Ricky Rubio underwhelming in first start
Ricky Rubio started his first game of the season Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers, but he had just four points and six assists in 27 minutes. He's still rounding into game shape coming off major knee surgery, so patience is critical as he progresses, but his 10.9 assists per 48 ranks 11th among players averaging at least 20 minutes per game and his 3.3 steals per 48 ranks third. As he earns more minutes, ample assist and steal numbers should follow, so even though the scoring numbers will be underwhelming, don't doubt the fact Rubio will have increasing fantasy value this season. He's been cleared for 26-28 minutes per game for now, and it shouldn't be long until he's logging 30 per night; when that happens he should start to inch toward the gaudy assist and steal totals he posted as a rookie. He's available in 13.3 percent of leagues, and based on his upside, the fact he's back in the starting lineup and with his effective per-minute stats, Rubio should be universally rostered.
• Derrick Williams started at power forward, scoring 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting with seven boards, two blocks and a steal, but Dante Cunningham played 32 minutes off the bench to his 31. This shift in roles doesn't change value much, as both players' flaws and strengths are the same. They retain deep-league value but aren't worth owning in shallower formats.
• Alexey Shved hurt his ankle and Nikola Pekovic suffered a quad contusion in the Timberwolves' loss to the Clippers. The status of both is unclear, but monitor their situations closely going into Minnesota's next game, Saturday versus Houston.
• Iman Shumpert returned to the starting lineup alongside Jason Kidd, scoring eight points with two 3-pointers, a block and a steal in 15 minutes of play. He's a worthy addition if you need steals in any format and should be a solid overall option in deeper leagues, especially until Raymond Felton returns (he's targeting Jan. 26). When that happens, it'll be critical to note how minutes are distributed between Kidd, Felton, Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni. Prigioni's value should evaporate, and Felton might see fewer minutes per game than the 33.7 he was averaging pre-injury.
• Andre Drummond continues to shine off the bench, scoring 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting with 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 23 minutes. He's averaging 8.5 points on 66.7 percent shooting with 8.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in 21.5 minutes per game this month. Jason Maxiell still has the starting job, but it's only a matter of time before Drummond takes over. He's already putting up start-worthy numbers if you need rebounds, field goal percentage and blocks, and he has nowhere to go but up. He's owned in just 29 percent of leagues but should be rostered in basically every format due to the high ceiling and already-excellent averages in limited minutes. He's eventually going to be one of the best in the league in field goal percentage, as 77.3 percent of his attempts come at the rim, and he's finishing 70.1 percent of those shots. Drummond has future star written all over him.
• Pau Gasol was decent in 25 minutes off the bench for the Lakers, scoring 12 points with four rebounds, four assists and a steal in his first game since returning from a concussion. Going forward, Gasol is unlikely to post the type of stats many expected from him on draft day, but given the fact he's been adjusting to a new system playing alongside Dwight Howard, has been hampered by injuries and that Steve Nash has vowed to get him more involved, his value has nowhere to go but up. Especially if he does end up getting traded, any team seeking his services will likely use him as a key element. Gasol is a nice buy-low option, as his value has plummeted and he's frustrated those who spent a second- or third-round pick on him, but he could bounce back nicely and still be a valuable fantasy player after his horrendous start.
• The 76ers' defense is sputtering as of late, giving up 104.7 points per game over the past six games compared to their season average of 97.2. Don't be surprised if recent upstarts Landry Fields and Alan Anderson continue to play like worthy deep-league options, especially given the rash of injuries on the Raptors' roster, in particular the fact that both Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry are slightly hobbled.
• Glen Davis is back for Orlando, averaging 12 points and four rebounds since returning, but is primed for a big game against a Charlotte squad surrendering 103.5 points per game, the second-worst mark in the league.
• Stephen Curry is out with a sprained ankle for an undetermined amount of time, and although Mark Jackson claims the injury isn't serious, I'd be wary of this issue that has plagued him throughout his career. His absence makes Jarrett Jack a must-start for the short term, even though he's struggled recently.
• Jordan Crawford is again questionable for Friday's game, and if he misses time, look for Bradley Beal to continue his recent excellent stretch. Beal has averaged 20.3 points per game in his past four contests and has already emerged as a well-rounded fantasy shooting guard at just 19 years of age.