It’s looking like I’ll be making the playoffs in a couple of my fantasy basketball leagues and if you think you’ll be doing the same, you better read below. I usually don’t suggest any players unless I’m acting on it myself, so it’s legit like a Chrissy Teigen Instagram pic.
Dorell Wright, SG/SF, Philadelphia 76ers (37% owned in Yahoo! leagues)
If you give the man some consistent minutes like Doug Collins has the past week, Wright will come through for you. In his last six games, Wright has played 27, 26, 23, 32, 26 and 15 minutes, respectively. He averaged 13.5 points, 2.3 threes, 5.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 steals, which brings back good memories of his first season with the Golden State Warriors in 2010-11. Wright likely won’t usurp either Nick Young or Evan Turner for a starting spot, but it’s really the minutes that matter. Grab him now in the hopes that he gets some relatively significant burn because it could pay off as fantasy basketball will be in playoffs mode before you know it.
Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, New Orleans Hornets (35%)
Aminu has appeared in this column previously this season and merits a mention again because the dude can board. Getting significant rebounding production from the three spot can only help and in the past week, he’s led all small forward-eligible players in the category (9.3). However, Aminu cleaning the glass isn’t an anomaly. In the past month, he’s third among small forwards in boards (8.9) and for the season, he’s tied for fourth (7.8) with Paul George behind Josh Smith (8.6), LeBron James (8.1), Kevin Durant (7.9) and Shawn Marion (7.9). Among the group, Aminu averages the least amount of minutes (27). Since the All-Star break (11 games), Aminu has been getting four more minutes of playing time (31) and averaging 8.9 rebounds, along with 6.4 points on 39.7 percent shooting from the floor (6.2 FGA) and 94.1 percent from the line (1.5 FTA), 1.4 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.7 blocks. Getting the ball in the basket and doing it well isn’t Aminu’s thing, but it seems like everything else is. Solid add in most leagues.
Maurice Harkless, SF, Orlando Magic (15%)
The 19-year-old Harkless is one of several youngsters that the Magic have been rebuilding with and since the All-Star break has shown what he could bring to the squad. In his past twelve games, the rookie averaged 12.1 points on 50.4 percent shooting from the field, 0.9 treys, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 32 minutes. It’s certainly helped that Hedo Turkoglu hasn’t played in a month thanks to an NBA suspension, but considering the the youth movement, it was only a matter of time before Harkless stepped up and shined. He’s a definite add in any keeper and deep league, and should be considered for standard leagues, although he’s not quite at the level to think too hard about it. Yet.
Marco Belinelli, SG, Chicago Bulls (12%)
Ride the Belinelli wave while you can. In the past week, Belinelli started all three games because of the plethora of injuries hitting the Bulls in the backcourt, namely Richard Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich and the now ubiquitous whenever a Bulls injury is mentioned, Derrick Rose. In his last three games, Belinelli averaged 18.0 points, 44.4 percent shooting from the floor (15.0 FGA) that includes 58.3 percent from behind the three-point line (4.0 3PA), 100.0 percent from the charity stripe (2.3 FTA), 2.3 triples, 2.7 rebounds and 4.7 dimes in 42 minutes. This production shouldn’t be too surprising as Belinelli usually picks up his stats when he starts. In 18 games as a starter this season, Belinelli averages 15.1 points, 42.7 FG%, 88.8 FT%, 1.8 threes, 2.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals in 37 minutes. So, while the wave is strong, grab your surfboard.
Markieff Morris, PF, Phoenix Suns (5%)
Thanks to Marcin Gortat’s toe injury that will see him sit out 3-4 weeks, Morris is now the starter for the Suns at the four spot with Luis Scola moving over to the five. The threat of Jermaine O’Neal is there to take minutes back from Morris when he returns to the team, but considering how efficient O’Neal has been in limited minutes, as well as the chance to develop Morris, we’ll assume the impact won’t be as significant. In 13 games as a starter this season, Morris has done well — 11.2 points, 48.3 FG%, 81.8 FT%, 0.8 triples, 5.2 boards, 1.7 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.6 blocks in only 25 minutes of play. Given more minutes, he could remind fantasy hoops owners of former Sun Shawn Marion, a player that contributed across the board. Of course, Morris won’t be ridiculous with it like Matrix, but Morris could still make owners happy.
Alec Burks, SG, Utah Jazz (3%)
In his last four games, Burks put up averages of 12.8 points on 54.1 percent shooting from the floor (9.3 FGA), 90.0 percent from the freebie line (2.5 FTA), 1.3 Kerbys, 2.8 boards, 2.5 dimes and 1.0 steals in 26 minutes. This is more of a speculative add, but it’s a very solid one. Burks is a former lottery pick that hasn’t really gotten consistent minutes, but maybe his latest production will help the Jazz think more about giving him some extra burn on the court.
And the Answer Is: Eric McClung
TBJ: Who are a few players that we should keep on the fantasy basketball radar for next season?
McClung: Over the last month or so, perhaps no young player has seen a jump in production and fantasy stock for 2013-14 like Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves. In his last 13 games, last year’s second overall pick in the NBA Draft averaged 17.4 points on 42.5 percent shooting to go along with 8.7 rebounds, 0.8 threes, 0.6 steals and 0.6 blocks. By comparison, Williams averaged just 9.6 points on a woeful 36.6 percent shooting in 10 starts prior to the recent hot streak.
Coming out of Arizona standing nearly 6-foot-9 with a wingspan of 7-foot-1, Williams was viewed as an impressive blend of strength and athleticism featuring an emerging outside game. While he’s proving his worth right now, it will be interesting to see how things go once the injury-depleted T-Wolves have all their other bigger bodies back.
Improving center Nikola Pekovic needs to be re-signed in the offseason, while the oft-injured Andrei Kirilenko has a player option in his contract to come back next year. Add in a healthy Kevin Love and the team is stocked in the frontcourt. However, if Williams continues to sustain his current level of play he may get his wish to play small forward on a full-time basis.
The Utah Jazz could feature a new set of bigs next season with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap both destined to hit free agency. However, the future looks like it’s already on the roster with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, the third overall picks from the 2010 and 2011 NBA Drafts playing those same positions.
Favors has made five starts in six games, playing both power forward and center due to injuries suffered by the aforementioned vets. In those games he averaged 11.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. Favors shot poorly in three contests, though, and continues to struggle with committing fouls.
Kanter is averaging 14.0 points on nearly 61.5 percent shooting plus 6.8 rebounds in his last four games. The highlight was a 20-20 monster game in his lone start, a blowout victory against the Charlotte Bobcats. Kanter’s wardrobe and tweets can be quite bizarre, but he’s a workout nut and playing very serious on the court.
Mo Williams just returned from thumb surgery, but the Jazz need to make serious upgrades to their frontcourt in the offseason. Jefferson and Millsap each turned 28 years old recently, but will likely command pricey, multi-year contracts that probably won’t make a lot of sense for the Jazz to commit to with Favors and Kanter looking ready to take over.
The young duo will take a hit soon in terms of their fantasy value down the stretch with Jefferson returning from ankle injury and Millsap already back from his own ankle issue. Favors and Kanter’s fantasy relevance may be drawing to a close, but the youngsters are names to keep mindful of this offseason as the Jazz have to make big decisions on their respective futures as positional starters.
Number of Team Games in Week 20 (3/11-3/17)
Four Games: ATL, DAL, GSW, LAL, MEM, MIA, MIL, MIN, NYK, OKC, PHO, SAS, WAS
Three Games: BKN, BOS, CHA, CLE, DEN, DET, HOU, IND, NOR, ORL, PHI, POR, TOR, UTA
Two Games: CHI, LAC, SAC