Fantasy Basketball: Rating the progress of key Year 2 contributors – CBS Sports

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Most rookies aren’t valuable in Fantasy, but that often changes come their second season. It can be valuable to invest Fantasy stock in sophomores, as they rarely take a meaningful step back like some veterans, and the potential leaps can send your team to the top of the standings. Last season, we saw Trae Young, Devonte’ Graham, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luka Doncic and others take a meaningful leap.

So, this season, which sophomores are slumping, and which are succeeding?

Between a nasty ankle injury and postponements, Morant has played just five games this season. He’s looked awesome in those minutes, averaging 22.6 points on 15.8 shots, 7.0 assists (only 2.8 turnovers), 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 29.2 minutes. His usage rate is up to 33.7 percent — a mark reserved for the league’s elite talent. We need a bigger sample size to say anything for certain, but it looks like Morant is blossoming into a top-tier point guard at just 21 years old.

Porter leads the league in being blamed for his team’s bad defense, but that hasn’t stopped him from putting up exceptional offensive numbers. He has remained hard-to-believe efficient, averaging 18.4 points on 55/48/86 shooting, 7.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 2.1 combined steals-plus-blocks. Those splits will normalize, but it’s crystal clear that he’s a gifted player on that side of the ball. In eight category leagues, he’s ranked 25th per game.

Barrett’s per-game numbers are up this season, but that’s really only a function of his increased workload. Barrett is seeing nearly six more minutes per game this season, fueling his 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists. However, those numbers are practically identical to his per-36 marks from last season, and his shooting percentages are still woeful. Out of all players who have taken at least 200 shots this season, he has the sixth-worst true shooting percentage. In Fantasy, you’d much rather have him in a points league.

White has made meaningful strides as a playmaker and a free-throw shooter, dishing 5.6 assists per game in 33.7 minutes and hitting 84.2 percent of his freebies. While his efficiency still isn’t great, hitting just 40.0 percent of his shots from the field, he’s providing a nice 2.3 3s per game at 35.8 percent to fuel his 15.2 points. The next steps in White’s development are getting more shots at the rim (just 2.2 free-throw attempts per game) and becoming a factor on defense (only 0.5 steals per game).

Herro has played 10 games this season and has only played six games with Jimmy Butler, who has been sidelined with COVID-19 protocols recently. Herro has put together some strong performances and is averaging 17.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 33.7 minutes. His 3-point percentage (30.2%) and free-throw percentage (76.5%) are down, but that could just be a function of small sample. Ultimately, it looks like Herro will be taking on more usage than last season, and he should start vying for All-Star bids potentially as soon as next year.

It’s tough to look at Williams’ numbers and say he’s doing anything meaningfully better than last season. He makes his 23.4 points per game look easy with a sky-high 57.8 field-goal percentage, but defenses certainly don’t feel bad about sending him to the free-throw line, as he’s converting just 66.7 percent of his looks from there. He’s still a non-factor from 3, is a good-but-not-great rebounder, doesn’t pass for assists and is a poor defender. That might sound like harsh criticism, but he’s ranked just 79th in Fantasy on a per-game basis in eight-category leagues (just one spot over Nicolas Batum).

Hunter has been extremely efficient this season, with the second-highest true shooting percentage (64.8%) of any sophomore seeing at least 20 minutes per game. That’s been mostly due to his shooting inside the arc, hitting 60.4 percent of his two-pointers. Some of that is real — he’s getting fouled much more than last season — but we can’t expect that to maintain all season since he’s primarily a jump-shooter. Hunter is someone to sell high on if anything, but he has definitely made strides and is worth hanging on to in keeper leagues.

Garland is playing better than his rookie campaign — it wasn’t a high bar to clear — but has slowed down since coming back from a shoulder injury that cost him eight games. He’s barely clinging onto top-100 value at this point, averaging 14.3 points on 41.7 percent shooting, 5.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds. The main concern is that it’s not clear what Garland excels at. He was lauded as a score-from-anywhere point guard with passing upside, but he’s not an elite athlete capable of scaring defenses, and he’s shown little ability to draw contact and finish through it. The passing is coming along, but it’s not a standout skill at this point.

Practically a no-name player as a rookie, Johnson looked good in the bubble last season and has parlayed that into 31.2 minutes per game this year. He’s a bulky and bullying attack-first wing who is effective passing out of drives. That’s led to nice averages of 14.2 points on 11.1 shots, 7.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 combined steals-plus-blocks. Keep an eye on him for your dynasty leagues. It’s not often a 21-year-old gets handed 30 minutes a game from Gregg Popovich. If DeMar DeRozan and/or LaMarcus Aldridge get dealt at the trade deadline, Johnson’s role should increase.

A bubble darling last season, Bazley has struggled to build upon those performances this year. His per 36 numbers are practically identical, and his shooting efficiency has waned from beyond the arc, as he’s hitting just 29.5 percent of his looks from deep. He’s better on two-pointers and from the charity stripe, but that’s not enough to vault his Fantasy value, as he’s ranked just 174th per-game in eight-category leagues. The reality is that Bazeley is still an extremely raw player after skipping college and going straight to the pros last season.

Clarke was one of the bigger surprises of the 2019 rookie class, posting the fifth-best true shooting percentage in the NBA (66.3%) and averaging an impressive 12.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists in only 22.4 minutes. However, his efficiency has faded this season, as his true shooting percentage is down to 49.6 percent, and he’s posting nearly identical box score stats despite seeing seven more minutes per game. His shooting should pick up sooner than later, but it’s looking like a pronounced sophomore slump for the forward.

Washington hasn’t made significant strides in his game, and his shooting has regressed. He’s still an effective Fantasy player, ranking 89th per-game in eight-category leagues, but it doesn’t seem like a leap is in the cards this season. Keep an eye on him in Dynasty formats since the Hornets have shown a lot of faith in him, playing him 30.0 minutes per game for his career.

Dort reached mainstream popularity last season for having an outstanding name and making James Harden’s life difficult in last season’s playoffs. He’s become a focal point of the Thunder’s rebuild this season and clearly put in work during the offseason, becoming a 47/40/76 shooter and averaging a respectable 12.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.0 steals in 28.8 minutes. He’s worth a bench spot in most 12-team leagues.

If you’re looking at Reddish’s awful field goal percentage (35.8) and wondering, what’s going on? Consider that Reddish shot 35.6 percent from the field in college. He’s still getting minutes because — in addition to being a No. 10 overall pick — he’s good at forcing his way to the free-throw line and is a quality defensive player. But don’t expect him to help your Fantasy team unless he figures out how to shoot.

Between an eye infection and COVID-19 protocols, Hachimura has played just seven games this season. The main thing to note is that he’s getting fouled more often, shooting 4.0 freebies per game. Still, he’s reliant on mid-range jumpers, which is less-than-ideal in the NBA and doesn’t often lead to great Fantasy stats. Targeting him in Dynasty leagues is still a good idea despite the old-school offensive game.

Johnson is a 3-point specialist — 70 percent of his shots are from deep — and he’s playing the role well, drilling 2.4 3s per game at 35.3 percent. He shot 39.0 percent as a rookie, so we shouldn’t be surprised if his efficiency trends up as the season goes on. He’s a bench player for your 12-to-14 team leagues.

Is Kendrick Nunn good? I don’t know because I don’t think Erik Spoelstra knows. The sophomore guard was practically out of the rotation earlier in the season, and now, with Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro sidelined as of late, Nunn is playing big minutes and putting up numbers. Over the past six games, Nunn is averaging 17.3 points on 13.3 shots, 4.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals in 33.6 minutes. Could he go back to barely seeing action when everyone is healthy? Possibly. It’s all very confusing.

After showing early season flashes as a rookie but ultimately not being part of the rotation, Alexander-Walker is playing consistent minutes for the Pelicans this season. His passing ability remains a question (just 1.8 assists in 20.0 minutes), but he’s scoring well, averaging 11.0 points on 45/33/78 shooting. The 22-year-old is still a project, but is showing some upside.

Quick Hits

  • Bol Bol is still a project and is not a regular part of the rotation.

  • Sekou Doumbouya is barely in the rotation for a team that’s 4-13.

  • Matisse Thybulle is a disaster this season on offense and is struggling to play important minutes.

  • Talen Horton-Tucker can’t find a consistent role for the Lakers after looking better than Kyle Kuzma in preseason

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