February 1, 2018, 3:29 pm
Hey Hoop Ballers! Welcome back to another edition of Deep League Digging – my weekly column scouring the darkest reaches of the fantasy NBA landscape in search of diamonds in the rough for deep league owners.
Call it a personal preference, or perhaps even a bit of O.C.D., but I generally keep these articles limited to a very specific theme (waiver wire, trades, G League etc.). However, the frenetic pace of the NBA news machine over the past week simply won’t allow for a neat and tidy look at the deep league fantasy landscape. So buckle up, because this week we will be taking a rapid-fire – in no particular order – look at fantasy ramifications from all of the major headlines across the league.
As always, I’ll be generally focusing on players that are less than 5-percent owned, since that is roughly the level of player available in leagues with 16-teams or more. However, since we are taking a broader look around the league today, I’ll expand the horizons out to players around the 20-percent ownership range.
Et Tu, Boogie?
It didn’t look even remotely good when Boogie went down last Friday. Still, even after preparing for bad news, hearing that Cousins tore his Achilles and will miss the remainder of the season (and likely some of next) felt like a punch to the gut. Add this to what has already been a season with several career-altering injuries, and Boogie himself summed the feeling up best in a tweet “This S*** Sucks.” Cousins remains one of the more rare physical specimens in the NBA, so hopefully we see a full recovery and return to dominance sooner rather than later.
As for the deep league fantasy fallout – Darius Miller (28% owned) is probably the player that stands to benefit the most from Boogie’s absence, but outside of some very shallow 16-team leagues, odds are good that he is already on someone’s roster. Dante Cunningham (4% owned) is next in line for a possible pickup, but he left Tuesday’s game with a lower back injury and there is no word on his status yet going forward. If the injury is only minor, Cunningham is worth a look in 16-team leagues and deeper. Omer Asik (<1% owned) and Cheick Diallo (1% owned) also stand to see increased minutes. Both have been essentially out of the rotation up until this point, so it is unlikely that either of them becomes relevant in anything much shallower than 30-team leagues.
If you are swinging for the fences with a speculative add, Diallo is by far the stronger option. He has youth and upside in his favor, and has shown flashes of fantasy brilliance in the past. However, it seems unlikely that he earns more than a 10-15 minute role per game – especially as the Pelicans will probably look to add depth to their frontcourt as the deadline approaches.
Canning Mike Conley
First we cringed when hearing that an injury prone veteran guard had a banged up Achilles, but there was hope for his rest of season prospects. Then weeks went by with no definitive timetable for return, and then months, and then finally this week, Conley owners heard the news that we had been dreading (and possibly quietly accepted already) – Conley will undergo surgery on his left heel and miss the remainder of the season.
So what are the implications of this news? Well, aside from Conley’s trade value going from pennies on the dollar to completely eviscerated, not a whole lot changes. He has already been out since mid-November, so players that have enjoyed an increased role in his absence like Mario Chalmers, Dillon Brooks and Andrew Harrison will likely continue to produce at roughly the same rate.
That said, if the Grizzlies embrace a full on tank, there is little incentive for them to continue trotting out 31-year old Mario Chalmers (9% owned) for 25-plus minutes per night. Chalmers is the name to look for right now as a deep league waiver wire pick up, but know that he could see his minutes are divvyed out to the younger core of guards in Memphis down the stretch. In 16-team leagues you should probably add Dillon Brooks (11% owned) if he is still around, and keep an eye on Andrew Harrison (1% owned) and two-way player, Kobi Simmons (<1% owned) in deeper formats.
Balls to the Wall to Pick Up Wizards’ Reserve Guards
Well, we might as well keep this pain train rolling. This week the Wizards announced that John Wall will need surgery to scope out is his left knee after missing the last two contests. This one came seemingly out of nowhere, as Wall went from doubtful with a knee soreness, to essentially out for the remainder of the fantasy season in a matter of two days.
For deep league owners, Tomas Satoransky (1% owned) and Tim Frazier (<1% owned) stand to see a sizeable bump in playing time moving forward. Beyond the fact that Satoransky is eligible in ESPN leagues at both point guard and small forward, while Tim Frazier is bafflingly only shooting guard eligible, Satoransky is the higher upside play of the two.
It is unlikely that either will win the starting job outright and snatch the bulk of Wall’s minutes, but Satoransky appears to be the early favorite to come out on top in a time-share. He has drawn the start in the two recent games that Wall has missed so far, and has delivered some plentiful lines in those minutes. In equal minutes, Frazier may replace more of Wall’s lost assists, but Satoransky has a far more diverse stat set. The possibility remains that one outplays the other, or the Wizards alternate their minutes each night and go with a hot-hand approach, but for the moment both are worth an add in 16-team leagues and deeper until we see how this plays out.
Kevin Love Breaks His Hand (And Our Hearts)
This is the part where Ashton Kutcher runs in and tells us we have all been duped in the most elaborate episode of Punk’d ever, right? I’m holding out hope for that to be the case, but until then, it is time to face the reality that yet another early-round player will be out for what basically amounts to the rest of the fantasy season.
Beyond the miniature resurgence of Jeff Green (10% owned) this season, the Cavaliers reserve corps have been a barren fantasy wasteland for the most part. The aforementioned Jeff Green is probably the best bet for a pickup, but odds are that he is already rostered in many deep leagues. That makes Channing Frye (1% owned) next in line for waiver wire consideration.
He soaked up a lot of the extra minutes on Tuesday after Love left in the first quarter, and posted 20 points on 67 percent shooting with six rebounds, four triples and two blocks. That is an outlier performance, but the extra bump in usage moves Frye into the territory of at least a high-end 3-point streaming option in shallow 16-team leagues – if not back end roster worthy in formats with deeper benches.
Ante Zizic (<1% owned) and Cedi Osman (<1% owned) have hardly been worth owning in even 30-team leagues up until now, and that will probably remain the case, as the Cavaliers are not likely to turn big minutes over to either young and unproven player as long as they stay in must-win-now-at-all-costs mode. Still, it is worth adding both Zizic and Osman to your watch list in extremely deep leagues and staying vigilant for any signs of life.
Andre Roberson Out
I’ve hit my limit of incredulousness at this point, so let’s just get straight into this one. Andre Roberson is done for the year after suffering a patellar tendon tear in his left leg. Roberson had been locked in at a roughly 27-minute per game starting role so far this season, but parsing out how his minutes will be dispersed is not an exact science.
So far this season, rookie guard Terrance Ferguson (2% owned) has drawn several starts in Roberson’s stead. That will likely continue to the be case moving forward, but even in what will almost certainly be the extra minutes heading his way, he isn’t worth more than a speculative add in 16-team leagues with added streaming appeal for steals. He should probably be rostered in larger leagues, but don’t expect a huge bump in production. Alex Abrines (<1% owned) and Josh Huestis (<1% owned) will probably also see a few extra minutes, but they are categorical specialists (threes and blocks respectively) that are only worth looking at adding outside of a streaming spot in 30-team leagues.
Isaiah Canaan Done for the Season
Ugh, this is a bit of a peek behind the curtain, but I had most of this article done last night before Isaiah Canaan suffered a gruesome ankle injury. Surely, there couldn’t be yet another season ending injury to cover, right? Well guess again – and you have to really feel for Canaan on this one. He came out of nowhere after being signed by the Suns in December to post career-high assist numbers over his 19-game run. He’s made his career as a journeyman, so let’s all hope that he can come back to prove that his journey isn’t over quite yet.
As for the fantasy fallout, Tyler Ulis (2% owned) and Troy Daniels (5% owned) stand to see the biggest bump from this. After starting for much of the season, Ulis has only registered around 15 minutes per game over the past two weeks. He will probably move his way back towards a 20-25 minute per night role with Canaan done for the season, but he has been pretty uninspiring this season with similar playing time. Feel free to add Ulis in all deep leagues on the promise of some form of resurgence, but keep expectations tempered. Much of the same can be said for Daniels, but he is probably best utilized as a high-end three point streamer since that is really all you will reliably get from him.
Blockbuster Trade in La La Land
Finally, something to cover that isn’t injury related. In a true fairytale ending, Kia Spokesman Blake Griffin is headed to the promised land in Motor City, while Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris make their to sunny Los Angeles. Those are the major parts of the deal, but if you’ve made it this far in the article, I can only assume you’d rather hear all about the fantasy implications of this move further down the depth chart.
Let’s start with the Pistons. They sent Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley and Boban Marjanovic and landed Blake Griffin, Willie Reed and Brice Johnson in return. Willie Reed (<1% owned) is ranked just outside of the top-300 on the season in around 11 minutes per game. I really don’t see his situation changing much unless he wins the backup center job outright over Eric Moreland (<1% owned). If you own Reed or Moreland in 30-team leagues, don’t make any sudden moves with either of them until we see how this plays out, but know that one of them will likely start to rack up more DNPs as the season progresses. If I had to make a call now, I’d lean towards Reed ending the season in a better position.
Reggie Bullock (4% owned) is now must-own in all deep-league formats. He’s already been starting for some time, but with Avery Bradley out of the way, Bullock should step into a locked in 30-plus minute per night role moving forward. He can be streaky, and I seriously doubt that the 53-percent shooting that has propelled him into the top-50 over the past three games continues, but as long as the minutes are there a top-125 finish for Bullock is not out of the question.
With Bullock now the presumed starter at the two guard moving forward, Stanley Johnson (3% owned) should also see a sizable bump in playing time as long as he holds onto his role as the presumed starting three. I think Bullock ends the year higher, but Johnson provides a richer stat set than the three and D heavy Bullock if you can stomach his punt-worthy shooting efficiency. Johnson needs to show more consistency before he can be anointed to must-own status in 16-team leagues (a lot of that also depends on team build), but he should probably be on someone’s roster.
Finally, let’s touch on Luke Kennard (5% owned). He’s averaging only 18 minutes per game on the season, but even before the trade was announced Kennard has steadily worked his way into a 23 minutes per night over the past two weeks. I don’t see any reason for that trend to reverse, and he could end the year in around a 30-minute per game role. How long it takes for him to reach that is anyone’s guess, but his stock is rising. I’d probably use a speculative upside add to pick up Kennard over Stanley Johnson, but they are both fairly inconsistent, so much of that will come down to what your team needs. Like Johnson, he is not quite must-own at this point, but is probably one of the highest upside plays on the wire in a 16-team league at this point in the season.
Okay, I know the question on everyone’s mind – #FREEBOBAN???? It is somewhat of a meme at this point, but we are all familiar with the ludicrous per 36 production of Boban Marjanovic (2% owned). The thought is, if he can get a consistent 15-20 minute role per night, he is nearly a lock for the top-100. The problem is, throughout his career he has proven to be simply too big and too much of a defensive liability to earn consistent rotation minutes. Does that change on the Clippers? I don’t think it really does – putting on a new jersey doesn’t change the very real flaws in his game. The departure of Willie Reed and Brice Johnson leaves reserve big man minutes open, but my guess is that Montrezl Harrell (11% owned) benefits from that the most. Harrell is probably already owned in most deep leagues, but he is worth a strong look if he is available, and if you’re feeling lucky, consider a speculative lottery ticket type add on Boban.
Unfortunately for the recently signed two-way sensation Tyrone Wallace (6% owned), the addition of Avery Bradley probably spells the end of his run. Since signing a two-way deal with the clippers in early January, Wallace has been a reliable top-200 player. That always destined to come to an end when Austin Rivers was healthy again, but the addition of Bradley only drives the stake in further. Sell off Wallace now if you can before he likely falls out of the rotation entirely. Wesley Johnson (15% owned) is another sell-high candidate, though that has more to do with the return of Danilo Gallinari than anything else. The additions of Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley will only hurt his value further though.
Can you Snell what the Bucks are Cooking?
The newly Jason Kidd-less Bucks are rolling, winning each of their last four games since parting ways with Kidd. In that span, Tony Snell (4% owned) has started two games and averaged 8.0 points on 53-percent shooting with 2.0 threes, 1.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals and 0.3 blocks. That is not overly exciting outside the two triples per game on efficient shooting, but it is good enough to have him ranked inside the top-170 in that span.
While it isn’t likely that you can sell-high (be glad I didn’t say Snell-high) on him in the traditional sense, a return of any locked-in top-175 asset could be chalked up as a win. Hot shooting well above his 47-percent average this season has propelled this recent run of fantasy relevance almost entirely, so there is plenty of room for regression.
Add in the imminent return of Jabari Parker to the rotation, and Snell’s path to reliable minutes gets even more complicated. Parker will almost certainly return with a minutes limit, and the Bucks will likely play it safe and keep him limited for some time, but his return only adds to case for selling as high as you can on Snell.
Jarrett Allen is still good
Finally, I’d be remiss not to make what is becoming my weekly plug for Jarrett Allen (5% owned). He was a strong stash candidate earlier this year, and it seems that the stash window may be slamming shut. In his first two career NBA starts, he has averaged 14 points on 92-percent shooting (going perfect at the line) with 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 block in 23 minutes.
In what is perhaps the most obvious take of the year, I can safely assert that he will not continue to shoot over 90-percent from the field, but shooting well over 50-percent is within reach for Allen. He doesn’t need more than 25 minutes per night to have top-100 upside, so run, don’t walk to the wire and snatch Allen if owners in your league are still sleeping on the rookie big man.