There are “only” two months left in the NBA season. That’s an eternity in fantasy basketball terms.
Values will shift a lot over the next 60 days as Thursday’s NBA trade deadline passes. Certain teams will go into full tank mode and others go into playoff prep mode. The players making a difference in head-to-head fantasy matchups now will give way to guys coming from off the radar. Glaring examples that come to mind include Tobias Harris’ second-half eruption in 2013, Kenneth Faried in 2014 and Rudy Gobert last season.
Some candidates to go off in the second half this year:
ROOKIE NO MORE
The Lakers are in last place, yet coach Byron Scott removed No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell from the starting lineup and played him just 27.1 minutes per game in the first half. That can’t last. Scott’s insane treatment of Russell – which has included sharp criticism in the media – has to give way to a far bigger role down the stretch. Even Scott has said he expects Russell to re-join the starting five after the All-Star break. The rookie’s per-36 numbers include 16.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.0 treys and 1.6 steals.
CARMELO IN THE GALLOWS
There’s plenty of reason to believe Carmelo Anthony will miss a bunch of time down the stretch. The free-falling Knicks are now 23-32, 12th in the Eastern Conference. Melo also continues to battle seemingly chronic issues with the left knee he had surgically repaired 12 months ago. When he’s sat this year, Langston Galloway has averaged 30.1 minutes while Derrick Williams has filled in well off the bench by averaging 13.4 points per game. Kristaps Godzingis and Arron Afflalo also see major usage bumps whenever Anthony sits.
FREE BOBBY PORTIS
If you’re not on Twitter, you might not realize there’s already a #freebobbyportis movement going on. That’s because he has nightly double-double upside if given the opportunity. We’ve already started to see him get more minutes thanks to the injuries suffered by Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic. The trade rumors surrounding Taj Gibson only add fuel to Portis’ fire. His per-36 numbers include 15.5 points and 10.2 rebounds.
NBA PICKUPS OF THE WEEK
1. Luol Deng, F, Heat – Chris Bosh’s calf issue sounds serious. The Heat would be forced to lean more on Deng offensively if Bosh is done for the year.
2. Jeff Green, F, Grizzlies – Zach Randolph is the main beneficiary of the Marc Gasol injury, but Green’s role will expand sharply as well due to more minutes at the four.
3. Al Jefferson, C, Hornets – Sounds close to returning from knee scope. Even if Big Al is a shell of himself, he’ll be a solid contributor on a team that just lost Michael Kidd-Gilchrist again.
Marcus Mariota ran with the football just 2.8 times per game as a rookie, well off Cam Newton’s 8.3, Russ Wilson’s 6.4 and even Alex Smith’s 5.3. That’s a crime for someone with Mariota’s running ability. Mike Mularkey, who has officially taken over for Ken Whisenhunt, appears to understand that as he talked up more designed runs going forward. With a rising stud in Dorial Green-Beckham and a reliable workhorse in Delanie Walker, Mariota easily has a top-5 QB ceiling.