Shabazz Muhammad Tapping Into His Potential
Right now, Fantasy Basketball owners find themselves in waiver wire limbo, as there have been no significant injuries recently and with the NBA Trade Deadline being over a month away. Of course, we’re never pulling for players to get hurt but with injuries come more opportunity in Fantasy Basketball. Also, as the Trade Deadline looms closer, at least a handful of notable names will be on the move. It happens every season. As players are dealt, rotations will get shuffled leading to a few new names. For those who use FAAB waivers, you’re going to want to make sure you save some for mid-February. As Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour marches on, I’ll continue to highlight his greatest plays of the season. This past week, fans may have witnessed his last alley-oop and for a 37-year old, it was a beauty.
[caption id="attachment_103045" align="alignright" width="300"] Shabazz Muhammad is averaging 15.3 points over his last six games. Photo Credit: jermcon[/caption]
Dennis Schroder is a perfect example of watching a young player grow up right before our eyes. He was drafted as a raw 20-year-old prospect out of Germany three years ago, and has improved his game in each successive season. In a perfect world, he should be starting for an NBA team already. Regardless, you’re going to want to hold onto him, especially in dynasty/keeper leagues. After a two-game hiatus for reasons unknown, Schroder has returned and has produced in his limited action. Over the last three games, he’s averaging 11.3 points, 7.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals despite playing just over 21 minutes per night. Those numbers are certainly useful as a backup point guard in 12-team leagues or deeper as is. But with Jeff Teague banged up recently, the potential that Schroder would bring to the table as a starting point guard in the NBA is incredible. His numbers extrapolated over 36 minutes per game would feature a line of nearly 18 points, eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. Those are Top-15 PG numbers. Don’t get me wrong, Teague is the starting point guard for this team and will be as long as he’s healthy, but if there was ever a valuable handcuff in Fantasy Basketball, Schroder is the guy. Nonetheless, he’s worth owning as a backup and could certainly be started in deeper leagues right now.
Looking Deeper: In a (not) shocking turn of events, the Brooklyn Nets have decided to clean house, firing Head Coach Lionel Hollins and reassigning General Manager Billy King. This team is on a search to find players with grit, guys that want to reinvigorate that ‘winning culture’ Brooklyn experienced just a few seasons ago. Last week, I told owners to pick up Shane Larkin just based on his potential, and the situation that he fell into following the injury to Jarrett Jack. This week, owners should look to stash Donald Sloan, just in case he fits what the new coaching staff is looking for. Over the weekend, Sloan managed a double-double, scoring 15 points and dishing out 10 assists, which earned him the start at point guard Monday night. Unfortunately, that start was against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs. He scored just two points and five assists in 24 minutes of action. Sloan managed 18 starts last season with the Indiana Pacers, and he certainly opened up some eyes throughout those games. He scored in double-digits 10 times, including two performances of at least 29 points. Sloan displayed his ability as a playmaker as well, dishing out 5.3 assists per game in those 17 starts. He is definitely capable. It’s just a matter of how many minutes the staff is willing to give him. Take a chance on him in 14-team leagues or deeper.
Shabazz Muhammad is another uber-talented youngster at the ripe age of 23 years old. His problem is consistent with many others his age playing in the NBA: earning valuable minutes. Understandably, a portion of that can be attributed to his defense, or lack thereof. He can definitely hold his own on the offensive side of the ball, however. Muhammad was a highly touted prospect coming out of UCLA in 2013, averaging nearly 18 points per game as a freshman in college. He gave Fantasy owners a taste of his potential last season, and recently he’s tapped back into that. Over his last six games, Muhammad is averaging 15.3 on 55-percent shooting, connecting on a 3-pointer in every game but one. It’s that offensive efficiency and willingness to contribute off the bench that will earn Muhammad everyday minutes in the Association. Analysts have knocked his maturity and effort at times but hopefully, the guidance of veterans like Tayshaun Prince and Kevin Garnett will help him right that ship. He should be owned in 12-team leagues or deeper on teams searching for scoring and field-goal efficiency from the small forward position.
Looking Deeper: Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, also known as MKG, has recently been cleared for non-contact work as part of rehab from a torn labrum. He was originally supposed to miss most, if not all of the 2015-16 season and now it seems likely he will return following the All-Star break. For those with an open Injured Reserve spot, MKG is definitely worth a stash. Just last year, he averaged career-highs across the board with nearly 11 points and eight rebounds per game. Digging deeper, he also posted his best marks from a true-shooting percentage and a usage-rate point of view. He’s progressed nicely as a player; it just sucks he had this injury stifle his growth. Regardless, the potential is still there for the 22-year-old.
The New York Knicks invested a decent amount of money in Robin Lopez after striking out with Greg Monroe in free agency this past summer. Up until recently, Lopez appeared to be one of the worst signings in their history. Trust me, I watch every Knicks game. Over the last five games, however, he’s looked much more comfortable on both ends of the court. Perhaps he just needed to get past that initial honeymoon phase with his new team. During that span, RoLo is averaging 13.8 points and seven rebounds per game. His most impressive feat came against the tough defense of Hassan Whiteside and the Miami Heat when he scored a season-high 19 points just last week. On the defensive end, he’s also contributed blocks at an elite rate since mid-December. Dating back to December 21, RoLo has had a block in every game but one, registering multiple blocks in seven of 11 games. One of those performances also includes a six-block outburst against likely All-Star Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons. He’s viable as a second center in leagues that start two or more for the foreseeable future.
Looking Deeper: The Oklahoma City Thunder doesn’t have much frontcourt depth and that has led to a spike in playing time for Steven Adams recently. He’s played 23 or more minutes in four straight games, posting double-doubles on two of those occasions. His most recent 17-point performance was a season-best and judging by his teammates, he should have more open looks in the future as well. It feels like Adams has been in the league for a while now, but he remains just 22 years old. His numbers indicate he’s progressed as an offensive player overall this season. His field-goal percentage stands at career-best 59-percent while his free-throw percentage is also the highest it’s ever been at 62-percent. As he grooms his offensive game, he will be given a larger role with this prolific Thunder team. He’s worth keeping an eye on in 14-team leagues or deeper.
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