I’m not sure how many people expected Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to be the most exciting player on the Brooklyn Nets roster at any point in the season, much less at this juncture in the campaign. But here we are, less than halfway to the halfway point of the season, and the rookie is well on his way to achieving that title, on pace to shatter any low-end expectations in the process.
In nine games as a starter, Hollis-Jefferson is averaging a modest 5.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.9 steals on 47.5% shooting. Over his last two games, Hollis-Jefferson is averaging 11.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 4.0 steals on 7-of-15 shooting while playing 30-plus minutes in each one. Hear that sound? The service elevator has arrived, and Hollis-Jefferson is moving on up.
Gold Star: Kyle Lowry, PG Toronto Raptors
It hasn’t taken long for Kyle Lowry’s four-year, $48 million contract to look like an absolute bargain, and it’s taken even less time for those who drafted the veteran point guard to realize what a steal he was. A bulldog at both ends of the floor, Lowry had a ridiculous 11 steals this week. Currently on pace to shatter his career-high mark of 121 steals, Lowry should clear 150 swipes for the first time ever so long as his health cooperates. With a renewed commitment to fitness this summer translating to on-court results, that shouldn’t be a problem.
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No Discounts: Kemba Walker, PG Charlotte Hornets
Walker is capable of really inflating the box score when he’s feeling good, and it appears we’re in the midst of another one of Kemba’s Kooking Klasses (trademark pending). A career 39.7% shooter, the UConn product has made over 50% of his shots in three straight games, and he’s averaging 23.0 points, 5.0 dimes and 2.3 triples during that stretch. More important to this discussion is his activity at the defensive end, where he’s also averaging 2.3 steals during that same period. Walker plays four times next week, including against Michael Carter-Williams and the imposing Mo Williams/Matthew Dellavedova combo platter. It’s time to keep eating.
Bargain Bin: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SG Brooklyn Nets
I’ve talked about rookie Rondae before, and Hollis-Jefferson is trending upward for all of the right reasons. Capable of contributing across the stat sheet without ever having a play called for him, Hollis-Jefferson set a career-high in steals with five of them on Sunday, giving him 10 for the week. Locked into the starting lineup—without much of a challenge—and having played at least 23 minutes in five straight games, RHJ makes sense as a back of the roster addition for anyone in 12-plus team formats. Don’t be like those who lost out on Nikola Jokic because they wanted to call it a fluke.
Gold Star: Ryan Anderson, F/C New Orleans Pelicans
Anderson has 15 triples this week alone, and since nobody in their right mind is trading Stephen Curry, the Ryno earns the top spot.
Now playing 30-plus minutes with regularity and a focal point of what the shorthanded Pelicans are doing at the offensive end of the floor, Anderson is someone I’d think about selling high on before he returns to this Earth. The Pelicans are getting healthier down low, and nobody is taking minutes from Anthony Davis. On top of that, Tyreke Evans’ return from knee surgery is right around the corner, while Jrue Holiday (leg) is on track to enjoy a bigger role as we move deep into the season. The points and triples are certainly nice, but Anderson doesn’t provide much else.
No Discounts: J.R. Smith, G/F Cleveland Cavaliers
J.R. Smith is still the man when it comes to Cleveland’s shooting guard spot, but that’s not going to last forever. With 11 3-pointers over his last three and 36 minutes or more in every game during the last week, Smith may never be more valuable as a fantasy basketball asset than he is right now. That sounds like a perfect time to move on, doesn’t it?
Think of it like this: When trying to capitalize on R.O.I., it’s better to move a week too early than it is a week too late. Iman Shumpert (wrist) is targeting a December return, Kyrie Irving (knee surgery) is creeping around the corner and Smith’s role is going to be marginalized as the roster improves around him. A volatile asset to begin with, Smith’s future fantasy value won’t be based on what he’s already achieved in the past.
Bargain Bin: C.J. Miles, G/F Indiana Pacers
Miles only had two games this week, but he certainly made the most of them with averages of 20.5 points, 3.5 triples and 2.0 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. Capable of adding instant offense to a team that needs it, Miles saw his role and usage increase with George Hill (illness) sitting on the sidelines. Moving forward, it’s going to be tough to rely on the streaky scorer for consistent value, and if you can move him for a gamble and/or low-end asset in an area of need, I wouldn’t think twice about it.
Gold Star: Hassan Whiteside, C Miami Heat
Whiteside is on his own planet in this category, and it’s hard to say that it’s going to be close given what he’s doing to the rest of the NBA right now. Considering he played more than 30 minutes just once in his three-game stretch to collect the 22 swats, Whiteside’s placement here is more obvious than the ultimate outcome of his second season in Miami: A max contract.
No Discounts: Karl-Anthony Towns, C Minnesota Timberwolves
When a rookie can go through a week and average 17.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in matchups vs. Hassan Whiteside, Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond, odds are pretty good that he’s going to be matchup-proof. In the case of Karl-Anthony Towns, that sentence couldn’t be truer as the No. 1 pick is already tearing up the league.
An absolute tactician for someone of his age and experience level, Towns is not someone I’d even think about moving unless receiving an elite first-round talent in return. That’s not going to happen.
Bargain Bin: Serge Ibaka, F/C Oklahoma City Thunder
Ibaka has struggled to make his usual impact since Kevin Durant (left hamstring strain) went out of the lineup, but now is a good time to buy low. With K.D. expected to return to action no later than Thanksgiving week, Ibaka should be able to slide into his familiar third-wheel role. That’s a look that has proven productive prior for Ibaka, and there is little reason to believe such a familiar formula is about to change. For a guy who is capable of winning your week and was drafted inside the first few rounds, you can get Ibaka at a discount right now. That’s smart shopping.