We're now 11 weeks into the fantasy basketball season, but before we head into 2023, I'm going to compare some of the biggest movers from my preseason rankings to my rest of season rankings (ROS) this season. Rather than focus on notable players who were drafted in the first few rounds of drafts, I'm going to break down mid-to-late round selections whose value has exceeded expectations.
Next week, I'll dive into the other side of the spectrum — players who are discouragingly inconsistent and not meeting expectations.
Jaren Jackson Jr. - PF/C, Memphis Grizzlies
Preseason rank: 100
ROS rank: 37
JJJ was one of the most significant misses from my preseason rankings because I was concerned about his history of knee injuries (specifically to his meniscus) and didn't project him to make a meaningful impact this early into the season. Jackson Jr., however, is 13th in per-game value since returning from injury. He's only played in 17 games this season, so he doesn't qualify to lead the league in blocks, but he's swatting 3.1 shots per game, which is higher than the current block leader, Brook Lopez, at 2.5 per contest (more on Lopez later).
JJJ is also shooting more efficiently from the field this season (49 percent), which is on pace for the second-highest mark of his career. Plus, he's on pace for a career-high in rebounds (6.1) and stocks (4.2) per game despite averaging only 25 minutes per game. The Grizzlies have enough frontcourt depth off the bench with Santi Aldama and Brandon Clarke to fill in for JJJ, so there's no need to put additional wear on an oft-injured player.
Given his injury history, I expect his minutes to stay under 30 per game. But like Robert Williams, he can thrive without heavy minutes and still be an upper-echelon fantasy player. I have JJJ ranked 37th (where he finished last season) because his field goal percentage will regress a bit, but even so, a top-30 finish is definitely in the cards this season.
Clint Capela, - C, Atlanta Hawks
Preseason rank: 135
ROS rank: 58
I firmly believed that Capela would be traded before the New Year (along with John Collins) or outplayed by Onyeka Okongwu. My bold theories didn't come to fruition, and Capela proceeded to do exactly what Capela does — provide a low-end double-double while shooting a high percentage from the field, and block shots.
Capela is currently 47th in per-game value, but he's been dealing with a calf/Achilles injury over the past couple of weeks. Fortunately for fantasy managers, it doesn't look overly serious, considering he was getting shots up at practice on Wednesday.
Capela's ADP is currently 82.5, or sixth-round in 12-team leagues, and that's too low considering only 10 players are averaging a double-double this year.
Nic Claxton - C, Brooklyn Nets
Preseason rank: 180
ROS rank: 60
I vastly underestimated Nic Claxton's impact on the Nets this season. Coming into the season, I thought that the Nets would start Ben Simmons at center and bring Claxton off the bench which would limit his production. But, looking closer, Claxton is turning 24 years old this year, and he's improved year-over-year through his first three seasons in the league. So, in retrospect, he had the makings of a breakout written all over him, but I was blinded by Simmons' potential and lack of awareness that he could improve in fantasy.
As my last Fantasy Basketball Values column mentioned, Claxton is leading the NBA in FG percentage, two-point FG percentage and effective field-goal percentage. And that just highlights his efficiency gains this season. He's playing seven more minutes per game compared to last year so, with that amount of playing time, it's no wonder his production has gone up significantly in his fourth NBA season. Claxton is averaging a career-best 11.8 points per game. Plus, he is on pace for career bests in rebounding (5.8 to 8.4) and blocks (1.1 to 2.3) per game as well.
He's currently 37th in per-game value, so I'm baking in some regression for the rest of the season, but I could still be undervaluing Claxton, given his performance 11 weeks into the season. His ADP is currently 127.1 which means the market is similarly undervaluing him even after producing like a top-50 player this year.
Brook Lopez - C, Milwaukee Bucks
Preseason rank: 167
ROS rank: 36
By far, the biggest surprise of the fantasy season has been the play of Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Brook Lopez. He’s smashing my preseason ranking by a landslide and, surprisingly, he still carries an ADP of 118 for those still drafting on Yahoo. He’s 20th in per-game value, and it’s hard to see a case where he finishes outside of the top 40 this year. It’s almost as if Lopez had a mid-life crisis, resulting in him turning back the clock to his younger days of fantasy prominence. In the previous two seasons, Lopez finished 85th ('20-'21) and 110th ('21-'22) in per-game value, so to see him providing second-round value 11 weeks into the season is mind-blowing.
He’s on pace to average a career-high 2.5 blocks per game and is scoring his most points per game (14.9) in five seasons and his most rebounds in seven seasons. Truly remarkable, along with stellar shooting splits (51/40/80) and knocking down more than two threes per contest.
There’s no way you can sell high, as one could argue that Lopez’s recent struggles were due to injury. Now that he’s healthy, he’s rounding into '19-'20 form, where he finished 48th in per-game value.