In this week's Risers and Fallers I'll take a look at some trade deadline winners and losers. Mark Williams gets a huge boost for the Hornets, Saddiq Bey may struggle in Atlanta and the Nets have no superstars but too many wings to even know where (or who) to start.
Mark Williams, C, Charlotte Hornets - Mason Plumlee was dealt to the Clippers, clearing the way for Williams to get all the center minutes he can handle in Charlotte the rest of the way. Sure, Nick Richards is also going to get some run but the Hornets appear to be just as excited about turning Williams loose as we all are.
The rookie from Duke hasn't exactly broken out yet but has shown signs of doing so. He's blocked eight shots over his last six games and the rest of his numbers should be going up now that he's looking at 25-30 minutes per night. And that will do wonders for his numbers after averaging just 13.8 minutes per game for the season thus far. Points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage coming your way soon. And he's not a bad free throw shooter (75%).
Kenyon Martin Jr., SF, Houston Rockets - Eric Gordon was shipped back from whence he came (the Clippers), clearing the way for Martin to explode for the Rockets the rest of the way. They have a great fantasy playoff schedule, Martin was already averaging 15 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 1.0 3-pointers on 66 percent shooting in February, and no longer has Gordon standing in his way. He's now a must-have player, just like his teammate, Tari Eason.
Zach Collins, C, San Antonio Spurs - Jakob Poeltl was traded to the Raptors (who drafted him) on Thursday and will compete for the starting job, depending on how the Raptors want to proceed. And that will leave Collins as the lone starting center in San Antonio, unless you count Khem Birch, who Poeltl was traded for. Collins was already playing well before the trade and averaged 10.7 points and 6.1 rebounds in just 20.6 minutes a night in January and the minutes and numbers are about to take a big step forward. If he starts blocking shots (0.7 thus far) and stealing the ball (0.4), he's going to be an important add in fantasy going forward.
Malaki Branham, SG, San Antonio Spurs - Devin Vassell (knee) is still eyeing a return to action at some point after the All-Star break but until that happens, Branham should be able to go on a tear for the Spurs. Especially now that Josh Richardson was traded to the Pelicans. He averaged 21 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.7 3-pointers over a three-game stretch before posting a dud on Wednesday and should take off without Richardson around. And since the Spurs are tanking, they're not going to be rushing Vassell back into his previous role any time soon. The back injury Jeremy Sochan is dealing with also helps, as does Tre Jones' foot injury and Romeo Langford's thigh injury that's kept him out for eight straight games.
Cam Thomas, SG, Brooklyn Nets - I was hoping Thomas would be at the top of this list, but the Nets have gone through monumental changes over the past few days and are now loaded on the wing. Spencer Dinwiddie, Ben Simmons, Edmond Sumner, Seth Curry, Joe Harris, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O'Neale are all going to need minutes but, last time I checked, none of those guys have scored 40 points in three straight games. And that's exactly what Thomas has done.
The Nets' title hopes are all but dashed and they have no reason not to continue to unleash Thomas in order to see how long he can keep this going. But the overpopulation of wings in Brooklyn is a concern. Thomas passes the eye test and the Nets really have no reason to try to slow him down now, although most of the aforementioned players are going to need minutes for the Nets. Thomas isn't fool proof and doesn't have quite the path to minutes and production he had before Thursday's deadline, but I'm not dropping him until he falls off the face of the earth. Here's to hoping he can keep it going.
Editor's note: Thomas was fined $40,000 for making an anti-gay remark following Thursday's game.
Nassir Little, SF/PF, Portland Trail Blazers - The Blazers lost both Josh Hart and Gary Payton on Thursday and Little should easily step into the starting small forward role in Portland. He started just one game this season but as a starter last year, Little averaged nearly 30 minutes, 11.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 1.1 blocks and 1.4 3-pointers in 23 games. If he's plugged into the starting unit as I suspect he will be, he could be a solid pickup in all fantasy formats.
Saddiq Bey, SF/PF, Atlanta Hawks - Bey is a good player and might be a good addition for the Hawks, but it's tough to see his path to big minutes with guys like Dejounte Murray, Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Andre Hunter, John Collins and A.J. Griffin standing in his way. Bey will probably have some good games the rest of the way for his new team, but he's not going to be a focal point as long as his teammates are healthy, which isn't going to do him any fantasy favors.
Mason Plumlee, C, Los Angeles Clippers - Plumlee is now toiling for the Clippers and his best bet for a path to value is a timeshare with Ivica Zubac, or an injury to Zubac. Maybe he can beat Zubac out and steal his starting role, but that's a long shot. Plumlee was averaging 12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 0.8 blocks on 64% shooting in his four February games for the Hornets, but those numbers are almost sure to take a hit for LAC.
Cameron Johnson, SF/PF, Brooklyn Nets - As mentioned above, the Nets are absolutely loaded with talented wings and it's not hard to see CJ falling to the wayside for his new team. He averaged 15.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks and 2.8 3-pointers on 48 percent shooting for the Suns in January and was playing well in February, but he's now mired in a wing-fest in Brooklyn that includes Ben Simmons, Spencer Dinwiddie, Edmond Sumner, Seth Curry, Joe Harris, Mikal Bridges, Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O'Neale. It's just hard to see a path to big minutes and production for Johnson to have a big role for his new team. He's a drop candidate if you're looking to pick up a hot free agent in your league.
Eric Gordon, SG/SF, Los Angeles Clippers - Gordon is going home to the Clippers and while he's a nice add for a team looking to make a title run, he's simply going to be a backup for his new-old team. Terance Mann, Bones Hyland, Paul George, Norman Powell, Kawhi Leonard and Nicolas Batum are all going to eat into his minutes and it looks like Gordon will go from being a semi-valuable starter for the Rockets to a 3-point specialist off the bench for the Clippers. I think you can drop him for a hot free agent if you have a hankering to do so.
Jarred Vanderbilt, PF/C, Los Angeles Lakers - Vando was dealt to the Lakers and things were looking up when Thomas Bryant was traded to the Nuggets to back up Nikola Jokic. Vando had a shot at battling Rui Hachimura for the starting power forward job and was also going to see some minutes at center for his new team. But then the Lakers added Mo Bamba to the fold on Thursday and it looks like Vanderbilt will go from being a part-time starter for the Jazz to more of a role player for the Lakers. If he does happen to win the starting power forward job over Hachimura things could work out but with LeBron James, Hachimura, Troy Brown, Wenyen Gabriel, Anthony Davis and Bamba all needing minutes for the new-look Lakers, Vanderbilt could find himself on the outside looking in. And that's a shame given that he averaged 9.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 0.7 steals on 53% shooting for the Jazz in January.
Russell Westbrook, PG, Utah Jazz (potential free agent if bought out) - Westbrook goes from playing a significant role for the Lakers to potentially not even having a team if he is bought out. I think I'd hang onto him until we see where he lands, but Westbrook is likely to miss a week or two while the buyout and waivers process takes place.