• What’s up HoopBallers!

    How are those playoffs going?

    If the answer is “they’re going great,” then I’m extremely proud of you and can’t wait to hear about your fantasy championship.

    If the answer is “they’re going horrible, I got eliminated,” then um, I don’t really know what to tell you. Better luck next year?

    It seems like at this point, the team that’s going to win the championship is the team that is the most healthy. We’ve got top-25 players injured for multiple games, some even multiple weeks. Players like Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant are stuck on your IR (if you’re league is lucky enough to have one) instead of leading you to a fantasy championship.

    It’s a shame, really. One second you’re on top of the world with the best record in your league and feeling confident going into the first round, then BOOM! Your star player gets injured and you get bounced in the first round of your playoffs, making that wonderful season of yours basically meaningless.

    The worst part is, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to control it. Imagine you’ve got a first round bye and one of your players gets hurt, that’s the worst. A player you own got injured in a game in which you weren’t even worried about. You had your feet up, relaxing and laughing at the other owners in your league struggling to get out the first round and then all of a sudden your phone vibrates. All you see is a Twitter notification saying that Kevin Durant is missing the next two weeks with an injury you didn’t even know he had.

    If only you could somehow contact the coaches and tell them to just rest your players while your on your bye week. They probably wouldn’t listen to you, maybe they’d even laugh in your face but then at least you’d be able to say you tried, right?

    It’s the name of the game, it’s the sport we love. At the end of the day, no matter what happened, or will happen this season, we’ll all be back next season. If we got cheated out of a championship we’ll be mad for a couple weeks, maybe even a month but then the free agency period will commence.

    We’ll see that Paul George has signed some mega deal with the Los Angeles Lakers and the first thing we’ll think is, “Hmmm, I wonder how that’ll effect his fantasy value.”

    We can’t help it, we’re addicts.

    Then the NBA Draft will come, we’ll get even more excited. Finally, mock drafts will become available on all of the major fantasy apps and we’ll be hooked yet again. All of the heartbreak, all of the yelling and screaming, all of the times you swore you’d never play fantasy basketball again will fly right out the window.

    It’s a cycle that we’ll probably never shake, but hey, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

    Here are the “Stock Up” guys from a week ago with a little update on how their stocks have changed, with “Stock Up” meaning they’re still on the rise, “Neutral” meaning their stock hasn’t changed and “Stock Down” meaning they’re on the decline:

    Julius Randle, PF/C, Los Angeles Lakers: Neutral

    Rudy Gobert, C, Utah Jazz: Neutral

    Bojan Bogdanovic, SG/SF, Indiana Pacers: Stock Down

    Brook Lopez, C, Los Angeles Lakers: Neutral

    Kelly Olynyk, PF/C, Miami Heat: Stock Up

    Brandon Jennings, PG, Milwaukee Bucks: Stock Down (yeah, that one game was definitely a fluke. Carry on.)

    Corey Brewer, SG/SF, Oklahoma City Thunder: Neutral

    Stock Up

    Taurean Prince, SF, Atlanta Hawks

    Okay, forgive me.

    I know Prince was in Week 21’s “Stock Up” section but he deserves to be here yet again.

    Back in Week 21, Prince was merely ranked as the 46th ranked player. Now, he’s on a whole new level.

    Over the past two weeks Prince is the 18th ranked player in 9-cat leagues and the 12th ranked player in 8-cat leagues. That’s higher than players like Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Joel Embiid, all of whom are considered NBA superstars and were taken before the third round of drafts.

    Over that two week span, Prince is averaging 22.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks and 3.5 3-pointers on .455 percent shooting from the field in 33.5 minutes. Move over Dennis Schroder, Atlanta’s got a new go-to guy on their roster. In fact, the 33.5 minutes by Prince is the most on the team by far, as he’s one of only two players on the roster averaging minutes in the 30’s  and the only player getting at least 31 minutes per game.

    There’s no denying that the Hawks are a bad team, but that’s a good thing for Prince. With them firmly committed to tanking the rest of the season, they have no problem with Prince getting up as many shots as he pleases. He’s attempting 16.5 shots per game over the past two weeks which is the second most behind Dennis Schroder, but the difference is that Prince attempts many more triples.

    Not only has he been efficient from the field, but he’s been extremely amazing from the charity stripe as well. He’s attempting 4.5 free throws per game and knocking them down at a clip of 96.3 percent. What more can you ask from a guy? He’s putting up points, rebounds, triples, assists, free throws and knocking down his shots at a high percentage.

    Since the beginning of March, Prince has a 25.3 percent usage rating, second only to guess who: Dennis Schroder. The tides are changing in Atlanta and they’re changing for the better.

    He’s still just 23 years old and has so much more room to grow. We’re not surprised though, he was one of our Hoop Ball Six at the beginning of the season and although he had a couple of rough patches along the way he’s really showing his potential right now.

    We’re watching something special happen in Atlanta in the emergence of Taurean Prince and he’s somehow only owned in 65 percent of leagues. If you somehow happen to be in one of those leagues, consider yourself lucky.

    Don’t walk, don’t jog, but RUN and pick him up right now.

    James Johnson, SF/PF, Miami Heat

    Out of nowhere James Johnson has once again emerged as a must-own player and hopefully it’ll stay like that for the rest of the season.

    Over his past six games Johnson is the 13th ranked player and over his past three games he’s the third ranked player in fantasy.

    Yes you read that right. James Johnson is the third ranked player in fantasy over the past three games.

    Over the six game span he’s averaging 15.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks and 1.0 triples on .633 percent shooting in 28.2 minutes. He returned to Miami’s starting lineup eight games ago and really hasn’t looked back.

    One of the big things aiding Johnson’s recent emergence is Hassan Whiteside’s injury, which has caused him to miss the last five games. Whiteside is dealing with a hip injury and despite having almost a week and a half to rest it, he still isn’t healthy. He’s still being ruled out a day in advance before games, which can’t be a good sign and it doesn’t seem like he’ll be back within the week.

    Johnson is a multi-category contributor and those are some of the best players to own in fantasy, especially when you can scoop them up off the wire. He gets you points, rebounds, assists, steals and triples while shooting a great percentage from the field.

    Johnson has also been adept at limiting turnovers, an advantage of Miami having so much guard depth — he just doesn’t have to handle the ball a ton. He’s only averaging 1.3 turnovers over the past two weeks despite putting up 5.5 assists, having a 19.7 percent usage rate and distributing 32.1 percent of the team’s assists.

    He’s playing big minutes, putting up big stat lines and can become a big part in leading your fantasy team to a championship. He was dropped in many leagues earlier in the year but he’s turned it around and right now he’s looking like a must-own guy so go pick up him if he’s available.

    Buddy Hield, SG, Sacramento Kings

    Hield was playing well even when he was coming off of the bench but recently he’s been inserted into the starting lineup and he’s showing owners exactly why.

    He’s been rolling since the All-Star break but he’s especially come on as of late. Over the past four games Hield is averaging 22.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks and 3.8 3-pointers on .559 percent shooting in 30.8 minutes.

    The first thing that stands out are the assists. Hield was never known to be much of a distributor, he’s always been known as a “shoot first, ask questions later” type of player. For reference, last year he averaged 1.5 assists throughout the entire season and in his four year career at Oklahoma University he never averaged more than 2.0 assists and never totaled more than 75 assists in one season.

    Bottom line, Hield’s not a passer.

    So for him to be averaging 5.0 assists, it’s a major boost to his value. Along with the assists, he’s also shooting an amazing percentage from the field at .559 percent compared to the .440 percent he’s shooting across the entire season. What’s even more impressive is that he’s shooting the third-highest percentage on the entire roster all while taking the most shots at 14.8 a night.

    He’s got the second highest usage rate of any Kings player behind only Zach Randolph at 25.4 percent and has the ball in his hands a ton. He’s honestly emerged as the Kings’ best player in this stretch and is playing some of the best basketball of his career right now.

    He’ll get you a ton of threes and points while adding in rebounds, assists and steals which makes him well worth owning in all leagues. He’s even knocking down free throws efficiently, shooting .889 percent from the field and when he’s shooting like that he’s most definitely going to help your fantasy team.

    Honorable Mentions

    Cameron Payne, PG, Chicago Bulls: With Kris Dunn injured for the foreseeable future and the Bulls clearly tanking, Payne will be getting all of the minutes he can handle. Over the past three games Payne is averaging 28.6 minutes, the second most of any player on the Bulls’ roster behind Noah Vonleh. His counting stats are sub-par as he’s only putting up 8.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 0.7 blocks and 1.7 triples but the opportunity is there. He’s only shooting 31.3 percent from the field over that three-game span so if his shot begins to fall he can be very valuable to owners. The Bulls are really bad and there will be plenty of shots to go around which makes Payne worth taking a flier on in many leagues.

    Quinn Cook, PG, Golden State Warriors: It’s rare that a player on the Warriors is in the “Stock Up” section since they’re so loaded but here we are. With GSW facing a ton of injuries, a couple of players have been able to gain some short-term value, Cook being the best of them. With Steph Curry dealing with a nagging ankle injury, Cook has been starting at the point for Golden State. In his last four games he’s the 35th ranked player in fantasy and averaging 21.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 3.3 triples on .576 percent shooting in 36.4 minutes. He’s been amazing in Curry’s absence but with him set to return on Friday, Cook’s value will take a major hit. His only hope is that he played well enough to garner a permanent spot in the rotation, but not even that is certain.

    Nick Young, SG/SF, Golden State Warriors: Similar to Cook, Young has been filling in for an injured Warriors starter and playing pretty well. With both Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant sidelined, Young has been logging a ton of minutes. The good thing about Young compared to Quinn Cook is that he’ll be playing a larger role for a couple more games now with Thompson and Durant still slated to miss at least the next two or three games. Over the past four games Young is averaging 16.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.5 steals and 2.3 3-pointers on .377 percent shooting from the field in a team-high 37.4 minutes. He’s not going to help you in assists or field goal percentage, but if you need some triples and scoring then he’s worth a look.

    D.J. Augustin, PG, Orlando Magic: He’s been decent ever since Elfrid Payton got shipped off to Phoenix but he’s taken it up a notch recently. Over the past three games Augustin is the 28th ranked player and averaging 18.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.7 triples on .514 percent shooting in 33.8 minutes. Owners were worried about Shelvin Mack eating into his minutes and altering his production but their worries have definitely been calmed. He’s shooting the best percentage on the team within that three-game time span and if owners are in need of point guard help he’s definitely someone to consider adding.

    Here are the “Stock Down” guys from a week ago with an update on how their stock has changed with “Stock Down” meaning they’re still falling, “Neutral” meaning their stock hasn’t changed and “Stock Up” meaning that they’re on the rise:

    John Henson, PF/C, Milwaukee Bucks: Neutral

    Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG, Cleveland Cavaliers: Stock Up

    Carmelo Anthony, SF/PF, Oklahoma City Thunder: Neutral

    Serge Ibaka, PF/C, Toronto Raptors: Neutral

    Stock Down

    Victor Oladipo, PG/SG, Indiana Pacers

    The league’s most improved player hasn’t exactly been playing so well as of late.

    On the season he’s the 12th ranked player but over the past three games he’s dropped all the way down to the 80th ranked player. Don’t get me wrong, going into a cold spell and still being the 80th ranked player is great, but this is the time when fantasy owners need him the most.

    Over that three game span Oladipo is averaging 18.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.0 3-pointers on .460 percent shooting in 31.2 minutes. Now that sounds fine, but the steals are really keeping him afloat when it comes to his ranking. If you were punting steals in your league, Oladipo plummets to the 230th ranked player.

    So um, hopefully you’re not punting steals.

    The loss in production mainly comes from Oladipo going cold from behind the arc as well as his assist numbers dropping. Over the past five games Oladipo has shot .300 percent from deep and his assists have dropped from the 4.2 he’s averaging over the season to a measly 1.7. Since his assists dropped, the 3.0 turnovers he averages have become a more glaring problem.

    Dipo has the ball in his hand a ton, as shown by the 30.5 percent usage rate he sports over the entire season. In fact, he’s the only Pacer with a usage rate above 23.0 percent. When a player dominates the ball that much, turnovers are to be expected but so are assists. So when the assists aren’t coming in as much, the turnovers hurt Oladipo that much more.

    He’s also begun to take fewer shots as he’s only attempting 16.7 over the past three games compared to the 18.2 he’s averaged over the entire season. Now that doesn’t seem like much, but when his shot from deep has gone cold and his attempts have dropped, it makes a noticeable difference. On the entire season he’s averaging 23.3 points and 2.1 triples and over the past three games he’s averaging 18.7 points and 1.0 triples. That’s basically a five point decrease in points while also losing one triple per game.

    At the end of the day Oladipo is an All-Star and the Pacers are gearing up for what they hope to be a deep playoff run. He’ll most likely be this year’s Most Improved Player and he’s been a blessing for owners who were able to take him in the fourth or fifth round.

    I believe he’ll turn it around, the assists will go back up and the shot will start falling again. Just wait on it.

    Honorable Mentions

    Ish Smith, PG, Detroit Pistons: The clock on Ish Smith’s fantasy value is about to expire with Reggie Jackson making his return after missing 37 games. Jackson hasn’t played a single game in 2018 as he was sidelined on December 6th and Smith definitely took advantage of the opportunity. Smith has been the 140th ranked player since the new year began which while isn’t amazing, is definitely usable. He averaged 11.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.2 steals on .483 percent shooting from the field over that 36-game span. However, with Jackson being worked back into the lineup he’ll slowly begin to lose minutes and before you know it he’ll be right back to being waiver wire fodder. If you own him, let him go now and scoop up someone that’s hot on the wire.

    David Nwaba, SG/SF, Chicago Bulls: When Nwaba first entered the lineup about a month ago he was one of fantasy’s hottest pickups. Well, not so much anymore. Over the past seven games Nwaba is the 284th ranked player in 9-cat leagues and the 264th ranked player in 8-cat. In that seven-game span he’s averaging 8.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and 0.4 triples on .500 percent shooting in 21.7 minutes. The minutes have severely dropped and he’s one of only four players on the Bulls not attempting more than six shots per game in that time. Chicago is rebuilding and Nwaba doesn’t really seem to be a big part of that, so he’s not worth owning in most leagues right now.

    Hassan Whiteside, C, Miami Heat: I hate putting injured guys in the “Stock Down” section but for Whiteside I’ll make an exception. He’s only played 47 games this season and he’s faced multiple multi-week or multi-game absences. Not to mention, the Heat have been winning without him as they’re on a two game win streak while also winning six out of their last 10 games. Whiteside’s absence has allowed Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson to flourish and all of those options make Miami’s offense much scarier. He’s still being ruled out a day in advance of games which shows he’s not very close to making a return and with only about two or so weeks left in your fantasy season you might want to consider moving on from Whiteside.

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