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Week 1 Takeaways + Updated Rankings (2020-21 Fantasy Basketball)

Dec 28, 2020

Josh Richardson is off to a hot start with the Mavericks

It’s hard to believe, but Week 1 one of the NBA season is already in the books. It was a crazy week of action, featuring classic OT thrillers, high-scoring performances, and a Clippers meltdown at the hands of the Mavericks. With Week 2 on the horizon, we polled our experts for their biggest takeaways of the Association’s opening week and what they mean for fantasy basketball. Here’s Brad CamaraAlex BurnsAaron Larson, Adam Koffler and Zak Hanshew with their takeaways and updated Rest of Season rankings.

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Mason Plumlee has been ultra-efficient per 36 in his career, and this year, he’s getting the chance to show what he can do in a starting role. He’s averaged 10.0, 8.5 boards, 5.5 assists, and 1.5 steals across 32.5 minutes in two appearances, and he should get all the minutes and opportunities he can handle on the rebuilding Pistons. I’ve moved Plumlee inside my top-100 rankings.

Myles Turner has averaged 5.7 blocks through three games. That’s not a typo. The defensive dynamo has been a tour de force inside the paint, and he deserves a move up in ROS rankings due to his dominance in a scarce category.

Khris Middleton has started the season on a tear, averaging 26.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 3.3 triples across three games. Those numbers are eye-popping, and while likely unsustainable for the rest of the season, it looks like he’s going to be even more productive than expected in 2020-21.  -Hanshew

Wherever you drafted Domantas Sabonis, it was likely too low. Here’s a guy averaging 24.3 points (on 57.4% FG), 11 rebounds and seven assists in 37 minutes per game through the first three games of the season. If that’s not enough, he’s also added a good looking 3-point shot to his repertoire, which had been missing for the first four seasons of his career. Simply put, he’s a stud, and he should be considered a top-25 fantasy asset moving forward this season.

Coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t lying when he said he wanted his young guys playing more minutes. That’s been to the detriment of 15-year veteran big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who outside of his rookie season, is averaging career lows in points (12.0), rebounds (4.3) and minutes (26) per game to start the year. This is without Derrick White too, who has yet to make his return from offseason toe surgery. He’s one of the biggest fallers in my rest of season rankings, as I expect Pop and the Spurs to shift the focus to their young core and play more of a run-n-gun style of basketball than they have in years’ past.  -Koffler

Jaylen Brown is already paying dividends for fantasy managers who selected him in the middle rounds. He is averaging 26.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks over three games in 2020-21. The 24-year-old will to continue produce as a top-40 player while Kemba Walker is sidelined through mid-January with a knee injury.

Chris Boucher, a popular sleeper candidate in fantasy drafts, swatted seven shots and recorded a double-double in his previous game. As long Boucher plays close to 30 minutes per contest, sky is the limit for the 27-year-old. He should be added in all league formats.

Karl-Anthony Towns is week-to-week with a left dislocation and I have dropped him to sixth in my latest centers rankings. It is unclear exactly when the Timberwolves star will return, but if it’s only a few weeks, fantasy managers might just need to stream centers for the next few weeks. The Hawks are off to a blistering start (2-0) and look as good as advertised. I know it’s early, but Trae Young an Atlanta are becoming one of the most entertaining teams to watch so far this season.  -Camara

After the shortest offseason in NBA history, the first week of the season has been exactly what you’d expect: rusty. Despite most teams looking to get back into playing shape, there has definitely been some trends beginning to brew early on. For starters, Josh Richardson and Darius Garland have seen their fantasy stock rise as a result of their play over the first week. Richardson, who I had ranked 120 overall coming into the year, has averaged 16.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting just under 40 percent from downtown on 6.6 attempts per game over the Mavericks’ first three games. Because of Luka Doncic‘s presence on the floor, most of Richardson’s shot attempts are catch-and-shoot three’s that are completely wide open. That’s what made him a solid fantasy asset during his 2018-2019 season in Miami and that’s exactly the opposite of how the 76ers utilized him last season. He is worth an add across all formats and I have already moved him into the top-85.

Darius Garland has also come on strong this week, averaging 19.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 54.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from three over Cleveland’s first three games. He and fellow backcourt mate Collin Sexton have displayed great chemistry and that trend should continue going forward. Garland is now moving into my top-80 for the rest of the season. As for some of the bigger name fantasy stars, James Harden dropped 44 points and 17 assists in his season debut. Managers who snagged him in the mid-to-end of the first round as a result of his drama with the Rockets have to be thrilled. Harden will produce top-two numbers as long as he is on the court.

The biggest news, however, is that Kevin Durant looks like… well, Kevin Durant. After a near two-year layoff due to a ruptured Achilles back in June of 2019, Durant looks just as potent as he ever did. He and Kyrie Irving aim to turn the Nets into a contender and fantasy managers who selected him at the end of the first or early in the second have to be pleased with his first three performances. Lauri Markkanen has looked impressive early on for the Bulls, especially coming off of a down season in 2019-2020. The Bulls have made it clear they want to get the most out of the 23-year-old power forward and so far he’s averaging 20 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 54.4 percent from the field and just under 50 percent from three on seven attempts a game. As impressive as those numbers are, it’s important to note that he’s doing that in only 28.7 minutes per game.

He sat out most of the fourth quarter in the Bulls first two games as they were getting blown out and left early against the Warriors with a calf injury and did not return. If the injury ends up being minor, Markkanen will look to build off of his impressive start to the season. There are a lot more noteworthy trends that are forming heading into the second week of the season, but we’d be here all day if forced to cite them all. The NBA is officially back!  -Burns

Ja Morant has taken a huge step forward, and Nikola Jokic can be considered the top center in fantasy basketball. Let’s start with Morant; the Memphis guard only averaged 17.8 points/game last season and, even though it’s just two games, he’s currently more than doubling that average at 36 points/game. His shooting has clearly improved and he’s still adept at delivering assists. Last year’s second overall draft pick is shooting up my rankings and has entered the top-20. That may be a bit aggressive but if he can maintain the stellar numbers he put up in Week 1 he’ll easily finish in that range.

As for Jokic, he fell just one rebound shy of back-to-back triple-doubles to open the season. His 24 assists were the second-most by any player through two games, not something you typically see from a center. I have moved him up to my top-ranked player at the position ahead of Anthony Davis and the recently injured Karl-Anthony Towns -Larson

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