Top Fantasy Basketball pickups for title push

As we near the end of the season, many teams are giving increased roles to young players widely available on the waiver wire.

Ownership and stats are accurate as of the end of Thursday’s games.

By Alex Rikleen
Special to Yahoo Sports

Tyler Ulis, PG, Phoenix Suns, 36% owned
Eric Bledsoe has been shut down for the season, which makes Ulis the starting Suns point guard for the rest of the way. His ownership rates are skyrocketing since the announcement – right now, you should open up a new tab, and go add Ulis, and then come back to reading the rest of this article.

The Suns’ rotation now features only two players older than 25-years-old, as they brazenly turn their attention towards the future and give up any remaining pretense of caring about their current record. In his first game as a starter, Ulis racked up 13 points, 13 assists, and two steals in 39 minutes. Since Ulis became a regular cog in the rotation (the third game after the All-Star break), he is averaging 15.2 points, 9.5 assists, and 1.9 steals per-36 minutes.

Next week’s schedule: at Mia, at Bkn, at Bos, at Cha

Ivica Zubac, C, Los Angeles Lakers, 35%
Zubac’s ownership was also rising quickly – until he produced only two points and two rebounds in 11 minutes during what seemed to be a favorable matchup against the Rockets on Wednesday. Though it was a terrible fantasy performance, owners should ignore it.

Zubac started, but got into early foul trouble, impacting his play and his time on the floor. Coach Luke Walton’s comments after the game seemed to imply that he still wants Zubac to play with a starter’s workload, and that it was just the foul trouble that dictated Wednesday’s outcome. Walton said he plans to start Zubac for the rest of the season, and fellow center Timofey Mozgov has been shut down. In his two starts before Wednesday, he averaged 17.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks in 24.5 minutes. Though he only has two assists through his first three starts, he averages 1.4 per-36 minutes this season, which is not bad for a center.

Next week’s schedule: LAC, Min, Por

Willy Hernangomez, C, New York Knicks, 43%
Hernangomez has been a roller-coaster, and the flips and turns have intensified since the All-Star break. As it stands, his value seems to hinge on Kristaps Porzingis’ (thigh) health. The Knicks have four days off after Thursday’s game, which Porzingis sat out. Porzingis said Thursday that he expected to play in the Knicks next game (Monday), but he’s been out or limited due to injury in five of the Knicks last 12 games.

If Porzingis is fully healthy, then Hernangomez’s value is limited, and Hernangomez can be left on waivers in most 10-team leagues. But when Porzingis is sidelined or limited, Hernangomez is a great add even in 8-team leagues. Hernangomez was limited by foul trouble Thursday, but in the other four of those games that Porzingis was out or limited, Hernangomez averaged 10.8 points, 15.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.0 steals in 31.3 minutes.

Next week’s schedule: at LAC, at Uta, at Por, at SA

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Malcolm Brogdon, PG/SG, Milwaukee Bucks, 42%
Brogdon’s value varies a lot based on his role. He has much more fantasy value as an off-the-bench facilitator than he does as a starter. In the former role, he is averaging 5.8 assists per game since the All-Star break; in the latter, he is averaging only 2.0 assists per game. Assists aren’t the only statistical difference between Starter Brogdon and Backup Brogdon, but it is the most important. He has played five games in each role since the break, with the following results:

As a starter – 28.6 minutes, 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 46.2% FG

Off the bench – 27.0 minutes, 13.8 points, 1.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 52.0% FG

The Bucks went 1-4 with Brogdon starting, and 3-2 with Brogdon off the bench. Coach Jason Kidd has fiddled with his rotation all season, but the recent results should give fantasy owners reason to believe that Brogdon will stay in his more productive bench role.

Next week’s schedule: at Por, at Sac, Atl, Chi

Richaun Holmes, PF/C, Philadelphia 76ers, 35%
If you missed out on Zubac and Porzingis is healthy, Holmes is a decent consolation prize. His role has been very consistent since the All-Star break, only once seeing fewer than 21 minutes in 11 games. He is averaging 12.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 1.5 blocks in 23.5 minutes while shooting 62 percent from the field during that span.

This is the first time in the sophomore’s young career that he has had a stable role for this long of a stretch, and it has been good for his development. Importantly, his play is improving as he gets more familiar with his first stable role, and his numbers over the last five games are slightly improved over the first six.

Next week’s schedule: at Orl, at OKC, at Chi, at Ind

Jordan Crawford, PG/SG, New Orleans Pelicans, 30%
In his first five NBA games since 2014, Crawford is averaging 14.2 points, 3.2 assists, and 2.8 threes in 23.4 minutes per game. He’s shooting 50.1 percent from the field, and 51.9 percent from behind the arc – and yes, those numbers are listed in the right order.

Despite being six games and five spots behind in the race for the final playoff spot (and with only 14 games remaining), the Pelicans still believe they have a chance. They’ll need Crawford’s ability to score and spread the floor if they are going to stay in the hunt – and their next eight games are all against Western Conference teams ahead of them in the standings.

His limited statistical profile means that he won’t be a good fit for every fantasy team, but he is an excellent source of scoring and threes without damaging a team in field goal percentage, which is a hard combination to find on the wire.

Next week’s schedule: Mem, at Hou, at Den

Joe Ingles, SG/SF, Utah Jazz, 8%
Ingles is only a deep-league option at this point. He entered the starting lineup for Rodney Hood (knee) Thursday, and played 36 minutes. Over his last three games, Ingles is averaging 14.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 3.0 threes in 29.7 minutes. Hood has been dealing with knee problems all year, and is more important to the Jazz during the playoffs than during the regular season. Ingles has played at least 23 minutes in every game in March, in part to limit the load Hood has to bear.

Next week’s schedule: at Ind, NY, at LAC

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