It’s about that time again, isn’t it? The trade deadline has come and gone, the sun is starting to peek out with some regularity, and teams who have had long, dark, unsuccessful winters are beginning to look ahead to a little summer vacay. Even with the expanded playoff format for this season, there are still a handful of teams that are done. We haven’t gotten to “Cancun on three” yet, but if you’re in Orlando or Oklahoma City you can start thinking about it.
For this week’s Hangin’, I looked at a couple of these lost causes and the opportunities for fantasy help that exist there. It’s not an exhaustive list, but all of the teams featured are 12th or worse in their conference and have gestured toward giving up. But just because they’re done with the year does not mean that the year is done with them. Every game needs to have 240 minutes of statistics accounted for, and we’re in the interest of compiling numbers.
This is a bigger one, so let’s get to it.
Jae’Sean Tate is a guy I picked up a while back as a streamer and things have been rough enough for me that he’s ended up sticking around for the duration. That’s a bit of a surprise to me, but the minutes (now up to 28 MPG on the season) have been steady and the rebounding (5.4) and steals (1.2) have provided enough floor for top-70 value in the last two weeks for 9-cat fantasy. A Swiss Army knife defensively, Tate can guard 2-4 effectively enough that he’s been able to stay on the floor despite the return of Christian Wood and the tear-downs in other parts of the roster. Last call in your league for Kevin Porter Jr. has almost certainly come and gone by now, but as we make our way down the stretch, Tate could be adding a few more minutes of PT atop of his already fairly-sizable portion.
With Houston fully in the tank, I think Wood (who sat on Monday with an illness) and John Wall could start catching some additional rest days, if not shut down altogether. Tate’s steal and rebounding numbers will earn his keep and the percentages are decent. Look elsewhere if you’re chasing threes, but his usage has been climbing month over month and now sits at 15.6%. If Wall and Wood start riding the bench, their usage has to go somewhere.
The advantage that Tate holds over other Rockets like Kenyon Martin Jr. lies in his positional flexibility. Wood is healthy-ish and Kelly Olynyk’s here now, which slides Tate to the wing and blocks Martin. Porter is the priority if he’s still somehow available (I got him in a 10-teamer Monday morning), as he stands to gain the most in H-Town, but Tate is a useful player and should be locked into top 100 value going forward. Hopefully, Monday night’s 21 point effort is a harbinger of things to come.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Five-hundred miles north of the stripped-for-parts Rockets, the Thunder are also casting their eyes toward the future. The long-awaited George Hill departure went down on deadline day, as the veteran guard was sent to the contending Sixers, and then we got word that veteran Al Horford will remain inactive for the rest of the season. Additionally, franchise centerpiece Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is currently without a timeline on his plantar fasciitis. “This is what we were trying to avoid,” Thunder coach Daigneault said about SGA’s injury. My gut says he’s done for the year, as it’s genuinely no longer in OKC’s interest to have Shai play again until Halloween. With all the departures and shutdowns, how Daigneault is going to divvy up the 240 minutes of each game is an open question.
Let’s get the easy one of the way first:
If Moses Brown is available in your league go get him now. He’s jumped into a starting gig and has ripped off 20 and 20 games. Horford is out of the picture, allowing Isaiah Roby (who also played well on Monday) to play the 4 and making space for Brown. OKC got Tony Bradley back in the Hill deal, and while he’s been effective this year, Moses is the lead add here. Follow him through the desert of these final weeks, as he’s a piece that can swing head-to-head leagues.
A huge opportunity exists for Théo Maledon with SGA on the shelf. Like Tate, the Thunder’s 19-year old French point guard has already been enjoying some pretty heavy minutes over the last few months. He’s currently sitting at 27 MPG on the season, so it’s not like he’s new on the scene. Recent history bodes well for him too, as he’s logged 32+ minutes in five of his last seven contests and has delivered top-90 numbers of 11.8 points, 4.3 boards, 3.2 dimes, 1.2 steals, and 2.5 triples per game. The FG% is unsightly, but the per-36 numbers support the idea that the assists, threes, and dimes should hold up down the stretch. Given the scarcity of helpers out there this time of year, Maledon could be a useful add for beachcombers scouring the sand for dimes. There’s potential for more depending on the length of Shai’s sit, but there’s enough job security and production to add the young guard now and see how it goes. He is just a kid though, so come into a pick-up with your eyes wide open to the volatility here.
Luguentz Dort could have been a beneficiary of Shai’s absence had things broken better for him. On the season, Dort’s production has been pretty erratic, mostly because the shooting figures haven’t improved much from last year’s rookie campaign. The three-point shooting has improved but is still below league average at 32.7%, while the overall FG% mark has slipped from last year’s ugly 39.4% to this year’s downright-wretched 38.6% After garnering praise for his defensive efforts against James Harden in the bubble, the steals have actually dipped in 2020-21. There simply isn’t the volume on either boards or assists to feel comfortable banking on a late-season breakthrough, and this is before he entered concussion protocol following Saturday’s contest with the Celtics. Svi Mykhailiuk drew the start on Monday night. Don’t Dort.
I snapped up Aleksej Pokusevski as an end-of-week streamer and I’ll be hanging on to see what exactly I have on my hands here. A seven-foot 19-year-old, Poku is a bit of an anomaly. A lanky, playmaking child, Pokusevski has averaged north of 30 MPG since March 11, chipping in 10.2 points, 6.9 boards, 2.9 dimes, and just under 1 block per game on pretty dreadful shooting (33.7% FG, 22.8% 3PT) while getting his feet wet in the Association. The dude is both raw and talented, though in what proportion is still an open question.
The ceiling is tantalizing (23/10/4/1/1 with five made threes against Memphis two weeks ago), but the swings will be hard to take if you’re desperate to catch up. It could be a fun ride for owners who are sitting pretty and have a roster spot to play with, as evidenced by Monday night’s 21/6/2, three 3PM, 34-minute chef’s kiss of a line against the Mavs. It won’t always be roses (look at those shooting numbers), but he’s worth grabbing while he’s locked in and SGA’s usage is on the sideline. As is, I’m prepared to drop Poku to stream more effectively down the stretch if need be, but I’m certainly open to the possibility of lightning in a bottle.
The last name to know in the Sooner state is Kenrich Williams, who is no stranger to being a hot add down the stretch of a lost season, having spent the previous two years in New Orleans. The minutes have been up around 25 for the last two and half weeks or so and the buckets have followed. Unlike the rest of the clankers in OKC, Williams has been shooting the ball extremely (read: unsustainably) well. He’s good for almost 58% from the floor and is north of 44% on three — granted, we’re talking about 5 total attempts a game this season. Chase the points if you need it, but I’d expect the wheels to fall off sooner or later. There’s more upside elsewhere
Kind of a disastrous year Minnesota, yeah? Karl-Anthony Towns kicked the season off with a wrist injury, a foreshadow of pain to come. D’Angelo Russell has only played sparingly, Ricky Rubio has had prolonged stretches of uninspiring play, and Malik Beasley served a 12-game suspension after pleading guilty to a felony count of threats of domestic violence. Anthony Edwards, the number one overall pick, has gunned his way to big point totals, though the efficiency has been brutal.
Despite an incredibly thorough dismantling of a Rockets team that had won 40+ games with James Harden for almost a decade, it’s the Wolves that are dead last in the West with a record of 11-36. Ryan Saunders was shown the door mid-season after tallying a 7-24 mark. Chris Finch, Mr. Outside Hire, has ticked the win percentage in the right direction (from 29% to a balmy 33%) but it’s clear that he’s not a magician. Minnesota is the worst team in basketball and if they catch some bad lottery luck and their pick falls out of the top four, they have to kick their first-round pick out west to the Warriors.
Like I said, kind of disastrous.
A persistent bugaboo — well, one of the persistent bugaboos — has been the black hole of production from their power forward role. Jake Layman, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Juancho Hernangomez have all that their shots. Hell, even Ed Davis has appeared in 19 games this year.
At last, the carousel wheel seems to have come to rest on Jaden McDaniels, who is now catching the lion’s share of the PT in at the 4. This is probably where it should have been the whole time, but these are the Timberwolves. The 6’9” rookie from Washington has been trending up, drawing just under 30 MP in the last five games. The scoring upside isn’t really there — usage hogs like KAT, Edwards, and Beasley make sure of that — but he’s good for a modest 10 or so a game, with 15+ on the table if things break right. He’s cracked 20 points only once this season. Despite this, he cans about one three a game on 36% shooting, and the per-36 figures present some really lovely stock options (0.8 STL + 1.7 BLK) and some solid rebounding numbers (5.8).
Finch has been loving up the kid for his defense after slapping some clamps on Luka Doncic last week. I think the path to him really popping this year depends on when and to what degree Minnesota packs it in for the season. D-Lo’s return isn’t going to help McDaniels’ usage, but it shouldn’t have a direct impact on Jaden’s minutes. Another plus, the Wolves have already exhausted their other (and worse) options at the position. Vanderbilt is currently getting buried in the depth chart; Juancho and Layman present extremely limited upside. Unless the usage opens up via shutdowns, McDaniels may not have the ceiling to make a huge impact as we move into the silly season, but there’s definitely a path for him. He started again on Monday night and took advantage of the match-up with Brooklyn, posting a 13/7/4/1/4 line with 3 made threes, zero TOs, and 5/11 shooting in 38 minutes.
I was looking at him on waivers and got halfway down the road of dropping Brandon Clarke for him. I think I need to see one more game (preferably not against the Nets) to pull that trigger, but I get the sense that he won’t last that long. If you’ve got space, I’d go get him.
Daniel Gafford has made a nice impression in Washington. I’m not sure if you’ve been keeping tabs on it or not, but that is an extremely grim big man situation in the nation’s capital. Robin Lopez and Alex Len are going nowhere, so I’d expect Gafford to get more leash in the near future in DC. Len is still starting but [leans in, whispers] he kinda sucks at this. It looks like Gafford has already moved past RoLo. The FG% is north of 70 and he averages 1.3 blocks per game whenever he starts. He’s a solid add for those seeking big man stats, though he does come with the typical free throw issues.
I know the Magic have been extremely thorough in their tear-down and that it’s kind of a free-for-all with minutes at the moment. Keith mentioned in his Cork Report that basketball luminaries like Terrence Ross and James Ennis III, along with the husk of Otto Porter Jr. are all shut down candidates in the Magic Kingdom. This was the third-worst offense in basketball before they traded their good players. Things were grim down there. Chuma Okeke was the priority add following the Orlando exodus and is definitely worth snagging if available. I know there are some Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter fans still left out there, but I’m going to need to see it from the big guys first. Of the two, Bamba is putting up much stronger per-36 figures, but with Khem Birch still in the picture, it’s hard to talk yourself into running out to get either guy.
Delon Wright getting shipped off to Sacramento muddies the water for the Kings, as now there are four guards who can handle a full plate of minutes. The situation he left behind in Detroit is less crowded but not necessarily more clear. Wayne Ellington is locked in for the moment, but Keith listed him as a shutdown candidate too. Dennis Smith Jr. has a bad back and has spent some time in the dog house, giving Saben Lee another run at a starting guard gig. Haimdou Diallo is in a new town but the same situation as the first guard off the bench. He did flash the kind of game that intrigued me earlier this year in OKC on Monday night, going for a 19/10/3/1/2 line against the Raptors. That said, Corey Joseph is still a serviceable NBA guard and gets more minutes than we’d like. Frank Jackson played 15+ minutes in the first game following the Wright deal.
If you read all that and didn’t feel the spirit stir within you, there’s a good reason for that. Like Orlando, this was a pretty crappy offense already. To me, Lee has the best shot to carve out a late-season boost of that bunch. If Mason Plumlee gets shut down, get yourself a bowl of Isaiah “Beef Stew” Stewart.
Thanks for hangin’.