13. Jonathan Isaac
Here’s some excitement to kick off the back nine. Isaac’s stunning combo of steals (1.3), blocks (2.8) and 3s (1.2) has the 22-year-old finally fulfilling his lofty fantasy potential, thanks also to career-best marks of 12.4 ppg and 7.1 rpg, with high percentages (48.2 / 86.2) and low turnovers (1.6). He basically does nothing to hurt your fantasy squad while giving it an enormous boost in blocks, and while I would never deal away a high-volume stud like Beal to get him, Isaac has massive fantasy value right now — and a case to stay in the top-15 all year.
14. Kemba Walker
There’s a lot to be said for reliability and durability in this day and age of NBA hoops. Walker has been right around top-20 on Basketball Monster’s leaderboard so far, but his combo of 22.6 ppg / 4.9 rpg / 4.8 apg / 0.9 spg / 0.6 bpg / 3.6 3s and basically never missing games (average of 80.5 the last four years) is worth a lot. It will be worth even more if and when his slightly sub par FG percentage (40.9) normalizes. He shot 43.6 percent his last three seasons in Charlotte combined.
15. Trae Young
If you just punt turnovers — a very easy category to punt — Young goes from the No. 23 overall player to No. 13. He’s already putting up 26.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 8.6 apg, 1.7 spg and 3.0 3s (44.0 FG / 81.6 FT / 4.8 TOs), and things will only get easier for him once John Collins (suspension) and Kevin Huerter (shoulder) return. If there’s a chance to get Trae closer to a top-25 cost in fantasy right now, I’d do it.
16. Jrue Holiday
Like Beal, he had some early-season shooting woes (36.4 percent in his first eight games). Like Beal, he is emerging from it full force, with 23.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 7.8 apg, 2.4 spg, 0.6 bpg and 2.2 3s on 49.0 percent shooting over his last five.
17. Nikola Jokic
Here’s where I’ll say that at some point this exercise becomes a little bit arbitrary, as there are a ton of players you can argue into the top-20, and shuffle them around to different spots without all that much objection from me. These things change week-to-week and even day-to-day, so it makes all the sense in the world to me if you disagree with some of these. As for Jokic, this consensus top-seven pick has been nothing short of a major disappointment so far this year. Let’s compare:
Last season: 20.1 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 7.3 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.0 3s, 51.1 FG, 82.1 FT, 3.1 TO
This season: 17.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.2 3s, 47.1 FG, 75.7 FT, 2.6 TO
As you can see, he’s taken a hit in almost every major category this season, which is why he currently sits close to 40th overall in 9-category leagues. I think there are some legitimate concerns, but I’m ranking him this high because I’m inclined to trust the track record, as well as a recent spike in scoring. Over his last six games, Jokic has averaged 20.0 ppg, with 8.2 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.0 spg and 1.5 3s.
18. Joel Embiid
I’ll put Embiid here, and feel neither wonderful nor terrible about it. I’m numb on this one. Embiid has already missed four games this season (one due to injury, two due to suspension and one of the load management variety). If you’re looking for a positive though, he is planning to play both games of the back-to-back this weekend, and could be a bit of a buy-low after a slower start (22.9 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 3.1 apg, 0.9 spg, 1.4 bpg and 1.5 3s) than what we became accustomed to last year.
19. Nikola Vucevic
With the recent news that he’ll actually be reevaluated in 7-10 days — a major upgrade from the initial report of four weeks — I can’t move Vooch down much further than this. He was starting to go full Vooch just prior to the injury (including a 30-17-6 line against the Wizards), and has a strong case for top-15 value once he’s back healthy.
20. Kyle Lowry
Ditto Kyle Lowry, who hopefully/presumably won’t be out too much longer with his thumb injury, and has been a top-15 player when on the court this season, thanks to 24.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.7 apg, 1.1 spg and 3.9 3s in his seven fully healthy games. If not for the injury, I’d have Lowry several spots higher. (Note: Shortly after I published this on Friday afternoon, word came down that Lowry could return on Dec. 1. Good news.)
21. Clint Capela
Pretty quietly, he is enormously valuable, as the No. 17 overall player right now (assuming you don’t count the numbers of Deandre Ayton and John Collins, which I don’t given how long they’re still out). Capela had some hiccups early in the year, but is on an insane rebounding binge right now, with five consecutive games of 20-plus boards, and 14.6 ppg / 20.2 rpg / 0.6 spg / 2.4 bpg during that run. He’s also a bad free throw shooter, but is considerate enough to only shoot 2.5 per game. Thank you, Clint.
22. Pascal Siakam
After an electric start (a 34-18-5 stat line on opening night), Siakam has settled into really solid top-25ish value, and is averaging 23.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.9 bpg and 2.1 3s so far in November.
23. Kawhi Leonard
I’m not drafting him in the top 25, and maybe not even in the top 30 or 40. After all, he missed 22 games last season and has missed five of his first 15 this year. I can’t willingly sign up for that kind of guaranteed headache, but he’s still a top-10 player when on the court. So I put him somewhat arbitrarily right here. No. 23, the President of Load Management Enterprises, Kawhi Leonard.
24. Kevin Love
Here’s a top-20 player with a flashing red **SELL-HIGH** sign next to his name. I have no doubts about Love’s ability to put up these numbers when healthy (18.7 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 2.3 3s). I do, however, have serious doubts about Love’s ability to stay healthy/avoid a shutdown as a veteran on a Cavs team that is cratering fast (4-10 record so far, five straight losses heading into Friday night).
25. Brandon Ingram
At what point do we believe that the Ingram breakout is real? He’s started to miss a few free throws this month (73.0 in November so far), which I expected coming into the year, but he’s still cruising along with top-20 value, including a monstrous 28.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.8 bpg and 2.2 3s in his last five healthy games. I was a major skeptic on Ingram coming into the season — remember, he was 224th overall last season in 9-category leagues — but he’s quickly erasing most of my doubt.
Missed the cut for various reasons: I would have no arguments with Donovan Mitchell or Devin Booker. … Ben Simmons has an argument as well, as does Chris Paul. … Malcolm Brogdon has been injured recently, and figures to take a slight hit with the eventual return of Victor Oladipo. … Fred VanVleet has been a beast lately (21.0 ppg, 7.8 apg sans Kyle Lowry), but loses some value once Lowry is back. … John Collins and Deandre Ayton (suspension) are easy top-25 guys once healthy, and I remain all for trying to acquire them in trades. … It's the same story for Russell Westbrook: bad percentages and high turnovers. … Mitchell Robinson can be an easy top-25 guy once his silly minutes limitations and early-season foul trouble fade away. … Early-round pick Rudy Gobert is currently closer to top-50 than top-25 because his scoring and blocks are slightly down, and his turnovers are slightly up. … Who else did I leave out?