Over this last week, there have been some big-time performances by some of the game’s brightest stars. Kevin Durant went off for 46 points on Tuesday, followed it up with 36 points the very next day, then dropped a triple-double on Saturday. Business as usual.
Carmelo Anthony scored a combined 97 points in just two games this weekend. What else is new?
LaMarcus Aldridge went off for 44 points and 13 rebounds on Thursday, and Paul George filled it up for 36 points on Friday. Ho-frickin’-hum.
Alright, those are pretty great performances and shouldn’t be undersold just because they came from players we’ve grown to expect such excellence from. What was even more interesting this week, however, was the huge performances that absolutely no one saw coming from guys that are sitting on most of your waiver wires.
Terrence Ross tied a Raptors franchise record when he went nova for 51 points on Saturday. Marcus Thornton is the very definition of an afterthought on the Kings, but made everyone take notice when he exploded for a career-high 42 points on the same night as Ross’ big game. Mirza Teletovic had more points in the second quarter of Friday’s game (24) than he had had in any other game in his career prior to that night. He finished that contest with 34, a brand new career best.
The process of streaming players off the waiver wire can be equal parts exciting and frustrating. Predicting such outbursts as these can be nearly impossible and chasing a repeat of that glory almost never pans out. If you’re lucky enough to have a breakout game on your roster when it happens, kudos. If you’re adding a role player a day after a career-best performance, you had better temper your expectations.
Don’t get me wrong, maybe you’re getting the early jump on an upcoming hot streak. On the other hand, maybe that one game is an anomaly and you’ll be chasing rainbows or wild geese or whatever it is that people supposedly chase and never find for the next little while. That is to say, if you’re one of the thousands of people that added one of these guys this weekend, I don’t blame you if you’re optimistic (as long as you’re cautiously so), and I certainly hope it pans out for you. In the meantime, I’ll try to give you some perspective on whether or not they can keep it going below. Let’s get down to it.
Add Terrence Ross
Back in Volume 7, I told you to pick up Terrence Ross. Rudy Gay had just been shipped out of town and Ross had taken over as the Raptors’ starting small forward, inheriting plenty of minutes and shots in the process. The returns have certainly been mixed and he may have been added and dropped more than once in your league since that time.
Understandably so, especially when you look at his game log. He has alternated two double-digit scoring contests with two single-digit ones the entire month of January (it’s kind of weird actually, check it out), and his 51-point outburst on Saturday was preceded by point totals of 1, 3, and 10.
Before Saturday, he had been posting averages of 11.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.3 blocks, and 2.3 three-pointers per game on .404 shooting from the field and .818 from the line as a starter. Decent numbers, but not jump-over-your-own-grandmother-to-add numbers.
Well, most grandmothers haven’t stood a chance since Saturday night, as Ross’ ownership numbers have spiked since the aforementioned 51-point explosion (further highlighted by 9 rebounds and a ridiculous 10 three-pointers). You simply can’t leave a player that put those numbers up on a waiver wire this week, even if it turns out to be an aberration.
Ross’ recent dip in minutes (average of 20.2 in the three games before his big night) is likely over for now, so his 11.1 shots per game and 20 percent usage rate since the Gay trade should continue to be there with the possibility of an increase. He also gets a bump when you consider the fact that DeMar DeRozan is nursing a sprained ankle, has already been ruled out for Monday, and might miss a chunk of games.
Ross will continue to be worth owning and we’ve now seen how ridiculously high his ceiling can be. Add him if someone else hasn’t yet and you’ve got dead weight to jettison. Locked-in starters capable of going off like that don’t stay this cheap for long.
Add DeMarre Carroll
The Hawks are a hot mess of injuries this year. Al Horford is out for the season with a torn pectoral and Jeff Teague is without a return date for his sprained ankle (he’s already been ruled out for Monday and we’ll just have to wait to see how much longer after that). There are short-term adds on the Hawks (I’ll get to those in a minute), but DeMarre Carroll is quietly having a solid season and deserves to be owned in more leagues than the 20 percent he currently is.
Carroll’s averages of 9.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 1.2 threes per game don’t necessarily scream “own me”, but they are solid nonetheless and are only further boosted by sturdy shooting percentages of .462 from the field, .359 from deep, and .778 from the line. For nine-category players, the 0.9 turnovers per game for a guy playing 30-plus minutes per night is elite in an understated kind of way. Put that all together and you’ve got a pretty surprising mid-round value on the year.
Carroll has recently bounced in and out of the lineup with a few ticky-tack injuries (most recently a hamstring issue), but has still managed to put up double-digit scoring in eight of his nine January games. In his last four games, in particular, he has posted early-round value with averages of 15.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals, 2.8 three-pointers, and only 0.8 turnovers, while shooting an incredibly hot .676 from the field and .647 from deep.
If his recent hamstring ailment is behind him, I don’t see any reason for him to be unowned in standard leagues. He might not fill it up in any one category consistently, but his starting spot is safe and he should continue to step it up for the injury-depleted Hawks. He’s not really a liability in any category and he’s clearly trending up. Get him if you’ve got room.
Add Louis Williams / Shelvin Mack
While we’re on the topic of the injury-ravished Hawks, there are a couple of players stepping up in the absence of Jeff Teague that are worth owning while he’s out. Both Louis Williams and Shelvin Mack are players to keep an eye on this week.
Sweet Lou has had an up-and-down season in his return from ACL surgery, averaging 9.6 points, 1.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.5 threes per game, while shooting a career-low .381 from the field. In his last two games, his arrow has been pointing up, as he’s averaged 15.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.0 steal, and 2.0 three-pointers and shot an efficient .500 from the field, .571 from downtown, and .857 from the line.
The first of those two games was a start in place of the injured DeMarre Carroll, but he kept his foot on the gas in the subsequent game off the bench and could be on the verge of a hot streak. Don’t forget, prior to last year’s season-ending injury, Williams was a must-own player on the strength of 14.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.8 threes per contest in his first year as a Hawk.
While Williams could be inching his way back into fantasy relevance, Shelvin Mack represents nothing more than a temporary pickup. He’s only averaging 7.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.8 threes in 19.1 minutes per game this season and is not likely to challenge a healthy Teague for minutes. In the meantime, while Teague’s sidelined, Mack makes for a decent add.
His averages of 6.5 points, 1.0 rebound, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 0.5 treys in the two games Teague has been rendered ineffective shouldn’t deter you. Both those games were blowouts and resulted in the starters playing reduced minutes. With Teague already ruled out for Monday and possibly longer, Mack makes a good speculative add or streamer for as long as he’s starting.
Buy Chandler Parsons
Chandler Parsons is another player that had a monster performance this week (well, two really), but was left out of the introductory ramblings because he doesn’t really fall into either category; he’s not a player that we expect otherworldly performances from, but in his own right, he’s not one that we don’t either.
Parsons is the third banana in Houston, clearly behind James Harden and Dwight Howard in the pecking order. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but he has remained a little underrated as a result. While other fantasy owners are looking for players that shoulder more of the workload, Chandler is a sneaky-good buy option that puts up early-round value well beyond his mid-round ADP.
On the season, Chandler is averaging 17.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.9 threes, while shooting a mega-efficient .502 from the field, .401 from behind the arc, and .729 from the free-throw line. In his last four games in particular, he has been en fuego, averaging 23.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and a crushing 4.3 threes per game, while hitting shots from the field at a clip of .522 and from deep at .531 (not to mention hitting all eight of his free throw attempts). That's good enough for a nERD of 6.7 and 26th on our NBA Player Rankings on the year.
His career high 34 points on Friday was accompanied by 10 three-pointers and followed an impressive 31-point, 11-rebound, 7-assist, 2-block performance on Monday. An owner in your league might be using these last few games as a chance to sell high, so you should pounce if that’s the case. Chandler has been a beacon of consistency all year, scoring in double figures in all but four of his 41 games this season. His early-round value (first-round over the last week) is here to stay and he’s worth more as a third banana in Houston’s fast-paced offense than many first options on other teams.
Add Andray Blatche / Mirza Teletovic
When Brook Lopez went down for the year with a broken foot, I told you that Andray Blatche was must own and that Mirza Teletovic had the chance to step up and become a relevant fantasy player. Unfortunately, both players have struggled with inconsistency in the month that’s passed since that point, but recently they’ve come alive and re-earned the must-own tag.
Blatche has put together a nice stretch off the bench during the Nets’ five-game winning streak. Over those games, he’s averaged 16.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.2 blocks and shot .547 from the field and .714 from the line. He’s doing all that in just 26.4 minutes off the bench, which is proving to be enough time to snag early-round value. While he’s rolling like this, he needs to be owned in all standard leagues.
Teletovic is another big man making waves off the Nets’ bench. Including the 34-point outburst mentioned in the intro (the highest point total for a reserve in the NBA this season), Mirza has put up impressive per-game averages of 19.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks, and a blazing 4.0 threes over his last three games. He's also shooting a killer .538 from the field and .480 from deep (while hitting all three of his free-throw attempts) over that stretch.
Like Blatche, Teletovic is continuing to come off the bench and doing his work in only 22.1 minutes per game. With the Nets winners of five straight, the chance of a big shift in the starting lineup isn’t imminent, but we’re learning that we can still expect big minutes off the bench for both players. Despite the inconsistency, they’re both posting mid-round value over the last month and could stick on a fantasy team in need of bigs. Give ‘em a whirl.
Add Boris Diaw
Usually, when a team is missing three of its regular starters, there is a major cause for concern. That’s not quite the case in San Antonio, where the Spurs are champions of the “next man up” mentality. Coach Gregg Popovich has a system and he keeps all his guys ready to step up and fill roles as needed. That’s why with regular starters Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Tiago Splitter all shelved for a few weeks due to injury, the Spurs are still rolling along as one of the Association’s best teams. Part of the credit here goes to big man Boris Diaw stepping up, regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench.
Over his last five games (three starts), Diaw has averaged a cool 13.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.2 blocks, and 1.6 treys, while shooting a flat-out astonishing .675 from the field, .800 from deep, and .857 from the line. It’s safe to say he’s worth a pickup right now if you’re in need of points and threes, without sacrificing anything in terms of percentages. He’s a likely candidate to head back to the bench when the Spurs eventually get healthy, but that day could be a ways away. Roll him out there for now while he can’t miss and see how it goes.
Add Alec Burks
Back in Volume 7, I wrote about Alec Burks as someone who can be a valuable fantasy player when he’s on a roll. I also mentioned that if he ever found his way into the starting lineup as a permanent fixture, like say in place of an ancient Richard Jefferson, he would likely go off.
Fast-forward several weeks later and that much is still true. He’s still a regular on the Jazz bench, averaging 27.3 minutes per game when he comes off the pine as Utah’s sixth-man. Where his value took a boost lately was during the five-game absence of Gordon Hayward due to a hip injury. While Hayward was out, Burks put up averages of 18.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.6 threes, while shooting .517 from the field and .784 from the line.
Hayward returned two games ago and Burks went back to the bench, ostensibly ending his impressive little run. While many expected a drop off, the difference in numbers since then has been negligible. In those two contests, he’s still managed to put up 16.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 0.5 threes, while shooting .522 from the field and .727 from the line in 30.4 minutes per game.
The point to take away from all this is that Burks is a player that deserves to be owned no matter how he’s deployed. He’s especially worth it for the upside that could someday be realized if he moves into Ty Corbin’s starting five. He’s liable to put up the occasional dud, as is commonplace for bench players, but you should solider through the off nights and play him with confidence.
Drop O.J. Mayo
It’s actually bordering on amazing how terrible just about every player on the Bucks has been to own in fantasy hoops this season. There are plenty of players with promise that are simply not getting it done (Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders, etc.), while others that are constantly on the verge of breaking out keep winding up on Larry Drew’s bench (John Henson, Khris Middleton, etc.). Obviously tank mode is in full effect in Milwaukee.
While I’ve preached patience with almost every player on the Bucks at various points this season, I’m officially at the point where I can take no more. In the first of what is likely many recommendations to move on from a Buck, I believe you can safely drop O.J. Mayo and find better production on the waiver wire.
Mayo does not make the cut for standard-league value on the season, averaging 12.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 1.6 threes per game, while only shooting .396 from the field and turning the ball over 2.1 times per contest. He's ranked 138th on our NBA Player Rankings with a nERD of -9.3. -9.3! As if that hasn’t been bad enough, the better parts of those numbers were accumulated in the early part of the season and he’s been downright abysmal since moving to the bench in mid-December.
In his last six games in particular, Mayo has put up numbers that have him outside the top-300 players in terms of 9-category fantasy value. His per-game averages of 4.2 points, 1.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.5 blocks, 0.5 threes, 1.5 turnovers, .286 shooting from the field, and .167 shooting from downtown over that period offer absolutely nothing of value.
You can go ahead and cut him for just about anybody at this point and sleep better at night as a result. He is known for long cold streaks, but he’s reached the point now where even his best this season isn’t worth owning. Stop reading this and pull the trigger.
Sell Joe Johnson
Call him Iso-Joe, Joe Cool, JJ, or the latest Joe Jesus, but whatever you do, call Joe Johnson a player to sell. Johnson has been returning late-round value on the season and, as expected, the wheels are starting to fall off.
Despite having what seems like a hundred game winners on his résumé in his two seasons on the Nets, Johnson hasn’t offered up much in terms of fantasy value outside the occasional scoring binge and three-point barrage. This season, on the strength of a relatively strong month of January, Johnson is putting up respectable averages of 15.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks, and 2.0 three-pointers per game. His shooting percentages are serviceable at .446 from the field, .389 from deep, and .804 from the field, and his 1.3 turnovers per game won’t kill you.
The previously mentioned strong month of January is mostly comprised of a seven-game stretch from January 6th to 21st, where JJ averaged 22.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.6 threes, and only 1.1 turnovers per game, while shooting .517 from the field, .439 from downtown, and .833 from the charity stripe. That represents about as good a sell-high period as you’ll find with players like Johnson.
He’s already fallen back down to Earth with pitiful averages of 5.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, no steals or blocks, and 3.0 turnovers per game over his last two, while shooting .250 from the field, .286 from deep, and .750 from the line. In which case, your sell-high window is closing at an alarming rate. See if you can flip him right away while his value over the last three weeks is still fresh on his game log. Johnson was benefiting from a number of injuries to various Nets players, but most of those guys are coming back healthy and his fantasy value is becoming a ticking time bomb. Cut the wire.
Buy / Add Robin Lopez
It’s Brook Lopez that gets all the attention as a star center, but his twin brother Robin Lopez is certainly deserving of some praise as well in the midst of what is arguably his best season as a pro. Robin came over to the Blazers this past offseason as an underrated part of the three-team, sign-and-trade deal that sent Tyreke Evans to the Pelicans. He has since emerged as a perfect fit in Portland and a great complement to All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the Blazers’ frontcourt.
So far this year, RoLo has averaged 10.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks, while shooting an excellent .543 from the field and .798 from the line. That late-round value jumps to mid-round value over the last six games, in which Lopez has averaged 12.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game, while shooting .516 from the field and a perfect 12 for 12 from the line.
Lopez is owned in roughly 70 percent of leagues out there, so you might actually still have a chance to add him. He is proving to be a very consistent center option and should certainly be owned across the board. On the other hand, if you’re in a league in which someone has already picked him up, he makes for a good buy candidate.
Few people consider him to be a top asset, despite the fact that he currently leads the league in offensive rating (125.1) and ranks tenth in field goal percentage, third in offensive rebounding percentage (14.1), and fourth in offensive rebounds per game (4.0). If you’re in a league that counts offensive rebounds, he is an especially desirable option. He should have no problem sustaining his current pace throughout the season and he’s a perfect target to add or buy if you’re looking for an affordable center option that brings you consistent value.
Add Marcus Thornton
We’re only two seasons removed from a time when Marcus Thornton was considered instant offense for the Kings. In the 2010-11 season, he put up an impressive 21.3 points per game average and followed it up in 2011-12 with 18.7. Last year he saw a reduced role in Sacramento and this year he’s practically an afterthought.
Prior to this past weekend, Thornton was averaging an ignorable 7.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.2 blocks, and 1.1 three-pointers per game, while shooting a dark and dreary .360 from the field and .295 from long range (down from career averages of .434 and .359 respectively). He started the season in the Kings’ starting lineup, but was displaced by rookie Ben McLemore in mid-November and further buried when the team acquired Derrick Williams and Rudy Gay after that.
McLemore didn’t exactly run away with the job and Thornton was re-inserted into the starting five again in early January. The results had been less than stellar, at least until Friday night. In a road game against the Pacers, Thornton went off for a career-high 42 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 steal, while shooting the lights out to the tune of 16 of 27 from the field, 7 of 15 from deep, and 3 of 4 from the line. Although that line looked like a fluke, he followed that up with 19 points on 8 of 13 shooting on Sunday night in Denver.
It’s worth noting that these two performances happened with Gay and DeMarcus Cousins both out of the lineup with injuries. While it was expected that Derrick Williams would get a boost in the absence of the Kings’ two leading scorers, Thornton came out of nowhere to fill the void instead. In which case, his likelihood to sustain this level of play seems dependent on just how long Gay and Cousins are out.
Cousins has already been ruled out for tonight’s contest and Gay is doubtful. Don’t drop someone consistent just to get Thornton, but if you have dead weight on your roster, he could be a good play this week until the Kings get healthy.
Add Markieff Morris
Another week, another Suns frontcourt player has his turn on the merry-go-round of fantasy value. Markieff Morris is no stranger to the ride, as I recommended him for an add way back in Volume 2. Since that time, he has won Western Conference Player of the Week honors once, gone through various hot and cold stretches, and conceded the role of being the Suns frontcourt player to own to either Channing Frye or Miles Plumlee about a dozen different times.
Well, here we go again. ‘Kieff has vaulted back into early-round value territory over his last six games, averaging a sexy 20.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks, 1.2 threes, and only 1.3 turnover per contest. During that time, he has also been burning the mesh with a shooting slash of .560 from the field, .538 from deep, and .821 from the line.
Can he sustain this pace the rest of the season? Probably not. Is he worth owning until we find out? Sure. Morris is relied on as an offensive spark off the Suns bench and has averaged a healthy 25.0 minutes per game on the season as their sixth-man. Pick him up and lock him into your starting lineup until the merry-go-around spins again.