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Daniel Gafford cashes in on opportunity to shine

Daniel Gafford

Daniel Gafford

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

With 11 games on Saturday’s schedule, there was no shortage of options for managers needing injury replacements. While some, like Portland’s duo of Nassir Little and Drew Eubanks, did not make the most of their opportunities to start, others shined. And one of those players, Toronto’s Precious Achiuwa, had one of the best games of his career against the Trail Blazers.

Rostered in 43% of Yahoo leagues, Achiuwa started for the injured O.G. Anunoby (wrist) Saturday night. Shooting 11-of-16 from the field and 4-of-4 from the foul line, Achiuwa produced a stat line of 27 points, 13 rebounds, two steals, one block, and one 3-pointer in 33 minutes as he helped led the Raptors to a 123-105 victory. As good as this performance was, it should be noted that Achiuwa has looked like a player who should be rostered in more leagues even before Saturday’s performance.

Over the last two weeks, he’s been an 8th-round player in 9-cat formats, averaging 15.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 0.8 3-pointers in nearly 30 minutes per game, shooting 57.8% from the field and 69.0% from the foul line. Even if Anunoby is cleared to play in Monday’s game against the Suns in Phoenix, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to hold onto Anunoby if you have him, especially since the Raptors will play four games in Week 16. Let’s get into a few more players who came through for fantasy managers on Saturday.

Daniel Gafford (40%)

Gafford has been in the starting lineup since mid-December, averaging 11.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.4 steals, and 1.5 blocks in 23.8 minutes per game, but he had not put together a game like the one he had in Saturday’s win over the Pelicans. Playing 29 minutes, he accounted for 21 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and five blocked shots, shooting 8-of-11 from the field and 5-of-8 from the foul line. Two notes about this: the Wizards were without Kristaps Porzingis (ankle) for the third straight game, and Pelicans starting center Jonas Valančiūnas was ejected after playing nine minutes for a Flagrant 2 foul. It isn’t Gafford’s fault that JV’s night came to a premature end, but Porzingis’ absence has a lot to do with his being a 5th-round player over the last week.

Seth Curry (32%)

Ben Simmons is day-to-day with a sore knee, and it was Curry who Jacque Vaughn moved into the starting lineup for Saturday’s game against the Knicks. The veteran guard offered a modest but efficient stat line in the 122-115 victory, scoring 13 points (5-of-9 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs) with one rebound, three assists, and two 3-pointers in 33 minutes. Curry is one of three Nets offering top 100 value over the last two weeks, with Kyrie Irving and Nicolas Claxton being the others. He should be rostered until Simmons is cleared to return, and it may not be a bad idea to hold onto Curry after that happens.

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Jeremy Sochan (30%)

While Sochan has been a fixture in the starting lineup when healthy this season, the rookie’s fantasy value has been a bit low. For that reason, he’ll be a popular target as the season winds down, but few expected him to have the night that he did in the Spurs’ overtime loss to the Suns. Sochan shot 11-of-25 from the field and 5-of-5 from the foul line, scoring a career-high 30 points while also tallying eight rebounds, five assists, and three 3-pointers in 40 minutes. He didn’t provide any defensive stats, but that’s fine, especially given Sochan’s improvement as a shooter. Over the last two weeks, he’s shooting 50% from the field and 86.4% from the foul line, with the latter being bolstered by his change to a one-handed shooting motion.

Tari Eason (24%) and KJ Martin (29%)

Eason had the look of a pre-trade deadline stash before Saturday’s win over the Pistons, and he made the most of his opportunity to start. With Kevin Porter Jr. (foot), Jalen Green (calf), and Alperen Şengün (illness) all ruled out, the rookie forward posted a line of 16 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, two steals, and one 3-pointer in 31 minutes. Martin, who has been starting since Porter went down in mid-January, was not to be outdone, as he finished the win with 15 points, 13 rebounds, one assist, and one blocked shot in 27 minutes.

Not only have Martin and Eason proven their fantasy value in the short term, but both will be worth having on rosters after the trade deadline, especially if the Rockets move Eric Gordon (12% rostered). Gordon was solid on Saturday, as he scored 24 points with seven assists, two steals, and one 3-pointer. He had a tough night from deep (1-of-8) and committed four turnovers, but the points, assists, and steals were a nice counter.

Alec Burks (22%)

Before Saturday’s three-point loss to the Rockets, Pistons coach Dwane Casey said his starting lineup will be “fluid” for the remainder of the season, which explains Burks’ recent inclusion. After posting a line of 20 points, five rebounds, four assists, one steal, and three 3-pointers in Thursday’s win over the Nets, he finished Saturday with 21 points, two rebounds, two assists, and six 3-pointers in 27 minutes. How long Burks stays in the starting lineup remains to be seen, but he gave fantasy managers no reason to dump him with his performance Saturday night. Killian Hayes’ value has taken a hit with his move back to the bench, but he is not a player to give up on, especially considering Casey’s comment about the starting lineup.

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Deni Avdija (30%)

Avdija is another Wizards player who has taken advantage of the additional opportunities that have come due to Porzingis’ injury. A 6th-round player over the last week, he finished Saturday’s win over the Pelicans with 15 points, nine rebounds, one assist, two steals, and one 3-pointer in 27 minutes off the bench. Corey Kispert (3%) may be Porzingis’ replacement in the starting lineup, but he’s primarily been a points and 3-pointers option while averaging one steal per game over the last week. Avdija has been the better target for managers looking for all-around production.

Reggie Bullock (5%)

With Luka Dončić (ankle) joining Christian Wood (thumb) on the sidelined, the Mavericks would need someone other than Spencer Dinwiddie to step up offensively. Bullock did so in Saturday’s loss to the Jazz, scoring 19 points with five rebounds, two assists, and five 3-pointers in 33 minutes. He hasn’t been a good fantasy player this season, averaging 6.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.7 3-pointers in 29.5 minutes per game, so fantasy managers can’t be blamed for leaving Bullock alone. But Saturday’s performance showed that there’s the chance for the occasional reward when Doncic is sidelined. Should Bullock be trusted as a consistent fantasy option moving forward, however? Probably not.