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The Specialists

New Year, New Specialists

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

New year: Back to the old me me.


That’s not quite the phrase so many people seemingly utter annually when January 1 rolls around, but it certainly applies for the new (old) look of this column.


Instead of going into a trifold tier system that broke down three categories, we’re going to Throw It In Reverse for Thirst and move back to a five-man bracket where we can discuss each player as the Fantasy Basketball Gods intended.


From me to you: Happy 2016, and let’s make sure this is the year at least one WWE-themed championship belt is a part of your fantasy sports trophy collection.


Jerami Grant, F Philadelphia 76ers: Blocks


Even the Sixers know that they have to do everything possible to break up the amount of time Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor spend on the court together, and that’s good news for Jerami Grant, capable of playing both forward spots, whom Brett Brown recently called “a modern-day four man” in today’s NBA.


In 25 games as a starter this season, Grant is averaging 9.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.9 blocks on 42.7% shooting (70.5% FT shooting) in 28 minutes per game. Having recently reassumed the starting power forward gig, Grant has played 25-plus minutes in three straight games, including the most recent Sixers loss (at LAC) where his team was washed by 31 points. During that stretch, Grant averaged 11.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and a 3-pointer. Those numbers are bolstered by one big game vs. Sacramento, but take a look at Philly’s PF depth chart and tell me who’s coming for his minutes. It’s not Elton Brand.


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J.J. Redick, SG Los Angeles Clippers: 3-pointers


The more time that passes without an update on Blake Griffin (quad), the longer your window is to sell high on J.J. Redick. Averaging an incendiary 22.7 points and 4.3 triples on 57.5% shooting, including an absurd 72.2% from distance, Redick is not going maintain that production forever, nor is he going to make a regular habit of launching 40 shots over a three-game stretch.


Redick also helps with field goal percentage for those with volume shooters on the roster, but you can typically get what he brings in 3-pointers and points elsewhere at a much cheaper investment. I’m betting against Redick suddenly turning in a career season (in terms of efficiency) six months from his 32nd birthday, but perhaps someone in your league is willing to take that gamble.


Otto Porter, F Washington Wizards: Steals, 3-pointers


Bradley Beal (leg) is not close to doing any on-court work, meaning Otto Porter will remain no worse than third in the pecking order behind John Wall and alongside Marcin Gortat for the foreseeable future. Although his 20-point streak came to a close in Sunday’s blowout loss to Miami, Porter has still put together a strong showing over his last four games (including Sunday’s dud) with averages of 16.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.0 triples on 52.8% from the floor.


Porter is locked into massive minutes, and that’s the most valuable statistic to track when it comes to potential and opportunity. The third-year player finally looks like he belongs in the league after showing flashes of his potential during his sophomore year, and even when Beal—who will face limitations upon returning—gets back out there, Porter needs to be a major piece of the puzzle for Washington’s puzzle to click into place. 


Jae Crowder, F Boston Celtics: Steals, 3-pointers


Are you ready to call Jae Crowder (five years, $35M) one of the best bargains in the NBA? I am, and the Boston Celtics now have two of those on the roster in Crowder and Isaiah Thomas (four years, $28M).


All The Big Dawg does is eat, and the feast isn’t going to suddenly stop. The Celtics do not have anyone like Crowder on the roster, so despite the versatility and roster overlap at Brad Stevens’ disposal, Crowder’s role is not nearly as volatile as the majority of his teammates.


Through 33 games, Crowder has 55 3-pointers (34.8%) and 58 steals (51 turnovers). In short, New England’s newest batch of Clam Crowder is better than ever and thriving as the main dish when previously advertised only as an appetizer. This soup doesn’t even need any crackers to be considered a meal.  


John Henson, F/C Milwaukee Bucks: Blocks, Field Goal Percentage


If ‘The Specialists’ was an actual category you drafted for on your fantasy basketball team, John Henson would slide in seamlessly. Because it isn’t, we have a tough time evaluating where he fits—and if he even fits at all.


Playing time has always been what has prevented Henson from making a bigger impact, but since December 20, Henson has had a steady role in the rotation and is really bringing it on the defensive end. Over the course of those six games, Henson has blocked a ridiculous 20 shots—good for an average of 3.3 per contest. To put that into perspective, no player in the NBA outside of Hassan Whiteside exceeds three swats on a nightly basis.


His potential to be a difference-maker for your team is obvious for those who can use what Henson brings, even if his playing time remains a long-term question mark.  


Currently, Henson is 11th in the NBA in total blocks (55), one spot behind Jerami Grant (59). 

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