NBA Roundtable: First Week Reactions
NBA Roundtable: First Week Reactions

This article is part of our NBA Roundtable series.

Welcome to the first in-season edition of the RotoWire NBA Roundtable. Each week, a panel of our NBA staff writers will get together to answer a handful of questions pertaining to what's going on around the league – both in the fantasy world and in real-life.

This week, we take on rookie first impressions, Markelle Fultz, struggling teams and more.

1. It's still early, but which team off to a slow start are you most concerned about?

James Anderson: OKC. It's now pretty easy to envision a scenario where they miss the playoffs, and I thought they would get the No. 5 seed before the season (thought Lakers would get the No. 7 seed). I'm not concerned at all about BOS, HOU or UTAH getting in. The West is a gauntlet, so every loss matters, and the Thunder (who I think will lose to BOS on Wednesday) need to go 45-34 over the rest of the season to have a realistic shot of getting in.

Alex Rikleen: Remember when the peak-Process 76ers won their first three games? Including wins against the defending champions Heat and the then-very-good Bulls? That's the same 76ers squad that lost 26 in a row and finished 19-63. It's pretty rare that the first few games change my opinion of a team's season-long prospects, and this year is no exception. I'm not concerned about any of those teams right now.

Jeff Stotts: Probably the Lakers. The other four have an established identity. LA is still trying to figure some things out with LeBron and his new cast and the suspensions won't help.

Mike Barner: The Thunder. They have such limited depth that if Russell Westbrook or Paul George were to miss a significant period of time, they are going to lose a lot of games.

Jeff Edgerton: Utah's first few games have definitely been a big surprise. I think they will right the ship, but right now their offense looks out of sorts.

Ken Crites: I'm not worried about any of them, but if forced to choose, I'll go with OKC. Schroder and Noel were interesting gambles, but they are certainly gambles. Power forward looks terrible with Patrick Patterson and Jerami Grant. Patterson's field goal percentage is on a four-plus year slide. They really need better outside shooting from the four.

Alex Barutha: I don't want to judge OKC quite yet since Russell Westbrook just got back, so I'm leaning towards Houston. James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela are locks for great production, but the rest of the team is underwhelming.

Shannon McKeown: The Lakers, by a country mile. Bringing in a mishmash of veterans on one-year deals was beyond confusing. This team needs to build chemistry between Lebron and the young core (Ingram, Ball, Kuzma, Hart), if they hope to have long-term success. My guess is they'll ride guys like Rondo, McGee and Caldwell-Pope too long to make a serious push this season.

Jason Rubin: Houston. The Rockets have high expectations coming off a 65-win season, but it feels like the fluidity of their offense is not pacing like it did last year. Melo's bench role will take time to figure out, but the early showings are not promising in terms of pace, the ball still stops with him. Comparatively, Boston's healthy lineup has yet to play enough together, reserving LeBron hot takes until December, we know exactly what the Wesbrook-George-Adams Thunder look like and the Utah Ingles were robbed of a deserved win against the Warriors. They're 2-1 in my book.

DJ Trainor: OKC. Having Westbrook and George is great, but it doesn't mean as much when the rest of the team can't shoot. Opposing defenses focus all their attention on the Big 2 without any repercussions.

Juan Blanco: I'd say the Thunder. Westbrook's relatively quick return is encouraging, but there's just not enough consistent offensive contributions outside of the Big Three of him, Paul George and Steven Adams, with the exception of perhaps Dennis Schroder. The team is a bit too thin in a tough Western Conference, and we've also seen how George's shot can sometimes seriously go in the tank from time to time.

2. Which rookies have impressed you most through the first few games of the season?

Anderson: Luka Doncic and Jaren Jackson. Every team that passed on Doncic should be ashamed, but we already knew that. Jackson is much more advanced as a low-post scorer than I thought he would be this early. I will eat some crow on Trae Young, who I thought would have a really rough rookie season (and still could). However, the Cavs' defense in that game was so atrocious that I think they deserve more blame than he deserves credit for that performance.

Rikleen: The answer has to be Trae Young, but since I'm guessing others are going to talk about him here, I'll throw out a second name - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Clippers are loaded in the backcourt, and roughly a month ago we weren't even certain Gilgeous-Alexander would be ahead of fellow rookie Jerome Robinson on the depth chart. The fact that he's done enough to earn 25 minutes per game so early in the season – while Robinson has yet to make an appearance – is shocking. His stats are fine, but I'm more impressed that he's so far ahead of where I expected at the start of his career.

Stotts: These two will forever be linked but Trae Young and Luka Doncic have both lived up to the hype. They've been fun to watch and been fantasy friendly.

Barner: Deandre Ayton. He's going to have his ups and downs like any rookie, but he's going to be a double-double machine.

Edgerton: I expected Trae Young to start out slow, but he's been stuffing stat lines nightly. You also have to be impressed with Luka Doncic's early success.

Crites: I'm impressed that Deandre Ayton is doing so well despite the Suns lacking a real point guard. Who does Marvin Bagley have to kill to start for Sacramento? His five blocks at Denver weren't impressive enough?

Barutha: Luka Doncic and Trae Young. My expectations for Young were relatively low, and I thought he'd struggle with turnovers and finishing inside. But he's posting a respectable 2.3 AST/TO ratio and is getting to the free-throw line 5.8 times per night. For Doncic, I wasn't expecting him to take 16.0 shots per game. I think it was fair to expect his 6.5 boards and 3.8 assists, but 19.0 points per game is far higher than I anticipated.

McKeown: This rookie class is stacked, so there are numerous options, but I'm siding with Trae Young. His monster 35-point, 11-assist, 6-trey night last week was historic, as there's only been about 30 such games in NBA, and none of those 30 performances were by a rookie.

Rubin: Luka Doncic always looked more polished than the college rookies in his draft class and that translated to playing in the NBA rather quickly. The strength of schedule has yet to provide a massive challenge for Doncic, but his numbers out the gate are promising, most notably the 26 points against Minnesota along with his overall aggressiveness on the floor.

Trainor: Trae Young is averaging just 3.3 turnovers in 32.3 minutes per game. That was unimaginable only two weeks ago. Couple that with his 7.5 assists, and I'm encouraged for his long-term success in the league.

Blanco: Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic and Trae Young have stood out, while Marvin Bagley has been solid off the bench for the Kings as well.

3. Markelle Fultz and Carmelo Anthony are among the most popular drops after Week 1 – is it too early to pull the plug on either player?

Anderson: Why was anyone drafting Carmelo Anthony? I'd probably stick it out with Fultz in deeper leagues, but I get dropping him in shallower leagues.

Rikleen: No. Both are droppable. But while it's ok to drop them from your rosters, you should not drop them from your radar. Both still have a strong chance to provide top-100 value, and both teams are heavily invested in trying to turn Fultz and Anthony into key contributors.

Stotts: I think it depends on the depth of your league. It's a small sample so far and both can still contribute. They just might need time to move back toward their baseline value.

Barner: If you are in a 10 or 12 team league, I don't think so. Both of them have limited upside, so you can afford to drop them to grab one of the hot waiver players who could be in line for a breakout season.

Edgerton: I was never high on Anthony to begin with, but I think it's too early to give up on Fultz.

Crites: No. Fultz will lose the starting gig by December. The Rockets did better last year when their defense improved. Melo's defense can best be described as indifferent.

Barutha: No. Brett Brown starting Fultz in the first half is a gimmick, and he hasn't played a minute of crunch time basketball this year. I'm pulling for Fultz, but T.J. McConnell and J.J. Redick are clearly a better fit for Philly right now. Carmelo is taking nearly four fewer shots per game in Houston than he was in OKC.

McKeown: In 10-team leagues, absolutely. Deeper formats should hold onto both players since the replacement options probably aren't too intriguing.

Trainor: Assists are always the hardest thing to find on the waiver wire, so I'd hang onto Fultz since he's still been able to average just under four assists though five games this season despite struggling. Anthony will flash a 20-plus scoring total here and there throughout the season, but who honestly enjoys owning him at this point? Fantasy is supposed to be fun. Go out and get a young up-and-comer instead.

Blanco: Fultz's reputation in the fantasy community was muddied plenty by a highly disappointing rookie season, but it's precisely because he played only 14 games coming into this year that he needs to be given time. And Anthony's track record is such that he also deserves a longer leash.

4. Caris LeVert (+34.2%) and Cedi Osman (+20%) are the two most-added players in ESPN leagues right now. Which players have been your most popular waiver wire targets?

Anderson: I haven't picked anyone up in any of my leagues, but probably will this weekend. I feel like the best players to add are often guys who get unnecessarily dropped after the first 7-10 days. That said, I'd love to play in one of these leagues where LeVert wasn't drafted.

Rikleen: E'Twaun Moore, Danny Green, and Wesley Matthews. Minutes, minutes, minutes. All three veterans are seeing a ton of minutes, and in the cases of Moore and Green I expect that workload to continue all season. I'm a bit more skeptical of Matthews' ability to maintain these minutes throughout the season, but he's currently seeing 33.7 minutes per game, and I'll gladly ride it as long as it lasts.

Stotts: TJ Warren has looked good for the Suns outperforming veterans Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson. He connected on eight three pointers through the Suns' first three outings after making just 20 total threes in 65 games last season.

Barner: Osman for sure because he has a clear path to playing time and production. I think Wesley Matthews is underrated, as well. He gets a ton of minutes and is an asset from behind the arc. I'd scoop him up where you can.

Edgerton: My main league is deep (14 teams) so guys like Allen Crabbe, Jordan Clarkson and Marcus Morris have actually gone for double-digit bids.

Crites: Of those two, I'd rather have Osman, due to the complete lack of other options in Cleveland. For LeVert, there will be nights he cedes minutes to Allen Crabbe or Joe Harris when they have the hot hand.

Barutha: I haven't made many long-term adds. I picked up some guys like J.J. Barea and Ersan Ilyasova last week to stream. This week, I assume there will be a ton of bids on Rodney McGruder.

McKeown: LeVert and Osman were popular targets in all my drafts and any league that goes at least 120 players deep. For deeper formats, I've been chasing after unexpected starters, such as Isaiah Canaan and Bryn Forbes. Digging even further, Hamidou Diallo is a good speculative add in leagues with little value to be had on the waiver wire.

Trainor: I'm reaching a bit, but Spencer Dinwiddie, who unexpectedly was a top-60 player in many formats last year. It'll be hard for him to duplicate similar production with LeVert on the rise and D'Angelo Russell now healthy, but Dinwiddie has still found a way to average 27.5 minutes per game so far this season without any injuries ahead of him.

Blanco: I'd add LeVert's teammate Joe Harris, the Pelicans' E'Twaun Moore, the Pistons' Reggie Bullock and the Hawks' DeAndre' Bembry.

5. Which player would you rather roster going forward: Zach LaVine, Trae Young or Eric Bledsoe?

Anderson: Bledsoe. He'll be close to a plus contributor across the board, and I love the Bucks' tempo this year.

Rikleen: LaVine, unless you need assists, in which case Bledsoe. I never want to count on rookies to maintain top-50 (or even top-80) production, so Young is a distant 3rd here. LaVine has such a big role, he's such a good shooter, and he appears to have so much of his pre-injury athleticism back. He was a quickly-rising prospect pre-injury, and I've seen enough to feel comfortable putting him back into the "already top-50, top-30 upside" category.

Stotts: LaVine. He looks healthy and players coming off an ACL often return to their previous levels in their 2nd season off of surgery. With Kris Dunn sidelined for at least 4 weeks, LaVine will see plenty of action.

Barner: I'm all in LaVine this year. The Bulls play no defense, so they are going to be involved in a lot of high-scoring games. LaVine is finally completely healthy and is going to lead them in usage rate even when Lauri Markkanen returns.

Edgerton: Trae Young. The upside is huge for him in Atlanta. While Bledsoe is steady, he lacks the explosiveness Young can bring to your roster.

Crites: Bledsoe, no doubt, though LaVine certainly becomes more attractive with Dunn's injury. I worry about LaVine's field goal percentage, and I really worry about Trae Young's field goal percentage.

Barutha: Bledsoe. I think his numbers are the most sustainable. LaVine's 57.1 percent shooting won't stick and he's mostly a non-factor outside of scoring. Young has impressed me but I still have concerns about his efficiency and turnover rate once he actually faces a good team. Bledsoe is putting up solid and realistic/sustainable numbers across the board.

McKeown: Lavine is going to be an absolute monster in Chicago this year. He won't average 30 points per game, but he's my favorite of this trio by a slight margin.

Trainor: Bledsoe. Scoring favors LaVine, field-goal percentage and three-pointers will be close, but the other six major stat categories will favor Bledsoe.

Blanco: It's a close call for me between LaVine and Young, and I'll give LaVine the slightest of edges there. Young is likely to offer better all-around production, but the inconsistency typically inherent in rookie seasons and LaVine's elite shooting put him over the top for me.

6. Which player who you were high on during draft season are you now having some reservations about?

Anderson: I was super high on Donovan Mitchell but am happy I didn't pay what it cost to get him on a roster this year. He'll be fine, but his shot looks a little off right now.

Rikleen: Most of the guys I was way above consensus on are either looking good (Josh Richardson) or we haven't really seen yet (Larry Nance). I was a big advocate of taking a late flier on Nerlens Noel, but I was also very up front about how that could only work if he got to 20 minutes, and that such a workload might never happen. At this point what has me worried is the players I was very down on: Taurean Prince, T.J. Warren, Nikola Vucevic – it's looking like I passed on a lot of cheaply available value.

Stotts: Something looks off with Draymond Green. I'm curious to see if his sore knee is more serious. Is this the year the Finals runs begin to take their toll?

Barner: I'll admit, I may like Alex Len to a fault. I loved taking him late in drafts, but he's been largely disappointing with Dewayne Dedmon and John Collins both out. Now with Dedmon is back, he's going to have to start producing consistently or risk losing playing time.

Edgerton: Ricky Rubio. The game script in Utah so far has been perplexing. Mitchell and Rubio are underperforming, while Ingles is on pace for a career year.

Crites: Obviously, Kris Dunn's injury is a major bummer. And I privately weep every day John Collins' return gets pushed back. I somehow got stuck with Derrick Favors on a few of my teams, which has been less than invigorating. Would you say Favors' game is more or less exciting than Marcin Gortat's? (I am enjoying my Montrezl Harrell shares).

Barutha: Collin Sexton. His 1.0 assist per game is just bad. He's not even close to being worth rostering in a 12-team format. I was also hoping to see more than 11.3 minutes from Mikal Bridges, who I assumed would be threatening Josh Jackson's workload.

McKeown: When it looked like Jimmy Butler was leaving Minnesota, I moved Karl-Anthony Towns up to No. 3 overall on my cheat sheet behind Anthony Davis and Giannis. Now, I think Butler will stick around Minny for the vast majority of the season and KAT's overall production will suffer as a result. He'll still be a top 25 player, but KAT will be closer to his 2017-18 production than his stellar sophomore campaign.

Trainor: C.J. McCollum is shooting 35.1 percent from the field while averaging just 2.3 assists per game. Improvement should be coming soon, but the late start has me second guessing him when other players like Eric Bledsoe, Blake Griffin and DeMar DeRozan were being taken around the same time.

Blanco: D'Angelo Russell of the Nets has underwhelmed a bit relative to the expectations I had for him, The same for the Pacers' Darren Collison, who is still significantly underperforming after a solid season last year, seeing a near-six-point drop in scoring and an even bigger drop-off in efficiency.

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Nick Whalen
RotoWire's NBA Editor and host of the RotoWire NBA Podcast. Nick was awarded the FSWA Best Podcast -- All Sports award in 2017 and 2018. Many years ago, Stromile Swift gave Nick his unbelievably sweaty headband after a preseason game. Despite its failure to match his school colors, Nick went on to wear that headband for the entirety of his sixth grade basketball season. Catch Nick on Twitter @wha1en.
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