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By Gabe Allen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
With the NBA on its All-Star hiatus until next Wednesday, who are the top adds for the remainder of the fantasy basketball season? Focusing primarily on players available in at least 60 percent of Yahoo Fantasy leagues, it’s clear there are plenty of strong options for those looking to plan ahead going into the second half of the campaign.
THIRD- AND FOURTH-YEAR BREAKOUT PLAYERS
Jalen Brunson, Mavericks (33% rostered)
Brunson is a bucket, plain and simple. Through 30 games, he’s averaging 12.7 points (53.1% FG, 40.2% 3Pt, 85.3% FT), 3.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.3 threes and 0.5 steals in 24.9 minutes. Brunson was already having a superb season even before taking it to another level over the last several weeks. Across the last nine contests, the 24-year-old point guard is pitching in 16.2 points (55.7% FG, 40.5% 3Pt, 77.8% FT), 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 threes, and 0.8 steals in 28.4 minutes. At this rate, Brunson won’t be so widely available for much longer.
Bruce Brown, Nets (27% rostered)
Brown’s per-game averages remain modest at best, but he’s been on an absolute tear of late. He has scored 12 points or more in six straight matchups and might be the team’s only sturdy point-of-attack defender. Moreover, the Nets will almost certainly continue to be cautious with Kevin Durant (hamstring), and to a lesser extent, Kyrie Irving, during the regular season. As such, Brown should have opportunities to showcase his well-rounded game down the stretch of 2020-21. Over the last six games, the 24-year-old guard is generating 18.0 points per night on an unsustainably scalding 67.7 percent from the field, to go along with 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 dimes and 1.3 steals in 30.0 minutes.
Shake Milton, 76ers (20% rostered)
Milton is in the midst of a career campaign. He’s averaging 13.8 points (44.1% FG, 31.3% FT, 78.5% FT), 3.0 assists, 2.1 rebounds, 1.1 threes, 0.6 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 25.1 minutes and his scoring could be in line for a boost if his three-point shooting starts trending closer toward last year’s numbers (1.5 threes per tilt on 43.0% 3Pt in 2019-20).
Hamidou Diallo, Thunder (13% rostered)
Diallo (groin) missed four straight games heading into the All-Star break—and put up a couple of stinkers in his last two appearances. Still, the third-year wing is turning in career highs across every statistical category, with per-game averages of 11.9 points (48.1% FG, 29.3% 3Pt, 62.9% FT), 5.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.4 threes, and 0.4 blocks in 23.8 minutes. Despite his subpar three-point and free throw shooting, Diallo has easily been Oklahoma City’s third-most reliable player.
Otto Porter, Bulls (37% rostered)
Porter (back) remains without a firm timetable to return and hasn’t been himself on the court for a couple of years now. However, considering his modest minutes average (23.3 mpg) this season, he has produced decent counting stats in several areas (11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.8 threes), albeit in only 16 tilts. The 27-year-old forward is in a contract year, and Chicago has found a way to weather its onslaught of injuries without falling out of the playoff race. As such Porter could — health willing — be a key cog for the Bulls during the second half of the season.
Royce O’Neale (33% rostered)
If you’re looking for steady, well-rounded, efficient production, look no further than O’Neale. A full-time starter now, the undervalued 27-year-old is managing career highs across nearly every category, with averages of 7.6 points (44.1% FG, 41.1% 3Pt, 82.1% FT), 6.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.7 threes, 0.8 steals, and 0.6 blocks in 32.8 minutes per game. He’s a fantasy gem hiding in plain sight.
Cody Zeller, Hornets (20% rostered)
If Charlotte doesn’t upgrade at center before the March 25 trade deadline, Zeller is a decent add for the rest of the season. A bruised hip has kept him sidelined for the last four games, and the 28-year-old big man has been hobbled often over the previous several seasons. Nevertheless, health willing, Zeller’s per-game averages of 9.7 points (51.4% FG, 15.8% 3Pt, 75.8% FT), 7.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.6 blocks in 23.4 minutes make him a useful contributor in most fantasy formats.
Monte Morris, Nuggets (16% rostered)
Just like during his Iowa State days, Morris is an efficient scorer with an absurdly impressive assist-to-turnover ratio (nearly five-to-one). Morris has developed excellent chemistry with Nikola Jokic over the years, and the 25-year-old point guard is averaging a career-high 27.1 minutes per game while managing 10.6 points (47.7% FG, 36.0% 3Pt, 75.4% 3Pt) and 3.4 assists versus 0.7 turnovers, 2.2 boards, 1.1 threes, 0.7 steals and 0.3 blocks through 35 appearances. The Nuggets do have decent backcourt depth, and if Gary Harris (thigh), Facundo Campazzo (protocols), Will Barton, and Jamal Murray all enjoy relatively healthy second halves of the season, Morris may see a dip in minutes. However, Harris has missed 14 of the last 15 games, plus coach Michael Malone has relied heavily on multi-guard lineups given the team’s relative lack of depth along the wing.
BEST ROOKIE BETS
Jae’Sean Tate, Rockets (24% rostered)
Even while seriously contending for titles in recent years, the Rockets consistently made deals before the trade deadline to shed salary. If a rebuild is on the horizon for Houston, Tate would likely benefit substantially from a fantasy perspective. Already amassing 9.9 points (53.6% FG, 31.9% 3Pt, 75.4% FT), 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.6 threes, and 0.5 blocks in 27.4 minutes per game, the 25-year-old rookie has been among the few bright spots for the Rockets this season.
Patrick Williams, Bulls (20% rostered)
Finding both offensive efficiency and defensive competence in a 19-year-old rookie is a rarity. If the eventual return of Otto Porter (back) doesn’t result in fewer minutes for Williams, Chicago’s first-year forward may be worth a look, at least in deep leagues. Holding down the fort as a starter, Williams is totaling 10.2 points (47.4% FG, 39.0% 3Pt, 78.8% FT), 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.9 threes, 0.8 blocks and 0.7 steals in 28.5 minutes.
Nicolas Claxton, Nets (14% rostered)
Small sample size alert! Through five games, Claxton is averaging 10.0 points (69.0% FG, 71.4% FT), 3.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.0 assist and 1.0 steal in merely 15.2 minutes. While it’s doubtful that he’ll leapfrog DeAndre Jordan in the rotation this season, the 21-year-old sophomore might play his way into a timeshare if he continues to perform at this level.
NOT AS WIDELY AVAILABLE
(I won’t devote much time and space to the following players, many of whom have been covered in recent columns from last week and the week before. But here’s a quick rundown on seven more players who are rostered in at least 40 percent of leagues, but less than 50 percent)
Josh Richardson (48% rostered)
Richardson has reached double figures in scoring in six straight showings. However, his three-point shooting percentage (career-low 28.8%) continues to plummet. No one could be blamed for banishing Richardson to the waiver wire, but don’t be shocked if he hits his stride at some point in the second half of the season.
Blake Griffin, Free Agent (46% rostered)
Griffin is getting older, but he’s not over the hill. If he lands in a better situation after his recent buyout, he’ll likely be helpful in most fantasy leagues thanks to his scoring, rebounding, distributing, and three-point shooting.
Dillon Brooks, Grizzlies (45% rostered)
Brooks poured in 23 points, seven dimes, four boards, three steals, and a career-best three blocks in 35 minutes during Thursday’s loss to the Bucks. If you can afford to take a hit in the field-goal percentage department, Brooks is a strong source of counting stats playing on a fantasy-friendly team that gets up and down the court fast and fills it up offensively.
De’Andre Hunter, Hawks (45% rostered)
Likely out for at least the rest of March, Hunter (knee) was enjoying a breakout sophomore season prior to his injury. If you have an open IR spot and can afford to stash him, it could pay off down the road.
Will Barton, Nuggets (45% rostered)
Barton has bounced back after a shaky start to the season and has scored at least 14 points in four consecutive contests while slowly but surely improving his shooting percentages. He hasn’t been as good as last year, but the 30-year-old wing is averaging 11.6 points (44.2% FG, 38.8% 3Pt, 75.5% FT), 4.1 boards, 3.1 dimes, 1.5 threes, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks in 29.9 minutes.
Robert Williams, Celtics (44% rostered)
Since last week’s column — which featured Williams as the lone player in the “Playing the Long Game” section — the third-year center has been remarkable, accumulating 10.8 points (73.9% FG, 69.2% FT), 8.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.0 blocks and 0.5 steals in 21.3 minutes over the past four matchups. Williams has also earned at least 20 minutes in three of these last four outings after doing so only five times through the first 25 games this season.
Malik Monk, Hornets (41% rostered)
Monk is finally living up to the Lou Williams comparisons from his college days at the University of Kentucky. He has supplied at least 18 points in seven of the last eight tilts while splashing in 26 treys during that same stretch. Devonte’ Graham (kneecap) has missed seven straight games and Gordon Hayward has had plenty of trouble staying healthy over the last several years. As such, Monk could have a consistent role the rest of the way.