Rookie/Sophomore Report

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Approaching the three-week mark of the 2021-22 season, we're getting a slightly better idea of what the rookie and sophomore classes are able to provide when it comes to fantasy value. Standouts such as LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton and Evan Mobley are have certainly made their presences felt, but those are the only names worthy of mention. This week's edition of the Rookie/Sophomore Report will focus on a few other standouts, and some injury updates. Let's begin with a Bulls starter who is expected to miss most, if not all, of the regular season due to a wrist injury.

Bulls' Williams sidelined for 4-6 months

Patrick Williams was not in the best position fantasy-wise, as he was a part of a starting lineup that included Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. But this doesn't mean that the left wrist injury that he suffered during Chicago's October 28 loss to the Knicks won't have an impact in fantasy circles. Williams, who underwent surgery on Halloween, is expected to miss anywhere from four to six months as he recovers from the injury, which included a perilunate dislocation and torn ligaments.

The second-year forward averaged 6.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.6 blocks and 0.6 3-pointers in 24.9 minutes per game, shooting 56.5% from the field. Williams ranks just inside of the top-200 in 9-cat formats, so there wasn't much reason to roster him before the injury. And given the timeline, there's no reason why fantasy managers should use up an IL+ spot on him, either. But Williams' absence will impact the Bulls' bench, which was already lacking in production. Javonte Green has been moved into the starting lineup, and it's worth asking if the trickle-down effect of this injury will affect rookie Ayo Dosunmu as well.

A second-round pick out of Illinois, the Chicago native played no more than 11 minutes in any of his first four appearances. However Dosunmu has played 21 and 22 minutes in the Bulls' last two games, and he gave the team a much-needed spark in its comeback win over the Celtics Monday night. Shooting 6-of-6 from the field, Dosunmu finished with a line of 14 points, four rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers (one of which pushed the Bulls ahead for good). Following the win, both DeRozan and Billy Donovan complimented the rookie guard for his approach.

"He's got a certain kind of makeup that I think is really special," Donovan said. "He's ultra-competitive and he has unbelievable confidence and belief in himself. But it's not cross-the-line arrogant. That's really a hard combination. He just is fearless. And he’s got a way about him with the way he competes defensively. He’s not afraid."

Dosunmu isn't worthy of being added in standard leagues right now, given the small sample size that managers have to work with. Also in play here is the eventual return of Coby White, who is working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery. The hope is that White will be able to return at some point this month, but that's no guarantee. Dosunmu isn't worth adding, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep an eye on him as the Bulls play two against the 76ers (Wednesday and Saturday).

Raptors' Barnes has hot start derailed by injury

Scottie Barnes isn't one of the four rookies ranked in the top-100 of 9-cat formats, but he hasn't been far off the pace. The fourth overall pick in this summer's draft, he's averaging 18.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks, 0.3 3-pointers and 2.4 turnovers in 34.9 minutes per game, while shooting 55.1% from the field and 70.8% from the foul line. The prolonged absence of Pascal Siakam freed up a spot in the starting lineup for Barnes, and he's taken full advantage.

Unfortunately for Barnes, the Raptors and those who have him rostered, he's currently sidelined due to a sprained right thumb. Having suffered the injury during Saturday's win over the Pacers, Barnes sat out Monday's win over the Knicks and will also miss Wednesday's game against the Wizards. The good news is that the injury isn't believed to be particularly serious, but he is dealing with some soreness. Toronto has two more games on its schedule for this week (Friday vs. Cleveland, Sunday vs. Brooklyn), so hopefully Barnes will be good to go for at least one of those games.

Pistons' Cunningham makes his long-awaited debut

After missing the entire preseason and Detroit's first five regular season games, Cade Cunningham made his debut Saturday night against the Magic. As one would expect the rookie looked a bit rusty, shooting 1-of-8 from the field and finishing with a line of two points, seven rebounds, two assists, one blocked shot and two turnovers in 19 minutes. Cunningham was limited to 20-25 minutes Saturday, and he did not play at all in Sunday's loss to the Nets for injury management reasons. Back on the court Tuesday, he recorded a line of six points (2-of-14 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), two rebounds, three assists and two turnovers in 29 minutes against the Bucks.

Cunningham has missed all 14 of his 3-point attempts, but there's plenty of time for him to turn things around. And given the fact that he shot better than 40% from three during his lone season at Oklahoma State, it's a safe bet that he will. What may give fantasy managers pause in the short-term is the schedule, as the Pistons have a difficult back-to-back against the 76ers (Thursday) and Nets (Friday) on the horizon. It would not come as a surprise if Cunningham were held out of one of those games, even with Detroit not scheduled to play again until the following Wednesday in Houston. He didn't have a minutes restriction Tuesday night, but that doesn't mean the team will rush into playing its prized rookie in both games of back-to-backs.

What's also worth watching here is the play of Killian Hayes, who is now sharing the backcourt with another point guard. In the two games that he's played alongside Cunningham, the second-year guard has tallied totals of 11 points (4-of-12 FGs), four rebounds, seven assists, one steal, three 3-pointers and six turnovers. Will Hayes, who is rostered in just 11% of Yahoo leagues, receive a boost with Cunningham in the lineup? Or will he continue to struggle, as he has in the five games played without his expected backcourt partner? There's no need to pick up Hayes given the questions, but it will be interesting to see how he performs over the next few weeks. Continued struggles could force Casey to make an early decision on whether or not he should start both of his lottery point guards.

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"Beef Stew" yet to make the jump that many expected

Sticking with the Pistons, second-year center Isaiah Stewart has not gotten off to the start that many fantasy managers envisioned. After shooting up draft boards, resulting in a Yahoo 9-cat ADP of 67, Stewart isn't even a top-150 player at this stage in the season. With Tuesday's line of five points (2-of-6 FGs, 1-of-2 FTs), eight rebounds and two blocked shots, he's averaging 8.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.4 steals and 1.1 blocks in 23.0 minutes per game, while shooting 54.2% from the field and 60.0% from the foul line.

The numbers aren't that dissimilar from what Stewart produced as a rookie, and that includes his playing time (23.0, a slight increase on his 21.4 mpg last season). But that's the problem, especially if you're one of the managers who took the early plunge in your draft. Stewart has only played more than 25 minutes in two games, which happened to be his best individual performances this season. The expectation of many was that, with the Pistons trading Mason Plumlee, Stewart would get into the high-20s in minutes played on most nights. But that hasn't happened due to a variety of factors, including the addition of Kelly Olynyk.

So, should you panic and look to offload Stewart for the best available price? No, and the Pistons' record (1-6 after Tuesday's loss) is why. Given this slow start, it isn't difficult to envision things getting to a point where the Pistons go "all-in" on playing their young guys as much as possible. Stewart may not offer a great deal fantasy-wise right now, but he's a player that fantasy managers will want to have rostered after the All-Star break.

Time to board the Anthony bandwagon in Orlando?

Count me among those who were a bit skeptical before this season began when discussing the fantasy prospects of Cole Anthony. His rookie season wasn't all that impressive, and he struggled in Summer League play as well. But there's something to be said for having a season of experience under your belt, and Anthony has been outstanding thus far. Averaging 19.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 3.1 3-pointers and 2.8 turnovers per game, he's providing top-50 value in 9-cat formats. And the percentages are also solid, with Anthony shooting 44.8% from the field and 81.3% from the foul line. To say the least, the man is on a fantasy heater right now.

This makes for an interesting question for those who have him rostered: do you hold onto Anthony for as long as possible? Or do you entertain offers in hopes of selling while his value is at its highest point? And I lean towards holding onto him, due in large part to Orlando's injury situation. Looking at the backcourt specifically, Gary Harris (left ankle) has struggled to stay healthy, which leaves Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Terrence Ross and RJ Hampton (the last two can also be used at the three) in the rotation.

Also worthy of a mention in relation to the Magic is rookie Franz Wagner, who has started all eight games and performed quite well. The eighth overall pick in this summer's draft, he's averaging 15.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.6 blocks, 2.4 3-pointers and 1.0 turnovers in 32.1 minutes per game, shooting 50.5% from the field and 66.7% from the foul line. Wagner isn't that far off from top-60 status, and he's taken full advantage of the absences of both Jonathan Isaac and Chuma Okeke. The latter made his season debut in Saturday's win over the Pistons, and Okeke would play 21 minutes in Monday's win over the Timberwolves.

Does Okeke's presence stand to threaten Wagner's fantasy value moving forward? No, especially if Monday's outing is a sign of what's to come. Wagner played 31 minutes, racking up a career-high 28 points (10-of-18 FGs, 3-of-5 FTs) to go along with four rebounds, two assists, two steals, one blocked shot, five 3-pointers...and one emphatic dunk on two Minnesota defenders. Wagner is already rostered in nearly all Yahoo leagues, so if you missed out on getting him, you'll need to put together an attractive trade offer.

Grizzlies' Bane providing consistent fantasy value

Memphis' decision to trade Grayson Allen during the offseason took care of a logjam that was quite frustrating for fantasy managers. Add in the absence of the injured Dillon Brooks (left hand), and there is enough room for both De'Anthony Melton and Desmond Bane to figure prominently in the rotation. The focus here is Bane, who has been consistently productive on both ends of the floor through the first two weeks of the season. In seven games, he's averaging 17.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks, 3.3 3-pointers and 2.0 turnovers in 30.0 minutes per, while shooting 48.0% from the field and 87.5% from the foul line.

As a result Bane, who wasn't even a top-200 player as a rookie, currently sits just outside of the top-50 in 9-cat. While it remains to be seen how Taylor Jenkins handles his lineup once Brooks is cleared to return, there still isn't a concrete timeline. However a Brooks return does not appear to be too far off in the distance, as he was assigned to the Grizzlies' G League affiliate in order to take part in a simulated scrimmage. Even with this being the case, Bane should be rostered in more than 70% of Yahoo leagues, based upon his role and production to this point in the season.