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Last week, I brought you 18 fantasy hoops takeaways for Week 18.
This week, my brain is far too flooded with random NFL Draft thoughts (and mostly, Kyle Pitts highlights) to spawn a new concept, so we’ll run it back with 19 random (and hopefully useful) pieces of information to consider toward the tail end of Week 19.
1. This Khem Birch thing is really happening. We touted Khem Birch as a solid-if-slightly-low-ceiling option who could compile enough stats to be worth starting during this Raptors five-game week. Turns out, he’s showcasing some ceiling. After a career-high 20 points on Thursday night, the 28-year-old big man has posted 15.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.3 bpg and 0.7 3s through three games this week. And in eight games as a starter for Toronto, he’s sitting at 11.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 0.9 spg and 1.6 bpg. Congratulations if you landed Birch right before the takeoff.
2. Speaking of career-highs — and 20-point games — say hello to Isaiah Stewart. Detroit’s explosive 19-year-old rookie posted a 20 and 10 line on Thursday night with Mason Plumlee resting in a non-back-to-back situation. And with the veteran sitting four times in the last eight games, Stewart has capitalized to the tune of 13.0 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 0.8 spg, 2.3 bpg and 0.5 3s in just 26 minutes a game. There’s more risk in starting Stewart for games where Plumlee is active, but then again, he had 11 rebounds, one steal and four blocks on Monday night in a game where Plumlee played. At this point, if in doubt, I’m starting Stewart.
3. Also peaking at exactly the right time: Lonzo Ball. Last week I wondered if, after a 12-assist game, Lonzo Ball was about to take off. As it turns out, he has done exactly that, posting 16.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 7.3 apg, 2.8 spg, 0.8 bpg and 3.3 3s across his last four games. It’s frustrating that Ball’s season has featured so many starts and stops — including 14 games missed due to injury — but he’s reminding us again why he still has the skill set to be a top-20 fantasy player when things are going right.
4. Miles Bridges is giving us quite a finish. It seems like legitimately a lifetime ago that I was/we were dying to draft Miles Bridges in fantasy leagues as a high-upside breakout player for 2019-20. Obviously that didn’t quite materialize. And frankly, it didn’t really materialize this year for more than three months, as Bridges put up just 9.7 ppg in 27 minutes a game through his first 46 appearances. However, with Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball sidelined, we’ve seen Bridges absolutely thriving as a focal point for the Hornets, averaging 19.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.9 bpg and 3.1 3s in 16 games this month. This is the player we expected/hoped for last season. Now it’s on James Borrego and the Hornets to find a way to keep Bridges involved when Charlotte gets closer to full strength.
5. Mo Bamba is trending back up. Added in a bunch of leagues, dropped when he got hurt, and now being added again, Bamba (39 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues) is looking like a must-roster player. Across his last four games, the Orlando big man is averaging 12.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 0.8 spg, 1.8 bpg and 1.5 3s in 24 minutes a game.
6. Another per-minute player of note: Isaiah Roby. Roby did a lot of work in just 16 minutes on Thursday night, scoring 13 points with nine boards, two dimes, three steals and two triples in just 16 minutes. The last two weeks, Roby (25 percent rostered) is sitting at 11.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.7 bpg and 1.0 3s in seven games.
7. Kent Bazemore is back. Last week in this space, I wrote up Bazemore — who was fresh off a 19-9-3 extravaganza with six steals, two blocks and four triples — only to have him miss three games due to health and safety protocols. On Thursday, the veteran returned and immediately got back to work, going for 10 points, 10 boards, two dimes, three steals, one block and two 3s in 33 minutes. Rostered in just 10 percent of Yahoo leagues, Baze looks like a widely-available player who’s potentially set up to make a big difference.
8. In terms of fantasy, what a hugely disappointing season it’s been for Ben Simmons. Year one of the Doc Rivers regime in Philly has not been kind to Simmons’s numbers, as the 24-year-old is averaging 14.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 7.0 apg — all the lowest numbers of his career. His steals are also down from 2.1 to 1.6, and he’s attempting just 10.3 shots a game, down from 11.4 a year ago. Obviously there’s no action to take in fantasy leagues — Simmons is sill a no-brainer starting option — but given that the formula has worked for the 41-21 Sixers, I’ll be knocking Simmons (who wasn’t that high in the first place) way down in my rankings heading into next year. For the season, he’s outside the top-100 in 9-category leagues, according to BasketballMonster.com.
9. The Darius Bazley experience is still kind of rough. Bazley lately has been getting all the playing time and volume you could ask for — he’s at 18.5 ppg in 33 minutes a game over his last 11 — but frankly, we aren’t getting enough positive numbers out of him. When you take the entire stat line into consideration (18.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.2 bpg and 1.4 3s, on 44.4 percent FG and 70.4 FT, with 3.5 turnovers), you’re pretty much looking at a spectacular mess. For those 11 games, Bazley is 275th in 9-category leagues. I still think there’s a lot of upside here long term, but for now, it’s points, rebounds, 3s and a headache.
10. Daniel Gafford is scary to bench, scary to start. Just look at Gafford’s last five games:
-19 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks (24 minutes)
-Two points, 6 boards, one steal, one block (15 minutes)
-12 points, 6 rebounds, four steals, four blocks (27 minutes)
-Six points, four boards, two blocks (15 minutes)
-Eight points, six boards, nothing else (13 minutes)
It’s pretty simple: When Gafford gets 20+ minutes, he’s going to produce. However, Scott Brooks isn’t interested in consistently giving him 20+ minutes. At this point, I’m rolling with Gafford in deeper leagues and just hoping we get more spiked games than smelly ones, but it’s a maddening and occasionally beautiful dilemma we are facing.
11. Facundo Campazzo is making things happen. Over his last five games, the 30-year-old rookie is sitting at 10.0 ppg 7.6 apg, 1.8 spg and 1.0 3s, otherwise known as the Ricky Rubio. Go get him if you need some PG stats.
12. Malachi Flynn is back… again. In two games off the bench and one as a starter this week, Flynn has scored, 18, 13 and 16 points for averages of 15.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.3 spg and 1.7 3s in 26 minutes a game. It’s worth noting that the Raptors have also lost three out of four and are 2.5 games behind Washington for the 10th spot in the East, signs that bode well for more Flynn minutes the rest of the way. As of this writing, Flynn is 22 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues and definitely has more upside than Campazzo if things break right.
13. Speaking of rookie point guards, Killian Hayes has been doing strange things. Here’s the good news: Across his last three games, Hayes is averaging 7.0 apg and 1.7 spg. The bad news: He’s only scored four total points (1.3 ppg if you’re interested in that sort of thing). He did have 11 dimes and two steals though on Thursday, so I’ll still consider him a viable streamer if you can live with a potential zero in points.
14. I’m running out patience (for now) with Aleksej Pokusevski. Kind of like his teammate Darius Bazley, the upside and long-term potential for Poku are undeniable. However, the current reality is something much more agonizing. After a 3-for-16 performance on Thursday night, the 19-year-old has shot 28.6 percent from the floor and 14.3 percent on 3s over his last seven games. The rest of his stat line reminds us of the future upside (4.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 1.1 bpg). For now, though, I’m moving on.
15. Player I’m watching closely on Friday: Gary Harris. Harris is coming off a couple of notable games for Orlando, scoring 17 with a steal and two 3s on Monday, then going for 19-6-7 with a block and a triple on Wednesday. One more good game would make me that much more intrigued to add him, and I’m not opposed to Harris as a desperation streaming play on Friday.
16. Let’s also keep our eyes on Devin Vassell. Derrick White (ankle) is expected to miss the rest of the season, and steals/blocks aficionado Vassell scored 11 points with two treys and a block in 25 minutes as a starter on Wednesday night. Per-36 minutes this season, the No. 11 overall pick has averaged 11.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.7 spg, 0.7 bpg and 2.0 3s.
17. Some random Kelly Olynyk appreciation. Olynyk is now 30 years old, in his eighth season in the NBA, and prior to this season he had never averaged even nine FG attempts per game. So far with Houston, through 19 games, he’s averaging 11.7 shots per game, and the result has been this: 18.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.5 bpg and 1.9 3s. Anyone who held onto Olynyk after the trade deadline (or added him) has found an unlikely league-winning force.
18. Collin Sexton or no, it’s great to see Darius Garland breaking out. The 21-year-old is finishing his second season with a flourish, posting 23.1 ppg, 7.6 apg, 1.6 spg and 2.9 3s on 48.4 percent shooting over his last 12 games. For the season, he’s still outside the top-100 in 9-category leagues, so keep this closing stretch in mind as you project Garland forward into next season.
19. Also finishing strong: Andrew Wiggins. After Wiggins came out of the gates hot — averaging 17.9 ppg, 1.8 bpg and 2.2 3s in his first 11 games — I remember being cautiously optimistic that he could continue to ride that defensive improvement to long-term sustainable value in fantasy leagues. That’s exactly what we’re seeing down the stretch from the 26-year-old, who is churning out 17.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.1 bpg and 1.8 3s through 16 games this month. Wiggins over the years always had a stat line that seemed to have more drawbacks than benefits, but we’ve finally reached the point where he’s a bona fide difference maker. For the season, BasketballMonster.com has him inside the top-70 of 9-category leagues.
For more on some of these players, and a few other developments of note, check out our latest Roundball Stew podcast, right here (or in the embedded player below):