February 27, 2020, 5:15 pm
Hey Hoop Ballers! Welcome back to another edition of Deep League Digging – my column scouring the darkest reaches of the fantasy NBA landscape in search of diamonds in the rough for deep league owners.
Here we go again! It is about that time of year where the lucky few fantasy managers in contention for the title turn their sole focus to the playoffs. While remaining cognizant of your team’s strengths and weaknesses and streaming accordingly is important throughout the season, now it truly is time to abandon strict adherence to rankings, ADP and season-long production and focus in on identifying exactly what categories you need. Dropping a season-long top-150 player who is entering a cold spell or who is suddenly having their minutes pinched for a fringe top-250 player who helps out in a specific category of need are the tough decisions that need to be made.
With that in mind, it seemed appropriate to examine the state of the deep-league wire and identify a few players who excel in one or two specific categories. They may not be household names, but when the difference between a first-round bye and an early playoff exit may come down to a few steals, blocks or threes, I guarantee you’ll be remembering these guys moving forward.
In an effort to make this as relevant as possible to all deep-league managers, we’ll be looking at players that are roughly 10 percent rostered or less and zooming in all the way to some potential options for 30-team leagues.
Garrett Temple (7% Rostered) – With Kyrie Irving done for the season, Temple might warrant a closer look beyond just a streaming option in 16-team leagues. He has been playing well lately, hitting 11 threes over his last five games. Temple doesn’t give you much outside of threes, and he can really bludgeon your field goal percentage, but when his shot is falling he is a great source of points and triples with the occasional steal.
Ben McLemore (6% Rostered) – At times this season, it feels like we have somehow slipped into an alternative fantasy hoops universe where Marquese Chriss and Ben McLemore are borderline standard league relevant options. McLemore has had his ups and downs, but held down fringe top-150 value over the course of the season. He is on fire lately, hitting 16 threes over his last five outings, so if you need triples off the wire in deeper formats there aren’t many better options around.
Bryn Forbes (6% Rostered) – While the Spurs bafflingly continue to keep an iron curtain between the minutes of Derrick White and Dejounte Murray, Forbes continues to chug along doing what he does best, shooting a lot of threes. He has some stinkers every now and then, but compared to many other streaming options available in deeper leagues, his efficiency from the floor tends to avoid huge peaks and valleys.
Nicolo Melli (5% Rostered) – Melli enjoyed a strong start to the year then dropped out of the rotation entirely, but has capitalized lately on his reemergence in the Pelicans’ rotation with Derrick Favors continuing to struggle. At this point, he is worth a speculative add to see how long he can keep it up as he sits just outside of the top-100 over the last month. The crazy efficient shooting from deep isn’t likely to stick, but if he is on your wire consider giving him a shot while he’s in inferno mode if you need threes.
Svi Mykhailiuk (3% Rostered) – With Luke Kennard and Bruce Brown missing time, Svi moved into the starting lineup over the Pistons’ last three games. So far, the experience has been a rough one as he is shooting 35 percent from the floor on 6.7 attempts per game and doing very little else from a counting stat perspective. However, he is around on plenty of wires, and if you need a boom-or-bust type three-point streamer he can be useful. He has hit five threes in a game a number of times this season, and pretty regularly can drop in three or four even when he struggles from the floor.
Wesley Matthews (2% Rostered) – At 33 years old, Matthews is noticeably slowing down, but still getting it done from a fantasy perspective for deep league managers. He provides almost nothing else outside of triples, but you have to go 10 games back to find a night where he didn’t hit at least one three, making him a pretty reliable specialist streaming option in 16-team leagues and deeper.
Cameron Johnson (1% Rostered) – Johnson is starting to see a pretty consistent 20ish minutes per night, and if there is one thing we know he can do when the minutes are there it is launch shots from deep and hit them consistently. He is around on plenty of waiver wires, even in 20-team leagues and deeper, so if you need a few triples to win your week and secure playoff seeding, Johnson is a great option that should be widely available.
Jeff Green (1% Rostered) – Since finding a home in Houston, Jeff Green has been lighting it up from downtown as Rockets players are known to do. Don’t expect much more from him (outside of the occasional steal and even rarer block), but he is probably available even in some 30-team leagues where he definitely should be rostered. I’d prefer the consistency of Wes Matthews or Cam Johnson over Green as a streamer in shallower formats, but Mike D’Antoni has given him the green light to chuck it up, and he is more than capable of hitting a few triples per game with the minutes that he is seeing.
Trey Lyles (2% Rostered) – Lyles’ season has been a case study in fantasy mediocrity. Playing just enough minutes to be interesting in deeper formats, but rarely doing enough with the minutes to warrant a roster spot even in 16-team leagues. However, as a specialist streaming option, he does have some appeal in all deep leagues. Lyles is averaging 5.6 rebounds per game in roughly 20 minutes per night over the course of the season, and doing so on a pretty consistent basis. It’s not glamorous, but it’s a living.
JaMychal Green (1% Rostered) – Rebounds are one of the harder categories to stream, particularly in deep leagues, making JaMychal Green and his 6.4 rebounds in roughly 20 minutes per game an A+ streaming option in 16-team leagues and deeper. As is the case with most players discussed here, he really is just a specialist and rarely ever chips in blocks or steals. However, if you are heading into the weekend with a tight margin in the rebound category, Green is an appealing stream option with two games remaining in the week on Friday and Sunday.
Cody Martin (1% Rostered) – Remember what I just said about most of these guys being specialists? Forget that for a minute when considering Cody Martin. The Hornets roster is a mess, and another losing season winds down they appear interested in seeing what they have in Martin (averaging 24 minutes per game over the last four contests). I listed him here as a source of boards as he is averaging 5.8 per night in the last week, but he has pretty solid across-the-board production in assists, steals and blocks. His efficiency from the floor and the line has been abysmal lately, but if you can survive that hit and need rebounds, look his way.
Monte Morris (9% Rostered) – Even with Jamal Murray healthy, Morris has been a steady deep league option in a number of categories lately, averaging 4.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 triples per game while shooting 54 percent from the floor. Depending on what stats you need and whether you need a steady floor or high ceiling, Morris is roster-worthy in 16-team leagues even in a reduced role. In 14-team leagues he is a great assist streamer with production that is about as steady as can be in the category.
Cory Joseph (1% Rostered) – It may not always be pretty to watch on the court, but as a specialist streaming option, Joseph’s 2.8 assists over the last month are useful. The minutes aren’t going anywhere, so as long as you aren’t banking on fantasy production pretty much anywhere else outside of assists, Joseph is worth a look with two games this weekend if you need a handful of assists.
Brad Wanamaker (<1% Rostered) – Wanamaker has been solid lately in an elevated role filling guard minutes opened up by Kemba Walker’s absence. Over the last two weeks, he is averaging 2.8 assists and 0.8 steals per game. That is serviceable production as a streaming option in 16-team leagues and deeper given how hard it is to find dimes on the wire. He’s got a really steady floor, and even when Kemba returns, can still provide specialist value in limited minutes.
Ryan Arcidiacono (<1% Rostered) – With Kris Dunn out now, and a seemingly endless carousel of injuries afflicting the Bulls, Arcidiacono should see a few more minutes off the bench. He is a poor per-minute fantasy producer, but in super deep formats he gives you just enough in the assist category with the upside of a triple or two per game to look at as a streaming option.
Gary Trent Jr. (7% Rostered) – After becoming a human flamethrower for a bit there, Trent is now resembling more of a Bic lighter. There is enough upside there that he is roster-worthy in 16-team leagues and deeper for three and D stats, but in 14-team leagues and shallower is a great boom or bust option for steals (steals collected in his last few games: three, three, one, zero, one, four, four… you get the point I think).
Matisse Thybulle (6% Rostered) – Even with Furkan Korkmaz, Glenn Robinson and Alec Burks getting minutes lately, Thybulle is still getting just enough minutes to be on the fringe of relevance in 16-team leagues if you need steals and blocks. Give him 10 minutes and he will probably get you a steal or two – it really is that simple.
Josh Okogie (5% Rostered) – If Okogie is not on a roster in any 16-team league and deeper, be sure to change that. Over the last month, he is averaging 1.4 steals per game and has replaced Jarrett Culver in the Wolves’ starting lineup. He doesn’t chip in a ton outside of steals, but does just enough in terms of boards, triples and blocks to warrant a roster spot.
Alex Caruso (3% Rostered) – Caruso has been a bright spot for the Lakers off the bench all season. While it doesn’t seem likely that he will get a huge boost in minutes anytime soon, as a deep league steals streamer with the potential to go off for some high-assist games, Caruso has been about as reliable as they come. As a streamer, his ceiling is significantly lower than a guy like Gary Trent or even Shaq Harrison below, but if you are looking for a nice ground ball single instead of a grand slam Caruso is your guy.
Michael Carter-Williams (1% Rostered) – MCW has been stepping up lately, and could begin eating into some of D.J. Augustin’s minutes. Regardless of whether his role expands from here, in roughly 20 minutes per night over the last month Carter-Williams is averaging 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals per night. Not bad for someone who, at the moment, might even be on a few wires in 20-team leagues and deeper. His steal production is more of the peaks and valleys type so proceed with caution in 16-team leagues, but keep MCW in mind if you need a few swipes.
Lugentz Dort (1% Rostered) – Dort has come on lately since usurping Terrance Ferguson’s spot in the starting lineup. In roughly 24 minutes per night over the last two weeks, he is averaging 1.8 steals per game with a bonus 1.0 triples on top. That is fantastic per-minute defensive production, however the rest of his stat set is a barren fantasy wasteland (8.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, zero blocks). Also, given his track record of collecting bunches of steals or none, Dort is definitely a high ceiling/low floor type option.
Shaq Harrison (<1% Rostered) – Similar to Arcidiacono, the injury plagued status of the Bulls opens up some minute for Harrison. I’ve long been a fan of his fantasy game, as he has proven game in and game out to be one of the more reliable sources of steals in deep leagues. So far, this recent run of playing time over the past week is no different as he is averaging a steal per game over the last week in only 18 minutes a night. He’s around pretty much everywhere, and is worth a speculative add in 18-team leagues and deeper. In shallower formats, consider him a high-end steals streamer with a rock solid floor.
Chris Boucher (4% Rostered) – Chris Boucher blocks a lot of shots. Over his past three outings he has collected nine blocks. The problem is, his playing time is completely sporadic, and largely dependent on injuries to other bigs in the Raptors rotation. While Gasol is out, Boucer is an elite blocks streamer and even roster-worthy in 16-team leagues. However, once Gasol returns to the lineup, he is just as likely to see a DNP as he is to block two shots in six minutes, making him a super risky streaming option in all formats.
John Henson (2% Rostered) – Good old John Henson is back to his shot blocking specialist ways now that he is freed from the eternal torment that is the Cavs big man rotation. Since joining the Pistons six games back, Henson has blocked eight shots while averaging around 20 minutes per game off the bench. If an extra swat or two is what stands between you and fantasy glory in the playoffs, you could do a lot worse than Henson as a streamer in most deep leagues.
Bismack Biyombo (1% Rostered) – Biyombo drew the start over Cody Zeller in the Hornets’ last outing, and put up a fantastic line with five boards, one steal and four blocks in 27 minutes. The problem is, there is no guarantee that he will see even close to the amount of playing time moving forward even if he continues to start. If you are feeling risky, Biyombo is a great boom or bust blocks streamer this weekend with two games on Friday and Sunday.
Daniel Gafford (1% Rostered) – Gafford is getting plenty of run lately with Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen still on the shelf. Over the last week he is averaging 1.3 blocks per game in around 20 minutes of action per night. He is his own worst enemy at times, fouling himself off the floor, but at least until we know more about WCJ, Gafford is a great source of blocks off the wire in 16-team leagues and deeper. Luke Kornet’s likely season-ending injury helps his case, too.
Grant Williams (1% Rostered) – It has been rough going for the Celtics’ rookie big lately, posting some eye-poppingly bad lines over the last week. Over the past two weeks, pretty much the lone bright spot in his production has been the 0.6 blocks in 15 minutes per night. Williams is pretty much only a break glass in case of emergency type streamer in super deep formats, but at times this season he has been a pretty consistent source of blocks even if nothing else in his fantasy game is working.
Isaac Bonga (<1% Rostered) – Bonga is still super raw, and it shows. However, the Wizards have still been rolling him out for about 20ish minutes per night, and in that time over the last month he is averaging 0.6 blocks per game with 3.8 boards. The blocks come inconsistently, but similar to Williams, if you are absolutely in desperate need of a block or two in 20-team leagues and deeper, Bonga is not a terrible bet given how steady his playing time has been lately.
April 6, 2020, 9:11 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
NBA teams will not be allowed to conduct in-person or live video workouts for NBA Draft prospects but will be allowed up to four hours of virtual meetings per prospect.
Whenever the draft happens, it will be with the least amount of research in quite a while. Teams will be without tournament game tape for college prospects and without the ability to watch live workouts. Combined with a lack of consensus on who the best players are, this could lead to a wild draft with the eventual best players going much later than usual.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
April 6, 2020, 8:36 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Adam Silver said there will be no way to know the NBA season's fate until at least May 1st.
It's not much of a surprise to hear that Silver doesn't expect to have enough information to make a determination about the season until next month at the very least. He also mentioned that the NBA has looked a lot at games without fans.
Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter
April 6, 2020, 5:15 pmTyrese MaxeySG, College
Tyrese Maxey has declared for the NBA draft.
The freshman from Kentucky finished the college season with averages of 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 dimes, 0.9 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.1 threes per contest. Maxey is gifted with a tremendous knack for scoring and has the looks of a lottery selection, though obviously this draft season could be a very strange one.
Source: Malika Andrews on Twitter
April 5, 2020, 8:40 pmDennis Smith Jr.PG, New York Knicks
Marc Berman of the New York Post is reporting that with new leadership in place for the Knicks, the team is likely to shop Dennis Smith Jr. this offseason.
Knicks President Leon Rose has no attachment to Smith, and with head coach David Fizdale and assistant coach Keith Smart no longer around to justify his retention, there is little reason for the Knicks to continue relying upon DSJ's services. He struggled all season, from a back injury, to the loss of his stepmother, to an obscure oblique injury, and a concussion in February. Smith will be worth a flyer for another team to roll the dice on, but it is unlikely he gets a real chance to be the Knicks point guard of the future again. It will be difficult for Smith to become a standard league option no matter where he is playing next season. He is simply too lousy a shooter from the field and free-throw line. His turnover rate also remains an issue in 9-CAT formats.
Source: NY Post
April 5, 2020, 8:22 pmAshton HagansPG, College
Sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans announced his intention to leave Kentucky and enter the 2020 NBA Draft.
Hagans is projected to be a late second-round target for the draft and is unlikely to make noise as a rookie in the NBA. One has to hope he lands on a team devoid of point guard options to let Hagans emerge with much fantasy value as a rookie. He averaged 11.5 points, 6.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game while serving as the starting point guard throughout this season with the Wildcats.
Source: UK Athletics
April 5, 2020, 8:11 pmTheo MaledonPG, International
French point guard Theo Maledon has completed all of the required paperwork to make himself eligible to be selected in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Maledon is an up-and-coming prospect who will be only 18 years young on draft day. He was a contender to take home the Rising Star award based upon his play in the Euroleague this season before the action was cut short due to the coronavirus. He's been in the French system since he was 14 and is considered a pick just outside the NBA lottery on many draft boards. He was averaging 7.1 points and 2.3 assists in 17 minutes of action.
April 4, 2020, 9:49 pmZach LaVinePG, Chicago Bulls
Pacers GM Chad Buchanan declined to interview for the Bulls' top basketball operations position.
Buchanan said he and his family are happy in Indianapolis and he is not interested in leaving. The Bulls are clearly moving fast with building their new front office after the announcement that GM Gar Forman and VP of Basketball Ops John Paxson are expected to move to different roles in the organization. A change in the front office and coaching staff could only be positive for fantasy purposes as the Bulls rank 29th in offensive rating this season. Hopefully a change would bring a more fantasy-friendly system with an emphasis on developing the younger talent on the roster.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
April 4, 2020, 9:09 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
The NBA and ESPN are working together to televise a H-O-R-S-E competition with several high-profile players.
Woj reported that the details of this competition are still being finalized, but it sounds like players will shoot in isolation, most likely in their home gyms. This would be a much needed source of entertainment for everyone who loves the NBA and, with bragging rights on the line, we would likely see some stellar performances from the NBA's best players.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
April 4, 2020, 8:51 pmLauri MarkkanenPF, Chicago Bulls
According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Lauri Markkanen had been unhappy with the direction of the Bulls organization even before the league went on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Markkanen was so displeased, in fact, that he went on to state that if the situation were to remain unchanged, he'd prefer to be elsewhere. The Bulls power forward was a fantasy mess in 2019-20 and some of that could be attributed to the coach and some of it, to his injuries. Still, his statements put the team in a rough spot. considering Markkanen has been widely regarded as a core piece of their future plans. The Bulls are already shaking things up though, making moves towards freshening things up in the front office. The Markkanen-Bulls relationship is a must-watch storyline, especially given his potential in fantasy hoops.
Source: Chicago Sun-Times.
April 4, 2020, 4:45 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Speaking on ESPN on Friday, Brian Windhorst said that there has been increasing pessimism about the NBA season resuming.
Windhorst noted that the league has begun to discuss the financial ramifications of shutting the league down, and we've seen reports about the league looking for players to take paycuts as a result of the season's uncertain future. The fact that the CBA in China was set to resume and then delayed again is an ominous sign with NBA markets nowhere near the apex of COVID-19.