[Editor’s note: Please join us in welcoming Scott Levy to the RotoRob.com team as he checks in with his debut column.]
The 2016-17 NBA season is in its early stages, yet trends are already developing. At the team level, we have already noticed obvious overachievers like the Los Angeles Lakers. There are also those underachievers making themselves known: the New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves, who were supposed to vie for playoff spots; the Boston Celtics, who were supposed to be elite (but are clearly missing Al Horford).
At the player level, these types of starts are evident as well. Here are five over- and underachievers in the NBA so far. Consider this a mining ground for buy-low or sell-high candidates for Fantasy purposes.
Better Than Advertised
Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers: No one expected Embiid to be this good, this fast. The 76ers are wisely limiting his minutes and have so far avoided playing him in back-to-backs. Nevertheless, in fewer than 25 minutes per game, this dude is averaging 18 points and over seven boards with multiple blocks. Embiid is proving to be someone that other teams have to game plan for in order to contain. He already thought he was the face of the 76ers before he even saw court time. Now it seems evident to the rest of us as well.
Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte Hornets: Walker has now apparently become the Eastern Conference’s Stephen Curry. He’s getting more touches and his numbers are insane, especially from downtown, where he used to be below average. That is no longer the case, and Walker’s game is a big reason why the Hornets have been so good early on. It’s been nothing but net for him so far (see video below).
Myles Turner, C, Indiana Pacers: Turner received the benefit of the doubt that he would become good. It just wasn’t supposed to happen this early for a 20-year-old, rail-thin centre. If he cuts down on the fouls and reaches three-point range with his shot, he will be unstoppable. But as it is now, his increased PT has resulted in major gains, making him an early candidate as the league’s most improved player.
C.J. Miles, SF, Indiana Pacers: Turner’s teammate is probably having an even unlikelier coming-out party. Miles is putting up ridiculous shooting splits in November and scoring at a career-high clip — at the age of 29. The veteran is seeing a bit more PT this season, mostly coming off the bench as the Pacers’ sixth man. The role is working for him, so small wonder he highlighted our most recent Fantasy basketball waiver wire recommendations column.
Tim Frazier, PG, New Orleans Pelicans: For the first time in his career, Frazier was thrust into an extended starting gig because of injuries and personal issues with Jrue Holiday, and he has made the most of his opportunity. He ranks among the league leaders in assist percentage despite having few scorers to feed the ball to. Frazier is a pass first guard that doesn’t jack up a ton of shots, but it’s important to note that he may have a short shelf life with Holiday returning, even if Holiday is expected to come off the bench at first. You may want to consider selling high on Frazier while you can.
John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards: News out of Washington is not good, both on and off the court. With that, Wall has been struggling, specifically with turnovers. He has always been a high usage and high turnover player, but things are getting out of hand this season. The good news is Wall has never shot better and, soon, his stud status shall return, so it’s worth finding out if his owner is getting antsy — especially in turnover leagues.
Paul Millsap, PF, Atlanta Hawks: Despite Atlanta’s success, its best player is off to a slow start thanks to a very poor shooting touch early on. The good news is Millsap is getting more touches than ever, so once his accuracy improves (and we saw signs of that in Wednesday’s 8-for-11 showing), this Hawk will take flight.
Pau Gasol, C, San Antonio Spurs: Nothing is specifically wrong with Gasol in his first season in San Antonio. The Spurs are just simply using him in a much different role than he’s used to. At often fewer than 25 minutes a game — a major decline from the kind of minutes he played in Chicago, and way below what he logged in his heyday with the Lakers — Gasol has found it hard to contribute consistently. That’s the Spur system; no stars, all team. So unlike some on this list, it’s hard to consider him a buy-low candidate, as this may be his new norm as long as he’s in San Antonio.
Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards: Beal is a one-dimensional player who isn’t shooting well right now and is already hurt again. Things are bad for the Wizards as this backcourt — as talented as it is on paper — just can’t seem to jell.
Nikola Jokic, PF, Denver Nuggets: Jokic is a young, promising big man who is having trouble staying out of foul trouble. He is also finding it hard to carve out playing time or post touches on this deep Denver roster. The fact that Jokic is not shooting as well as he did as a rookie last season isn’t helping his cause as he endures a rough start. Let’s hope he can shake the sophomore slump considering the tremendous promise he showed last season.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below who you think is overachieving and underachieving so far this NBA season.