Basketball Pickups: It's Dalano Banton time!

With the fantasy playoffs just around the corner, searching for low-rostered players who could be of increased value for those weeks is a solid practice at this point in the season. One team that should be on fantasy managers' radar is Portland, which is nowhere near contention for a Play-In Tournament spot, and multiple veterans (and Scoot Henderson) have been sidelined due to injury. Those circumstances have opened the door for unproven players to emerge, with Dalano Banton (6% rostered, Yahoo) and Kris Murray (4%) being two of them.

The Trail Blazers got off to a good start before losing to Houston by a 123-107 final, with Banton and Murray having career nights. Banton's accuracy (10-of-27 FGs) left something to be desired, but he finished with a career-high 30 points while accounting for eight rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block, and four 3-pointers in 38 minutes. As for Murray, the rookie recorded his first double-double, tallying 12 points, 11 rebounds (career-high), seven assists (career-high), one block, and one 3-pointer in 33 minutes.

Based on their season-long fantasy values, Banton and Murray aren't players who would be considered under normal circumstances. However, this is clearly a "special" situation in Portland, and some low-rostered players will help managers win a playoff round (or more) in the coming weeks. Let's look at a few more of Friday's top pickups:

Jaime Jaquez Jr. (36%)

The Heat rookie had a good night off the bench in Miami's loss to Oklahoma City. Playing 31 minutes, he finished with 25 points (10-of-13 FGs, 4-of-6 FTs), three rebounds, three assists, three steals, and one 3-pointer. Over the past two weeks, Jaquez has provided 8th-round per-game value. With it being unknown when Tyler Herro (foot) will be a full go, Jaquez (and Duncan Robinson) will have increased fantasy value.

Amen Thompson (34%)

Thompson had a big night in Portland, finishing the Rockets' victory with 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a career-best five blocks. While he has not been a top 100 player over the past two weeks, the defensive production makes Amen a player worth adding in category leagues. Cam Whitmore (14%) also played well in Portland, but Thompson is the player managers should prioritize regarding Rockets players who are available in more than 50% of Yahoo leagues.

Vasilije Micic (23%)

Micic has started Charlotte's last three games and should remain in that role for the foreseeable future, especially with Tre Mann sidelined. A double-digit scorer in four straight games, the rookie from Serbia finished Friday's loss to Washington with 14 points, three rebounds, and three assists in 32 minutes. Micic missed all five of his 3-pointers and is shooting just 14.3% over the past two weeks, but the assists and steals are why he's worth a look in deep leagues.

Jake LaRavia (14%)

A first-round pick in the 2022 draft, LaRavia has yet to establish himself in Memphis. However, the team's many injuries have opened the door for him to do so, as was the case for Vince Williams Jr. earlier this season. A double-digit scorer in three straight and four of his last five games, LaRavia tallied 14 points, three rebounds, three assists, three steals, one block, and two 3-pointers in 26 minutes in Friday's loss to Atlanta. The full stat line should stand out despite his shooting 3-of-10 from the field. Given the length of Memphis' injury report, LaRavia won't lack opportunities for the remainder of this season.

Georges Niang (3%)

Niang has started Cleveland's last two games, reaching double figures in both. Playing 36 minutes in Friday's overtime win over the Timberwolves, he finished with 16 points, six rebounds, four assists, one steal, two blocks, and four 3-pointers. Donovan Mitchell (knee) will be re-evaluated in the coming days, while Max Strus (knee) does not have a timeline for return as he is dealing with "wear and tear," according to Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff. Those absences make Niang worth a look, especially considering how he's played in his two starts.

Richaun Holmes (3%)

The Wizards will be without Marvin Bagley III (back) for at least one week, and unlike Wednesday's loss to Orlando, interim coach Brian Keefe decided not to go small on Friday. Holmes was inserted into the starting lineup and played 36 minutes, finishing with 14 points, 11 rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one blocked shot. And he did not miss a shot, going 5-of-5 from the field and 4-of-4 from the foul line. Holmes being a viable fantasy option should prompt nostalgic thoughts among managers who remember his "glory years" with the Kings (2019-20 and 2020-21).