• As always, you can consider us here at HOOP-BALL to be your fantasy meteorologists. The play of every player except for the elite will always have peaks and valleys throughout the course of the season. We will exclude the elite performing at high levels because otherwise we will have the same hot players weekly. Instead, we will focus on role players who can either make or break your championship run. Let’s dive in and find out WHO’S HOT and WHO’S COLD this week.

    Hit me up either on twitter @giovannimusa or in the comments section and let me know what you think!

    WHO’S HOT?

    PG – J.J. Barea, Dallas Mavericks

    The little ball of fire known as J.J. Barea – generously listed as 6’0” – has been as hot as can be over the past couple of weeks. He has taken advantage of a scheme switch to small ball, as well as an injury to star player Chandler Parsons. The Mavs find themselves in a fight for eight seed in the Western Conference, and aside from Dirk Nowitzki, Barea has arguably been the best player of late.

    Over the past seven games, Barea is averaging 26.2 minutes, 15.6 points, 2.0 threes, 2.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists on 48.9% shooting from the field. Over that time span, Barea has gone from a top 230 player to a top 90/115 (8-cat/9-cat).

    Taking a closer look at his stats shows that he has taken full advantage of the increased opportunity. As his role has increased, so have his efficiency and production. His usage rate has risen from 23.0 to 26.0. He is taking 4.1 more FGA per game, while seeing his FG% rise from 43.2% to 48.9%. He is taking nearly one more 3PTA per game, but has seen his 3PT% rise from 36.7% to 50.0%. He’s also attempting 3.2 more FG within 10 feet at the rim, but has maintained his 50% efficiency. Not stopping there, he is taking 1.3 more FGA in transition, and has seen his conversion rate rise from 47.2% to 54.5%. All of this while raising his assist percentage from 30.9% to 35.9% and maintaining a turnover percentage around 13.5.

    Barea has been flaming hot and could arguably be the most influential pickup during the fantasy playoffs. He has taken full advantage of the opportunity presented to him and has shown no signs of slowing down. With Deron Williams suffering from a groin injury, expect Barea’s role to increase further. If by any chance you are still in the playoffs and Barea finds himself on your waiver, run and pick him up immediately.

    SG – Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics

    As Isaiah Thomas continues to light the world on fire, his flames seem to have spread out to his backcourt mate. Despite Avery Bradley suffering from illness the past few days, he has continued to produce at a high level for both his fantasy owners and the Celtics.

    He has been producing at a top 45 level over the past seven games, posting up averages of 15.4 points, 1.4 threes, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.9 steals on 45.7% shooting. Except for threes, those numbers are all slightly up over this stretch.

    Now despite averaging fewer threes per game, he has made positive adjustments to his shot selection that have allowed him to maintain his scoring average but become slightly more efficient. With Jae Crowder  out of lineup, Bradley has become more reliant on the 3PT and has become more of a slasher and finsher around the basket. His 3PT frequency has dropped from 40.7% to 28.3% despite his conversion rate slightly improving from 36% to 38.5%. He has substituted those 3PTA with FGA within 10 feet of the basket, increasing his frequency from 24.4% to 34.8%. His efficiency on such shots has also increased from an already impressive 66.5% to exceptional 78.1%. His increased movement and cutting has led to wide open layups and alley-oops.

    Bradley has benefitted from the absence of Crowder, with another playmaker in Evan Turner entering the starting lineup. Turner has shown good chemistry with Bradley, hitting him on wide open cuts time and time again. Unfortunately Crowder is expected back very soon, which means Bradley won’t be this good much longer. But he remains a must-own and must-start player regardless of who is on the floor with him.

    SF – Otto Porter, Washington Wizards

    Just three weeks ago, Porter was featured in the “Who’s Cold?” section as he was so cold he was helping fight Global Warming. He should have been dropped in all but the deepest leagues and he simply wasn’t contributing. But as we have entered Spring, Porter has turned it up a few dozen notches and is playing extremely well as of late.

    Over the past 10 games, Porter is averaging 34.6 minutes, 14.1 minutes, 1.8 threes, 6.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks on 49.6% shooting. He has been absolutely fantastic with contributions across the board. Over this stretch, he has posted top 25/45 (9-cat/8-cat) value.

    He was told by Randy Wittman to be more aggressive, and he has been just that. Unlike Porter’s cold stretch where he couldn’t hit an ocean with a beach ball, he sizzling hot right now. He shooting 50% from deep, up from his season average of 35.4%. He has increased his attempts from within 10 feet of the rime and in transition by almost one shot attempt per game while maintaining his efficiency.

    But it hasn’t just been his scoring that has improved. He has been much more active on defense and on the boards, resulting in his across the board production. His minutes have increased and he will be getting all the playing time he can handle, as the Wizards need him for their playoff push. He is currently must-own and must-start. Make sure he is owned in your league.

    PF – Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers

    As another lost season for the Lakers winds down, Julius Randle is giving both the organization and the fan base hope with his recent play. In what is essentially his rookie season (he suffered a season ending injury just minutes into his rookie campaign), he is showing positive signs of growth as the season has progressed.

    Over the past 14 games, Randle is averaging 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.9 steals on 48.7% shooting from the field. He has been the Lakers’ most valuable fantasy player over that stretch, posting top 80 value.

    The stats don’t tell the entire story. His shot selection remains relatively the same except for slight increase in transition opportunities. The increase in transition attempts coupled with his increase in his efficiency within 10 feet of the rim – up from 50.5% to 57.3% – have helped increase his efficiency. But it has been the evolution of his offensive game plus the increase in minutes that have helped boost his value the most.

    Once a player who would rarely ever look for his teammates when touching the ball, he has become a much more willing passer. When the ball stops every time a player touches the ball, teammates are more hesitant to look their way. But as Randle has become a more willing passer (even recording a 18, 13 & 10 triple-double late last week), he has become more involved in the offense.  He is never going to be a game-changer on the defensive end and in the defensive stats in fantasy, but if his assist totals and offensive efficiency continue to increase, so will his value to both the Lakers and fantasy owners. He is obviously must-own and has increased his appeal in keeper/dynasty leagues.

    PF/C – Ed Davis, Portland Trail Blazers

    A very common theme amongst NBA players considered to be hot is increased opportunity and playing time. As Meyers Leonard has missed time with an injury, Ed Davis’ playing time and opportunity have both increased. All he has done is go from a late-round value to an early-round value.

    Over his past six games, Davis has averaged 22.2 minutes, 9.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 1.5 steals and 1.7 blocks on 71% shooting from the field and 73.7% shooting from the charity stripe. He has been a per minute monster, posting top 25/30 (9-cat/8-cat) value over that stretch.

    Considering most of Davis’ buckets are scored on put-backs and lobs, he will always be an efficient scorer. But those put-backs and lobs are created by his relentless motor, physical play and ability to always find himself in the right position. He has quickly become one of the NBA’s best big men off the bench, bringing value both offensively and defensively. He is great in pick-and-roll defense, and his physical ability allows him to stay in front of opponents and be a good rim protector.

    He obviously won’t remain this good, but his work ethic and physical play will always make him a valuable player to the Blazers. As long as he continues to see an increase in minutes and opportunity with the Blazers, fantasy owners should expect him to be valuable for them as well.

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