Thomas starting in Kings' backcourt
Any time a new player takes the helm as the starting point guard of a team, it's big news in the fantasy world, especially when he nearly drops a triple-double and plays 43 minutes in his second career start. Kings second-round pick Isaiah Thomas posted 23 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds and 3 3s on Sunday against the Cavaliers and is now starting alongside Tyreke Evans in Sacramento's backcourt. The biggest knock on Thomas is his size, but he's aggressive taking it to the rack and is a drive-and-dish type of point guard who can create his own shot. He averaged 16.7 points, 6.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.7 3-pointers last season at Washington and should be able to provide scoring, assists, 3s and steals when he's starting at point and getting big minutes for the Kings.
My biggest worry about Thomas' fantasy game is that he shot just 71.2 percent from the stripe in college, which is an unacceptable mark for a fantasy point guard, especially one who draws contact and goes to the line regularly. But he's upped his free throws to 82.3 percent this season with the Kings, so perhaps he put in the work to improve the biggest hole in his game. He entered the league with a chip on his shoulder, ready to prove his critics wrong after many said he wouldn't be drafted and was too small to make it in the league, and now he's become fantasy-relevant halfway through his rookie season and is worthy of adding in any format if you need point guard stats.
Looking back:J.R. Smith played 30 minutes off the bench in his first game for the Knicks, scoring 15 points on 6-for-16 shooting (3-for-9 on 3-pointers). He's clearly ready to gun and won't be shy about launching 3s, and he is a part of the eight-man rotation that Mike D'Antoni likes to run with. He should be owned in any format if you need 3s, but don't expect much else. It'll be interesting to see whose minutes disappear once Carmelo Anthony returns; Steve Novak continues to provide 3-point shooting, but Jared Jeffries has been valuable for his defense. If Novak keeps getting minutes when Carmelo does return, the value he's established by averaging 2.8 3s per game in February is legit, but for now I'm still hesitant to crown him the new Matt Bonner until we see how many minutes he gets with Melo in the rotation.
Rodney Stuckey continues his strong play, and despite going 2-for-10 from the field Sunday, he was 12-for-15 from the stripe, his third consecutive game with at least 11 free throw attempts. He's averaging 22.2 points, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals and 85.7 percent from the line on a whopping 11.2 attempts per game in his past five contests. After a slow start to the season, he has scored in double-digits nine straight times and has become one of the most helpful players in free throw percentage.
Michael Beasley had another disappointing effort Sunday, scoring just four points in 11 minutes of play. He's averaging just 19.4 minutes per game in his past five games, and with Rick Adelman shortening his rotation, Beasley's fantasy value has largely disappeared. He didn't provide well-rounded stats even when he was getting minutes, so if there's a more attractive option on your waiver wire, feel free to cut bait.
With the All-Star Game impending, the next two weeks count as one scoring period in ESPN.com head-to-head leagues, so be sure to analyze your team's recent play and take some extra time in setting your lineup on Monday. Derrick Rose is close to returning from his back spasms, but I'd be surprised if the Bulls didn't wait until after the All-Star break to get him back in the lineup and take the opportunity for him to get extra rest. He'll be a game-time decision Monday, so check the status beforehand and make sure he's in your lineup if he's set to go. Brook Lopez returned Sunday for the Nets and started at center, playing 22 minutes. He'll take some time to get back in shape, but the career 17.4 point-per-game scorer should be putting up solid numbers soon given the Nets' need for a frontcourt scoring option. Feel free to get him back in your lineups in deeper formats, and in standard formats he should be start-worthy in the next week or two.