The majority of NBA talk here in Los Angeles this week has concerned the Lakers' depressing slide from playoff contention. (Although, to be fair, if LeBron James had pushed this misshapen Lakers roster even to the eighth seed ... I would have notched it as one of his great accomplishments).
But the Lakers aren't the only bubble team that is losing their grip on playoff contention. This is the turn in the NBA schedule where a handful of teams begin to slide from that range of 10 percent-postseason odds down to less than one percent.
If you take a look at the current ESPN.com BPI playoff odds, you'll find that there are seven teams lodged between a one percent and a 55 percent chance of making the postseason: Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, Orlando Magic and Miami Heat. (Out of those squads, the Hornets, Magic and Heat are in a tight race for the Eastern Conference's eighth seed.)
During the next week or two, many of these teams will see their playoff odds dwindle to the 0.1 percent range. As their hopes fade, they'll join the ranks of the teams already playing to collect ping-pong balls in the Zion Sweepstakes: New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks.
As you know, tanking teams are Fantasyland's greatest post-fake-trade-deadline source of new sources of statistical goodness. If you're a serious fantasy enthusiast, you've already mined the current tanking teams for fresh faces such as Trae Young, Kelly Oubre Jr., Mitchell Robinson and Dewayne Dedmon.
Today, I'm going to examine the seven teams still on the playoff bubble, and earmark some of their players who might help fantasy managers down the stretch.
Now this is the Isaac I drafted back in October. Isaac has long teased 1+1+1 potential, but he's surged since the end of January, averaging 13.1 PPG, 6.3 REB, 1.8 3PG, 1.9 BPG, and 0.9 SPG. Over the same span, he shot 37.8% from deep and 81.3% from the line.
Isaac is gaining the kind of momentum that points toward classic late-season fantasy bloomer. The biggest reason his fantasy portfolio is starting to come together: shooting. After shooting just 40.0 percent from the field in January, Isaac turned it on in February, boosting his FG% to 49.1 percent. He's always been a solid free throw shooter (for a big), so now that his outside shot has arrived, Isaac stands to be a plus-player in terms of true shooting percentage.
All that's missing going forward? Rebounding. A player with Isaac's length, averaging close to 30 MPG, shouldn't be struggling to crack 6.0 RPG. But Isaac is arriving in a hurry. If you're in a keeper situation, you should stampede to your waiver wire and see if he's somehow still available in your league.
Over the past 15 days, Olynyk has posted top-20 overall value with 9.86 Player Rater points. He just went for 22 points, 11 rebounds, 5 3s, 2 steals and a block against the Hornets. (Even more hopeful: the fact that Olynyk went numerically nuts while playing alongside the just-returned Hassan Whiteside). Yet somehow, he's still available in nearly 90 percent of leagues.
Since moving into the starting lineup a couple of weeks ago, Olynyk has averaged 20.0 PPG and 3.0 3PG. The Heat are fighting tooth and nail for that eighth seed in the East, and it's possible that Erik Spolestra has decided Olynyk has become an inescapable aspect of his playoff push. Since he qualifies at center, Olynyk's efficiency-packed offensive late-season line could help a lot of deep-league fantasy teams in the playoffs.
Remember those "Free Bobby Portis" mantras from a couple of seasons ago? Well, Portis has finally found temporary freedom in D.C. In nine games with the Wizards, Portis has averaged 27.3 MPG, 15.3 PPG, 8.9 REB, 1.8 3PG, 1.1 SPG, and (a still-paltry) 0.2 BPG. His scoring has been paced by an impressive 43.2 3FG%. The Wizards have the rest of the season to probably decide between keeping Portis or Thomas Bryant. Portis seems to have the momentum, having started the past four games (and averaging a near double-double).
After suffering through a deluge of DNPs this campaign, Kaminsky has resurfaced during the past week. Over his past three games, Kaminsky has averaged 16.5 PPG, 7.0 REB and 1.5 3PG. He's also hit 7 of 13 3s over that same span. Last night, Kaminsky posted his best game of the season, going for 20 points and four 3-pointers in a low-scoring loss against the Heat. If you're looking for cheap scoring punch from the five ... Kaminsky has shot his way back into late-season consideration.
The less Anthony Davis plays, the more Diallo produces (he's posted 7.49 Player Rater points over the past two weeks). Give Diallo 20-plus minutes, and he'll give you a double-double. Over back-to-back games last week against the Suns and Nuggets, Diallo averaged 21.5 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.0 SPG and 0.5 BPG while shooting 72.2 percent from the field. As Davis' Pelicans career winds down, Diallo should get plenty of opportunities down the stretch.
Even after Marvin Bagley III returns, he's liable to see his minutes managed in order to protect his knee. Willie Cauley-Stein does not seem long for Sacramento. Giles is seizing his opportunity. Like Diallo, Giles doesn't need much more than 20 MPG to return 10-team league value. Over his past three games (going into last night's tilt against Boston), Giles averaged 18.7 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, while shooting 65.7 percent from the field.
Unlike Diallo, Giles hasn't provided much in the way of steals and blocks (0.8 SPG+BPG for the season.) Still, Giles should prove a nice double-double threat over the last month of the regular season.
The 20-year-old rookie's playing time has been amplified since Robert Covington's ankle became an issue. Since Jan. 2, Okogie has averaged 26.8 MPG, 8.6 PPG, 3.0, 1.0 3PG and 1.4 SPG. Playing time hasn't been Okogie's issue; it's been his inconsistent shooting. Over the same period (since Jan. 2), Okogie's only shot 37.0 percent from the field and 28.4 percent from deep. Still, there have been flashes when Okogie has put it all together. The defensive stats are already there.