With only a month and a half left in the regular season and fantasy trade deadlines on the horizon, let's take a look at the major storylines impacting the fantasy landscape over the past week:
As the fallout of the trade deadline and recent injuries continues, I'm beginning to realize that perhaps I didn't move Hassan Whiteside and Rudy Gobert high enough in the rankings. Whiteside has gone off for 13.6 points, 14.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks over his past five games, and is essentially putting up DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond numbers with slightly better free throw shooting. Gobert, meanwhile, has been almost as impressive with averages of 9.8 points, 10.6 boards, 1.0 steals and 4.0 blocks over his past five games (with Enes Kanter in Oklahoma City). Given their quality play and opportunity to log heavy minutes down the stretch, there's absolutely no reason to think that either Whiteside or Gobert will slow down the rest of the way.
The same can be said for Isaiah Thomas, who is thriving in Boston, posting per-game averages of 22.3 points, 6.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.5 3-pointers in four games with the Celtics. We knew Thomas would challenge for the team lead in scoring, but we didn't know that the entire Celtics backcourt would benefit from Brad Stevens' small-ball lineups following the Jared Sullinger injury. Avery Bradley is on fire with averages of 20.4 points, 3.2 steals and 2.4 3-pointers over his past five and Evan Turner has posted a versatile 8.2 points, 7.4 boards, 8.2 assists and 1.2 steals during the same span. Even Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder appear to have moderate value in deeper leagues. The Celtics are battling for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, and they should remain a fantasy-friendly lineup going forward.
I don't want to overreact to Kyle Lowry's poor play and nagging injuries, but he hasn't played particularly well since DeMar DeRozan's return back in mid-January and is mired in a big slump that's seen him shoot just 29.7 percent from the floor while averaging just 11.6 points and 4.8 assists over his past five games. He's been a little banged up, and probably is in his own head a little, but Lowry is clearly much better than he's played as of late. If you can find an owner who's frustrated, now might be a great time to snag Lowry at a discounted rate.
A few weeks ago we discussed Dirk Nowitzki's declining value that has become more and more reliant on his scoring and percentages, but the 36-year-old has struggled to provide even that since the All-Star break. In recent action Dirk has posted per-game numbers of just 12.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 0.7 3-pointers while shooting only 42.7 percent from the floor in 28.3 minutes per game. There's a moderate buy-low opportunity here, particularly since his poor shooting can likely be blamed on a lingering elbow injury, but anyone investing in Dirk should lower their expectations given his declining numbers in steals, blocks and rebounds.
Those looking for a high-upside trade target for the stretch run might want to consider Nicolas Batum. Slowed by a wrist injury for much of the season, Batum has been one of the biggest busts of the season, but the All-Star break seems to have done him some good as he's shot 48.7 percent from the floor and has had a few vintage Batum-like games over his past five contests. I still don't completely trust him, but he's definitely a good target for owners who need to take risks at this stage in the season.
After missing the majority of the season with a leg injury, the Terrence Jones we've all been waiting for has finally arrived. Using the All-Star break as an opportunity to heal up, Jones has exploded for 15.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks over his past five games. Jones is locked in, and he'll remain a quality option as long as he remains healthy even if Dwight Howard returns to the court.
News that Darren Collison may miss the rest of the season makes Ray McCallum an intriguing pickup. McCallum averaged 13.8 points, 7.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 3-pointers in 10 starts at the end of last season, and looks to be locked in as the starting point guard for the Kings the rest of the way. Those in need of assists and steals should certainly give him a look on the waiver wire.
Paul George went through a full practice with the Pacers on Thursday and appears to be on target to return in mid-March. We don't know how effective he'll be coming off of such a brutal injury, but George has top-20 upside when 100 percent, and owners who are holding a nice lead should take the gamble.
Fantasy Basketball Top 130
Brian McKitish's top 130 players are ranked for their value for the rest of the 2014-15 NBA season, independent of the value accrued to this point. For a ranking of players' value to this point, please refer to the Player Rater.