It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The NBA Trade Deadline is just one week away and we’ve already seen major trades take place. Jusuf Nurkic has been traded to the Blazers in exchange for Mason Plumlee, while Serge Ibaka was sent to the Raptors for Terrence Ross. Of course, there were draft picks involved in the trades too, but we only care about the players in Fantasy Basketball. So, in the words of the great Shang Tsung from the Mortal Kombat movie, “it has begun.” Strap in because it’s going to be a crazy week!
Ben McLemore (Owned in 15 percent Yahoo!/8.1 percent ESPN) is the latest Sacramento Kings player to crack my waiver wire additions, and yes, it’s based on injury. Ty Lawson is battling a groin injury and with Rudy Gay, Garrett Temple, and Omri Casspi also on the shelf, the team has no choice but to give McLemore minutes. It could be a short-term addition but based on his recent performance, McLemore should be looked at in deeper formats.
McLemore will likely never live up to his draft position as the seventh overall pick in 2013, but he goes through stretches in which he is viable for Fantasy Basketball. This is one of those stretches. In seven February games, he’s averaging 13.3 points on 46.4 percent shooting with 2.7 3-pointers, 2.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 30.6 minutes per night. McLemore hadn’t averaged more than 18.5 minutes per game in any month this season prior to February. Basically, the Kings are desperate for production from their wing players at this point and have no choice but to play him.
To his credit, he has played well since being inserted into the starting lineup. It isn’t likely he will keep up this production, but he does make for a speculative add in deeper leagues. He’s still just 24 years old; so, perhaps the team lets him stick in the starting lineup. In category leagues, he will provide some scoring with threes and low-end steals. The shooting percentages will be erratic, however. The good news is he doesn’t turn the ball over much for those who count turnovers as a category.
Norman Powell (Owned in 5 percent Yahoo!/2.4 percent ESPN) is a player that the Fantasy Basketball industry has been waiting to earn more minutes. He’s always a popular play in DFS when DeMar DeRozan is out because he performs well when given the opportunity to play. That’s why it’s so baffling when Dwane Casey givesx Terrence Ross minutes over Powell. Now, Ross is off to Orlando and it seems Powell will be the first wing player off the bench for the Raptors.
As mentioned, DeRozan missed seven games a few weeks ago, and Powell stepped up when inserted into the starting lineup. In those games, Powell averaged 16.3 points on 48 percent shooting with 4.8 rebounds and one steal per contest. His per-36 numbers this season are 15.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals so it’s actually pretty comparable to what he was doing with the uptick in minutes. Powell’s been more valuable for Fantasy purposes this season because of his field-goal percentage. As a rookie, he shot 42.4 percent from the field; meanwhile, this season it’s jumped to 45.6 percent. That’s by design, too. Last season just 27.9 percent of his field goal attempts came from within three feet of the basket, but this season 42.6 percent of his attempts are coming in the paint.
Despite being so young in his NBA career, Powell is a smarter player for his age because he stayed in college for all four years. He made significant strides throughout his four-year career at UCLA, culminating with 16.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in his rookie season. That sounds a lot like his per-36 numbers, huh? Powell is a guy who can provide efficient scoring with rebounds, steals and low-end threes. He also has better long-term value than McLemore if you’re deciding between the two.
Channing Frye (Owned in 40 percent Yahoo!/15.8 percent ESPN) and Derrick Williams (Owned in 3 percent Yahoo!/1.8 percent ESPN) will pick up the slack at the power forward position for the Cavs while Kevin Love is injured. Love will undergo a scope on his left knee that will keep him out of action for up to six weeks. If all goes well in that timetable, owners are looking at a late-March/early-April return. If you don’t have an injured reserve spot in a 12-team league or deeper, you should really consider dropping Love. The injury is especially a huge blow for Fantasy owners as Love was returning third-round value in nine-category leagues this season. While they won’t be as productive, Frye and Williams do offer some value in his absence.
In their first game without Love, Frye was inserted into the starting lineup and put on his best Love impression. He finished with 21 points on 7 for 15 shooting with 10 rebounds, four threes and two blocks. His production won’t always be this consistent as a shooter but his minutes will be, barring a trade. The Cavs have no frontcourt depth so I expect Frye to play 28-32 minutes per game consistently.
Frye has seen a spike in three-point percentage this season and it is not a fluke. His 41.9 percent three-point percentage is his highest mark since the 2009-10 season and it’s because he’s playing alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Like Kyle Korver, Frye’s life has been made so much easier as a spot-up shooter because those guys attract so much defensive attention. Fantasy owners should expect a near double double per night with high-end three-point shooting from Frye.
Since Love went down, Williams is averaging 10 points on 50 percent shooting with 5.5 rebounds in 25 minutes per game. He’s new to the team but like I mentioned with Frye, this team doesn’t have depth. He’s never lived up to expectations but he’s still a high-energy guy who can contribute points and rebounds. Frye should be owned in 12-team leagues and Williams should be looked at in 14-team leagues or deeper.
Michael Beasley (Owned in 22 percent Yahoo!/6.6 percent ESPN) was Fantasy relevant earlier in the season but now even more so following Jabari Parker’s injury. Parker was enjoying a career year in his third season but tore his left ACL again just last week. I don’t usually trust Jason Kidd when it comes to his rotation but I think Michael Beasley’s minutes are going to be pretty safe moving forward.
He’s started three of the four games since Parker went down and has played very well in his absence. Over the past week, he’s averaging 14 points on 63.9 percent shooting with four rebounds, 2.3 assists and 0.8 steals in just over 23 minutes per game. He’s made significant strides to his efficiency, as evidenced by his 17.1 PER this season. Part of the reason he’s been so efficient is because his improved shooting and shot selection. He’s getting more shots closer to the basket, which has led to a career-high 58.1 true-shooting percentage.
There are a few things to keep in mind here. As Khris Middleton gets healthier his minutes will increase, which could affect Beasley, although it should just take away from others instead. Also, Jason Kidd is his Coach and is what I like to call “Fantasy Cancer”. All things considered, I’d say Beasley is safe for 22-26 minutes a night, helping in the points, rebounds, and steals categories.
Juancho Hernangomez (Owned in 7 percent Yahoo!/3.2 percent ESPN) not to be confused with Willy Hernangomez of the New York Knicks, is coming off a career game in which the Nuggets upset the Warriors. Not only did they upset the Warriors, they destroyed them.
Hernangomez scored 27 points on 9-17 shooting (6-9 from beyond the arc) with 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in a whopping 43 minutes played. No, that game didn’t go into overtime either. That means he played every single minute except five that night. Nonetheless, his upside is real as a sharpshooting wing player who can rebound well and provide defensive statistics. He was drafted 15th overall in the 2016 draft, so the Nuggets obviously have high expectations for him.
As of now, Hernangomez is more of a stash in deeper leagues until after the deadline passes. We will know more about his value once we get past that. The Nuggets have been rumored to be shopping Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Will Barton. If one or even all should go, Hernangomez will earn more minutes as a result.
Jusuf Nurkic (Owned in 60 percent Yahoo!/37.2 percent xESPN) has finally been traded to the Portland Trail Blazers after months of speculation. Heading into the season, Fantasy owners didn’t know what to make of the Denver frontcourt as Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic were expected to start together. We learned very early on that they could not coexist. Mike Malone also looks like a fool for not trusting in Jokic who has taken the league by storm.
As for Nurkic, however, he’s still loaded with potential and should get a chance to flaunt that in Portland if he can keep his head on straight. As talented as he is, there have been reports that Nurkic has an attitude problem and isn’t the easiest player to coach. Please, for the love of Fantasy basketball get it together Nurkic! He’s another one of these per-36 monsters who just needs a chance at consistent minutes. He may not start right away but once he does, owners can expect a consistent double double with major defensive upside. The only problem with his on-court game is his lack of efficiency at times. His shot selection leads to a fluctuating field-goal percentage and he can be prone to turnovers.
Regardless, Nurkic is a must own player in all leagues following this trade. He can help out in the points, rebounds, steals, blocks and potentially field-goal percentage categories. Keep in mind he will hurt your free-throw percentage and turnovers, however.