Basketball Pickups: Time to trust Patrick Williams
After two lean days due to the In-Season Tournament, Wednesday’s NBA schedule was a robust one. There were 11 games on the slate, meaning that there was no shortage of options for managers looking to improve their rosters. But the most impactful development in fantasy basketball didn’t involve a healthy player. Shortly after a win over the Hornets, the Bulls announced that Zach LaVine would be out for another 3-4 weeks due to inflammation in his right foot.
Wednesday’s game was the third that he’s missed, with Patrick Williams filling the resulting void in the starting lineup. And with LaVine set to miss an extended period of time, Williams stands to have some staying power in fantasy basketball. Rostered in 39% of Yahoo leagues, he’s struggled when sharing the court with LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic, hence the decision to move Williams to the bench last month.
Williams didn’t have a great offensive game on Wednesday, finishing with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field and 1-of-2 from the foul line. What he did do well against Charlotte was rebound and defend, finishing with nine rebounds, two steals, and two blocked shots. Add in the 29 minutes played, and it isn’t too difficult to envision Williams offering consistent fantasy value while LaVine is sidelined.
Let’s take a look at a few more of Wednesday’s top pickups:
Nick Richards (9%)
With starting center Mark Williams (knee) ruled out shortly before tipoff, Richards was bumped up into the starting lineup for the first time this season. He played 28 minutes against Chicago, scoring six points to go along with 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. As the fifth starter on a team that boasts multiple ball-dominant players, it was going to be difficult for Richards to get the touches he needs to be at his best offensively. Had LaMelo Ball been healthy, maybe Richards’ opportunities around the basket would have been higher.
Ochai Agbaji (3%)
Wednesday was a nightmare for the Jazz, as they were on the wrong end of a 50-point beating in Dallas. Agbaji was one of the few bright spots in that game, as he scored 21 points with two steals and five 3-pointers in 30 minutes. Of course, getting more production in the rebounding and defensive categories would be nice. But the Jazz are without Jordan Clarkson, Lauri Markkanen, and Kelly Olynyk, with Agbaji filling in for the former in the starting lineup. Utah has another difficult game to end Week 7 on Friday (Clippers at home), but the lack of options makes Agbaji worth a look, even if you missed out on his Wednesday production.
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Jabari Walker (3%) and Duop Reath (1%)
With Deandre Ayton joining Jerami Grant on the sideline, whichever Blazers backup big received the starting nod was going to have increased fantasy value. However, if it were Duop Reath (1% Yahoo), would Walker have been the better choice for fantasy managers? Reath received the call, but both young big men played well in the Trail Blazers’ loss to the Warriors. Reath amassed 10 points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block, and one 3-pointer in 22 minutes on the court. Walker also played 22 minutes, finishing with 12 points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one blocked shot. Managers who prefer to go with the starter may lean toward Reath, but Walker has been the more consistent rebounder and all-around fantasy option this season.
Cedi Osman (2%)
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made some changes to the starting lineup for Wednesday’s loss to the Timberwolves, including moving Jeremy Sochan to the bench. Osman was one of the players moved into the starting five, and this enhanced his fantasy value. He led the Spurs in assists with six while also tallying eight rebounds and two steals. The six points weren’t impressive, but Osman being able to facilitate successfully (and play 32 minutes) was a positive. Adding him in the aftermath of this performance is tough because Popovich could always change the lineup again ahead of Friday’s game against the Bulls. But keep an eye on Osman if you missed out on the rebounds and assists on Wednesday.
Aaron Holiday (1%)
Was Holiday in a spot where he would potentially be targeted as a deep-league pickup? No. But he has recently earned Ime Udoka’s trust, which has boosted his playing time and fantasy value. Providing 10th-round value in 9-cat formats over the last two weeks, Holiday finished Wednesday’s win over Oklahoma City with 22 points, six rebounds, four assists, one steal, and six 3-pointers in 27 minutes. What makes matters difficult in evaluating whether or not to add Holiday is the fact that Amen Thompson (ankle) is closing in on a return to game action. Rostered in 17% of Yahoo leagues, Thompson has been playing off the rust with the Rockets’ G League affiliate. Maybe some deep-league managers decide to add and stash Thompson before he’s cleared to play, while Holiday may be a little more useful in the short term.