Rookie/Sophomore Report

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  • Toronto Raptors
    Toronto Raptors
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  • Josh Giddey
    Josh Giddey
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The calendar has finally turned to 2022, and NBA teams are still navigating life with COVID-19. The many absences have opened the door for seldom-used players to make a name for themselves, and that has happened for some teams. But it also means that players who were already in the rotation have been asked to do a bit more, and some have answered the call. This week's Rookie/Sophomore Report begins with a lottery pick who has been one of the NBA's best rookies over the last month.

Is Oklahoma City's Giddey beginning to take off?

While Josh Giddey was solid in the first two months of this season, he raised his play another level in December. In 10 games he averaged 11.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 0.9 3-pointers per game, shooting 38.3% from the field and 64.7% from the foul line. As a result he was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month, with Orlando's Franz Wagner winning in the East. Providing 14th-round value for the season, Giddey has been an 8th-round player over the last month according to Basketball Monster.

And he's off to a good start in January, with Giddey becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. In the Thunder's January 2 loss to the Mavericks, he accounted for 17 points, 13 rebounds, 14 assists, four steals, and three 3-pointers in 36 minutes. That was his first game back after missing three due to health and safety protocols, so it's safe to say that Giddey is in a good spot as far as his conditioning is concerned. Some fantasy managers may be a bit concerned about what could happen once Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (protocols) returns, but there's no need for that.

Giddey's usage when on the court with SGA (21.2) is less than a percentage point lower than what it is without (21.9). And his offensive rating with SGA (102.7) is much higher than it is when the two aren't on the court together (91.4). Giddey may have more chances to serve as the primary playmaker when it's just him out there (41.5 assist percentage), but there are clear benefits to the rookie and SGA being on the court together. And they won't lack opportunities to strengthen that partnership as the season progresses, as the Thunder are well off the pace for a play-in tournament spot.

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Raptors' Barnes back after time in protocols

Scottie Barnes missed three games due to health and safety protocols, at a point when the Raptors were hit hard by that particular issue. He made his return to action on Sunday, playing 30 minutes in a comfortable win over the Knicks. Barnes saw a slight uptick in minutes two nights latter, logging 33 in a blowout of the Spurs. In those games he accounted for totals of 24 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, two blocks, and two 3-pointers, shooting 8-of-16 from the field and 6-of-8 from the foul line. Not as productive as he's been for the entire season, but there's no need for concern.

Something to watch moving forward is the chemistry of the Raptors' starting lineup of Barnes, Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam. According to Cleaning the Glass this quintet ranks fourth among the Raptors' most-used lineups this season, scoring 109.6 points per 100 possessions while allowing 103.0 points per 100. Toronto has been more effective with a "traditional" big on the court this season, whether its Precious Achiuwa (he's been in the top two lineups as far as point differential is concerned) or Chris Boucher (part of the 3rd-best lineup). And Khem Birch has been a part of the three lineups that are ranked right behind the center-less quintet.

Will Nick Nurse stick with this group, especially in the aftermath of two blowout victories? That's certainly possible, but so is Nurse switching things up and inserting a true big into the starting lineup. Barnes' fantasy value will be fine either way, but this is something to be mindful of as the Raptors get ready for a three-game home stand that will include games against teams anchored by Rudy Gobert and Jonas Valanciunas.

Is Nuggets' Campazzo worth picking up?

Facundo Campazzo has been coming off the bench this season, not making his first start until a December 28 win over the Warriors. The promotion came as a result of Monte Morris being sidelined due to health and safety protocols, and the results in the three games played have been a mixed bag. Campazzo averaged 11.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 2.3 steals, 1.3 blocks, and 1.3 3-pointers per game, while shooting 55.0% from the field and 75.0% from the foul line. Those numbers aren't bad at all, but it should be noted that Campazzo did a lot of his damage in one game.

During Saturday's blowout of the Rockets, he put up 22 points, four rebounds, 12 assists, five steals, two blocks, and three 3-pointers in 34 minutes. It didn't hurt that the Rockets were going through some issues, which includes Kevin Porter Jr. angrily leaving the arena at halftime and Christian Wood refusing to check into the game after halftime. But none of that is Campazzo's fault, so give him credit for taking advantage. The question: is he worth rostering, even with Morris getting close to a return to game action? Maybe as a streamer, under the assumption that Morris will need a game to ramp up the conditioning. But long term? We'll need to see a bit more from Campazzo, thus proving that his averages from the last week aren't solely the byproduct of one stellar performance.

Rockets' Sengun understands the reason for his playing time

There's been no shortage of voices clamoring for Rockets rookie center Alperen Sengun to play more. He's only made two starts in 35 appearances, playing an average of 18.4 minutes per game. And that "low" workload has been a constant, whether the Rockets are at full strength or when Christian Wood and/or Daniel Theis is not available. With Houston nowhere near contention for a playoff spot (or the play-in tournament, for that matter), it's understandable that fantasy managers want to see more Sengun. However, it's quite clear that he understands why his minutes have been lower than fans and fantasy managers alike prefer.

"At first, I think the coach was watching me a little," Şengün told Turkish magazine Socrates, according to the Houston Chronicle. "He knew my body wasn't used to this pace. He was protecting me in case I might get injured, that's what he said. Of course, people want to play, I wanted to (play more), but sometimes you feel bad after the (game) when you get (a lot of playing) time ... Looking at the moment, over 30 games are behind, my body got used to this pace, I feel better.

"Of course, there are ups and downs, it is impossible not to get tired during the weeks with back-to-back (games). Sometimes it happens like this: You play away, you leave as soon as the (game) is over, you come home at 3 a.m., you have another (game) the next night. It's an amazing pace."

Getting used to the pace of the NBA game, regarding between the lines and the game schedule, can be a difficult adjustment for any rookie, whether they plied their trade at the college level or internationally before joining the NBA. Sengun, who's rostered in 42% of Yahoo leagues, remains ranked outside of the top-200 in 9-cat formats, but there have been flashes on the offensive end of the floor. He's worked well with Wood when those two share the court, with Sengun's ability as a passer leading to open looks for Wood and his other teammates. Simply put, we fantasy players need to remain patient, as Sengun has the look of a player whose minutes should increase substantially after the All-Star break.

Knicks' Toppin heads back to fantasy irrelevance

With Julius Randle joining the once-long list of Knicks sidelined due to health and safety protocols last week, fans were poised to get their wish when it came to second-year forward Obi Toppin. With Tom Thibodeau seemingly reluctant to give his young forward extended minutes, it's clear that Toppin isn't well-positioned to provide fantasy value when the Knicks are whole (or close to it). That changed in the two games that Toppin started due to Randle being in quarantine, as he logged 27 and 45 minutes in losses to the Thunder and Raptors.

Like many of his teammates, Toppin struggled mightily against Oklahoma City, shooting 1-of-4 from the field and finishing with a line of five points, seven rebounds, and one assist. He bounced back in a big way two days later, recording a line of 19 points (matching his career-high), six rebounds, six assists, one steal, two blocks, and one 3-pointer on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 from the foul line. This was the kind of effort that would make fantasy managers take notice, but that hope was short-lived. Randle cleared protocols on Tuesday and logged 39 minutes in his first game back that night.

As for Toppin, he only played nine minutes in the win over the Pacers, finishing with two points, two rebounds, and one assist. He's still rostered in 19% of Yahoo leagues, which may be more about managers forgetting to drop him than any hope that Toppin's minutes will increase in the near future.

Shorthanded Pacers relying on Sykes, Washington Jr.

Sticking with Tuesday's game between the Pacers and Knicks, Indiana started two rookies in the backcourt. Keifer Sykes and Duane Washington Jr. filled the voids left by Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert (protocols), and both played well. Sykes scored 12 of his career-high 22 points in the first quarter, while also accumulating four rebounds, six assists, one steal, and four 3-pointers in 38 minutes. Washington was also effective, posting a line of 17 points, two rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one 3-pointer.

While the latter did leave a bit to be desired from a percentage standpoint, as he was 6-of-16 from the field (1-of-7 3-pointers) and 4-of-7 from the foul line, both are well-positioned to be solid streaming options. Indiana hosts Brooklyn Wednesday night, and fantasy managers in need of a healthy guard (or two) would be wise to pick up Sykes and/or Washington. Sykes is rostered in 1% of Yahoo leagues, with Washington being slightly higher at 3%.

Spurs' Vassell solid in two starts

With San Antonio lacking multiple wings due to either injury or protocols, Devin Vassell has started the team's last two games. And he's been productive, averaging 17.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 4.0 3-pointers, shooting 44.8% from the field. A top-100 player earlier this season, Vassell has slipped outside of that threshold in recent weeks. But there is still value to be had here, especially if he can get into the high-20s in minutes played on a regular basis.

After playing 41 minutes in Saturday's overtime loss to the Pistons, Vassell played 28 in a loss to the Raptors Tuesday night. In the 11 games prior Vassell averaged 22.7 minutes per game, logging 25 or more in three of those outings. While capable of offering value in a reserve role, Vassell's fantasy potential for this season has a better chance of being realized if he were to consistently hit the high-20s in minutes played. Rostered in 32% of Yahoo leagues, Vassell is worth rostering for as long as Doug McDermott and Lonnie Walker remain out due to health and safety protocols.