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We’re nearing the end of the season but the waiver wire continues to be generous with some new faces in this week’s column. It’s not all good news though, as one of our success stories in Aleksej Pokusevski is dealing with an arm injury and could miss more time. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here!
Week 17 Games Played:
4 Games: BKN, CHA, CHI, DAL, GSW, HOU, IND, LAC, LAL, MEM, MIA, MIN, NOP, NYK, OKC, ORL, PHX, SAC, SAS, TOR, UTA, WAS
3 Games: ATL, BOS, CLE, DEN, DET, MIL, PHI, POR
Monday-Tuesday: LAL, PHX, UTA
Tuesday-Wednesday: CHA, IND, LAC, MIA, OKC, TOR
Wednesday-Thursday: CLE, GSW, MIL, SAC
Friday-Saturday: CHI, DET, MEM, SAS, UTA, WAS
Sunday-Monday (Week 18): HOU, IND, MIA, OKC
Top Pickups: These are players that are available in 60% or more of Yahoo Fantasy Leagues. The format I traditionally use when talking about rankings are 9-category leagues, and these players are listed in the order that I’d prioritize them.
Malachi Flynn (33%)- The rookie has earned the top spot in this week’s column after exploding onto the fantasy scene. With Fred VanVleet (hip) without a timetable and facing a one-game suspension upon his return, Flynn’s minutes are secure even with Kyle Lowry expected back Sunday. The Raptors have lost six of their last nine games and it looks as though they are ready to throw in the towel and tank, as they rested Pascal Siakam on Saturday -- teams fighting for a playoff spot don’t just rest their uninjured stars with so much on the line.
Flynn had 20 points (8-of-14 FGs, 2-of-3 FTs), two rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in a win over the Cavaliers, and he’s played at least 31 minutes in five straight. In that span he’s ranked 19th(!) in 9-cat, averaging 14.4 points, 6.4 dimes, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 steals, 0.8 blocks and 2.0 triples on 45% from the field and 86% from the line. Coach Nick Nurse has been raving about his defense but wanted to see a little more aggression coming into the weekend, and he did exactly that. "We've asked him to really start attacking the rim, right, and he's just got to be more aggressive, like right up the floor, when he sees an opening he's got to shoot in there," Nurse said.
Jalen McDaniels (23%)- Just like Malachi Flynn, McDaniels broke out this week and was getting jealous of his brother Jaden (Timberwolves) getting all the love in the fantasy community. Coach James Borrego shook up his starting lineup in favor of a small-ball movement and the move has paid dividends, as McDaniels averaged 20.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 dimes, 1.5 steals, 1.0 blocks and 2.5 triples in two wins.
"We're gonna need him... his versatility, shot making, length.... he was fantastic in transition,” Borrego said. “To go from not playing basically all season to stepping in now... it speaks to his character." A 6-10 forward with graceful athleticism, McDaniels is still pretty raw but has shown that he has the tools to be a really good fantasy player and we know the minutes will be there with Charlotte missing their best two players for several weeks.
Daniel Gafford (8%)- If you can’t tell by this high ranking, I’m extremely bullish on Daniel Gafford going forward. He returned from a six-game absence on Saturday, but played just 17 minutes due to restrictions. He was productive as usual though, posting nine points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block after averaging 12.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 2.5 blocks in just 14.5 minutes of his only two other performances.
Coach Scott Brooks has continually praised Gafford and called him a keeper, and Bradley Beal is a big fan as well because it gives the Wizards a lob threat they haven’t had previously. Gafford’s per-minute production is really strong, particularly in rebounds and blocks, and it’s not going to be hard for him to run circles around Robin Lopez and Alex Len. I’m predicting a top-75 run from here on out as the minutes climb.
Jaden McDaniels (29%)- He’s one of my favorite rookies so maybe there is a little bias here, but I place a premium on players that can do a little bit of everything on the stat sheet. McDaniels’ production has cooled off recently, but he’s going to bounce back and I’ve been encouraged that his minutes didn’t tank as a result -- he played 44 and 37 in his previous two games. Despite a minor slump, he’s still sitting inside the top-90 for 9-cat leagues over the last two weeks which speaks to his upside, averaging 10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.9 triples. His offensive production will come and go due to Minnesota’s firepower in the starting lineup, but his stat set is fantasy gold.
Isaiah Hartenstein (8%)- Feel free to knock Hartenstein down a few spots if we get wind of a possible Jarrett Allen (concussion) return, but he’s missed seven straight and remains without a timetable. Hartenstein is no stranger to this column but took it to another level on Saturday for 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists, four blocks and three steals for a truly monstrous line. His playmaking has been outstanding with at least six dimes in three of his last six games, and he’s been a top-80 player in that span despite playing just 23.8 minutes. He’s averaging 10.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.8 dimes, 1.7 blocks and 0.5 steals, and with the Cavaliers in player evaluation mode it’s not hard to imagine Hartenstein maintaining a sizable role the rest of the season. It also helps that he can play both frontcourt spots for the inevitable Kevin Love shutdown.
Mo Bamba (14%)- Bamba was just starting to make some noise in fantasy leagues so of course he pops up as questionable for Sunday with a hip injury. Hopefully he’s ok, because he has the tools to become a fantasy rock star. He’s been a 9th-round value in his last three games in just 20.1 minutes, averaging 14.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 dimes, 1.7 blocks and 2.3 triples. As far as fantasy goes, he’s pretty much the ideal package for a center, but he needs to stay healthy and stay above 20 minutes. I’m not a Wendell Carter Jr. truther either, and I think there’s a legitimate chance this evolves into a timeshare at the center spot.
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Dorian Finney-Smith (19%)- He’s been very hard to ignore for Dallas, providing value on both ends of the court with elite defense and an improved jump shot. He’s been getting a ton of burn too, averaging 36.0 minutes over his last six games. DFS ranks inside the top-60 in that span with 11.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.7 dimes, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks and 3.0 triples, and his minutes are about as safe as it gets with minimal competition at the forward spots.
Darius Bazley (24%)- After over a month on the sidelines, Bazley finally returned on Saturday for 17 points (7-of-12 FGs), nine rebounds, five assists, one steal and three 3-pointers in 36 minutes. Aleksej Pokusevski, a waiver-wired favorite, injured his arm and wasn’t able to return so the Thunder weren’t exactly able to ease Bazley back into things. Bazley was a sleeper of mine coming into the season, but despite showing flashes here and there, he’s yet to pan out as a standard-league player.
On the season he’s shooting just 39% from the field and 70% from the line, offsetting some pretty solid counting stats with Bazley averaging 12.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 triples. A lot has changed over the last month though with OKC extremely short handed, so taking a flier on him after this gem of a line isn’t a bad idea because we know the talent is there based on the player we saw during the “bubble.”
Rudy Gay (19%)- The Spurs have lost five straight but are still in the hunt for a playoff spot out West. That means Gay will continue to play a sizable role in the rotation with 22.8 minutes over the last two weeks. He’s not going to single handedly win your matchup, but he’ll quietly get the job done at the end of rosters. Gay is putting up 10th-round value in that span, averaging 13.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 dimes, 0.9 steals and 2.1 triples.
Talen Horton-Tucker (14%)- The preseason sensation is back and better than ever, as he’s been a featured player on the Lakers with their two superstars sidelined. Anthony Davis is said to be two weeks away and LeBron James is one week behind Davis, so THT’s window for streaming value is wide open. In his last four appearances, he’s been a top-60 fantasy asset with 15.5 points, 4.5 dimes, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.5 triples.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (11%)- While we’re on the topic of the Lakers, we might as well mention KCP too as he’s been on a tear lately. He had a 28-point outburst vs. the Heat with six triples and apparently didn’t like the fact that the Lakers added some competition in Ben McLemore. KCP has been an 8th-rounder over his last five, putting up 15.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.6 steals and 3.6 triples.