By Alex Barutha, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
We’ve seen no major injuries in the league since last week, which is certainly (and thankfully) bucking a trend. As a result, most of the players included below aren’t gaining fantasy value purely because of an injury to a teammate — they’re simply under-owned.
If I refer to a player’s rank, it’s based on his averages in standard, eight-category formats that do not account for turnovers.
Caris LeVert, Nets (45 percent owned in Yahoo leagues)
LeVert’s role has been expanded since D’Angelo Russell (knee) went down in the middle of November. Notably, he has seen at least 25 minutes in every game since Nov. 24. Over that stretch, LeVert has averaged 13.4 points, 5.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Only five players in the league are averaging those numbers for the entire season: James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Ben Simmons, and Chris Paul. LeVert has also shot a respectable 47.8 percent from the field and knocked down 1.2 threes per game in that span, and he’s been the 36th-ranked fantasy player over the past 14 days. His ownership is relatively high already, but he’s undoubtedly playing well enough to warrant more widespread recognition.
Tyler Johnson, Heat (44 percent owned)
Johnson spent his first 19 appearances of the season shooting poorly — 33.9 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from beyond the arc — leading to just 9.2 points per game. He was, understandably, dropped by a significant chunk of fantasy owners who felt like 19 games was much more than a traditional slump. Johnson wasn’t a particularly efficient shooter last season, either, at 43.3 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from deep, which may have contributed to the quick drops.
However, he’s turned things around in the past seven games. Over that stretch, Johnson has hit 54.5 percent of his field goals and 45.9 percent of his threes en route to 13.9 points per game. Though he hasn’t chipped in much by way of counting stats during that span, he has supplied 2.4 made threes per contest, which would rank in the top 25 if averaged over the entire season. It’s unlikely he’ll stay this hot, but this could be the beginning of Johnson progressing to the mean. Despite his one-dimensionality as of late, he’s the 54th ranked player over the past two weeks.
Richaun Holmes, 76ers (22 percent owned)
Holmes flashed plenty of potential last season after the Sixers shut down Joel Embiid, posting 14.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game over Philly’s final 18 contests. However, Holmes missed 14 of the Sixers’ first 23 games this season while recovering from the wrist injury and subsequently collected a handful of DNP-CDs. His role has expanded over the past four games, over which he’s averaging nearly 25 minutes and putting up 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting over 50.0 percent from the field. Some of that may be due to short-term injuries to Robert Covington and Joel Embiid, but Holmes had seen some increased run before that. He’s also been receiving those minutes despite the acquisition of Trevor Booker, who has been integrated into the 76ers’ rotation over the past four contests. There’s no guarantee that Holmes’ recent workload is here to stay, but he could be worthy of a stash in a variety of fantasy formats at this point in the year.
Frank Ntilikina, Knicks (13 percent owned)
From Nov. 17 to Dec. 3, Ntilikina saw just 15.7 minutes per game, causing many fantasy owners to jump ship. But, over the past four contests, his workload has jumped back up to 24.3 minutes per game and he’s averaged 9.8 points, 3.8 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals. He’s also shot 44.4 percent from the field over that stretch — solid by rookie point guard standards — and he’s chipped in 1.5 made threes per contest. The threes likely won’t last, as he’s shooting just 32.6 percent from deep on the year. That said, Ntilikina has been a fantastic source of steals throughout the season, averaging 2.0 per game any time he sees at least 20 minutes. All of that has translated to Ntilikina being the 76th-ranked player over the past week.
Andrew Harrison, Grizzlies (4 percent owned)
Harrison has stepped into an expanded role since Mike Conley (Achilles) went out on Nov. 15. Conley’s timetable puts his return around Dec. 20, but there’s been little word on his recovery since he was originally ruled out, opening up the possibility he’ll miss more time than anticipated. At any rate, Harrison should have increased fantasy value for at least another week. Despite being just four percent owned, Harrison has been the 67th-ranked player over the past seven days, with averages of 11.3 points, 5.5 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals across 28.8 minutes per game. Harrison is probably only worth checking out in deeper leagues, but he’s played too well as of late to have such a low ownership.