There are only a few days left before All-Star Weekend is upon us, but this isn’t a time to forget about your Fantasy Basketball teams! NBA games will finish up this Thursday and won’t resume until the following Thursday, but perhaps Fantasy owners can catch their fellow league owners snoozing during that time. Not only is February 18 the beginning of the second half of the season, but it also happens to be the NBA Trade Deadline. Owners will have to be more aware than ever on that day, as a multitude of trades should go down, creating more opportunities for the players. Oh, and for those who thought Kobe Bryant was done, he’s averaging 26.4 points per game over his last five! On to the pickups!
The Bulls’ season has been a roller coaster ride thus far, as they continue to battle myriad injuries and learn the new style of head coach Fred Hoiberg. The guards, specifically Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose, have each missed time recently, opening up playing time for E’Twaun Moore. Moore is a bit undersized at 6’4” to be a shooting guard, but he is a talented scorer and an underrated playmaker. Moore was a four-year standout at Purdue and he averaged 18 points and 3.2 assists during his senior season in 2010-11. It’s taken him some time to find his way in the NBA but he could be on to something recently. Due to the injuries, Moore’s played at least 27 minutes in each of the seven games, putting together solid performances throughout. Over that span, Moore is averaging 12.4 points, 2.7 assists and 1.7 3-pointers per game. Evidence of Moore’s growth and maturity throughout his NBA career can be seen in his career-high true-shooting percentage this season. As per basketball-reference.com, true-shooting percentage measures shooting efficiency, which takes into account 2-point and 3-point field goals, as well as free throws. His 54.9-percent mark ranks ahead of names like Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozan, and Rudy Gay. The aforementioned Bulls players should return following the All-Star break, but Moore has done enough to earn a meaningful role in the rotation.
Looking Deeper: Mario Hezonja is a talented shooter out of Croatia who was selected fifth overall by the Orlando Magic in the most recent NBA draft. Last week, I discussed the top-flight talent coming over from Europe in recent years and Hezonja has the potential to be in that elite group. There are trade rumors swirling around the Orlando Magic, specifically about Tobias Harris, that would open up a ton of playing time for Hezonja. The Croatian rookie has shown flashes recently too, scoring in double figures in four of his last eight games. It might be in the Magic’s best interest to get their youngsters involved this season, as it’s obvious they won’t compete yet. Owners in 14-team leagues or deeper could take a look at Hezonja if you’re in need of 3-point shooting.
Once guys like Joe Johnson are hitting game-winning shots and Luol Deng is Fantasy relevant again, you could consider that a ‘blast from the past’. Deng’s better days are behind him, there is no denying that, but he could still have something to offer in 10-team leagues or deeper. Hassan Whiteside has battled injuries to his oblique and ankle recently, and that has opened up some more opportunity for Deng to score and rebound. Over his past six, Deng is averaging 14.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 3-pointers per game. In a smaller sample size of four February games, Deng’s usage rate has climbed to 17.5-percent while his true-shooting percentage stands at 59.2-percent. With Dwyane Wade climbing up there in age and Goran Dragic banged up all season, the Heat need Deng to be an effective scoring option, even if it’s exclusively as a spot-up shooter. There have been rumblings of the Heat pursuing Rudy Gay, which would kill Deng’s value; but if that doesn’t happen, Deng will remain a Fantasy asset.
Looking Deeper: Gerald Henderson is owned in just 6.3-percent of ESPN leagues, but really that number should be much higher based on his performance recently. He’s finally healthy for the Blazers and is making the most of his playing time even if it’s only 20-25 minutes per night. He’s scored double-digit points in seven of his last eight games, notching 16 points in each of the past two contests. He’s contributing in the rebounds department and also has exactly eight steals over those eight games. The Blazers don’t have much veteran leadership on that team but Henderson has been around for quite some time now. That team is in need of a scoring option off the bench and Henderson is just that. If he’s still floating around in 14-team leagues or deeper, he shouldn’t be.
Ian Mahimni is definitely not the flashy, super-athletic breed of center emerging around the NBA but he is an efficient Fantasy asset. He’s missed some games because of injury during January and February and could have been dropped in a ton of Fantasy leagues. If he managed to hit the waiver wire in 12-team leagues or deeper, owners should take a hard look. Mahimni is getting healthy again and turned in a solid performance against the Lakers, scoring 11 points on 75-percent shooting with five rebounds and a block. During the months of October, December, and January, Mahimni averaged at least nine points and seven boards per game. He’s efficient for those in category leagues that count field-goal percentage, and he does contribute defensive statistics as well. He doesn’t offer the highest upside but has a consistent floor on a nightly basis. Before his minutes climb back into the high-20’s, owners should look to snag Mahimni.
Looking Deeper: While I hate to recommend Boston Celtics because Brad Stevens constantly changes his rotation, Tyler Zeller’s recent performance cannot be overlooked. As usual, the young Celtics players are forced to prove themselves in limited amounts of action because Coach Stevens just doesn’t play any of them that much. Perhaps it’s a good tactic for keeping his team fresh and pushing the players to compete for playing time, but it hurts Fantasy owners. Nonetheless, Zeller has scored 16 or more points in three of the last four despite playing no more than 27 minutes in any game. He has five blocks during that span and has been considered a viable rim protector by Coach Stevens himself. If the team unloads David Lee and even Amir Johnson by the deadline, that could mean more consistent playing time for Zeller down the stretch. He’s worth a speculative add, regardless.