The shot clock: 24 fantasy hoops nuggets off trades, injuries and more

Isaiah Thomas is off to a slow start in Cleveland and a look around the rest of the league (AP Photo).

1) Isaiah Thomas has a great opportunity with Kevin Love out, but it’s been a rough start in Cleveland. His True Shooting Percentage (49.2) and PER (12.28) are both easily career lows, and his defense remains as big of a problem as ever. Thomas hasn’t been a top-275 player since returning, but his Usage Rate is still going to be high, and a slow start wasn’t exactly unexpected coming off such a long layoff, so he might be a buy-low opportunity. Thomas was the No. 11 fantasy player last season, and the loss of Love shouldn’t be underestimated.

2) The Cavaliers have been outscored this season, and now Love is out 6-8 weeks with a broken hand. Boston is ranked No. 1 in Defensive Efficiency (99.9), while Cleveland is No. 28 (109.4). The Cavs remain (slight) favorites over the Celtics to win the Eastern Conference regardless, but the margin is closing fast.

3) Dillon Brooks, Andrew Harrison and Wayne Selden are on the radar in deep leagues and as cheaper DFS options with Tyreke Evans not playing while on the trade block. Evans, meanwhile, finds himself in the rare position as a top-50 fantasy player who’s sitting out while healthy. At least the trade deadline is this week. Evans owners need to stay patient.

4) The rebuilding Nets are unleashing 19-year-old Jarrett Allen, who’s scored in double-digits in seven straight games, averaging 15.5 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 76.5 percent from the field over the last four. Allen was recently dunked on by the Greek Freak, but he shows plenty of promise and is still available in more than half of Yahoo leagues. Allen has as many dunks (66) as Kevin Durant this season.

5) The Spurs are the only team with just a two-game schedule this week, so plan your lineups accordingly. At least it should theoretically lead to fewer surprise last minute DNPs from San Antonio.

6) The Thunder have lost four in a row and are now 1-4 without Andre Roberson, whose presence has been sorely missed. Despite playing on a team with Paul George and Russell Westbrook commanding defenders’ attention, Carmelo Anthony is shooting 35.2 percent from the floor over the past eight contests (23.8 3p%), when he’s handed out fewer than 1.0 apg.

7) What an entertaining Super Bowl. I had the Patriots money line, but the Eagles clearly deserved it (really impressive coaching). The Malcolm Butler situation is beyond bizarre. I demand answers.

8) Ben Simmons is still searching for the first three-pointer of his career. He hasn’t attempted a single shot from downtown in the past 13 games. The point guard does, however, have 91 dunks, which ranks top-10 in the NBA (Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan are tied for the most flushes with 127).

9) Boban Marjanovic owners stay patient. Give it one more week (through the trade deadline). Free Boban.

10) James Harden leads the NBA in three-pointers made (177) and free throws made (372), while Andrew Wiggins has played the most minutes.

11) Nikola Mirotic was finally traded to New Orleans, and he recorded a double-double in 35 minutes off the bench during his first game with the Pelicans. With DeMarcus Cousins out for the year, Mirotic landed in a great spot, and he’s going to have a ton of fantasy value down the stretch.

12) Terry Rozier followed up a triple-double during his first career start with a career-high 31 points in his second, and no player has seen his DFS price tag rise more recently. He’s well worth using as long as he’s starting, and Rozier is still available in more than half of leagues.

13) Taurean Prince had been dropped in droves after a slump last month, but he’s off to a hot start in February (scoring 22.0 points over two games), Atlanta plays four games this week, and he’s owned in barely 50 percent of leagues.

14) Speaking of being hot lately, Nicolas Batum has really picked up his play, averaging 21.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 4.0 3pt while shooting 50.8 percent from the floor over the past four games, a one-week span in which he’s been a top-20 player. The ball has been moving through Batum more recently, and Charlotte has been winning as a result, so expect it to continue.

15) Nikola Jokic convincing people to use women’s deodorant is simply one of the more important stories of the year. I’m actually at least slightly tempted to try it myself.

16) Over the last two weeks, Jonas Valanciunas has been the No. 16 ranked fantasy player, one spot ahead of Karl-Anthony Towns. Devin Booker has ranked just No. 110 over that stretch.

17) Booker is playing more point guard with Isaiah Canaan out (what a horrific injury), and Josh Jackson is getting a huge opportunity in Phoenix. The rookie has averaged 21.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks over the last four games, and his shot continues to improve. He’s 20 years old and still available in more than half of leagues.

18) The Kings rank in the bottom-five in Pace and Assist Ratio and dead last in Offensive Efficiency, Defensive Efficiency and True Shooting Percentage. That’s hard to do.

19) Yet Willie Cauley-Stein has been a top-90 player over the past month and would be a real fantasy stud if he improved at the line. De’Aaron Fox is also coming along just fine, showing good flashes of promise while consistently underpriced in DFS.

20) Josh Hart has 25 rebounds over the last two games, while Mario Hezonja has averaged 15.3 points and 26.3 minutes over the past three games, as the former top-five pick is now on the fantasy radar. He’ll be a terrific short-term DFS play with Aaron Gordon slated to miss at least the next two games. And not cool the injury will force Gordon out of the dunk contest. 

21) Greg Monroe landed in a poor spot for his fantasy value in Boston, but Tyson Chandler and Alex Len become more intriguing in deeper leagues and as cheaper DFS options.

22) Al Horford had a big game Sunday, first throwing down this slam over Jusuf Nurkic and then later hitting this game winner. 

23) It took just 10 games for Zach LaVine to surpass 30 minutes, and while his shooting has been rusty, Lavine’s looked good generally, and the early returns are encouraging for his fantasy value (his 29.1 Usage Rate shatters his marks in Minnesota). LaVine has been a top-30 player over the past two weeks, and while I’m sure he’ll rest during some back-to-backs, his mpg should continue to increase moving forward.

24) Ricky Rubio has been on fire over the past five games, averaging 19.2 points with 6.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.0 3pt while shooting 58.6 percent from the field. He was terrific and assertive with Donovan Mitchell out Sunday, and it’s clear Rubio’s tenure in Utah shouldn’t be written off quite yet.

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