• As the midseason break rapidly approaches we saw a mixed bag of results on Monday. Some players are recuperating already, such as Deandre Ayton, Richaun Holmes and DeMar DeRozan, while others could use the rest based upon recent performances, looking at you Spencer Dinwiddie, Devin Booker and the entire Pistons roster.

    Thank goodness we still have the Toronto Raptors around to show the rest of the league how to carry themselves. The champions have a 15-game win streak at the moment and it’s time to give them there due.

    Adds Of The Night

    Jordan Clarkson, G, Utah Jazz – 25 points, eight assists, five rebounds, four 3-pointers, one block, two turnovers, 10-of-17 FG, 1-of-1 FT

    This has been one heck of an in-season acquisition for the Jazz. Always known as an inefficient offensive weapon, Clarkson has suddenly found his sweet spot as a gunner coming off Utah’s bench. Tonight he got a boost with Mike Conley resting and would’ve received more minutes if not for fouling out, but that does not explain how he dropped 30 points on Sunday, or the 16.4 points he has averaged for the last month of action. Don’t ask me for the logic behind Clarkson’s surge, just do yourself a favor and buy the stock. 

    Thon Maker, PF/C, Detroit Pistons – 12 points, 12 rebounds, one assist, two blocks, one steal, four turnovers, 5-of-10 FG, 2-of-3 FT

    Thon Maker is one of those players that you imagine being in the league for eight seasons already, and yet the fourth-year big man is just 22 years young. When he averaged under 20 minutes for 29 games with the Pistons last year he was posting 5.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.1 steals and nearly a 3-pointer. Bump those minutes into the upper 20s and you are beginning to see the makings of standard league value. With Andre Drummond out of town Maker is suddenly getting an expanded role in Detroit, and while he still has to manage alongside Christian Wood, Markieff Morris and John Henson, Maker has the skillset to shine when given the opportunity. It has never quite clicked for the stretch center in previous years, but the 3-pointing and shot-blocking talent is a game-changer if he keeps averaging 25 minutes a night.

    Malik Monk, G, Charlotte Hornets – 17 points, three rebounds, one assist, two 3-pointers, three steals, three turnovers, 5-of-10 FG, 5-of-6 FT

    Don’t blink or you could miss it, but the Malik Monk heater is upon us. Over the past nine games Monk has scored in double figures eight times, and four of those performances have featured 17 points or more. He is not about to be the fantasy sniper we wish he was, but this version of Monk offers some nice scoring to accompany strong quantities of 3-pointers and a robust free-throw percentage. If you need a scoring guard Monk has some upside that you could cash in on as the Hornets shift towards the youth movement entering this All-Star break. 

    Jae Crowder, F, Miami Heat – 21 points, eight rebounds, four 3-pointers, three steals, 6-of-11 FG, 5-of-5 FT

    It’s hard to imagine a faster start than the one Crowder has had with the Heat through his first two games. After the deal from Memphis to Miami, plenty of owners headed to the exits on the fringe 12-teamer. In Crowder’s first game he benefited from the absence of Jimmy Butler and received 35 minutes, but on Monday he still received 31 minutes and poured in 3-pointers, rebounds and steals yet again. He faces plenty of competition for minutes if he falters, from Derrick Jones Jr. to Andre Iguodala or Kelly Olynyk sliding down to play power forward. Nonetheless, Crowder has always had a knack for doing the little things, and these two games are difficult to ignore if you have room for a pickup.

    Drop Zone

    We’re not saying that you have to drop any of these guys, only that you should at least consider it depending who’s on your waiver wire. Your mileage may vary based on league size and team build, but for the most part we’ll try to cut dead weight in the 12-team range.

    Jeremy Lamb

    Lamb has put up a good fight to remain standard league relevant over the course of this season but the current against him is simply too strong at this point. Victor Oladipo was reinserted into the starting lineup and is still getting under 30 minutes a night, and Lamb has only been seeing about 26 minutes at the moment. That is going to drop further, and without starters minutes Lamb will have a hard time averaging one steal and one 3-pointer a contest, and that leaves him as a low-level scoring option with solid percentages. That is waiver wire fodder at this point, and Lamb should just be viewed as a streaming option when your roster is in need of efficient points. Being fourth in the Pacers’ pecking order is not a formula for success.

    Injury List

    Luka Doncic (right ankle sprain) was forced to miss Monday’s contest against the Jazz, but he did play 5-on-5 at practice and is hoping to return on Wednesday versus the Kings.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo missed Monday’s game with the Kings following the birth of his son. Stay tuned to see if he is still with his family on Wednesday when the Bucks face the Pacers.

    Deandre Ayton was a late scratch from the Suns-Lakers matchup due to left ankle soreness. The frontline in Phoenix is thin right now, giving Cheick Diallo some extra usage. 

    DeMar DeRozan was a last-minute scratch to face the Nuggets as he dealt with back spasms. A tough break for the red hot DeRozan. 

    Mike Conley (rest) missed the back half of a back-to-back set against the Mavs. He has had four straight strong performances and is looking like a strong candidate for a bounce-back second half.

    Richaun Holmes sat out on Monday versus the Bucks and will also miss Wednesday’s contest against the Mavs due to his ongoing right shoulder strain. He better return after the break or else many Hoop Ballers are in serious trouble without this breakout performer. 

    Derrick Rose’s adductor strain kept him out of Monday’s contest against the Hornets. At this point, he has a fair chance to miss Wednesday’s date with the Magic. Bruce Brown makes for a nice streamer right now, but things are getting ugly in Detroit. 

    Serge Ibaka’s illness kept him out of the game against the Wolves. 

    Tyler Herro (right ankle soreness) sat out against the Warriors on Monday.

    Cody Zeller (facial lacerations) had to receive stitches during the game against the Pistons. He returned to the bench and should be fine for Wednesday.  

    Donte DiVincenzo suffered a minor ankle injury that resulted in a brief trip to the locker room vs. the Kings. He should be okay, but just make sure he is active on Wednesday.

    Kristaps Porzingis (injury recovery, left knee) returned from his one-game break and looked fantastic against the Jazz. Delon Wright departed at the conclusion of this matchup after apparently injuring his right ankle. Luka Doncic is nearing a return and Wright’s small degree of late-round value is about to disappear.

    D’Angelo Russell (right quad contusion) made his Wolves debut against the Raptors on Monday, going for 22 points, four 3-pointers, five assists, one steal and six turnovers on strong percentages. It looks like he’ll be able to post similar production to his numbers as a Warrior.

    Kyle Lowry was able to end his one-game absence due to whiplash and was strong vs. the Wolves.

    Jimmy Butler returned to face the Warriors on Monday. He looked great against the inferior competition the Warriors threw at him.

    Zion Williamson is more than likely to return from his left ankle sprain on Tuesday vs. the Blazers. Brandon Ingram is questionable for Tuesday with a right ankle sprain. He missed practice on Monday and if he is out Josh Hart will play a larger role in this one.

    Thomas Bryant (sore right foot) will miss Tuesday’s tilt vs. the Bulls. One has to imagine that Wednesday’s game against the Knicks is unlikely to happen for Bryant too.

    Patrich Beverley is going to miss Tuesday’s matchup versus the Sixers as he continues to recover from a sore right groin.

    Eric Gordon has been ruled out until after the All-Star break due to a leg contusion. He should be dropped in standard leagues. 

    The Next Man Up In Toronto

    The NBA Championship run we witnessed in Toronto last season was an extraordinary experience where a team was truly capable of developing cohesive chemistry that perfectly complemented a superstar’s unstoppable play. That superstar is gone, but even without Kawhi Leonard, we are watching a champion’s spirit on display over the course of the Raptors 15-game win streak that included a 137-126 victory over the Wolves on Monday. One has to appreciate how deep this squad is, and we’ve seen ten different players with fantasy intrigue over the course of the first half already.

    Terence Davis was one of the most popular fantasy pickups coming into this game, although he had a stinker in this one. Instead, the typically even-keeled O.G. Anunoby exploded with 25 points (10-of-13 FG), 12 rebounds, three 3-pointers, three steals and one block. Both players have had added opportunities since Norman Powell went down with a fractured ring finger at the start of the month. Before the injury, Powell was delivering mid-round value on elite shooting.

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson received a spot start and blew the lid off with a 21 point, six rebound, three steal performance. He subbed for Serge Ibaka who has been dropping mid-round value for the past month as the starting center in the place of Marc Gasol who is out with a hamstring injury. Gasol was good for late-round stats while healthy, and even Chris Boucher has had moments of intrigue as he shows off his deep league value thanks to elite shot-blocking skills.

    Fred VanVleet lived a lifetime of basketball during the NBA Playoffs last season, and that ultimate triumph to close out the season has transmitted beautifully to early-round value this year. He’s been equal to the straw that stirs the drink in Toronto, Kyle Lowry. Lowry has averaged over 36 minutes a game this season and launched his scoring average from 14 to 19 points per game. He has also brilliantly supported Pascal Siakim’s increased offensive burden that has successfully filled the void left by Kawhi Leonard’s departure.

    It’s rare to see a team click this well and see it carry over to the fantasy realm so perfectly. The unity built surrounding Leonard remains intact, and Toronto organization’s ability to churn out valuable fantasy players whenever they are called upon is something to behold.

    When you need a streamer don’t forget to see if the Raptors have any late scratches. In addition, don’t forget to join me next week when the regular season action relaunches throughout the fantasy basketball landscape.

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