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Experts Analysis

Rookie Report, Volume Eight

by Raphielle Johnson
Updated On: February 13, 2021, 12:36 pm ET

It's Thursday, which means another installment of the "Rookie Report" on NBC Sports EDGE. This week's edition will take a look at the impact that new additions/returns have had on the rotations in Minnesota and New York, and it appears that fans of the Knicks can breathe a sigh of relief. But we'll start with Chicago's lottery pick, who took full advantage of two games against the Magic over the weekend. 

Bulls’ Williams is making strides: For the season, Patrick Williams hasn’t been as valuable fantasy-wise as some hoped given his presence in Chicago’s starting lineup. But he is taking steps in the right direction, and last Friday he had his best game as a pro. In the four-point loss to Orlando, Williams scored a career-high 20 points to go along with seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot in 34 minutes. There may have been something about the matchup that worked in Williams’ favor, as he followed that up with a 16/10/1/1 block line against the Magic the following night.

Williams has struggled with his shot in the two games since, going 2-of-7 from the field against both the Wizards and Pelicans, but that hasn’t hurt his value much. Over the last week he has provided seventh-round value in 9-cat formats, and eighth-round value in 8-cat. Williams is rostered in 34% of Yahoo leagues, a fair number given the lack of consistent production early on. But look for that percentage to increase, especially with the Bulls scheduled to play four games next week.

Impact of Towns’ return on Edwards: Karl-Anthony Towns made his long-awaited return to the Timberwolves lineup Wednesday night, and with that comes the question of how this impacts Anthony Edwards. The first overall pick in November’s draft, Edwards has been a top-100 player in 9-cat over the last two weeks. After a run of 13 straight games in which he attempted at least 12 field goals, Edwards had just nine (with five being 3-point attempts) in the loss to the Clippers and finished with 11 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal and one 3-pointer. Also, this was a game in which Minnesota was still without D’Angelo Russell.

Edwards isn’t an “auto-drop,” as he is going to get rotation minutes. But once Russell and Towns are paired together again, this could be a situation in which fantasy managers would be better served if Edwards was moved into the sixth-man role. Playing in a starting lineup that includes those two and Malik Beasley won’t help Edwards at all when it comes to getting shot attempts.

Magic’s Anthony (shoulder) avoids MRI: After some early struggles, Orlando’s Cole Anthony has made strides as the team’s new starting point guard. This hasn’t exactly translated into increased fantasy value however, as he still ranks well outside of the top-100 in both 8- and 9-cat formats. But Orlando’s lack of depth at the point, combined with the absence of secondary playmakers Evan Fournier (back) and Aaron Gordon (ankle), means that Anthony will have every opportunity to figure things out.

Unfortunately, he injured his right shoulder during the second quarter of Tuesday’s loss to the Trail Blazers. The good news: no MRI was required, and Anthony is officially listed as questionable for Friday’s game against the Kings. Looking ahead to next week, the Magic only play three times, so there wouldn’t be much value to be had in picking up Anthony (currently rostered in 43% of Yahoo leagues).

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Role change for Quickley?: No rookies were moved in Sunday’s trade between the Knicks and Pistons, but Derrick Rose’s return to New York certainly raised eyebrows. Why? Because of the fear that Rose joining forces with Tom Thibodeau would mean bad things for rookie Immanuel Quickley. Not so much from a mentorship standpoint, as Rose did well with Detroit’s young players and stated a commitment to doing the same for Quickley and Obi Toppin in New York. But rather from a playing time standpoint.

We got our first look at how Thibodeau would use Rose and Quickley Tuesday night during the team’s loss to the Heat. And if one game is any indication of what will happen the rest of the way, there isn’t much reason to be concerned. Quickley played 21 minutes and Rose 20, with Austin Rivers (DNP-CD) ultimately being the odd man out in the Knicks’ bench rotation. It’s only one game, but Quickley continuing to receive consistent minutes is critical when it comes to the future of the franchise. And while his fantasy value isn’t great, those who still have Quickley rostered shouldn’t view him as an automatic drop.

Protocols thwart Maledon’s progress: With George Hill due to miss a significant amount of time due to a thumb injury, Thunder guard Theo Maledon found himself thrust into the starting lineup. And he played well, hitting double figures in four of five games including a 24-point, three-rebound, three-assist, six 3-pointer effort on January 29 vs. Brooklyn. For the month of January, Maledon averaged 7.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.6 3-pointers per game, while shooting 42.3% from the field. Those aren’t great numbers, but he had his moments when given the opportunity to play extended minutes.

Unfortunately the rookie hasn’t had the opportunity to build on the progress made, as he has missed Oklahoma City’s last two games due to the league’s health and safety protocols. When he will be cleared to return remains unknown, so there isn’t much use in fantasy managers grabbing Maledon off of the waiver wire. But those who already have him, as Maledon is rostered in 13% of Yahoo leagues, would be well-served to hold onto the rookie. In the short-term Oklahoma City will play four times next week, so if he can get back by then there are opportunities to produce. Taking the long view, if the Thunder fall out of playoff contention as many expect, Maledon should play plenty down the stretch.

Tillman’s role diminished with Valanciunas back: Memphis welcomed back starting center Jonas Valanciunas and reserve guard Grayson Allen over the weekend, as both missed time due to health and safety protocols. In the case of the former, there haven’t been any signs of rust as Valanciunas followed up his 23-point, seven-rebound performance on Saturday with back-to-back double-doubles. So what does this mean for Xavier Tillman, who filled in admirably while Valanciunas sat? It means that it’s time for the few who still have the rookie rostered to pull the plug. While Tillman has tallied 28, 20 and 17 minutes in the three games that the Grizzlies have played since Valanciunas’ return, he hasn’t been particularly productive.

Over the last week, Tillman ranks outside of the top-200 in both 8- and 9-cat formats. He’s currently rostered in 7% of Yahoo leagues, which may be a bit high given the decreased role and production. Fellow Grizzlies rookie Desmond Bane, on the other hand, is in the midst of a good run. He’s scored 10 points or more in eight of Memphis’ last nine games, and over the last week Bane ranks just outside of the top-100 in both 8- and 9-cat formats. He’s played no fewer than 19 minutes in any of those games, and with the Grizzlies having four to play next week Bane (rostered in 4% of Yahoo leagues) is worth a look in deep leagues.

Celtics’ Pritchard (knee) returns to action: After missing two weeks due to a knee injury, Payton Pritchard made his return to the Celtics lineup February 5 vs. the Clippers. The point guard out of Oregon returned to his usual spot on the back end of the rotation, receiving a slight bump in minutes due to the absences of Jaylen Brown (who has since returned) and Marcus Smart. And in addressing the media, Pritchard said that he isn’t completely back to full strength just yet.

In addition to the physical rust, there’s the mental hesitation that tends to get overlooked when discussing how players fare in their returns to action. "When I step on the court, I’ve got to be in attack mode on both ends of the floor ... I’ve just got to come in with a fire and be willing to go make plays,” Pritchard said Tuesday. Rostered in 4% of Yahoo leagues, Pritchard doesn’t offer much in the way of fantasy value right now. But his name is worth keeping in mind, especially for managers in multi-year leagues.

Past Columns

Volume OneWiseman’s debut a solid first step

Volume TwoAll aboard the Haliburton bandwagon

Volume Three: Fultz injury thrusts Anthony into the spotlight

Volume Four: Opportunity knocks for Maxey

Volume Five: Grizzlies rookies limited due to postponements

Volume Six: Wiseman moved to the bench

Volume Seven: Rozier injury pushes Ball into starting lineup

Raphielle Johnson
Raphielle has been writing about college sports for more than a decade for multiple outlets, including NBC Sports. Focuses have included game recaps, columns, features and recruiting stories. A native of the Northeast, he now calls Pac-12 country home. Raphielle can be followed on Twitter @raphiellej.