Fantasy Basketball Values: Kevin Huerter proving to be one of the steals of draft season

Week 6 of the NBA season is in the rearview, and now it's time to reflect, overreact and assess the fantasy basketball landscape. We're a quarter through the season and equipped with more data to evaluate player performance. With Week 7 underway, it's important to keep tabs on the players who are showing sustained performance indicators or those due for a market correction.

Let's get into this week's risers and fallers.


Deandre Ayton - C, Phoenix Suns

Current per-game rank: 56

Deandre Ayton found his appetite and feasted on the Utah Jazz this past weekend, dropping the third 20-20 game of his five-year career.

That's the type of dominance fantasy managers expected when selecting him in the fourth round of drafts this offseason. However, that wasn't the case five weeks into the year.

When Ayton graced the cover of the Week 5 FALLERS list, he was 122nd in per-game value, averaging 14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.5 blocks per game. I called him a buy-low candidate, considering his career floor was 16 points with 10 rebounds per game. But since November 15, Ayton's made a concerted effort to be more aggressive on offense and defense — and it's benefited fantasy managers. He's provided third-round value over the past two weeks, delivering 18.9 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 0.8 blocks per game.

The Suns' big man is now close to his career averages of 16 points and 10 rebounds entering Week 7 and is 57th in per-game value. His buy-low window is almost shut, so throw out some last-minute heaves if you're looking for a center who provides scoring and double-digit rebounds nightly.

Kevin Huerter - SG/SF, Sacramento Kings

Current per-game ranking: 65

The Kings are one of the most improved teams this season, thanks to the play of their franchise player, De'Aaron Fox, and their prized trade acquisition from the offseason, Kevin Huerter. I've been trying to find the right time to talk about "Headband Huerter," and unfortunately, some basketball player named Kevin Durant beat me to the punch.

The Maryland alum has become a legitimate source of points, threes and steals in his fifth NBA season. He's seeing the highest usage rate of his career (18.7 percent), minutes per game (32.2) and is shooting at an elite level from the perimeter. Huerter's shooting has been a much-needed revelation for the young Kings; he's knocking down almost 54% of his two-point attempts and 46% of his three-pointers. Surprisingly, he's shooting an uncharacteristically low 69% from the charity stripe, but that's an element of his game that will positively regress to his career average of 77%.

Huerter is enjoying an under-the-radar breakout, and as Kevin Durant stated, "He's playing like Klay, Steph right now." I'd be looking to pry him away from another fantasy manager right now and use his dud from a couple of games ago as a starting point for the negotiation.

*Whispers* He was playing against the best defensive team in basketball (Celtics), and they make a habit of completely shutting down opposing-team sharpshooters.

"The Red Velvet" is legit and is blowing by his preseason ADP of 145. He's easily one of the steals of the draft for fantasy managers and could continue to rise up the rankings if he improves from the line.

Disclaimer: Ben Simmons would have made the RISERS list had he not left Monday's contest with a knee injury. Fantasy managers likely lost a bit of leverage to sell high after Simmons' was providing third-round value over the past two weeks.


Jonas Valanciunas - C, New Orleans Pelicans

Current per-game ranking: 127

Kudos to the Pelicans front office for building such a deep roster ahead of the 2022-2023 season. New Orleans has dealt with numerous injuries from the onset but still has plenty of bodies in the hopper to compete. Part of the reason Jonas Valanciunas is still around is because he's a nice consolation prize should franchise-star player Zion Williamson ever get injured.

And therein lies the problem. Valanciunas was never worth his preseason ADP of 54 playing alongside a healthy Zion Williamson. Here's a breakdown of Valanciunas' stats compared to last season when Zion didn't play:


17.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists,, 0.6 steals, 0.8 blocks in 30.3 minutes per-game


13.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.3 blocks in 23.4 minutes per-game

Points differential: -4.6

Rebounds differential: -2.4

Assists differential: -0.5

Stocks differential: -0.7

Minutes differential: -6.9

So, Valanciunas is on pace to average the lowest amount of points, rebounds, assists, stocks and minutes per game in his previous five seasons. Plus, he's a complete defensive liability, posting the second-lowest defensive rating on the Pelicans roster.

His shooting splits are strong for a big man, but he's basically only worth a low-end double-double in his current role. Unless Zion gets injured, there's only a slight upside for Valanciunas beyond being a low-end threat for points and rebounds with no other significant counting stats to help your fantasy team win.

Josh Giddey - PG/SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

Current per-game rank: 206

I had high hopes for Josh Giddey in the preseason, but the second-year pro hasn't achieved the efficiency needed to anchor the guard position for fantasy managers. While his main counting stats are solid (14.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists), he's turning over the ball 3.5 times per game, is shooting 26% from three and 68% from the free-throw line.

And don't rely on Giddey for many stocks, either. He's only contributing 0.8 combined steals and blocks for fantasy managers this season. In summary, Giddey is a player who is best utilized on teams that are punting threes, turnovers and free-throw percentage. That's a considerable amount of strategy to consider for one player.

The Aussie combo guard finished 164 in per-game value last season so he's clearly trending in the wrong direction. Maybe it's the phenomenal play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but his usage rate has gone up from last year (22.2% vs. 24.6%), and yet, his assists and rebounding are down from his rookie season. I can't call it, but I doubt fantasy managers will be able to move Giddey for much, given his deficiencies outside of points, rebounds and assists.