Here is a heads-up that the NBA Trade Deadline is Thursday, February 23. If you’re serious about winning your Fantasy Basketball league, be sure to have your phone or computer near you at all times leading up to that date. The difference between finishing first or second place could be a waiver addition who earns tremendous Fantasy value because of a trade. For those in leagues that use FAAB for their waivers, I hope you have some left. Whatever FAAB you have, save every last bit of it for the week of February 23!
Kyle Korver (Owned 58 percent on Yahoo!/19.5 percent on ESPN) is finally coming on for the Cavs after being traded there in early January. This is the perfect situation for Korver. Of course, he won’t get as many shot attempts, playing alongside LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love but most, if not all of his attempts will be wide-open threes. The stars in Cleveland demand so much defensive attention and that in turn will lead to a ton of open looks for Korver. Also, we mustn’t forget LeBron is arguably the best passer in the league and is keen on finding open shooters on the perimeter.
Over his last four games, Korver is averaging 18.3 points with 4.5 triples in just over 28 minutes per contest. Since joining the Cavs, Korver’s made 40 of 83 from beyond the arc, which equates to 48.2 percent. That mark is his highest shooting percentage from 3- point land since the 2014-15 season, when Korver was an All-Star. As long as he isn’t a complete defensive liability for the Cavs, his minutes should remain in the 25-30 range.
Helping his cause is the fact that Iman Shumpert just went down with an ankle injury as well. He was recently seen in a walking boot and there is no telling exactly how long he will be out. There won’t be much volume with Korver but there will be much more efficiency from here on with the Cavs. He doesn’t provide much else besides points and threes, but he will hit them in bunches with James and Irving on the lookout.
Lance Stephenson (Owned 3 percent on Yahoo!/1.6 percent on ESPN) signed a 10-day contract with the Timberwolves this week after recovering from his groin injury. There is no doubt Stephenson can be a knucklehead at times but when he gets minutes, he is a Fantasy asset. Not only can he score efficiently but he can fill up the stat sheet in a hurry. He proved it during his run with the Grizzlies last season, when he likely propelled a ton of Fantasy owners to championships.
Stephenson appeared in 26 games with the Grizzlies last season, averaging 14.2 points on a stellar 47.4 percent shooting (81.5 percent from the free-throw line) with 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 0.7 steals. Speaking of the number 26, he’s also just 26 years old. It feels like he’s been in the league forever but he entered at the ripe age of 20. The reason his shooting efficiency was so much better last season was solely because of his shot selection. Nearly 60 percent of hit shots came from within 10 feet of the basket during his tenure with the Grizzlies.
The key to success for Stephenson is trying to keep his head on straight. If there is any coach I have faith in to do so, it’s Tom Thibodeau. The Timberwolves have a huge hole to fill after losing Zach Lavine, so perhaps Stephenson could help with that. He’s still relatively young and could be a contributor. He’s a speculative add in deeper leagues who can help with efficient scoring, rebounding and assists if he earns the minutes. Even if the Timberwolves kick the tires on him, Stephenson should be able to land with another team.
Maurice Harkless (Owned 29 percent on Yahoo!/23.7 percent on ESPN) and Allen Crabbe (Owned 27 percent on Yahoo!/11 percent on ESPN) are the two players who should see the biggest uptick in minutes following the injury to Evan Turner. Turner is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a fractured hand suffered against the Mavericks. Neither guy will offer much upside with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum dominating the usage, but they can each contribute in different ways.
Harkless got off to a great start this season but his production has dipped each month since November. While in the starting lineup for the month of November, Harkless averaged 13.5 points on 50.8 percent shooting with 5.5 rebounds, 1.6 3-pointers, 0.9 steals and 0.8 blocks in 31.3 minutes per game. He was finally shooting with confidence while using that length to his advantage on defense. While the efficiency and threes were helpful, his contributions in the defensive categories were most useful. His shooting percentage, however, dipped to 47.7 percent, 44.6 percent, and a dreadful 30 percent over each of the next three months. Harkless isn’t good enough to shoot 51 percent from the field but isn’t terrible to the point he’s at now. He should provide double-digit scoring in the low 40 percent shooting range while helping the rebounds, steals, and blocks categories.
Crabbe, on the other hand, is more of an offensive presence. The problem has been his consistency. He is capable of lighting it up from downtown and scoring 25 points, but on the next night he’ll score six. His 42.7 3-point percentage is the highest since his rookie season, so that is nice to see and the minutes are almost guaranteed to go up with Turner out. Crabbe is a poor man’s Korver who will contribute just points and threes. Harkless should be considered in 12-team leagues, whereas Crabbe is for the deeper variety.
Matt Barnes (Owned 22 percent on Yahoo!/9.5 percent on ESPN) has really been the wing player to step up in the absence of Rudy Gay. It looked like Garrett Temple might have been the guy, but he too is on the shelf now with an injury. Also, with DeMarcus Cousins now at the league limit for technical fouls, he will certainly miss games moving forward. The Kings just don’t have enough depth following all the injuries and suspensions, which will lead to more production for Barnes moving forward.
Over his last five games, Barnes is averaging 11.4 points on 45 percent shooting with 9.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and two triples in 31.6 minutes a night. The scoring is inconsistent but it’s everything else he provides. He’s always been an aggressive rebounder for a small forward, could shoot from the outside and pick up a few assists. While he’s been an aggressive rebounder, his 12.2 total rebound percentage is his highest mark since the 2011-12 season when he was with the Lakers.
If there were a Fantasy league for most troubled athlete off the court, Barnes would be a top pick but for now he’s just a waiver add in Fantasy basketball. If you’re suffering from the injuries to Gay, Evan Turner or Jabari Parker, Barnes makes sense for you. He should be owned in 12-team leagues moving forward.
Jahlil Okafor (Owned 60 percent on Yahoo!/47.1 percent on ESPN) is going to be dealt before the Trade Deadline. I’m not entirely sure where but it’s going to happen. The teams showing the most interest now are the New Orleans Pelicans and Chicago Bulls. It’s not a matter of talent with Okafor but rather his attitude and playing time. Obviously, there is a correlation between the two there.
Okafor has received many DNP-CDs this season and it isn’t because of a lack of talent. His problem, like many other young players, is a lack of motivation. Okafor is a gifted offensive player but he just doesn’t put forth the same effort on the defensive end. On a 76ers team that has thrived based on their overall effort and spunk recently, Okafor just doesn’t fit the bill.
He also doesn’t fit personnel-wise, either. Joel Embiid is banged up at the moment, but he is the future of the franchise (#TrustTheProcess). The 76ers as a team play much better as a collaborative unit when Embiid and Nerlens Noel are on the floor together, instead of Embiid and Okafor. For obvious reasons, Okafor needs the ball in his hands to create offense, but so does Embiid. It just doesn’t mesh well. On the contrary, Noel is a more defensive-minded player who gets his offense on scrappy plays like put backs and alley-oops. From a personnel perspective, Noel just fits better on the court with Embiid and that is likely the route the franchise will pursue.
To reiterate, Okafor is a gifted offensive player and he’s flashed it over his last five games. During that span, he’s averaging 15.2 points on 46.7 percent shooting and 5.2 rebounds a night. Also, as bad as he is defensively, he’s still averaging one block per game in just 23 minutes this season. At 6’11”, he will end up with a block or two most nights because of his size alone. When he’s traded, he’ll provide scoring with a good field-goal percentage, rebounds, and blocks. He might not play every night now with the 76ers but he’s worth stashing in 12-team leagues or deeper until the deadline.