The last major mile marker on the road to the Fantasy championship passed Thursday, with the expiration of the league's trading season. And, while the moves made might have left NBA fans a bit disappointed on the whole, the subset invested in the Fantasy game has plenty to sort through.
Joe Polito broke down all of the trades and their impact, but the shifting of various rosters will obviously send ripples throughout Fantasy leagues. Writing this just hours after the deadline, two of the top 10 most-added players in CBSSports.com leagues over the last week were involved in deadline deals.
Not coincidentally, both players were sent from contenders to the tanking 76ers, where they stand a pretty good chance of seeing playing time. Center Byron Mullens saw his ownership jump from 1 percent to 12 percent upon Thursday's news, while Danny Granger jumped from 65 to 72 percent.
Of the two, I think Mullens will prove the better investment for Fantasy purposes, especially since he is already so widely available. Mullens has been a total afterthought while serving as the fourth big man in Los Angeles, but now he looks like he could step into a starting role as the center.
Though he isn't nearly as good a player, Mullens could approximate what the recently departed Spencer Hawes did for the Sixers. In his last stint as a starter, Mullens averages 12.8 points and 8.0 rebounds prior to last season's All-Star break for the Bobcats, who played at a much slower pace than the Sixers' frantic one.
I am less bullish on Granger's potential, though I have been all season relative to his consistently lofty ownership rates. Immediately upon news of Granger's trade to the 76ers, most assumed Granger would be bought out by Philadelphia, a move which would immediately negate the perceived bump in his Fantasy value.
With the threat of a buyout and a move to another contender hanging over him, Granger hardly makes for a big potential addition. Even if he stays in Philadelphia, there is enough in Granger's recent track record to indicate that he simply cannot be a difference maker. He was averaging 13.3 points per-36 minutes for the Pacers, and there aren't many indicators that he is capable of much more.
Despite playing a pretty limited rolled for the Pacers, he is shooting just 35.9 percent from the field, and doesn't figure to fit well in Philadelphia's offense. At this point in his career, Granger is a pretty stationary player, averaging just 3.2-miles-run per 48 minutes, good for just 384th in the league, per NBA.com's player tracking data. The Sixers' fast-paced style of play has led to seven different players ranking among the league's top-100 in that stat.
It might seem antithetical to suggest that a former All-Star, franchise-cornerstone player might be overshadowed by the likes of Byron Mullens, but that is reality at this point in Granger's career. Injuries have sapped him of his athleticism, and he has not yet learned how to make his game work. Granger has been perpetually overowned all season, and I see little reason to add him in light of this news.
Nate Wolters, G, Bucks: Wolters' game has been defined as much by what he hasn't done as a rookie as what he has. For the most part, Wolters has been a steady option at point guard for a Bucks team that has been sorely lacking in steady options, with his disinclination to make mistakes standing out early in his career. Recently, however, he has been asked to do more scoring, and has put together arguably his best stretch of the season. He is averaging 13.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game over the last five, while turning the ball over just five times overall in that span. I am skeptical about Wolters' ability to keep scoring this well even in an expanded role, but his ability to contribute decent assists numbers without the typical turnover issues could prove particularly useful for Fantasy owners in category-based formats. The Bucks' rotation is in flux as a result of trades and injuries, but Wolters seems likely to continue to receive solid playing time, and should continue to be helpful. (29 percent owned; +20 percent)
Chris Kaman, C, Lakers: Kaman was roundly embarrassed by Dwight Howard in his return to Staples Center Wednesday night, and that game might have marked the end of his brief flirtation with Fantasy relevance. Kaman was barely a member of the team's rotation for almost all of the season, until injuries pushed him into a 25.4-minutes-per-game role in the month of February so far. Kaman has put up 17.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game in that time, but that has been without Pau Gasol, the Lakers' offensive centerpiece. Kaman was involved in trade rumors leading up to Thursday's deadline, a good sign of the team's lack of interest in featuring him moving forward. If you can, package him in a trade right now, because Kaman's value literally cannot get any higher. (79 percent owned; +19 percent)
Patty Mills, G, Spurs: Mills is a classic example of a solid role player stepping into a larger role and proving himself up to the challenge. This is a guy who shot 46.9 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from three-point range in limited minutes, so he was clearly just waiting for a chance to show what he can do with an opportunity. With Tony Parker dealing with "a variety of maladies," to quote coach Gregg Poppovich, and Mills has absolutely thrived recently. He is averaging 18.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in nine appearances since the start of February, and has clearly earned Popovich's trust with his play late in recent games. Mills' value is going to be dependent on Parker's health, but until we get a clear indication that he is back, Mills looks like the type of player you want to ride as long as he remains hot. He should be owned in more than just 37 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. (37 percent owned; +17 percent)
Kelly Olynyk, C, Celtics: The one skill that was supposed to translate for Olynyk was his scoring, as he entered the league as one of the nation's most well-rounded scorers out of Gonzaga. Unfortunately, he has only shown that ability in short stretches, as when he put up 29 points and 21 rebounds over the course of the final two games before the All-Star break. That stretch is the reason his ownership jumped up, but I'm not running out to add the rookie just because of that. His role in the Celtics' offense is inconsistent at best, and his overall production remains lackluster; he scored just seven points in 24 minutes in the first game back from the break. Olynyk could end up proving useful down the stretch as the Celtics tank picks up steam, but he remains low enough on the team's apparent list of priorities to make him just fringe Fantasy option in his current role. (40 percent owned; +10 percent)
Larry Sanders, C, Bucks: When searching for the most disappointing player in Fantasy this season, you can't do a whole lot worse than Sanders. The young center looked poised to build off a breakout season a year ago, but has been ineffective even in those rare times he has been healthy this season. Sanders shot just 46.9 percent from the field and averaged 7.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game, all of which are down significantly from last season. Of course, Fantasy owners were still buying into Sanders' potential, with his ownership hovering near the 90's prior to suffering what looks to be a Fantasy season-ending injury. Sanders is out six weeks after surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone, and he is not expected to return to basketball-related activities until late March. For all intents and purposes, Sanders' Fantasy value is nil this season, and he should be dropped without much hesitation in yearly leagues. (62 percent owned; -23 percent)
Steve Blake, G, Warriors: This is probably the worst-case scenario for Blake, who has been one of the better stories of the Fantasy season. Long tagged with the semi-derisive "game manager" label, Blake has been thriving as the lead point guard in Mike D'Antoni's system, averaging a career-high 7.6 assists per game and remaining Fantasy relevant whenever his health allowed. Now, he goes from D'Antoni's system, which is point guard steroids, and instead has to back up one of the league's best point guards in Golden State. Though Jarrett Jack thrived as the backup there last season, the Jack role as secondary ball-handler is already being filled by Andre Iguodala. Blake is likely to see a lesser drop off in production than Jordan Crawford did upon his own trade to Golden State, but Blake is likely to become largely irrelevant for Fantasy purposes. He can be safely discarded in most leagues. (64 percent owned; -12 percent)
Flavors of Next Week
|1.||Steve Blake, Warriors||59|
|2.||J.J. Redick, Clippers||62|
|3.||Courtney Lee, Grizzles||34|
|4.||Khris Middleton, Bucks||63|
|5.||Miles Plumlee, Suns||77|
-- by Joe Polito (@JoePo89)
Fantasy is all about the new, the young, the up-and-coming. Right? Well, not always. Sometimes a wily vet is all you need to fill a void in your roster. They make for great insurance when some of the younger, flashier picks (we're looking at you, Terrence Ross) don't pan out. That's why this week I'm going with old reliable Manu Ginobili, whose legs may be 36 years old, but they're fresh, having rested for almost a month.
San Antonio gets Kawhi Leonard back Friday, but with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan resting their bones on the bench, the Spurs are still shorthanded -- especially in the playmaking department. Enter Ginobili, who went for 16 points, five rebounds and four assists in just 19 minutes during his second game back from injury. Chris already wrote about the Patty Mills party up above, so Ginobili represents the trusty backup plan. Before he got hurt, Ginoboli had a nice seven-game stretch of averaging six assists per game. It's reasonable to expect such production out of him as the senior member of the active San Antonio offense. As great as Mills has been, he's only averaged 2.3 assists per game in the month of February.
With the way the Spurs stay in constant motion, assists are out there for the taking. The way I see it, Ginobili is the most capable passer on the active roster, and he'll have the ball in his hands a lot while Duncan and Parker rest. At 61 percent owned, he's a sneaky source of assists while everyone is distracted by Mills' scoring.
Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Knicks, (34 percent): I've been a believer in Tim Jr. since his Michigan days, and it looks like the Knicks are starting to believe a little more too. They shopped Iman Shumpert hard at the deadline, and while it didn't work, Shumpert did sprain his surgically repaired knee the game before the deadline. J.R. Smith might benefit the most, with more time in the starting lineup, but Hardaway will also get a bump in minutes, as he has been lately. He's averaged 2.3 made threes in 29.1 minutes per game over the last 30 days, so if you need threes in a Roto league, I can't think of a better pickup than Hardaway Jr. There isn't much upside, but he plays with great energy and sound fundamentals -- a true shooter as opposed to the streakier Smith and Shumpert. New York has granted him a shining green light to fire away and he's only gotten better as the season has gone on. He's one of the only Knicks capable of actual hustle, so he should be a big part of their playoff push going forward.
Arnett Moultrie, F, 76ers, (8 percent): The 76ers are your neighborhood pizza joint. They were fast, simple and got the job done. But now the owner has decided to swap out two franchise staples for a handful of bizarre, unknown menu items. You love their pizza, but you're not sure which, if any, of their new dishes will become your new favorite. Arnett Moultrie is one of those new pizzas. Spencer Hawes has left 13.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 blocks and 31.4 minutes out on the table, and somebody will lay claim to at least a portion of it. Chris already wrote about Byron Mullens' chances, and it's easy to see he's not brimming with confidence. Well if Mullens is the bacon cheeseburger pizza (as in "it was OK, but I didn't feel great about it"), Moultrie is the mysterious roasted mungbean white pizza (as in "what the hell is a mungbean. Is that even real thing?").
|1.||Tyreke Evans, Pelicans||91|
|2.||Kobe Bryant, Lakers||95|
|3.||Evan Turner, Pacers||99|
|4.||Terrence Jones, Rockets||92|
|5.||Amir Johnson, Raptors||79|
Frankly, I don't know anything about Moultrie. He's only appeared in four games this season, and only averaged 11.5 minutes per game in his 47 games last season. What I do know is that the 76ers have high hopes for him. They sacrificed two draft picks to get him from the Heat in the 2012 draft, and their acquisition of Eric Maynor and draft picks will help pay off what they owe from that deal. Chard Ford called him "an NBA lottery prospect at first glance," so maybe there's hope that his upside will show with increased minutes. He's athletic, versatile and large, so just close your eyes and take a bite. If you don't like the taste, you can always return it for the bacon cheeseburger.
P.J. Tucker, F, Suns, (56 percent owned): I've made it a point to not write about a guy in back-to-back Waiver Wires all year, but Tucker is a worthy exception. Last week I told you about his rebounding and what did Tucker go and do? He went ahead and put together back-to-back double-doubles. His most recent came with a bonus six assists with zero turnovers, putting him at 36 Fantasy points on the night. That doesn't really reflect his game, but the Suns and Tucker are hot right now, and his energy is a big part of it. He's been doing what you've been wanting Ersan Ilyasova to do all year: grab boards, and hit a few threes. Scoring will continue to be his biggest challenge, but Tucker's the best rebounder in the league under 6-foo-6, so consider him a must-add in Roto and a quality streaming option in standard leagues. The suns play four times in Week 18, and Tucker hasn't missed a game all year. Grab him and start him.
Glen Davis/Kyle O'Quinn, C/F, free agent/Magic, (68/5 percent): The Magic bought out of Davis' contract, meaning he'll be playing elsewhere for the rest of the season. If he goes to a contender (I'm predicting a Doc Rivers reunion with the Clippers), then you can ignore him. But in the off chance that he signs with a tanker, then your speculative pickup will pay dividends. Davis has been a sneaky Fantasy play the last two years when he's afforded the space and minutes to do his thing. The safer play in deep leagues would be O'Quinn, who's played 20-plus minutes in back-to-back games. O'quinn is big and uniquely skilled, as he proved by passing out an absurd seven assists two games ago. Tobias Harris might benefit most from Davis' departure, but O'Quinn has a chance to make some noise too. Deep leaguers should keep an eye on him.