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Fantasy Basketball: Recent Trends, Future Value?

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Natty talks fantasy basketball waiver wire.

Denver Nuggets v Orlando Magic Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Guess who’s averaging the MOST minutes per game over the past two weeks? That’s right, the King himself, LeBron James! He’s the only player in the NBA playing 40+ MPG since November 24th. I think that’s hysterical, haha, because if there’s one thing you want out of your 36-year-old superduperstar, it’s to play as many minutes as possible for a .500 team, just in case you can make the playoffs. The Lakers are currently 12-12 (prior to Tuesday’s games), they’re in the sixth seed in the West, they have the 22nd ranked point differential, the 22nd offensive rating, the 16th defensive rating, the 14th-best team 3-point percentage, the eighth best field goal percentage, and the fourth WORST free throw percentage. They are utterly mediocre, a bland sauce at room temperature, devoid of flavor or spice. Bron’s been hurt, Russell Westbrook always starts slow, and the Lakers overhauled the majority of their roster so a period of learning is to be expected, buuuut: Anthony Davis does NOT look great, despite getting his numbers, and LeBron James should probably not be playing this much if the point of acquiring Westbrook was to PROTECT LeBron from age’s burdens.

Minutes played lead to counting stats, or so we hope, so let’s take a gander at other, less historic, players who are playing a buncha minutes over the past two weeks. (All stats and numbers courtesy of ESPN.com, NBA.com, and Basketball-Reference.com. Thank you!)

Aaron Gordon, DEN, PF, 47% rostered ESPN leagues

AG’s playing the most minutes for Denver recently, and while he’s only fourth in shots per game on the Nuggets, he’s still delivering top 100 value in fantasy the past two weeks. Gordon’s line over that span is 14+ points per game, 5+ rebounds per game, 2+ assists per game, 1+ 3-pointer made, with a scorching 53 FG%. Gordon’s been a top 100 player on the season, he’s available in a majority of leagues, and he’s giving you volume. His value isn’t a recent fluke, either. On the season AG is scoring at a better than 50% clip, and only 13 players have a line of 13-6-2 with a 50+ FG% on the season, including Gordon. He’s a must-roster player.

Patty Mills, BK, PG, 22% rostered

Mills, acquired to be a backup point guard, is currently in the top 100 of total minutes played this season, and he’s top 10 in total 3PM. Over the past 15 he’s averaged 15+ PPG, 1+ RPG, 2+ APG, and 3+ 3PM, with a 50 FG%. Patty will have his down nights, but he’s fourth in shots per game on the season for Brooklyn, so his opportunity for volume is always present. He’s been a top 100 player the past two weeks, and until/unless Kyrie Irving returns, I think Mills’s role will remain. He’ll give you a 20+ point game now and then, but you’re really rostering him for the outside scoring. Top 10 in any stat category is worthy of streaming, at the VERY least.

Franz Wagner, ORL, SF, 34% rostered

Wagner, a rookie, is a top 100 fantasy player on the season. He plays mucho minutes (#1 on the Magic in total minutes by a mile), and he’s been second in FGA the past two weeks, with a line of 14+ PPG, 5+ RPG, 4+ APG, 1+ steal per game, and one 3PM. Only 14 players are averaging that on the season! Wagner won’t give you the same efficiency as those elite players, but he will give you counting stats. Wagner is a must-roster player, in my opinion, mainly because of the volume, but also because he’s shown that he can be a real NBA player. I don’t think his ceiling is as high as some of the other lottery pick rookies, but his floor is solidly tall (just like Franz, who is gigantic). Best case scenario is that Wagner blossoms into a 20 PPG scoring wing; with that kind of upside, he’s a must-add in dynasty leagues. Plus, he’s a top 100 player, cmon, don’t overthink it, just enjoy his counting stats.

Denver Nuggets v New York Knicks Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Alec Burks, NYK, PG/SG, 27% rostered

Burks is now the starting point guard for the New York Knicks, but he sure isn’t rostered like it. Over the past two weeks he’s averaged 16-5-2 with over a steal a game and 2+ 3PM. He’s third in shot attempts on the Knicks during that period. He’s firmly ensconsed in a vital role for a team with playoff hopes, and OH YEAH, THIBS. Burks will GET his minutes, if history tells us anything about how Thibodeau runs his teams. He’s been a top 50 player the past two weeks, and damn, man, could that maintain? I picked him up in my main league and I’m pleased as punch about it. Even if he falls off a bit, having a top 100 player just materialize on the wire is a rare occurrence, so take advantage before someone else does. Burks is a must-add until/unless proven otherwise.

Lu Dort, OKC, SG/SF, 29% rostered

Dort’s one of my main fantasy boyfriends this season, and here’s why: he’s a top 100 player this season and he’s less than half as rostered as the guy right after him on the player rater, Kyle Kuzma (29% to 79%, respectively). Now, THAT’S value! Dort’s averaging 17+ PPG and 4+ RPG on the season, with 2+ 3PM, which is basically what Andrew Wiggins has done. Over the past two weeks Dort’s turned it up, scoring nearly 19 points per game with 3+ 3PM and 1+ SPG. He’s got a significant role on the Young Thunder, and he’s delivering counting stats at a very cheap cost. The efficiency isn’t there, but he’s shooting nearly 40% from three the past two weeks, so maybe his ratios will improve, too. He’s been a top 75 player the past two weeks.

Malik Monk, LAL, SG, 10% rostered

Don’t look now, but the Lakers might’ve found some help. The Mad Monk, late of the Charlotte Hornets, a former fantasy basketball boyfriend of mine, has slipped into his stroke, and he’s now playing the fourth most MPG on the Lakers with three 20+ point games in his last four. That kind of scoring volume may not persist, but damnit Janet, the Lakers need it! They’re a .500 team with a notoriously bad three-point shooter in Sergeant Russell Westbrook. Any spacing Monk can give this team is a Godsend. He’s shooting better than 43 3PT% the past two weeks, with 4+ RPG, 2+ APG, and a steal per game. You love him for his 3 3PM per game, but it’s his other counting stats that are the gravy. If he can keep it up, then his roster percentage will skyrocket, especially if his minutes maintain over Avery Bradley. I don’t know if he’s a must add, but you might as well go with God and see how far the Monk can take you. He’s been a top 100 player the past two weeks, and LA desperately needs him. That’s a good fantasy situation.

Orlando Magic v Golden State Warriors Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Gary Harris, ORL, SG, 1% rostered

Golden Gary Harris, another ex-fantasy boyfriend of mine! Guess who’s third in MPG on the Magic the past two weeks? Golden Gary! Due to injuries, Gary’s currently racking up the playing time, averaging 11-3-2 with 1+ SPG and 1+ 3PM. Harris used to be a guy who we all thought would be fantasy gold; can he turn back the clock? Or, maybe he’s just on the cusp of his prime since HE’S STILL JUST 27 YEARS OLD! While Harris gets these minutes, you should totally stream him, since volume outta nowhere is how you win fantasy games. He’s been more valuable than Buddy Hield and Eric Gordon the past two weeks, for whatever that’s worth to you.

Jae-Sean Tate, HOU, 28% rostered

Speaking of Eric Gordon, he’s first in MPG on Houston the past two weeks, and he’s only 8% rostered, while scoring 15+ PPG over that time. If you’re wondering why I haven’t recommended him to add yet, GUESS WHAT, JUST DID.

But, let’s talk about Tate, who, yes, is my co-main squeeze, along with Dort, for this fantasy season so far. Tate’s averaged 14-5-5 the past two weeks, with nearly a steal, block, and 3PM per game as well. Like Dort, he’s growing into a wing defender, a necessary player for any successful team to have. His role is secure in Houston, and though he’s been a top 125 player for the whole season, he’s been a top 50 player recently. His fantasy outlook is most likely somewhere in between, but he’s a valuable player to have on your roster, no matter who you are.

Three more players to add:

I feel like I’ve harped on these three a lot this season, but PLEASE add Josh Giddey (45% rostered, top 100 the past two weeks), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (13% rostered, top 50 past two weeks), and Desmond Bane (39% rostered, top 40 last two weeks). It’s the giving season, but do this for yourself: add these guys and enjoy a fantasy feast.