Just when Fantasy Basketball owners thought they were getting a normal nine-game slate on a Monday night, the NBA made the amazing happen. In what was likely a preview of the Western Conference Finals, the Golden State Warriors trampled the Spurs by 30 points, extending their home-winning streak to 39 games. Steph Curry needed only three quarters to drop 37 points with six three-pointers made and five steals. Mind you the Spurs are the best defensive team in the NBA. Steph is a BAAAD man! What’s even crazier is that wasn’t even the best game of the night. DeMarcus Cousins went off for a career-high 56 points while Rajon Rondo dished out 20 dimes in a double-overtime loss to the Hornets. Cousins is averaging 52 points per game over his last two . . . No big deal. On a serious note, the Cleveland Cavaliers picked up their first win under the tutelage of Tyronn Lue, so congrats to them. Can we get to some pickups?
Unfortunately, there is at least one team each season that manages to have everything go wrong for them. This year that team is the Phoenix Suns. It started way back in the summer when they recruited Tyson Chandler, hoping that would sway LaMarcus Aldridge to the desert. Update: it didn’t work. In early January their best player, Eric Bledsoe, went down with a torn meniscus, ultimately ending his season. Since then it’s been a snowball effect of injuries with the latest being Brandon Knight. He’s been ruled out this week and the only guard left to bring the ball up is Archie Goodwin. Goodwin was actually a one-and-done player out of Kentucky, drafted 29th overall in 2013. He’s a lengthy guard at 6’5”, who can score and contribute some defensive statistics for Fantasy purposes. He’s been pressed into duty lately, playing 39 or more minutes in the past two games. Goodwin is averaging 22 points, three assists and two 3-pointers per game during the span. On defense, he’s managed at least one block AND one steal in three straight. He’s still only 21 years old so he will be erratic at times, struggling from the field and losing turnovers. The opportunity is worth it, however, when you consider that the Suns have no backcourt depth. He’s a great short-term option who can gain long-term value if he impresses over the next few weeks. He’s definitely worth throwing some FAAB down on if you’re in need of a guard.
Looking Deeper: Isaiah Canaan is finally getting minutes at shooting guard for the Philadelphia 76ers, and you can tell he’s much more comfortable in that role. Despite being listed at just 6’0”, Canaan can shoot the lights out and isn’t really known for his playmaking ability. Over his past four games, Canaan is averaging 13 points per game with nine total 3-pointers made. He was a standout player at Murray State in the college ranks, winning the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year award two years in a row. He averaged three 3-pointers made per game over the course of his Junior and Senior years of college ball, so that’s just more evidence he’s a legitimate sniper. If you’re in need of points and three’s in a 14-team league or deeper, Canaan is worth a speculative add.
I have a hard time believing that at just 30 years old, Josh Smith’s career is already over. Apparently, the Los Angeles Clippers felt he didn’t have much to offer so they waived him. Smith found his way back to the Houston Rockets, where he played 55 games just last season. He averaged 12 points on nearly 44-percent shooting with six rebounds per game during that stint with the Rockets. He only has three games under his belt with the team this year, but each time he’s been out his minutes have increased. The shooting has been awfully inconsistent but the opportunity is there for J-Smoove to grab. Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff is still searching for a set rotation that Smith could easily be a part of if he plays like he did just last season. Over the weekend Smith had a 16-point performance in which he also managed two blocks, two steals, and two 3-pointers made. If he can be that type of player on a consistent basis, he’s worth owning for Fantasy purposes. That’s why he’s worth the risk. Yes, he will hurt your free-throw percentage but most owners punt percentages anyway. His versatility is also a plus, as he is eligible at both small forward and power forward. He’s worth throwing a small fortune of FAAB on just in case he re-finds his game.
Looking Deeper: Nene is once again starting for the Washington Wizards, which means he has to have a spot in this waiver-wire column. He isn’t terribly impressive anymore, but he certainly makes the most of the minutes he’s being given. He’s played 20.8 minutes per game over his last seven, putting together averages of 10.4 points and 4.1 rebounds. What’s been more impressive are his defensive statistics. He’s had a block in five of seven games and at least one steal every night. He even had a five-steal performance a few games ago. He’s worth a look in 14-team leagues but should definitely be owned in 16-team leagues or deeper.
“Frank, if the Phoenix Suns are so bad, why are you suggesting we pick up two of them?” It’s simple, really. They have some nice young pieces. The only problem is they have no stars. Really, all of the players left are complementary guys who should be surrounding the All-Stars. With no big names left, that’s when the young guns step up. Alex Len just happens to be a really big young gun. Much like the backcourt of the Suns, the frontcourt is also battling injuries to names like Markieff Morris and Jon Leuer. They’ve now opted to roll with a two-center starting lineup, which includes Len and the aforementioned Chandler. Despite being just 22 years old, Len has shown flashes of brilliance already in his young career. He’s a legitimate center who can dominate the paint on both offense and defense. Len can hold his own with his back to the basket on offense and shoots relatively well from the free-throw line at 71-percent. He’s also a great rebounder and defensive stalwart, who can alter shots and rack up blocks. He’s played 35 minutes in each of the past two games, averaging 14.5 points, 10 rebounds and one block per game. It’s not a matter of talent with Len, just a matter of staying healthy and out of foul trouble. His defensive aggressiveness does manage to land him on the bench at times. The Suns need to find ways to stay competitive, and if this two-center starting lineup gets the job done, Len will be awesome for Fantasy owners. If he’s still available in 12-team leagues or deeper, he shouldn’t be!
Looking Deeper: Cody Zeller has been ruled out for a week and Al Jefferson has been battling injuries/suspensions all season for the Hornets. That leaves just Spencer Hawes and Frank Kaminsky to handle the big-man duties in the meantime. Hawes definitely isn’t flashy but he can provide solid scoring and rebounding in the short term. He’s had 16 or more points in two of his last three games, averaging nine rebounds per game over that span. He’s also an under-the-radar downtown shooter who added four 3-pointers made in his last game against the Kings. Owners shouldn’t expect four every night, but one or two is a definite possibility. The center position could be hard to fill at times and if you’re struggling, Hawes can plug the hole for at least one week.