Ethan Norof

The Specialists

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The Specialists: Smith's Shot

Monday, February 19, 2018


Delon Wright, Toronto Raptors: Steals


There has been a lot of chatter surrounding Fred VanVleet, but Wright remains on the radar due to his defensive upside. After an ice-cold close to his January, the Utah product has turned it back around over his last six games this month, averaging 9.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.0 3-pointer on 24-of-43 (55.8%) shooting.


Dwane Casey has been adamant that he’s going to continue to find playing time for Wright, VanVleet, and Kyle Lowry, and DeMar DeRozan’s positional versatility—as well as the structure of Toronto’s roster—allows the Raptors to get creative with their lineup permutations. Wright has the ability to be a difference-maker on defense in head-to-head scoring as well as points leagues, so general managers in those formats should take that into consideration. In the event of potential injury to either Lowry or VanVleet, Wright would become a must-have waiver wire pickup in the heart of the season.


Al-Farouq Aminu, Portland Trail Blazers: Rebounds, Steals


The Blazers are an oddly-constructed team rich with flaws and with a defined outlook of uncertainty, but that plays directly into Aminu’s hand in terms of his current fantasy production.


Since February’s arrival, Aminu has pulled down at least eight rebounds in five of Portland’s first seven contests, having averaged 7.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 1.4 3-pointers with just 0.9 turnovers. Although the veteran forward has shot just 36.0% from the field during that stretch, that’s part of what has kept his ownership below the 50% threshold in Yahoo leagues. It’s not like Aminu has shot enough to be a true influencer in the category—18-of-50 in those seven games, an average of 7.1 field goal attempts nightly—given the volume that should be coming from your heavy hitters, so I don’t believe that particular statistic should be served on the same platter as his others.


The Blazers have been searching for an answer at power forward all year. And given the underwhelming alternative options paired with how solid Aminu was after the All-Star Break last season with averages of 9.3 points, 7.4 boards, 1.0 steal, 0.8 blocks, and 1.2 triples on 43.4% from the field, it makes sense for Aminu to continue playing a 25-30 minute role (at least) nightly for the foreseeable future.


J.R. Smith, Cleveland Cavaliers: 3-pointers


It’s both ironic and fitting that Smith has found a long-term home on LeBron’s Cavs after half the roster was just turned over, but the team’s reconfiguration looks to be working in J.R.’s favor.


In the two games with Cleveland’s new cast of characters in place, Smith has been on a heater, averaging 16.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 steal, 1.0 block, and 4.5 3-pointers on an incendiary 12-of-17 (70.6%) shooting. And while he hasn’t quite demonstrated the same efficiency all month that he has in the last couple of matchups, February has been a clear breakout month for Smith with averages of 14.0 points, 4.2 boards, and 3.8 triples on 54.5% shooting through his first six outings.


Given Smith’s minutes should be consistently in the 28-32 range—with room for more when he’s feeling good—even with Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and George Hill in the mix, it’s finally time for J.R. to pop back up on fantasy squads. Here’s a statistic to consider: Swish has already buried 23 triples through the twine this month, which accounts for 21.1% of his season-long total.


Bojan Bogdanovic, Indiana Pacers: 3-pointers


No disrespect meant to Bojan, but he’s quickly become the “other” Bogdanovic when conversations get started at the Rotoworld roundtable.


Although BB has been firing pellets with 18.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 steal, and 2.8 3-pointers on an absurd 50/40/90 shooting line over his last six games—52.2% from the field, 48.6% from distance, and 92.3% from the free throw line—this sure looks like quite the time to sell high in order to acquire an asset for the fantasy postseason.


In addition to Darren Collison’s anticipated return from knee surgery, Glenn Robinson III is also expected to make his season debut after the All-Star Break. And if Myles Turner decides to play up to his offensive potential, Bogdanovic’s outlook could be looking quite different in a hurry.


T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns: Points


If Marquese Chriss has been a fantasy migraine, Warren’s recent production has to be considered a minor headache with the potential to linger. Elfrid Payton is now in the mix, Devin Booker is healthy, and Josh Jackson’s involvement isn’t going away.  


Although the NC State product has been remarkably consistent for the majority of the season—no small feat given how tumultuous things have been in Phoenix—Warren has taken a step back to begin February with averages of 15.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.3 steals on 47.3% shooting. And while it doesn’t look bad on the whole, Warren limped into the All-Star Break, hitting just 8-of-25 shots in his last two games with more field goal attempts than points scored (23) during that stretch.


While I wouldn’t be selling low on Warren for the sake of simply moving on, I would be evaluating the market very carefully to see what else could be available.



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