‘Tis the season of giving and that’s all the excuse I need to hand out a few fantasy basketball gifts. I gathered a number of industry professionals together to discuss their thoughts on the rest of the season. As a follow up to my original hot takes article from August, take a look inside the minds of the best in the business. Fantasy basketball is a tough landscape to navigate at the best of times. Exactly what you do with these hot takes is up to you. Think of them as my gift to you as we prepare to head into the second half of many fantasy leagues.
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Fantasy Basketball Hot Takes
Alex Rikleen (@Rikleen)
Matisse Thybulle will average more than 3.0 Stocks the rest of the season, finishing in the top 5.
Thybulle is a defensive maniac, and his biggest limitation so far this season has been an inability to stay on the floor. The rookie was banished to the end of the bench for several weeks, but when he plays, he’s a menace. Fortunately for him, the 76ers’ depth chart is egg-shell thin, and his workload is once again increasing.
Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond lead the league in stocks (steals plus blocks) with 4.1 and 3.5. Unfortunately, too much of the season has passed for Thybulle to catch those two. With a workload of between 25 and 30 minutes the rest of the way, it’s not hard to imagine him getting up to more than two steals and one block a per game for the season. Thybulle currently sits at 1.4 and 0.7, but that’s with an average of just 18 minutes per game. With a workload increase of 33 percent, as we’ve seen over the past two weeks, these projections are within range.
Kyle McKeown (@RotoKyleNBA)
SGA will be a top-30 8-category player after the trade deadline.
I projected Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to be great this season. However, he has fallen short of that mark in some ways (lack of steals and assists). On a positive note, he has shown the ability to have more of a score-first mentality on the Thunder. This is a great sign for his ability to be a leading scorer as well as a wonderful facilitator and defensive wing.
The Thunder are chock-full of vets that they’re looking to move in trades (Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schroder, and Steven Adams). If they move, and the Thunder don’t bring back any key long-term pieces, SGA should step into a bigger role as the season goes. A lot of people think that he is what he is on the Thunder right now, but that isn’t true. There’s a ton of upside in SGA’s production for this season and even more for dynasty. Don’t get too bogged down in what we saw in his first two months with the Thunder. He’ll be something much more impressive the deeper we get into the season.
Josh Lloyd (@redrock_bball)
Kevin Porter Jr. becomes a starter and a number two scoring option
I don’t really like getting into hot takes, I guess because of the negative association of people just saying wild stuff for attention. But, let’s get to it. Kevin Porter Jr. will take over a starting spot in Cleveland, replacing Cedi Osman. He will also become a number two scoring option behind Collin Sexton in February. Yes, this assumes Kevin Love is either traded or injured, but, come on, that isn’t a big leap. It is also assuming Darius Garland isn’t good, also, not a huge leap. Porter’s assist numbers have surprised me this season, he’s been active in getting steals and he’s shown an ability to create his own shot, averaging 11.5 points per game in his last six contests. He’s shooting well, he’s exciting, and the opportunity is going to come. So, put me down for Porter to be the Cavs second-highest scorer from February onward.
Jonas Nader (@JonasNader)
Christian Wood is going to be the top waiver-wire pickup in the second half of the season.
I’m 100% convinced that Wood is going to be unleashed at some point this season. Is it too soon to stash him now? Maybe, but if your fantasy team can coast into the playoffs without relying on him on a daily basis then I have no issue using up a roster spot. In fact, in all the leagues in which I’m in the top 33 percent of the standings, the stashing has already begun. Wood is the cream of the crop along with guys like Nerlens Noel.
The Pistons are 10-15 and have no shot at contending, and the likelihood of Drummond returning as a free agent next season is very low. If Detroit wants to rebuild the right away, Drummond is the only player on the roster that is going to bring back a bundle of draft picks and/or young talent. Blake Griffin might net them something useful too. Basically, if the Pistons don’t have a major turnaround by the trade deadline, I think the Christian Wood extravaganza is going to win a lot of fantasy leagues this season. He certainly did that last year with the Pelicans, averaging 16.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 0.9 steals and 0.8 triples in 23 minutes per game across eight outings.
Mike Apotria (@MikeApotria)
Malik Beasley will be relevant in standard leagues.
This seems impossible barring injuries if we are just taking this take at face value. However, my reasoning stems from the logjam on the Nuggets’ bench and the increasing odds of them moving Beasley in a trade. Beasley has flashed upside whenever he has been given a spot start or saw extended run due to a blowout and has exclusively played shooting guard. His career Per-36 numbers include 16.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.9 assist, 1.1 steals, 2.7 3-pointers on 45.2 percent shooting. We would need Beasley to be traded to a losing team willing to give him the opportunity. Half of the equation already seems to be in the works. The Nuggets have several players who will be looking to structure new contracts next summer, one of those players being Beasley. If given the opportunity, he is going to look to showcase himself in order to get paid.
Adam Stock (@AdamGStock)
Deandre Ayton finishes as a top-10 player in nine-category leagues on a per-game basis.
Ayton’s game was made for fantasy. Super efficient bigs like Ayton who hit their free throws and do a respectable job in the steals category have extremely high ceilings. The sophomore could end up being Richaun Holmes on steroids. Ayton was a borderline top-30 player as a rookie and a top-five source of field goal percentage impact. A 20/10 season with a steal and more than a block a night doesn’t seem like a stretch. That level of production alongside excellent percentages should allow him to sneak into the top-10.
The sophomore is also a lock to be a top-10 asset in the punt threes and punt assists builds. I’m not worried about Aron Baynes stealing his minutes. Baynes has been great, but he’s 33 and an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Suns are not going to risk stunting the development of one of the most promising young big men in the league to give a veteran who may not be on the team next year extra minutes.
Kevin So (@kevinso)
Marquese Chriss Will be a Good Fantasy Asset.
When Chriss signed a 1-year contract with Golden State in late September, the fantasy world collectively rolled their eyes. After flashing fantasy potential in Phoenix, inconsistency and poor court awareness burned most fantasy bridges. Today, he’s still not a good NBA player, though he lucked into an amazing situation with the rebuilding Warriors. Chriss is currently ranked #169 per game in 9-cat, which is just outside of standard league relevance. For deeper leagues, he’s been a nice surprise, particularly seeing career highs in blocks and assist percentage.
While he’s been getting less than 18 minutes a night, his per-36 look like 14.5/9.8/3.9 with 1.4 steals and 2 blocks. The Warriors are currently in last place and show no signs of improvement. I predict they eventually end Draymond’s season and Paschall hits his rookie wall. The team may then start to give Chriss more burn, helping boost his counting stats. He’ll be a nice source of stocks and out of position assists. Overall, I see him reaching top-120 status, which is low-end fantasy relevant for standard leagues and a huge value for deep leagues.
Mike Barner (@rotomikebarner)
Bam Adebayo will finish the season ranked higher in 9-cat leagues than Nikola Jokic.
This is pretty close right now with Jokic ranked 36th and Adebayo 41st, so maybe this isn’t a scorching hot take. Jokic has the edge in free throw percentage and assists. However, Adebayo is a defensive monster and is also starting to improve his free-throw shooting lately. We are seeing a rising fantasy star in the making.
Greg Ehrenberg (@gehrenbergdfs)
Devonte’ Graham finishes the season as a top 50 fantasy player.
There’s a case to be made that Graham should make the All-Star team. I had the Hornets pegged as one of the worst teams in the league prior to the season and didn’t see how they could be competitive. Enter Devonte’ Graham. He’s been a revelation for a Charlotte, filling the massive usage gap created when Kemba Walker fled for Boston in the offseason. Graham has a 26% usage rating and is averaging 21.2 points per game to go along with 7.6 assists since moving into the starting lineup.
Mike Catron (@WatchTheBoxes)
Kevin Porter will end up in the top 100 for the second half of the season.
Cleveland is a mess and will eventually sort out their roster by moving their veterans. In turn, this will give their young squad plenty of minutes down the latter stretch of the season. Porter has shown flashes pf having solid production in limited minutes. He has nice upside in steals and can rebound well for a guard. If he can keep his shot consistent, he should easily become a must-own in all standard leagues.
Joel Bartilotta (@BartilottaJoel)
Kevin Love will be a Top-25 Player in the Second Half.
Recent results don’t look promising for this pick and even more bizarre when you consider his recent injury history. The reason I can overlook these things is that he’s surely on the move. Not only will that put him on a better roster, but it will allow him to play through injuries he otherwise wouldn’t have with the Cavs. Just look at what Anthony Davis is doing with the Lakers! This is a guy who’s plenty capable of providing Top-25 value too. He averaged 18.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.0 steals across his first 11 games. He also shot 45 percent from the field, 88 percent from the free-throw line and hit over two three-pointers a night in that span, proving that he’s still got it. That’s fantasy gold and a move to a new team could revive those All-Star numbers.
Sam Macey (@macetastic)
Davis Bertans is the most valuable Latvian fantasy player this year.
If anyone had declared this prior to the season, they’d have been laughed back to Valmiera, Latvia. Bertans has simply been on FIRE over his last six games, racking up 36 threes over that time. He has averaged 23.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.0 block per game over that stretch. During the same timeframe, Kristaps Porzingis has produced just 11.5 points, 1.2 threes (at 23 percent…woof) and 35 percent shooting from the field. Despite only starting ONE game all season, Bertans ranks third in the NBA in threes made (92, at 47 percent). He has also been in the top 10 in true shooting percentage.
The hidden value Bertans possesses for 9-cat leagues is that minuscule turnover rate – he’s turned it over just 14 times in 23 games. That five percent turnover percentage leads the entire league among players who have played at least 600 minutes. Porzingis has rust, obviously, but Bertans might be Nikola Mirotic/prime Ryan Anderson now that Pop’s shackles are off him, and until Porzingis can produce 16-18 points 7-9 rebounds and 1.5 threes and blocks over the course of a 2-3 week period, Bertans is a better fantasy player.
Alex Barutha (@Alex_NBArutha)
You can drop Julius Randle in 12-team leagues and stream the spot.
Since Nov. 1, Randle is ranked as just the 164th fantasy player on a per-game basis in 8-cat formats. He has been given every chance since the start of the season to seize the reigns of the Knicks and establish himself as the best player on the team. And yet, Marcus Morris is the one who’s actually doing so. I understand fantasy owners might not want to cut bait with Randle since he was a relatively high draft pick this season. However, I don’t think he’ll improve enough from this point forward to exceed the value of just streaming the roster spot.
Nick Whalen (@wha1en)
Bam Adebayo finishes the season in the top 20 in per-game fantasy value.
I only ended up with a couple of shares of Adebayo this season, and I’ve been regretting it since opening night. He’s clearly taken another step forward in Year three. He is averaging a double-double and has boosted his rebound, assists, steal, block and usage rates. The lack of three-point shooting hurts his overall profile, but Adebayo is a contributor in every other category. The other hole in his game has been free-throw shooting, as he’s dipped under 70 percent. If you remove that category, he’s already a top-20 player for the season. I’m betting that Adebayo turns it around at the line and continues to improve as a playmaker in the halfcourt. Over the last three games, he’s averaged 25.0 points, 12.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 block on 69.8 percent from the floor and 71.4 percent from the line.
Adam King (@adamking91)
Brandon Clarke will finish the season as a top-50 player
Clarke was fantastic during the Las Vegas Summer League and he continued that form into the regular season. When considering 9-category leagues, Clarke is already the 68th ranked player despite playing just 21 minutes a night. His per-36 numbers have him as a top-20 player, better than Joel Embiid and Trae Young.
There is a real possibility Clarke supplants Jonas Valanciunas as the starting center at some point during the season. Such a move would likely see his playing time increase accordingly. He would then be sharing the floor with Jaren Jackson Jr. who is certainly not renowned for his rebounding ability. Clarke is also yet to click on the defensive end of the floor. Over the first six games of the season, Clarke was averaging 1.7 blocks per game. Since then, Clarke has blocked a total of seven shots in 14 games. There is a lot to like and if afforded the opportunity, Clarke could be a game-changer late in the season.
Jason Pye (@JasonBernard31)
Ja Morant will be a top 25 player by seasons end
This kid is dynamite. Competitive. Driven. Athletic. Poised. And he is only getting better. Throw the Westbrook comparisons out the window. He is a much better shooter than Westbrook. In the last two weeks he is shooting 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point land. Westbrook has never, ever, done that in the same time span. He destroyed Aaron Baynes last week. He is the Grizzlies future. Very few point guards in history have come in and delivered like Morant. His volume will continue to increase as the Grizzlies hit tank mode. And he will be a top-25 roto player by seasons end.
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