Ethan Norof

The Specialists

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Bismack Biyombo's Blocks

Monday, December 25, 2017


Before diving into this week’s column, I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to those who continue to support my work at Rotoworld. I couldn’t be me without you.


Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a prosperous new year ahead to everybody!


Ersan Ilyasova, Atlanta Hawks: 3-pointers, Points


The lights are off, the room is dark, and Ghostface Ilya is seeing his glorious reflection.


The above is a description of how one might describe the current state of the Hawks, and Ilyasova has taken advantage of increased playing time with the injuries in Atlanta’s frontcourt. Even with John Collins (shoulder) back in the mix, Ilyasova has played at least 30 minutes in four of his last five outings, averaging 15.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.8 3-pointers on 25-of-50 (50.0%) shooting during that time, including an impressive 10-of-19 (52.6%) from distance.


The veteran big man likely doesn’t want 2017 to come to a close given December has been his best stretch of the season. With five games of at least 20 points to date this month, Ilyasova has been providing real value to fantasy teams with averages of 14.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 2.0 triples, and just 1.2 turnovers with an impressive triple slash of 52.1% from the field, 49.0% from distance, and 80.0% from the free throw line over his last 12 contests.


Atlanta’s upcoming schedule includes matchups vs. Portland (twice), Phoenix, both Los Angeles teams, Denver, and Brooklyn through mid-January, so Ilyasova should have ample opportunity to keep the good times rolling so long as he isn’t shipped off elsewhere.  


Bismack Biyombo, Orlando Magic: Rebounds, Blocks


The Orlando Magic cannot catch a break, and the successful start to the season seems like a distant memory from many moons ago.


After losing Nikola Vucevic to a fractured hand on Saturday night for the next six-to-eight weeks, Orlando has now had every one of its players from the opening night starting five miss time with an injury. Terrence Ross (knee) is out indefinitely, Aaron Gordon (calf) remains sidelined, Evan Fournier (ankle) has been out since December 6, and Elfrid Payton missed time early in the campaign with a hamstring. That’s borderline inconceivable given we’re a little more than two months into the regular season, but this is not a franchise that has been accustomed to good luck since Dwight Howard’s infamous departure.


Without Vucevic in the lineup, Biyombo is going to slide into the starting five, and Frank Vogel didn’t mince words about the big man’s expected role (via Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel): “Biyombo was signed here to be a force for us and he’s going to get starter minutes now.”


In 27 games as the starting center last season, BB averaged 7.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, and 1.3 turnovers on 51.4% shooting in 28.5 minutes per game. Given Vucevic’s injury is likely to sideline him through the All-Star Break and possibly beyond, Biyombo should be rostered in all formats for his ability to rack up the boards and blocks. With just Marreese Speights and Khem Birch operating behind him, Biyombo should get as much run as he can handle and will be forced to play a critically important role on defense.


Editor's Note: Looking for an edge in your fantasy leagues? The NBA Season Pass provides weekly projections, rankings, the popular Pickups of the Day column, exclusive columns and customizable stat options. It's the extra tool that can take your fantasy basketball teams to the next level.

 

Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks: Steals


Bazemore is third in the NBA in total steals with 63, seventh in the league at 1.91 steals per game, and fifth in all of basketball in steals per 48 minutes at 3.20.


In other words, Bazemore has done a good job of being a pest.


For someone who had an ADP behind names like Greg Monroe, Marvin Williams, Marquese Chriss, Jae Crowder, Markelle Fultz, Gorgui Dieng and several others, Bazemore has done a good job of providing a positive return on investment.


Although he has been underwhelming and inconsistent at times, Bazemore has been a man on fire over his last five games, averaging 14.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.6 steals, 0.8 blocks, 1.6 3-pointers, and 1.6 turnovers on 26-of-51 (51.0%) shooting during that stretch. Selling high isn’t a bad idea, but Bazemore’s chance to contribute to this Hawks team is unlike what almost any other in the league could provide.


Wayne Ellington, Miami Heat: 3-pointers


Dion Waiters (ankle) does not have a timeline to return from his most recent sprain, and that means Ellington—despite the depth in Miami’s backcourt—will play an integral role in what the Heat do moving forward.


It’s still unbelievable that Miami gave Waiters a $60M commitment despite the fact that his ankle was never right, and now that he’s got renewed pain and swelling, Waiters is likely looking at a lengthy absence that extends well into 2018. In addition to Tyler Johnson—especially with Goran Dragic (elbow) also hurting—Ellington, who has played 30-plus minutes in four straight, is a legitimate roster option for anyone hunting triples in a league with at least 12 teams.


Over the aforementioned four-game period, Ellington has averaged 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 triples while shooting 41.2% (14-of-34) from behind the 3-point line. And in order to illustrate just how neon green his light is from downtown, let’s put it into context: 75.6% of the veteran’s field goal attempts over the last four have come from distance.  


Jakob Poeltl, Toronto Raptors: Blocks


From December 11-18, Jonas Valanciunas had three big double-double showings with averages of 17.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 27 minutes per outing. Things were very temporarily looking up, and that’s why it was an ideal sell-high opportunity.


Since that time, JV has predictably again been a disappointment, playing less than 16 minutes in two of his last three on his way to a pedestrian 6.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and absolutely nothing else over his last few outings. During that same time, Poeltl saw more time on the court—the big fella has seen above 20 minutes in five straight games—and produced better numbers by averaging 6.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and an elite 2.7 blocks.


With the Raptors sitting at 23-8 and looking like the best team that no one is talking about, there is no reason to believe Valanciunas is suddenly going to start playing big minutes. Anyone relying on someone like Jarrett Allen as a blocks specialist might want to think about gambling on Poeltl’s growth instead.



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