Fantasy Basketball: Storylines to monitor as we reach season's midpoint

Yahoo Sports

By Nick WhalenRotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports

At some point in Week 13, much of the NBA will officially cross the halfway point of the season. Let’s take a look around the fantasy landscape at the players and storylines to keep an eye on.

Gordon Hayward is starting to look more like Gordon Hayward

We’ll see if he can keep it up, but Hayward has scored in double-digits in three straight games for the first time all season after putting up 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting in Monday’s win over Brooklyn.

Hayward still doesn’t look like himself on a night-to-night basis, but Monday’s game came on the heels of a 16-point, 11-rebound, eight-assist outing against the Mavs. And before that, Hayward dropped a season-high 35 points (14-18 FG) on the Timberwolves.

His averages over that three-game span — 21.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.0 APG — are more in line with what we expect from Hayward at full strength. The question will be whether he can eliminate the duds he’s thus far mixed in with his better showings. Prior to that eruption against Minnesota, Hayward was held scoreless in 22 minutes (0-6 FG) in a loss to San Antonio on New Year’s Eve.

DJ Wilson: Rotation player?

Outside of a certain MVP candidate, the Bucks have missed on a handful of first-rounders in recent years. After appearing in just 22 games as a rookie and battling injury early in his second season, Wilson looked to be the latest to follow in the footsteps of Rashad Vaughn and Jabari Parker, but he entered the rotation in mid-December when Ersan Ilyasova went down with a broken nose and immediately exceeded expectations.

Granted, those expectations were exceptionally low, but Wilson has proven to be a capable rebounder, three-point shooter and — most importantly — team defender.

Over a nine-game stretch from Dec. 17 to Jan. 4, Wilson averaged 6.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists, while shooting 44.4 percent from three. The Bucks went 9-1 in that stretch. It’ll be interesting to see if Wilson — who’s currently battling a hip injury — remains in the rotation long-term with Ilyasova now back in the mix.

Nuggets welcomed Paul Millsap and Gary Harris back

They returned to the starting lineup Monday night in Houston. Both players made their way back from injury around the turn of the calendar, but Denver has opted to bring them along relatively slowly. Harris has topped 30 minutes just once in four games, while Millsap has been limited to 22 or fewer minutes in four of five contests.

Coach Mike Malone appears intent on keeping Monte Morris and Malik Beasley in the rotation — they played 24 and 26 minutes, respectively Monday — and while Harris will be the starting two-guard when healthy (he’s currently nursing a hamstring injury), his playing time could dip below where it was before he missed almost all of December. From the start of the season through the end of November, Harris averaged 33.4 minutes per game.

Millsap, meanwhile, averaged just under 27 minutes per game before his wrist injury, and he figures to climb closer to that figure over the next few weeks. Like Harris, though, he’ll face internal competition from Trey Lyles and Juancho Hernangomez, who played well enough to help keep the Nuggets atop the West while missing a trio of starters.

Realistically, Denver’s rotation may not fully settle until Will Barton makes his return. While the team hasn’t provided overly detailed updates, they’re calling Barton “week-to-week” for now, but the hope is that he’ll be back sometime in January.

Barton only lasted a game-and-a-half before going down with a severely strained groin. When he returns, the non-fantasy-relevant Torrey Craig will almost certainly shift back to the bench.

Josh Hart is coming alive

The LeBron-and-Rondo-less Lakers are reaping the benefits. After a hot start, Hart went through a lull in November and early-December, but he’s reemerged as an appealing fantasy option in the absence of James and Rondo, who both went down on Christmas Day in Oakland.

Including that game, Hart is averaging 12.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.1 steals and 0.6 blocks in just under 35 minutes per game. He’s grabbed double-digit rebounds twice and hit multiple three-pointers five times in that span, though he’s shooting just 29 percent from beyond the arc.

For the season, Hart is outside the top-130 in Yahoo leagues, but his rank jumps up to 62nd overall in the last 14 days. James is set to miss at least one more game, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Lakers exercise caution with matchups against the lottery-bound Cavs (Jan. 13) and Bulls (Jan. 15) to begin next week.

Clint Capela is top-20 player in Yahoo leagues

As Houston has charged its way up the Western Conference standings, most of the credit has (rightfully) gone to James Harden, but Capela has emerged as a legitimate All-Star-caliber big man. Capela averaged a double-double a year ago, but he’s stepped into a larger role — nearly seven more minutes per game — and upped his production to 17.6 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.9 blocks per contest — all career-bests.

Clint Capela has been on a tear ever since Chris Paul went down. (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
Clint Capela has been on a tear ever since Chris Paul went down. (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

Capela is once again among the league leaders in field goal percentage, and he’s improved at the free throw line (60.8% FT) for the fifth consecutive season. With Chris Paul sidelined, Capela has raised his production to another level, putting up 19.9 points and 17.0 rebounds (!!!) per game, while hitting 70.7 percent of his 5.1 free throws per game.

For the season, Capela trails only Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nik Vucevic, Embiid and Jokic in average fantasy production among centers. And over the past two weeks, all six centers have ranked in the top-10 overall.

Other News and Notes

Marvin Bagley made his return …

… to Sacramento on Monday night, playing 20 minutes off the bench and finishing with eight points, six rebounds, one assist and one block. The rookie went 4-of-6 at the free throw line and missed both of his three-point attempts. Given that he missed 11 games, Bagley will be held out of Tuesday’s game for rest purposes.

Mike D’Antoni implied that Chris Paul probably won’t be back …

until closer to the end of the month, which means James Harden and Austin Rivers should continue playing big minutes. Rivers has played at least 31 minutes in every game since coming to Houston, and he’s topped 40 minutes in four straight games with Eric Gordon also banged up. Gordon is expected to remain out Wednesday against Milwaukee and could end up missing additional time as he nurses a bone bruise.

Justin Holiday’s run as a starting-caliber fantasy option …

… may be over. The versatile wing is still a top-60 player in Yahoo leagues for the season, but that’s due in large part to a hot start to the year in Chicago. He’s cooled off significantly over the past month, ranking outside the top 175 in that span. The notion that a fresh start in Memphis could rejuvenate Holiday remains an outside possibility, but he’s played a combined 33 minutes over his first two games with the Grizzlies, including just 12 in Monday’s loss to New Orleans.

Keep an eye on Derrick White …

… who’s still available in more than half of Yahoo leagues as of Tuesday. White doesn’t have a signature, breakout performance, but he’s been a top-25 player over the past two weeks, averaging 16.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.3 steals/blocks per game. He’s also 21-of-23 at the line and 7-of-12 from beyond the arc in that span. He’s committed just five turnovers in 181 total minutes.

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