• 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.

    The calendar has turned over to March, and that means only one thing in the fantasy hoops world – playoff time. Depending on how your league is set up, some of you may still have another week or two before postseason action kicks off, but for many owners, this is the beginning of do or die season.

    It is the cruel nature of head-to-head formats that can make them so entertaining. The reality is that sometimes an entire season of scrupulous trades and diligent work on the waiver wire can be upended by one injury, missed chance, or poor decision. All the while, the NBA silly season is starting to gear up, making roster decisions even more difficult. Relatively unknown players are heating up down the stretch, and some of the… ummm… “retooling” teams are kicking the tires on younger players that have been relegated to bench duty behind established veterans until this point.

    With that in mind, let’s take a look at some players that have made waves lately and see whether they are worth an immediate look (the end of this week is all that matters right now for some owners), and also examine some players that have provided solid value over the past few months, but may need to be tossed to the curb.

    Heating Up

    Trey Burke (20% owned) – Burke has been lights out from the field over his last three games. He is shooting 54 percent from the field on 19 attempts per game, averaging 23.3 points per game with 1.7 threes, 6.3 assists and a steal over that stretch. He has been up and down this season, so all signs point to regression; however, Jarrett Jack appears to be out of the rotation at this point so he should continue to see some decent run alongside Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina. The Knicks play two games this weekend, so Burke is a strong boom or bust option for points, threes and assists if you need a homerun to keep your season alive.

    Montrezl Harrell (15% owned) Harrell has been on some kind of tear lately down the stretch. He is averaging 16 points on 65 percent shooting with one block in 23 minutes per game over the Clippers’ last four games. Much of his value comes from blocks, but as a highly efficient inside presence, he can also hang some big scoring numbers when the touches are there. He should continue to see this sort of run for as long as Danilo Gallinari remains sidelined, and the Clippers have a solid playoff schedule with two games this weekend and three games next week against favorable matchups. He may already be owned, but give Harrell a hard look in all deep leagues.

    Tyrone Wallace (9% owned) – NOTE: Wallace has used up the 45-days allotted on his two-way deal with the Clippers. He will remain in the G-League unless the Clippers sign him to a full contract for the remainder of the season. However, if news breaks that Wallace is signed, he is a strong short-term add candidate as detailed below.

    Following some impressive stretches of play filling in for a banged up Clippers squad, Wallace essentially fell out of the rotation after the Clippers acquired Avery Bradley and Danilo Gallinari returned. Now, Bradley will likely be sitting for at least another week and Gallinari finds himself on the injury report yet again. Depending on the severity of Gallinari’s injury, Wallace may only have short-term value, but the two game weekend against the Knicks and Nets makes Wallace a priority add for owners in playoff weeks. He has a chance to put up top-100 numbers this weekend, so don’t be shy about cutting dead weight loose to add him for two games if the rest of your season is on the line. Wesley Johnson should also see decent minutes for as long as Gallinari is out, but he is more of a boom or bust option for defensive stats and threes.

    Jakob Poeltl (8% owned) – Poeltl’s primary value comes as a shot blocker, but can also give owners a nice rebounding lift with efficient, but low-volume, scoring. After seeing consistently inconsistent minutes throughout the season, he has settled into a steady 22-minute per night role over the past month, and is ranked inside the top-20 in the last week on some gaudy block numbers. His minutes shouldn’t be going anywhere, the last time he failed to register a block was all the way back on February 1st, and the Raptors play two games this weekend with a four game slate lined up next week against favorable matchups. If Poeltl is already owned, look for Pascal Siakam in deeper formats.

    Jordan Bell (6% owned) – It is a bit of stretch to say that Bell is “heating up” heading into the fantasy playoffs – he has played two games since returning from an ankle injury that has kept him out for 14 games. His first game back was far from eye popping (13 minutes, three points, one rebound, three assists, one block), but it was a good sign that he played 13 minutes despite the questionable tag heading into the contest. The second game was not as strong but he still has the stat set to be a difference maker down the stretch. Bell won’t give you a ton outside of blocks, so like a lot of guys on this list it depends what your team needs, but he has a strong four game schedule next week if you can tolerate a bit of risk as he ramps back up into action.

    Jarell Martin (3% owned) – Tyreke Evans suffered a rib injury last weekend and has missed the past two games, opening a window for Jarell Martin to see increased run. He was already getting pretty good burn (averaging 28 minutes per game over the past month), but he does get a slight nudge up as long as Evans remains sidelined. I’m more interested in the Grizzlies’ schedule. Memphis has two games this weekend and four games next week. Albeit the four game week is mostly against sub-par matchups, but the volume is too juicy to ignore. Martin can give you a lift in blocks with modest contributions across the board. Deyonta Davis (1% owned) is another Grizzlies big man that I have my eye on in the playoffs. He has been dealing with injuries lately, but is putting up near top-100 value in his first four games back. It looks like he may be sidelined with yet another injury, so keep an eye on his status prior to the Grizzlies’ next game on Friday against the Nuggets. If you are deciding between adding Martin and Davis, Davis should provide a bigger lift in blocks and rebounds with more efficient shooting, while Martin is more of a generalist who can get some blocks and rebounds with more potential for steals and threes.

    Shaquille Harrison (<1% owned) – I’m with you on this one… who? Harrison was brought up from the G-League and signed by the Suns on a 10-day contract in late February. In his four games with the Suns, Harrison is averaging 2.3 points per game on 33-percent shooting with 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.0 steals and 0.8 blocks in 11 minutes per game. That steals average is impressive, and is buoyed by not one, but two, four steal games. The Suns are giving Harrison a chance to show what he can do, as Tyler Ulis has not stepped on the court since Harrison signed the 10-day deal. His play has been inconsistent, but the per minute production on defense has been unreal so far. The Suns play two games this weekend, so if you find yourself in need of a few steals to seal the deal, give Harrison look.

    Isaiah Taylor (<1% owned) – Taylor hasn’t really done much to warrant consideration outside of 30-team leagues so far this season, but has shown some flashes in over the past few weeks as he assumed the backup point guard role behind Dennis Schroder. Taylor is averaging 15.3 points on 62-percent shooting with 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 23 minutes per game over his last three outings. Don’t expect efficiency like that to continue, but he is a solid addition for deep league owners needing a bump in assists and steals to finish out the week. The Hawks only play three games next week, so whether he is worth holding at that point will be highly team dependent, but odds are that a streaming spot would provide more value over the week.

    Cristiano Felicio (<1% owned) – The definitely-not-tanking Bulls recently announced that Felicio would take over the starting center job while Robin Lopez assumes the role of a highly paid Sideshow Bob look-alike on the bench. The early returns for Felicio haven’t been stellar, but he is cracking the top-175 in just under 25 minutes per game. He won’t give you much outside of rebounding and efficient low-volume scoring and only plays once this weekend, but could provide a decent return over next week’s four game stretch. There are better options in 16-team leagues, but Felicio is worth a look in playoff formats if you need a few extra boards due to his favorable schedule next week.

    Cooling Off

    Davis Bertans (2% owned) – Following a string of strong starting performances, Bertans has been steadily losing minutes in recent contests. Rudy Gay and LaMarcus Aldridge were both sidelined during the stretch games of Bertans started, so he was always destined to come back to earth at some point. Pau Gasol is likely to miss some time with a bone bruise in his knee, so it is likely that Bertans picks up some of those minutes, but don’t expect him to match earlier production. The Spurs only have one game this weekend, and play three games next week against less than favorable matchups, so feel free to move on short of 30-team leagues if your season is on the line.

    Luke Kennard (2% owned) – Following the departure of Avery Bradley, things were looking up for Kennard. Cold water was quickly thrown on that notion as the Luke Kennard hype-train turned more into a hype-jalopy, and at this point is probably more of a hype-horse and buggy. It has been rough over the past month, as he continues to lose minutes (he is averaging 13 minutes per game over the last week) and his confidence appears to be completely rattled. Detroit does have a back-to-back this weekend, but draws a pretty unfavorable three game slate next week. If you are still holding in 16-team leagues, you can move on to greener pastures (or faster hype-trains).

    Khem Birch (1% owned) – In the two games since Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic returned to the lineup, Birch has played five total minutes. He was always destined to lose minutes when the Magic were healthy, and it looks like at this point he will be out of the rotation on most night moving forward. Owners can move on from Birch in all deep leagues. The same can largely be said for Bismack Biyombo (22% owned). He should remain in the rotation as the backup center, but will probably be relegated to 15-20 minutes per night. He is fine to hold in deeper leagues if you need the blocks – the Magic play two games this weekend and four next week – but it is fine cut bait for a streaming spot or higher upside option in 16-team leagues.

    Maxi Kleber (1% owned) – Kleber played his way into must-own status in deep leagues earlier this season, but has since lost his grip on the starting job and seen his production fall off a cliff. Since being relieved of starting duty, Kleber is averaging 3.7 points per game on 42-percent shooting with 2.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.1 steals and 0.4 blocks in 13 minutes per game. At this point, it is not a guarantee that he will play on any given night, so feel free to move on in all leagues.

    That’s all for this week! I’ll be back next Thursday as we continue to march down the stretch of this fantasy season. As always, feel free to connect with me on twitter: @z_bodhane.

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