We are just about 25 percent of the way through the NBA season, which means that it’s time to take stock of who is living up to expectations and who isn’t in fantasy basketball. To accomplish this goal, our Lakers Nation committee of one is going to hand out first quarter awards.
There is still plenty of time left in the season for players to turn things around, but here are the guys who have been getting the job done so far, as well as one who isn’t:
First Quarter Rookie- Joel Embiid
While he may not be a typical rookie after spending his first two years in the league on the bench due to a multitude of injuries, Joel “The Process” Embiid is quickly making up for lost time, and it’s paying dividends for fantasy owners. The big man out of Kansas features a versatile game with range all the way out to the three-point line to go along with rim protection that someday could be elite. His 51 percent shooting from three likely isn’t sustainable, as he only shoots 48 percent from the field overall, but still, fantasy owners can’t complain about 18.7 points, 2.2 blocks, 7.9 boards, and 1.4 threes per game. He’s an easy favorite for Rookie of the Year, and his stats could get even better now that his minutes per game limit is about to be increased.
First Quarter Biggest Surprise- Lou Williams
The Lakers have likely been the surprise team of the first quarter of the season thanks in part to a career-best run from former 6th Man of the Year, Lou Williams. Williams has been terrific scoring the ball with 17.5 points per game, but he has also provided 3.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.9 threes, and he gets to the line 5.2 times per game where he shoots 82 percent. Add all that up and you have an all-around fantasy stud, despite averaging just 24 minutes per game. It’s not clear whether or not Sweet Lou can keep up this level of production, but he currently sits at 35th on ESPN’s Player Rater after going undrafted in the most leagues, making him the clear-cut biggest surprise of the season.
First Quarter Best Value- Myles Turner
Williams has certainly provided tremendous value to his owners, but as far as players who were typically drafted in standard leagues, Myles Turner has provided the best value. The Indiana Pacers sophomore had buzz heading into the season but no one predicted he would be this good. Turner is currently averaging 14.9 points, 7.8 boards, and .9 steals with 54 percent shooting from the field and 81 percent from the line. Those are great numbers by themselves, but it’s the addition of Turner’s 2.3 blocks per game that makes him elite. Bigs who can block shots and hit free throws always have value and Turner has fit that bill perfectly, catapulting from being the 73rd overall pick on average in ESPN drafts to his current spot at 25th on the Player Rater. Fantasy basketball owners who took a chance on Turner have plenty of reason to smile after the first quarter of the season.
First Quarter LVP- Brandon Knight
As great as everyone else on this list has been, Brandon Knight has been just as bad. Owners selected Knight with the 67th pick on average, expecting him to provide a nice mix of scoring and assists to go along with excellent free throw shooting and a few threes. Unfortunately, Knight has found himself coming off the bench behind Devin Booker in Phoenix and is in a shooting slump (38 percent FG) that has killed most of his value. To make matters worse, his assists have fallen from 5.1 per game last season to just 2.8 this season, and as a result, he currently sits at 161 on ESPN’s Player Rater. Knight still has talent, but at this point, it’s understandable if owners want to cut bait and roll with a hot pickup off of the waiver wire instead.
First Quarter MVP -Kevin Durant
The best of the best. Tons of question marks surrounded Kevin Durant’s fantasy value this season as owners worried that a switch the Golden State Warriors would take the ball out of his hands and sap his value. Instead, Durant has produced at roughly the same level as he did last season in Oklahoma City, except he has actually been a bit better thanks to an increase in field goal percentage. He was always excellent in the percentage categories, but with the Golden State offense getting him open looks Durant is up from 50 percent last season to a ridiculous 56 percent currently. Additionally, he is helping the Warriors out protecting the rim more than he did in OKC, which has caused his blocks to jump to a career-high 1.8. Durant has been an absolute fantasy monster and is making anyone who doubted him look foolish.