We're one week into the NBA season, with teams having played either three or four games. Last week, I wrote an article about when to drop underperforming sleepers. Here, we'll look at specific underperforming players – mostly those that were drafted inside the top 100 – using some of the tactics outlined in that article to determine whose production is worrisome, and whose should snap back to normal.
Ball is shooting just 25/25/83 and is seeing just 28.7 MPG. But he fouled out of Charlotte's most recent game, and his usage rate is stable compared to last season. It's just a cold streak.
Randle's usage rate is slightly down compared to last season, but his 15.0 PPG is just a rough shooting stretch (30/28/64).
It would have been nice for Young to start the year hot from three after a letdown 2022-23 from beyond the arc. He's slashing 31/24/87 to start the year, but his 31.3 USG% and 34.5 MPG leave no concerns.
Jalen Brunson, Knicks
Brunson actually has a career-high 28 USG% at the moment, which is being offset by him shooting just 39 FG% and 71 FT%. Nothing to see here.
Towns' shot is simply off through three games. Expect his 37/24/75 percentages to normalize sooner than later. His minutes and usage look good, and his 2.7 assists should increase.
Poole makes for a bit of a tough evaluation so far this season, but it's ultimately the 39/22/79 shooting causing him to average just 18.7 PPG. I'd prefer to see more than 3.0 APG and fewer clips of him bricking a shot he took simply for mixtape purposes – not to mention his minutes being low due to two blowout losses – but it doesn't warrant panic…yet.
Reaves is averaging just 10.0 PPG and 2.5 assists on 33/25/73 shooting in 29.5 MPG. D'Angelo Russell has clearly been better than him to start the season. We knew it wouldn't be easy for Reaves to be in a high-volume role. That, combined with poor shooting, has resulted in a disastrous start for fantasy managers. Still, it's worth waiting out. When LeBron or AD suffers an injury, there will be more usage for Reaves.
I'd really like to see a higher usage rate out of Smith, but his 11.3 PPG is mostly due to his 38/22/33 shooting. That will normalize. The good news is that he still has plenty of upside as a rebounder and defender while struggling with his shot.
This is just a cold shooting start for Giddey, whose 27.8 MPG is also low due to a blowout on the front end of a back-to-back. His usage is the same as last season.
Wendell Carter, Magic
Carter's usage is down about 4% compared to last season, but the bulk of his issues in fantasy are related to poor shooting (36/20/58). He's generally underwhelming and injury prone, but his floor is too high to make him a drop candidate.
Grant, like several other players on this list, is actually seeing increased usage. But his shooting woes are hiding it. The forward is shooting just 37/19/86 but is still managing 16.8 PPG in 32.8 MPG. Blowout concern is real for Portland, but I'm buying low on Grant if the price is right.
Minutes or Usage Issues
Siakam is suffering from a bad combination of poor shooting and decreased usage. The forward is slashing just 39/29/71, while his 22.1 USG% is a sharp decrease from a combined mark of 26.8 USG% over the past four seasons. Scottie Barnes and Dennis Schroder are taking a sizable share of the offense. I'm not panicking yet, but if another league manager offered me a player with projected top-40 value, I'd really consider it.
Paolo Banchero, Magic
It's great that Banchero's assists (4.5) are up, but he's seen a decrease in field-goal attempts, three-point attempts and free-throw attempts per game. His usage rate has dropped from 27.5 as a rookie to 22.3 through four games in 2023-24. Combine that with woeful percentages (38/22/54), and fantasy managers are feeling Banchero's struggles. The sophomore's efficiency will improve, but keep an eye on the usage rate, as he relies on volume for fantasy value.
Hield's usage rate is up compared to last season, and he's averaging 4.3 assists per game. But his 21.0 MPG is the main concern. After Hield and the Pacers failed to agree on an extension, coach Rick Carlisle has prioritized minutes for Aaron Nesmith, Andrew Nembard and Bennedict Mathurin. I expect the assists to come down, and if Hield isn't seeing nearly 30 minutes, his ceiling is quite low.
Bennedict Mathurin, Pacers
Like Hield, Mathurin is getting lost in the Pacers' wing rotation, and it seems like coach Carlisle is comfortable running with whoever is playing the best. He's a hold due to his scoring floor, but he hasn't shown improvement as a passer or defender, which is really what would drive his upside. Give it another couple of weeks before making a decision.
Other Worries and Broad Concerns
We're four games into the season and Butler has already taken a game off for rest, and now he's dealing with knee tendinitis. The 34-year-old has been injury-prone for his entire career and getting older only figures to make those issues worse. Of course, he'll shoot better than 32.5 percent from the field, but I'd explore trading him if he gets on a hot streak.
Scoot Henderson, Trail Blazers
Henderson's start has been nearly a worst-case scenario. He's shooting poorly, not getting to the free-throw line, doing nothing on the boards, providing little defensively while fouling a lot, and he's averaging more turnovers than assists. Rookies often start slow, and this Portland team is a mess. You shouldn't drop him, but he should probably be parked on your bench until he can string together a few good games in a row.
Jalen Green, Rockets
Yes, it's been just three games. But Green has shown us little to no improvement, and his shooting hasn't even been that cold. His minutes and usage are stable compared to last season, but he hasn't made strides as a playmaker or defender. It's tough to drop him, and he's worth hanging onto if you need points. But another week or two of this and it might be time to explore other options, especially in shallow category leagues.
After struggling through the first three games, Kessler exploded with a 22-and-13 game with a block against the Nuggets. Ultimately, I'm worried about two things: his low minutes and low block rate. Kessler is seeing just 24.0 MPG, though two of Utah's four games have been decisive losses. And he's averaging only 0.8 blocks when fantasy managers were hoping for 2.5+. I believe he'll start racking up more blocks, but it's worth noting that his contested shots are down. Last year, Kessler averaged 9.3 contested two-pointers per game. That's down to 6.3 contests in 2023-24. See what happens over the next couple of weeks. He shouldn't be dropped by any means, but if the minutes and contests don't improve, trading him is understandable.
Lopez is seeing just 26.2 minutes per game, but that includes Milwaukee being blown out by Atlanta and the big man getting only 20 minutes. But like Kessler, Lopez's blocks (0.3) and contests are both down this season, though the contests are only marginally down on a per-minute rate. The center's usage is also down slightly, but that could drop even more when/if Khris Middleton can return to full health. The sample is a little too small right now for us to draw sweeping conclusions, but don't be surprised if the 35-year-old starts to trend downward.
You'd have no idea by looking at Wiggins' stats, but his usage rate is actually marginally higher than last season. He's playing only 25.8 MPG and averaging 10.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.8 APG and just 0.8 STL+BLK on 40/18/58 shooting. I wouldn't be surprised if he's dealing with a bit of an injury, though it's worth noting he saw just 20 minutes in Golden State's last game – a blowout win over New Orleans. I can't blame anyone for dropping him in a 10-team league to stream his spot, but I think it's safer to hold out in 12+ team formats.