It’s pretty easy to look at the Golden State Warriors and just say “Stephen Curry” when trying to explain their surreal, incendiary start to the season. While the MVP is carrying most of the weight en route to his second straight Maurice Podoloff Trophy, Klay Thompson is beginning to quietly look like the player that we saw explode last year.
Avery Bradley, Kyle Lowry and Andre Drummond continue to make the kind of noise that few expected to hear, and it’s time to look beyond James Harden when searching for some form of value in Houston’s backcourt.
Gold Star: Klay Thompson, G/F Golden State Warriors
Klay Thompson has now scored 20 or more points in four straight after reaching that mark just three times all season prior, and it looks like an early season back concern is finally starting to work its way out of the picture. Making 17-of-36 3-pointers over that time, this is the version of Thompson that resulted in fantasy championships last season.
Now finding his groove for a team that’s still missing Harrison Barnes (ankle) from the lineup, the opportunity to buy low on Thompson has come and gone without enough people taking advantage. In what has incorrectly been called a “down” season by some, Thompson has made 58 3-pointers—good for fifth in the NBA.
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No Discounts: Avery Bradley, SG Boston Celtics
Avery Bradley must be channeling his inner-Randy Moss with how money he’s been of late. Averaging 21.0 points, 3.7 3-pointers and 2.7 steals on a ridiculously efficient 52.3% from the floor, Bradley has been more valuable than nearly anyone projected before the season began. Taking advantage of Marcus Smart’s (knee/leg) absence, Bradley has solidified his place in the starting lineup with his trademark defense and career-best 44.2% connection rate from distance.
He’s not showing any signs of slowing down, and nothing about his production can be called a fluke. Bradley spent all summer working on his shot, and it’s not a surprise that he’s taking advantage of the opportunity. After Isaiah Thomas, Bradley is the only other player on Boston’s roster averaging double-digit shot attempts. Simply put: Boston needs everything Bradley is giving them, and Brad Stevens absolutely loves him.
Bargain Bin: Isaiah Canaan, G Philadelphia 76ers
The return of Tony Wroten and the pending debut of Kendall Marshall both impact Isaiah Canaan, but with the pint-sized sniper still bombing away from distance and is now getting minutes at shooting guard. He’s 11-of-21 over his last three contests, and the Sixers need him on the floor in order to create better spacing. It’s not a coincidence that Canaan has seen at least 24.5 minutes in eight straight games.
Because Canaan’s stock is a volatile one and he provides nothing beyond points and triples, Canaan is a low-end rental for those in need of a short-term boost from behind the 3-point line.
Gold Star: Hassan Whiteside, C Miami Heat
Hassan Whiteside isn’t suddenly about to become an electric scorer for a Miami Heat team that is intentionally feeding Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as much as they can eat, but Whiteside’s value was never about what he could do at the offensive end of the floor. With 10 blocks this week alone despite not playing more than 29 minutes in any of his three games, Whiteside now has 82 blocks through 18 games. For those keeping score at home, the only other players with at least 50 are Serge Ibaka and DeAndre Jordan, and they’ve each played in two more games than Whiteside.
Whiteside now has five games of at least five blocks in the last three weeks alone, and he should have no problem swatting 200-plus shots this season when it’s all said and done. For context: Whiteside had 123 blocks in 48 games during his breakout year last season. He’s already at 82 through 18 games this time around.
No Discounts: Dwight Howard, C Houston Rockets
It was hard to find anyone bullish on Dwight Howard’s fantasy prospects before his season began, but he’s made a believer out of many—myself included—with how good he’s looked on the floor. More and more resembling the dominant center that we used to know, Howard is playing arguably his best basketball since arriving in Houston.
Now cleared to play in back-to-back sets and with the training wheels having come off, Howard averaged 12.7 points, 14.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 3.0 blocks on 59.1% shooting. Like Andre Drummond, Howard is best left for head-to-head formats because of his inability to correct the free throw problem, but the fact that he was regularly drafted after guys like Jonas Valanciunas, Kenneth Faried, Nerlens Noel and Danny Green looks laughable right about now.
Bargain Bin: Jerami Grant, F Philadelphia 76ers
If you don’t think Jerami Grant has a sustainable role in Philadelphia, you just haven’t been paying close enough attention.
Playing multiple positions—including center—for a team that’s short on talent, Grant’s place on the floor is essential for an organization that is insistent on trying to make the Jahlil Okafor-Nerlens Noel pairing work. In his last three games, Grant is averaging 10.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 3.0 blocks on 48.0% shooting. Grant’s scoring isn’t the reason he’s on your team, so whatever he gives you there is really just icing on the cake.
This isn’t a player who is just getting minutes because he’s on the Sixers. Grant is a good player getting better, and he’s averaged at least a block in every month this season so far. Grant doesn’t get to the line enough where his free throw shooting (71.1%) is going to be an issue, and those ignoring his ability to help on the defensive end are doing so at their own peril. His ownership rate is up to 34% on the Yahoo! Platform—up from the 17% it was at less than a week ago. It’s about time Grant got your attention, and he should be rostered in more than a third of fantasy leagues.
Gold Star: Kyle Lowry, PG Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry wasn’t a first-round pick so he’s eligible to appear on this list, but he’s returning first-round value and is playing like somebody intent on remaining at this level all season long. Lowry’s famous summer of fitness has clearly paid off, and he’s posting some of the best numbers of his career as the result of his offseason dedication.
With 57 steals through his first 21 games, Lowry is already more than halfway to last year’s mark of 109 swipes. Averaging 2.7 thefts per game, by far the best mark he’s ever posted, Lowry is a good bet to break his career-high of 121 steals. Lowry needed just three games this week to rack up 10 steals, and he’s now got six games—through his first 21—with four or more steals this season.
No Discounts: Andre Drummond, C Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond is ninth in the NBA with 39 steals and 15th in the league with 31 blocks. A clear candidate to finish with 100-plus in each defensive category, the franchise center is on pace to shatter his previous career-high mark of 101 steals. Although he’s not blocking quite as many shots as he did last season, that’s to be expected with Drummond spending more time away from the basket than he did during the previously ill-fated era.
He’s a complete nightmare from the free throw line, but so is DeAndre Jordan, who doesn’t offer nearly the same upside and was regularly taken before Drummond came off the board. When 15 points, 15 rebounds, a couple steals and a block is seen as an expectation, you know you’re dealing with a special talent enjoying a potentially legendary fantasy season.
Bargain Bin: Patrick Beverley, PG Houston Rockets
Beverley’s last four games: 12.0 points, 1.5 steals and 2.8 triples. He’s not going to ever wow you with what he does in the box score, but Beverley comes at a discount price that won’t be found in stores for much longer.