Here are a few Monday thoughts from the Hoops Lab, as we prepare for Week 8 of the fantasy basketball season. Keep in mind, the Fantasy Basketball Rest of Season Rankings also update on Mondays, so check those out as your prepare for this week's games. Between the rankings and this article, we'll also help you identify some good add, drop, or trade candidates. So, without further ado, let's dig into it.
Anthony Davis getting medieval
When watching the Lakers' first game of the season, I tweeted (@ProfessorDrz) how outstanding Anthony Davis looked. Part of that was that he was finally (!) starting at center, the position that's been his destiny for a decade. But another part was that he looked locked-in, in a way we hadn't seen since the championship run in 2020. He looked quick, explosive, and decisive on both ends of the court and I thought the Lakers would be in for good things this season if he continued to play like that.
The next game, he injured his back and dragged himself around at maybe 50% for the next couple of weeks. The Lakers also couldn't find a shooter that could hit the broad side of a barn from 3-point range, were still having trouble figuring out what to do with Russell Westbrook, lost LeBron James to a groin issue, and couldn't buy a win. The season looked over.
Then, Davis got healthy. And everything changed.
In his past nine games (which span the past 10 Lakers games), Davis has averaged 35.3 PPG, 15.6 RPG and 64.8 FG%. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Davis is the 10th player in NBA history to average 35 points and 15 rebounds over a 9-game span, and the first to do it since Moses Malone in the 1981-82 season.
Not only has it not been accomplished in more than 40 years, but the other players on the list also include names like Bob Petit, Walt Bellamy, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and GEORGE MIKAN! Mikan played before the invention of the shot clock! Mikan played for the Lakers back when they still played in Minneapolis, the land of actual Lakes! I can't stop using exclamation points!
Davis is playing in a way that hasn't been seen since the NBA equivalent of medieval times, and he's showing no signs of letting up. He's fresh off dropping a ho-hum 44 and 10 on Giannis and the Bucks on Friday, then following that up with a double-nickel 55 and 17 on the Wizards on Sunday. The potential for injury will always be a question mark for Davis and I can't lie, if he's on my fantasy team I'm strongly considering trading him while he's playing like the best player in the league but sometimes you have to just enjoy watching a player catch their wave.
Davis is squarely in his wave right now, and we should all be watching.
Timberwolves w/o KAT
Karl-Anthony Towns suffered a scary looking injury last week, a non-contact issue that caused him to look back at his lower leg like someone had kicked him. That is often the hallmark of a tragic Achilles injury, and in fact 'Achilles' was trending on Elon Musk's Twitter that entire night. Thankfully, Towns' injury was diagnosed as a strained calf instead, and he's expected back next month. But, in the meantime, we're getting to see the Timberwolves without the Big Kat, and the early results look very interesting.
First, Anthony Edwards is ready to pop. He was already percolating before Towns' absence, and has now scored 25 or more points in five straight games with averages of 27.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, 3.0 SPG, 2.0 3PG and 0.6 BPG in 37.4 MPG during that stretch. Edwards jumped eight spots in my season-long rankings this week, up into the top-25, and for at least the next month he may just outplay that ranking. But, he's not the only Timberwolves player on the rise.
D'Angelo Russell has been a forgotten man for the Timberwolves, a scoring lead guard on a team with two other guys capable of averaging 50+ PPG between them. Russell, like Edwards, was already starting to play better before KAT's injury, particularly as a distributor, but for the next month he also resumes his role as a lead scorer. In his past 10 games, Russell has averaged 17.2 PPG and 7.8 APG, but in the two games without KAT it's been 21.0 PPG and 8.0 APG. He's got nightly 20-10 upside for the month of December.
One would think KAT's absence might be a boon for the numbers of Rudy Gobert, and it may prove to be, but Gobert was pedestrian with some foul trouble against the Grizzlies then got tossed with a flagrant-2 foul against the Thunder.
That opened the door for a player that I was already looking out for: Naz Reid. Reid, available in 98.7% of ESPN leagues, was the first player I picked up when I saw KAT's injury. I've had my eye on Reid since the preseason, because when I watch him play it just seems like the game has slowed down for him. I didn't draft him as a sleeper this season because I didn't see any way he could get enough minutes behind both KAT and Gobert, but now the path is clear for him to get at least strong sixth man minutes for the interim. When Gobert was ejected against the Thunder, Reid responded with a career-high 18 rebounds, 13 points, 4 blocks and 3 assists in 30 minutes. He won't get that much run every game, but if he's playing 25 or so minute per game, he has nightly double-double upside.
Devin Booker is that dude
Chris Paul hasn't played since November 7, but the Suns really haven't missed a beat because Devin Booker has stepped up to "that dude" status.
In his past nine games, Booker has averaged 33.1 PPG (51.4 FG%, 86.6 FT%), 6.2 APG, 5.7 RPG, 2.7 3PG and 1.0 SPG. And that's including Sunday's 20 points in 28 minutes of a game the Suns won by 38 points, he could've given more if remotely needed.
Booker has scored 40 or more points four times in those nine games, and was averaging 45.3 PPG in the three leading up to the blowout. Booker is playing at must-see-TV level of late, but I'll really be watching for what he does when Paul comes back. Paul is reportedly reasonably close to a return, and I'm interested in seeing if Booker will fully maintain his that-dude-ness once CP3 retakes the reins of the team.
Yet another Splash Brother
Last season, Jordan Poole finally earned a legit claim at the "Third Splash Brother" moniker for the Warriors.
This season, we can add Andrew Wiggins in as Splash Bro number four (in my head I pronounced that 'number fo' to rhyme with Bro, but I digress).
Wiggins has hit at least one 3-pointer in every game this season, and has now made at least six 3-pointers in three of his past seven games. After knocking down a season-high eight treys on Saturday, he's upped his average to 4.1 made 3-pointers over that seven game stretch.
Giddey splashing too?
Watching the Thunder-Timberwolves game on Saturday, one of the biggest things that stood out was Josh Giddey taking - and making - three 3-pointers in the second half. The absence of the long-range shot has long been the biggest weakness in Giddey's fantasy resume, and the made treys were his first since November 23, but for him to confidently take seven shots from behind the arc and make three of them strongly suggests he's been working on his shot.
Giddey has made two 3-pointers in five different games this season prior to Saturday, and if he can add that to his repertoire he becomes a much stronger all-around threat. Giddey also has three points-rebounds double-doubles in his past five games, and continues his Jason Kidd-like development in his sophomore season.