At times earlier this season, it was borderline embarrassing to have Emmanuel Mudiay on your fantasy roster.
To review: As of Dec. 11 – when Mudiay injured his ankle, and subsequently missed 14 games – the 19-year-old was averaging 10.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.7 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.7 bpg and 0.8 3s through 23 games. That, of course, is all fine. In fact, it’s pretty good for a 19-year-old rookie.
However, those numbers came at a significant cost to our fantasy squads. At the same time that he was putting up some solid counting stats, Mudiay was shooting 31.0 percent from the field with 4.0 turnovers per game. The turnover number is bad, but somewhat understandable (Russell Westbrook, for example, averages 4.2).
What’s much more difficult to digest is that percentage: 31.0. For frame of reference, noted FG percentage destroyer Rafer Alston shot 38.3 percent for his career. Thirty-one, though. Wow. To hit that low-hanging target, you have to put up some pretty ghastly shooting nights. And Mudiay did: 3-of-14, 6-of-20, 1-of-10, 2-of-12, 6-of-21, 3-of-14 again. Name an awful shooting line, and there’s a good chance he hit that combo of numbers earlier this season. And if you dropped him back in November or December, chances are you did so thinking you’d just made your team notably better, regardless of who you added to replace him.
But here in March, something has suddenly changed. Through his first five games this month, Mudiay – who turned 20 last week – has averaged 21.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.4 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.0 bpg and 2.2 3s, with just 2.4 TOs and… wait for it…
He’s shooting 45.8 percent from the field during that stretch.
At first glance, it seems too good to be true. And it certainly might be. Mudiay has recorded a very Mudiay-esque 6-of-21 and 6-of-19 during that five-game run, but it has been offset by a 10-of-20, a 9-of-16, and a 13-of-20 on Thursday night, when he dropped a career-high 30 on the Suns.
So what to make of this recent binge? I’d be lying if I said I see a long-term 45.8 in Mudiay’s future, but I do think he’s significantly better than the atrociously erratic shooter we saw earlier this year. Ultimately, because of his potential to contribute everywhere from assists to 3s to blocks, Mudiay doesn’t have to be an absolute marksman. He can still be plenty valuable even if shooting in the low 40’s. And while I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of his shooting issues overall, in the long term and near future (Denver has four games each of the next three weeks), I think there’s a lot to be excited about.
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Meanwhile, this week’s Rotoworld NBA Roundtable focused on the topic of sneaky waiver wire pickups. And with many of us in overwhelmingly sneaky moods as we look for any little edge we can get to win our fantasy playoff matchups, I’d like to continue scouring the wire for intriguing options. Here are a few I’m currently considering:
Lance Stephenson, SG, MEM: Mike Conley (Achilles) is “out indefinitely” and Mario Chalmers tore his Achilles, which leaves the Grizzlies in need of someone to dribble the basketball. Lance, as you may know, is more than happy to do that, and he has certainly shown glimpses of productivity since arriving in Memphis. Overall, in 10 games with his new team, he has posted 11.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 2.3 apg (with 0.6 spg, 0.1 bpg and 0.2 3s) in just 23 minutes per game. Those are not exciting numbers, but with more minutes and more playmaking responsibilities, he can easily push his stats into, let’s say, the 13-5-4 range, and that makes him well worth consideration despite a lack of 3s and steals. Memphis plays four games next week.
JaMychal Green, PF, MEM: We’ll stay in Memphis a minute longer to consider another surging Grizzly. And in terms of statistical upside, I would certainly give the edge to Green over Stephenson. Over his last three games, Green has posted 16.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.3 spg and 1.3 bpg (53.1 FG / 80.0 FT), showing a solid outside shot and some impressive passing ability. The real issue here more than anything is playing time. His last two explosive games both came with Zach Randolph out, giving Green the chance to play 37 minutes each night. Yes, he could be earning more playing time with this recent outburst regardless of Randolph’s status, but things are likely to get complicated once Randolph is back. Either way, I’m fully in favor of adding Green to see how this plays out. Even though productivity is far from guaranteed, the best-case scenario here is a very good one.
Terrence Ross, SG/SF, TOR: Overall, I find Ross’ inconsistency almost impossible to tolerate, but the schedule for next week offers up a glistening gem of a number: five. With five games, Ross can drop a dud and still make a notable impact in points and 3s, even though he really isn’t helping you anywhere else. (Last nine games: 12.0 ppg and 2.6 3s, with 2.6 rpg, 0.7 apg and 0.4 spg.) Overall I don’t consider Ross a must-add, and you may be able to do better, but if you need a boost in points and 3s, you could certainly do worse.
Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF, CHI: He’s actually putting up similar numbers to Ross — last nine games: 11.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.0 3s — while also shooting well from the field (50.7). And perhaps most notably, he has a buttery schedule coming up. After this week, Chicago goes 4-4-5. Again, it’s mostly just a play for points and 3s, but should be a relatively safe one.
Cody Zeller, PF/C, CHA: I don’t fully trust Zeller to keep it going, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been on a pretty decent run lately. Over his last five games, he’s sitting at 9.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, a sneaky (there’s that word again) 2.0 apg and 1.6 bpg. There is reason to be concerned that his next dud is just moments away, and that reason is that he’s only playing 26 minutes and getting about five shot attempts per game during this five-game run. However, if you’re desperate for some cheap rebounds and blocks, there’s at least a chance that Zeller (18 percent owned in Yahoo leagues) won’t irritate you beyond belief. Charlotte has back-to-back four-game weeks ahead.
Other Random Thoughts: Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 19.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 8.6 apg, 2.2 spg and 1.9 bpg in his last nine games. At the risk of sounding greedy, he also hasn’t hit a single 3-pointer during that time. … Robert Covington the last month (12 games): 15.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.9 spg, 0.8 bpg and 2.9 3s. … As one last sneaky (if somewhat desperate) deep league pickup, take a look at Patrick Patterson. He was impressive against the Hawks on Thursday (12 points, four boards, two 3s and a block in 26 minutes), is averaging 10.3 ppg and 1.7 3s in his last three games, and has the aforementioned benefit of a five-game schedule next week.
Also, I sat down in front of a camera with Jenna Corrado to talk waiver wire pickups...
And some DFS bargains for Friday night: