Tim Hardaway Jr. (Owned in 26 percent on Yahoo!/12.4 percent on ESPN) saw his minutes on the rise even before the first big NBA trade was executed. Kyle Korver was dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Mo Williams, Mike Dunleavy and a protected first-round pick. The good news is none of that should affect Hardaway Jr’s playing time. He’s the first wing off the bench for the Hawks, and he can play both the shooting guard and small forward positions for the team.
His game is consistent with the rest of his career in that he’s basically just a scorer, but he’s greatly improved his efficiency. His overall field-goal percentage is up to 44 percent this season and there are multiple reasons for that. THJ is currently taking a career-high 26.5 percent of his field-goal attempts within three feet of the basket and making 65-percent of them. He’s also greatly improved his mid-range game, sinking a career-high 53.8 percent of his shots between 10 and 16 feet. His 35 percent from beyond the arc is on par with his career but is also the best mark since his rookie season.
The reason Hardaway Jr.’s minutes will be so safe moving forward is because the Hawks need scoring off the bench, and he is instant offense, especially in the new year. In five January games, THJ is averaging 17.2 points on 55.4 percent shooting with 3.6 triples, 3.4 rebounds and two assists in 26.2 minutes per game. He’s not going to shoot over 50 percent consistently, so be prepared for lower percentages at times. However, he can provide points and threes with a few rebounds and assists in category formats. For those in weekly leagues, he plays four games next week with extremely favorable matchups against the Knicks and the 76ers.
Chris LeVert (Owned in 4 percent on Yahoo!/1.1 percent on ESPN) is finally getting the chance to play for Kenny Atkinson’s Brooklyn Nets but hopefully, the minutes remain consistent. Much like Brad Stevens of the Celtics, Atkinson constantly changes his rotation and his distribution of minutes. LeVert is a rookie who was drafted 20th overall in the first round, but he has the potential to outperform that draft slot. He fell to 20 because of his injury history; he’s battled stress fractures in his left foot throughout the years. That’s also why LeVert missed the first 21 games of his NBA career.
Recently, however, the minutes have been up and he has impressed for Fantasy purposes. Over the last three games, LeVert is averaging 12 points on nearly 54 percent shooting with 3.3 rebounds and three assists on 23.6 minutes a night. He’s a well-rounded player who can help across the board, as evident in his per-36 numbers and college stats. Per-36 minutes has LeVert with 12 points, five boards, three assists, 1.8 triples, and 1.5 steals per game. Not too shabby.
He was all over the place in his senior season at the University of Michigan. In 15 games (limited by injury) he dropped nearly 17 points per night on efficient 50 percent shooting, with five boards and five assists. The outside shooting in the NBA could improve as well, considering he shot over 40 percent from downtown throughout his four-year college career. The Nets might not give him a full workload yet because of the injury history, but he is a prime stash candidate in deeper leagues given his across-the-board potential. Also, keep in mind that he is shooting guard- eligible on Yahoo! right now, but only power forward-eligible on ESPN for reasons unknown.
Guards to drop: Nick Young, Kent Bazemore, Patty Mills, Emmanuel Mudiay
Al-Farouq Aminu (Owned in 47 percent on Yahoo!/26.4 percent on ESPN) is the ultimate “stuff and things” waiver wire pickup. As my friends from the In This League Podcast coined, “stuff and things” in Fantasy basketball refers to all those forgotten stats like steals, blocks, etc. Aminu is the guy for the Portland Trail Blazers who’s going to get his hands dirty, especially in the rebounds and defensive categories.
He’s battled a few injuries this season but is finding his groove in the New Year (that seems to be a common theme with a lot of these guys). Through five January games, Aminu is averaging 9.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 steals, one triple and 0.8 blocks in 34 minutes a night. He’s coming off a monster game against the Lakers in which he scored eight points on 3 for 6 shooting with 15 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. In fact, he’s had at least eight rebounds in four straight games.
Aminu isn’t a great scorer as evident in his 42.7 career field-goal percentage but there is room for improvement on the season, as he sits at just 34.8 percent thus far. Because of all the defensive attention Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum attract, Aminu is left with a ton of wide-open three-point attempts. Don’t get me wrong. Aminu SHOULD NOT be classified as a shooter but he can hit spot-up threes when he’s wide open. His numbers as a Trail Blazer support this theory. Over his past two seasons with the team, he’s managed to make 147 of 424 three-point attempts, or 34.6 percent. The league average from beyond the arc is around 35 percent so, by default, Aminu is an average shooter from downtown. If you’re in need of a forward in category/rotisserie formats, Aminu is a guy who will help in everything but points and percentages. For those in weekly lineup leagues, he plays four games next week and should be owned in 10-team leagues and deeper.
Brandon Ingram (Owned in 48 percent on Yahoo!/38.4 percent on ESPN) got off to an extremely slow start like most rookies do in the NBA, but he’s been better recently. When I say slow . . . I mean really slow. Entering January, Ingram was shooting 34.6 percent overall from the field and 23.7 percent from three-point land. His offensive rating was 90 in November and 89 in December. It’s going to be a learning process for both the Lakers and Ingram, as he’s just 19 years old.
In January, however, Ingram’s offensive rating has shot up to 123. While that isn’t sustainable, it’s nice to see him put together a string of successful performances. Over his last four games, Ingram is averaging 14 points on 60 percent shooting with 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 treys and 0.8 blocks in 29.5 minutes a night. Keep in mind, the Lakers could deal a few players around the deadline as well. While Nick Young and Lou Williams have been resurgent in Los Angeles this season, the Lakers are a rebuilding franchise that will be looking to move these players in exchange for younger talent or draft picks. That will open up a ton of playing time and usage for Ingram down the stretch.
Ingram isn’t as good as he’s played, but he’s not nearly as bad as he was the first couple of months either. In his only year at Duke, he averaged 17.3 points per game on 44 percent shooting overall and 41 percent from downtown, making over two triples per game. While he is not a good defender at all, he’s extremely long with a 7’3” wingspan and that will translate into steals and blocks at the NBA level. He’s been more of a stash up to this point, but he’s now worth a legitimate add in 12-team leagues or deeper. Ingram will contribute in the points, threes, and rebound categories with the potential for defensive statistics.
Donatas Motiejunas (Owned in 14 percent on Yahoo!/8.4 percent on ESPN) finally opted to sign with the New Orleans Pelicans over the Brooklyn Nets and the Houston Rockets. Honestly, he fits in perfect on a team that is gifted offensively but is not known for their defense (except for Anthony Davis). The Pelicans do have some frontcourt depth but Motiejunas gives them the ability to stretch the floor and play small ball. He can play center for the team and could take pressure off Davis when he’s double-teamed.
Motiejunas has only played two games with his new team thus far and he’s been alright based on his minutes played. Obviously, Alvin Gentry isn’t going to throw him into 25-plus minutes right away, but he could work his way up to that point. In his first game this season against the Celtics, he scored 11 points on 4 of 5 shooting with five rebounds, four assists, one triple and one steal in 20 minutes of play. In his second game, he only played 16 minutes (because it was a blowout) but scored just three points with four rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Don’t expect the steals to continue but the points, threes, rebounds and assists could be consistent. He’s never been a big assist guy, but he is surrounded by great scorers, so perhaps he could be in for a career-high in that department.
Motiejunas is better off as a deeper-league add right now, but he has the potential to get better based on his playing time. He’s still just 26 years old and has one really fine season under his belt, in 2014-15. In 71 games with the Rockets that year, he scored 12 points on 50 percent shooting with nearly six rebounds and two assists per game. I do, however, expect the playing time to be there for him. Why else would the Pelicans go out of their way to sign him when other teams were also interested. He should be owned in 14-team leagues or deeper, but keep an eye on him in shallower leagues as well.
Forwards to drop: Jon Leuer, JaMychal Green, Kenneth Faried
Zaza Pachulia (Owned in 12 percent on Yahoo!/9.9 percent on ESPN) is currently being voted in as a Western Conference All-Star starter and for good reason! Just kidding, he’s been great recently for Fantasy purposes but shouldn’t be in the All-Star game over DeMarcus Cousins. That will happen when you have the whole country of Georgia voting to get you in . . .
While the minutes haven’t been extremely high for Zaza, he’s managed to come on strong over his last five games. During that span, he’s averaging 10.4 points on 65 percent shooting, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, one steal and 0.6 blocks per game. His minutes will always be limited because he plays on the Warriors and they like to go small, but his efficiency is elite. With all the defensive attention their shooters attract, he’s often found in the paint with nobody around him. He’s been so good for Fantasy purposes, he’s actually ranked within the Top-50 in 9-category leagues over the past week. He’s been better than Pau Gasol, Kevin Love, and Al Horford over that stretch, mostly because of the efficiency and lack of turnovers. If you were a Jahlil Okafor owner, or you have suffered from the poor production of Robin Lopez recently, Pachulia a solid name to look at in 12-team leagues or deeper.
Centers to drop: Jahlil Okafor, Channing Frye, Bismack Biyombo, Timofey Mozgov
All stats used before the January 11 games.