Last week, in Part 1 of the Roundball Stew Midseason Report (RSMR), I handed out some awards at the halfway point, and put together some other random lists breaking down the first half so far.
All in all, it was a slightly scattershot approach. This week, in Part 2 of the Midseason Report, I’m going with a more focused strategy, zeroing in on
10 nine breakout candidates for the second half.
And when I say breakout, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a player who has little to no value right now and is suddenly going to emerge. It could also be a player with strong value already with a chance to find another gear in the months ahead.
He missed the Nuggets last game on Wednesday, but it was basically impossible to watch the Nuggets against the Wolves on Monday and not come away impressed with MPJ. He had 20 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, one vicious block on Jarrett Culver, and four 3s. That gives him averages of 16.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.8 bpg and 2.0 3s on 55.8 percent shooting over his last five games, and per-36 on the season, he’s now at 20.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 0.9 spg, 1.2 bpg and 2.2 3s. Truly the only missing piece of the equation for Porter Jr. is consistent playing time, and while that’s no guarantee given Denver’s depth, at some point he might leave Michael Malone with no choice.
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After some agonizingly bad shooting to start the year (31.7 percent from the field in his first 34 games), Reddish has turned things up a notch lately, posting 12.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.7 spg and 1.9 3s in his last seven games, while shooting 40.5 percent from the field (and 80.0 from the line). He may stay in the low-40’s even in a best-case scenario this year, but that best-case also includes a pretty nice pile of points, rebounds, steals and 3s, and I think we’re approaching the peak hour to stash Reddish, who is only rostered in 9 percent of Yahoo leagues.
We shift gears now to the elder statesman on this list, 29-year-old Kemba Walker, who is already a top-25 stud (technically, top-30 on the season), but lately has been performing below expectations, which is why he makes this list. After cranking out top-15 stats the first couple of months (23.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.2 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.6 bpg and 3.8 3s in his first 24 games), Walker has been down at 18.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.6 bpg and 2.6 3s the last month (14 games). In part, that’s because the Celtics have had some massive blowout wins (five victories of 20+ points during this recent stretch), and it was just a few games ago that Kemba dropped 40 on the Bucks. He currently sits 30th in 9-category leagues (per BasketballMonster.com), but I don’t think it’s a reach at all to say he’s got a chance to get back inside the top 20 in the second half.
After a top-25 campaign last year, Turner currently sits 68th on the 9-category leaderboard, with his points (12.2), rebounds (6.0), assists (1.2), steals (0.7) and blocks (2.0) all down from last year’s averages. The reasons for optimism here are that at worst he’s still a guy averaging 1.5 3s and 2.0 blocks — which is valuable in any universe — and he did some of his finest work after mid-January last season, posting 13.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.2 spg, 2.6 bpg and 1.3 3s over his final 37 games.
Turner certainly won’t be easy to get in a trade. Mitchell Robinson might be a different story. In his last 10 games, he’s averaging a somewhat agonizing 6.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.1 spg and 1.4 bpg, continuing to look very little like the top-25 guy we drafted, and statistically more like late-career Shawn Bradley. Still though, I refuse to give up on Robinson, who after Feb. 1st last year put up 9.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 0.8 spg and 2.9 bpg in 31 games. Given how bad the Knicks are, at some point Robinson is going to get an extended chance to break out, and you have everything to lose by selling low — and a lot to gain by trying to pick him up in a trade.
It’s been a strange half season for Bridges, who’s sitting outside the top-160 (164th overall) in 9-category leagues. But as frustrating stat lines go, this one at least features decent percentages (43.7 / 80.0) and low turnovers (1.7). It also includes some okay counting stats — 12.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.4 3s — so if anything, this is a matter of Bridges just not being consistent. A recent example: In his last four games, he has scored 14, two, 14 and four points. That followed a five-game run of 16.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.0 bpg and 2.0 3s on 57.4 percent shooting, so there is high-level play still right near the surface for Bridges, who has a pretty clear path to heavy minutes in February, March and April on a Hornets team that at 15-30 is going nowhere.
(Update: News broke after I published this that he’s out 4-6 weeks with a right hip injury)
Though not quite maddening on the level of Bridges, Markkanen has been a significant disappointment in terms of ADP (44.6 on Yahoo) vs. production (93rd in 9-category leagues). To refresh all of our memories, this is a guy who has put up some relatively long stretches of early-round value, including a 20-game run last year from mid-January to early March where he averaged 22.9 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.5 bpg and 2.8 3s. So what’s the issue this year? For one, Markkanen just isn’t being as aggressive. His FG attempts are down from 15.3 to 12.0, as are his points (18.7 —> 15.0) and boards (9.0 —> 6.5). And after shooting 25 times in Game 1 this season — en route to 35 points and 17 boards — Markkanen hasn’t attempted more than 20 shots one time. In fact, he has shot more than 15 times in just five games this season, and in those games, he’s averaging 26.0 ppg. At the risk of oversimplifying it, he just needs to flip the switch and go into attack mode. And considering that the floor is around top-100, the ceiling is something around top-30, and the cost to get him in a trade is relatively low, this is a player I’d be inclined to bet on aggressively in the second half.
I’m putting Clarke and Melton in the same paragraph(s) because they are on the same team and in almost identical situations, as players who simply need more playing time to churn out big-time fantasy value — but also may not get it any time soon.
First, Clarke, a highly-polished 23-year-old rookie with a fantasy friendly game — including per-36-minute averages of 20.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.7 spg, 1.4 bpg and 0.8 3s on 63.0 percent from the field, 80.9 from the line and 1.6 turnovers. That is what we call a 9-category dream. The only issue: He’s stuck as a backup behind Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas, and barring injury, that’s not likely to change.
Meanwhile, Melton is a true per-36-minute freak, with 16.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 6.2 apg, 2.7 spg, 0.7 bpg and 1.1 3s. Given that Ja Morant (obviously) and Dillon Brooks (20.0 ppg in January) aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, we’re left with Melton (just like Clarke) sitting as a deep-league starter and high-upside lottery ticket who only needs one break (most realistically an injury) to hit serious value.
Everyone on this list is someone I would target in a trade (or add off waivers in a couple of cases), and I’d certainly try to land Bagley on my fantasy squads — but only if the price makes sense. After all, Bagley is out on Friday due to his left foot issue, but was also showing significant signs of life recently with 15.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 0.5 spg and 1.0 bpg in his last four games (in 30 minutes a game). And incidentally, it was right around this time last year that Bagley took off. Through Jan. 21st, in 33 games, he was sitting at 12.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 0.5 spg, 0.9 bpg and 0.3 3s in 23 minutes a game. From Jan. 22nd onward, he elevated to 17.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 0.6 spg, 1.0 bpg and 0.7 3s. I don’t intend that to say it’s definitely going to play out the same way, but for Bagley last year it went from bleak to spicy pretty quickly, and he’s still got the skill set to make that happen again if healthy.