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Fantasy Hoops: Mitchell’s Jazzy Role, Rockets’ Center Dilemma

Injuries are piling up around the league and they are shifting values in the fantasy basketball. Let’s take a look at a pair of developing situations.


The Jazz are out of point guards with Ricky Rubio (hamstring), Dante Exum (ankle), and Raul Neto (groin) all sidelined. The team adapted to the injuries by playing Donovan Mitchell at the one and the early returns are promising.

Over the last four games (contests which Rubio has missed), Mitchell is averaging 32.0 points per game, which is good for fourth in the league over that stretch ( behind James Harden, Anthony Davis, and Bradley Beal). He’s making 51.1% of his attempts and averaging 6.0 assists per game, up from the 3.4 he averaged leading up to the unexpected role change. 

Utah has won all four games since Rubio went down and while it’s worth noting that the wins came against the Magic, the LeBron-less Lakers, the Bulls, and the Pistons, there’s plenty of reason for optimism. Mitchell appears more than comfortable in the point guard role, playing like a young Harden. It will be interesting to see if the arrangement makes the Jazz think about making future plans with him at the one, as I recently mentioned on Twitter.

Season-long fantasy owners probably missed the boat on trading for Mitchell. December was his worst month as a professional. He shot just 38.1% from the field while clocking more turnovers than assists. After this recent stretch, he’s flirting with top-50 fantasy value and that’s factoring in the chances of him staying hot once the team gets a bit healthier, so it’s hard to envision him rising too much further in the overall rankings.

Daily fantasy is a different story. Building a lineup around Mitchell while he’s running the show for the Jazz is a sound strategy. The team plays the Clippers on Wednesday and the Cavs on Friday in a pair of games that should be favorable to the second-year guard. Los Angeles has given up the sixth-most fantasy points to the point guard position this year, according to Basketball Monster. Atlanta and Washington are the only teams to surrender more than Cleveland.


Clint Capela will miss four-to-six weeks with an injured thumb and if the first game without the big man was any indication, the Rockets don’t have a clear replacement plan in place.

Five different players manned the center spot on Monday against the Grizzlies. Nene started and remained on the floor for slightly more than three minutes before coach Mike D’Antoni spelled him with Marquese Chriss. Chriss did not play well and Isaiah Hartenstein then took over. That was before P.J. Tucker closed out the first quarter as the center. Gary Clark then opened the second quarter as the five.

“I was hoping to go big by committee, hoping that works out, or I wouldn’t have done it in the first place,” D’Antoni said (via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle). “It didn’t work out, so guess what: We’re going small. If next game we go small and it doesn’t work out, we go back to going big by committee. Just trying to get a feel for the game and see what works out.”

The Rockets won’t specifically target a center in trades prior to the February 7 trade deadline, Feigen hears. Still, they also won’t restrict potential acquisitions to wing players as they had previously intended to do.

If I had to pick one player to gain fantasy basketball value as a result of Capela missing time, it would be Tucker, as I suspect the team works on its small-ball lineup with the 33-year-old at the five. Regardless, this is a situation to avoid unless the team brings in another player who would demand a full-time role. As for Capela, don’t drop him. He should be back in time for the fantasy playoffs.

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: 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: 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: 12 Things To Note On Christmas Day (And Beyond)

The joys of Christmas day are heightened for NBA fans, as we get a full slate of highly anticipated matchups (in addition to the return of Game of Zones).

Hoops Rumors hopes that everyone has a great day and we’re here to help those of you invested in fantasy basketball matchups. Here’s a 12-pack of stats and notes to help you dominate in the fantasy basketball realm:

  1. No player has more points per game so far this month than Rockets star James Harden (34.2), though he’s heading toward a Christmas Day challenge against the Thunder, a team that has been the stingiest in terms of scoring by opposing point guards over their last 10 games.
  2. Knicks point guard Emmanuel Mudiay has been a great comeback story but beware of high expectations on Christmas day. Only the Pacers have allowed fewer fantasy points to the point guard position than the Bucks have over the past month.
  3. Paul George has been the most valuable fantasy player over the past 15 days, according to ESPN’s Player Rater. Over that stretch, the Thunder forward added positive value in all nine traditional categories.
  4. Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is making just 42.7% of his looks this season, including 24.3% of his shots from behind the arc. The lack of efficiency has always been the tax roto owners pay to get the elite production elsewhere but it’s been particularly cumbersome this season. His scoring is down roughly 20% since last year and his free throw shooting (5.4 attempts per game) is at a career-low 60.5%.
  5. Brandon Ingram returned from an ankle injury over the weekend and he gets a favorable matchup on Christmas Day. The former No. 2 over pick has spent approximately 60% of his minutes at shooting guard this season, per Basketball Reference’s position estimates, and the Warriors are allowing the 5th most points to the position over the past two weeks. Ingram, who has scored 19.0 points per game for the Lakers since returning from injury, is a nice daily fantasy option for Christmas day.
  6. Buddy Hield is on fire. Over the past four games, The Kings sharpshooter has made half of his 48 3-point attempts and he’s shooting 47.5% from the field. Only seven players are averaging more points per game over that stretch than Hield’s 28.5.
  7. Al Horford returned to the court over the weekend, playing 19 minutes for the Celtics. He’ll continue to be on a minutes-restriction going forward. Robert Williams is an intriguing option with Aron Baynes out for the foreseeable future, though Horford’s return puts a damper on the rookie’s fantasy potential.
  8. The Heat are ailing, but Justise Winslow has stepped up as a playmaker for the team. He scored 22 points against the Magic on Sunday, adding five assists, six rebounds and four steals in 31 minutes of action. He and Tyler Johnson are both trending upward, though there is a high cannibalization risk here.
  9. Pacers big man Myles Turner continues to dominate in the paint. The center grabbed 17 rebounds against the Wizards on Sunday. So far in December, he’s brought in at least 10 rebounds on eight occasions. He ranks 6th on ESPN’s Player Rater over the past 15 days.
  10. Bradley Beal became just the second player in Wizards history to record a 40-point triple double over the weekend (Chris Webber was the first). Beal has been an outstanding fantasy option over the last month, as only seven players have a higher player rating than Beal over the past 30 days.
  11. The Cavaliers moved Larry Nance Jr. into the starting lineup last week and he’s thrived in the four games since that move. He’s averaging 15.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 2.3 steals per game since the promotion to the starting five and he needs to be owned in 100% of leagues.
  12. I’m not sure we are talking about Rudy Gay enough. The Spurs swingman is making a career-high 53.3% of his looks and is an all-around contributor in both points and roto leagues. In addition to his FG%, he’s at a career-high in rebounds (9.0) and 3-pointers made (1.6). He has crept into the top 20 in ESPN’s Player Rater over the past 15 days.

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: Grab Trevor Ariza; Trade Robert Covington?

Many sports fans are shifting their attention from fantasy football to fantasy basketball this week, with a majority of football leagues concluding. Certainly, those who have been heavily involved in their basketball leagues and have been following our weekly Fantasy Hoops column are in a better position to reach their fantasy basketball playoffs, but there’s still time for all to improve.

Looking out for profitable trades and productive players on the waivers as well as keeping an ear to the ground around the NBA’s hardwood will set fantasy owners up for success. Let’s take dive into a few situations from around the league.


Trevor Ariza In Washington: The Sequel

It feels like the Wizards bring in a veteran every season to supplement the firepower in their backcourt. This year, the team added Trevor Ariza.

Ariza was heavily involved during his first two games back in town, averaging 17.0 points on 16 shots per game. He added 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest while grabbing an unsustainable – yet impressive – nine steals over the two games. His 37.2 minutes per game led all Wizards not named Bradley Beal.

Otto Porter remains out with a quad injury and once the 25-year-old returns, he’ll steal some of Ariza’s looks. Still, the new situation is a major positive for Ariza’s fantasy stock. The veteran forward appears engaged and he needs to be owned in all season-long leagues.


Sell Robert Covington?

Robert Covington shifted into a new gear upon arriving in Minnesota but he’s cooled off a bit over the last week.

He put up a nice stat line in the Timberwolves‘ loss to the Pistons on Wednesday (including making 5-of-11 from downtown) but in his previous four, he was averaging just 10.3 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 35.1% from the field.

That four-game stretch isn’t likely to resemble what he does over the course of the season, though his fantasy value falls somewhere between the player we saw during that stretch and the hype he’s received since coming to the Wolves.

Players who get traded tend to stick in the mind’s of casual basketball fans and fantasy basketball is no different. Since coming to the Wolves, Covington is flirting with top-35 value in roto leagues but that likely represents his peak value on the season, meaning it’s improbable that he’s going to rise any higher. Sniff around your league to see if you can snatch a player who has the role and ability to break into the next tier.

Victor Oladipo stands out a reasonable trade target. Last year’s second-ranked shooting guard is working his way back from a knee injury and while he doesn’t quite appear 100% yet, he’s producing. He’s averaging 16.8 points, 6.2 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals over five games since returning to the court. Expect him to further improve on those figures and surpass top-20 value, assuming he doesn’t encounter a setback with his knee.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping Covington should the right deal not present itself (John Wall, Tobias Harris, Zach LaVine, and DeAndre Jordan are other players I’d move RoCo for today).

Covington had an ADP of 54 in Yahoo leagues, 133 on ESPN and somewhere in between on all the other major sites. No matter which platform you drafted him on, he’s provided great value on your draft-day investment but savvy owners have an opportunity to squeeze an even greater return out of a draft-day steal.


My Heat Hurt

Goran Dragic will miss approximately two months as he undergoes arthroscopic knee surgery. He wasn’t providing much value on his draft day investment prior to deciding to opt for the procedure and depending on the size of your league (and assuming you don’t have an IR slot), the point guard can safely be dropped.

Tyler Johnson, who is nursing a hip injury, will see an uptick in value if he can stay on the court. Dion Waiters hasn’t played in nearly a year with a foot injury and has recently been cleared for contact. If he returns, I wouldn’t count on him making a huge fantasy impact outside of one of two outlier games. Leave him on the waivers.

Dwyane Wade has an opportunity to dramatically improve his stock, though his outlook is bleak. Wade is dealing with back woes and recently told reporters that he’s having issues getting out of bed in the morning because of it. Yikes.

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: Spread The Floor, It’s The Brooklyn Way

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson‘s season continues to be a disaster. The fourth-year wing was expected to make a leap this year, but so far, injuries and inefficient play have defined his season, and the Nets’ style of play doesn’t suggest his real-life or fantasy stock is going to improve drastically anytime soon.

Brooklyn is one of many clubs emphasizing the long-ball — only four teams attempt a higher percentage (39.0%) of their total field goals from downtown. This style doesn’t play to Hollis-Jefferson’s strengths. He’s shooting just 15.8% on 19 attempts from behind the arc this season (22.7% on his career) and it’s fair to wonder whether he will ever be able to incorporate this facet into his game at anywhere near a league-average level.

There are some positives for the former No. 23 overall pick. The athleticism is there and his raw talent gives him the ability to overcompensate for being out of place on the defensive end. He’ll have games, like his 14-point, 11-rebound effort against Utah last week, where you can see the potential that made him a first-round pick.

Back when my undergraduate days were dwindling down, I was interviewing for positions and one potential manager gave me some advice that I carry with me to this day: Potential gets you in the door; it doesn’t pay your rent. Hollis-Jefferson’s potential got him in the building, but examine his resume and it’s not clear that he’ll ever be able to produce to the level that the Nets need him to.

It’s year four in the NBA for RHJ. He has had an internship in offensive moves, a defensive principles co-op, and little experience in truly meaningful NBA games. Although he established career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and shooting percentage during the 2017/18 season, it appears a bit of regression has hit him this season.

He’s still out of place way too often on the defensive end. However, with Brooklyn struggling again (8-18 on the season), he should continue to see opportunities to improve in this area in addition to his offensive game as Brooklyn attempts to unlock his full potential. The Nets, like fantasy owners who drafted him, are hoping to see progress soon.

Coach Kenny Atkinson put RHJ in the starting lineup against the Sixers in late November and the results since then haven’t been great. During his first 16 contests, he played 21.1 minutes per game and shot 40.0% from the field with a plus/minus of -0.7. Since being inserted into the starting five, he’s seen 28.0 minutes per game, making 42.8% of his attempts, and hasn’t ended a game a single start with a positive plus/minus (-6.3 over this stretch).

Joe Harris returned from injury this week and scored 19 points starting alongside Hollis-Jefferson, D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe and Jarrett Allen. All four players are better fantasy options than RHJ, though he and Crabbe are rather close in value.

Neither Crabbe nor Hollis Jefferson is a must-own in re-draft leagues. Crabbe is a streaky shooter who’s seen more opportunity since Caris LeVert injured his foot and his higher ceiling gives him the edge if I were picking between the two inconsistent players.

The environment in Brooklyn isn’t as fantasy-friendly as it has been in year’s past. The Nets are playing a slower brand of basketball this season, ranking 24th in pace of play after finishing 6th last season and first the season prior. Fewer possessions mean fewer opportunities to go around.

The rotation appears fluid. Spencer Dinwiddie should be owned in all leagues, though he could become a candidate to be traded. DeMarre Carroll looms as a potential contributor but he’s not an inspiring fantasy option and the team could look to give its younger players more run as the season progresses.

One candidate for an increased role is Rodions Kurucs. The 2018 second-round pick isn’t close to warranting a fantasy roster spot right now, but he’s someone to keep an eye on. He saw 28 minutes over his last two appearances, scoring a total of 20 points on 17 shots. He’s 6-of-20 on three-pointers this year, which isn’t great, but it’s a huge upgrade over Hollis-Jefferson. Should the Nets decide to phase away from the RHJ project, Kurucs could be the guy to benefit.

It’s likely the Nets continue to give Hollis-Jefferson a chance this season to prove he belongs in their long-term plans. He and the franchise couldn’t come to an agreement on an extension before this year’s deadline and they’ll want to get as much data on him before he hits restricted free agency next summer.

Brooklyn hopes that RHJ will produce more as the year goes along, as do fantasy owners. However, as we pass the quarter mark of the season, it appears as if the Nets will be looking at other options—ones that better fit the style they want to play—at the end of the season. Fantasy basketball owners shouldn’t wait that long to scour for Hollis-Jefferson alternatives.

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: 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: 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: 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: It’s Time To Trade For Myles Turner

The Pacers were a surprise contender last season, making the playoffs after trading away franchise star Paul George. After an offseason of adding reinforcements, the team looks to be in even better shape, entering the day fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.

Indiana lost its new franchise star Victor Oladipo for 11 games, but was able to perform well in his absence, going 7-4 over that stretch. The team was able to find success by relying on its defense, as only the Thunder had a better defensive rating during the time that Oladipo was out — Indiana actually performed slightly better on the defensive end during the 11-game Oladipo-less stretch than they have on the season, per NBA.com.

Myles Turner is the anchor of the team’s stifling defense, providing elite rim protection for the club. He also stepped up his game on the offensive end this season, particularly of late. He’s averaging 16.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.5 blocks over his last six contests and he’s starting to look like he will have top-50 value in season-long roto leagues.

Oladipo reentered the lineup on Wednesday against the Bucks, accumulating 12 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists in 29 minutes of action. The return of Indy’s high-usage guard didn’t dramatically decrease Turner’s role, as the big man scored 23 points on 22 shots (including 4-for-6 from 3-point land) while adding seven rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.

While it may seem like he’s at a high-point in value, I’d expect him to, at a minimum, maintain this value going forward. Ben Simmons, Jusuf Nurkic, Andre Drummond, Aaron Gordon, C.J. McCollum, and Devin Booker are all players I’d trade for Turner in a player-for-player fantasy deal.

The big man recently signed a four-year, $72MM extension with the Pacers and so far this season, it appears as if he’ll provide good value for the franchise. Now’s the time to acquire him in fantasy before his value in that space rises even further.

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: 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: 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: 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.

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: Burke, Nets, Cook, Rozier

Whether you’re still alive in the fantasy basketball playoffs (congratulations!) or simply need an edge in daily fantasy, Hoops Rumors has you covered. Here are some basketball nuggets to help you take down the competition down the stretch:

  • Trey Burke is averaging 14.3 points per game while hitting 55.6% of his shots from the field over the last six contests. He’s a solid streaming option on Monday when the Knicks take on the Hornets — no team is allowing opposing point guards to shoot a higher percentage over the last 10 games.
  • The Nets are getting eaten alive on the boards by opposing fives, allowing a league-worst 15.1 rebounds to the position over their last 10 games. Brooklyn plays the Magic on Wednesday and Nikola Vucevic should provide nice value in daily fantasy leagues.
  • Quinn Cook is a must-own for all those still playing in season-long leagues. Over his last eight games (seven starts), the Duke product is scoring 16.0 points per game while shooting 51.0% from the field and knocking down nearly two shots from behind the arc. He’s also adding 4.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists and nearly a steal per contest over that span for a depleted Warriors team. Cook’s teammate and mentor, Stephen Curry, can be dropped in all leagues, as he’s expected to be sidelined through the end of the regular season.
  • Both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart are out of the lineup for the remainder of the regular season, which means it’s the Terry Rozier show for the Celtics. Rozier went crazy against Sacramento on Sunday, scoring 33 points on 75% shooting. He also added five rebounds and three assists. He should be owned in all season-long leagues, and his usage makes his an attractive option in daily.
  • The Raptors are the only team with two games this upcoming week. Every other team plays three or four.

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 Monday morning. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fantasy Hoops: Crawford, Collins, Pacers, Millsap

The Timberwolves will try to maintain a playoff position without the aid of Jimmy Butler. The All-Star’s knee injury means other players are going to have to step up offensively, and Jamal Crawford appears to ready for the task at hand. The 37-year-old guard scored 19 points off the bench in Minnesota’s victory over Chicago on Saturday. NBA: Chicago Bulls at Minnesota Timberwolves

“He’s still playing like he’s 22 years old,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said of Crawford. “He was playing by himself out there for a while. When he gets rolling, he’s a hard guy to stop.”

Crawford, who joined the Wolves on a two-year deal worth approximately $8.87MM prior to the season, is averaging 19.7 points and 4.3 assists per game in three contests without Butler this season. He’s available in slightly over 94% of ESPN leagues.

Here are a few more fantasy notes from around the league:

  • With the Hawks set to finalize a buyout for Ersan Ilyasova, rookie center John Collins needs to be owned in all leagues. Collins posted nine points, nine rebounds, and two blocks over 30 minutes of action against the Pacers on Friday night and if he can stay out of foul trouble, the big man should see even more run on a nightly basis.
  • Keep an eye on the status of Darren Collison. The Pacers point guard isn’t expected to come back until early March — while he’s out, Lance Stephenson (available in slightly over 89% of ESPN leagues) and Cory Joseph (available in nearly 98%) will continue to be streaming options. Going forward, I prefer Stephenson of the two, though once Collison returns, both players belong on waivers.
  • Check your waiver wire to see if Paul Millsap is available, as he is in over 36% of ESPN leagues. The Nuggetsprized offseason acquisition went through a full practice last week and although he’ll likely be on a minutes restriction upon returning, he’s worth adding in all leagues.
  • The Kings are the only team with five games this week. The Spurs only play two. Every other team plays three or four contests.

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 Monday morning. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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