The In-Season Tournament (IST) has been a hit, no doubt about it. Four teams are left in the running as we gear up for Thursday's semifinals. Each one is gunning for that inaugural NBA Cup, and let's be real, the financial incentive is making it well worth it.
While the IST has been hogging the limelight, I'm going to switch it up a bit and dive into a handful of situations fantasy basketball managers should monitor as we look ahead to Week 8.
Zach LaVine needs to be traded to save his fantasy season
News dropped Wednesday night that the Bulls' star guard will miss an additional 3-4 weeks with inflammation in his right foot.
The play: Trade him, if you can and hold Coby White. LaVine is one of the most frequently mentioned names in trade talks, yet there's no market for his services. He's been regular this season, and at this point, it's hard to see a scenario where he'll rush back to a team he clearly doesn't want to play for.
His numbers are OK, but coming into the '23-24 season, he'd been a top-50 player for four years straight. It's why his ADP was 50.3 in the preseason. He's 82nd currently, and now that he will miss more games, I want zero parts of this situation.
I wouldn't be mad if he gets traded and pulls a Keyser Söze.
Ja Morant is eligible to return on Tuesday, Dec. 19
The dynamic guard could rejoin the Memphis Grizzlies as early as Week 9, which is welcome news for anyone stashing him. The Grizzlies are clearly missing Morant's scoring and playmaking, sitting at 6-14 in the Western Conference through Thursday.
The play: Morant is a player I'd be looking to trade for in points leagues. He stuffs the stat sheet, but his turnovers and middling free-throw percentage hurt his value in category leagues. Ja is a sure bet to average over 45 fantasy points per game. He's also walking into a 30% usage rate, as he's been north of 33% over the past two seasons. Oh, and Marcus Smart is still out, rehabbing an ankle injury.
Ausar Thompson is (sadly) a drop candidate
The sensational two-way rookie lost his starting spot and Wednesday was the third consecutive game where Thompson played 16 minutes or less with at least five personal fouls.
The play: It pains me to say this, but it looks like Thompson's run is going to be put on ice for the time being. Bojan Bogdanović is back and Pistons head coach Monty Williams has been more than ready to get their highest-paid player and shooting threat (Bogdanovic) into the fold.
The Pistons are undoubtedly the worst team in basketball, so building up Bojan's value for a potential trade down the line makes sense. The weird part is, Williams' conscious decision to find more minutes for Killian Hayes, Isaiah Livers and others is maddening, considering how good Thompson's been as a defender, rebounder and playmaker in transition this year.
Should he be more disciplined, probably. Not getting in foul trouble is a great way to stay on the court, however the Pistons have lost 18 straight games are are headed no where. Why not restore order and bring back one of the few bright spots this season.
Fantasy managers will unfortunately have to exercise extreme patience here, but in points leagues especially, I'm moving on. In 12-team category leagues, I know you're debating it too. He's 80% rostered overall but that number is nose-diving to sub 70% in Diamond leagues (the highest-rated players on Yahoo).
I'm shutting off the Heat on Duncan Robinson
Duncan Robinson's been the 64th-best player in category leagues in his past 11 games as a starter, averaging 17.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 3.5 threes per game with 50/48/87 shooting splits. That's amazing production, considering he was either a late-round flier or went undrafted in most leagues heading into this season.
The play: Sell-high after he put up a career-high seven dimes Wednesday night. He's having his best season since the Bubble and even throwin' down in-game dunks — a rarity. It's not his play that I'm concerned about; he's been nothing short of solid. It's the fact that Tyler Herro was jumping around on stage with friend and famed rapper Jack Harlow.
But seriously, Herro shed the walking boot and Heat HC Erik Spoelstra said he's "trending in the right direction" a week ago. He needs to be cleared for contact, but I'd use Robinson's recent performance to acquire a better player. He's been lights out, but he's a replacement player whose role diminishes the moment Herro, a top-35 player before getting hurt, returns to the lineup.
I have more faith in Jaime Jaquez Jr., the November Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. He's a better defender and playmaker with the second unit, and Robinson's value lies in his 3-point shooting. When the Heat are healthy, his role is that of a floor-spacer. Nothing more, nothing less — an attribute more critical for real-life hoops than fantasy.