With the second half of the season hitting full swing, it’s time to take a spin around the league with a fresh version of 30 Facts — one trend or fantasy-related piece of information about each team, in an exercise that completely wears me down by the time I reach the end of the alphabet.
As fantasy busts go, John Collins is a pretty good one. While still falling short of his ADP (24.6 on Yahoo), the big man has been notably better since a slow start to the season. After putting up 15.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg and 1.0 3s in his first 15 games, he has upped his production to 19.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg and 1.6 3s over his last 22. He’s just inside the top-50 in 9-category leagues during that stretch (per BasketballMonster.com), and while last year’s huge numbers probably aren’t returning, the dropoff lately hasn’t been all that dramatic.
Kemba Walker’s scoring average (18.1) is his lowest since 2014-15, and the same can be said for his FG percentage (38.9, on 15.7 attempts a game). There’s a chance he takes off in the second half, but seemingly just as good a chance he runs into more knee trouble. This is a player I’d be looking to trade away in fantasy leagues based on name recognition and past excellence, just because the combo of bad shooting and injury concerns is a potentially devastating one.
The James Harden Nets experiment is going a lot better than some of us imagined when he first got dealt to Brooklyn. Since the start of February, he’s averaging 25.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 11.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.8 bpg and 3.3 3s (along with 4.3 turnovers) in 16 games. And since I found myself curious what his stats have looked like with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant playing, by my quick count, there have been seven games that the three of them have played together. In those seven, Harden has put up 20.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 12.6 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.4 bpg and 2.7 3s. So while we’re probably (and not surprisingly) looking at a small dip in scoring once Durant is back, Harden’s value seems pretty safe either way.
LaMelo Ball has had a couple of rough shooting nights in his last eight games, and is still averaging 18.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 7.4 apg, 1.9 spg and 2.5 3s (46.8 FG / 81.3 FT) during that stretch. His turnovers are legitimately getting a bit out of hand (3.8 in his last 10 games), but that’s really the only blemish on a somewhat ridiculous resume for the 19-year-old. According to Basketball Reference, the only players 20 or younger to average 15+ points, 6+ rebounds and 6+ assists in a season are LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Luka Doncic and … LaMelo, if his current averages hold.
In 10 games since returning from his quad bruise, Wendell Carter Jr. has averaged 11.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.7 spg and 1.2 bpg. That only puts him 120th overall in 9-category leagues during that stretch, but I’m intrigued by WCJ’s potential, and I like him as an easy-to-acquire source of blocks moving forward.
Collin Sexton has scored 22 or more points in 10 consecutive games, and has topped 20 points in 24 out of his 31 games this season. He also just tied his career-high with 10 assists in his last game before the All-Star break, and it’s exciting to see that aspect of Sexton’s game developing. After looking like a points and 3s guy only his first couple of seasons, the 22-year-old is averaging 24.1 ppg, 4.5 apg, 1.2 spg and 1.7 3s during his true breakout season.
Josh Richardson scored a season-high 27 in the absence of Luka Doncic on Thursday, but if we’re going to nitpick (and we are), I’m disappointed with his dropoff defensively. Since the start of February, J-Rich has posted 14.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.5 apg and 1.7 3s, numbers that will work in deeper leagues, but would look a whole lot better if they weren’t accompanied by 0.9 spg and 0.4 bpg. Given that Richardson averaged 1.5 spg and 0.9 bpg as recently as 2017-18, his dip in defensive production (he’s averaging a career-low 0.3 bpg) is a definite cause for concern.
Michael Porter Jr. went into the All-Star break averaging 16.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 0.7 spg, 0.9 bpg and 2.9 3s over his final nine games — including 24 and 11 in his final game before the intermission — and he looms as a player with huge breakout potential for the second half. Given that his recent game log is strong but not incredible, I’d seriously consider making MPJ a trade target before he fully busts out.
Over his last 15 games, Josh Jackson has posted 16.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.9 bpg and 1.3 3s. He is likely to continue being a liability in FTs (70.8) and turnovers (2.7), but if you can live with those, the 24-year-old is in a good spot to continue driving toward the best season of his brief career. (Side note: Am I alone here, or does it feel strangely like Jackson has been in the league for more than 3.5 years? Something to ponder as we move on to…)
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
As was the case with Josh Richardson, I’d like to see more from Kelly Oubre defensively. Yes, he has fixed his scoring/shooting issues (he’s at 19.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 2.4 3s on 50.2 percent from the floor across his last 16 games), but he’s also getting just 0.9 spg and 0.6 bpg during that same span. Considering that Oubre did average 1.2 spg and 0.9 bpg during his early-season shooting struggles over his first 20 games, it’s probably only a matter of time before he assembles a complete stat line.
Much of the focus is deservedly on Kevin Porter Jr. after his 13-point, 10-assist debut for the Rockets (run and add him if you still have the opportunity), but in deeper leagues, we also need to consider KJ Martin Jr.
The rookie scored 13 with nine boards, three blocks and a triple in a blowout loss to the Kings on Thursday night, and with indications being that P.J. Tucker is done in Houston, playing time could be plentiful — and Martin Jr. definitely passes the eye test. He’s at least worth a flier to see where this goes.
Speaking of defensive stats, after averaging an Olajuwon-esque 1.5 spg and 4.2 bpg the first month of the season (14 games), Myles Turner has returned to a much more Turner-esque 0.7 spg and 2.7 bpg in his last 19 games. Given that Basketball Monster has him as the 38th-ranked player in those 19 games, but he’s still sitting 14th on the season, I think there’s a little bit of an opportunity to trade Turner away and see if a team desperate for blocks will give you a top-20 guy back. Only of course if you can absorb the massive hit in blocks trading Turner away.
Ivica Zubac averaged just 7.6 ppg and 3.8 rpg (with 0.9 bpg) in his first 10 games. Since then, he’s raised his production to 8.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg and 0.8 bpg. I don’t really recommend it in a shallow league, but Zubac is the epitome of a serviceable deep-league big man.
Dennis Schroder has been on a nice run lately (20.6 ppg, 5.2 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.0 3s over his last five active games), but he remains well outside the top 150 in 9-category leagues because his overall stat line is an exercise in mediocrity: 14.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.5 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.0 3s. It’s hard to drop a player who’s doing that, but it’s also frustrating to have him in your lineup over the long run. With all of that in mind, Schroder is someone I’d be trying to trade away (ideally as part of a multi-player deal, since the standalone Schroder likely won’t return much).
There are signs that the Ja Morant explosion could be coming. With back-to-back 35-point games prior to the break, and a 21-point, 10-dime performance in his first game back on Wednesday, the 21-year-old is now averaging 21.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 7.5 apg, 1.1 spg and 0.8 3s in his last 11 games, looking like he’s finally hitting his stride after the late-December ankle injury. Yes, more steals and 3s would be nice, but for now, high-volume points, boards and assists is the recipe for success for Morant.
Jimmy Butler currently holds the distinction of being the best fantasy player who basically doesn’t hit 3s, sitting 15th on the 9-category leaderboard despite averaging just 0.4 makes per game. For the season, he’s one of only two players inside the top 20 (along with Anthony Davis) who’s posting less than 1.0 3s per game. And he’s been a true non-3s monster since returning in late January, with 22.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 8.9 apg, 1.9 spg (and 0.5 3s) across his last 17 games.
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I saw a video recently on NBC Sports Edge saying that Jrue Holiday makes a great trade target right now, and I wholeheartedly agree. The reasoning is simple: It’s been over a month since we saw him record a big box score, as he missed 10 games due to health and safety protocols, and has been fairly quiet since his return. However, he has scored 15 and 11 points with two steals in each of his last two games, so there are small signs that he’s ready to ramp it up, as his minutes have gone 18 → 18 → 23 → 25 in his four games back.
Another guy I’d be trying to trade for right now is Malik Beasley. Yes, he’s still got eight games left on his 12-game suspension, and he’s not IL-eligible in Yahoo leagues. Those factors are both annoying, and that’s exactly why you trade for him, especially if you’re sitting in a strong position in the standings. In his last 10 games prior to the suspension, Beasley had averaged 21.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.0 spg and 4.7 3s.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Since the start of February, Lonzo Ball is sitting at 15.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.4 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.5 bpg and 3.5 3s, numbers that make him the 47th-best player in 9-category leagues across that stretch. I’d value him at least that high moving forward, and I’m trying to trade for him after a few quiet games (12, 10 and 10 points) before and after the break.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Shot-blocking aficionado Nerlens Noel has multiple blocks in a remarkable 14 out of 15 games since the start of February, a stretch that has seen him average 6.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 0.9 spg and 2.5 bpg. And prior to a two-point (and two-block) dud on Thursday night, he had been averaging 8.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.3 spg and 2.2 bpg in his last 10, starting in place of the injured Mitchell Robinson. At this point, if you picked up Noel and don’t have Robinson, I’d be checking in with the team that has Mitch to see what it takes to secure his blocks in a trade.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
It may have just been a random shot in the dark with Darius Bazley out, but I’m watching Aleksej Pokusevski closely after his 14-point, eight-board, three-assist, two-block, three-trey performance on Thursday night. This is a guy who per-36 minutes is averaging 0.9 spg, 2.3 bpg and 1.3 3s in his very limited action this season, and could get more chances for the Thunder in the second half.
Per Josh Robbins of The Athletic, Steve Clifford says that Cole Anthony (cracked rib) is “still a ways away”, which means the Michael Carter-Williams renaissance will continue. MCW was not thrilling when he first took over as the full-time starter (9.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 5.6 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.5 3s in his first eight games), but over his last three, he’s starting to show more. Those three games have featured 18.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 6.7 apg, 1.3 spg and 1.0 3s for the 29-year-old, who’s still rostered in just 27 percent of Yahoo leagues.
One player I’m watching closely coming out of the break is Seth Curry, who started out the season looking so good for Philadelphia (17.0 ppg, 3.6 apg, 3.1 3s in his first eight games), then went through a bit of a slump after being sidelined seven games due to COVID-19. However, he’s coming off a 12-point, seven-assist, two-steal, one-trey game on Thursday, and is on the court a ton for the Sixers (33 minutes over his last 12 games). His shooting ability + heavy minutes = intrigue.
Mikal Bridges started out this season looking like he was really ready to take things to another level, averaging 15.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.1 bpg and 2.6 3s in his first 15 games. It’s worth noting that since then, he’s been closer to solid than exciting. In his last 21 games, dating back to late January, Bridges is at 12.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.3 3s. Those numbers will still work, but Basketball Monster has him 73rd during this recent run, and I’m adjusting my expectations to something closer to mid-round value after he got off to an early-round start.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Derrick Jones Jr. had a fun six-game stretch there leading up to the break (12.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 0.7 spg, 2.0 bpg, 1.2 3s). Now, he’s right on the brink of droppable after four single-digit games in a row. The only thing keeping him around on some of my rosters is that he is still producing in three key areas: 0.8 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.3 3s in his last four. I’m gonna try to give DJJ one more game before I move on.
Simple one here: Tyrese Haliburton missed four games prior to the All-Star break, then was bad in his first game back (five points in 18 minutes on Thursday). It’s time to go make an offer.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
My podcast co-host Steve Alexander is predisposed to not drafting San Antonio Spurs, and one aspect where he’s really missing out there is the Dejounte Murray experience. Finally fulfilling his potential with 15.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.6 spg and 1.1 3s this season, he’s showing signs of getting even better as the year goes on, with 18.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.6 apg and 2.2 spg in his last 10 games.
Fred VanVleet last played on Feb. 26 due to the All-Star break and health and safety protocols. He still won’t be easy to acquire in fantasy leagues, but it may never be easier than this.
Donovan Mitchell is playing lights-out for the Jazz — 26.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 6.1 apg, 1.3 spg and 3.3 3s since the start of February — but the Basketball Monster rankings system is not a huge fan of his work. Mitchell is 59th in 9-category leagues during that 16-game run, largely because of a low FG percentage (41.7) and relatively high turnovers (2.7). For the season he’s sitting 71st overall, and while I’m not sure his real-life excellence will allow you to flip him for a slightly more valuable early-round fantasy stud, it’s something I’d at least be exploring.
What a weird season it’s been for Russell Westbrook with the Wizards, and what a roller coaster it’s been having Westbrook on a fantasy roster the last couple of seasons. Last year, it looked like he had largely fixed his percentage issues (he shot 47.2 from the field and 76.3 from the lineup, up from 42.8 / 65.6 the year before).
Now, he’s finally hitting his stride to some extent for the Wizards — 19.8 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 10.1 apg since the start of February — but his free throw woes have come roaring back. Westbrook has shot just 52.9 from the line since Feb. 1, including 11-for-25 in his last three games. (He has also turned it over 4.8 times a game in his last 17 games.) In a 9-category league, he’s forcing your team into a FT and TOs punt, and because of those two gigantic weights on his stat line, he currently sits 224th overall.
Ultimately, I think you can win with Westbrook, but you need a roster that’s very carefully built to punt free throws and TOs. I just checked around in a few of my leagues to see how the squads with Westbrook were doing, and it’s worth noting that the Westbrook teams that were near the top of the standings also happened to have Giannis Antetokounmpo (66.8 FT / 3.6 TOs).
If you have Westbrook on your team — and managed to read this far — plan accordingly.
And for more on a couple second-half story lines to follow, plus a preview of the NCAA Tournament with Corey Parson and Vaughn Dalzell, check out the latest episode of Roundball Stew right here: