Raymond Felton (Owned in 29 percent on Yahoo!/10.6 percent on ESPN) just fell into Fantasy Basketball stardom. Chris Paul has a torn ligament in his thumb and will undergo surgery that will keep him out for the next 6 to 8 weeks. That puts Paul’s return in early-mid March right around the Fantasy Basketball playoffs in head to head leagues. With Paul out, Felton is expected to start and is a must-add, even in 10-team leagues!
Before this unfortunate thumb injury to Paul, he was battling a tweaked hamstring and missed seven games between December 23 and January 4. During that stretch, Felton averaged 12.6 points on 40.7 percent shooting (78.6 percent free throws) with 4.9 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and one triple in 34.3 minutes per game. He’s basically a poor-man’s Chris Paul when he starts for the Clippers. The shooting percentages aren’t ideal but he’s a must-add because of the across-the-board production and high-volume playing time. It’s rare to a find a free agent in Fantasy Basketball who’ going to play over 30 minutes a night, while providing consistent rebounds, assists, steals and a 3-pointer per game in category formats. Even in points leagues, he’ll likely provide 25-30 Fantasy points based on the averages above.
Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford are the only other guys on the roster who can handle point guard duties, so it’s a safe bet Felton will play at least 30 minutes per game during the next few months (unless they make a deal at the trade deadline). As for the 40.7 percent field-goal percentage, I do expect that to improve a tad if that was a deal breaker for you. Felton has posted a career-high 50.2 percent effective field-goal percentage this season and is finishing at a career rate in the paint, 69.3 percent within three feet of the basket. Add Felton in 10-team leagues or deeper, regardless of format!
Dion Waiters (Owned in 24 percent on Yahoo!/12.4 percent on ESPN) is known in the Fantasy industry as being a “nut” or a basketball player who shoots excessively with no consequence in mind. Basically, he’s not shy about shooting once he gets on the court, and fortunately for us, he’s once again starting for the Miami Heat.
Undoubtedly, Waiters is better in head to head points leagues because he can’t hurt your shooting percentages in that format, but he still has use in category leagues. Waiters recently returned from a 20-game absence due to a severe groin injury but earlier this season, he was getting it done for Fantasy purposes. In 13 November games, Waiters averaged 15.1 points, albeit on 39.8 percent shooting, with 4.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.2 triples, and one steal per night. The shooting percentages are terrible, as advertised, but the other categories he provides are useful, especially in 12-team leagues or deeper.
The Heat have battled injuries all season and yet another has struck. After Justise Winslow opted for season-ending surgery, Josh Richardson also went down for at least the next two weeks. He’s started each of the past three games at shooting guard, and is coming off one of his most efficient games of the season in which he scored 17 points on 7 for 15 shooting with five rebounds and three assists. He’s a must-own player with Richardson out, and he should still be valuable in deeper formats when Richardson returns.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Owned in 47 percent on Yahoo!/5.7 percent on ESPN) was a hot commodity during Fantasy Basketball draft season because many expected him to take the second-year leap. Well, 37 games into the season and not much has changed from last year. His minutes are basically the same at 21.8 per game, and he’s started just 15 of 37 games; whereas he started 17 of the 29 games he appeared in as a rookie.
“Frank, why are you writing about Hollis-Jefferson if you’re bashing him?”
Hold your horses, I’m getting there. Hollis-Jefferson has flashed that upside again over his last few games, scoring 14 points in each of the last two and shooting exactly 5 of 8 from the field in both. To take it one step further, he’s had at least seven rebounds in each of those games and a total of four steals. The defensive statistics are really where Hollis-Jefferson can be an elite Fantasy contributor. He has at least one steal in six of his last seven games and multiple steals in four of those contests.
Hollis-Jefferson is worth holding onto because if the minutes ever become consistent this season, he’ll be able to provide rebounds and steals with low-end blocks and points. We know the Nets will be shopping players around the trade deadline, so perhaps that will free up consistent playing time for Hollis-Jefferson. The problem is Kenny Atkinson, Nets Head Coach, is a lot like Brad Stevens, Celtics Head Coach. He’s constantly changing up rotations and trying to get the most out of his players (even Joe Harris, for reasons unknown). Hollis-Jefferson should be picked up while he’s trending upwards and stashed at least through the trade deadline.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas (Owned in 3 percent on Yahoo!/1.8 percent on ESPN) is turning out to be quite the productive complementary player at the NBA level. Let’s get this straight off the bat. Just because he’s from Lithuania like Kristaps Porzingis, doesn’t mean he has the same upside. Kuzminskas (Kuz for short) will never develop into a star, but he will make his bread and butter as a hustler who can stretch the floor. There’s nothing wrong with that either. A ton of players remain Fantasy relevant in roles like that. Jae Crowder, Otto Porter and Robert Covington are just a few of the players who have thrived in the role.
A big part of Kuzminskas’ performance recently has been Jeff Hornacek’s trust. Kuz has played at least 23 minutes in four straight games, and he’s started the last two in a row. During that four-game stretch, Kuz has averaged 14.8 points on 51 percent shooting with 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 triples and one steal per contest. Kuz is very adept at running the open floor and getting to open spots around the basket when Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose are double teamed. 34 percent of his field-goal attempts come from within three feet of the basket, and he’s making 64.9 percent of them. Obviously, most of those attempts are coming with nobody around him (Kuz isn’t the most physically intimidating player).
Obviously, his shooting also makes him a great complementary player for the Knicks because he can also spot-up from beyond the arc. He’s shooting 36.5 percent from three-point range, a tad higher than league average. Kuz has also been assisted on nearly 94 percent of his 3-point field goals, so he’s not creating his own shots. For those worrying about whether his playing time is safe, the Knicks are going to be very cautious with Porzingis as he battles an Achilles injury. Even when he returns, there has been talk of starting Porzingis at center with Anthony at the four and Kuz at the three. If you’re in need of efficient threes with decent rebounds and steals, Kuzminskas is your guy in 12-team leagues or deeper.
Ivica Zubac (Owned in 7 percent on Yahoo!/0.6 percent on ESPN) was recently recalled from the D-League, and he made his presence felt in the Lakers’ latest game against the Nuggets. In that game, Zubac scored 11 points on 5 of 11 shooting with 13 rebounds, three blocks, one steal and an assist. Zubac had his full arsenal on display. The Lakers better realize very quickly that developing Zubac is more important than playing Timofey Mozgov and/or Tarik Black.
On the offensive side of the ball, he’s a true center who works in the paint with the ability to finish with both hands. He’s also advanced in the pick and roll aspect of the game, making him very hard to stop at 7’1”, 265 pounds. Also, he only went 1 of 2 from the free-throw line in that contest but he has a smooth shooting stroke for a big man. During his 13-game stint in the D-League, Zubac buried 29 of 35 free throws and many believe he has potential as a mid-range shooter. That could be the next facet of his game. On pick and rolls, he could opt to pop out into the mid-range where most other centers get lost on defense.
Defensively, he’s a work in progress but Zubac has a 7’4” wingspan, which should translate well into blocks. He racked up three the other night in that game against the Nuggets. Zubac is a speculative add, but he should also be picked up in deeper dynasty/keeper formats. Hopefully, his stellar performance will earn him a spot in the rotation and maybe even a starting gig at some point down the stretch. For now, he’s only worth adding in 16-team leagues or deeper but keep your eyes on him in shallower leagues too.