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The Specialists

Nerlens Noel's Final Charge

by Ethan Norof
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Many of us have reached the beginning of the fantasy postseason, a time that really brings categorical focus to the forefront of our evaluation process. Knowing how to stack up against and exploit your opposition in any given round—especially if you have to scrap through the battlefield to get to the grand castle—could prove to be a critical part of your game-winning strategy, and we’re all here for one reason: to come home with the crown.

 

Nerlens Noel, F/C Philadelphia 76ers: Steals, Blocks

 

Jahlil Okafor (knee) is done for the season, meaning Noel is slated to play all of the minutes he can handle at his real position—center. Through 18 games as the starting man in the middle, Noel is averaging 14.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.6 blocks on 60.3% shooting. His shot isn’t quite falling with the same efficiency so far this month (48.9%), but the numbers are back in line with exactly where they should be: 14.8 points, 7.3 boards, 3.5 dimes, 2.0 steals and 1.5 blocks in his last four games. Richaun Holmes (Achilles) and Jerami Grant (concussion) are also out of the picture right now; that means Carl Landry and Elton Brand—in 2016—are Noel’s sole backups.

 

Jerryd Bayless, G Milwaukee Bucks: Points, 3-pointers

 

Jason Kidd is making (empty?) promises to get Tyler Ennis more involved with Michael Carter-Williams (hip) and O.J. Mayo (leg) out the rest of the way, but Bayless has now played at least 38 minutes in three straight games, including back-to-back 40-minute showings. With Giannis Antetokounmpo taking over as the de facto point guard, the Bucks need Bayless’ ability to space the floor badly, and Milwaukee’s backcourt depth has been decimated so it’s not like he’s getting challenged for playing time anytime soon. Bayless’ last three contests—14.3 points and 3.0 triples—are a solid illustration of what he’s capable of providing in his new role. 

 

John Henson, F/C Milwaukee Bucks: Blocks

 

Henson is for those scraping the bottom of the bargain bin for blocks. He’s not guaranteed a rotation spot with Greg Monroe and Miles Plumlee currently ahead of him, and it’s no guarantee his back holds up upon returning given he’s been out for nearly two months. However, it does sound like Jason Kidd wants to get him involved, and Henson’s 5.7 blocks per 48 minutes is a stark statistic that demonstrates his difference-making potential.  

 

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Josh Richardson, G/F Miami Heat: Steals, 3-pointers

 

Connecting at a 73.3% clip from distance over his last five games, Miami’s second-round rookie is averaging 11.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.2 3-pointers over that same stretch of time. Richardson has played at least 22.5 minutes in every game dating back to February 24, and this “project player” was ready for his opportunity when the Heat lost Tyler Johnson (shoulder) and Beno Udrih (foot) for the campaign. I like him as a sneaky pickup in leagues with at least 12 teams as the fantasy playoffs begin. 

 

Nikola Mirotic: 3-pointers with potential for more

 

Given Pau Gasol (knee) is going to miss at least the next two games, it’s now or never for Mirotic to pay off for patient fantasy GMs. Averaging 9.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.3 triples over his last three games, ThreeKola stands to see his role grow given Chicago’s current frontcourt depth. It’s Mirotic, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis unless Fred Hoiberg wants to give Cristiano Felicio extended burn, and that’s not a scenario anyone sees unfolding. If Mirotic has (somehow) been dropped in your league, pick him up without hesitation as he has the ability to contribute as a scorer, on defense and from distance now that he’ll be forced into much bigger minutes. 

 

Ian Mahinmi, C Indiana Pacers: Steals, Blocks

 

Entering Sunday’s matchup vs. Atlanta, Mahinmi’s March had started on a very productive note with averages of 9.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 2.0 blocks on 48.7% shooting. He’s currently playing the most consistent basketball of any big man on the Pacers’ roster, and his minutes should remain stable so long as health doesn’t again become an issue. Mahinmi isn’t going to wow you or suddenly drop 25&10 on your head, but consistently solid production without interruption can go a long way at this juncture of the season. 

Ethan Norof
Follow Ethan Norof on Twitter @Ethan_Norof for more fantasy basketball analysis, advice and all things Los Angeles Lakers.