Fantasy Basketball
Joe Kaiser, ESPN Staff Writer 37d

Fantasy basketball 30: Will Beal and Boogie continue to roll hot?

Fantasy NBA, Fantasy, NBA

Who is trending up? Which rotations are changing? And what's the latest with the notable injuries around the NBA?

Here's a look at the most fantasy relevant news and notes for all 30 teams:

Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks could be short-handed in Wednesday's big game against the Nets, as Clint Capela (hand) and Cam Reddish (Achilles) are both listed as questionable. One player who is expected to play is Danilo Gallinari, who is officially probable but played just 14 minutes on Tuesday, his first game back from an ankle injury.

Boston Celtics: Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters Wednesday that the team doesn't plan to play Kemba Walker on the second half of back-to-back games for "probably the whole year" in an effort to help protect his knee over the long term. This is obviously a big deal as far as fantasy is concerned, lowering Walker's fantasy value in all season-long leagues.

Brooklyn Nets: Much was made -- including in this space -- about the lack of depth on the Nets beyond their Big 3, but here's something that jumps off the page. DeAndre Jordan and Jeff Green, two of the other veterans in the Nets' condensed rotation, enter Wednesday ranked No. 1 and 4 in true shooting percentage; Jordan is at 79.4% and Green at 71.9%. Interestingly, the recently traded Jarrett Allen comes in at No. 3 (73.1%). Want another nugget? James Harden has led the Nets in assists in every game since joining the team.

Charlotte Hornets: Gordon Hayward had an average draft position of 48.2 in ESPN leagues this season, and that's looking like one of the biggest steals around. Hayward is not only averaging a career high 35.1 MPG, but he is also shooting as well as he has in his career. His 51.5 FG%, 86.3 FT% and 43.5 3FG% are all on pace to be career highs, as is his 24.1 PPG. If Hayward can stay healthy, he is likely going to be on a lot of championship fantasy rosters this season.

Chicago Bulls: The Bulls lost Wendell Carter Jr. for at least four weeks due to a severe bruise in his right quadriceps, it was announced Tuesday, and replacing the big man won't be easy. Daniel Gafford started at center the past three games, and his role is set to expand, and Lauri Markkanen and Thaddeus Young are two other options at the center spot when coach Billy Donovan goes with a smaller lineup. Expect an uptick in production from each of them, and possibly more minutes from rookie Patrick Williams as well.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Larry Nance Jr. (wrist) missed Monday's game against his former team, the Lakers, and is listed as questionable for Wednesday's game against the Pistons. If Nance can't play, Cedi Osman and Taurean Prince could see bigger roles, as they did as starters in the loss to the Lakers.

Dallas Mavericks: Sixteen games into his third season in the league, and it's clear that Luka Doncic still has some room to improve as a 3-point shooter. Doncic, a career 31.8% shooter from beyond the arc, is 33-116 on the season, putting him at 28.4%. This is the third season in a row where his efficiency has gone down from 3-point range, but as you know there's still plenty of time for the star point guard to raise his 3FG% this season.

Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic's 56.3 FG% is well up from last season's 52.8% and is on pace to be his best since his second season in the league, when he attempted only 1.9 3PG and posted a stellar 57.8 FG%. These days, as Jokic puts up MVP-caliber numbers and for the fourth-straight season is averaging more than 3.0 3PG, he is making a point to not fall in love with the perimeter game. In fact, Jokic averages 14.5 PPG inside the paint, which ranks No. 4 in the league behind only Zion Williamson, Andre Drummond and Giannis Antetokoumpo.

Detroit Pistons: Last week, I wrote about taking a look at veteran shooting guard Wayne Ellington, who has carved out a key role on the rebuilding Pistons. Since then, the 33-year-old hasn't cooled off, making 16 3-pointers in his past three games. Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising; Ellington leads the NBA with 79.5% of his points coming via the 3.

Golden State Warriors: Steve Kerr shook up the starting lineup in Monday's game against Minnesota, electing to start Kevon Looney over James Wiseman. It's difficult to assess the results, given that the Timberwolves are the worst team in the league so far, but it's notable that Wiseman -- who had been playing over 20 MPG in recent weeks -- finished with only 16 minutes in the blowout win. The Warriors and Timberwolves play each other again on Wednesday, and it's worth watching to see if the rotation plays out the same.

Houston Rockets: DeMarcus Cousins had his best game with the Rockets in Saturday's win over Dallas, finishing with 28 points and 17 rebounds, and he followed that up with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 5 steals in Tuesday's win over Washington. Very encouraging stuff. The problem is, these performances came with Christian Wood out of the lineup, and Wood (ankle) is expected to return for Thursday's game against Portland. How well Wood and Cousins coexist on the court after Cousins' two big games in a row is worth watching closely.

Indiana Pacers: Who is the most underrated player in fantasy basketball this season? T.J. McConnell deserves some votes -- at least in category leagues. It's easy to forget about him when Malcolm Brogdon is playing so well as the starter, but McConnell, who is a free agent in 90.3% of ESPN leagues, does two things really well: rack up steals and assists. In his past eight games, he has four games with three steals and four games with two steals. He also has at least six assists in six straight games. He can help a lot of fantasy teams.

LA Clippers: With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both out for at least three more games due to COVID-19 contract tracing protocols, Reggie Jackson is worth adding in fantasy leagues. Jackson is currently rostered on only 6.7% of ESPN leagues, despite putting up 20 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals and a block in 39 minutes against Atlanta on Tuesday.

Los Angeles Lakers: It's easy to think about offense when talking about the Lakers, but entering Wednesday, the Lakers actually are the league leaders in defensive efficiency, allowing 102.1 points per 100 possessions. Memphis (103.8) and Utah (104.2) rank second and third, respectively. The lesson here is simple: think twice before starting players against the stifling Lakers D.

Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies have found something in first-round pick Desmond Bane, the TCU product acquired from Boston on draft day after being selected No. 30 overall. Through his first 13 games in the NBA, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard ranks No. 5 in the league with a 48.9 3FG%. Bane is currently playing 21.9 MPG and attempting just 3.6 3PG, but the early returns indicate that he could be one of the top 3-point shooters in the league for years to come. How about that future backcourt in Memphis with he and Ja Morant!

Miami Heat: The Heat will be without Jimmy Butler for a ninth consecutive game when they play the Nuggets on Wednesday night. Butler was listed as out due to health and safety protocols on the NBA injury report, and he has appeared in only six games for the Heat this season. Butler was a fourth-round pick in most fantasy drafts this season and probably is in that same range again next season, barring anything unforeseen, but it's been a rough start to 2020-21 for the veteran swingman.

Milwaukee Bucks: Brook Lopez still serves a purpose in roto and category leagues, providing that rare combination of 3s and blocks, but the veteran big man has seen his scoring dip to 10.1 PPG -- the lowest of his 13-year career. That, and his usual low number of rebounds (5.2 RPG), leave him as more of a streamer in points leagues at this stage in his career. Lopez enters Wednesday rostered in 57.1% of ESPN leagues.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Steals are one of the most difficult stats to go after in roto and category leagues, and that's what makes someone like little-known Wolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt so valuable. On the surface, his 6.9 PPG and 5.5 RPG aren't very useful in fantasy leagues, but the Kentucky product has 10 steals in his past five games and has also chipped in with six blocks during that span. As of Wednesday, Vanderbilt is a free agent in 91.0% of ESPN leagues.

New Orleans Pelicans: With the Pelicans off to a disappointing 5-10 start, it wouldn't be a surprise if they became sellers before the NBA's March 25 trade deadline. And according to a report Tuesday by The Athletic, "New Orleans has been receiving calls about the availability of Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick and has shown an openness to discussing trades around both with interested teams." Redick's days as a fantasy option are just about over, but this is worth watching closely, as Ball could still turn his career around and become more of a fantasy factor if he lands in a better situation. If Ball and Redick are traded, 2019 first-rounder Nickeil Alexander-Walker (rostered in 4.4% of ESPN leagues) would become a high-priority add in fantasy leagues. Remember, he popped off for 37 points with Ball out of the lineup against the Clippers on Jan. 13.

New York Knicks: The Athletic reported this week that the Knicks and Clippers are among teams interested in veteran Pistons point guard Derrick Rose. Of course, Rose already has a history with the Knicks (64 games in 2016-17) and with Tom Thibodeau from their days together in Chicago, so this is something to keep an eye on. From a fantasy perspective, a trade to NY would likely make Rose less valuable, considering he is already barely rosterable in Detroit, where there is less competition for minutes than there would be with the Knicks (Elfrid Payton and Immanuel Quickley).

Oklahoma City Thunder: Isaiah Roby has come out of nowhere and played well during Al Horford's absence, but the 2019 second-rounder could be headed back to the bench. Horford (personal) is listed as questionable for Wednesday's game against the Suns after being out since Jan. 12, and as soon as he returns to the lineup, Roby's fantasy value dwindles. Roby is currently rostered in 9.8% of ESPN leagues.

Orlando Magic: Aaron Gordon has gone from a sneaky source of assists to a consistent distributor in this league. Gordon dished out 7.7 APG during his past three games and is at 4.4 APG for the season, which would be a new career best. Incredibly, the seventh-year pro has improved or maintained his assist averages every season in the league since dishing out 0.7 APG as a rookie back in 2014-15.

Philadelphia 76ers: Unless Ben Simmons turns things up over the rest of the season, we could have to think about him more as a third- or fourth-rounder than a second-rounder going forward. In his first season under coach Doc Rivers, Simmons has seen his minutes, scoring and FG% drop from his previous three seasons, and that's happened without any sign of improvement as a 3-point shooter. It's hard to believe, but Simmons is taking just 8.8 shots per game this season.

Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton has taken a lot of heat in the Phoenix market for being good but not great since being selected No. 1 overall ahead of guys like Doncic and Trae Young, but to his credit, he's appeared to flip the switch lately. In fact, Ayton's past four games may be the best stretch of his career, averaging 22.0 PPG, 14.8 RPG and 2.0 BPG. Making matters even better, Ayton is also on pace for a new career-high with a 59.3 FG%.

Portland Trail Blazers: One player to keep an eye on while C.J. McCollum is out is Anfernee Simons. An athlete who can shoot and throw down a dunk, Simons erupted for 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range, in Monday's win over the Thunder. Simons' 29 minutes were a season high, and it shouldn't be surprising if he approaches that number on a consistent basis until McCollum returns to the court.

Sacramento Kings: If you're playing daily fantasy or looking for a player to stream for the night, make sure you consider the team that the Kings are playing. Sacramento isn't just last in defensive efficiency this season, allowing 116.7 points per 100 possessions, they are last by a wide margin. Portland is second worst, allowing 112.9 points per 100 possessions.

San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge has made a career out of bringing an old-school approach to a new-age NBA, dominating the mid-range game that is all but non-existent around the league. A closer look at the numbers shows just how striking this is: 50.2% of Aldridge's shot attempts come from the mid-range. To put that in perspective, the next highest after him is Chris Paul at 34.8%.

Toronto Raptors: OG Anunoby ranks No. 2 in the league with 2.1 SPG, trailing only Nance (2.3), and the fourth-year pro is averaging career highs in MPG (34.8), PPG (14.6), FT% (74.5), 3PG (2.5) and RPG (5.8). The athletic forward is questionable for Wednesday's game against Milwaukee due to a calf strain, but when healthy, he's closing in on being a top-50 fantasy option in category leagues.

Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell has been ruled out for Wednesday's game vs. Dallas after entering the league's concussion protocol. Without Mitchell and his 23.4 PPG available, Jordan Clarkson could get his first start of the year and, at the very least, should see more than the 24.8 MPG he has averaged so far this season. Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic should also see a heavier volume of shots for as long as Mitchell is out.

Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal's 34.4 PPG leads the league entering play on Wednesday and puts him 4.0 PPG ahead of the next closest on the list (Kevin Durant, 30.4). It's quite the story for the veteran scorer. The difference isn't from more playing time or shooting more 3s. In fact, both of those are slightly lower this year than last. The difference is Beal is taking 25.2 shots per game (up from 22.9 last season) and is shooting at a career-best pace (48.3 FG%).

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