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Roundball Stew

Crisp Middleton

by Matt Stroup
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

From Brandon Jennings to Kemba Walker to Dwight Howard to Kobe Bryant, just to name a few, it’s been a downright crushing season of injuries across the fantasy hoops landscape. No matter how well you prepped for your draft back in October, it’s very possible that your season has been completely steamrolled by bad luck.

With that said, there may still be hope out there even if some of the biggest names on your squad have been bludgeoned with the injury hammer. Specifically, there are a lot of lower-profile players putting up difference-making numbers right now, and if you were able to add them already – or can get them at reasonable value in a trade – the following names could help salvage your season:

Khris Middleton: His hot streak started as a solid combo of points, steals and 3s (11.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.0 spg, 1.6 3s during a 12-game stretch from late December to late January), but recently Khris Kristofferson has elevated his production even more. Over his last seven games heading into the weekend, Middleton has posted 17.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.1 spg and 2.1 3s on 60.0 percent shooting in 35 minutes per game. Middleton’s minutes were pretty shaky early, but his playing time has gone up every month so far (November: 21.8 -> December 24.8 -> January 30.6), and all signs point to him continuing to contribute in a big way down the stretch.

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Robert Covington: With nine steals through two games this week (including seven of them on Monday), Covington now has at least one steal in nine consecutive games, a stretch that has seen him average 14.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.1 spg, 0.7 bpg and 2.7 3s. Really, the only true downside to his line is bad shooting (35.8 percent on 12 attempts per game during this current streak), but that basically goes without saying since the Sixers as a team are shooting 41.0 percent from the field.

Trey Burke: We often spend time fretting over who has a starting job and who doesn’t – and a demotion from the starting five to the bench usually stings – but there are cases where it’s not a complete dagger, and this is one of them. After a 21-point game on Wednesday, Burke is now averaging 18.0 ppg, 5.7 apg and 2.7 3s in his last three games (33 minutes per game), and overall since moving to the bench he’s at 16.0 ppg, 3.3 apg and 2.7 3s in seven games. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that his FG percentage is going to hurt, but if you can live with that (and not much of a contribution in steals), Burke looks ready to make a difference in points, 3s (and to a lesser extent, assists) the rest of the way.

Marcus Smart: I’ve written Smart’s name in this column numerous times over the last couple of months, but after his recent run (including a 4-10-8 line with three steals on Wednesday), it bears repeating: If you can get scoring elsewhere, Smart is lined up to contribute a nice combo of rebounds, assists, steals and 3s going forward. In his last five games, the No. 6 overall pick has averaged 7.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 6.0 apg, 1.4 spg and 1.6 3s, and his last two games on Monday and Wednesday have seen his two biggest minute totals of the season (37 and 41, respectively).

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Throwing aside Wednesday’s game (in which he splashed a trey then promptly checked out for the night with a sore Achilles), KCP is averaging an intriguing 15.4 ppg, 1.2 spg, 0.8 bpg and 2.2 3s in five games since Brandon Jennings’ season ended. That does come with a sizable dollop of inconsistency, bad shooting (39.7 percent in his last five) and not many boards or assists (3.2 rpg, 2.0 apg in his last five), but he at least has the volume and potential to put up a big line when things break right. And as for that Achilles issue, as of this writing he was on course to play Friday night.

Avery Bradley: A disappointment for much of the season, one of my favorite late-round sleepers is finally gaining momentum (last nine games: 16.2 ppg, 1.2 spg and 1.8 3s). One key limitation to keep in mind: Like Caldwell-Pope, Bradley won’t help you in rebounds or assists on a long-term basis (2.7 rpg, 1.7 apg during this nine-game run).

Eric Gordon: I didn’t speak very highly of Gordon when I mentioned him in this column about a month ago – and I still don’t trust him to stay healthy – but in watching him in action earlier this week, I have to admit he looks very good right now. Last 10 games: 15.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 6.2 apg, 0.6 spg and 2.3 3s. It should be noted that the spike in Gordon’s assists has more or less directly overlapped with Jrue Holiday’s injury, so if/when Holiday makes it back, that 6.2 apg is likely to take a major hit. Given that fact, along with Gordon’s own injury history and the somewhat frustrating lack of steals, this isn’t the worst time to explore his trade value.

Wayne Ellington: To be honest, Ellington kind of bores me, but there’s no ignoring his production since Kobe Bryant’s season officially ended: 16.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.8 spg and 2.0 3s in 35 minutes per game over his last six. Another good sign for Ellington’s value: He played 38 minutes on Wednesday with Nick Young (34 minutes) returning from an ankle injury.

O.J. Mayo/John Henson: Mayo and Henson have been playing well lately, but I’d file both of their recent runs under the category of “enjoy it while it lasts.” Mayo has posted 14.8 ppg and 2.2 3s in his last 10 games, but doesn’t have much margin for error while averaging just 25 minutes per game during that stretch. Henson, meanwhile, has put up 11.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.0 spg and 3.0 bpg in 30 minutes per game in his last four, but that increase in playing time directly coincides with the absence of Zaza Pachulia (calf). Once Zaza is back, it seems likely that Henson will go back to an inconsistent 20-25 minutes off the bench.

Other Random Thoughts: There’s nothing wrong with seeing how things play out if you added him, but I’m not ready to buy in on Jordan Clarkson just yet. His big line against the Bulls last Thursday (18-4-4 with two steals, two blocks and a trey in 43 minutes) was actually a pretty ugly display of point guard play, as Clarkson repeatedly struggled to get the ball up the court against pressure. Furthermore, for a point guard, he’s not doing much in the way of distributing (just 2.8 apg in his last six games in an average of 32 minutes per game). … And speaking of low-end point guards, Brian Roberts’ five games since Kemba Walker’s season ended look like this: 11.0 ppg, 4.6 apg, 0.8 spg and 1.0 3s on 38.0 percent from the field in 33 minutes per game. That can certainly help in some formats, but I wouldn’t expect Roberts to take off and go on any sort of big-time run. The presence of Lance Stephenson and Gary Neal has Roberts playing off the ball quite a bit. … Meanwhile, if you ran to add Cody Zeller after a couple big lines last week, you can safely move on. After scoring zero points in 23 minutes on Wednesday, he has only hit double figures in scoring one time in his last 12 games.

Random Thoughts, Part Two: I’ve been shouting Ricky Rubio’s name for months now, and though it may be a few weeks before his minutes take off, his line on Wednesday (eight points, nine assists, two steals in just 23 minutes in his second game back) is a subtle reminder that he’s poised to be a huge contributor down the stretch. … At this point, when Amir Johnson gets hot, it’s best to pretend like it didn’t happen. His latest maddening performance: dropping 24 and 17 points in back-to-back games late last week, then following it up with useless three- and nine-point lines in two games so far this week. … Mason Plumlee has been a bit frustrating lately (10.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.3 spg, 0.8 bpg, 38.5 percent from the line in his last eight games), but I’m still hanging onto him in the likely event of a Brook Lopez injury or trade. … Another player I would try to stay patient with is Terrence Jones. He doesn’t belong anywhere near your lineup right now (6.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 19 minutes per game in four games since returning), but he just needs one player ahead of him to get injured – or just needs to steal some minutes from the immortal Joey Dorsey – to get a major uptick in value.