By Henry Weinberg, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Headlining this fantasy article are four players that rank in the NBA's top 60 for shots per game this season. In a vacuum, that's already an excellent floor — volume is king. However, each is suffering efficiency woes that are capping recent production. I expect progression to the mean for three of the four top names below, but there's one focal point that could get the plug pulled on the other sooner rather than later.
Sell High: RJ Barrett
It’s becoming increasingly clear that a breakout from Barrett will not be taking place. Certainly not this season:
Barrett attempts 69% of his field goals within 14 feet of the basket. That's the most common area for Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson and Mitchell Robinson as well — all of whom are vastly more efficient in that range than Barrett.
His 3-point shooting is nosediving. After hitting 40.1% of his triples in 2020-21, he connected on just 34.2% last season. Barrett is shooting 26.8% on 5.6 threes per game this season.
His defense isn’t a redeeming quality to ensure playing time.
At what point do the "competing" Knicks turn away from Barrett? He's not a selfish player, but when he's on the court, he's turning into a shot-chucker. Barrett is shooting 40.1% from the field on 16.5 shots per game this season. Among all players with at least 16.0 field-goal attempts per game thus far, only Terry Rozier has been more inefficient than Barrett.
Barrett has racked up 66 points and 25 rebounds over his last three games — a good position to sell from. Selling on Barrett is interesting because his volume is stellar, and the Knicks have never held him accountable in the past. But if New York finally begins reallocating the offense elsewhere, Barrett’s fantasy stock would be in real danger.
Buy Low: Jrue Holiday
I’m siding with historical production and declaring that Holiday will soon emerge from an extremely inefficient start to the season. Through 15 contests, Holiday is connecting on 43.7% of his field goals and 32.2% of his threes. The former is his least efficient clip since 2012, while the latter is the worst 3-point average of his career. This is not the beginning of the end for the 32-year-old, however.
Holiday is finishing a career-best and well-above-league-average 73% of his attempts at the rim. His midrange and 3-point shooting are the weaknesses thus far. Across his previous two seasons in Milwaukee, Holiday has averaged 18.0 points on 50.2% shooting, featuring 40.2% 3-point shooting — undoubtedly the two best seasons of his career. There is no reason to think Holiday won't overcome this inefficient start, at least reaching his career shooting slash of 46/36/78%. Holiday's stellar finishing at the rim sets the stage for three-level offensive production. Playing alongside the latest evolution of Giannis Antetokounmpo (30.9 points per game), there is sizable upside available.
Buy Low: Scottie Barnes
Although it may seem counterintuitive, Barnes has been a better fantasy asset when Pascal Siakam has been healthy this season. On Monday, Siakam returned from a 10-game absence due to an adductor strain — commencing a window to buy on Barnes.
Barnes is obtainable regardless. The reigning Rookie of the Year has yet to display much growth. His numbers are down across the board (except for assists and 3P%).
Additionally, via Cleaning The Glass, Siakam ranks in the 99th percentile among all forwards with a usage of 33.2%. Many would assume that to be a negative factor in Barnes' output. The below splits tell a different story:
Barnes' stats with Siakam — 14.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 49.1 FG%, 40.0 3P%
Barnes' stats without Siakam — 14.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 39.2 FG%, 29.0 3P%
Barnes has been identically productive with Siakam on the floor, but Siakam’s presence and offensive savvy enable Barnes to produce more efficiently. Siakam and Barnes sharing the floor have performed at a plus-7.4 point differential this season, ranking in the 86th percentile across all qualifying lineups.
A final point on Barnes' production: His battling through a sophomore slump is fair. He’s in his age-21 season and in the spotlight. There will be peaks and valleys, booms and busts. Experiencing growth throughout the remainder of the season is likely.
Buy Low: Buddy Hield
November has not been kind to Hield, who is shooting 39.2% from the field and 33.1% from beyond the arc across 12 contests this month. His past five games have been a mega-slump, culminating in 14.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists on a 35/25/85% shooting slash. That is ghastly, uncharacteristic 3-point shooting from Hield.
Buy now. Hield is launching the fourth-most threes per game (9.7) league-wide, his playing time has risen to a reliable 31.5 minutes per game, and the Pacers’ offense is hovering around the top 10 in scoring/efficiency. It still behooves Indiana to trade Hield, so his continued inclusion in the offense is almost certain. Trade considerations aside, he remains a valuable spacer offensively. His floor has remained respectable throughout his struggles. His shot will return.
Buy Low: Cameron Johnson
Prior to tearing his meniscus on Nov. 4, Johnson was off to a career-best season. Averaging 13.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals/blocks per game in 25.3 minutes per contest while connecting on 43.1% of his triples, Johnson’s return will be a seamless and welcome addition to Phoenix’s lineup.
While his exact return is still undetermined, Johnson is exactly three weeks into his 1-2 month timetable. No update has been published since his surgery, so news could be around the corner. Inquire on Johnson now while his return still feels like a distant expectation. Returning to action in the next couple of weeks is on schedule.