Hello and welcome back to the NBA Roundtable! With fantasy playoffs underway, everyone is looking for that hidden gem on the waiver wire that has league-winning potential. There are a ridiculous amount of pickups this time of year due to injuries, tanking and player shutdowns, so hopefully we'll help you find a difference-maker for the final stretch. I’ll start us off…
Jonas Nader (@JonasNader)
Tyler Ulis- We all knew that Eric Bledsoe was a shut-down candidate, but I don’t think any of us were expecting it to happen this early. With Bledsoe down, Tyler Ulis will likely start every game for the next month. He logged 39 minutes on Wednesday with 13 points, 13 assists and a full line, and considering that assists are arguably the hardest stat to find on the wire, he should be picked up everywhere.
Ivica Zubac- Coach Luke Walton is doing his best Byron Scott impression and has been stubborn with Zubac’s workload, but apart from Wednesday’s nine-minute dud, there’s so much to like about his outlook. He’s a better free throw shooter than the numbers suggest (57.9 percent) and he could be a double-double guy with a couple blocks if he gets 25+ minutes a night. On the nights when the Lakers aren’t blown out or when he isn’t in foul trouble, Zubac has the potential to post some monster lines like we saw against Denver when he finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds and a block on 12-of-15 shooting.
Skal Labissiere- We’ve been waiting for the Kings to unleash Labissiere since they traded away DeMarcus Cousins and it finally happened on Wednesday. Sure he did this against the Suns, but when a guy scores 32 points with 11 rebounds and two steals in 30 minutes, you should be running to the wire to pick him up. The Kings have nothing to play for, and while Coach Dave Joerger is notorious for not playing rookies, Labissiere is going to make him rethink things.
Denzel Valentine- The three guys above are probably the hottest pickups in fantasy basketball, but don’t sleep on Valentine. The rookie has played 23+ minutes in five straight games and his role is trending up, but with Dwyane Wade suffering a season-ending elbow fracture, Valentine could be looking at 30+ minutes sooner rather than later. He’s averaging 9.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.6 steals and 2.6 triples over his last five games, but his ceiling would rise dramatically if you take Wade’s usage out of the equation.
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Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer)
I’d definitely co-sign all of your selections, Jonas.
I’ll also add the following...
Chriss has posted solid numbers over this past month, averaging 11.8 points (on 51.5 percent shooting), 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in the Suns last 12 games. Those numbers should only increase over the final month of the season. He’ll benefit from the absence of Eric Bledsoe, as his usage rate should increase and he’ll get to play alongside his running mate Tyler Ulis far more frequently. Chriss showed what he is capable of on Wednesday night, tallying 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals, two 3-pointers and five blocks in 32 minutes.
LeVert has been frustratingly inconsistent for most of the season, but his upside is undeniable. And, encouragingly, he has strung together two solid games in a row. He scored 13 points with four assists, four rebounds and two steals on Sunday and then backed it up with 16 points, five rebounds, two assists and three steals on Tuesday. He’s also been incredibly efficient. LeVert is shooting 63.0 percent from the floor and 46.2 percent from 3-point territory over Brooklyn’s last five contests. The limited minutes are a concern (he has logged more than 27 minutes in a game just once this season), but the talent and opportunity make LeVert an intriguing option.
This is more of a speculative add, in case Rodney Hood’s knee injury is more severe than expected and Hood has to miss extended time.
Jared Johnson (@JaredJ831)
You guys have pretty much nailed everything, with Tyler Ulis and Zudacris being my favorite adds, but I'll go ahead and just add one more name to the mix.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but it looks like Rajon Rondo might be a must-own guy again. Fred Hoiberg has finally decided to trim down his rotation with Chicago making a push for the No. 8 spot out East, and over the past two games Rondo has averaged 35.2 minutes a night as the Bulls' starting point guard to go with 18.5 points, 7.0 dimes, 1.5 steals, 1.5 turnovers and an unsustainable 3.0 triples per contest on 48.4 percent shooting. No one should be expecting consistent production in the 3-point category when swooping up Rondo, but as long as he's getting playing time in the 30s, he should be able to do enough with the dimes and steals to warrant a standard league roster spot.
Mike Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher)
All those guys mentioned above should be owned basically everywhere. I was stunned when I saw how low Marquese Chriss' ownership rate was over the weekend. By the way, I also hit on Skal, Chriss and Zubac in my Tuesday column, so check that out here for more info. Chriss is going to smash the rest of the way.
Jamal Murray - I am loving what I'm seeing out of Murray. He's getting some combo guard minutes now and is rolling over his last four, averaging 16.5 points, 2.8 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.8 treys on 53.1 percent from the field in 22.7 minutes. The Nuggets are extremely banged up right now, so the usage should see a major increase. Coach Mike Malone has said he is interested in growing Murray more for the long-term and it's certainly helping that Murray is a strong contributor. He might be a difference-making add with all these injuries around him.
Juancho Hernangomez - This is more speculative, but the Nuggets are razor thin at forward. We'll see how he does Thursday, but he could be a guy to watch in deeper leagues.
Dragan Bender - I'm going to go super sneaky here for owners with an IR spot to spare. The Suns are talking about bring Bender back this month, which could mean they shut down Jared Dudley and perhaps others. No team is going full-on youth movement like the Suns, so Bender returning could have some sneaky value. He could be a decent blocks and threes guy.
I will add to Tommy's point on Caris LeVert. Coach Kenny Atkinson really wants to test LeVert as a defender, so that should help him avoid some DNPs. LeVert also has a higher usage rate and assist percentage when he's not with Brook Lopez, so we can expect an uptick in per-minute output. LeVert also gets a bump when Lin is out, too. He's also a real joy to watch.