Matt Stroup

Roundball Stew

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Stew: Second Half Survival

Friday, January 11, 2019


As I sit here writing this column, we are on Day 88 out of 177 in this NBA regular season.

Twelve teams have played exactly 41 games. No one has played less than 40, or more than 43.

In other words, if this isn’t the halfway point of the season, there is no such thing.

(I don’t actually know why I’m arguing this point; I think we’re probably all in agreement here.)

Anyhow, as we pause atop this scenic overlook to reflect for a moment before proceeding onward into the valley for the second half, here are five tips for surviving the remainder of the fantasy hoops season ahead:

1. Know Your 2nd Half Heroes

Let’s be clear: We all know that we’d be taking Anthony Davis, James Harden, Karl-Anthony Towns and friends at the top of drafts if the season was starting today. But here are 10 slightly less obvious (or in some cases, way less obvious) names who are all set up for big second halves (and yes, this is a sublist of 10 within the bigger list of five, just to make things more confusing). The number next to each player is his 9-category rank the last month:

1. LaMarcus Aldridge (13) — A 56-point game yesterday certainly helps tilt things in his favor, but either way he’s up to 33rd overall on the season (and is No. 23 in 9-category leagues the last two months).

2. Bradley Beal (15) — You probably know that Beal has been really good. How good though? The last month, he’s at 26.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.5 apg, 1.5 spg and 2.9 3s over a 15-game span. And keep in mind, John Wall’s season only ended seven games ago. It’s not crazy to think that Beal can make a run at the top 10.

3. Deandre Ayton (20) — The last month (15 games), he’s at 60.5 percent from the field and 82.2 from the line (and is shooting 60.0 / 78.4 for the season). The last player to shoot above 60 from the field and 80 from the line for a full season? That would be Kevin McHale, in 1986-87.

4. Marcus Morris (28) — I don’t put him anywhere close to the guys above him in terms of value, but at some point I’m going to stop expecting the wheels to fall off — and that time is now. Morris has hit double-digit points in 19 of his last 21, posting 17.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 0.7 spg, 0.4 bpg and 2.7 3s — on 51.4 percent from the field and 91.2 from the line with just 0.8 turnovers. Quietly, he’s developed into a 9-category assassin.

5. Thaddeus Young (33) — Last 21 games: 15.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.6 bpg and 0.6 3s.

6. Richaun Holmes (41) — Wait, what? Yes, it’s a little bit of a technicality in 9-category leagues because he gets a significant boost from never turning it over (three turnovers total the last month), but Holmes is still providing sneaky value as Ayton’s backup with averages of 10.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.9 spg and 1.4 bpg (70.0 FG / 83.3 FT) his last 20 games. Holmes is owned in just 24 percent of Yahoo leagues.

7. De’Aaron Fox (42) — Obviously this is a wide-ranging list when you have Holmes and Fox right next to each other. Do with it what you will. Over his last 22 games, Fox has averaged 18.2 ppg, 7.1 apg, 2.3 spg, 0.6 bpg and 1.1 3s.

8. Thomas Bryant (43) — His minutes have taken a slight hit recently with some lopsided games. He’s still averaging 13.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 0.9 spg and 1.1 bpg (66.7 FG / 89.5 FT) in seven games since John Wall’s season ended.

9. Lou Williams (48) — In 11 games since returning from his injured hammy, Sweet Lou has put up 21.7 ppg, 6.0 apg and 1.6 3s — on 48.4 percent from the field and 84.9 from the line (on nearly eight attempts a game).

10. Derrick White (55) — His season truly took flight with a six-steal game in late December. In his last eight (including that one), he has shot 66.7 percent from the field (not a typo) and 83.3 from the line, with 16.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.5 bpg and 1.1 3s. Adding him (or not having dropped him during his struggles) is like winning the waiver wire lottery.

2. Target the Underperforming Big Names

*Victor Oladipo: The last month, he’s only 51st overall, and just 35th overall for the season. Will he make a run at the top 10/top 15 before it’s all over? I don’t know, but I do know that he’s got as good a chance as anyone. If you can somehow get him without forfeiting one of your own top 10/top 15 players, you have to do it.

*LeBron James: A little obvious, but there’s no way LeBron frustration can get any higher than it is right now if you want to try to deal for him.

*Chris Paul: This is possibly insane and borderline reckless, but I think there’s so much sentiment in favor of trying to get rid of CP3 as soon as he’s back healthy, maybe you can trade for this potential top-20 (or higher) value at a reasonable price. It’s a risk, no doubt, but sometimes risks win leagues. Sometimes they also backfire extraordinarily. And that’s just where we are with Chris Paul right now.

*Donovan Mitchell: He’s coming off a 33-4-7 line on Wednesday, so it’s not like you’re dealing for him at an absolutely ideal time. He’s still got the role and ability for a monster second half if he gets hot from distance (just 31.6 percent on 3s for the season).

*Kevin Love: Also perhaps a horrible idea. But maybe, given the price, a great one? Literally no one wants Love right now. Isn’t there a non-zero chance though that he comes back and gives you a good few weeks or a great month? If you have an open bench spot or IR spot and can get him for a low-end player — and your team is in good shape in the standings — why not?

3. Stash and Trade for Upside

Here are some names to consider getting on your roster before potentially big second halves:

*Wendell Carter Jr. — He’s already starting to turn things up (12.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 0.7 spg and 1.0 bpg his last seven games), and I envision him being a force down the stretch as the tanking Bulls spiral into ridiculousness in March and April.

*Mikal Bridges — It’s easy to get frustrated by his inability to score (7.3 ppg his last 11 games), but here’s a reminder that he’s also averaging 1.7 spg, 1.0 bpg and 1.5 3s during that same stretch.

*De'Anthony Melton — Like Bridges, he’s not scoring much, but is providing value elsewhere (last seven games: 6.9 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.4 spg, 1.0 bpg and 0.9 3s). Like Bridges, most roads also point to him only getting more opportunities as the season goes on.

*Jaren Jackson Jr. — JJJ won’t be as easy to acquire as Bridges or Melton or WCJ given that he’s already pretty valuable (No. 65 on the season). But isn’t it easy to envision a scenario where a Memphis team that’s fast falling out of the playoff race gives the 19-year-old more and more chances to bust out down the stretch? He’s had a quiet couple games in a row heading into the weekend, so now is not a bad time to try to make this happen. Again, I’m not thinking about next week here; I’m thinking about March and April.

*Trae Young — This is a little bit of a Hawks homer call, but if we look closely at Trae’s last 15 games —> 15.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 7.4 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.6 3s and 3.9 TOs on 43.6 percent from the field and 79.7 from the line, there’s really only one big issue there: the turnovers. The rest of the line is really good, and the FG percentage is at least not a killer lately. The kid has been learning how to be a starting PG in the NBA on the fly at age 20, so why can’t the game slow down for him a little bit and clear him for takeoff in the second half of his rookie year?

*Tyus Jones — As we discussed on the Rotoworld hoops podcast this week, Tyus is a guy who could potentially post serious late-season value if Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose end the season in shutdown mode. Speaking of which…

4. Unload Your Shutdown Risks

The Rotoworld hoops crew covered this in full detail on Thursday. Obviously the name that came up the most was Devin Booker, and to be honest, I think the word is so widely out there with Booker being a risk that you need to be careful of sounding too sweaty and desperate when you’re trying to unload him. If you’re only getting offered, let’s say, a guy in the top-40 range, I think I’d rather just wait and hope Booker proves us all wrong. Here are a couple other names mentioned at the Rotoworld Roundtable on Thursday (as well as my thoughts — because I was predisposed when that Roundtable conversation was convened):

*Nikola Vucevic — I agree that there’s a little bit of concern here of an eventual shutdown if he stays in Orlando, but in the leagues where I have Vuc, I’m hunkering down. He’s been the No. 9 player on the season so far in 9-category leagues, and I can’t imagine anyone giving me fair enough value in a trade. I’ll roll the dice.

*Bradley Beal — I don’t think I agree with this one on the aforementioned Beal. After being an injury liability early on in his career, Beal has morphed into an ironman the last couple of years, playing in 201 out of 206 games since the start of 2016-17. I could be wrong, but my perception of Beal is that (in the words of Paul Rudd from Role Models) he hath too much pride to sit out. 

*T.J. Warren — Like Devin Booker, Warren and his injury history on a tanking Suns team scares me. At the same time, he’s also been absurdly good this year (No. 34 in 9-category leagues), so I don’t think I’d trade him for anything less than a rock steady option in the top-50 range at the absolute worst.

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5. Cast Away Your Dead Weight

Here’s a fact: There are players on some of our rosters who are hurting the squad more than we realize. They post flashy numbers at times, but ultimately (and usually because of percentages and/or turnovers), they’re tearing down the foundation of your team while you sleep. Here’s who to consider unloading as soon as they get hot:

*Andrew Wiggins — The No. 139 player on the season thanks to shaky FG (40.9) and FT (73.9) percentages, Wiggins’ 40-10-4 line from the other night (and 28.8 ppg so far in January) is a flashing red light to deal him. I actually would love to see Wiggins just destroy it in the second half, but being realistic, my hunch is that in category-based leagues he’s still likely to be an anchor, even if he improves somewhat under the Ryan Saunders regime.

*Dennis Smith Jr. — In a 9-category league, he’s No. 194 overall thanks to bad FTs (68.1) and turnovers (3.0), and even though he’s pretty good in steals (1.4), 3s (1.4) and assists (3.9), it’s not really worth the damage he’s causing. Again, I’m talking about 9-category here. In an 8-category league, he’s a fine if not useful option if you’re punting FTs.

*Emmanuel Mudiay — He has certainly had his moments and made progress overall this year, but he’s No. 166 on the season-long leaderboard and No. 138 the last month. The bottom line is, Mudiay is worth using when hot. The problem is, it’s very hard to know when that will be.

*Dennis Schroder — A potential handcuff if you have Russell Westbrook, Schroder gets enough counting stats to possibly find his way into fantasy lineups, and the fact is has quietly been pretty rotten — No. 181 on the season, and No. 327 overall the last month.

*Collin Sexton — Two spots behind Schroder in the rankings the last month? That would be Sexton, at 329 in 9-category leagues.

*Brandon Ingram — Even while putting up big counting stats with LeBron James out (18.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 4.0 apg his last eight games), he’s running as the 252nd best player in 9-category formats, thanks to high-volume bad FT shooting and lots of turnovers.

Other Random Thoughts: Lonzo Ball is 2-of-15 from the free throw line the last six games. … I’ve almost given up adding Heat players because there’s so much turmoil in that rotation, but it’s hard not to notice Bam Adebayo lately — 11.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.5 spg and 1.3 bpg his last four games. … I have been playing fantasy hoops for more than two decades, and off the top of my head I can’t remember anything like James Harden’s last couple weeks: 40.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 9.3 apg, 6.8 3s, 1.5 spg, 1.1 bpg and 7.1 turnovers in his last eight games. I'm just gonna stare at those numbers for a while, and ponder everything.

Matt Stroup has covered basketball for Rotoworld since 2008. You can find him on Twitter here .
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