• 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.

    It has been awhile since we embarked on a good old fashion waiver wire dive, so that is exactly where we are headed today. The injury bug is still a scourge upon the league, opening up some opportunity for unheralded reserves. The Holiday spirit also appears to be strong with some players, as some traditional fringe top-200 type players are tearing it up lately and finding themselves on the standard league radar from a ranking perspective. Let’s separate the fact from the fiction, and flash in the pan performances from those that you can trust as we look at some hot hand players that may still be available on the wire in 16-team leagues and deeper.

    As always, I’ll be 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. I am trying to cover everything from 16-team leagues to 30-team leagues, so consider your league size before acting on any analysis presented. If a player is must-own in 30-team leagues, that may only translate to streaming value in 16-team formats. Conversely, if a player is roster-worthy in 16-team formats, it is generally safe to consider them a must-own player in larger leagues. I try to spell that out as much as possible below, but I do need to float that quick disclaimer first.

    Must-Roster In All Deep Leagues

    Bruce Brown, G, Pistons (7% Rostered)

    Brown’s shooting has come back down to earth in the past few games after a scorching hot stretch, but he should be on someone’s roster in all 16-team leagues and deeper. His shooting efficiency will come and go, but Brown is seeing consistent minutes and putting up enough in terms of counting stat production to float his fantasy value even when his shot isn’t dropping.

    Daniel Theis, F/C, Celtics (10% Rostered)

    Celtics big men are a tough lot to rely on as steady fantasy contributors. Theis continues to start, however Enes Kanter’s role has been becoming more consistent, and Robert Williams should return eventually and could see an increased role down the stretch. All of these factors limit his upside, but he is putting up enough value (particularly if you need blocks) that he should be rostered in all 16-team leagues and larger for the foreseeable future.

    Mohamed Bamba, C, Magic (8% Rostered)

    In the past week, Bamba ranks inside the top-125 in 9-cat leagues thanks in large part to averaging 2.0 blocks in only 14.9 minutes per game. The low minutes he is seeing limit his immediate upside, but he is a reliable enough blocks specialist and does not really hurt you in any category. That fact alone means that he should probably be on someone’s roster in all 16-team leagues and deeper.

    Moe Harkless, F, Clippers (4% Rostered)

    He is not exactly must-roster in 16-team leagues, but is sitting pretty close depending on your team build. Harkless has been in the starting lineup for most of the season, but hasn’t done a ton with those minutes to catch fantasy managers’ eyes. His game doesn’t have much pop to it, but if you need defensive stats, Harkless is a reliable source (averaging 1.2 steals and 0.7 blocks on the year) even in limited minutes. He was sent to the bench last game, which is something to monitor, but if you need defensive stats and Harkless is available, consider him a low-upside, but roster-worthy option in 16-team leagues and deeper.

    Ride The Hot Hand, But Don’t Necessarily Expect Season-Long Returns

    Damion Lee, G, Warriors (15% rostered)

    Lee is seeing huge minutes and putting up some pretty incredible numbers in that time. Over the last week is averaging 18.7 points on 45 percent shooting with 2.7 threes, 9.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals in 31.4 minutes per game. He is worth taking a flier on in all leagues in the event the Warriors convert his two-way deal to a fully guaranteed contract. However, if you add Lee, don’t drop anyone with season-long top-100 upside as his status is just too uncertain given his contract.

    Gary Payton II, G, Wizards (12% Rostered)

    Payton has exactly one game of NBA action under his belt this season, and what a game it was. Payton’s 34 minutes of action against the Knicks earned him the distinction of becoming the fourth ranked player in 9-cat formats on a per-game basis. With injuries to just about every guard on the team not named Ish Smith and Isaiah Thomas serving a suspension, the Wizards signed Payton to serve mostly as a warm body, and he turned in a great performance. However, Isaiah Thomas will return in one more game, and Jordan McRae appears ready to return from injury, limiting what Payton can do. Feel free to add speculatively and ride him out for one more game before Thomas returns and even hold to see if he carves out a spot as a reserve, but know that his production is likely to drop off in a big way in the near future.

    Furkan Korkmaz, G, Sixers (2% Rostered)

    Korkmaz has been an absolute flamethrower lately, averaging 12.0 points with 2.5 triples on 50 percent shooting with 1.5 steals in only 19.6 minutes in his last two outings. Right away you can probably guess that the 50 percent shooting won’t stick given his season average of 44 percent, but the steals are also a welcome surprise considering he is averaging 0.5 per game on the season in 20.8 minutes. Korkmaz is seeing his role increase with Matisse Thybulle sidelined with a knee injury, so feel free to add Korkmaz and see if you can ride this hot streak, but know that the near top-100 value he is putting up has a short shelf-life.

    Skal Labissiere, F, Blazers (2% Rostered)

    The amount of hype that Labissiere received in the past may have soured many fantasy managers on taking the bait yet again and buying into the young Haitian big man. That is fair, and to those skeptics’ credit, he has been highly inconsistent this season. However, Labissiere does appear to be on a bit of a roll lately, averaging 9.0 points with 0.3 triples on 55 percent shooting with 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and perfect shooting at the line (albeit on very few attempts) over the last week, making him the 85th ranked player in 9-cat formats in that time. Some of that is due to Carmelo Anthony missing some time with bumps and bruises, but even given that fact, Labissiere is starting to appear more consistent and reliable. Even with Melo back, feel free to throw out a speculative add in all deep leagues, but know that he may fall off just as quickly as he rose up the rankings.

    Dorian Finney-Smith, F, Mavericks (7% Rostered)

    Remember a few weeks ago when I said that Finney-Smith would need to see big minutes scratch consistent fantasy relevance, even in 16-team leagues? Well, over the past two weeks DFS is averaging 33.4 minutes per game and is the 95th ranked player in 9-cat formats over that time on some well-rounded fantasy production. The spike in minutes has come largely as a result of the injury to Luka Doncic, so it seems that the window to rely on Finney-Smith as a fringe top-100 player has closed with Doncic set to return. He is fine to hold as an end of bench player in 16-team leagues, but feel free to move on if a higher upside option is available.

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (9% Rostered)

    After getting a lot of minutes and doing absolutely nothing with them for most of the season, KCP has turned it on lately and is averaging 12.2 points with 2.0 triples on 58 percent shooting with 2.3 assists and 1.0 steals per game over the last week. We know the deal with KCP at this point – he gets ridiculously hot for a few nights, rains in threes, then is just as likely to go 2/20 from the field his next game. The 58 percent shooting absolutely will not stick, but if you want to test your luck and see if his hot hand continues, by all means, consider a stream or short-term add in all deep leagues.

    Their Run is Likely Coming to An End – Feel Free to Move On

    T.J. McConnell, G, Pacers (5% Rostered)

    If McConnell’s 9-cat ranking (98th) over the past few weeks caught your attention, there are a few things to consider before burning a weekly acquisition on the veteran reserve guard. The Pacers have been dealing with a rash of injuries in their guard rotation (Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb), leaving lots of minutes up for grabs. With that said, McConnell hasn’t been the main beneficiary when it comes to minutes, and his inflated rank is instead being bolstered by some insanely hot shooting (61.7 percent on nearly eight attempts per game). McConnell is efficient, but that type of shooting is unsustainable. The Pacers are starting to heal up, so his run as a short-term add is probably up, but keep this performance in mind the next time Brogdon or Lamb sit.

    Grant Williams, F, Celtics (1% Rostered)

    Williams has really struggled so far this season, but has seen big minutes lately thanks to a combination of injury and Celtics coach Brad Stevens appearing to ride the hot hand a bit. In the last week, just about every look he takes has been money, as he is shooting a ridiculous 73.7 percent from the field on 6.3 attempts per game. However, the Celtics are starting to heal up, the their front court rotation is messy enough to consider Williams, at best, a speculative upside flier (I do believe in his talent long-term), and at worst someone who is should probably be on the wire outside of 30-team leagues and dynasty formats.

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