Fantasy Basketball: A Dozen Dimes, Volume 15
We're heading into All-Star weekend this week, and it's important to recognize that the break will result in some key scheduling differences for head-to-head league matchups in fantasy hoops. If you're in a Yahoo league, you get two separate four-day weeks; the first having six NBA teams going once and all the rest going twice, while the second has four teams going once, two teams going thrice, and all the rest going twice. Meanwhile, if you're in an ESPN league, those two weeks are both combined into one, two-week-long matchup where teams go between three and five times each (something close to normal).
Simply put, it's important to know how your league handles the All-Star break, as streaming options will change based on if you get a new set of adds for the second week (like in Yahoo) or if your moves carry over for the whole two-week period (ESPN). We suggest you consult Basketball Monster's Schedule Grid to see how many times each of your guys will go in that span and plan accordingly. You're too close to the fantasy playoffs to be taking these kinds of things for granted!
Let's get down to it.
Add Spencer Hawes
Spencer Hawes finished as a top-50 player in nine-category leagues last year in a season split between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was able to amass that surprising value (the only time in his career he placed in the top-100) as a starter playing over 30 minutes per game and simply hasn't had the chance to repeat that kind of production off the bench for the Clippers this year (ranking outside the top-200 so far and far from standard league consideration). Now, with Blake Griffin set to miss the next four to six weeks after having surgery to fix a staph infection in his elbow, Hawes looks like a must-add for this week and beyond until Blake is able to return to action. In his first game in the starting lineup on Sunday, Hawes put up 17 points, 2 triples, a rebound, and a block in 35 minutes and might've had to play even more if the Clippers weren't getting blown out. Pick him up for the time being and see if he regains last year's value in threes, rebounds, blocks, turnovers, and both percentages.
Buy/Add Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton has been a top-60 value in nine-category leagues on the season and is somehow still owned in less than 60% of Yahoo leagues. Add in the fact that he's been the 13th-ranked player since the calendar flipped to 2015 and that fact becomes simply baffling. No one is taking his solid all-around line of 13.7 points, 1.6 three-pointers, 5.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.2 steals, 1.0 turnover, 53.0% shooting from the floor, and 86.2% from the line over that period of 18 games seriously and that needs to change now. Pick him up if he's somehow still available in your league and try to buy him for a floundering name-brand player if his owner isn't wise to his value and safe-as-can-be starting role in Milwaukee.
Add Gerald Henderson
The rolling Charlotte Hornets have had to rely heavily on Gerald Henderson's offensive production since losing Kemba Walker for several weeks to knee surgery, and Hendo's fantasy returns during that time have made him well worth picking up. In the 7 games the Hornets have played since Kemba's last contest, Henderson has been the 50th-ranked player in nine-category leagues on the strength of 16.3 points, 0.6 triples, 3.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.6 blocks, and only 1.1 turnovers, with a shooting split of 40.9% from the field and 91.9% from the line. Normally, he isn't good for much other than the decent scoring average, but lately he's been involved enough to put up a well-rounded line that's worthy of your time.
Buy Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel started the year off more slowly than most people expected, but he has been coming up huge as of late in some key fantasy areas. Over the last month of basketball, the rookie has played in 16 games and put up averages of 8.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.9 steals, 2.3 blocks, and only 1.4 turnovers per contest, while shooting 47.9% from the floor and 63.6% from the charity stripe (top-40 value in nine-category leagues during that time). Prior to that stretch, his 42.4% shooting from the floor and 51.5% from the line during his first 32 games kept his value very low and it still impacts his season-long numbers enough that you might be able to buy him at a decent price. With the way he's coming on lately and contributing in a big way in the defensive categories, he could be the kind of player that wins people fantasy championships down the stretch by racking up winning totals in those particular categories all on his own.
Add James Johnson
Terrence Ross never did much with the starting spot he held for the Toronto Raptors at the beginning of the season and Greivis Vasquez was too inconsistent as T-Ross' replacement to make him really worth a long-term fantasy look. Now that do-it-all forward James Johnson seems to have claimed that starting job, owners working the wire have a high upside guy to latch onto. In his last two games - the last of which he started - Johnson has put up 18.0 points, 0.5 triples, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steal, and only 1.0 turnover per contest, while shooting a ridiculous 88.2% from the field and 83.3% from the line. Yes, the percentages will regress, but his solid all-around contributions already have him sniffing the top-100 in nine-category leagues in only 20 minutes per game, imagine what he can do with a full starter's complement of floor time.
Buy/Add Jarrett Jack
Jarrett Jack moved into Brooklyn's starting lineup 25 games ago and has been a mid-round value in nine-category leagues ever since on the strength of 15.7 points, 0.6 threes, 3.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 44.6% shooting from the floor, and 86.7% from the line. He was mostly there to spell the injured Deron Williams, but has remained in his starting spot since D-Will's return and doesn't look like he's giving coach Lionel Hollins any reason to make a change. Even if Williams does warrant a re-insertion into the starting five, Jack is playing too well to be the odd man out and would more likely start alongside Deron at the other guard and shift Joe Johnson to the three before anything else. He's still only 60% owned in Yahoo leagues and could see an even bigger boost if Brooklyn decides to shake things up at the trade deadline. Add him if you've got room and consider buying him if his owner is worried about what D-Will's return will do to Jack's value.
Buy George Hill
George Hill has missed all but 13 games this season due to various ailments, including a pesky groin injury that has been a bit of an issue in the past. If you can stomach the kind of injury risk that comes with a player like that, you might be able to strike lightning if you buy him now. He's still on a minutes limit of roughly 26, but has still managed to work his way into the starting lineup and average 16.3 points, 1.5 three-pointers, 3.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.5 blocks, and 46.7% shooting over his last four contests. He'll probably continue to see his minutes increase to a full workload by the end of the All-Star break and his rest-of-season potential as a mid-round value makes him worth buying now while he's still relatively cheap.
Sell Nikola Pekovic
Nikola Pekovic seems to have lost his ability to rebound the basketball, averaging just 5.8 boards in the 11 games since his return from injury. The 14.5 points over that span is nice, as are the 47.1% and 83.9% shooting marks from the field and line respectively, but the total lack of upside in the defensive categories makes Pek a borderline standard league option at best. Factor in the fact that the T'Wolves are going nowhere but the lottery this season and the talented, young Gorgui Dieng is waiting in the wings for Pek's minutes and the big Montenegrin becomes a prime sell candidate. That's all without mentioning the fact that he's prone to injury and that Flip Saunders is discussing the possibility of resting him on back-to-backs. Get out while the gettin' is good.
Drop Terrence Jones
Terrence Jones had the potential to be a fantasy stud coming into this season and looked every bit the part in his first four games before going down with a weird nerve damage injury in his leg that cost him 41 games. While he was away, Donatas Motiejunas developed into a fantasy-relevant player and the Rockets also picked up Josh Smith. Even with the absence of Dwight Howard due to injury, Jones has only managed to put up 6.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.2 steals, and 1.3 blocks in 18.0 minutes per contest over his last six, while shooting 44.1% from the floor and 50.0% from the free throw line (for value well outside the top-200 over that span). Things are simply too crowded in Houston's frontcourt to make Jones worth his 60% ownership in Yahoo leagues, so feel free to cut the cord for a hot free agent if you've been holding on all this time or picked him up recently hoping for a return to form.
Add Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart seems to have secured the starting point guard spot for the post-Rondo Boston Celtics and he should have the opportunity to put up decent numbers from here on out if that remains the case. In his last four games as a starter, Smart posted averages of 8.3 points, 1.0 triple, 6.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.0 steal per contest. Those fantasy-friendly numbers could certainly help owners down the stretch, particularly if he gets the 2.5 turnovers, 34.5% shooting from the field, and 60.0% from the line sorted out as the season goes on. He makes for a decent speculative flier with upside for the time being.
Add Hollis Thompson
Hollis Thompson might not have the reliable rest-of-season upside as teammate Robert Covington, but he's certainly playing hot enough right now to warrant an add to see if he can sustain this solid stretch. Over his last six games, Thompson has been a top-15 play in nine-category leagues for averaging 15.8 points, a sizzling 3.4 triples, 5.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.4 blocks, and a mere 0.6 turnovers per contest, while shooting 56.3% from the floor and 88.9% from the charity stripe. He's coming off the bench for the hapless Sixers, but is getting enough burn at the moment to have a shot at maintaining something close to standard league value going forward. Give him a whirl.
Cautiously Consider Adding Paul George
The Pacers are within striking distance of a playoff spot and Paul George is apparently ripping it up in practice and drawing closer to taking contact. No one in the organization will rule out the possibility of George returning this year and that could make for a seismic shift in the fantasy playoffs this season if it comes to fruition. He's still a month or so away from a full practice and who knows if he ever actually makes it on the court this season, but if you've got a sizeable lead in your league and can somehow afford the roster spot, he's going to be really hard to ignore. First-round upside doesn't exactly come along on the waiver wire every day, so no one would fault you for picking him up and seeing where this story goes.