Rookie/Sophomore Report

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There were some noteworthy happenings involving rookie and second-year players last week, most notably an injury sidelining one of the early favorites for Rookie of the Year honors. That's where this week's Rookie/Sophomore Report begins, as Cleveland being shorthanded will free up additional opportunities for the team's second-year wing.

Cavaliers lose Mobley to elbow injury

Cleveland has been one of the league's most surprising teams, as it has a 9-6 record following Monday's loss to the Celtics. One of the reasons for the Cavaliers' resurgence has been rookie Evan Mobley, who's averaging 14.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.6 blocks and 1.7 3-pointers in 33.7 minutes per game. And he's done this with solid percentages from the field (49.4) and the foul line (77.1). As a result, Mobley is providing 5th-round value in both 8- and 9-cat formats, ranking first among Cavaliers players in the latter (he trails Darius Garland by eight spots in the former).

Unfortunately the "Mobley 4 ROY" bandwagon hit a bump in the road Monday night, as he suffered a sprained right elbow. The expectation is that Mobley will miss 2-4 weeks, bad news for a team that in recent weeks has been hit hard by injuries. Collin Sexton (knee) will be out for an extended period of time due to a torn meniscus, while Kevin Love and Lauri Markkanen are working their way back from COVID-19. Last but not least in starting center Jarrett Allen, who is sidelined due to a non-COVID illness.

With all these absences, who will have the opportunity to step in and fill the void? Names such as Garland, Ricky Rubio and Cedi Osman immediately come to mind, but due to the purpose of this column we're going to focus on another name: Isaac Okoro.

No one from last year's rookie class entered the NBA under ideal circumstances, as the COVID-19 pandemic either eliminated (Summer League) or limited (preseason) their opportunities to get acclimated to the NBA before the regular season began. In the case of Okoro, he was working his way into a lineup headlined by Garland and Sexton, and the process was anything but smooth. As a rookie, he averaged 9.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.4 blocks and 0.9 3-pointers per game, while shooting 42.0% from the field and 72.6% from the foul line.

Okoro finished last season ranked outside of the top-250 in 9-cat, and Markkanen's arrival meant that he would be coming off the bench this season. Missing time due to a hamstring injury certainly didn't help matters, but he's healthy now. And with the absences mentioned above, he's starting and should figure prominently in the Cavs attack as they look to keep things intact. Does this make Okoro a player worth rostering immediately, or should managers take a "wait and see" approach? I'd go with the latter, due to his lack of production. As for DFS, Okoro's price is low enough ($3,700 on DraftKings, $3,600 on FanDuel and $11 on Yahoo for Wednesday, for example) to make him a worthwhile roster filler.

Timberwolves' Edwards dealing with a shooting slump

After scoring 14 points or more in each of his first ten games, a stretch capped by a 48-point explosion against the Warriors, Anthony Edwards has fallen into a slump. A 21-point effort in a loss to the Clippers is sandwiched in between nine-point games against the Lakers and Suns, with Edwards averaging 13.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.0 blocks, 1.3 3-pointers and a staggering 5.0 turnovers per game. During this three-game run, he's shooting just 34.1% from the field, 23.5% from three and 62.5% from the foul line.

Of those numbers the turnover count is the most concerning, as that average isn't the doing of one particularly brutal game; Edwards has tallied at least four in each of those three appearances. Should fantasy managers be concerned? Not at all. Edwards is averaging 3.6 turnovers per game on the season, and while that isn't great, it is manageable. Especially when considering what Edwards brings to the table in other categories. In addition to his scoring, Edwards' rebound, assist, steal, block and 3-point averages have all improved from a season ago.

If there's a need for concern anywhere, it would be the fact that his field goal percentage (41.6) is one-tenth of a percentage point away from his number as a rookie (41.7). In theory you'd want to see that figure in the mid-40s, but that should come in time. For now, just take all that Edwards is providing across the board, with the expectation that his turnover average from the last week won't become the norm.

Pistons' Cunningham making progress after slow start

As one would expect given the amount of time that he missed due to a sprained ankle, Cade Cunningham got off to a slow start, scoring a total of eight points (3-of-22 FGs) in his first two NBA games. But he's turned things around since, hitting double figures in five of his last six. Cunningham's best performance came in Monday's loss to the Kings, as he accounted for 25 points (10-of-20 FGs), eight rebounds, eight assists, two steals and five 3-pointers in 35 minutes. The turnover count (four) did leave something to be desired, but a rookie point guard occasionally struggling in that area comes as no surprise.

It's safe to say that, if you didn't take the opportunity to "buy low" on Cunningham after those first two games (and he was 4-of-17 from the field in the third), don't even try it now. He's rostered in 89% of Yahoo leagues, and is averaging 13.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.4 blocks and 2.0 3-pointers per game, while shooting 34.8% from the field and 92.9% from the foul line. Over the last week Cunningham is shooting 46.4% from the field, so it feels safe to assume that his percentage for the season as a whole will come around. If there's a concern it's the lack of trips to the foul line, as Cunningham has not attempted a free throw in any of his last four games. That should also come in time, as he continues to get used to the officiating at the NBA level.

And Cunningham isn't the only young Pistons guard who will get a mention in this space. Killian Hayes may not offer much in the way of scoring, but his production in other categories were interesting to say the least. Over the last week, Hayes averaged 5.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.3 3-pointers per game. The problem, as it has been throughout Hayes' brief NBA career, is the lack of scoring and low field goal percentage (28.0% during this stretch). He's only rostered in 17% of Yahoo leagues, which makes sense due to the lack of scoring (6.0 ppg on 30.1% shooting). That being said, Hayes' production in the other categories make him a player worth considering in deep leagues.

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Should Pacers' Duarte be dropped in shallow leagues?

After taking full advantage of the fact that the Pacers were down two starters (Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren) at the beginning of the season, rookie Chris Duarte has hit a rough patch recently. In his last three games, Duarte's averaging 8.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.3 3-pointers per, while shooting 34.5% from the field. Making matters even worse is the fact that he sat out Monday's loss to the Knicks due to a sprained ankle.

Duarte's averages for the season are good, as he's accounting for 14.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals and 2.2 3-pointers per game with percentages of 43.1 from the field and 76.5 from the foul line. However, while Duarte's effective field goal (71.2 with, 48.4 without) and true shooting (70.7, 50.1) percentages are considerably higher when sharing the court with the aforementioned LeVert, his usage drops by nearly nine percentage points (12.9, 21.5). Obviously, barring injury, LeVert is going to be a key part of the Pacers rotation. And Warren is expected back at some point, which will cut into Duarte's usage even more.

With this being the case, should managers look into dropping Duarte? Some already have, and if there's a better option on the waiver wire, doing so makes sense. But holding onto Duarte, especially in deep leagues, makes sense as well.

OKC's Robinson-Earl worthy of a look

Oklahoma City's rotation can be a nightmare for managers as, outside of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, there really aren't any "locks" as far as fantasy is concerned. One player who was caught in that logjam early on is rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, but things seem to have cleared up for him with regard to his place in the rotation.

The former Villanova standout has started three straight and four of Oklahoma City's last five games, averaging 7.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.4 3-pointers during this stretch. Robinson-Earl had his best game in Monday's loss to the Heat, scoring a career-high 16 points to go along with five rebounds, two assists, one block and four 3-pointers in 26 minutes. Ranked outside of the top-200 for the season, JRE has been close to a top-150 player over the last week.

Does this make him a must-add? No, especially in standard leagues. But managers in deep leagues may want to track Robinson-Earl, especially when considering the fact that Oklahoma City will give veterans such as Derrick Favors and Mike Muscala the occasional night off. While Favors was rested for Monday's defeat, Muscala only played eight minutes off the bench. Robinson-Earl is only rostered in 4% of Yahoo leagues, so he's certainly available for those who are considering the possibility of picking him up.