Lauri Markkanen & the Bulls are good buys

Steve Alexander
Rotoworld

Buy Low

Bulls – The Bulls box score was kind of a mess on Monday, outside of Zach LaVine, but with Chicago playing three more games this week and then four games in each of the next two weeks, there is plenty of waiver wire/trade action available in the Windy City. LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, who was very quiet on Monday, are basically must-own, must-start players until further notice and now is a great time to buy either of them. Then guys like Kris Dunn, Tomas Satoransky, Thaddeus Young, Daniel Gafford, and maybe even Luke Kornet and Coby White might be worth a look in deeper leagues. Wendell Carter Jr. is going to be out for the next month or two with a severely sprained ankle which is big news for Gafford, Young and Kornet, and the four-game weeks make Dunn, Sato and White all worth a hard look. 

Karl-Anthony Towns Wolves – Towns has now missed 14 straight games with his left knee injury, as well as a flu bug infiltrating the team, but it sounds like there’s a real chance he could play on Wednesday. His knee injury, along with the fact he appears to be disgruntled, has been very concerning and there’s a chance the rest of this season could be a disaster. And his owners know this. Yeah, it’s not ideal to try to trade for a superstar the day before he’s set to return, but it’s probably a better time than a week later after he’s gone off for three games. The bottom line is that KAT owners are scared and might be willing to move him for less than he’s actually worth in an effort to avoid a potential disaster. If your team is hanging around 8th- to 10th-place, maybe shaking things up and making a big deal to try to hit a homerun with KAT is just what the doctor ordered.

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Gordon Hayward Celtics – Hayward still hasn’t fully blown up since returning from his foot injury and has scored at least 20 points just once in his seven January games. He’s also scored just eight points in two of his last three games, while still averaging a respectable 15 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.6 3-pointers on 49 percent shooting this month. I get the feeling we’re on the verge of seeing a Hayward explosion and this could be the calm before the storm. 

Darius Garland Cavaliers – Garland suddenly looks like a real player and the buy-low window is closing quickly. However, he’s still owned in just 44 percent of Yahoo! Leagues so it’s entirely possible that he’s sitting out there on your league’s waiver wire. Garland has scored in double figures in nine straight games and is averaging 16.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.3 3-pointers on 45.7 percent shooting in his seven January games. Dante Exum disappeared on Monday after blowing up in his previous game, but I don’t think he’s going to ruin what Garland has built. The Cavs have three more games this week and have four four-game weeks remaining over the remainder of the season. 

Will Barton Nuggets – My buddy Zach and I enjoy arguing with each other. Whether it’s about the superior sport, the merits of Gordon Lightfoot and Phil Collins, or reciting the same movie lines until they’re not funny anymore, we’re always talking some kind of trash to each other. He doesn’t like Barton and was quick to point out his bad game on Sunday when he hit 2-of-9 shots and a 3-pointer for six points, five rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block, saying something like “that’s why I never use him.” Maybe my opinion of Barton is too high, but the bottom line is that he’s averaging 15.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.8 blocks and 1.2 3-pointers on 42 percent shooting in his five January games. He’s never going to be a monster scorer on such a deep Nuggets team, but his scoring is serviceable and he’s returning early sixth-round fantasy value on the season. Like the Bulls, the Nuggets go 4-4 in games played over the next two weeks and still have three games to play this week. I like the idea of trading for Barton right now. 

Aaron Gordon Magic – Gordon returned from his calf injury on Monday and hit the game-winning shot for the Magic, hitting 8-of-16 shots and a 3-pointer for 19 points, nine rebounds, two assists and a block in 30 minutes. He had scored just 10 or 11 points in his previous three games and is in the midst of a very shaky season, mainly due to some really poor shooting. But Jonathan Isaac is out indefinitely, the Magic are the No. 7 seed in the East, Gordon is getting healthy, and it’s time for him to step up and take over. He’s shooting 46.7 in five January games which is already leaps and bounds better than his 41.3 shooting percentage on the year and it’s possible that he turns his season around in the second half. 

Christian Wood Pistons – I’m fairly certain we won’t see Blake Griffin (knee) again this season and Wood went off on Monday night with 18 points, nine boards, two steals, three blocks and two 3-pointers in 26 minutes off the bench. He also had 17 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, a steal and three blocks on Saturday, but posted a four-point and six-point dud in his two games prior to those explosions. Despite those last two games, Wood is still just 30% owned in Yahoo! leagues and the entire Rotoworld staff has been predicting big things from him in the second half of the season. It looks like it’s a now-or-never situation to get Wood and once you do, just hang on through both the good times and bad. Sekou Doumbouya (30 percent owned) is also worth grabbing in any league. 

Al Horford Sixers – Joel Embiid, who was already known as being really fragile, is out for another week or two after his finger surgery and Horford will be the man in the middle any time he’s out. Horford had just 10 points against the Pacers on Monday, but also had eight rebounds, five dimes, a steal and two blocks in 35 minutes. He’d scored in double digits in his previous three games and is averaging 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.0 steals and 1.4 3-pointers in his five January games, which includes a seven-point game on Jan. 3. I just think that Horford is going to be leaned on heavily in the second half as Embiid works his way back from the injury and while the Sixers try to protect his fragile legs from heavy minutes.

Omari Spellman Warriors – I was less than fired up about Spellman in the now famous Waiver Wired podcast with Matt Stroup and Brian Rosenworcel on Sunday morning, but I’m coming around. Spellman had 12 points, four boards, three assists, a steal, two blocks and three 3-pointers in 27 minutes and a start on Sunday, has scored in double digits in all six of his January games, and is averaging 14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.7 blocks and 2.5 3-pointers on 56 percent shooting in them. The tanking Warriors are going to continue to play him big minutes the rest of the way, they’ve lost all six of their January games, and Spellman is still owned in just 36 percent of Yahoo! leagues. I was clearly (and almost literally) sleeping on him and chances are a lot of other people are too. If he can keep this up, he could be in line for a monster second half. And the fact that he remains to be named Omari Spellman, chances are you can get him without having to give up a whole lot, but I’d wait until he has a dud before trying to make a move for him. 

Elfrid Payton & Mitchell Robinson Knicks – It feels like Payton is the only Knicks point guard capable of really running the offense, and it wouldn’t be a Buy Low, Sell High column if I didn’t mention Robinson. Payton had 10 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals in his last game, while Robinson played just 15 minutes for two points, three rebounds, a block and five fouls against the Heat. Robinson’s been a disaster all season, but we still have another half to go and we all saw him tear it up late last year. I still think we’re going to see that again this season. And if you need a point guard, Payton is worth a look. He’s scored in double figures in five straight games and is averaging 11.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.5 blocks in January on 46.4 percent shooting. Payton is owned in just 28 percent of Yahoo! leagues and Robinson is somehow still owned in 91 percent of them. Payton might be on your waiver wire, while Robinson’s owners have to think about cutting him at least once a week.  

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Sell High

Hornets – Both Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier went off on Monday, while P.J. Washington loaded up with 20 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers for one of the stat lines of the night. The key here is the schedule, as the Hornets only have one more game this week and just two games next week. Starting today (Tuesday) their remaining games-played schedule is: 1-2-3-3-2-2-4-3-4-3-3-4-3-2 to close out the season. There are just three four-game weeks remaining for Charlotte and the number of two-game weeks is disturbing. All of these guys are playing at a high level, so bust out the Rotoworld Schedule Grid in the Season Pass, find some teams with more attractive schedules (pick a team, any team) and see if you can pull of a big deal that can get you some good players in return with much better schedules.  

Lakers Bigs – Anthony Davis missed his third straight game with his tailbone injury but shouldn’t be out much longer. Dwight Howard had his best game of the season on Monday with 21 points, 15 rebounds and a 3-pointer on 9-of-11 shooting, Kyle Kuzma is averaging 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.9 3-pointers in January, and JaVale McGee is averaging 6.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.3 blocks in January. All of these guys are going to take a hit once AD is back and Kuzma’s lack of steals and blocks, along with Howard’s inconsistency mean owners can live without them. Before Kuzma’s lackluster line on Monday, he scored 36, 26 and 16 points in his previous three games, which you should point out if you try to move him. 

Nemanja Bjelica Kings – Bjelica went off on Monday with career highs of 34 points and eight 3-pointers to go along with seven rebounds, two assists and two steals with just one turnover in 33 minutes. Marvin Bagley (foot) returned to action in this one and should eventually hurt Bjelica, although Richaun Holmes’ shoulder injury helps him a bit. Either way, Bjelica’s value shouldn’t be higher again this season and he has to cool off at some point, right? He’s sitting on sixth-round fantasy value right now and could bring back a really good player in trade after Monday night’s explosion, but there is a little risk involved with moving him, as he’s been a solid player over the entire first half of the season. Of course, the injuries to both Bagley and Holmes have played a big part in that. 

Zion Williamson Pelicans – Williamson (knee surgery) hasn’t played yet in the regular season but it sounds like we might see him on Thursday. While trading him just before he finally makes his debut might not seem like the best course of action, it all depends on what you think he’ll do over the second half of the season. I wasn’t even sure he’d play at all this season and the Pelicans are just 15-26 on the season, sitting as the No. 14 seed in the West right now. Jrue Holiday (elbow), Brandon Ingram (sore knee) and J.J. Redick (hamstring) were all out on Monday and Holiday’s elbow is a pretty big concern. As for Williamson, I think his minutes and games played are both going to be sporadic and I envision him being more of a headache than anything else the rest of the way. Maybe Zion comes in and balls out the rest of the way, but I just don’t see it happening. If I own Zion or Holiday, I’m waiting for them to blow up, or at least show up, and then I’m going to try to bail out before the plug gets pulled on the rest of their lost seasons. 

Bradley Beal Wizards – Beal recently returned from a five-game absence with his leg injury and had 25 points on 11-of-25 shooting on Sunday, but added just one rebound, four assists, a steal and three turnovers in 27 minutes. I get the sense he’ll be day-to-day the rest of the way and the Wizards are 13-26 on the season. I know that Beal played through it all last season, but it doesn’t feel like it’s going to happen again. In fact, he feels like a ticking time bomb to me. 

Kyrie Irving Nets – Irving went off on the Hawks (who doesn’t, really?) Sunday with 21 points, four rebounds, three assists, a steal and a 3-pointer on 10-of-11 shooting after missing 26 games with a shoulder injury. The good news is that he’s back and playing, which is surprising after some reports prior to his return hinted that he had suffered a setback and could miss more time. We’re still not in the clear with Irving and he remains a fragile fantasy point guard. The Nets need him and currently sit as the No. 8 seed in the East, but I don’t think it would take much for him to be sidelined again with another injury, nor would I be surprised to see him aggravate the shoulder injury at some point. He plans on playing in a back-to-back set on Tuesday and Wednesday and I’d think about trying to move him after those two games, assuming he makes it through both of them in one piece. The Nets go 4-3-3-2-2 in games played over the next five weeks but finish in a flurry with 4-4-4-2-4-4-3-2 to close out the season. If Irving is healthy for that four-game spree late in the season, moving him might turn out to be a mistake. But I’m of the belief that there’s a better chance he’ll get hurt again than there is that he’ll be out there playing four times a week for his owners. 

Derrick Rose Pistons – Rose played a season-high 37 minutes on Monday and led the Pistons with 23 points, four boards, eight assists and a block on 10-of-23 shooting in that one and he’s been fantastic for most of the season. But the minutes are adding up, his injury history is extensive, and I have a hard time believing he’ll still be doing this a month from now. Owners likely got Rose off waivers this season and if you can trade him now for a solid player or two, the idea makes sense to me. If Rose does finish out the season and continues to play at a high level for a Pistons team sitting on a 14-27 record, it will be one of the more miraculous story lines of the season. He might be the ultimate sell-high player. On a side note, the Pistons do go 4-4-4 in games played over the next three weeks before going 2-2-3-3-2-3 after that, so maybe give him three more weeks before pulling the plug. Of course, waiting those three weeks could end up backfiring if his knees act up, but that might be worth the risk.  

Gorgui Dieng Wolves – Dieng has been filling in admirably for KAT but disappeared on Monday when he played just 16 minutes, hit 2-of-7 shots and finished with five points, four boards, two assists, a steal and a 3-pointer with four fouls. Prior to that he’d been great and is averaging 12.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.0 blocks and 2.0 3-pointers in January. He’ll simply have to take a hit once KAT is back and it feels like he’s getting close. It’s just too bad Dieng’s last game was such a dud, as that will have a negative impact if you try to move him right now. 

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