We’re about a month into the NBA season, so we have a reasonable sample size of stats to consider. It’s crucial to identify if hot starts are sustainable or if regression will hit as the season progresses. Let’s discuss five such players and project their fantasy basketball outlooks.
Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz
Markkanen is one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this season. He was dealt to the Jazz after struggling during the end of his tenure in Chicago and his one season with Cleveland. The Cavaliers had a lot of size up front with Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Kevin Love, which sometimes left Markkanen playing out of position.
Now with a fresh start in Utah, he’s one of the focal points of a rebuilding team that has exceeded expectations. His usage rate is 24.0%, which is more than four percentage points higher than last season. He has also shot 52.3% from the field, which would be the best mark of his career by a wide margin. The result has been him averaging 21.3 points and 2.1 3-pointers per game, to go along with 8.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 blocks. Given that he has never shot higher than 48.0% from the field during his career, his efficiency will likely regress. It’s also yet to be determined if the Jazz will try to turn their hot start into a run at a playoff spot or dive further into a rebuild.
Another question with Markkanen has been his health. He has never played more than 68 games in a season. Markkanen is likely to have one of the best seasons of his career, but this might be an opportune time to cash in on his hot start and consider trading him in fantasy.
Jerami Grant, Portland Trail Blazers
Grant being traded from the Pistons to the Trail Blazers seemed like it was going to deal a blow to his fantasy production. He was one of the focal points of the Pistons’ offense, averaging at least 19.2 points in both of his seasons in Detroit. Now a member of the Trail Blazers, he has Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic to compete with for shot attempts. His usage rate is down at 22.5%, which is more than three percentage points lower than last season.
Even with Grant seeing fewer shot attempts, he has averaged 20.1 points per game. He has remained productive because he has shot 48.2% from the field and 47.4% from behind the arc. For his career, he has shot 45.3% from the field and 35.5% from deep. Regression is coming, especially from three. However, he’s not necessarily someone to consider trading. He will still have a vital role with the team and can help fantasy managers with defensive stats. He has averaged at least 1.0 blocks per game in seven of his first eight seasons, and he averaged a career-high 0.9 steals last season. This season, he has provided 0.7 steals and 0.9 blocks per game.
Spencer Dinwiddie, Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks need someone to help take some of the scoring pressure off of Luka Doncic, and they hope Dinwiddie is that guy. He has been busy out of the gate, averaging 17.6 points and 3.0 3-pointers per game. The off-guard plays a lot and has a 22.5% usage rate, but the main reason for his improved production is that he is shooting 45.5% from the field and 41.2% from deep. Considering he has only shot 32.7% for his career from behind the arc, it’s more than fair to expect his production in that area to decline.
Even if Dinwiddie’s efficiency takes a hit, he can still be valuable in fantasy. He has also provided 3.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game. The Mavericks don’t have a ton of talent on their roster, so he and Christian Wood should remain Doncic’s top running mates. It’s not a bad idea to see if you can trade him at his peak value, but don’t force a move.
Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks continue to play shorthanded, with Khris Middleton (wrist) having yet to make his season debut. Brook Lopez is stepping up in his absence, averaging 16.4 points per game. That is on pace to be his highest mark since the 2016-17 season when he was with the Nets. He has been stellar from behind the arc, providing 2.5 3-pointers per game. The center’s averages of 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game have made him an even more valuable fantasy option.
Lopez has a 19.5% usage rate, which is actually lower than his 21.9% mark last season. He battled a back injury then, which limited him to just 13 games. When he played 70 games in the 2020-21 season, he had a 16.9% usage rate. It’s difficult to argue against him being aided by the absence of Middleton. Once Middleton returns, Lopez could see a decline in scoring. However, with his ability to provide blocks and 3-pointers out of the center spot, he’s not someone to rush trading away.
Bol Bol, Orlando Magic
Bol couldn’t find his way onto the floor during his tenure with the Nuggets. He has a unique skillset for a player of his size, but with Nikola Jokic running the show and the Nuggets having their sights set on making deep playoff runs, they didn’t give Bol many opportunities to develop. Now on the Magic, he has been given a chance to make an impact on a team full of young players. After just five games, he was moved into the starting lineup. Over 10 games in that role, he has averaged 14.0 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.0 3-pointers while shooting 61.8% from the field and 90.9% from the free-throw line.
The Magic have dealt with many injuries this season, especially at guard. It’s clear, though, that Bol has surpassed Mo Bamba and Chuma Okeke in the pecking order. It’s not a bad idea to shop Bol on the trade block in fantasy, but with how well he has played and his potential to remain a starter going forward, be sure to get a hefty return if you move him.
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Mike started covering fantasy sports in 2007, joining RotoWire in 2010. In 2018, he was a finalist for the 2018 FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. In addition to RotoWire, Mike has written for Sportsline, Sports Illustrated, DK Live, RealTime Fantasy Sports, Lineup Lab and KFFL.com.