Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
He’s thriving in his new digs in Brooklyn, where he’s the clear alpha on a young roster that won’t be getting Kevin Durant until next season. Irving ranks top-five in Usage Rate thanks to his new situation, and he’s responded with career-highs in ppg (31.7), rpg (6.1), apg (7.7), bpg (0.6) and 3pt (3.3). He’s a bit of a durability concern, and who knows how long the honeymoon phase lasts for the mercurial point guard, but Irving is excelling on the court with his new team and looks like a top-five fantasy asset right now.
Jabari Parker, Atlanta Hawks
With John Collins handed a 25-game suspension, Parker has become Atlanta’s new starting power forward. He’s obviously failed to live up to expectations as the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft, but Parker averaged 16.9 ppg and 8.0 rpg when starting last season. The Hawks lack scoring outside of Trae Young (especially with Kevin Huerter hobbled), and they should start pushing more after finishing first in Pace last season. Parker is a deserving add right now, and he’s still available in nearly 60% of Yahoo leagues.
Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics
His injury was so catastrophic, it makes sense it’s taken so long for Hayward to look like his old self, but the time has finally arrived. He’s not going to shoot quite this well all season (he recently made the most two-pointers in a game without a miss since Wilt Chamberlain), but Hayward is finally healthy in Boston (his PER is actually a career high), and fantasy mangers who took the plunge have themselves a steal. He’s been a top-30 player in cat leagues, and the new look Celtics are rolling (Jayson Tatum is also making the leap many expected he would last season).
RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
Barrett has actually been a bit of a disaster in cat leagues thanks to his poor free throw shooting (47.6%), but he’s been a top-50 player in points formats thanks in no small part to being among the league leaders in minutes. While fellow rookie Ja Morant is going to have his load managed, coach David Fizdale has no such worries about Barrett’s future, which is music to fantasy managers’ ears. Barrett was a poor FT shooter at Duke (66.5%), so this issue will remain a problem for those in category formats, especially since he’s attacking the rim well and drawing fouls at a decent clip. But he’s immediately being handed a big opportunity unlike many other rookies, making him one of the better-looking draft picks in points leagues.
Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets
Already one of this season’s bigger revelations, Graham erupted for 35 points during Tuesday’s win, posting a big game notably while playing alongside Terry Rozier. Graham saw 42 minutes off the bench, and while it would make a small backcourt, it wouldn’t surprise if he soon replaced the struggling Dwayne Bacon in Charlotte’s starting lineup. Not that it’s a must, as Graham has produced top-60 value off the bench this season after going undrafted in most fantasy leagues.
O.G. Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
He’s made the leap in Year 3 many were expecting, taking advantage of an expanded role with Kawhi Leonard out of Toronto. Anunoby is a huge help in defensive stats, limits turnovers and shoots well, so he’s been a monster (top-25) in cat leagues so far. Anunoby is one of only two players in the NBA currently averaging both 1.5 spg and 1.5 bpg (Andre Drummond is the other), and his huge spike in playing time this season is here to stay.
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
With Stephen Curry out three months, the Warriors have new goals for 2019/20, and that’s getting their young players experience and best positioning themselves for the draft (it’s not tanking if the team isn’t trying to lose). This means extra rest for Green, who’s coming off five straight deep postseason runs and already dealing with a finger injury. He seemingly showed up in “playoff shape” this year unnecessarily, as Golden State is suddenly staring at a lost season (there’s almost no chance Klay Thompson returns now). While Green’s Usage Rate will be high when on the court, he’s going to be off it far more than fantasy managers would like.
Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks
He hasn’t exactly been a bust with 2.2 bpg and 0.8 spg in just 19:10 mpg, but the low playing time and constant foul trouble have been frustrating and continue to hold back Robinson, who’s returning value nowhere near his ADP so far. His foul rate simply has to regress, but the big man is now dealing with a possible concussion to go along with a sprained finger, and all the power forwards New York signed during the offseason are predictably hurting each other’s value. The crowded frontcourt has left Julius Randle as one of this season’s early fantasy busts as well.
Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
As hoped, Memphis has gone from girt-and-grind to ranking top-five in Pace this season, but unfortunately that hasn’t also helped an expected breakout from Jackson, who’s taken a clear step back in Year 2. Rookie power forward Brandon Clarke is probably already a better rebounder. Still, JJJ’s slow start likely has plenty to do with a sore knee, and how fast that injury heals will be the same length as his buy-low window in fantasy leagues.