• 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.

    Tonight marks the final game of regular season action prior to the All-Star festivities commencing on Friday. A weekend where the NBA and all in its orbit take a collective sigh of relief, and kick back to enjoy the best players in the world put on a show.

    We all know the big names taking part in the contests this weekend, but what about the those reserves and role players? Well, fear not, because they are about to their time in the spotlight here in the inaugural Deep League Digging All-Star Edition.

    As always, I’ll be focusing on the lesser owned players that may be available in 16-team leagues and deeper. For the purpose of this article, that is set at roughly 11% ownership in Yahoo! leagues. The selection process for this All-Star list was subjective. The player list is incomplete. But all that said, I hope that you all have as much fun reading this as I did pulling it together.

    Rising Stars Game

    Team U.S.

    Fred VanVleet (11% owned) – After spending most of the season in the shadow of Delon Wright, VanVleet made a big push over the past month to land himself on this list. Over his last 12 games, he is averaging 11.8 points on 50-percent shooting with 1.8 triples, 3.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.2 steals in 21 minutes per game. The 50/50 timeshare for backup minutes with Wright going forward will cap both guards’ upside, but he is worth owning in all deep leagues.

    Josh Hart (9% owned) – Hart is included here based on the resume that he has built so far rather than my optimism about him going forward. He has been a top-50 player in his last six games, but all of that has come in the absence of Lonzo Ball. When Ball is healthy, it is hard to see Hart holding onto the starters minutes that he has been playing, making him more of a top-200 player than top-100 candidate. He is still worth holding in all deep leagues, but temper expectations.

    Bam Adebayo (7% owned) – Adebayo has put up some monstrous lines this season off the bench for the heat including a 16 and 15 double-double with five blocks. He has top-100 upside as long as Kelly Olynyk is out, and his stat set is diverse enough to warrant holding in all deep leagues when he returns to a 20 minute per game role.

    Jordan Bell (6% owned) – He has been sidelined since mid-January with an ankle injury, but was on a tear once he found a consistent role in the rotation. He will probably see plenty of DNPs going forward, but on a per game basis, there aren’t likely many guys with his upside on the wire. Bell is not must own in all deep leagues given the uncertainty about his return and playing time down the stretch, but is worth holding if you can spare the roster spot.

    Sterling Brown (1% owned) – The 23-year old guard was selected in the second round of the 2017 NBA draft. He was out of the rotation early in the season, but has carved out a pretty consistent 20 minute per game role since early-January. He has a shot at cracking the top-200 as long as he stays in the rotation, so give him a look in 18-team leagues and larger.

    Deyonta Davis (1% owned) – Davis was one of my favorite stash candidates prior to falling victim to a mysterious bout of knee soreness that has caused him to miss the past three games. It is buoyed by some outlier performances, but he was posting top-150 numbers in the 10 games prior to his injury. You would be hard pressed to find a better source of blocks on the wire in deep leagues, and he is lined up for a strong stretch run on the sliding Grizzlies if he can stay healthy, so consider a speculative add in 20-team leagues and larger.

    Team World

    Jakob Poeltl (5% owned) – Despite the constant struggle for minutes in the crowded Raptors’ frontcourt, Poeltl has managed to post top-175 value on the season in only 18 minutes per game. That is probably close to what we can expect moving forward, but even at the level of production, he is worth owning in all deep leagues.

    Thon Maker (5% owned)John Henson’s strong play this season has relegated Maker to streamer status outside of 20-team leagues, but when Henson misses time Maker has shown promise. I wouldn’t buy into that too much as Henson isn’t slated to miss much more time. He is fine to own in 20-team leagues and larger, but probably shouldn’t be deployed as more than a blocks streamer in shallower formats.

    Frank Ntilikina (5% owned) – It seemed like Ntilikina was heading for a potentially big stretch run on a sputtering Knicks squad, but the trade for Emmanuel Mudiay put the brakes on that notion. We don’t have much of a sample size to judge the Mudiay/Ntilikina combo, but it is likely that this turns into a timeshare for both players. They are both fine to own given the scarcity of assists, but don’t expect much more than back-end value from either player in 18-team leagues and shallower

    OG Anunoby (2% owned) – Most owners aren’t running to the wire to grab Anunoby, but he has been holding it down for deep league owners in need of 3 and D stats on the back of their rosters. He has settled into a fairly consistent 20 minute per night role, and should continue to see around that run going forward making him a must-own player in 20-team leagues and deeper.

    Pascal Siakam (1% owned) – Nearly everything said for Poeltl above applies for Siakam. He hasn’t been quite as valuable overall, but brings a different stat set to the table. I’d lean towards Poeltl for typical big man stats, and give Siakam the edge if you are looking for some steals and a less detrimental impact at the line.

    Cheick Diallo (1% owned) – If this were based entirely on season-long production, Diallo would not have cracked the list. He has been out of the rotation for most of the year, but the injury to DeMarcus Cousins opened up a slim window of opportunity for Diallo. He is playing around 15 minutes per game since the injury, and posting top-150 numbers. I don’t see him earning many more minutes, but he is a prolific per minute producer, so keep him your watch list in 16-team leagues and consider cheicking the box and adding him in anything deeper.

    Skills Challenge

    Delon Wright (7% owned) – Wright may win the award (next to Jarrett Allen) for most mentions this season here on Deep League Digging. His game isn’t flashy, but he is putting up back-end standard league value in only 22 minutes a night. His offensive evolution is still in progress, but he is a great source of money counters that won’t hurt your percentages.

    D.J. Augustin (2% owned) – The Elfrid Payton trade made Augustin a must-own player in all deep leagues. He hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire since joining the starting rotation, but is still posting top-125 numbers despite a horrific 30-percent efficiency from the field. That will correct itself – he is still must-own. Shelvin Mack (1% owned) is the name to look for in deeper formats. Augustin is still the better pickup if available, but the early indication is that the two he will split minutes nearly evenly, making him must-own in 18-team leagues and larger and worth a look in 16-team leagues if Augustin is already owned.

    Devin Harris (<1% owned) – It is hard to believe that Harris isn’t owned in more leagues given his top-250 production on the season in only 19 minutes per game. The Nuggets need him on the court, so the minutes aren’t going anywhere. Give Harris a look in 20-team leagues and larger if you need a high-floor, low-ceiling source of guard stats.

    Slam Dunk Contest

    Dwight Powell (10% owned) – I’m not going to say much more other than add him right now if he is on the wire in any deep league. The minutes will be there down the stretch, and he has a legitimate shot at finishing inside the top-100 on the season. He is also really fun to watch – check out Powell murdering a defenseless rim below.

    Jarell Martin (3% owned) – After not doing much in his first two years in the Association, Martin is having a very quiet breakout year. He isn’t going to be in any fantasy MVP conversations (even for deep leagues), but his steady contributions as a shot blocker and rebounder make him worth owning in 20-team leagues and deeper. Now watch him posterize Bismack “Bed Bath and” Biyombo.

    Royce O’Neale – The Jazz clearly like O’Neale, as he is moved from frequent DNP to 28 minute per night rotation player over the past two weeks. The team parted ways with Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson, which does open up additional minutes for O’Neale, but brought back Jae Crowder in the Hood trade, capping his upside. Still, he is a safe bet to stay in the rotation, and has a chance to turn in top-200 value going forward. He is a speculative add in shallower formats, and must-own in 20-team leagues and larger.

    Mario Hezonja (9% owned) – Hezonja is one of the hottest pickups around in standard leagues, posting top-25 value over the past two weeks. He is probably owned already in all deep leagues, but give him a strong look if he is on the wire. He won’t continue to see starters minutes when Aaron Gordon is healthy, but Hezonja has proven that he deserves a spot in the rotation. Temper expectations on top-100 returns, but a top-150 finish from Hezonja is certainly possible. Now enjoy a mixtape of Mario “Mean Dunk Machine” Hezonja (a Youtuber’s words, not mine).

    Three-Point Contest

    Joe Harris (6% owned) – Harris has drained 105 triples this season – that is pretty impressive in only 25 minutes of action per game. His scoring output and relative efficiency make him worth owning as a back-end option in all deep leagues, but his upside is severely limited by the fact that his value is almost entirely dependent on his deep ball.

    Dragan Bender (4% owned) – Bender is far from an elite per-minute producer, but is hitting two triples in 30 minutes per game over the past two weeks. He appears to have jumped Marquese Chriss on the depth chart for now, and has seen extra run while Tyson Chandler is dealing with a neck injury. The Suns really have no reason to keep him on any sort of leash, making Bender a great speculative add in all deep leagues.

    Anthony Tolliver (3% owned) – Tolliver is posting fairly meager numbers in just about every category outside of threes. He is averaging close to two triples in just 21 minutes per game. His contributions from beyond the arc have been enough to rank him just outside the top-200 this season. He is fine to own in 16-team leagues, but is probably better deployed as a streaming option.

    Davis Bertans (2% owned) – The Spurs have been without Kawhi Leonard for much of the season, Rudy Gay since later December, and now LaMarcus Aldridge has missed the past two games with knee soreness. This bevy of injuries has opened up a huge opportunity for Bertans in the past week. He is averaging 10.8 points per game on 48-percent shooting with 1.8 triples and 4.8 rebounds in 29 minutes over the past week as a starter. He is more than just a threat from deep, so Bertans is a must-own player in all deep leagues for as long as Spurs remain banged up.

    All-Star Selections

    Now, without further ado, I present my starting five selections for the 2018 Deep League Digging All-Star game. Selection criteria included a consideration of season-long performance, ownership (roughly 10% owned and less), deviation from pre-season expectations, and well, guys that I have enjoyed following the most so far this year. The list is not just the top-10 players by ranking that are less than 10-percent owned – that would be very boring. Sure, it is pretty subjective, but why not bring the subjectivity and discourse surrounding the real NBA All-Star selections into this fun exercise in frivolity. I hope everyone enjoys the All-Star break, until next time!

    Western Conference All-Stars

    Dwight Powell (Captain)

    Season-long ranking 8/9-cat: 181/149

    Best Performance this Season: 1/3/18 – 28 minutes, 21 points, 78-percent shooting, two triples, eight rebounds, two assists and one steal.

    Shabazz Napier

    Season-long ranking 8/9-cat: 163/161

    Best Performance this Season: 11/15/17 – 27 minutes, 19 points, 58-percent shooting, five triples, two assists, three steals and one block.

    Josh Hart

    Season-long ranking 8/9-cat: 263/233

    Best Performance this Season: 2/6/18 – 31 minutes, 15 points, 71-percent shooting, three triples, 11 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block.

    Jordan Bell

    Season-long ranking 8/9-cat: 166/137

    Best Performance this Season: 11/24/17 – 26 minutes, seven points, 75-percent shooting, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and six blocks.

    David West

    Season-long ranking 8/9-cat: 139/111

    Best Performance this Season: 2/12/18 – 15 minutes, six points, 75-percent shooting, five rebounds, four assists, one steal and four blocks.

    Eastern Conference All-Stars

    Delon Wright (Captain)

    Season-long ranking 8/9-cat: 127/110

    Best Performance this Season: 1/3/18 – 30 minutes, 25 points, 67-percent shooting, four threes, 13 rebounds, five assists, four steals and one block (holy cow).

    Kyle O’Quinn

    Season-long ranking 8/9-cat: 153/141

    Best Performance this Season: 10/30/17 – 20 minutes, 15 points, 75-percent shooting, 12 rebounds, one assist and five blocks.

    Joe Harris

    Season-long ranking 8/9-cat: 175/163

    Best Performance this Season: 2/10/18 – 34 minutes, 12 points, 50-percent shooting, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.

    Mario Hezonja

    Season-long ranking 8/9-cat: 191/172

    Best Performance this Season: 2/12/18 – 30 minutes, 24 points, 57-percent shooting, three triples, six rebounds, four steals and three blocks.

    Jakob Poeltl

    Season-long ranking 8/9-cat: 202/166

    Best Performance this Season:10/23/17 – 26 minutes, 10 points, 80-percent shooting, 12 rebounds, one steal and three blocks.

    Do you want to air your grievances about my deep league All-Star selections and snubs? Feel free to connect with me on Twitter: @z_bodhane.

Fantasy News

  • Eric Gordon
    SG, Houston Rockets

    Rockets guard Eric Gordon has improved his diet, focused on sprints, and has apparently shed 12 pounds in the process, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

    Gordon has battled knee ailments for essentially his whole career and has dealt with his fair share of nagging injuries this season as well. Losing weight to create a lighter frame would seem sensible, especially with the knee issues. The Rockets, remember, fully adopted the "small ball" lineup and move fast so Gordon is smart to keep his endurance and fitness at high levels. He's going to have to play well and make shots for the Rockets when the NBA returns to action, otherwise coach Mike D'Antoni won't be able to justify giving Gordon minutes. We don't anticipate much fantasy value out of him if and when the league starts back up.

    Source: The Athletic

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that the NBA is planning for a Board of Governors vote on Thursday, during which they are expected to approve Adam Silver's proposal for re-starting the season in Orlando.

    The trend lines are all moving in this direction, and this adds another bullet point on the schedule as the league prepares for launching games on July 31. Adam Silver has been able to bridge any divides between ownership and the players, and has been taking into account all his key constituent's views as we approach approval of a plan for moving forward. We still have plenty of items to resolve before we see game action, but the NBA is gaining momentum as these details come into place.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Bradley Beal
    SG, Washington Wizards

    On Friday, the Wizards resumed holding voluntary workouts at their practice facilities.

    The Wizards have joined a chorus of teams that are returning in limited capacities to their facilities at this point. The NBA as a whole is continuing its march towards the resumption of play with a target date of July 31 now established. The District of Columbia also entered phase one of reopening today, and it makes sense for the team to proceed on a similar trajectory.

    Source: Candace Buckner on Twitter

  • Julius Randle
    PF, New York Knicks

    Part of the Knicks' off-season thinking is to shape the roster around RJ Barrett, and it unclear where Julius Randle will fit in those plans.

    Barrett and Randle have similar offensive styles, as they typically have an advantage relying upon their strength to attack the basket, but neither has a component deep ball at this stage in their careers. As Barrett is the younger option it makes sense that the Knicks want to sign shooters to give him more space to operate with. Randle's lousy percentages and turnovers has made for a disappointing season with the Knicks thus far, and Barrett will also need to make some strides in the shooting department to become a 12-team asset. Randle is under contract for next season is owed at least $4,000,000 in 2021-22.

    Source: https://www.sny.tv/knicks/news/heres-who-knicks-could-target-as-leon-roses-front-office-reshapes-roster/313481746

  • Jayson Tatum
    SF, Boston Celtics

    On Friday, the Celtics' announced that their practice facilities would reopen on June 1.

    That leaves us with four NBA teams without access to their facilities. Things are beginning to accelerate throughout the league as teams ramp up activities in hopes of resuming competition in Orlando on July 31. So far so good, but the NBA still has many hurdles to overcome on the path to resuming the season.

    Source: Celtics PR on Twitter

  • RJ Barrett
    SF, New York Knicks

    The Knicks reopened their practice facility for voluntary workouts on Friday.

    Another step in the right direction for the NBA's return to action at the end of July. It's still unclear if the Knicks will even be involved in whatever plan is agreed upon, but it is good to learn that the players can now access their facilities in New York. Only five team facilities have not opened up in some capacity at this point.

    Source: Knicks PR on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    On a call with the Board of Governors on Friday, Adam Silver and the league office confirmed July 31 as a target date for the resumption of the NBA season, according to a report from Shams Charania.

    We have to imagine that this is just one of the possible options on the table, as the league still has much to figure out. Charania adds that the league has four scenarios for the return: 16 teams move directly to the playoffs, 20 teams engage in group/stage play, 22 teams have games to determine seeding with a play-in tournament, and all 30 teams reconvene for a 72-game season with a play-in tournament. It's seemed unlikely that we'll have a full 30-team return given the stated priorities for player safety. There are still tons of logistical hurdles to clear but the NBA is getting its ducks in a row for a potential return.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Andre Iguodala
    SF, Miami Heat

    Andre Iguodala returned to South Florida after living in California since the NBA season was suspended.

    Iguodala returning to the market where his team is could mean that he believes team workouts will begin soon. However, there is no official timetable on when team workouts will begin and Jimmy Butler has yet to return to Miami.

    Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter

  • Zach LaVine
    SG, Chicago Bulls

    K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bulls were cleared by the Governor of Illinois and are in talks with city officials to open practice facilities on Friday for voluntary workouts that would follow the NBA guidelines.

    The NBA's guidelines currently state that a maximum of four players are allowed in the facility at any given time and there can only be one player per hoop. The Bulls are currently eight games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls may not play again this season given how far behind they are in the standings and the recent reports of proposals to not continue the regular season.

    Source: K.C. Johnson on Twitter

  • Luka Doncic
    PG-SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Marc Stein of the New York Times has reported that the Mavs plan to open their practice facility on Thursday.

    This news would make the Mavs the 23rd team to have their facilities open for "voluntary and socially distanced player workouts". Continue to monitor the wire as we should learn more about the potential of the league resuming in early June.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter