Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day to rejoice and appreciate how far this great nation has come throughout the past century. With MLK day also comes a myriad of NBA games, 10 to be exact and they certainly did not disappoint. Four of said 10 games went into overtime with two of them going into double-overtime. If that wasn’t enough, Kemba Walker set a new franchise record in points with 52, and the Golden State Warriors ran the Cleveland Cavaliers out of their own building. Ideally, every Fantasy Basketball week should start this way. Nonetheless, another week has passed and Kobe Bryant ceases to amaze fans in his final season. This past week, Kobe channeled his inner Marshawn Lynch and decided to stiff-arm a referee on his way to fast-break layup. This guy just does it all. On to the pickups!
Yes, it’s glaringly obvious that Emmanuel Mudiay has holes in his game (duh, he’s only 19 years old) but the potential is immense, and he should be owned in more than 58-percent of leagues on Yahoo! and ESPN. He’s above average height for a point guard at 6’5”, and with that comes added strength and an 80.5-inch wingspan. This type of length allows Mudiay to be a force on the defensive end, something not all point guards can contribute in Fantasy Basketball. Since returning from his 14-game absence with an ankle injury, Mudiay has racked up six steals in four games, adding a block in all but one game. On offense, he is very raw and will kill owners in leagues that count turnovers and field-goal percentage. But for those who play in points leagues or without those categories mentioned, he definitely has value. Since his return, Mudiay is averaging 10.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game on the offensive side of the ball. He’s not shy about being the center of the offense, and his robust 26.5-percent usage rate is more than enough evidence to prove that. His offensive floor, coupled with his defensive ceiling, makes him an asset for Fantasy Basketball purposes. He’s more of a stash in 10-team leagues right now, but in 12-team leagues or deeper, Mudiay should be started in favorable matchups.
Looking Deeper: Tyler Johnson is another young cat in the NBA who should earn more minutes moving forward for the Miami Heat. The 23-year-old combo guard was impressive in limited action last season, and has improved drastically during the offseason as well. His numbers are up across the board; most notably, his shooting percentages that have ballooned up to nearly 50-percent from the field, 40-percent from downtown and 80-percent from the line. He’s averaging just 23 minutes per game but his numbers extrapolated over 36-minutes played are pretty impressive if the Heat choose to trust him like they have recently. He’s played at least 28 minutes per game over his last four, averaging 13 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists during that span. Usual starting point guard Goran Dragic, is battling a calf strain, while backup Beno Udrih, is suffering from a neck injury. Johnson has an opportunity to start and play big minutes while they’re out, making him the top short-term pickup this week.
Many long-range shooters in the NBA tend to be very streaky, and perhaps nobody fits this mold more so than Robert Covington. Covington was highly regarded in drafts this season after showing Fantasy owners a glimpse of his potential last year. Despite starting just 49 games, Covington proved his worth from downtown, averaging 2.4 3-pointers made per game to go along with 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals. He fit the mold of a young Trevor Ariza one might say. While he got off to a hot start in the 2015-16 campaign, he certainly hit a cold spell from mid-December until just recently. During that 13-game drought, Covington was averaging a mere 5.8 points per game on just 29-percent shooting from beyond the arc. The good news is he’s somewhat back! It seems as though Head Coach Brett Brown has been able to reinstall confidence in Covington, one of the many marks of a successful coach. Regardless, Covington is averaging 17.3 points and 1.3 steals per game on 48-percent shooting from downtown over his last three. If he was dropped due to the recent slump, owners should pounce on the opportunity to pick him back up. He’s an elite three-point shooter who can contribute in defensive categories as well.
Looking Deeper: Every week I tend to focus a ton on younger players because that’s where the unknown lay in Fantasy. Instead of suggesting old geezers all the time, who’s upside we’re already aware of, it’s fun to toy with the potential of the young guns. Recently, Aaron Gordon has put some of that potential on display. The key with Gordon, like most of the younger players, is opportunity and making the most of their playing time. In three of Gordon’s last four games, he’s played 23 or more minutes per game, maximizing those minutes. He averaged 14 points and 7.3 rebounds per game on nearly 63-percent shooting. That’s the type of player Gordon can be if given the proper opportunity. Unfortunately, the Fantasy headache, Scott Skiles, is his Head Coach. Regardless, Victor Oladipo has been diagnosed with a sprained right knee, which indirectly leads to more playing time for Gordon. He should be stashed right now in case his minutes become more consistent.
Similar to Bob Covington, Meyers Leonard is another guy who has struggled with consistency this season. He goes through great stretches during which he flashes that potential as a big man with long-range shooting accuracy, and then there are times when the Trail Blazers just forget he’s part of the team. Well, in case he was dropped in your league, now’s the time to snag Leonard up again with the possibility of his legitimacy. Although he doesn’t offer elite rebounding like other centers do, Leonard does offer 1.3 3-pointers made per game. That type of versatility is what makes him stand out at the thinner position. Over his last four games, Leonard is averaging 13 points and 5.5 rebounds per game with 10 3-pointers made during that stretch. I’ve recommended Leonard as a pickup earlier in the season, but I just can’t shake his offensive potential for Fantasy purposes. He should easily be the third offensive option on this team but it just hasn’t worked that smoothly yet. He’s worth owning in 12-team leagues or deeper just in case.
Looking Deeper: With DeAndre Jordan out this past week, Cole Aldrich proved once again he is a competent center in the NBA. In two games started, Aldrich scored 19 points in each, adding 10 rebounds in one contest and seven rebounds in the other. Hopefully these two starts were enough for Coach Doc Rivers to award Aldrich the backup big-man role for the Clippers. He could see 18-20 minutes in a reserve role and perhaps more while Blake Griffin is still out. Based on his averages, he would really only need 20 minutes per game to average 10 points and eight boards. He’s a hustle big who should only be looked at in 16-team leagues or deeper.