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Fantasy Hoops: Frontcourt Report

Marvin Bagley III left the court on Wednesday night with an injury to his left knee, which is the same one that kept him sidelined for roughly a month earlier this season. The 2018 No. 2 overall pick was showing promising signs coming out of the All-Star break, scoring 20.3 points per game while adding 10.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 1.3 blocks per contest over that stretch.

With Bagley set to miss at least a week or two, the Kings will be forced to reshuffle their rotation and the biggest winner could be Harry Giles.

Giles saw 18 minutes on Wednesday versus the Bucks, accumulating 18 points, seven rebounds and one block while making 9-of-13 looks from the field. He played many of his minutes at the four spot when Bagley was sidelined this winter and on Friday, Sacramento will take on the Clippers—a team that has been the fourth-most fantasy-friendly to opposing power forwards this season.

While Giles should be a profitable low-cost option in daily fantasy this weekend, I wouldn’t necessarily add the second-year big man in season-long leagues until we see exactly what coach Dave Joerger is going to do with the rotation. If you have the roster space, he makes for a nice speculative add, as has the potential to be a fantasy playoff difference-maker if he gets enough run.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Sixers are without Joel Embiid and Boban Marjanovic, leaving Jonah Bolden to get the starting nod against the Thunder tonight. OKC has been an above-average fantasy matchup vs. opposing centers this season, per HTB. Philadelphia will play the Warriors on Saturday, a team that ranks in the bottom 10 this season vs. the position, so keep an eye on Bolden should Embiid miss that contest.
  • Domantas Sabonis will miss nearly a week with an ankle injury and Myles Turner and Kyle O’Quinn will both benefit. However, over the next two games, the Pacers take on the Timberwolves and Magic, a pair of teams that have been among the top-10 stingiest matchups this season in terms of fantasy production.
  • Dewayne Dedmon ranks eighth overall in ESPN’s Player Rater over the last 15 days. Dedmon has become very Paul Millsap-like this season, contributing in many categories. Over that 15-day stretch, he’s averaging a solid 13.8 points and 7.6 rebounds while adding 2.0 assists. Dedmon is just one of four players (Brook Lopez, DeMarcus Cousins, and Turner) to average two blocks, one steal and one 3-pointer made during that stretch. The Hawks center should be owned in season-long leagues.
  • Hassan Whiteside‘s hip issues caused him to miss the Heat’s tilt with the Warriors on Wednesday and he’s not expected to play against the Rockets tonight either. Bam Adebayo should be owned in all leagues and he’s a nice DFS play tonight.
  • If Mitchell Robinson is somehow still available in your league, go and scoop him up. The Knicks rookie should also be owned in all leagues.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Winning With Enes Kanter

Enes Kanter made his debut with the Trail Blazers on Thursday and asserted himself as the focal point on the team’s second unit. Kanter saw just 20 minutes of action, but he was able to get up nine shots and score 18 points. His usage rate ranked fifth on the team and he seemed happy in his new environment.

“Last time I got a win I think it was like almost two months (ago),” Kanter said after the game (via Andy Clayton of The New York Daily News). The quote, along with his post-game tweet that read “Wow! That’s how winning feels,” were indirect shots at his former team — the Knicks have only won two games since mid-December.

Thursday’s performance came against the Nets—a team that’s giving up the third most fantasy points (FanDuel) to opposing centers this season—and Kanter is in line for another favorable matchup on Saturday against the Sixers, who will be without Joel Embiid as the big man nurses a sore knee.

Kanter didn’t spend any court time in his debut next to Jusuf Nurkic, as Portland chose to split the 48 center minutes between the two. Nurkic saw 28 minutes, which is on par with his season average. Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard both appear to be out of the rotation with Kanter in the mix, as the pair drew DNPs. Portland seems comfortable with employing the Kanter-Jake Layman tandem in its second unit, as Layman was on the floor for all but two of Kanter’s 20 minutes.

Expect Kanter to once again see around 20 minutes in the team’s matinee in Philadelphia, but with his high usage rate and low price tag, he makes for a great daily fantasy play. In season-long leagues, he’s borderline roster-worthy if you need points, rebounds or a solid field goal percentage.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Grant, Brewer, Rockets

The fantasy basketball season is well underway and Hoops Rumors wants to help you make the playoffs in your season-long leagues as well as take down the competition in daily fantasy. Here are some observations and notes from around the league:


The Undervalued Jerami Grant

The list of players who are shooting at least 52.0% from the field while adding at least one block and one 3-pointer made per game this season: Jerami Grant and…that’s it. Bring the filter down to 50% shooting and Anthony Davis (50.8%), Al Horford (51.9%), Kevin Durant (51.2%), and Nikola Vucevic (51.8%) join the Thunder‘s utility knife.

Grant, who has double-doubled in five straight games, lends fantasy owners production in multiple categories without being a nuisance in the remaining fields. He’s averaging less than one turnover per game. He’s hitting 70% of his foul shots on the year on nearly three attempts per game, and has increased that rate to 83.7% over the past month. Over the past 30 days, he’s added 1.1 steals per game.

Since the beginning of December, the Thunder have played at the fastest pace in the league and Grant has solidified himself as the third-best player in a good fantasy basketball situation. Grant joins Paul George, who is rightfully gaining attention as a top player in the league, and Russell Westbrook, whose putrid shooting percentages and high turnover rate have led him to be chronically overvalued by many, as a must-own player in 9-cat leagues.


What’s Brewing In Philly

The Sixers appear to have hit on another mid-season free agent acquisition with Corey Brewer.

On Monday night, Brewer started for an injured Jimmy Butler and accumulated 11 points, three rebounds, two steals, two blocks, and one assist, all while he antagonized and defended James Harden in front of a rowdy Philadelphia crowd. He’s currently on a 10-day contract and it would be shocking if the Sixers do not bring him back on another deal once that concludes.

For fantasy purposes, he’s not worth rostering right now, but keep an eye on him in daily leagues for potential games in which Butler or other top Sixers miss.


The Capela Catastrophe

Clint Capela suffered a thumb injury earlier this month and it has not gone well for the Houston frontcourt defense since the big man has been sidelined. The Rockets were able to contain a grumpy Marc Gasol in game one post-Capela but since then, the interior defense has been abysmal. Here’s a rundown of how opposing centers have fared over the last three games:

  • Jarrett Allen (43 minutes): 20 points, 24 rebounds, three blocks, 10-of-19 shooting, 19 FT attempts.
  • Ivica Zubac (21 minutes): 17 points, 7 rebounds, one block, 4-of-6 shooting, 9 FT attempts.
  • JaVale McGee (16 minutes): 12 points, 14 rebounds, one block, 6-for-8 shooting, 4 FT attempts
  • Joel Embiid (27 minutes): 32 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks, 9-for-16 shooting, 17 FT attempts.

The Rockets have no one who can guard opposing fives for any lengthy stretch. The team brought in Kenneth Faried to add depth to the frontcourt and he’ll bring value on the offensive end, especially with his developing 3-point shot. But he’s simply not equipped to solve the team’s interior defense issues.

Coach Mike D’Antoni will have his work cut out for him as he tries to solve those interior woes. Perhaps the team will continue to be aggressive fouling big men when they are overmatched (Faried will at least provide six additional hacks on the defensive end). Regardless, the Rockets are an exploitable matchup for opposing fives in daily fantasy and should be targeted until either the team finds a stopgap or Capela returns.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Examining The Nuggets’ Rotation

The Nuggets remain atop the Western Conference standings despite a bevy of injuries and constant shuffling of their lineup. This week, Denver provides a little more fantasy value to players in season-long leagues, as this squad is the only team to have five games scheduled this week.

During the Nuggets’ first game of the week against the Rockets on Monday, coach Mike Malone started a lineup of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Torrey Craig, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic. The team brought Harris (hip injury) and Millsap (toe) along slowly, but their insertion into the starting lineup indicates the club plans to give both players their original roles back despite several players stepping up in their absence.

Harris left the game after 27 minutes of action with a hamstring injury and it would be surprising if he plays on the second night of a back-to-back tonight.

Millsap, who hasn’t quite been his diverse fantasy-self lately, admitted over the weekend that he’s still recovering from the toe injury which sidelined him for eight games.

“It’s still broke, but it doesn’t really bother me at all,” Millsap said (via Mike Singer of The Denver Post). “Tape it up, and I just get out there and play.”

Mason Plumlee performed well during the 11 starts he made over the last month, accumulating 8.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while shooting 57.1% from the field. He also averaged a block and steal per contest. He’s probably worth rostering this week with the extra games, though his long-term value is tied to Millsap. I’d bet on Millsap over Plumlee for the season if both are able to stay on the court.

Jokic is obviously the top fantasy contributor on the team. He ranks seventh overall on ESPN’s Player Rater over the last 30 days with Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns as the only two center-eligible players ahead of him. Earlier in the season, Joel Embiid ranked above Jokic in terms of long-term season value but that’s no longer the case with Jimmy Butler joining him in Philadelphia.

While Will Barton is getting closer to a return, we won’t see him on the court for a few weeks, as Malone recently announced. Barton is worth a stash and if someone else already has him, he’s a good trade target provided you’re in good position to make the playoffs.

Monte Morris and Malik Beasley are fine streaming options this week due to volume and Barton’s delayed return. Ditto with Craig, though none of the three should be considered a must-own for the season. If I had to pick one, it would be Beasley.

Murray, Jokic, Barton (even with the injury), Millsap and Harris are all players that should be rostered in 100% of leagues. There’s plenty of fantasy basketball value in Denver despite the ever-evolving circumstances.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Clippers, Griffin, Wade

The Clippers are one of the best teams so far this year, finding themselves atop the Western Conference standings as we reach the quarter-mark of the season. With top-10 rankings in both offensive rating (6th in the league) and pace of play (9th), Los Angeles has been one of the more fantasy-friendly teams as well.

Tobias Harris has solidified top-30 value in both points and roto leagues. Montrezl Harrell is having a breakout season, finding himself alongside Danilo Gallinari with top-70 value in both formats (Harrell over Gallinari in points and vice versa in roto). Lou Williams follows behind both players in season-long value.

Williams’ numbers are down this season and now might be the time to buy low on the two-time Sixth Man of The Year award winner. The streaky shooter is in the midst of a slump, but better times may be on the horizon.

In daily fantasy, I’m targeting Williams against the Kings on Thursday night. No team has allowed more points to the shooting guard position than Sacramento over the last seven games and no team has given up more 3-pointers than the Northern California franchise. The Kings are behind only the Hawks in pace of play this season, meaning more opportunity for the Clippers on Thursday.

Here’s more fantasy advice and notes from around the league:

  • Blake Griffin is approaching top-20 value for the season. The former “Clipper for life” scored 30 points against the Knicks on Tuesday. He has six games with at least as many points so far this season.
  • Dwyane Wade is owned in just 12.2% of ESPN leagues and he’s not a bad spot starter. Since Wade returned to the court last week, he ranks second on the Heat in usage (26.0%) behind only Hassan Whiteside.
  • Fred VanVleet is trending upward. He’s averaging 12.3 points and 4.8 assists over his last six games for the Raptors after scoring 18 against the Grizzlies on Tuesday.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Fantasy Hoops: Bucks, Leonard, Hart

The move to bring in coach Mike Budenholzer is paying dividends for the Bucks so far this season. The team’s 3-0 start is fueled by offensive efficiency (7th in the league), the commitment to the 3-pointer, and an increase in pace. Milwaukee sits 7th in the league in pace of play (entering Tuesday’s slate of games), up from 20th a season ago.

One player in particular who is seeing his fantasy stock rise as a result of the scheme change is Khris Middleton. The soon-to-be-free agent is attempting a Stephen Curry-like 7.7 shots from behind the arc through three games, making five per contest. That’s obviously not a sustainable rate, but with this kind of volume from behind the arc, Middleton is looking like a borderline top-15 option in Roto leagues.

Here’s more from around the league

  • The Raptors sat Kawhi Leonard on the second night of a back-to-back over the weekend, though according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic (Twitter feed), the team has no plans to rest him in back-to-backs as the season goes along. The rest over the weekend was a result of Toronto playing four games in six nights and not part of a bigger maintenance plan akin to the one the Sixers had used with Joel Embiid.
  • Josh Hart, who is currently only owned in 24.6% of ESPN leagues, needs to be picked up in all formats. Through the Lakers‘ first three games, it’s clear that Hart is a major part of the team’s rotation. He’s averaging 17.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 32 minutes per contest thus far.
  • Trae Young threw up 23 shots against the Cavaliers over the weekend, scoring 35 points. The Hawks guard brought his season average in field goal attempts to a tick over 18 per game. He’s making 39.3 of his shots from behind the arc and 8.3 assists per game through three contests. These are great numbers to begin the rookie’s career but despite the success, it may be time to trade him in fantasy. He’s gaining lots of hype and if you can snag a player in the Eric BledsoeAl Horford range, pull the trigger. Young will go off every 4-5 games and remain solid in points, 3-pointers made, and assists departments. He’s a quality starting option in all fantasy formats. However, now may be the time to swap him for someone who can contribute in more categories.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Fantasy Hoops: Knicks, DFS, Valentine’s Day Games

Hoops Rumors wants to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s day and acknowledge those who continue to love the Knicks and stand by the team through all the hardship, drama, and overall disappointment.

After a divorce with Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks have a path to add two max-level free agents this summer. Better times could be on the horizon for the New York faithful in 2019.

Rumors that Anthony Davis wouldn’t mind the Knicks as a long-term partner are encouraging. Kyrie Irving potentially breaking off his engagement with the Celtics provides hope. The Kevin Durant speculation and the potential to land the No. 1 overall pick both stand out as ways to spice up your relationship while slogging through the formality that is the remainder of the regular season (our Reverse Standings show every team’s chances at landing the top pick).

From a fantasy basketball standpoint, the Knicks still have plenty to love this season. Dennis Smith Jr. had a rocky first game upon joining the team, but since then, he has become a reliable asset. He’s averaging 18.4 points per game in 32.2 minutes over his past five starts. He’s dishing out nearly six assists per game, and only six players have more steals than the second-year point guard over that span.

Behind him at the moment is Kadeem Allen. Over the past three contests, Allen has averaged 17.3 points, 5.3 assists, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals in 27.7 minutes per game. Roughly 70% of his minutes have come without DSJ on the floor, giving him ample opportunity to post fantasy-friendly numbers.

Emmanuel Mudiay, who is sidelined with a shoulder strain, is expected to return after the All-Star break, so Allen’s fantasy relevance may only be a short-term fling. However, tonight against the Hawks—the most fantasy-friendly matchup for opposing point guards, per Hashtag Basketball—Allen will have backup duties all to himself and is a great low-cost DFS tournament option, coming in at nearly half the price as Smith on FanDuel.

Here’s more on the teams playing in tonight’s games plus some items to keep an eye on post-All-Star break:

  • Mitchell Robinson accumulated 14 points and 13 rebounds in the Knicks‘ loss to the Sixers and he should be owned in all season-long leagues going forward. Over his past dozen games, Robinson is averaging 9.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and nearly three blocks per game while making 76.9% of his looks. He saw just 20.0 minutes per contest during that stretch but should expect to see more minutes than DeAndre Jordan going forward, as was the case against Philadelphia on Wednesday.
  • Damyean Dotson should earn starter minutes against the Hawks with Mario Hezonja doubtful for the contest. Dotson played 31 minutes on Wednesday vs. the 76ers, scoring 16 points while adding two rebounds and three assists.
  • Will Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook record his 11th consecutive triple-double against the Pelicans tonight? New Orleans has given up the seventh-most points and fifth-most assists to opposing point guards this season, according to Hashtag Basketball. The Pelicans are in the middle of the pack in allowing rebounds to opposing guards, but something tells me Westbrook will be alright in that area with Jerami Grant sitting out (Dennis Schroder is also expected to miss the game).
  • Heat point guard Goran Dragic is expected to return after the All-Star break, with the Miami Herald reporting that he is “making a lot of progress.” Dragic’s return will push Justise Winslow back into the second unit and create a logjam for Dion Waiters and Dwyane Wade.
  • Don’t expect Markelle Fultz to be ready anytime soon. The newest member of the Magic, who is still without an official timeline for his return, took a subtle shot at his former employer after his breakup with the Sixers. “It really excites me to have coaches that are going to push you and not just tell you what you want to hear,” Fultz said (via Greg Joyce of The New York Post).

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Post-Trade Deadline Stock Watch

We had a wild trade deadline this year with 14 day-of deals and several notable transactions leading up to Thursday. Let’s take a look at some winners and losers from a fantasy basketball perspective:

Rising Fantasy Basketball Stocks

Bobby Portis (Wizards): 30 points is not a bad way to introduce yourself to a new fan base. Yes, it was against the Cavaliers, but Portis looked comfortable in his new environment, tossing up 18 shots and finishing with a 31.8% usage rate in 27 minutes of action. The man who bet on himself appears determined to make the most of his audition for a new contract.

Jabari Parker (Wizards): Parker had 15 DNPs in the 25 games leading up to his trade, making owning him a frustrating task. He saw 23 minutes in his first game with Washington and didn’t commit a single turnover while adding seven points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. He’s a major defensive liability, but it’s easy to envision the Wizards looking past that as they evaluate whether or not he can be a part of the team’s long-term outlook.

Stanley Johnson (Pelicans): Johnson saw 20 minutes in his first contest for New Orleans, including all but a few possessions of the fourth quarter when Anthony Davis sat out. Davis won’t play in back-to-backs the rest of the way and he may be held out toward the end of games like he was on Friday night. That leaves opportunity for the rest of the roster and Johnson is among those in position to take full advantage.

Otto Porter (Bulls): In his Chicago debut, Porter started and saw 34 minutes. As long as coach Jim Boylen doesn’t get crazy with the rotations (not a given), Porter will see more opportunity with the Bulls compared to his days with the Wizards.

Lauri Markkanen (Bulls): With Portis no longer in his way, Markkanen will get all the opportunity he can handle. He has scored at least 30 points in three straight games and is averaging over 12 boards per game over that stretch. The big man is a top-30 player in both points and category leagues the rest of the way.

Jonas Valanciunas (Grizzlies): The center is still hurt, but if the Grizzlies eventually place him in the starting lineup, he’ll be a key fantasy contributor down the stretch. He only saw 18.8 minutes per game this season in Toronto but his per-36 minutes will catch your eye (24.5 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks).

Ivan Rabb (Grizzlies): Rabb is a must-own right now with Valanciunas sidelined and he should remain a viable contributor even when the center debuts with Memphis. He’s averaging 17 points, 10, rebounds, and three “stocks” over the last two games as a starter.

Tyler Johnson (Suns): Phoenix presents Johnson with a ton of opportunity and even though he had an awful debut (1-for-9 for two points, two assists, two steals, and two turnovers), he’s worth keeping an eye on.

Harrison Barnes (Kings): Barnes sees his stock rise ever so slightly, as he enters a situation with a faster pace. The Kings are top-10 in pace over the last 15 games while the Mavs rank 29th. The small forward saw 37 minutes in his first game with the club and while he wasn’t efficient nor a centerpiece of the offense, he’ll get enough action to justify a fantasy roster spot.

Declining Fantasy Basketball Stocks

Tobias Harris (Sixers): Harris scored just 14 points on 12 attempts in his Philly debut. He was a top-25 fantasy player on the Clippers due to his efficiency and volume. Expect his percentages to look good but his raw numbers to severely decline. Still, he’s in the 50-60 range in category leagues.

Nikola Mirotic (Bucks): Mirotic is still nursing a calf injury but when he finally makes his debut in Milwaukee, he should expect a lesser role than the one had with the Pelicans.

Thomas Bryant (Wizards): Bryant was declining prior to the trade deadline and the arrival of Portis steals touches from him. Dwight Howard returning at some point remains a possibility. In all, Bryant owners should probably be looking for other options on the waivers.

Marc Gasol & Serge Ibaka (Raptors): Gasol and Ibaka will both see a decline in fantasy value. Prior to the deadline, Ibaka’s value was expected to take a hit with Valanciunas eventually returning from an injury and Gasol will likely see more minutes per game than JV did with the Raptors. I expect Pascal Siakam‘s stock to remain relatively steady but all three bigs are less valuable than they were Thursday morning.

Jahlil Okafor (Pelicans): Okafor’s fantasy relevance was a great story while it lasted but with Davis still on the squad, the opportunities won’t be there as often. Okafor is an excellent candidate for daily fantasy consideration on nights Davis doesn’t play but don’t expect Okafor to be consistent enough to be more than a streaming option in season-long leagues unless the Pelicans fully shut down AD.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Keeping Up With The Cavaliers

It was all good just a week ago… or maybe it wasn’t. Cleveland’s documented power struggle between the coach and the front office has ended and the results will bring a new leader on the court and the potential for new fantasy options to emerge.

(This is not to be confused with Cleveland’s other power struggle: Hue Jackson Vs. Winning Games. That also ended earlier this week with the Browns firing both Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Be sure to check out our sister site Pro Football Rumors for everything that happened at this year’s NFL trade deadline). 

Cavs players were reportedly angry with the decision to fire Tyronn Lue. Kevin Love posted a photo of him and Lue on social media and perhaps coincidentally, on the day after the firing, it was reported that Love could miss up to month with an ailing toe. Cleveland had made a promise to Love that the team would remain competitive this season though it has failed to turn words into actions.

Don’t expect a trade soon, as Love isn’t eligible to be dealt until January. He is a decent bet to be on the block leading up to this season’s trade deadline. Love shouldn’t be dropped in fantasy but if your team begins to struggle, swapping a high-risk, high-reward player in an ever-developing situation for immediate help is likely the right move.

Interim coach “Voice of the team” Larry Drew is coaching this squad in a setting which has been likened to a “substitute teacher” entering the classroom. The kids in Cleveland earned an A grade on Tuesday night, beating the Hawks by 22 points in the team’s first win of the season.

Rodney Hood had arguably his best game as a Cavalier, looking like the player the Cavs thought they were trading for when they acquired him from the Jazz last February. He made nine of his 13 looks on Tuesday and registered three steals. Hood is going to be a major part of the Cavaliers’ rotation and deserves to be in fantasy lineups.

Cedi Osman should be owned in all leagues. He started and scored 20 points and will remain in a prominent role until Love returns. Jordan Clarkson, who had an off night, making just 1-of-5 from downtown, deserves attention as well.

J.R. Smith can be dropped. He didn’t play on Tuesday and has been told he’s out of the rotation, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. Kyle Korver shouldn’t be on rosters right now, as the team is currently shopping the sharpshooter. Depending on the landing spot, he may be worth an add but he won’t exactly be a highly coveted fantasy free agent once that happens beyond owners looking to stream a 3-point specialist.

The situation is Cleveland appears fluid. The team may become more active in looking to trade other vets in the next few weeks. Stay tuned to Keeping Up With The Cavaliers within our Fantasy Hoops series to stay ahead of the competition in fantasy basketball and benefit from the unique state of Cleveland’s affairs.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Everything Surrounding The Porzingis Trade

The Knicks stunned the NBA universe today by trading Kristaps Porzingis to the Mavericks. New York is receiving a package “headlined” by Dennis Smith Jr. in exchange for the young big man. As part of the deal, the franchise will get out the contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr. (two years and approximately $39MM left on his deal after this season) and Courtney Lee (one year at $12.7MM), and will receive two future first-round picks.

DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews will head to New York and Trey Burke will go to Dallas. From a fantasy perspective, Smith has to be considered the biggest winner. He should take over the reins of the Knicks’ murky point guard situation so New York can evaluate him either as part of the long-term future of the franchise or as an asset in a trade this summer.

Emmanuel Mudiay is nursing a shoulder injury and when he returns to work, he’ll at best co-pilot the backcourt with DSJ. At worst, he’ll come off the bench and if the Knicks continue to tank run out lineups without any point guards, as they did on Wednesday, Mudiay’s stock will come crashing down.

The same can be said about Frank Ntilikina, though unlike Mudiay, who has been consistent for the Knicks and reliable from a fantasy standpoint, the French point guard shouldn’t be counted on to be a rosterable player.

What kind of roles will Matthews and Jordan have? Assuming the pair don Knicks’ uniforms, as opposed to agreeing to buyouts, their minutes won’t be as consistent as they were in Dallas. This could be a scenario where the first time either of them has an injury, the Knicks shut them down for the year. Both players have enough fantasy value to remain on rosters in season-long leagues given each players chances of agreeing to a buyout. If Jordan and Matthews stay put, I’d keep a close eye on the waiver wire to prepare for the day the Knicks tell the vets to wear their suits to work and their respective fantasy basketball values change drastically.

While the additions of Hardaway and Lee for the Mavs appear to be a result of salary dumps, Doncic may be shifted into the traditional point guard slot more often as a result. The team could still move either shooting guard to another team before the deadline (neither player’s salary could be aggregated in a potential deal). Assuming both players stay put, Doncic, who spent just 12% of his time this season at the traditional one spot, per Basketball-Reference, should see much more time at the point.

Burke saw 32 minutes in his last game as Knick, which happened to be against the Mavericks at The Garden. The former Michigan product became New York’s default starting point guard because of injuries to Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina and should see action in the Mavs’ backcourt because of their injuries and dearth of quality options.

Jalen Brunson has stepped up since DSJ was originally sidelined because of his injury/unhappiness, though the rookie point guard is best suited for a role off the bench. Brunson and Luka Doncic have seen 68 minutes together over the 10 games since the Lakers contest (the last game before DSJ left the team). The duo recorded a -22.6 net rating, which is second-to-last on the Mavs among the 35 different two-man lineups that recorded at least 60 minutes over that stretch. Burke, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, should get a chance to prove he belongs with the starters, especially if Dallas chooses to go with Doncic and Hardaway as the starting two and three.

Lastly, Kristaps Porzingis was always an iffy prospect to count on for fantasy purposes this season, as he was recovering from a torn ACL. There are rumors he’ll sign his qualifying offer with Dallas, which can be seen as him not being sold on his new settings. If you believe he’ll go through with that plan and play next season on a one-year deal, his incentive to find the court this season disintegrates. Instead of showing he’s healthy this season with a payday coming in restricted free agency this summer, he’ll angle for a new contract in 2020 with no restrictions on his choice of suitors after potentially showcasing good health during the 2019/20 campaign.

Stashing Porzingis on your bench in season-leagues is a risky proposition. Less so if your league has an IR slot, though either way, it’s wise to leave him on waivers until there’s definitive word of him making his Mavericks’ debut.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Harden, DeRozan, Rivers, Russell

James Harden is unreal. Over his last 10 contests, he is averaging 40.8 points per game. Kobe Bryant (three times) and Michael Jordan (twice) are the only other players to score at least 400 points over a 10-game stretch in the last 30 years.

During the month of December, Harden scored 546 total points, 115 more than any other player (Paul George was second). For fantasy owners in both points and category leagues, he’s closing in on the top overall spot in terms of value (I’d still take Anthony Davis for No. 1 by the slightest margin) and there aren’t many players who are better to build around in daily leagues.

Harden is gunning for a second MVP and absolutely belongs in that conversation. Any talk of his unworthiness for a second trophy can only add fuel to his fire, which bodes well for employing him in the fantasy basketball world.

The Rockets are in action tonight against the Warriors in a night of great matchups. The Nuggets are visiting the Kings, while the Spurs will host Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors in the small forward’s first game back in San Antonio since being traded.

Let’s take a look at some more stats and notes surrounding these matchups, along with a few trends from around the league:

  • Eric Gordon won’t play for the Rockets for the second straight contest, keeping the door ajar for Austin Rivers to continue playing a major role. Rivers has been busy since signing with Houston, averaging 35.6 minutes per game (only Harden and P.J. Tucker have received more MPG since Rivers made his debut).
  • DeMar DeRozan is enjoying a solid season for the Spurs, but beware of inserting him into daily lineups tonight against his former team. Leonard will play and DeRozan has struggled when going up against the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Over the last four seasons, DeRozan has made just 28 of his 58 attempts when playing against Leonard and has only attempted 19 free throws.
  • Since the start of December, no player has seen more minutes per game (39.3) than Wizards guard Bradley Beal. With John Wall out, expect Beal to continue to be among the league leaders in court time.
  • D’Angelo Russell had arguably the best game of his career for the Nets on Wednesday, scoring 22 points and dishing out 13 assists while committing just one turnover. Since Christmas Day, only six players have a higher usage rate than the former No. 2 overall pick and if Russell can keep the turnovers down, his fantasy value will continue to rise.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Love, Hernangomez, Murray

Isaiah Thomas‘ return has had its highlights and lowlights. His season began with an efficient 17-point showing, but he followed up his Cavaliers debut by making just four of his next 22 shots from behind the arc. Thomas is shooting 39.1% from the field since putting on a Cavs uniform and it’s clear that he’s not 100% recovered from his hip injury. NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Sacramento Kings

IT’s presence on the court has caused Kevin Love‘s fantasy stock to take a hit. The power forward is scoring 1.27 points per possession and has a 26.6% usage rate when Thomas is not on the floor this season, per NBAWowy. When the two players share the floor, Love’s numbers drop to 1.07 and 19.2%, respectively.

Cleveland is sliding down the standings and one would think the duo’s struggles on defense may force the team to send Thomas to the bench in order to stagger their minutes. That’s not happening yet — for now, Jae Crowder is the only player being pulled from the starting lineup by coach Tyronn Lue. Love will shift to power forward, and as long as he continues to share the court with the ball-dominant point guard, I’m not confident that Love’s fantasy stock will improve in the immediate future.

The potential addition of George Hill, who remains a fantasy asset despite Sacramento’s odd veteran rest plan, could push Thomas to the bench, though the deal to acquire him is far from a sure thing. Hill hasn’t been good on defense this season, but he has shown in the past that he’s more than capable of being a plus defender. He’s also not a player who needs the ball to make an impact, so he would mesh well with Love.

Again, the Hill trade is not imminent. Cleveland is looking to get better defensively either by making internal changes or by acquiring a defensive-minded player like Hill or DeAndre Jordan. An improved defense would mean fewer offensive possessions for everyone on the team and that might counteract any boost that Love gets from a reduction in court time with IT.

Of course, reports that Love was a target during a tense team meeting are also worth considering, though it sounds like he was far from the only Cav who was questioned behind closed doors. If there’s more to the rumors than the team is letting on, the Cavs could ostensibly demote Love to the bench and reduce his minutes — or they could deal him. A Love trade appears very unlikely at the moment, as does a demotion to the pine, but this has been another peculiar season for Cleveland. Would anything short of a LeBron James trade really be that surprising?

Here are a few more fantasy notes and analysis from around the league:
  • The Jazz are reportedly among the teams that have shown interest in Willy Hernangomez, and if the Knicks deal him to Utah or any team, his stock would drastically rise. Pick him up now as a speculative stash, as the trade deadline is less than two weeks away.
  • Pick up Clippers big man Montrezl Harrell. In the five games DeAndre Jordan missed, the Louisville product put up 15.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 58.7% from the field. Jordan, who has been the subject of trade rumors, returned on Thursday and Harrell remained productive, knocking down four of seven shots while grabbing seven rebounds.
  • If Dejounte Murray is somehow available, as he is in over 64% of ESPN leagues, scoop him up. He’s the Spurs‘ new starting point guard and has the potential to produce top results every night, as he did in his 19-point, 7-steal, 10-rebound performance against the Cavs earlier this week.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Statistics are current through Friday morning. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Ping-Pong Hopefuls

We’ve reached a point in the 2017/18 season where some front offices are facing a fork in the road, with one clearly preferable long-term path for their franchises’ futures. Several of the clubs that find themselves atop our Reverse Standings have already begun to look past this season and into the future. Today, we’re going to take a look at some of these bottom-dwellers from a fantasy perspective.

The Kings are one club that has started to focus on the long-term view. The team’s plan is to sit at least two veteran players in every remaining game this season. The group of veterans includes George HillKosta KoufosGarrett TempleVince Carter, and Zach RandolphNBA: San Antonio Spurs at Sacramento Kings

While the initial reaction is that all these vets lose value (and they do overall), there’s an opportunity to be found in Sacramento’s strategy. With two-plus players sitting out, it means the other players in the rotation are getting more run.

Hill, for example, stuffed the stat sheet in 37 minutes of action against the Jazz on Wednesday, as Carter and Temple watched from the sidelines. Hill accumulated 20 points, five assists and four rebounds and three steals in the loss and he should continue to be a fantasy contributor in games he plays.

Hill (available in over 77% of ESPN leagues) and Randolph (available in over 37%) are the only players of the bunch who should be considered for a roster spot in season-long leagues, and if I had to pick one, I’d take Hill over Randolph going forward. I have no problem giving Randolph one of my rotating spots at the end of the fantasy roster where players are added and dropped based on whether their teams play on a given night — I’d worry more about losing Hill in those daily shuffles.

Yet, any of the five Kings veterans could give you a spot start on nights they are suiting up. It’s going to be frustrating to keep track of who’s playing and who’s not, but there’s an edge to be had for those who take on the headache.

Here’s more from the league’s ping-pong hopefuls:

  • The Magic—owners of the worst record in the league—are expected to be sellers at the trade deadline and that could impact many of their players’ values. Evan Fournier, one of many Southeast Division players who could be on the move, is reportedly being shopped.
  • Nikola Vucevic has been out of the Magic‘s lineup since late last month and his absence is giving Elfrid Payton more control of the offense. Payton has a usage rate of 22.9 since Vucevic went down (compared to just 20.2 prior) and he’s seeing an uptick in points (16.1 vs. 11.3) and shooting percentage (54.2% vs. 50.2%). The point guard is also seeing a spike in assists, rebounds, and steals. With restricted free agency looming for Payton, Orlando figures to listen to any offers for him.
  • Dewayne Dedmon, who’s available in roughly 77% of ESPN leagues, is averaging 8.4 points and 8.2 rebounds since returning to the court for the Hawks. Dedmon is a solid streaming option, though as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors noted this week, he’s a candidate to be traded before the deadline.
  • Ersan Ilyasova is also a candidate to be dealt, meaning there’s a chance that the Hawks‘ frontcourt opens up and rookie John Collins gets more opportunity down the stretch. Collins is available in over 65% of ESPN leagues.
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic is owned in just under 30% of ESPN leagues, but that figure needs to be higher. The rookie is expected to continue to get steady minutes for the Kings, and he should be able to make the most out of his opportunities. Bogdanovic did just that against the Jazz on Wednesday, scoring a career-high 25 points.
  • Tyson Chandler signed a four-year, $52MM deal with the Suns back in the summer of 2015 and it seems like a tradition that every year the team takes his playing time and redistributes it to the team’s youngsters. That hasn’t happened quite yet in the 2017/18 season, and Marquese Chriss‘ hip ailment – which figures to keep him out for a matter days, if not weeks – contributes to the delay. Chandler remains an asset in the rebounds department, averaging 11.2 during the month of January (eighth-most in the league) and he should be available (as he is in over 88% of ESPN leagues) for those who need help in that category in Roto leagues.
  • Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Statistics are current through Friday morning. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Fantasy Hoops: Okafor, Adams, Jordan

Jahlil Okafor is free. While he still faces competition for minutes in his new home, he’s finally in an environment where he can simply focus on playing basketball, instead of having to keep an ear out for potential rumors about what team he may be going to next.Jahlil Okafor vertical

I recently caught up with Hoops Rumors’ own Austin Kent, who’s also the owner of Sports.ws, an advanced fantasy basketball platform that allows users to compete based on players’ efficiency rather than their aggregate stats. We discussed the Okafor deal, and touched upon a few other notes around the NBA. Here’s our conversation:

Chris Crouse: Let’s start out with the Nets’ side of the deal. What are your initial thoughts on the haul they received for Trevor Booker?

Austin Kent: I love the Okafor trade. I think we’re going to see him return to 18-and-8 form by the end of the season. This feels similar to the Jusuf Nurkic situation last year. An exit was just so necessary – and in this case so obvious.

Much has been said about Okafor’s defense, but I think Brooklyn is in a great position to develop him on that end. They at least have incentive to do so. Worst-case scenario, they platoon him with Jarrett Allen depending on the situation.

CC: Allen and Okafor should make an interesting combination. I like the rookie’s game and he could certainly help to compensate for Okafor’s deficiencies in traditional two-big-men lineups.

Call me crazy, but I think Okafor still has All-Star potential. Not this season, but down the line, regardless of whether he stays with Brooklyn past this year. (The Nets can only offer him a first-year salary of $6.3MM because Philly declined his fourth year option, so the franchise is far from a lock to keep him long-term). He simply has too much offensive talent not to be a force.

As of this writing, the former No. 3 overall pick is available in roughly 78% of ESPN leagues. That seems egregiously high.

AK: Okafor is a must buy in any format, but even in real life I think you’re going to see people start to come around to his value. I think we may have over-corrected in our small-ball hysteria and written off guys like him (and Enes Kanter and Greg Monroe) a bit too early.

CC: Kanter has really impressed me this season. Over the last seven games, only DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond have more rebounds per contest than the Knicks center. He’s pushing to be the real prize in the Carmelo Anthony deal for either side.

Kanter’s departure has given Steven Adams more opportunity. Thoughts on his game and how the Thunder’s new parts are all coming together?

AK: I think you really have to give Adams credit for buying into his role and constantly improving within it. I don’t think he’ll continue to average 19.5 points per game or shoot 72.3% from the field (as he has over his last four), but he’s taking advantage of defenses having to account for the bigger names on the roster.

Ultimately, I think you’ll see the Big Three turn into a Big Two as George and Westbrook take over as co-alphas with Anthony sliding into more of a peripheral role.

CC: Would you rather have Adams or Anthony in fantasy going forward?Steven Adams vertical

AK: I’d go with Adams. Even if he ends up at around 13 points per game on the season, you know he’s going to get his rebounds and chip in a few defensive counting stats. He has a nice floor in that sense and you’re not going to get burned or be disappointed. Anthony, on the other hand, is a scorer that’s going to have to learn to produce in a way that he’s never been asked to and may not have even seriously considered when he arrived in Oklahoma.

CC: I’m leaning toward Adams in Roto formats, but Anthony in points leagues. I might even take Adams over someone like DeAndre Jordan. Speaking of the big man, in your Clippers Free Agent Stock Watch, you mentioned how Jordan’s free agent stock was heading the wrong way. Do you believe it would improve if he’s dealt elsewhere, provided the new destination would be a long-term home? Also, thoughts on his fantasy stock if he’s sent to Milwaukee this winter?

AK: I think we’ve already seen Jordan’s peak and that was just the result of certain stars aligning. No situation, whether it be Milwaukee or elsewhere, will ever bring out more in Jordan than that 2013-17 window did. For four years, Jordan was a rain-or-shine starter in a fast-paced offense, fortunate enough to be in prime athletic form, yet experienced enough to understand the NBA. Most importantly, he was in the same lineup as Chris Paul.

I’d give Jordan a few more years of pumping out double-doubles wherever he goes because he’s still just 29  years old, and has a lot of clout from his role on a pretty good Clippers team. But I think you’re going to see a relatively fast fall from grace.

CC: Let’s circle back to the Okafor deal before we sign off. Quick thoughts on Philadelphia’s side of the deal. Does Booker provide any fantasy value going forward?

AK: I think the move to Philly will give Booker a great opportunity to step up in a more relevant role as a basketball player, but I wouldn’t hang on to him in fantasy.

Hoops Rumors readers, what are your thoughts on the Okafor trade, the Thunder’s collection of talent, and Jordan’s value going forward? Take to the comment section below to express your opinion. We look forward to what you have to say!

Also, remember that you can always head to the comment section with your fantasy basketball questions or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Statistics are current through Friday morning. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Preseason Top-150 Rankings

The 2018/19 season is almost here and so much has changed since the last time we presented an edition of Fantasy Hoops!

LeBron James took his talents to Hollywood and brought along an entertaining cast. DeMarcus Cousins is the latest player to draw the ire of fans for electing to sign with the NBA’s elite. Kawhi Leonard was shipped to The North while Paul George backtracked to an earlier time and stayed in an Oklahoma state of mind.

Let’s take a look at where these and the league’s other top players rank in our fantasy basketball top 150 (rankings based on Roto Scoring with nine categories—points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, 3-pointers, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and turnovers):Read more

Fantasy Hoops: Processing The Jimmy Butler Trade

“It is critical to be cycle aware in a talent-driven league. In a situation like yours at the Sixers, where a variety of circumstances left you near a trough in the cycle [and falling], amplifying this cycle became crucial. Today’s outcomes for every team are heavily impacted by decisions past [who to draft, sign, trade, hire, etc].

Jeff Bezos says that if Amazon has a good quarter it’s because of work they did three, four, five years ago—not because they did a good job that quarter.” 

Former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie wrote those words in his infamous 13-page manifesto, in which he expanded on the idea of having the longest view in the room. Hinkie discussed the moves the Warriors made to set up their dynasty, how Boston was able to land Kevin Garnett a decade ago by planning ahead, and how the Rockets and Spurs were able to bring James Harden and LaMarcus Aldridge to their respective Texas clubs.

This past weekend, the Sixers “ended” The Process by making their move for a star; the event was years in the making.

They found their missing piece by adding Jimmy Butler and trading away two of Hinkie’s gems in Robert Covington and Dario Saric. The deal signals the end of a long journey, one that sets the franchise up to become a true title contender. The path wasn’t easy. The games were borderline unwatchable at times, even for basketball purists, but Philadelphia finally has aligned its stars. The clock has begun to tick on the franchise’s new cycle.

It’s unlikely we see another Hinkie-esque rebuild, as I wrote during last year’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. James Anderson likely will never again see his face displayed as large and as proudly as it was on the banners in the Wells Fargo Center during the team’s post-2014 trade deadline games. Questions such as, “Can JaKarr Sampson make it as a role player?” or “What’s the best way to build around Jahlil Okafor‘s game?” or “When will the Sixers’ first-round pick play?” are no longer ones Sixers fans need to worry about answering (except for that last question, which seemingly pops up every year).

The Sixers in a great position because of their times of tribulations. The team is even set up to add yet another piece this summer should they convince a top free agent to sign on the dotted line.

As for this season, we’ve got you covered on the impact this trade will have on the fantasy landscape. Here are the three big questions following the deal:

How Will The Sixers’ Big Three Look?

Gone are the days of random DNPs, as the trade to Philadelphia has likely cured Jimmy Butler of his “general soreness.” Butler owners can exhale.

The four-time All-Star certainly won’t average 40+ minutes per night, as he did over his last three games with the Timberwolves (man, Tom Thibodeau surely was squeezing every last bit of value out of Butler before dealing him away). Still, he was the 11th-best player in 9-cat leagues last season and he could easily sneak into the top 10, as he did during the 2016/17 campaign.

Butler’s presence doesn’t dramatically change the value of either Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid. Embiid displayed MVP-level game and usage during the team’s first 15 games. His ability to get to the line has been particularly remarkable, as he posted his third game with at least 20 free throws on Monday against the Heat.

Embiid entered Tuesday sitting seventh in the NBA in usage (30.9%) and second in the league in scoring (28.2 points per game) behind only Stephen Curry. Perhaps those figures slightly decline with Butler in the fold. Regardless, Embiid remains a top-10 option.

Simmons should still pepper nearly all the categories on a nightly basis. He’s a top-25 option the rest of the way, though he should be valued below Butler in all formats.

Will A New Fantasy Option Rise From The Ashes Of The Process?

With Philadelphia trading away two key contributors, another fantasy option could emerge in the City of Brotherly Love. Mike Muscala is likely the best bet until the Sixers make another acquisition.

He’s a career 37.6% shooter from behind the arc and the foursome of J.J. Redick, Embiid, Simmons, and Muscala has the highest net rating among any four-man lineup (min 20 mins played) that coach Brett Brown has at his disposal. It’s easy to envision the 76ers playing those four alongside Butler as they close games.

Wilson Chandler, who started against the Heat on Monday and played 23 minutes, will have an opportunity to sneak into the fantasy discussion, but there’s a good chance that he may get enough of the offensive pie to make a real difference. He previously told Hoops Rumors that he doesn’t expect to play a high usage role for the Sixers this season.

Furkan Korkmaz saw 22 minutes against Miami, his second straight game with that much action. He has made 9-of-17 shots over those two games including six-of-13 from downtown. He’s worth a flier despite the uncertainty around his happiness in Philadelphia. Landry Shamet is also a candidate to see a rise in value and could be worth a speculative add.

What About Minnesota?

On the other side of the trade, Robert Covington‘s value will remain intact. As I mentioned in last week’s Fantasy Hoops, he should be owned in all roto leagues.

Dario Saric gets to another chance at a fresh start after the trade. He’s shooting just 36.4% on the season and as I explained on a recent episode of NBA Math’s Hardwood Knocks, his struggles would be even more apparent to casual fans if not for Markelle Fultz having his own issues. As a member of the Wolves, Saric likely won’t have the luxury of being just the second-most disappointing player should he continue to struggle.

Still, this is a buy-low opportunity for the owners eyeing the Croatian big. He’s had slow starts in the past and he should move into the Timberwolves’ starting lineup once he makes his debut. At least one league executive expects RoCo and The Homie to mesh well with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Towns is the biggest beneficiary of Butler’s departure from a fantasy standpoint. Expect his usage to settle in the 24-28% range. He’s a borderline top-five fantasy option. If you own Nikola Jokic, Towns represents a slight upgrade and I’d recommend attempting to make that swap.

Derrick Rose remains a fantasy zombie and Jeff Teague becomes a more attractive option after the deal. Wiggins, who is nursing a quad injury, had some mysterious DNPs while the Butler saga inflamed. Expect him to see his usage rise ever so slightly.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Moving On From Markelle Fultz

It’s the ninth game of the season. The Sixers have surrendered a 20-plus-point lead to the meandering Clippers, just two days after an embarrassing loss to the division-leading Raptors. The morale is low and Lou Williams sets up pick-and-roll against his home city for a potential game-tying bucket in the closing minutes of the third quarter.

An unlikely defender helps to spearhead a defensive stop. It’s Markelle Fultz, who fights through a pick to stay with Williams and forces him to pass out the ball before grabbing the defensive rebound. Fultz then takes it the length of the court and lays it in. The crowd in the Wells Fargo Center erupts, as it has for nearly every positive Fultz play over the past year. Despite his struggles, the 76ers faithful are fully behind last year’s No. 1 pick, who is showcasing some potential during a season littered with disappointing possessions.

There’s a sense of calm among Philadelphia sports fans, as I explained on NBA Math’s Hardwood Knocks podcast. Maybe it’s the aftereffect of the Eagles bringing the city a liberating NFL championship. Maybe years of Sam Hinkie setting up The Process and fans seeing the fruit of that work have taught the city patience. Whatever it is, a fanbase that may have – in the past – torn apart a player who failed to meet lofty expectations is now supporting him as he attempts to cultivate his game. The team shares the city’s vibe, as it knows Fultz must live up to his potential for the team to reach its ceiling in its current form.

“Any game experience with him is fantastic,” J.J. Redick told the media, including Hoops Rumors, after a recent Sixers home game.

“[Fultz] didn’t get a chance to be in a rhythm last year, so part of that for any young player is, and I had to do this with [Austin Rivers] when he first came to the Clippers, you got to figure out what your base is every night…’Make or miss, these are the things I’m going to do every night’ and I think for Markelle, getting the chance to get 25-30 minutes a game is huge. Gives him a chance to build his base and part of that is going to be playmaking and being on the ball on offense.”

Getting Fultz reps with the ball has been tricky and playing him alongside Ben Simmons hasn’t been successful. The Sixers have been outscored by 6.3 points per 100 possessions when the duo shares the floor. Head coach Brett Brown recognized the issue and adjusted his lineup after the loss to the Bucks by staggering Simmons and Fultz more. The pair hasn’t seen as many as 10 minutes together in any game since that night in Milwaukee.

The rotation change has resulted in less court time for the University of Washington product, as his playing time has dipped by more than two minutes per game since the adjustment. Still, Fultz is likely playing more than his production warrants and that’s a result of his No. 1 pick status and Philadelphia’s (justified) patience with a player it hopes can be a major piece on a championship team.

Fantasy owners should not display the same patience this season. Fultz is a streaky option with low percentages (39.3% from the field, 30.8% from behind the arc), someone who belongs on waivers, far away from fantasy lineups. If you own him, you could hold onto him until his next decent game and attempt to trade him to an owner who buys into the potential.

T.J. McConnell played over Fultz in crunch-time lineups earlier in the season before he saw Mike Muscala take that fifth spot from him. Neither one of those players are long-term fantasy options. Dario Saric could be a nice daily fantasy play with Muscala unlikely to suit up against the Pacers on Wednesday, though the Croatian has struggled this season, making just 33% of his attempts from the field.

Robert Covington is questionable for the contest in Indiana with lower back soreness. He’s been a fantasy asset so far this year, especially in roto leagues. He’s owned in 28% of ESPN leagues but that figure is criminal. Scoop him up if he’s on the waiver wire regardless of whether he suits up on Wednesday.

Wilson Chandler is expected to play a low-usage role for the Sixers, as he recently told Hoops Rumors. He’s on a restriction of 10 minutes per game as he works his way back from a hamstring injury and it’s unlikely he becomes a consistent fantasy option this season.

Philadelphia’s injuries may give Fultz some added time on the court this week and maybe it’s worth waiting it out for that aforementioned decent game before pulling the plug. More likely, it’s best to cut ties and look for someone with a better chance at becoming a quality fantasy contributor this season (like Frank Ntilikina, who is owned in just 6.2% of ESPN leagues).

The 76ers franchise, the city, it’s fans and affiliates reserve the right to have patience with the 20-year-old point guard. It’s not recommended that fantasy owners follow suit.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Clippers, Zubac, Nurkic

Happy π day everyone! In honor of the day and of the fantasy playoffs, Hoops Rumors wants to make this a stat-driven edition of Fantasy Hoops. Here’s some fantasy notes and analysis from around the league.

  • The Clippers may appear as a tough matchup for centers, but over the last 10 contests, only the Knicks have allowed more points per game to opposing fives. Over that span, no team has allowed a better shooting percentage to opposing fives and only three teams (Nets, Nuggets, and Kings) have allowed more assists to the position. L.A. will take on the Bucks, Nuggets, Cavs, Knicks and Lakers over their next five games.
  • The Lakers shut down Timofey Mozgov and the move should give Ivica Zubac an opportunity to become a fantasy contributor. On Monday night, the rookie saw 30 minutes of action and made 12 of his 15 shot attempts on his way to 25 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Jusuf Nurkic is available in nearly 30% of ESPN leagues. That number should be closer to zero, as he’s averaging 15.3 points per games since the All-Star game and he’s one of 15 players in the league averaging at least one block and one steal per contest over that span.
  • Alan Williams is also one of those 15 players.  In addition to contributing in the blocks and steals categories, he’s averaging 13.8 points and 9.7 rebounds in 25.4 minutes per game since the break. Williams is available in nearly 50% of ESPN leagues.
  • Jeremy Lin is starting to significant minutes again. Over his last five games, he’s seeing 24.8 minutes per game and averaging 16.6 points, 3.8 assists, and 1.0 steals per contest.
  • Over the last 10 games, no team has allowed a better shooting percentage to opposing point guards than the Grizzlies. Only three teams ( Suns, Blazers, and Bulls) have allowed more points per game to the position over that stretch. Memphis plays Chicago on Wednesday and Rajon Rondo could be a nice streaming option. Patty Mills could be a sneaky good fantasy option as well over the next two weeks. The Spurs play the Grizzlies twice over their next five games.
  • Keep an eye on Michael Beasley‘s status. The former No. 2 overall pick remains out with a knee injury and he isn’t traveling with the Bucks on their current 5-game road trip. In the five games prior to his injury, Beasley played a major role in the offense, averaging 17.4 points per game and ranking second on the team is usage rate. Beasley could be a fantasy contributor. The 28-year-old could be an excellent fantasy asset once he returns to the court.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Statistics are current through Tuesday afternoon.

Fantasy Hoops: Five Early Storylines To Watch

The NBA’s opening day isn’t an official holiday (National Basketball Day is “officially” November 6, James Naismith’s birthday), though the start of professional basketball has a special feel to it. It’s a day filled with anticipation, one where you can catch up on any team previews you might have missed, make your last-second predictions, and get your last-minute season-long bets in (provided, you are of course, in a state or country where such gambling is allowed).

After an offseason of change with several top players switching teams and others begrudgingly staying put, the NBA’S 73rd campaign is here and that means fantasy basketball season is upon us. Here are some early storylines to watch from a fantasy perspective:

Kemba Walker and Optimism In Charlotte

Kemba Walker, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, has been on the trade block for quite some time and – as we mentioned in our top-150 rankings – the threat of Charlotte shipping him away puts a light blanket on his fantasy value. However, this is a franchise that is itching to make the postseason and they may be able to shimmy into the top spot in the division with no elite team lurking.

The Wizards added Dwight Howard and Austin Rivers to a core that appears to have a definite ceiling. The Heat are still listening to the Timberwolves‘ stock music as they wait on hold in Jimmy Butler negotiations. The Hawks are in a full rebuild and the Magic haven’t been competitive since Hedo Turkoglu was in his prime. The division is up for the taking.

The Hornets won’t deal Walker if they are in the playoff race and they may even add talent for a run, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe speculated in his latest piece. If Walker stays put all year and the team can give him another running mate, he’ll be a top-five point guard in the fantasy realm.

Changing Of The Guards (Temporarily) In OKC

Russell Westbrook continues to rehab from September knee surgery, something that caused him to drop in our preseason Fantasy Hoops rankings. There’s no set date for his return. In his absence, Dennis Schroder, who came to the Thunder in the Carmelo Anthony deal, is a must-start in daily fantasy and a few other players should be on the fantasy radar as a result of Oklahoma City’s injury woes.

Raymond Felton, who was third on the team during the preseason with a usage rate of 26.1, becomes usable in both daily and season-long formats. With Andre Roberson still months away from a return, Felton, Terrance Ferguson, and Hamidou Diallo should fill in the guard rotation.

Paul George sees a spike in value while Westbrook is sidelined. Expect his usage rate to be among the league leaders early on.

The Knicks’ Three-Guard Starting Lineup

The Knicks will trot out a starting five of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Frank Ntilikina, Lance Thomas, and Enes Kanter in a lineup that figures to bleed points. Ntilikina has the potential to be a lockdown defender and he has the ability to defend three positions. Still, this is a lineup that shouldn’t give opposing offenses much resistance. 

No. 9 overall pick Kevin Knox‘s fantasy stock takes a slight hit as he moves to the bench. Coach David Fizdale hopes the decision to bring Knox off the pine will motivate the rookie and fantasy owners are hoping for the same. Knox is talented and he’ll get more run as the season goes along. New York is going to be bad—among the league’s worst—and the franchise will need to use its on-court minutes to evaluate everything in-house before it heads into an offseason that could be filled with fireworks.

The Trae Young Show

Trae Young will be Atlanta’s opening night starter with Jeremy Lin not yet ready to play. Expect a good showing against the aforementioned Knicks in The Garden and expect him to keep the gig for the remainder of the season.

Young will fill up the stat sheet with points and assists, and the Hawks will likely be running Rookie-Of-The-Year promos for him later in the season. He has a good chance to be the best rookie this season from a fantasy perspective.

Michael Carter-Williams, The Fantasy Asset?

When MCW signed with Rockets, NBA Twitter responded with shrugs, laughs, and some questionable emojis. Yet, the track record of Daryl Morey, along with the new environment gives hope to the combo guard’s season.

The former Rookie Of The Year award winner will be in the best situation of his meandering career. Last year, he played for a young, thin Hornets team, where Walker was the only top talent. Prior to that, he had a cup of coffee with Chicago sitting behind Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo on one of the wonkiest rosters ever assembled. Before those stops, he spent time with the Baby Bucks and was a lead character during the opening scene of The Process.

Now, MCW is playing on an established team has turned around more than a few NBA careers. This season, he’ll play behind Chris Paul, James Harden, and Eric Gordon and while there won’t be many minutes for him right away, he’ll have the opportunity to continue to learn and compete for a role.

Admittedly, this is not an early storyline to watch and it’s unlikely he becomes a fantasy asset. However, with an aging Paul and a team that could take its foot off the gas in an effort to remain healthy for the postseason, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if Carter-Williams becomes fantasy relevant at some points during the season.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Ibaka, Nurkic, Collison

Hoops Rumors is examining the fantasy basketball landscape in order to help you dominate the competition. Check back weekly for more analysis.


Breaking Down The Trades: Part 1

Magic send Serge Ibaka to the Raptors for Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round pick

Ibaka was a top-50 player before the trade and his overall ranking doesn’t change that much. He was averaging 15.1 points per game, which ties the highest mark of his career, and while that figure will probably decrease, it won’t hurt his overall value too much. He’ll likely offset a dip in scoring with an increase in field goal percentage, as Toronto’s offense should get him better looks than what he saw in Orlando’s clogged sets.

Ross should see additional opportunities with the Magic and he should be on the fantasy radar by the time he settles into a role with his new team. He was scoring 10.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game while adding a steal per contest in Toronto. He was only seeing 22.4 minutes per contest before the trade. The Magic rank 29th in the league in offensive efficiency, so Ross will likely see an increase in minutes as coach Frank Vogel looks to improve the team on that end of the floor.

Aaron Gordon is the player whom could see his fantasy value rise the most as a result of this trade. By shipping Ibaka north, the Magic can give Gordon more run at the power forward spot, which is his natural position. The offense should be better overall and Gordon should be able to take advantage of the extra space in the post.

Blazers trade Mason Plumlee and a 2018 second-rounder to the Nuggets for Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round pick

The deal isn’t great for Plumlee’s stat line. He’s going to come off the bench for the Nuggets and it remains to be seen whether or not he can play meaningful minutes next to Nikola Jokic. If he can’t, his value takes a major dive, as he will likely go from a player seeing 28.1 minutes per contest to someone who sees about two-thirds of that figure.

The trade is good news for Nurkic. He didn’t see action in five of his final 17 games with the Nuggets and in the 12 he played, he only saw 12.5 minutes per contest. While there’s not much elbow room in Portland’s frontcourt, the team doesn’t have one future star soaking up all the center minutes. Nurkic will get his opportunity to prove he deserves court time and I suspect he’ll eventually settle into a role that’ll provide him with 20-25 minutes per night. That’s enough run to make him worth adding in most leagues, though I’d let the situation develop before dropping a productive player for him.

There was another trade this week: Cleveland shipped Chris Andersen to Charlotte, but that deal doesn’t have any direct fantasy impact. Here’s more fantasy notes and analysis from around the league:

  • Pau Gasol should be back on the court for the Spurs after the All-Star break and he’s a top-75 fantasy player going forward. If someone in your league dropped him when he injured his hand, pick him up now.
  • Trevor Booker, who I wrote about in the inaugural edition of Fantasy Hoops, has been taken out of the starting lineup in Brooklyn, but that doesn’t mean you should do the same with him in your fantasy lineups. Since becoming a reserve, he has a higher field goal percentage and he’s averaging more points and steals per game than he did as a starter.
  • Since the start of February, Darren Collison is sixth in the league in minutes per game. He’s taken on a bigger role on the Kings since Rudy Gay went down with a torn Achilles and he’s available in roughly 34% of ESPN leagues.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Statistics are current through Tuesday afternoon.

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