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Basketball Pickups: Alex Caruso steps up on Friday

Is it too early to assess NBA teams' potential?
Dan Patrick takes a look around the NBA and attempts to pin down how good a few teams are early into this season, including the Lakers, Mavericks and Celtics.

The Bulls have been the focus of conversations that few want to have, as it was reported that the team could be headed toward a breakup. The Bulls have their stars, but they also have supplementary contributors like Alex Caruso (29%), who will be valuable on the trade market should the franchise decide to move on from some of their top players. Moved into the starting lineup for Friday’s loss to the Hornets, he was sensational, scoring 18 points with one rebound, three steals, two blocks, and four 3-pointers in 23 minutes. Caruso has a game that makes it possible for him to provide fantasy value regardless of what happens with his shot.

Caruso is the lone Bulls player ranked within the top 50 in 9-cat per game value, which is a bit jarring given the presence of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic. Caruso’s fantasy value is capped unless he’s traded to a team that will play him in upwards of 30 minutes per game, but there’s still good value to be had. However, the fact that he’s been productive across the board makes him a player worth rostering, even though the Jazz will only play three games next week.

Let’s take a look at a few more of Friday’s top pickups:

Keyonte George (31%)

The Jazz rookie point guard continues to produce, as he finished Friday’s loss to the Suns with 15 points, three rebounds, six assists, one steal, and three 3-pointers in 29 minutes. While George’s season-long fantasy value remains outside the top 200 in 9-cat formats, he’s been a top 100 player over the last week. While it would be nice to see George go well past that 30-minute mark, that’s a tough ask with Talen Horton-Tucker and Collin Sexton in the rotation. But the playing time hasn’t made George a fantasy liability since he was moved into the starting lineup, and that’s unlikely to be the case in the future, either.

Dyson Daniels (24%)

Daniels, who has now started New Orleans’ last five games, was impactful on both ends of the court in the Pelicans’ 115-110 win over the Nuggets on Friday. Playing 33 minutes, he accounted for 10 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and zero turnovers. Providing 12th-round value in 9-cat formats for the season, Daniels has been a top 40 player over the last week. While Jose Alvarado (ankle) could make his season debut as soon as this weekend, the continued absence of CJ McCollum will have a greater impact on Daniels’ fantasy value in the short term. New Orleans hosts Minnesota on Saturday and will then play four games in Week 5 with a back-to-back.

Jonathan Isaac (8%)

We’ve reached the point where deep-league managers should seriously consider adding Isaac. He played 20 minutes off the bench in Friday’s 103-97 win over the Bulls, scoring 18 points with nine rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block, and two 3-pointers. Given his skill set, Isaac only needs a good 20 minutes to be impactful on either end of the floor; against Chicago, he was a factor on both. Gary Harris (1%) may have been the spot starter, filling in for Jalen Suggs (knee) and finishing with 15 points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal, two blocks, and three 3-pointers.

There’s no denying this is a good stat line, but fantasy managers would be better-served gambling on Isaac in this spot. Orlando has one more game to play this week (Sunday at IND), and they’ll also play four games in Week 5. There is a back-to-back next week, which could limit Isaac to three games, but that’s fine.

Pat Connaughton (4%)

Milwaukee’s rotation was whole for Friday’s blowout of the Hornets, so Connaughton wasn’t someone who would be on the streaming radar. However, this was the first game of a back-to-back, which could mean that Khris Middleton (23 minutes vs. Charlotte) is in line for an injury management day. Connaughton played 31 minutes off the bench in Friday’s 130-99 victory, accumulating 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three 3-pointers. That isn’t a spectacular line, but Bucks coach Adrian Griffin trimmed his rotation down to eight players. No Middleton would push Connaughton up the pecking order, so he’s worthy of consideration in deep leagues.

Christian Braun (3%)

The Braun many hoped we would see on a consistent basis finally showed up on Friday. Playing 30 minutes off the bench, he finished Denver’s loss to New Orleans with 25 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and three 3-pointers. This was a very good effort for the few managers who have Braun rostered, but one game does not make a player’s fantasy value. It’s OK to wait to see Braun string together a few solid performances before making a move, even with Friday’s stat line.