Fantasy Hoops

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: 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

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: 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: 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: 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: 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.