Fantasy Basketball: 10 early-season drop candidates

By Nick Whalen, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

The NBA season is barely a week old, but that doesn’t mean fantasy managers aren’t already hard at work making tweaks to their rosters. Particularly if your draft occurred weeks before the start of the season, plenty has changed when it comes to depth charts, rotations and injuries.

While managers in daily lineup leagues are naturally making drops and adds on a more frequent basis, those in weekly leagues are also scrambling to cut bait with players who simply aren’t producing in the early going. Yahoo’s Transactions Trends page is an excellent resource to view which players are being added and dropped across all Yahoo fantasy basketball leagues.

Using that page as our guide, we’ll take a look at a handful of players trending in the wrong direction who should likely be dropped in most standard leagues.

Mo Bamba, Magic

The big man is still rostered in more than 30 percent of Yahoo leagues, and he was even started in more than 20 percent of leagues this week. If you’re a manager who made that call, you’re likely regretting it. Bamba is coming off his best NBA season, but Orlando has moved away from last season’s two-center lineup, leaving Bamba to play only a limited role off the bench.

He’s yet to record a single block through five games, and he bottomed out with only seven minutes played in Wednesday night’s loss to the Cavs. At this juncture, Bol Bol is the far more appealing fantasy pickup.

Caris LeVert, Cavaliers

LeVert is one of the most-dropped players in fantasy basketball this week, but he’s still rostered in 56 percent of Yahoo leagues as of Thursday morning. I understand the appeal of a guard who averaged 20.2 points, 5.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals two seasons ago, but he simply hasn’t been that guy since joining the Cavs.

LeVert struggled toward the end of last season and is off to a slow start, despite Darius Garland playing 13 total minutes thus far. To his credit, LeVert has provided 6.3 assists per game, though he’s averaging just 11.0 points on 28.9 percent shooting. With Garland set to return perhaps as soon as Friday at Boston, LeVert doesn’t carry much upside.

Brandon Clarke, Grizzlies

This is a tough one for me, personally, as I grabbed Clarke in multiple leagues around pick 100 (Yahoo ADP: 102.2). With Jaren Jackson Jr. sidelined, I thought Clarke would have a nice, multi-month runway to get off to a good start. The Grizzlies have instead opted to roll with Santi Aldama at power forward, while rookies David Roddy (16.5 MPG) and Jake LaRavia (15.3 MPG) have also been staples in the rotation. That’s led to Clarke seeing only 16.8 minutes per game through Memphis’ first four contests. In the past, Clarke has proven he can be productive in limited minutes, but that simply hasn’t been the case so far this season.

Grizzlies F Brandon Clarke hasn't been a productive fantasy option in limited minutes so far this season.
Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke hasn't been a productive fantasy option while playing limited minutes this season. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) (Nic Antaya via Getty Images)

Cole Anthony, Magic

We’re less than two weeks into the season and the Magic have already had terrible injury luck. Markelle Fultz fractured his toe before training camp, Jalen Suggs sprained his ankle in the second game of the year, and now Anthony is battling a strained oblique muscle. Orlando is yet to provide a timetable, but Anthony will likely miss several games.

By the time he’s back, at least one of Fultz or Suggs could be healthy as well, which will inhibit Anthony’s upside. For managers in need of counting stats, Anthony can still be viable in a bench role, but he’ll likely struggle to crack 40 percent shooting from the field.

Dennis Smith Jr., Hornets

Once a highly touted lottery pick, Smith nearly fell out of the league, but he’s found a resurgence with his hometown team. Fantasy managers should hang on to Smith for as long as LaMelo Ball remains out, but Ball’s debut could come any day now, and once that happens Smith is likely to see a significant reduction in role. Thus far, though, Smith has been an excellent source of assists (6.3 APG) and steals (2.3 SPG), so he figures to still hold on to a decent-sized role off the bench.

Chris Duarte, Pacers

Duarte started the first two games of the season but has since been moved to the bench in favor of Aaron Nesmith. It goes without saying that that is not an encouraging sign for the second-year guard, who was one of last season’s Week 1 breakouts. Duarte did play a season-high 26 minutes off the bench Wednesday against Chicago, but with rookie Bennedict Mathurin looking fantastic in the early going, there doesn’t appear to be a ton of long-term upside for Duarte.

Al Horford, Celtics

I’ll warn you to tread lightly with Horford, who’s proven to remain a valuable fantasy player into his mid-30s. With Robert Williams sidelined indefinitely, there’s some upside here, but Horford’s first three games haven’t been overly encouraging. The 36-year-old may be a better real-life player than a fantasy asset at this point in his career. The Celtics also have a three-game Week 3 coming up, so if you’re looking to stream, chances are you can find a more productive four-game option.

Celtics C-F Al Horford may be a better real-life player than a fantasy option at this point in his career.
Celtics big man Al Horford may be a better real-life player than a fantasy option at this point in his career. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) (Minas Panagiotakis via Getty Images)

Montrezl Harrell, 76ers

Hopefully you’ve already parted ways with Harrell, who was a popular late-round pick with a projectable role behind Joel Embiid. Instead, Harrell has played single-digit minutes in three of the Sixers’ five games thus far, and he’s yet to make any sort of fantasy impact. If Embiid were to suffer an injury at any point, Harrell would be in a position to benefit, but for now, he should be dropped in the vast majority of leagues.

Jalen Duren, Pistons

After Duren put up 14 points, 10 boards and three blocks on opening night, fantasy managers rushed to the waiver wire to add the first-round pick out of Memphis. Since then, Duren has remained a valuable source of boards, but his shot-blocking has been sporadic, and he provides virtually nothing in terms of assists and steals. On top of that, Duren is just 1-of-8 at the free-throw line thus far. Long-term, there’s a lot to like about the big man, but with Marvin Bagley III's return on the horizon, Duren is droppable in most standard formats. As of Thursday, his roster rate has dipped under 40 percent in Yahoo leagues.

Isaiah Hartenstein, Knicks

I was a big fan of grabbing Hartenstein late in drafts, especially as the Knicks have been hesitant to increase Mitchell Robinson’s workload over the last couple of seasons. While Hartenstein got off to a good start on opening night (16 PTS, 8 REB, 4 AST, 1 BLK), he’s been on a gradual decline over the Knicks’ last three games. Against Orlando on Monday, Hartenstein played only 18 minutes off the bench before seeing just 16 minutes in Wednesday's win over Charlotte. Meanwhile, Robinson is off to a strong start, logging multiple blocks in all four games and seeing 30-plus minutes in each of the last two.