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Roundball Stew

Second Half Breakout Candidates

by Matt Stroup
Updated On: March 6, 2021, 12:14 pm ET

If your season has been anything like mine, you arrive at the All-Star break with your fantasy squads sitting in varying degrees of prosperity and disarray.

(As for the disarray part, I’m still wondering how I got roped into playing in a Roto/Salary league by a colleague who I won’t name here but is named Jared Johnson.)

In any case — whether you’re at top of the standings or somewhere near, let’s say, the middle — we’re all always on the lookout for a good old-fashioned second-half breakout.

Here are five possibilities that have caught my eye (starting with the obvious):

Robert Williams

I have canceled the inking of my “Don’t Drop Time Lord” tattoo because, leading up to the break, I didn’t need it. In his final four games before halftime, Williams put up 10.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.8 apg and 2.0 bpg in just 21 minutes a game. At the moment, this one seems extremely obvious, but there may come a point in the second half when you’re once again tempted to drop him. Please remember: On a per-36-minute basis, this guy is averaging 15.5 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 2.0 spg and 3.2 bpg. I’ll see you at the tattoo parlor.

Isaac Okoro

In terms of numbers and skill set, I’m getting some distinct Mikal Bridges rookie year vibes from Okoro. Now let’s look and see if there’s anything there:

Okoro, first 31 NBA games: 8.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.9 3s

Bridges, first 31 NBA games: 7.6 rpg, 2.5 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.2 3s

Well that actually went better than I expected (I promise I hadn’t checked that beforehand). Of course, the comparison might prove totally useless, because nothing that Bridges did as a rookie will have anything to do with what Okoro does as a rookie. However, just as Bridges did some interesting things the second half of his rookie year (9.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.8 spg and 1.3 3s over his final 41 games), I could see something similar for Okoro — with the potential to one-up the rookie edition of Bridges in blocks.

In his last 10 games leading up to the break, Okoro averaged 8.3 rpg, 3.5 rpg, 1.3 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.2 3s. I’m not going to fool myself and say that he’s got a real shot at big scoring numbers in the second half, but double-digit points with close to 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg and 1.0 3s is a realistic goal.

Cam Reddish

Take a quick gander at these highlights (from a 24-point game against the Nets earlier this season) and tell me you don’t see the same potential I do.

Then remember that we saw this same story play out last year. During Reddish’s first 37 games as a rookie, he was bad: 8.2 ppg on 32.3 percent shooting. Over his final 21 games, he was good: 14.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.1 spg and 2.1 3s on 47.0 percent from the floor.

Now one additional thing, via a recent story in The Athletic

“There are a few players on the Hawks’ roster who feel like Reddish’s potential is higher than anyone on the roster but that Pierce’s input was stunting his development.”

(That would be recently-fired head coach Lloyd Pierce.)

Add all of this up, and what you have is a player with a high ceiling who will get opportunities, has already proven he can do it at the NBA level — and has the voice of a new head coach in his ear after the previous coach reportedly set him back as a player.

Yes, I see the world through Cam Reddish sunglasses, but I still think objectively, the stars align here for some prosperous days in the second half.

James Wiseman

There are things I don’t love about Wiseman’s fantasy blueprint — most notably his shaky FT shooting (62.9 percent), and that his production as a shot-blocker has been hit or miss on a game-to-game basis (Wiseman had just two blocks in his last six games prior to the break).

Then I remember that this is a 19-year-old who played exactly three games of college basketball before jumping to the NBA, yet he’s still putting up 11.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg and 1.1 bpg in just 21 minutes a game through his first 26 NBA games.

I’m not going to fool myself and say that there’s a crazy high ceiling for the second half of this rookie season, but that ceiling does exist for Wiseman long term. A quick search on Basketball Reference reveals that the only players to ever average 11+ ppg, 5+ rpg and 1+ bpg as a 19-year-old are Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Anthony Davis and … James Wiseman.

With that long-term ceiling in mind, along with some of the flashes of potential we’ve seen this year, I’ll bet on at least a decent spike in value the rest of the way.

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Darius Bazley

In the leagues where I had him, I have either dropped or traded him. Despite some promising counting stats (11.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 0.5 spg, 0.6 bpg, 1.5 3s), I’d seen enough of Bazley’s bad percentages (39.2 / 70.4) to wait around.

However, if I’m going to remain optimistic about Reddish despite his bad shooting, it would be foolish to overlook the possibility of a big second half from Bazley. After all, this is another guy who has done it before.

By “it”, I am referring to a very small sample size, but I can’t forget that five-game run from the bubble during which the 20-year-old averaged 17.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.0 bpg and 3.2 3s. And there are certainly signs that he’s trending in the right direction right now, as the former New Balance “intern hits the break on a run of 15.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 0.8 bpg and 1.8 3s in his last four games.

A couple other considerations:

Nicolas Claxton

He has played exactly five games this season, averaging just 15 minutes, but Claxton has already made an impression with 10.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.0 spg and 1.0 bpg in his limited run. Rostered in 14 percent of Yahoo leagues, he’s an upside stash in the event that the Nets decide to up his minutes into the 20-25 range in the second half. Per-36 minutes (yes, outrageously small sample size), he’s sitting at 23.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.4 spg and 3.3 bpg. 

Isaiah Stewart

Veteran Mason Plumlee is getting better as the season goes on, not worse (he has posted 12.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 5.0 apg and 1.2 bpg since the start of February), but at some point, the 10-26 Pistons will likely want to give Stewart a chance at extended run.

The 19-year-old (taken with the 16th pick in the 2020 Draft) doesn’t offer a lot of scoring upside at the moment, as he’s averaging just 10.6 ppg per 36. However, his per-36 numbers also include 11.3 rpg, 1.0 spg and 2.0 bpg, and therein lies the blueprint for Stewart’s second-half success. I like him as a stash in leagues where I do or even don’t have Plumlee.

For more on some recent fantasy developments, including the box score of TJ McConnell’s lifetime and some first-half fantasy awards, check out the latest episode of the Roundball Stew podcast on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, or in the embedded player below:

Matt Stroup

Matt Stroup has covered basketball for NBC Sports Edge since 2008. You can find him on Twitter here .