All-Star weekend is over, the NBA trade deadline is fast approaching and the postseason is right around the corner.
In other words: We're headed for the stretch run. We've almost made it.
Without games resuming until Thursday, owners still have a few days to float trade offers, scour the waiver wire and attempt to gain any advantage possible for the unofficial second half of the season.
This is not a list of guys who are going to come out of nowhere to be a force, but rather a focus on those players who remain undervalued and stare at an even larger role (read: opportunity) going forward.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $200,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Thursday's NBA games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $20,000. Starts at 8pm ET on Thursday. Here's the FanDuel link.
Jarrett Jack, G Brooklyn Nets
Whether Deron Williams is traded, shut down at some point due to injury concerns or simply continues to play a back seat to a better Jarrett Jack, it’s clear who should be getting the lion’s share of minutes in the Brooklyn backcourt right now. Jack has looked better in a starter’s role than Williams has at any point this season, and D-Will isn’t the only one of the ‘core players’ in Brooklyn’s backcourt who could be on the move. That’s right: Joe Johnson is a candidate to be dealt before Thursday’s 2015 NBA trade deadline, and a move out of town would also directly benefit Jack’s fantasy outlook.
Even if Jack has to split time with both Williams and Johnson going forward, he’s going to have to be a significant contributor in the quest for the Nets to make the postseason. Averaging 15.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.7 triples over 27 games as a starter, it’s the whopping 35.5 minutes he’s averaging that should have his owners (and potential future owners) salivating.
With a dearth of talent on the roster and an uncertain blueprint for what this team will look like within the next week, Jack is someone I like as someone who will add more value to your team than what you’ll have to give up to acquire him.
Target For: Points, Assists, Steals
Mo Williams, PG Charlotte Hornets
Brian Roberts wasn’t getting the job done in place of Kemba Walker (knee), and while Mo Williams is everything except a “traditional” point guard, he’s going to have the green light to make an impact for a desperate Charlotte team with its eyes on making the postseason. After an absolutely woeful start to the season, the Hornets have put injuries to key players in the rear-view mirror, have overcome the ineffectiveness of free-agent pickup Lance Stephenson by limiting his spots and now have a veteran point guard in Williams to lead the charge until Walker returns.
Walker owners still holding on simply shouldn’t be at this point. In a best-case scenario, Walker is looking at a mid-March return, and that’s just not enough time to make an impact to validate holding a dead roster spot for over a month at this juncture of the season. Enter Williams, who has just Roberts as his “competition” for minutes at the point for his new team.
Williams is tight with Al Jefferson, and that should help their initial on-court chemistry. In 19 starts this season, the veteran point guard has averaged 16.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.2 triples in 33.5 minutes. Those numbers came on a bad, rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves team, but even a slight step back for Williams would still result in an awfully productive player for owners in search of what he brings. For someone who’s going to cost a minimal price with the chance to make a major impact, Williams is a no-brainer pursuit.
Target For: Points, Assists, Triples
D.J. Augustin, PG Detroit Pistons
D.J. Augustin revitalized his career as a fill-in starter and bench cog for the Chicago Bulls last season, so to call him a product of Stan Van Gundy’s point-guard system wouldn’t be fair to the improvements he’s made in his game. In nine starts with Chicago last season, Augustin averaged 17.8 points, 6.4 assists, 0.9 steals and an astounding 3.1 triples over 38 minutes per game. Now thrust into a starting role again because of the season-ending Achilles tear Brandon Jennings sustained, Augustin is doing it again: Over 13 games as a starter, the veteran is filling it up to the tune of 18.7 points, 7.8 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.8 triples in just under 35 minutes per showing.
Impressive, right? Consider this: Augustin is shooting 45.1 percent as a starter, including 40.4 percent from distance, and shooting an astounding 94.1 percent from the foul line while heading to the stripe more than five (5.2) times per game. Talk about an undervalued asset.
There’s no competition for Augustin to speak about with just raw rookie Spencer Dinwiddie (coming off an ACL tear) behind him, and although John Lucas III has been floating around the roster, he’s functioning as emergency depth and not a threat to anything Augustin has going. Those who believed the Pistons’ playoff charge was doomed to end when Jennings went down have been proven wrong, and Augustin is going to play difference-maker once again down the stretch, and when you’re a strong finisher in the fantasy field, that’s not the type of thing that goes unnoticed, underappreciated or undervalued. That’s called delivering in the clutch.
Target For: Points, Assists, Triples
George Hill, G Indiana Pacers
If George Hill could remain on the court and off the injury report for a sustained stretch of time this season, I’d be good money in Las Vegas that we’d be talking about him much differently in fantasy circles. After being hampered by injuries from the onset of the season, it’s been challenging for Hill to find his footing. However, the Pacers’ lead man started to show some serious signs of life in February. With averages of 15.0 points, 6.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.8 triples on 50 percent shooting (five games) during the month, Hill has enjoyed his best five-game stretch of the season to date.
As a starter, which has been just eight games this season due to health concerns, Hill is averaging 14.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.8 triples on a commendable 48.8 percent shooting. While Hill doesn’t have one standout category that would earn a normal position in the ‘Specialists’ column, he does a little bit of everything just well enough to add the type of value and versatility to your roster that others simply can’t from the guard position. And although Per-36 minutes can be a misleading stat, because Hill has been limited in how much he can play this season (both in terms of games and minutes due to injuries), it’s worth noting that Hill’s per-36 numbers are the highest of his career: 21.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists. In this case, it’s a better reflection of Hill’s projections going forward, as we can expect him to be less restricted so long as he continues to remain in good health.
Until recently, Hill had been a headache for owners who drafted him expecting much more than what they’ve received so far. This is a trade target where you’ll pay way less than the dollar value to acquire Hill, and he’s one of my favorite low-risk, high-reward candidates of the second half.
Target For: Defense, Triples, FG%
Khris Middleton, G/F Milwaukee Bucks
Joe Dumars wishes he could have this one back.
Khris Middleton hasn’t just found a home in Milwaukee—he’s become a revelation. Shooting a career-best 42.3 percent from behind the 3-point line this season, Middleton has become a key cog in Jason Kidd’s revamped approach with the young Bucks. The Texas A&M product and former second-round pick has seen his stock surge since Jabari Parker (knee) went out for the season, and he’s now flirting with 30-plus minutes regularly at this juncture of the season.
After really turning up the heat in 2015 with a strong January that featured 12.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.6 triples on 53.8 percent shooting over 14 games, he’s come back even stronger in February, and through six games, Middleton is averaging 16.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.7 steals and a triple on 50.6 percent shooting. The only thing to watch with Middleton is his 3-point shooting since he’s at just 30 percent this month, but even a regression to the mean would mean a solid stroke for this above-average shooter.
Middleton plays a valuable role for what the Bucks are doing on both sides of the ball, and although he’s part of a crowded wing rotation that sees a variety of folks contribute, Middleton’s role is secure, and nobody should be surprised if Middleton finishes the season as a top-50 player.
Not bad for someone who started as an afterthought on the waiver wire in most leagues.
Target For: Points, Steals
Robert Covington, F Philadelphia 76ers
Although Robert Covington’s numbers as a starter (14.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 0.7 blocks, 2.7 triples through 30 games) are nothing to sneeze at, Covington is having a month that could vault him into an entirely new class of fantasy contributors.
Through five February affairs, Covington is averaging 18.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.6 steals, 0.6 blocks and 3.6 triples on 44.1 percent shooting, including an eye-popping 41.9 percent from distance. The craziest part about his efficiency from distance has to be the fact that he’s launching 8.6 (!!) three-pointers per game so far in the month, and to say that he has the neon-green light with the ball in his hands wouldn’t be strong enough phrasing.
The Sixers are building an underrated defensive unit, but their offense very much remains a work in progress. Covington is one of the few shooting threats on the roster, and Brett Brown has done nothing but shower him with praise ever since he initially arrived to the team.
When it comes to Covington having a big second-half showing, let me borrow a line from DeMarcus Cousins.
“How you gonna stop God’s plan?”
Target For: Points, Triples, Steals