We're discussing a simple equation.
Struggling teams beget fantasy opportunity. Struggling teams receive a deficit of coverage. Improved play occurs in a vacuum.
The result is buy-low fantasy opportunities.
So act now. Because the dog days are almost over.
The sleepy section of our NBA schedule is lurching toward All-Star Weekend. The bubble of buzz that builds over All-Star Weekend and peaks right around the trade deadline (both in fantasy and reality) is already growing.
Growing with every LeBronian grumble about improving his roster. With every rumor that Carmelo will waive his no-trade clause. With every game the Sixers and Heat gain on the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
The second-half narrative is about to be set. Your opportunities to acquire under-covered players with under-the-radar second-half potential are evaporating with rapidity.
For example: last week, I discussed what to look for when hunting for under-the-radar value. I highlighted how the Wizards had been playing a hyper-successful brand of fantasy-friendly basketball for the last two months. But their improvement had gone relatively unnoticed due to the narrative established by their 2-8 start.
And suddenly, Markieff Morris -- who had been posting top-30 potential for over a month -- jumps up to 69.8 percent rostered in fantasy.
These leaps are happening with increasing rapidity. But because I care, I'm going to give you one more chance to take a look at players who are in prime position for bumps in under-reported value.
Throw the points scored out. Purge and expunge. Points scored are for the casual fantasy philistine.
Look at the entire picture.
Wiggins checks almost every single box for second-half breakout potential: low-expectation team, improving playoff position, shortening rotation, new coach, rotational stability, high-usage rate, improved shooting, improved defense.
The touches and points are already there. Always have been. We need steals, blocks and 3s. The missing supporting stats Wiggins needs to become a top-30 player. To become Jimmy Butler 2.0.
Don't look at points scored. The points were already there. Look at his lines across the board. Lines like Monday's against the Magic are arriving with increased frequency: 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 3-pointer, 1 block, 2 steals.
The most underrated stat a young player can build upon? Confidence. Wiggins is hitting game-winners. Shots to force overtime.
He's going to start justifying that 39.7 ADP. This is going to be your last chance to steal him from a disgruntled owner skewed by season-long metrics.
When a young player on a bad team starts to put it together, and said franchise starts winning? That's a recipe for second-half goodness.
Curry was a top-80 fantasy player in January. Top 50 over the past 15 days. Top 30 over the past week. Posted an official "look at me" line against the Spurs on Saturday night: 24 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 3-pointers and a steal.
The mad, dented scramble for eighth in the Western Conference is going to keep a lot of middling teams reasonably focused deep into the season. But at some point, the Mavericks will start playing for Ping-Pong balls. And developing Curry will become even more of a priority.
He's shooting 42 percent from deep on the season. Like Wiggins, he's backing the shooting up with secondary numbers. He plays the kind of defense that keeps you on the court. He possesses the all-important fantasy eligibility of PG/SG.
Proof you should pick Seth Curry up? I got through this blurb without name-checking a certain player who always gets mentioned within 10 words of Seth Curry.
Covington is a career 35 percent 3-point shooter. Basically, a replacement-level stretch forward. But he plays on a team that replacement-level shooting is at a premium. Result: over the past couple of seasons, Covington's been one of the most underrated players in fantasy.
This season, Covington lurched out of the gate with a long, historically ugly shooting slump that depressed his value. But without anyone to vulture his place in the rotation, a progression to the mean was inevitable.
Over his past 15 games, Covington has been a top-10 player. Joel Embiid is coming up on some back-to-backs. When Embiid sits, Covington is Philadelphia's lead scoring option.
As I type this, Covington is still available in over 50 percent of leagues!
If Covington is still available in your league? I never say this, but you should probably spend more time on the Internet.
One of the preseason's most-hyped non-sleepers, Turner's not going to sneak up on anyone.
But Turner posted an inconsistent stretch over late December through mid-January. He occasionally struggled to rebound per his position. His value took a slight dent.
The Pacers are gaining momentum. Turner is primed for a big second half. Maybe just check and see if you can catch his imaginary owner napping.
Can Harris stay healthy? He's suffered an unholy chain reaction of what hockey enthusiasts would refer to as "lower body injuries." Groin. Foot. Ankle. Groin. Ankle.
Harris is on a team that's also in the running for that eighth spot. In possession of a lot of movable parts, the Nuggets could also be involved in any number of trades headed into the deadline. He's coming off a soft five-game stretch (including a home-at-home against the Suns) that's allowed him to build some confidence.
When healthy, Harris is a known supplier of points, 3s and steals. But assists are his secret sauce. A shooting guard that's capable of 4-5 dimes a night is an underrated stretch asset.
After a 2-8 stretch, the Lakers are currently projected to hang on to their lottery-protected top-3 pick.
It's Zubac time!
At 19, Zubac has arrived off a D-League stint with the potential to become a tanking superstar. (For an earlier historical example, see: Covington, Robert).
Zubac does all of the cosmetic things -- scoring, rebounding, blocking shots -- that gives a depressed fanbase hope. The same things that create fantasy value. But in real-life NBA terms, Zubac's not particularly good at something basketball experts refer to as "defense."
Last year, the Lakers' dirty secret was that letting Kobe do anything he wanted enhanced their lottery chances. This year, it's that no one on the Lakers can play defense, and no one cares.
In this case? It's encouraged.
The more Timofey Mozgov sits in favor of Zubac, the better it is for everybody, in fantasy and reality.
(That is, unless you're a Sixers fan sitting on that lottery protected pick.)
For the season, Payton is hitting just 29 percent of his 3s. That's simply unsustainable for a starting NBA point guard. In a year when he's supposed to show some development, it's a drop from his career average of 30 percent.
Will Payton shoot with any consistency? The rest of Payton's season will probably serve as a referendum on that question.
The other numbers are there. He rebounds very well for a point guard. Payton will get the minutes. The potential is still there for a late turnaround.
Like the Timberwolves, Mavericks and Sixers, just about any member of the Heat could be on the list. I could write about Dion Waiters...but at this point, you know about Dion Waiters.
I'm highlighting Johnson because he has a track record of delivering what I call "1+1+1" production: a 3-pointer, block and steal per game.
Johnson isn't a scorer. He's the walking personification of under-the-radar fantasy production. But the Heat have minutes to spare. A solid vet like Johnson that does all of the little things could get a chance to shine.
Other players to watch:
Brandon Ingram, SF/PF, Los Angles Lakers
Zach LaVine, PG/SG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Yogi Ferrell, SG/PG, Dallas Mavericks
Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, Denver Nuggets
Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Philadelphia 76ers
Alex Len, C, Phoenix Suns