the bottom of the barrel, hoping to find a player of value in order to tread water for a couple weeks. Let's get into this week's Rookie/Sophomore Report.

Bucks' Nwora needs to be picked up

After appearing in 30 games as a rookie, Bucks wing Jordan Nwora entered this season in a difficult spot. Milwaukee doesn't lack for experience or talent at his position, so the task of cracking the rotation would not be easy. There were a couple injuries early on, which led to Nwora playing 20 minutes or more in 10 of Milwaukee's first 15 games. But as the team got healthier his minutes decreased, with Nwora going through a nine-game stretch in which he racked up four DNP-CDs and played no more than nine minutes in the five games that he did participate in.

With Giannis Antetokounmpo (protocols) and Khris Middleton (left knee) among those sidelined, Nwora proved that he'd taken the adage of "stay ready so you don't have to get ready" to heart. In Milwaukee's last three games, all starts, Nwora's averaging 19.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.7 blocks, and 2.7 3-pointers in 37.2 minutes per game, shooting 46.0% from the field and 75.0% from the foul line. Included in this run are two double-doubles, with Nwora most recently recording a line of 28 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and four 3-pointers in a loss to the Cavaliers. As a result, he's providing 4th-round value in 9-cat formats according to Basketball Monster.

The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!

Middleton is no longer listed on the Bucks' injury report, which, under normal circumstances, could spell doom for a player like Nwora. However, that isn't the case here, and we can (in part) thank the league schedule-maker for this. Antetokounmpo is still sidelined, and Wednesday's game against the Rockets is the first of three games in four days for the reigning champions. For these reasons, it would make sense to pick up Nwora if he's still available in your league. And with a rostered percentage of just 14% (Yahoo), he shouldn't be too hard to find.

Also worthy of consideration in Milwaukee is rookie Sandro Mamukelashvili, a second-round pick out of Seton Hall who had the best game of his NBA career in Sunday's loss to the Cavaliers. With the Bucks down to just eight players due to either illness, injury, or rest, Mamukelashvili played 42 minutes, finishing with 17 points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block, and four 3-pointers. His fantasy value isn't very good, but Mamu is worth keeping an eye on as a possible streamer/cheap DFS roster filler on a night when the Bucks are shorthanded in the frontcourt.

Hornets' Ball makes long-awaited return

After landing in the league's health and safety protocols, and missing six games, LaMelo Ball made his return to action Friday night in Portland. And the second-year point guard picked up right where he left off, recording a line of 27 points (11-of-17 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), four rebounds, five assists, one steal, and three 3-pointers in a nine-point defeat. Ball, and his teammates for that matter, took a step back two nights later in a blowout loss to the Suns (who may be the best team in the NBA), but he was better in a loss to the Jazz the following night.

The most important takeaway from Ball's return may have been the fact that he was able to play 29 minutes on Friday. While that is lower than his season average (32.8 mpg), fatigue is always a concern when it comes to players working their way back from COVID-19.

"Honestly, just sitting around was the hardest part," Ball said after the game. "Can’t do nothing. Energy real low, head and everything tired and messed up. It was great to come back. Sitting out and not touching a ball is horrible. Coming back and touching the ball is a blessing."

Charlotte, which was one of the first teams hit hard by health and safety protocol issues this month, is down just one rotation player (Cody Martin) at this point. That number could be two depending upon the status of Gordon Hayward, who has been dealing with some lower back discomfort, but James Borrego's team is in a much better spot than it was two weeks ago. That should also help Ball, who has been an elite fantasy option this season, get back into the flow of things as 2021 comes to a close.

Nuggets' Hyland bounces back from healthy inactive

Despite Denver being down multiple perimeter players, rookie guard Bones Hyland was a healthy inactive for the team's December 15 loss to the Timberwolves. The reason was that he violated a team rule, with the Nuggets not going into any specifics. To Hyland's credit, he would offer up quite the response two nights later in Atlanta. Playing 26 minutes off the bench, he scored a career-high 24 points (8-of-11 FGs, 4-of-5 FTs) with four rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and four 3-pointers in an 18-point win over the Hawks. Following the game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone spoke highly of Hyland and the way in which he responded to the benching.

"He is back with the team, he learned his lesson and he helps us get a really important road win," Malone said. "I just told him how proud I was of him. A lot of times when things like that happen, you have a choice: Do you feel sorry for yourself? He came in, had a smile on his face, and played the right way. We’ll need that every night from Bones Hyland."

With Denver still awaiting the return of Jamal Murray (left knee), and with Michael Porter Jr. (back) not expected to play again this season, the team is in need of consistency beyond reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. This has put Hyland in a position where he can contribute on a nightly basis, giving the Nuggets a welcome infusion of scoring and energy off the bench. Ranked outside of the top-200 in 9-cat for the season, he's provided 11th-round value over the last month. That isn't great, but looking at the league as a whole and the number of players currently sidelined, Hyland is certainly worth taking a flier on. He's currently rostered in just 6% of Yahoo leagues.

Pistons' Bey, Lee increase their production

Sunday was a great day for the Pistons, as they snapped a 14-game losing streak with a win over the Heat. And second-year forward Saddiq Bey was a big reason why, as he tallied 26 points (7-of-13 FGs, 9-of-10 FTs), four rebounds, two assists, and three 3-pointers in 36 minutes. That performance capped a three-game stretch in which he averaged 25.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 3.0 3-pointers, shooting 54.3% from the field and 94.7% from the foul line. And in the five games that Bey has played since Jerami Grant went down with a right thumb injury, he's posted averages of 19.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, and 2.4 3-pointers per game.

Over the last two weeks, he's provided 8th-round value in 9-cat formats. It should be quite obvious that Bey, who's rostered in 75% of Yahoo leagues, is a must-add if he's available. The key for him moving forward will be to not settle offensively. In Tuesday's loss to the Knicks, Bey was 5-of-19 from the field, with 13 of those attempts coming from beyond the arc. During the aforementioned three-game stretch, Bey attempted no more than eight in any of those outings (21 total). With Grant sidelined the Pistons will need their remaining players to be more aggressive in pursuing their offense, and Bey is certainly capable of stepping up.

Another Piston to watch is Saben Lee, a second-year point guard who has played at least 18 minutes in each of the team's last five games. Hitting double figures in three of those outings, he's averaging 10.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 0.8 3-pointers. The percentages from the field (43.2%) and from three (23.5%) haven't been great during this five-game stretch, but Lee is still providing late-round value. As noted above, these aren't normal circumstances for the NBA. That makes Lee, who's rostered in 3% of Yahoo leagues, an intriguing streaming possibility. And Cory Joseph returning to the rotation after picking up three straight DNP-CDs has not resulted in fewer opportunities for Lee, who has played 18 and 25 minutes in Detroit's last two games.

Should managers drop Pelicans' Jones?

After going through a stretch earlier this month in which he hit double figures in three out of four games, Pelicans rookie Herb Jones has hit a rough patch. Over his last four games, he's scored a total of 30 points, with 17 coming in one game (December 17 vs. Milwaukee). Jones accounted for averages of 7.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.3 blocks, and 0.3 3-pointers per game, shooting 50.0% from the field, 16.7% from three, and 70.0% from the foul line. Obviously, fantasy managers would want more from Jones, who's rostered in 23% of Yahoo leagues. But does this rough stretch make him a player who should be dropped? I'm not so sure about that.

First and foremost is the availability issue that has impacted the entire league. Sure managers can look for other options, but with nearly 1/4 of the league having entered health and safety protocols over the last two weeks, how appealing with those choices be? Also, Jones' defensive production makes him a player worth holding onto, especially in category leagues. On the season he's averaging 1.3 steals and 0.9 blocks per game, making him one of four rookies to be averaging at least two "stocks" per. The other three are Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes (who are both currently sidelined due to health and safety protocols), and Cade Cunningham. Offensive struggles aside, you don't easily part with a defender who's been as productive as Jones has been.

Managers who have Jones rostered should remain patient, with the hope that he'll get back on track offensively while continuing to produce on the other end of the floor.

Heat's Yurtseven a beast on the boards

Heat rookie center Omer Yurtseven did not appear to be on track to crack the rotation when the season began, as Miami still had the services of Bam Adebayo and Dewayne Dedmon. But Adebayo has been sidelined due to a right wrist injury, and other health issues have opened the door for the rookie out of Georgetown to earn playing time. And Yurtseven has done just that, proving to be especially effective on the boards.

He's hit double figures in rebounds in each of Miami's last three games, most recently corralling a career-high 13 boards in Tuesday's blowout of the Pacers. Over the last week Yurtseven has averaged 6.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. The issue, at least from a fantasy standpoint, has been the percentages. Yurtseven is shooting just 39.1% from the field and 60.0% from the foul line, with the former being an especially bad percentage for a big man. But cracking the rotation is a major part of the battle for an undrafted rookie, and thanks to injuries, Yurtseven has managed to do that.

Rostered in 3% of Yahoo leagues, Yurtseven isn't worth picking up right now. But it should be noted that Dedmon has appeared on the injury report a few times this season due to a sore knee. So keep an eye on Yurtseven for the time being.