Fantasy Basketball Drop Candidates: With inconsistent play and dwindling minutes, it's time to cut Paul Reed

Paul Reed #44 of the Philadelphia 76ers
With big expectations as a replacement for the injured Joel Embiid, Paul Reed instead has been inconsistent for the Philadelphia 76ers and may start losing playing time. That could direct fantasy managers to look elsewhere and cut Reed from their teams. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

By Jason Shebilske, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

The NBA is on the verge of the final full month of the regular season, and plenty of teams are expected to jostle for playoff positioning in the coming weeks. While fantasy managers will need to start accounting for potential shutdowns soon, players can mostly be evaluated solely based on performance heading into March.

Paul Reed, Philadelphia 76ers (56% rostered)

The 76ers have struggled as a team in recent weeks, and Reed hasn’t inspired much confidence while filling in for Joel Embiid. Reed has been especially inconsistent in recent matchups, averaging 5.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game over his last four appearances. The 24-year-old flashes some promise in the scoring and rebounding columns and will post the occasional double-double, but his inconsistency makes him difficult to rely on in season-long formats.

While Embiid should remain out for at least a few more weeks, Reed hasn’t been very reliable, and the 76ers could test out other players if they continue to struggle as a team. He still has some value as a streaming candidate, but fantasy managers may be able to find more consistent center options available on the waiver wire.

De’Anthony Melton, Philadelphia 76ers (59% rostered)

Fantasy managers who stashed Melton on their IR spot have likely been discouraged with his production over his three games since returning from a back injury, and they may be disappointed to see him in this week’s column. He exited Tuesday’s game against the Celtics due to back spasms, and it’s unclear whether he’ll be forced to miss additional time due to his most recent back issue. However, even if he’s available again soon, the 76ers will likely continue to manage his workload to close out the regular season to preserve his health for the playoffs.

Melton has some productive games as a scorer and rebounder and was also a fairly reliable defensive contributor earlier in the season. However, he’s averaged just 7.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 14.3 minutes per game over his three appearances since returning to action. Fantasy managers looking to remain competitive heading into March should explore replacing Melton due to his discouraging outlook following his absence.

Cameron Johnson, Brooklyn Nets (75% rostered)

Like Melton, Johnson has been eased into action following his injury-related absence. Over his five appearances since returning to action, he’s averaged 8.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in 23.0 minutes per game. He came off the bench in four of those outings but rejoined the starting lineup Tuesday against the Magic since Cam Thomas was sidelined due to an ankle injury.

Johnson had some encouraging performances earlier in the season, and his outlook is strengthened by the fact that the Nets are fighting for a spot in the Play-In Tournament. However, the Nets are now being led by interim head coach Kevin Ollie and have been blown out in three of four games with him at the helm. Even if Johnson reclaims a starting role at some point, his inconsistency certainly makes him a drop candidate.

Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons (64% rostered)

Ivey has mainly relied on his scoring production to bolster his fantasy value, as he’s inconsistent on the boards and as a passer. However, he’s been an unreliable scorer in recent matchups, as he’s averaged just 10.6 points per game over his last five appearances while shooting 31.3%from the floor during that time. Ivey’s production in most areas has decreased between his rookie season and sophomore campaign, and his results have been trending in the wrong direction in recent weeks.

Ivey will likely have some solid performances down the stretch once his efficiency improves, but his fantasy value has relied on his scoring output. If he continues to have lackluster scoring lines, his fantasy value will diminish significantly. He profiles more as a candidate to bench in deeper leagues, but in standard leagues, fantasy managers can explore replacing him via a waiver wire option while monitoring him as a streaming candidate.

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Daniel Gafford, Dallas Mavericks (81% rostered)

Gafford put together some encouraging performances to begin his time with the Mavericks, as he averaged 15.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in 21.3 minutes per game over his first three appearances with his new team. However, he’s moved to the bench for the Mavericks’ three games following the All-Star break and has averaged 5.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 14.3 minutes per game. He’s been competing for a role with Dereck Lively, who was unavailable for Gafford’s first two appearances with the team and was limited during the team’s final game before the All-Star break.

Fantasy managers may want to wait another week or so before dropping Gafford to see how the position battle develops, but those in shallower leagues can likely find more appealing players on waivers. Gafford showcased his potential before the All-Star break, but his upside will be limited as long as Lively can remain on the court to close out the regular season. Gafford is at least a bench candidate at this point, and his value is trending in the wrong direction heading into March.