Fantasy Hoops: Westbrook’s Decline? Trade Your Wizards?

The Thunder are playing a different type of game than they have in the past and that involves lessening the load on Russell Westbrook, as ESPN’s Royce Young details. Westbrook is averaging 12 fewer touches per game this season than did last year and his individual time of possession has dropped from 9.1 seconds per game in 2017/18 to 7.0 so far this season.

Should you be worried about him from a fantasy standpoint? Not as much as you might think.

Westbrook is still seeing a major role in the offense. He returned to the court against the Kings on Monday after a six-game absence and was again first on the team in usage. The assist and rebound numbers are down, though both averages are still near nine per game. He’s averaging over 20 shots per game and making 48.8% of them on the season (while only an eight-game sample size, it represents a career-high).

“We’ve just got more creators,” Paul George said about the difference between this season and last. “It takes pressure off all of us when you’ve got guys that can make plays at different positions. Then when I have two point guards out there that can make plays, the game is so much easier for me.

The Thunder are remaining competitive with Westbrook off the floor, and when he plays, he’s getting better looks as the offense is slightly less reliant on him. In roto leagues, he still hovers around top-10 value, as he does in point leagues.

Here’s more from around the NBA:

  • While it may be difficult for the Wizards to trade John Wall, it should be easier for fantasy owners to acquire him. The chaos in Washington certainly deflates the point guard’s value as he and the team have underperformed. Yet, Wall actually ranks 15th on the year in fantasy, according to ESPN’s Player Rater. Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are also buy-low candidates based on perception, though each one has a better shot at being dealt by the Wizards than Wall due to his contract. Should the team deal one or both of his teammates, Wall’s usage (leading the team with 27.6%) would likely rise even further.
  • Despite a rough game against the Bucks his last time out, Zach LaVine remains a top-40 fantasy basketball option. Only two players averaging at least 20 minutes per game (James Harden and Russell Westbrook) have a higher usage rate than LaVine. The UCLA product is set to return to the Bulls lineup tonight against the Suns.
  • Joel Embiid has seen his usage increase (30.9% to 33.7%) since Jimmy Butler made his debut for the Sixers. Ben Simmons‘ usage is slightly down (21.0% to 19.0%) and Amir Johnson is seeing the biggest boost, going from 17.3% to 20.2% since last Wednesday.
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