By Alex Rikleen
Special to Yahoo Sports
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. Either you’ve got a chance at the championship, or you are true Fantasy Basketball addict – a trait worthy of commendation. The following players are guys to target for the final stretch.
The players below are available in at least 50 percent of Yahoo leagues, but managers should scan their waivers for more widely owned guys who might be still available. Richaun Holmes, Tyler Ulis, and Willie Cauley-Stein headline a valuable crop that barely missed the cutoff.
Marquese Chriss, PF, Phoenix Suns, 48 percent owned
The Suns had a three-game win streak driven by sheer youthful exuberance when Tyler Ulis and Derrick Jones Jr. became meaningful pieces in the rotation. Other than that, they only have one win post-All-Star break. Their 1-11 run all-but secured a bottom-three finish. They are focusing on their future, which includes 2016 lottery pick Chriss.
The team wants Chriss to develop, and they will do nothing to get in his way. Chriss is only averaging 26.6 minutes per game, because his court time is frequently limited by foul trouble. Nonetheless, he’s a versatile producer averaging 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and 0.9 steals. One important downside: the Suns and Clippers have only four games during week 23, less than every other team
Next week’s schedule: GS, OKC, Dal, at Sac
Frank Kaminsky, PF/C, Charlotte Hornets, 47 percent owned
Not much has changed since I talked about Kaminsky last week. Miles Plumlee (calf) returned to action Wednesday, but he had a few did-not-play coach’s decision after he was removed from the injury report, so he poses no threat to Kaminsky’s minutes. Outside of that game, the Hornets have been sticking with a tight bigs rotation, only using Kaminsky, Cody Zeller, and Marvin Williams to fill nearly all of the 96 minutes across two positions each night. Since returning to full duty after his shoulder injury, Kaminsky is averaging 13.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.1 threes in 29.1 minutes per game.
Next week’s schedule: at Was, Mia, Bos, at Mil, at At
Terrance Ross, SG/SF, Orlando Magic, 47 percent owned
Ross has been a key cog in the Magic rotation since joining the team at the trade deadline, averaging 32.0 minutes per game. He’s been an offensive focus the whole time, attempting 11.8 field goals since the trade, but his efficiency has taken a leap in the past six games. In that span, his field goal percentage has jumped from 39.2 to 51.2, elevating his scoring from 10.8 per game to 17.7. Ross was already attracting fantasy attention with his threes and steals, and those are also up during his current stretch. He is also up to 2.8 threes and 1.5 steals over the last six games.
Next week’s schedule: at Cle, Bkn, Ind, at Chi, Det
Ish Smith, PG, Detroit Pistons, 40 percent owned
Reggie Jackson (knee) has been held out of the last three games, despite reports that he was eager to return. Smith has filled in admirably, recording 18.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in 32.7 minutes per game. He’s also been efficient, going 48.9 percent from the field and committing only three turnovers with Jackson out. Smith started a few games before Jackson was injured, so even if Jackson returns soon, Smith is likely to continue on in a large role.
Next week’s schedule: Tor, at Hou, at Mem, Was, at Orl
Tarik Black, PF/C, Los Angeles Lakers, 1 percent owned
Don’t let the low ownership fool your – Black is an option in leagues of any size. Ivica Zubac suffered a high-ankle sprain after just two minutes of action Thursday that ended his season. Zubac had been starting and averaging 23.2 minutes per game. That role is now available, and Black is the player most likely to fill it.
Larry Nance is another possible candidate, but he’s more of a forward than a center. The only other option is Thomas Robinson, who has seven DNPs in his last 11 games, and only played 14 minutes Thursday, despite Zubac’s early injury. On Thursday, Black played 23 minutes, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds; Nance saw more minutes, with 28, but scored four points to go with two rebounds. Whoever takes over the starting job, he will have lots of opportunities to produce over the last week of the season. Black’s best skill is his rebounding, though he can also block shots add some points. Nance scores and rebounds less, but he’s more capable of contributing assists and steals.
Next week’s schedule: at SA, Sac, Min, NO, GS
Mindaugas Kuzminskas, SF/PF, New York Knicks, 2 percent
Carmelo Anthony (back) is questionable for Friday’s game. If he misses it, it will be his third absence in five games, missing the other two due to knee problems. Combining the health issues with Anthony’s post-game comments Wednesday, and the Knicks’ announcement last week that they would limit his minutes through the remainder of the season, and it seems as though more DNPs are coming. In the two games he missed last week, Kuzminskas stepped in and averaged 16.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 2.5 threes in 34.0 minutes. Kuzminskas is not worth using when Anthony is active, but he is startable in most formats when Anthony is out.
Next week’s schedule: Chi, Was, at Mem, Tor, Phi
Ownership and stats accurate as of the end of Thursday’s games.
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