A wild Wednesday afternoon in the NBA saw a blockbuster seven-player trade unfold featuring James Harden heading to Brooklyn. ESPN's Joe Kaiser deftly broke down the fantasy implications of the seven-player deal not just for the loaded Nets and the bearded one, but also for Victor Oladipo joining the Rockets, Caris LeVert landing in Indiana and Jarrett Allen joining an already crowded frontcourt in Cleveland.
Focusing the lens on some actionable fantasy information for Thursday's five-game slate, it's important to note the Miami Heat will be without key starters and rotation pieces Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Maurice Harkless, Udonis Haslem, Kendrick Nunn and KZ Okpala this evening in South Philly to face the 76ers. Center Meyers Leonard, meanwhile, is doubtful with a shoulder strain. This all leads to pursuing shares of sharpshooter Duncan Robinson and rising rookie Precious Achiuwa.
Robinson, rostered in just 45.9% of ESPN leagues, just netted a season-high 26 points against Philadelphia a few nights ago, playing 46 minutes in an overtime loss. Robinson can again be expected to play a huge role for an eroded roster this evening and makes for an ideal pickup, given he leads the NBA with 7.2 catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts per game and sinks those shots at a stellar 40% clip.
Per Achiuwa, he's rostered in just 3.7% of ESPN leagues and consumed a team-high 23 rebounding chances in Tuesday's loss. A rebounding chance is defined as being within 3.5 feet of an available rebound. For some context, Rudy Gobert paces the NBA with 23 rebounding chances per game this season.
Even if Robinson and Achiuwa prove helpful to your fantasy roster(s) only for Thursday or through Saturday's tilt against Detroit, these are the type of transactions that can help propel success amid a challenging and unique NBA season.
Making his first start for New Orleans this season due to injuries to both Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe, second-year guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker produced an awesome line last night in helping keep the Pelicans competitive with the Clippers. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram were also absent from the lineup, propelling Alexander-Walker to a career-high 37 points, marking his first 30-point game in either the NBA or college. It's unlikely that Alexander-Walker will become a consistent cog in the Pelicans' rotation once these veteran peers are back in the fold, but amid a season with health and safety protocols, it's helpful to know he can rise to the occasion when called on.
You can find Sacramento's Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton in free agency in roughly 20% of ESPN leagues. While the Kings have been struggling to find team success, Hield just extended his made 3-pointer streak to 78 consecutive games in a loss to the Trail Blazers last night, tying him with Dennis Scott for the seventh-longest such streak in NBA history. Hield tallied 26 points to go with five dimes and six rebounds against Portland, becoming the first Kings player since DeMarcus Cousins in 2017 with at least as many points, rebounds, and assists with no turnovers. Halliburton, meanwhile, continues to shine off the pine for the Kings and dished a career-high nine assists and now has at least eight dimes in three of his past four games.
In a victory last night over the Pistons, the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo secured his 10th career triple-double that included multiple steals and blocks, tied with LeBron James and Hakeem Olajuwon for the most such games since steals and blocks became official in 1973-74. One key name to look for in free agency would be Milwaukee's center Brook Lopez, who is still available in nearly half of ESPN leagues and is averaging an awesome 2.3 BPG during the past week.
Injuries of note
The Sixers' Seth Curry remains sidelined in the health and safety protocol, while Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, and Matisse Thybulle are listed as probable to return against the short-handed Heat at home this evening.
The Rockets will be shorthanded this evening in the wake of the Harden deal and with John Wall listed as out with left knee soreness.
Analytics advantage for Thursday
The Nuggets' Michael Porter Jr. remains sidelined due to a positive COVID-19 test, which again opens up a larger role for wing Will Barton. Last time out, Barton produced a season-high 22 points, thanks to a season-high six 3-pointers in a loss to Brooklyn.
Per the analytical angle for tonight, Barton's game score for last Tuesday's tilt against the Nets was a season-best 18.6. Game score is a metric developed by John Hollinger in his time with ESPN that is essentially an extension of PER (player efficiency rating) in order to provide a rough measure of a player's productivity for a single game. It's revealing that Barton's three highest game scores have come in Denver's past five games -- all starts with Porter Jr. sidelined.
Set to start again for Denver against the Warriors this evening, it helps to note that Barton is a fantasy free agent in more than 70% of ESPN leagues.
Top players to watch on Thursday
The Spurs have listed DeMar DeRozan as questionable due to personal reasons for tonight's matchup with a depleted Houston roster. If DeRozan misses the contest, picking up Lonnie Walker IV and Patty Mills as strong spot plays in redraft leagues and solid DFS investments could prove rewarding.
Mills actually isn't very dependent on DeRozan's status, given he's serving as a hot hand for the second unit, averaging 16.5 PPG with 4.3 APG during the past week for the resilient Spurs. You can find the Australian scoring guard in free agency in more than 70% of ESPN leagues as of Thursday morning.