Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic.
Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's Jim McCormick and Kyle Soppe, plus daily fantasy expert Renee Miller.
Jeremy Lamb has broken out early this season while Nicolas Batum has been sidelined with an elbow injury. How much do you think Lamb's fantasy value will be affected by the return of Batum, likely this week.
Jim McCormick: The aggregate of Spencer Hawes, Ramon Sessions, and Marco Belinelli combined to loft 6.6 3-point attempts per game last season. All three claimed usage rates between 19.2 and 20.1 percent, signifying their busy respective shooting contributions.
I mention this trio to reference the void for usage that remains on the current roster that should allow Lamb to continue to consume a healthy usage rate as the team's key complementary perimeter scoring threat. Lamb is sporting a usage rate of 23.4 percent, nearly identical to last season's 23.2 percent.
The biggest shift in his success is as a shooter, as he's hitting on 45.7 percent of his 3-pointers after hitting on 30.8 percent over his past three seasons. Which is to say, I don't think Lamb is this good of a shooter, given the larger career sample, and a negative correction is likely due. But I also don't believe the presence of Batum will tank his scoring value given the rotation's need, dating back to last season, for strong usage and shooting rates.
I think we'll see Lamb with the ball in his hands less often once Batum is back, as he's averaging 45.3 touches this season compared to 28.2 last season, but again the absence of the trio above (combined for 95.9 touches per game last year) helps mitigate this factor. It's reasonable to project fewer assists and free throws from Lamb, so while combined with what should be negative regression as a shooter, I'd be happy to sell on the hot start if you can find a reasonable return as Batum reintegrates.
Kyle Soppe: Lamb's hot start to this season is nice and should allow the Hornets to ease Batum back into action, but once he is back at full strength, those who did not capitalize on Lamb's current value are going to be left shaking their head at what could have been.
Lamb's usage rate isn't up much from last season, so when the minutes regress (and they will ... Lamb has never played 20 minutes a game for a season, and Batum has averaged 34.5 minutes since joining the Hornets), his counting numbers figure to fall off a cliff.
I mean, Lamb is converting 3s at essentially the same rate that he has been for shots from inside of eight feet this season. Moving Lamb in a trade is a move for the savvy fantasy manager, as his value isn't likely to ever be higher this season than where it is at this moment.
Renee Miller: It looks like Batum will be back in the lineup for the Hornets Wednesday, which, combined with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's return from a personal matter, calls Lamb's role into question. Lamb has always been a second-unit guy unless someone is hurt -- and as it turns out, Batum is hurt often.
Once he gets his chance though, as DFS players know, Lamb takes advantage and usually returns good value from starter's minutes. Never has that been more true than this season, when he's averaged 16.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 0.7 steals while shooting 47.1 percent from the field in around 30 MPG.
His nightly consistency has been a huge advantage for fantasy owners. While coach Steve Clifford says he will find minutes for Lamb, reports are also that Batum has looked "great" in practice this week, and Batum is a solid multi-category producer accustomed to playing 31-32 MPG.
Despite the breakout season, my expectation is that Lamb's value tanks going forward. As long as Batum is healthy and playing well, Lamb will return to the bench and see closer to 20 MPG. He may still be worth rostering in deep leagues but a reduction in court time is going to lead to an across-the-board reduction in his counting stats even if his efficiency remains high.