With just five points through his first three quarters of NBA action, Zion Williamson seemed destined for a quiet conclusion to his NBA debut. In keeping with his exciting collegiate career, however, Williamson wowed with a furious final frame that included 17 points, tied for the most points in a single quarter in an NBA debut in the past 20 seasons.
In a close loss to the Spurs on Wednesday evening, Williamson became the first NBA player -- debut or not -- to produce 20-plus points and seven rebounds while sinking four 3-pointers in under 20 minutes of play. He played just 18 minutes, but his 22 points marks the most in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55) in any player's debut in which he saw under 20 minutes. He also surpassed Anthony Davis' 21 points back in 2012 for the franchise scoring mark in a debut.
Lonzo Ball was busy feeding Williamson, as he assisted on all four of Zion's 3-pointers -- tied for his most assists on 3s to any teammate in his career -- and finished just shy of yet another triple-double. Zion scored 17 straight Pelicans points in a 3:08 span in the fourth quarter, good for the most consecutive team points any rookie has scored in the fourth quarter of any game over the past 20 seasons. The wait for Williamson's debut was lengthy, but his impact as both a real and fantasy force was immediate.
While this was an unquestionably impressive debut for Williamson, I share many of my colleague Eric Karabell's reservations about leaning on the young big man to deliver as valuable of a statistical impact as his potential value on the trade market might bear. Which is to say, leveraging such early and heralded success over a small sample into offers for more proven and higher-minute options such as, say, Bradley Beal or Devin Booker - just to name some ADP peers of interest - could prove rewarding.
This isn't to suggest you must deal Williamson, as his awesome collegiate block rate will surface and his minutes are likely to rise, but there is also real potential for regular rest and limited minutes along the way. Fantasy hoops requires a degree of willingness to capitalize on surges, even when they come from such a talented source.
De'Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks: 8 points (3-16 FG), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 TO
Facing a depleted Clippers roster, the Hawks overcame a 19-point halftime deficit last night, good for the second-largest halftime comeback since the franchise moved to Atlanta. Collins played a big role in the clutch win by producing his third career game with 30-plus points and 15-plus rebounds. Brandon Goodwin surprisingly tallied 19 points in the win, all of which came in a decisive fourth quarter. Given the lack of track record, it's best to let Goodwin string together a few more big lines before rostering him.
Houston's James Harden, Eric Gordon and Westbrook each scored 25-plus points in a win over the Rockets, marking the first time in the last two seasons that Houston sported three 25-point scorers in the same contest. The last time it happened was Jan. 4, 2018, when Chris Paul, Gordon and Gerald Green accomplished this feat. Gordon (and his hot hand) is available in roughly 81% of ESPN leagues as of Thursday morning and is among the more valuable shooting specialists in fantasy hoops.
Miami's Goran Dragic tallied 22 points and 16 combined assists and rebounds in a win over the Wizards on Wednesday evening. The performance marked Dragic's third career game off the bench with 20 points and 10 assists for the Heat, while all others in Heat history have combined for just two such games. It's still somewhat surprising that Dragic is rostered in just shy of 60% of ESPN leagues given his steady production pattern. Tyler Herro produced 25 points in the win and set a franchise rookie record by sinking seven 3-pointers.
In a loss to the Lakers, the Knicks' Marcus Morris Sr. tallied 20 points and six rebounds, his 20th game this season with at least 20 points after having 10 such outings with Boston last year. Morris remains a free agent in over 25% of ESPN leagues.
Orlando's Terrence Ross has been asked to step up his scoring off the pine for the Magic in the wake of D.J. Augustin's injury. He has responded with some solid outings, including last night's 26 points. It was his fourth game of the year with at least five made 3-pointers.
Detroit's Derrick Rose produced a rich line in a victory over the Kings with 22 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, marking his 10th consecutive game with at least 20 points. That matches the longest streak of his career, set back in his MVP season with Chicago. Rose became the fourth player from the 2008 draft with at least 11,000 career points, joining Westbrook, Brook Lopez and Kevin Love. A hot name in trade rumors, it will be interesting to see if Rose can sustain his usage and production pattern if he's dealt by Detroit before the deadline.
Injuries of note
Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. sat out against the Rockets last night due to back tightness that he experienced during his pregame routine. He is expected to be day-to-day going forward, but it's worth monitoring this closely given his noted history of back injuries.
Boston's Jayson Tatum was producing yet another big line before leaving in the third quarter due to a strained groin. The team downplayed the injury after the game, but further tests on Thursday will tell a more complete story.
Malcolm Brogdon of the Pacers suffered an eye injury and didn't return to the game due to concerns over a potential concussion. Like with Tatum, more conclusive information is likely to emerge about Brogdon today.
Philadelphia's Josh Richardson suffered another hamstring strain that saw him leave the floor early in Toronto last night. Richardson will be evaluated again on Thursday.
ESPN's Tim MacMahon reports that Dwight Powell suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on Tuesday evening against the Clippers. He also notes the Mavericks have touched base with Joakim Noah as they search for center depth in the wake of Powell's season-ending injury. For now, Maxi Kleber is a savvy addition to fantasy rosters.
Analytics advantage for Thursday
Sometimes "bad" teams make for good fantasy fodder. For instance, the Wizards head to Cleveland tonight to face a team allowing 114.8 points per 100 possessions during the past 15 games, the second-highest rate in the league. This makes several players on the Wizards quite enticing, especially since Davis Bertans kept up the strong shooting that has defined his breakout campaign with 24 points on four 3-pointers on Wednesday. Rostered in almost 50% of ESPN leagues, Bertans has gained eligibility at center and makes for an awesome midseason acquisition where available.
It's not as if Washington poses as a strong defense either, as the Wizards have sported a defensive rating of 114.2 during the past 15 games, ranking them 26th in the league during this stretch. This makes shares of rookie guard Darius Garland more attractive for those seeking backcourt streaming option for tonight's limited three-game slate.
Top players to watch on Thursday
LeBron James notched 21 points at Madison Square Garden in a win over the Knicks on Wednesday. He moves boroughs to face Brooklyn this evening. While it's an unlikely outcome on the second leg of a road back-to-back, if James can deliver 45 points tonight, he would move ahead of Kobe Bryant into third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.