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Malaki Branham comes up big again

Malaki Branham

Malaki Branham

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

With Romeo Langford already ruled out for Friday’s game against the 76ers, San Antonio lost two more starters before the game. Tre Jones and Jeremy Sochan were unable to play, which resulted in Josh Richardson and Malaki Branham moving into the starting lineup. Richardson was solid, finishing the 137-125 loss with 10 points, one rebound, seven assists, two steals, and two 3-pointers in 26 minutes. Branham was much more productive, scoring a career-high 26 points with two rebounds, three assists, one steal, and two 3-pointers in 35 minutes.

Rostered in three percent of Yahoo leagues, the first-round pick out of Ohio State has scored 48 points in his last two games. Branham’s fantasy value in the short term will depend on Jones’ availability; if he’s on the court, the rookie will be asked to come off the bench. However, the Spurs looking to get Branham more run after the trade deadline would not be a surprise. Richardson and Doug McDermott could have value to playoff teams, and moving them could not only get the Spurs’ future assets but also free up minutes for the likes of Branham and fellow rookie Blake Wesley.

The biggest news in the NBA on Friday had nothing to do with the games, as Kyrie Irving reportedly requested to be traded before the February 9 deadline. Dallas, the Lakers, and Phoenix are considered to have interest in acquiring Irving. Still, the Nets lack players who will automatically become streaming options, with Irving making it clear he wants to move on.

There were some solid pickups on Friday’s eight-game schedule, and the fracas could impact fantasy lineups in Minneapolis that led to five players being ejected. Let’s take a look at some of Friday’s top pickups, with none being rostered in more than 40% of Yahoo leagues.

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Trendon Watford (1%)

Drew Eubanks (31%) should be viewed as the priority pickup in Portland, with Jusuf Nurkić (calf) out through the All-Star break. But there’s also room for Watford to get the minutes needed to be a viable fantasy option, as was the case in Portland’s win over the Wizards. Watford played 30 minutes off the bench, scoring 21 points with three rebounds, five assists, one steal, and two 3-pointers. Eubanks finished with five points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block in 18 minutes. Chauncey Billups went with the “hot hand” Friday night, which may be the approach until Nurkic returns. While Eubanks should definitely be added despite his mediocre Friday, Watford should be picked up in deeper leagues.

KJ Martin (38%)

Martin is closing in on being rostered in 40% of Yahoo leagues as he continues to fill in admirably for the injured Kevin Porter Jr. He played 35 minutes in Friday’s loss to the Raptors, scoring 20 points with six rebounds, three assists, one block, and one 3-pointer. Jalen Green (calf) could be back as soon as Saturday, while KPJ is without a timeline for return. With the latter’s status having a greater impact on Martin that anyone else within the Rockets’ rotation, Martin should be rostered wherever possible while the team awaits Porter’s return.

Chris Boucher (26%)

Boucher wasn’t the popular “add” that Precious Achiuwa was when O.G. Anunoby injured his left wrist, but there was still some value to be had there. He’s been an 11th-round player over the last week, and Boucher finished Friday’s win over the Rockets with 11 points, eight rebounds, one steal, three blocks, and one 3-pointer in 23 minutes off the bench. Achiuwa was quiet offensively as a starter, but he did finish with a full stat line of nine points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one blocked shot, so don’t give up on him just yet. Toronto finishes its current road trip in Memphis on Sunday, with that game representing one last chance to hop on the Boucher bandwagon before Anunoby returns.

Jalen McDaniels (35%)

Even though he’s coming off the bench with Gordon Hayward being healthy, McDaniels still has fantasy value due to the continued absence of Kelly Oubre (hand). In 23 minutes off the bench, he finished Friday’s loss to the Pistons with 14 points, four rebounds, four steals, and one 3-pointer. While his recent fantasy value hasn’t been great, with McDaniels being a 20th-round player over the last two weeks, he’s worth holding onto in deeper leagues for one more game. After Sunday’s game against the Magic, Charlotte plays three games in Week 17, beginning Wednesday against the Wizards. So hold onto McDaniels for one more night if you have him rostered, then get ready to move on.

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Naz Reid (18%)

With Rudy Gobert (groin) cleared to play, Reid was again asked to come off the bench. But things got a bit crazy for the Timberwolves in their loss to the Magic. Kyle Anderson exited due to his back spasms flaring up after a collision. During the third quarter Austin Rivers, Jaden McDaniels, and Taurean Prince were all ejected for their roles in an altercation centered around Rivers and Mo Bamba. These absences freed up minutes for multiple players, most notably Reid, who finished with 10 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block, and two 3-pointers. Minnesota hosts Denver on Sunday, and it would be a good idea to hold onto Reid until the NBA announces the punishments for Rivers, Prince, and McDaniels.

Aaron Nesmith (15%)

Nesmith was mentioned in a previous Pickups of the Day column, and with good reason, as he’s been playing well of late. A top-25 player in 9-cat formats over the last week, he finished Friday’s win over the Kings with 17 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block, and four 3-pointers in 33 minutes. Having seemingly locked down a spot in the starting lineup, Nesmith is worth rostering unless that were to change. And teammate Isaiah Jackson is the opposite of a pickup, as he was a DNP-CD on Friday, with Daniel Theis serving as the backup center. Theis isn’t worth rostering right now, and the same can be said for Jackson.