5 biggest first-half fantasy disappointments

Special to Yahoo Sports

With some NBA teams having already played as much as 70 percent of their games this season, the All-Star break certainly is not the halfway point. What the break does present, however, is a good opportunity for us to look back and evaluate some of the breakouts and disappointments that have transpired since draft season.

On Tuesday, we dug into 10 of the year’s biggest positive fantasy surprises. Today, we’ll take a look at the other end of the spectrum. Let’s dive into five players who have let fantasy managers down and what to do with them down the stretch.

Current rank refers to total value in 9-category leagues.

Yahoo ADP: 7.0

Current rank: 169th

If you wanted to draft Lillard in your league, you needed to select him in the first round. In some drafts, you may have even needed to select him in the first half of the first round. He was coming off of another stellar 2020-21 campaign for the Blazers, averaging 28.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 4.1 three-pointers per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 92.8 percent from the charity stripe. Lillard built a reputation as one of the safest stars in fantasy basketball, given that he had provided at least 25.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 3.0 three-pointers per game in each of the previous four seasons.

Lillard reportedly suffered an abdominal injury while playing in the Olympics, but there weren’t any indications heading into the season that he would be limited by the injury. He didn’t look to be himself right out of the gate, though, shooting 39.7 percent from the field over his first 20 games. He still provided valuable production in terms of rebounds and assists, but he averaged just 21.4 points per game, which was modest for his lofty standards.

His abdominal injury eventually became too much for him to battle through and he underwent surgery in January. He’s only appeared in 29 games this season and won’t be back until March, at the earliest. With the Blazers tearing down their team at the trade deadline, there is a chance that Lillard doesn’t take the floor again this season.

If he doesn’t, he will go down as arguably the biggest fantasy disappointment on this list.

Yahoo ADP: 13.5

Current Rank: 122nd

Beal was another superstar who was typically selected at the end of the first round or the beginning of the second. He’s become one of the best scorers in the league, coming off of back-to-back seasons in which he put up at least 30.5 points per game. What made his scoring numbers even more valuable is that he shot 48.5 percent from the field last season. In addition to his offensive prowess, he had averaged at least 4.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.2 steals in each of the last four seasons.

Beal’s efficiency has been dealt a bit of a blow this season, but he hasn’t exactly struggled while shooting 45.1 percent from the field. However, despite the departure of Russell Westbrook, his usage rate dropped to 30.7 percent after back-to-back seasons at 34.0 percent or higher. The result was him averaging 23.2 points per game — his lowest mark since the 2017-18 season.

Bradley Beal's 2021-22 NBA season has come to an end
It was an unfortunate end to Bradley Beal's 2021-22 NBA season. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

As if his declining scoring numbers weren’t disappointing enough, Beal is now out for the remainder of the season because of a wrist injury that required surgery. In the wake of that news, the Wizards decided to shake up their team at the deadline, trading away Spencer Dinwiddie, Davis Bertans and Montrezl Harrell in two separate deals that ultimately netted them Kristaps Porzingis.

In the aftermath of the Beal injury and the Dinwiddie trade, the Wizards are extremely thin at guard. Their absences have provided a boost for Deni Avdija, who has averaged 12.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.4 three-pointers over their last five games. The same can be said for Corey Kispert, who has provided 13.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.3 three-pointers over the last six games.

Yahoo ADP: 27.7

Current rank: 57th

Randle had a breakout campaign for the Knicks in 2020-21, averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.3 three-pointers en route to Most Improved Player honors. He was the focal point of their offense, and his role as a facilitator helped him blow past his previous career-high in assists per game (3.6). The Knicks didn’t make many significant upgrades around him during the offseason, so the prevailing belief was that he’d be well-positioned for a repeat of last season.

Part of what made Randle so valuable was that he increased his production from behind the arc but still shot 45.6 percent from the field, thanks to draining better than 41 percent of his threes. This season, he’s shot only 30.6 percent from behind the arc, dropping his overall field goal percentage to 42.1 percent and his scoring average to 19.8 points per game. To complicate matters, Randle is only shooting 76.5 percent at the free-throw line, compared to 81.1 percent last season.

Click here for the biggest fantasy basketball surprises of the first half

The good news is that Randle has been healthy, appearing in 57 of the Knicks’ 59 games. He’s also been excellent in terms of rebounds and assists. However, he’s running out of time to improve his efficiency numbers and provide fantasy managers with a boost in scoring.

It’s worth noting that Randle appeared to be trending in the right direction heading into the All-Star break. Over his last seven games, he averaged 29.6 points on 45.8 percent shooting. Still, he only shot 32.4 percent from three during that stretch.

Richaun Holmes, Sacramento Kings

Yahoo ADP: 42.3

Current rank: 154th

For those who play in category leagues, Holmes has become a valuable asset in recent years. He had averaged at least 12.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while shooting at least 63.7 percent from the field and 78.8 percent from the charity stripe in each of the last two seasons. His increased production resulted in him signing a four-year contract extension with the Kings that indicated he would remain a significant part of their future.

Things started well for Holmes this season. He provided 14.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks over his first 18 games while shooting 69.4 percent from the field and 85.1 percent from the free-throw line. However, a bout with COVID-19 and an eye injury forced him to miss 15 of 20 games from mid-December into mid-January. When he did finally return, he only averaged 25 minutes over 10 games before the trade deadline.

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The deadline subsequently resulted in the biggest blow to his value after the Kings acquired Domantas Sabonis from Indiana. In the four games since Sabonis debuted, Holmes moved to the bench and played only 12, 17, 22 and 10 minutes, respectively. As of now, there’s been no indication that the Kings want to play him alongside Sabonis, so he'll likely remain in a limited role moving forward.

It may be worth a wait-and-see for another week, but for fantasy managers who need help now, dropping Holmes in favor of a hot waiver-wire add is a viable route to take.

Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons

Yahoo ADP: 66.1

Current rank: 160th

The man fondly known as “Beef Stew” had high expectations coming into the season after he led all rookies in rebounds and blocks in 2020-21. The Pistons played him more down the stretch last season, leaving him to average 26.0 minutes over his final 25 games. He used that added playing time to provide 10.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while shooting 53.2 percent from the field and 72.0 percent from the free-throw line. All signs pointed to Stewart being the Pistons’ starting center this season, making him an attractive breakout candidate.

While Stewart has been a regular starter for Detroit, his playing time hasn’t taken a significant jump forward (26.0 MPG). His per-game averages – 8.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks — are fine, but they’re certainly on the far-lower end of what managers who grabbed him in the middle rounds of drafts were hoping for. Stewart has also shot just 66.7 percent from the free-throw line — down from 69.6 percent as a rookie.

To make matters worse, the Pistons not only failed to trade away Jerami Grant at the deadline, but they brought in Marvin Bagley III from the Kings. Detroit now has a crowded frontcourt with Grant, Stewart, Bagley and Kelly Olynyk all in the fold. With the Pistons’ front office likely to get an extended look at the former No. 2 overall pick, it’s difficult to envision Stewart’s workload seeing much of an uptick over the final seven weeks.

Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook (ADP: 25.7; Rank: 142), De’Aaron Fox (ADP: 33.5; Rank: 115), Kevin Porter Jr. (ADP: 80.8; Rank: 243), Kemba Walker (ADP: 89.2; Rank: 222), Spencer Dinwiddie (ADP: 97.7; Rank: 179)

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