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Experts Analysis

Rookie Report, Volume Six

by Raphielle Johnson
Updated On: January 28, 2021, 4:19 pm ET

Another week down in the NBA season, and with that many of the league's rookies have experienced the ebbs and flows that many of the veterans have in years past. One game you're firmly in the rotation and playing solid minutes, the next your minutes are cut. This week's Rookie Report looks at a role change for the second overall pick, while the third overall pick experienced a one-game reduction in his playing time due to turnovers. 

Wiseman moved to the bench: Warriors rookie center James Wiseman had a good start to the season, accounting for 37 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots in games against the Nets and Bucks. But he hit a bit of a lull, which isn’t all that surprising with this being his first NBA season. Wiseman has since rebounded, hitting double figures in each of his last five games with the most recent being his 25-point, six-rebound, two-block effort in Wednesday’s win over the Timberwolves.

During this run Wiseman’s role has changed, as Steve Kerr moved him to the bench in an attempt to improve how the team began games. Kevon Looney isn’t as valuable when it comes to fantasy basketball, but at this time his experience with the Warriors’ defensive scheme was needed. The question, especially with Wiseman playing better basketball, is how long will he continue to come off the bench? Kerr didn’t have a timeline when asked prior to Wednesday’s game, but he did say that the rookie will be back with the starters “at some point.”

“I don’t know when that will be,” Kerr said. “I think a big part of this season for our coaching staff is to navigate the balance between trying to be a playoff team and trying to win as many games as we can and not wasting any time developing James.”

Rostered in 81% of Yahoo leagues, Wiseman sits just inside of the top-200 in both 8- and 9-cat formats. But his 8-cat production over the last week has been slightly better, with the rookie providing 12th-round value while playing just over 22 minutes per game. If anything, this would be a good time to buy low on a player that the Warriors remain very high on.

Ball’s short-lived minutes reduction: Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball has shown flashes of the skill that made him one of the top prospects in this class. But there have also been moments when the rookie has shown just how much room there is for him to grow, and that led to his minutes taking a hit during Friday’s loss to the Bulls. In that game he played just over 16 minutes, finishing the game with almost as many turnovers (five) as points (seven).

The following day coach James Borrego cited the turnovers, and lack of production on the other end of the floor, as the reasons why Ball didn’t get to play as much as usual. But that shouldn’t be seen as a coach losing faith in his player, but more knowing what he’s capable of and demanding that level of production on a consistent basis.

“He had a stretch where he played extremely well. We need to find that again,” Borrego said. “He’s got to get better, bottom line. He’s engaged, he wants to get better. He’s capable of handling it. Last night, poor decision-making (with the ball), and I think that affected him on the defensive end.”

With Borrego still of the belief that it’s best for Charlotte that Terry Rozier and Devonte' Graham remain the starters, Ball will have to make the most of his current opportunities. And thanks in large part to the turnovers, it’s been difficult for him to do so. In 9-cat formats over the last week he’s providing 20th-round value, and Ball’s value jumps up to the 14th-round in 8-cat. His Yahoo ADP of 97 has proven to be too high thus far.

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Achiuwa gets a look alongside Adebayo: Heat power forward/center Precious Achiuwa was compared to teammate Bam Adebayo during the pre-draft process on more than one occasion, and that remains the case now. The similarities, combined with Achiuwa’s inexperience, may be why we hadn’t seen much of those two on the court together heading into Wednesday’s game against the Nuggets.

Due to the combination of injuries, illness and Kelly Olynyk’s recent struggles, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra used Achiuwa and Adebayo together more in that loss (six minutes) than in any other game this season (one minute total). Achiuwa finished the game with ten points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocked shots in 20 minutes, and afterwards Adebayo was highly complimentary of his young teammate.

“Once you play alongside each other enough, you start to figure it out. I was happy to get out there with the young fella,” Adebayo said. “He’s one of those guys man, he reminds me so much of myself when I was a rookie. He wants to get out there and learn and do everything right. I can vouch for a dude like that. I feel like he’s going to be a great player in this league. He’s got the work ethic for it. I’m proud of the kid. He always impresses me. Kudos to him.”

Achiuwa is currently rostered in just 5% of Yahoo leagues, and over the last week he’s provided 11th-round value in 9-cat and 10th-round value in 8-cat. The Heat certainly have championship ambitions, which tends to lend itself towards teams leaning more on their veterans. But Achiuwa is worth keeping an eye on, because as we saw last season with Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro, Spoelstra won’t hesitate to give young players a chance to contribute.

Edwards’ numbers get a boost due to injuries: First overall pick Anthony Edwards hasn’t been the best fantasy option thus far, as he sits well outside of the top-200 in both 8- and 9-cat formats (outside of the top-300 in the latter). But over the last week he’s picked up steam, as the absences of both Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell have opened up more scoring opportunities for the rookie guard.

In Wednesday’s loss to the Warriors, Edwards 25 points to go along with four rebounds, two assists, three steals and a career-high five 3-pointers in 32 minutes. He did turn the ball over three times on the night, but the Timberwolves’ need for his scoring ability has given Edwards even more freedom than he enjoyed at the start of the season. Over the last week he’s providing 10th-round value in 8-cat formats. Russell is expected to make his return to action soon, and how that impacts Edwards’ opportunities is something to keep an eye on.

Magic’s Anthony top-100 over the last week: Cole Anthony has been trending in a positive direction the last couple of weeks. Of course there was last week’s game-winner against the Timberwolves, the first of his NBA career. This past week the Magic point guard has provided top-100 value in 8-cat formats, averaging 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.0 blocks and 2.0 3-pointers per game. Anthony slips just outside of the top-100 in 9-cat due to the turnovers, as he’s averaging 2.0 per game (which isn’t a terrible number by any means).

He’s playing a little over 32 minutes per game, and that stands to be Anthony’s workload for a little while longer. Michael Carter-Williams, who was believed to be close to returning from a foot injury, suffered a setback during Thursday’s practice and was unable to finish the non-contact session. MCW stands to play more as Anthony’s backup than Jordan Bone has, which would in turn take away a few minutes away from the rookie starter. Enough to hurt Anthony when it comes to his fantasy value? Probably not, but it appears as if fantasy managers won’t have to concern themselves with the possibility just yet.

Cavs’ Windler makes his long-awaited debut: One of Cleveland’s two first-round picks in the 2019 NBA Draft, wing Dylan Windler’s path to playing time has been anything but smooth. He missed all of last season due to a stress reaction in his leg, and he did not make his 2020-21 debut until last Friday (January 22). For that reason fantasy managers are highly unlikely to have Windler on their radar right now, but there’s room for him to earn consistent rotation minutes with Kevin Porter Jr. being dealt to Houston.

In four games the rookie out of Belmont has played 20.4 minutes per, posting averages of 7.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks and 1.3 3-pointers per game. The absence of Larry Nance Jr. has also helped matters when it comes to playing time for Windler, who over the last week has provided 9th-round value in 9-cat formats. Rostered in 1% of Yahoo leagues, there’s no need to grab him off of the waiver wire right now. But if Cleveland finds itself well off the pace for a playoff spot later this season, Windler stands to log heavy minutes due to his abilities as a shooter and wing playmaker.

Past Columns

Volume OneWiseman’s debut a solid first step

Volume TwoAll aboard the Haliburton bandwagon

Volume Three: Fultz injury thrusts Anthony into the spotlight

Volume Four: Opportunity knocks for Maxey

Volume Five: Grizzlies rookies limited due to postponements

Raphielle Johnson
Raphielle has been writing about college sports for more than a decade for multiple outlets, including NBC Sports. Focuses have included game recaps, columns, features and recruiting stories. A native of the Northeast, he now calls Pac-12 country home. Raphielle can be followed on Twitter @raphiellej.