Hey everybody, it’s me Keith! Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Blue’s Clues and every episode starts like that… Anyways, let’s get down to business.
It’s officially NBA silly season with the trade deadline already in distant memory, and plenty of teams are not super interested in winning basketball games right now. If a team can finish 10th and get into the play-in, they may be more interested in resting their guys and getting a better draft pick.
So which teams are doing that? And, more importantly, which players benefit the most from this shift?
It’s crazy to think that a team that won a championship just a few seasons ago could be in the mix of the Tankathon, but here we are. The Raptors are in 11th this season, don’t really have a home court, and have been plagued with drama all season. The most recent victims of the DNP-Tank have been Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby.
The future is uncertain with Kyle Lowry and Gary Trent Jr. set to be unrestricted free agents this offseason. Aron Baynes is likely on his way out as well. Outside of Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, it’s hard to know what the core of the team will look like last season, or if coach Nick Nurse will be back.
As mentioned in the intro, Kyle Lowry is on an expiring contract and it’s really hard to see him playing every single game in what looks like a lost season. The rapid emergence of Fred VanVleet makes Lowry kind of redundant on the roster anyways.
Malachi Flynn has averaged 34.4 minutes per game over the last five games and he has put up 14.4 points, 6.4 assists, 2 three-pointers made, and a whopping 2.4 steals in that span. Those are eye-popping numbers and one would have to think the Raptors give him a long look to see if he’s the point guard of the future. He’s only owned in 34% of Yahoo! leagues, so run out and get him for your fantasy playoffs if you can!
His upside is a bit capped with the arrival of Khem Birch, but he should be the starting center for the rest of the season, for better or for worse. He has started the last five games where he has averaged 16.8 points, 8 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 2 blocks, and 1.4 three-pointers. Those numbers are HUGE, and there’s no reason to think they’ll go down by much as the Raptors sit their guys and Boucher has increased opportunity.
Khem Birch’s arrival in Toronto likely spells the end of Aron Baynes’s tenure on the team. It’s likely he slots into a backup role where he could see minutes in the low 20’s. The Raptors will want to use him as the primary backup to Boucher next season, so he should get an extended look during the tank here to see if he has what it takes. He’s a solid guy for rebounds and good field goal percentages, but he typically doesn’t do enough to warrant a roster spot. Add him to your watchlist to stream for these categories in the playoffs.
The Wizards have even less direction than the Raptors, but they actually have a better situation. Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook, and Davis Bertans are the big contracts that will be returning next year, but they are sitting on seven expiring deals. Those guys do take up an awful lot of cap space, but moving Beal or Westbrook should net them a ton of assets as both have played well this season and proven they can still have a place on a competitive ball club.
That said, Bradley Beal is starting to sit back-to-backs and Russell Westbrook may not be too far behind. Even if they move one of those guys, they’ll still have a lot of salary cap space tied up, so they will look to add talent through the draft. The time to tank is now, and it might be time for the organization to do the best thing.
It’s been a tumultuous first season for the Israeli-Serbian rookie, but over the last nine games he’s averaging 31.7 minutes per game, and that shouldn’t change on the semi-tanking Wizards. He hasn’t been shooting it well in that span, but he has grabbed 7.1 rebounds and his shooting should normalize, making him a decent source of threes and points. He’s only rostered in 9% of Yahoo! leagues, so now is the time to scoop him up if you want those categories in your playoffs.
If Beal or Westbrook start taking nights off, a lot of the offense will fall to Rui Hachimura. Rui has posted a 30 point game without Beal in the lineup and in the nine games before his most recent stinker, he was averaging 18.8 points per game on 51.1% shooting. He doesn’t add a ton of other stats, but he’ll throw in some nice rebounding games as well. He’s rostered in 65% of leagues, so if you have him just hold tight and take the nice games when the big dogs sit.
The Orlando Magic blew it up at the trade deadline and in return, they brought in more draft picks. It only helps them to play their young players right now and to not be interested too much in winning basketball games as they look to the future.
The odds that Terrence Ross plays every single game from now until the end of the season are extremely low. RJ Hampton hasn’t exactly impressed, but he is a guy worth taking a flier on in a competitive league if choices are slim. He should get his scoring and three-point shooting up there as the season wears on and the Magic lean into playing him 30+ minutes a night.
Chuma Okeke is out right now, but I’m not super concerned. As long as his hip injury doesn’t turn out to be serious, he has proven to be an integral part of the Orlando Tankathon. Before his last two games, Chuma was averaging 16.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.3 steals in 31.6 minutes per game. He may be hitting a minor slump here, but he should come through for you in the playoffs and he’s only rostered in 48% of Y! leagues, so go pick him up.
Wendell Carter Jr.
Wendell Carter Jr. is rostered in 79% of Y! leagues, so it’s not likely he’s available for you to pick him up. In the seven games since joining Orlando, Wendell has averaged 14 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game in just 26.8 minutes per game. It’s hard to see a world in which this dude doesn’t top 30 minutes most nights on a team that is looking to tank. Look at it as hitting the jackpot if you held him through the deadline.
The Pistons were pretty fun for a while, but they sit at dead last in the Eastern Conference with a record of 16-37. Jerami Grant has been sitting games recently due to a “sore right knee” and Mason Plumlee has gotten some rest nights as well. There’s a lot to like with the changing landscape of these Pistons and snagging one of these dudes could win you the playoffs.
Killian Hayes is back and he just has to be hungry to prove to the haters that he can ball after missing most of the season with a tear in his hip. He has yet to ramp up his minutes, but if he starts to see 28+ minutes nightly, look to him for assists, steals, and threes.
Saddiq Bey is only rostered in 28% of Yahoo! leagues, and that number will undoubtedly go up as the playoffs start. He’s recently been getting 28-30 minutes in games and has been putting up double-digit shot attempts. He’s a fantastic source of threes, averaging 2.3 per game on the season, as well as points. However, he won’t do much else.
Hamidou Diallo continues to show flashes here and there that make him look like a promising young player, but his role remains inconsistent. Still, he’s totally worth a flier and he’s averaging 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds with the Pistons, excluding his first game where he barely played, and that is in just 21.8 minutes per game. He’ll contribute everywhere and has a lot of promise, but he’s only 22 years old and he is still inconsistent.
This is the dude you really want and it’s shocking that he’s only rostered in 26% of Yahoo! leagues. Mason Plumlee is bound to get many “DNP-Olds” in the coming weeks, and his logical fill-in is Isaiah Stewart. Over the Piston’s last five games he’s averaging 25.9 minutes per game, putting up 9 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. Those numbers will only grow as time goes on so lock him in now.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Many teams in the West are still playing for that play-in spot, but not the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are comfortably and contentedly out of the hunt for a playoff spot, and for good reason. They own a TON of picks in the coming years, so losses are the name of the game here. As such, a lot of silly and underdeveloped players will be seeing minutes. Honestly, most of them will be wildly inconsistent, but there are a few you should look at heavily.
As long as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is going to remain on the sidelines, Theo Maledon will have the ball in his hands an awful lot. In the last ten games, he is averaging 15.8 points, 3 assists, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.1 three-pointers made. He’s fantasy gold during these important times and the fact that he’s rostered in just 26% of leagues should change immediately.
Aleksej Pokusevski is a potential league winner this year since the Thunder seem to be dedicated to playing him big minutes and putting the ball in his hands a ton. They absolutely should, because this kid’s upside is sky high with the ability to put the ball on the ground, bury jumpers from deep, and block shots. He has a sore arm right now, but it doesn’t seem he’ll miss a lot of time. Monitor the news, but I’d be all in favor of adding him in the 60% of leagues in which he isn’t rostered if you need a boost. He’s averaging 13 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.9 blocks, and 2.2 three-pointers since the Thunder have started giving him big minutes. He contributes everywhere, but be wary of some very underwhelming shooting percentages from anywhere that isn’t the free-throw line.
The Rockets have valuable draft assets that they’d like to see improve as well, so the Tankathon in Houston is on. They don’t have a lot of appealing younger options, but there are a few guys. John Wall is unlikely to play a ton of minutes down the stretch, and they’re very unlikely to rush back Eric Gordon.
Kevin Porter Jr.
As mentioned above, John Wall is very likely to sit back-to-backs, and probably more games than that as well, as the Rockets tank out the rest of the season. Kevin Porter Jr. has been the biggest beneficiary of Wall sitting, and after a nice but volatile time with the Cavaliers, he has turned some heads after being traded to the Rockets this season. His averages of 15 points, 6.2 assists, and 3.9 rebounds are juicy, and they’re likely to hold throughout the rest of the season. Hang onto him, even through a bad game or two, but don’t be afraid to cut bait if he’s struggling for a week.
Kenyon Martin Jr.
Did you know that Jae’Sean Tate is 25 years old? Maybe you did, but you likely didn’t since he seems like a young and promising player. He’s a few years past that, but Kenyon Martin Jr. is not. With the timeline that the Rockets are looking at, playing KJ more over Tate makes sense for the long term. In a five-game stretch about a month ago when KJ was getting 31.1 minutes per game, he was averaging 13.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks. He’s definitely worth a flier with the anticipation that he’ll get more minutes here soon, especially in competitive leagues where the pickings are slim.
After playing most of the season without star center Karl-Anthony Towns and his running mate D’Angelo Russell, the Wolves are dead last in the Western Conference. At 13-40, they can’t hope to make the playoffs, but they have some very nice young pieces on the team that they should look to develop in the coming weeks.
If you happened to draft Anthony Edwards, congratulations. He has really come on hot as of late and his future in the league as a go-to scorer is so bright it hurts my eyes. If the Wolves decide to sit KAT or D’Lo, which they should, then it is Ant-Man’s world all day and he will go get buckets. In the month of April, Ant is averaging 23.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.2 steals, and 2.4 three-pointers per game. That’s incredible and it can only get better, so you have a real league winner on your hands.
The Wolves were going to Jarred Vanderbilt to start the season, but with Karl-Anthony Towns back in the mix, they’ve been leaning more and more on Jaden McDaniels. The rookie is averaging 11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.8 three-pointers, and 1.1 blocks in 32.8 minutes per game over his last 10 games. Those are incredibly encouraging numbers, and with the Wolves playing for ping pong balls those minutes are safe even if he drops a bit. After some stinkers, plenty of people have dropped him in Yahoo! leagues, and you should go and scoop him up!