There’s a lot going on in the world of the NBA and Fantasy Basketball! Don’t look now, but the Philadelphia 76ers are 3-3 under the guidance and leadership of Ish Smith. I knew that would end up being a blockbuster trade for them. Surprise, surprise, the Golden State Warriors remain undefeated at home this season, improving their mark to 17-0 thanks to Draymond Green’s third consecutive triple-double. And with the good . . . comes the bad. The Phoenix Suns are currently in the midst of a nine-game losing streak. What’s even worse is they scored just 22 points in the first half of their matchup with the Lakers. THE LAKERS! Most other teams wouldn’t be able to handle losing a player of Eric Bledsoe’s caliber either. Finally, another devastating injury took place this weekend in the form of Jarrett Jack. We hope for a speedy recovery, but unfortunately, it leads us to the first pickup of the week.
Jack was diagnosed with a torn right ACL and meniscus on that play above, which opens up the starting point guard position for the Brooklyn Nets. As of now, by default, the job will go to Shane Larkin unless they bring somebody else in (Tony Wroten, Brandon Jennings?). Larkin certainly hasn’t impressed recently, but he’s worth a speculative add based on opportunity alone. Any starting point guard who earns 25-plus minutes will at least have some value. There are a few positives working for Larkin so far this year as well. For example, he’s shooting 45-percent from the field, averaging 1.3 steals per game, and he owns a career-high 17.6 usage rate thus far. His numbers per 36 minutes are also impressive, boasting averages of 12.4 points, seven assists, and 2.5 steals per game. Jack was averaging 32 minutes per game for the Nets, so it’s not impossible for Larkin to approach those numbers. The only other point guard they have on the roster is journeyman Donald Sloan, another name to keep an eye on. Larkin is still only 23 years old, however, and given that the Nets are youth-deprived, they will give him the opportunity to succeed moving forward.
Looking Deeper: Another guard dealing with knee issues this season has been Tyreke Evans, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery earlier in the season and is now dealing with tendinitis. Nothing is set in stone but this injury sounds like one that could linger. Regardless, Norris Cole has impressed with or without Evans. Over his last three games, Cole is averaging 16 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and two steals per game. He is a talented scorer and a willing rebounder, considering he’s a point guard. Evans could return soon, but Cole would still remain in the Pelicans’ rotation. On top of that, the team just traded for Cole last season, and it’s obvious they are fond of him. He’s worth a look in 14-team leagues or deeper.
Both of these next two forwards are really deeper waiver options, and should be considered a ‘blast from the past’, one might say. While the 76ers continue their search for veteran leadership, it’s obvious they already have one answer on the roster: Carl Landry. Landry is a journeyman himself, who never really gets the respect or playing time he deserves. The one partial season he did, he averaged 18 points and nearly seven rebounds per night in 28 games with the Sacramento Kings. Wherever Landry has gone, he’s been able to contribute off the bench, even with a limited opportunity. Landry has scored 10 or more points in four of the five games played with the 76ers this season. He only needed 22 minutes to score 16 points on 8 of 11 shooting in his most recent appearance against the Timberwolves. Despite averaging just 16.6 minutes per game, Landry leads the team with a 25.8 PER. If Head Coach Brett Brown smartens up, he will find a way to get Landry 20 plus minutes per night moving forward.
Looking Deeper: Don’t look now, but 33-year-old Boris Diaw is making the most of his time with the San Antonio Spurs. Over his last eight, Diaw is averaging 12.1 points and four rebounds per game. He’s seen an uptick in minutes as Gregg Popovich continues to rest his veterans in the regular season. December was especially an impressive month for Diaw as he saw his usage rate jump up to 19.4-percent and his true-shooting percentage hover around 61-percent. He’s merely a low-end contributor at this point but in leagues that use daily lineups, he’s worth plugging in when the veterans are sitting out.
Another team dealing with a plethora of injuries up to this point has been the Utah Jazz, mainly in their frontcourt. Rudy ‘The Stifle Tower’ Gobert has been out since late November with a knee injury. Recently, Derrick Favors has also missed six games in a row, battling a back injury. Somebody needed to step up and that somebody turned out to be Jeff Withey. He’s started and played 24 or more minutes in five straight contests, playing extremely well in each of those games. During that span, Withey is averaging 10.8 points, nine rebounds, three blocks, and 1.6 steals per game. He’s racked up two double-doubles but what has been even more impressive are those numbers on the defensive end. Not only is he altering shots and standing his own ground, but also he’s racking up blocks and steals. Despite being just 25 years old, Withey is far beyond his years. He’s a four-year graduate of the Kansas Jayhawks and even made it to the National Championship in 2012 against Kentucky. His defense is no fluke, as he averaged 3.6 and 3.9 blocks respectively in his junior and senior seasons at Kansas. However long these two big men are out, Withey will continue to dominate the paint for the Jazz.
Looking Deeper: Speaking of talented college big men, Willie Cauley-Stein recently made his return to the Kings and his defensive potential goes without saying (but I’ll remind you anyway). WCS averaged 2.2 blocks per game throughout his college career at Kentucky and he very much resembles a DeAndre Jordan lite in terms of a pro comparison. The Kings don’t have much frontcourt depth, often having to rely on Rudy Gay to play power forward. Now with Omri Casspi banged up as well, they’re going to need all the help they can get. It’s hard to imagine DeMarcus Cousins playing the mentor role but he’s going to have to reach out to WCS and help him adjust to the NBA game. Still, the potential is there for Cauley-Stein to be an above-average shot blocker and rebounder this year in the league. He’s worth a speculative add in deeper leagues.