Seven disappointing players in NBA week 2

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Special for Yahoo Sports

At the start of the fantasy basketball season, adding a key player early on waivers can sometimes make a difference in your quest for a title race. However, it’s also important not to overreact to a player who gets off to a bad start, such as trading him or dropping him completely.

Especially at the start of the season, it’s natural to panic if a star goalie struggles to score 20 points or a great man hasn’t registered a single double-double. But throughout an 82-game season, the numbers almost always level off. This is not baseball, where a player can go from being an MVP candidate one season to a .250 hitter the next, with little explanation. The NBA is a league of stars, and these stars usually find ways to get their numbers, unless injuries or age catch up with them.

With that in mind, let’s discuss some players who are starting out slow and why you shouldn’t panic just yet.

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Lillard was probably a mid-round pick in most fantasy leagues, and rightly so. He has averaged at least 25.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists in each of the past six seasons. He is emerging from a special 2020-21 season in which he averaged 28.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 4.1 three points. Equally remarkable, he shot 45.1% from the field, which is impressive considering his three-point volume.

In three games this season, Lillard has disappointed, averaging just 17.0 points and 0.7 three points. The good news is that he still averages 3.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists. His problems can be traced almost entirely to a three-point shot. After a 0 of 8 night against the Clippers on Monday, Lillard is now 2 of 24 since year-end (he went to 0 of 9 on opening night). Considering he’s shot at least 36.1% on three points in each of the past six seasons, don’t panic and try to trade him for a player with a better start. Lillard is one of the league’s most consistent superstars. He will be back soon enough.

Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets

After averaging just 16 minutes per game during his rookie season, the Nuggets made Porter a starring role last season. His playing time nearly doubled to 31 minutes per game and he took advantage of it averaging 19.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.8 three-pointers. As his third season in the league approached, he had to take another step forward in the prolonged absence of Jamal Murray.

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So far, this has not been the case. On a positive note, Porter averages 32 minutes and posted a 20.2% utilization rate which is in line with his 21.7% rate last season. The problem is, he only shot 34.6% from the field to average 11.5 points per game. He had a disastrous 5-of-18 performance against Utah on Tuesday, registering his third straight game with less than 15 points. However, Porter was one of the league’s most effective scorers last season, so the numbers imply he will find his rhythm soon. Yes Nikola Jokic missing anytime with the knee bruise he suffered Tuesday night, Porter may have no choice but to ramp up production.

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

The addition of Chris Paul before last season certainly hurt Booker’s fantastic worth. He averaged 25.6 points and 4.2 rebounds, which was very much in line with his past seasons. However, his assists fell to 4.3 per game after consecutive seasons of at least 6.5 per game on average. He’s been pretty much the same for three games this season averaging 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

Playing alongside Chris Paul is probably better for Devin Booker’s real worth than his fantastic worth. (AP Photo / Marcio José Sanchez)

The problem with his departure is that he averages only 18.3 points per game. If it doesn’t score in clusters, its whimsical value isn’t about the same. That being said, there is no need to panic. He only shot 39.6% from the field, which should correct itself quickly given he has shot at least 46.7% in three consecutive seasons. If your team needs a boost in the scoring department, this might be a good time to put out an offer to see if you can acquire Booker at a discount. Keep in mind that Phoenix’s three games so far have been blowouts, to varying degrees, so it has been difficult for most Suns players to find a rhythm.

De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

Do you notice a common theme here? Many of the players on this list are falling apart to start the season. The same can be said for Fox, who averaged just 18.7 points out of 38.6% shots. The Kentucky product has pulled at least 45.8% off the ground in each of the past three seasons, so look for him to eventually turn things around.

A good sign with Fox is that he averaged 19.0 shots per game, following his average of 19.1 attempts per game last season. If there is one problem, however, it’s that he only shoots 60.0% from the free throw line. From a fantasy standpoint, this has been his biggest weakness, and it looks like he once again failed to address it in the offseason.

Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers

An ankle injury has forced Garland to miss two of the Cavs’ four games so far. In the two games he played, he had to face the Grizzlies and the Nuggets, two teams that placed in the first half of the league last season on a defensive level. It’s not exactly a recipe for a hot start, so his average of 11.0 points on 37.5 shots shouldn’t be that surprising.

Shots aside, Garland has distributed 19 assists and touched four three-pointers in the two games he’s played. He also recorded at least 31 minutes in both competitions after averaging 33 minutes per game last season. As his ankle and the Cavaliers’ schedule improves, expect Garland to bounce back significantly in the scoring department.

Kyle Lowry, Miami Heat

Lowry missed a game with an ankle injury and scored under 10 points in both games he played. On the surface, it could be scary, from a fantasy standpoint, for an aging player who finds himself on a new team. However, there are a few factors that played into its slow start.

First, he only shot 5 of 19 from the field. He’s never been too efficient, but he hasn’t shot more than 41.1% from the field since the 2012-13 season. In addition, the two games he played were decided by at least 17 points. Miami won its first game by 42 points, which helped Lowry only play 24 minutes. Once his shooting improves and the Heat play in more competitive matches, Lowry should become a valuable fantasy option again. Tyler herro provided valuable insurance on the bench, but the Heat need Lowry to be a star-level contributor to reach his potential.

Larry Nance Jr., Portland Trail Blazers

No matter how poorly they’ve played so far, none of the players we’ve discussed should be dropped or traded. However, Nance is not on the same level as the rest of the group. If you picked the ex-Cavalier in your draft, it was probably around 100 – or maybe even later. He’s not a starter for his team, so his potential is easily the lowest of anyone here.

The Blazers have very little depth, so it looked like Nance was going to receive a lot of playing time on the bench in multiple positions. However, he hasn’t logged more than 22 minutes in any of their three games, and he’s averaging just 5.0 points and 3.0 rebounds. He scored one point at three points per game, but he hasn’t racked up defensive stats at about the rate fantasy managers had hoped for.

As bad as things are for Nance, he’s a 30 minute role injury a night. He will likely be dropped in many leagues this week, but if you can afford to keep him at the end of your bench, better days could be ahead.


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