For most of us, regardless of how many fantasy leagues we’re in and what precise format those leagues have, there are inevitably going to be NBA teams we focus on more than others over the course of the season. Example: For whatever reason, I don’t have many Cavs on my current fantasy rosters, and when it comes to checking stats, I will absolutely sprint to see what’s going on with the worst team in the East (Nerlens Noel and the 7-42 Sixers) before I check in to see what LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are doing.
Today, in an effort to remedy that imbalance, I’m beginning a two-part series. In Part One, we’ll hit every team in the East with a note on at least one player from each (and more in some cases). Next week, as you may have guessed, we’ll break down the West. Here we go, in alphabetical order:
ATL: Because of an ankle sprain in one game that forced him to leave early, and a blowout win over Philly that left him with limited minutes, Paul Millsap’s recent numbers are about as modest as they’ve been for any multi-game stretch all year: 9.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg and 0.5 3s on 33.3 percent from the field in his last four games. If his fantasy owners are going to get even a little bit frustrated (thereby making Millsap a little bit easier to get in a trade), that time is right now.
BKN: Brook Lopez is a bit of a conundrum. I’m terrified of him getting hurt (or shutting it down early with Brooklyn’s season completely hopeless), but he’s playing way too well to demand anything other than a huge return in a trade. Last six games: 25.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.2 spg and 2.2 bpg. … I can’t really trust Wayne Ellington in the long run, but he is doing a decent Mirza Teletovic impersonation at the moment: 14.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.5 spg and 3.0 3s in his last four games.
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BOS: Wednesday was the latest example of what Jared Sullinger could do with a lot of playing time (12 points, three boards, five assists, a steal and a block in just 18 minutes). The problem is, he just isn’t ever getting extended run. Sullinger has topped 30 minutes just one time in his last 27 games.
CHA: It’s been a wildly frustrating stretch for fantasy owners of Nicolas Batum. To review: Batum has missed eight of 18 games since the start of January, with averages of 8.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 6.3 apg, 0.2 spg and 1.4 3s on 32.4 percent from the field during that stretch. He’s a risk, but with the All-Star break coming up, buying low on Batum is an intriguing gamble. As a reminder, before this injury trouble struck, he averaged 16.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 5.1 apg, 1.1 spg and 2.1 3s in his first 30 games.
CHI: After an ugly start (12.9 ppg on 36.7 percent shooting in his first 20 games), Derrick Rose has been notably better lately, including 18.0 ppg on 44.3 percent shooting in his last 22 games. The problem, though, is that he’s still not getting many assists (3.8 in his last 22), steals (0.6) or 3s (0.6). Add it all up, and you have the No. 237-ranked player on basketballmonster.com’s 9-category leaderboard for the season. And during his recent improved 22-game run, he still ranks just 180th in 9-category formats. It’s easy to be blinded by 18.0 ppg, but overall this platter of statistics is pretty unappealing.
CLE: In my opinion there are few things more boring in a fantasy league than a points/rebounds/no defensive stats big man, and Tristan Thompson is the epitome of that. In his last 25 games, he’s averaging 9.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 0.1 spg and 0.3 bpg. … J.R. Smith’s last 20 games: 14.9 ppg, 1.4 spg, 3.1 3s.
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DET: Heavy minutes are usually a clear barometer for fantasy relevance, but Marcus Morris is a strange exception. He’s top-10 in the league in minutes per game (36), but overall the numbers are really quite bland: 13.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.9 spg and 1.0 3s (41.3 FG / 77.7 FT). I’ve seen worse wastes of fantasy roster spots, but there’s just no real upside for the No. 147-ranked player on the season.
IND: Wednesday was Myles Turner’s first semi-ugly outing in four games since joining the starting lineup (nine points, seven boards, three blocks, 4-of-11 shooting — and his numbers were even worse before a couple of late meaningless buckets). It’s certainly nothing to worry about, unless for some reason he struggles against a generous ATL frontcourt on Friday. I don’t expect that to be the case. … In his last 15 games, Paul George is shooting 37.9 percent from the field.
MIA: Goran Dragic has been pretty bad since returning from injury (10.5 ppg, 6.3 apg, 0.5 apg and 0.8 3s in four games). However, he is worth buy low consideration as long as you’re okay with a more subtly helpful version of Dragic (rather than the oft-explosive Dragic we once knew). In his last 10 games prior to hurting his calf, he was averaging 15.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.1 spg and 1.6 3s on 53.8 percent from the field. … Chris Bosh offers a nice combo of points (19.1), boards (7.5) and 3s (1.6), but his recent dropoff in blocks has been a disappointment. After averaging 1.1 bpg his first 11 years in the league, he’s at 0.6 bpg since the start of last season (including 0.7 this year, and 0.4 in his last 10 games).
MIL: Giannis Antetokounmpo hit a trey on Tuesday, which is news considering that it was just his fourth in his last 25 games. And as good as he’s been this season — career-highs in points (15.9), boards (7.1), assists (2.8), steals (1.0), blocks (1.1) and percentages (50.9 / 76.0), the outside shooting has been a notable letdown. After drilling six treys in his first seven games, The Alphabet has hit just eight total in 42 games since. Again, it’s just one complaint from an otherwise strong season, but it’s a significant crater in his stat line nonetheless.
NYK: In four games last week, Robin Lopez posted 9.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg and 1.5 bpg in 22 minutes per game. In two games so far this week, he’s at 21.5 ppg, 14.5 rpg and 1.5 bpg in 36 minutes per game — including 26 points (his most since Dec. 2012) and 16 boards (his most in nearly two years) on Thursday. I’m not even bitter at all that he’s going against me this week in one of my main leagues.
ORL: Aaron Gordon has had some exciting games and some bad ones since joining the starting lineup. The net result, though, is closer to boring than thrilling: 10.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.6 bpg and 0.6 3s. I definitely haven’t forgotten that he’s just 20 years old, and seven games, of course, isn’t enough to determine a player’s upside. With that said, I certainly would like to see more in the way of defensive stats from an athlete as explosive as Gordon. Unfortunately, until he proves otherwise, he looks like a less productive version of points/rebounds specialist Julius Randle, who has posted 13.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 0.2 spg and 0.6 bpg in his last 10 games.
PHI: Ish Smith has made the Sixers more fun to watch, and for certain isolated games he has been a big-time fantasy asset. Overall though, as good as some of his stats look (15.4 ppg, 8.1 apg, 1.4 spg since joining Philly), it’s really hard to consistently start a player shooting 39.3 percent from the field on a lofty 16.4 attempts per game. … Jerami Grant’s minutes and numbers are all over the place on a game-to-game basis, and I understand if the experience is too maddening for you, but overall if you’re patient he will pay off in two key areas: steals and blocks. In his last seven games, including a scoreless outing in Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Hawks, Grant has posted 10.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.7 bpg and 0.6 3s.
TOR: For much of this season it looked like DeMar DeRozan had mostly given up on trying to hit 3s (first 29 games: 0.3 treys on 1.4 attempts per game). However, since then, he’s at an even 1.0 3s per game on 2.5 attempts (39.6 percent). That may not be sustainable for a historically bad 3-point shooter (his career best before this season was 30.5 percent, in 2013-14). Either way, DeRozan has been on a pretty outstanding run for a while now. Consider this: In early December, 22 games into his season, he was averaging 21.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.3 apg, 0.9 spg and 0.3 3s on 42.5 percent from the field. In 28 games since, he has cranked up his output to 25.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.1 spg and 0.8 3s (46.1 FG / 84.7 FT). During that time, he has been the No. 23 player overall in 9-category leagues. DeRozan hasn’t historically been a favorite fantasy option of mine, but there’s just no denying how formidable he is right now.
WAS: In closing, a few words on Otto Porter. It’s been a tough run for the Wizards’ SF since mid-January. He missed four games due to a hip injury, and has had some back issues (and a few ugly box scores) since returning, but he looked quite spry on Wednesday in 32 minutes against the Warriors. The numbers were fairly modest (nine points, three boards, two assists, four steals), but don’t let that discourage you. Rather, let it be of assistance as you subtly attempt to buy low on a player who has quietly posted top-50 value on the year.