Valentine’s Day and All-Star Weekend. Great, two of my least favorite events of the year.*
Hey, if you’re tied up Tuesday night or enjoy Kevin Hart’s glorious attempt to continue ruling any and all available airtime, then bully for you.
The short week comes right as the trade deadline looms, and with storm clouds looming over the prospect of us getting a blockbuster deal or two before next Thursday, my focus is on players who will benefit from either the departure of player and/or a team’s unofficial announcement of packing it in for the remainder of the season in hopes of seeing who replaces Heather Cox on ESPN’s Lottery Special in mid-May. There are a host of players ready to see an uptick in play and Fantasy value, many of whom are still sitting around in the available pool of most standard leagues.
*Jamal Murray, SG, Nuggets: He’s gotten love this week at RotoExperts, so I won’t expound too much more on him other than to say he’s the potential yang to the rising ying of Nikola Jokic. Murray’s usage has headed north over the past five games, and even if Denver doesn’t move either Emmanuel Mudiay and/or Wilson Chandler, Murray’s going to see heavy minutes the rest of the way. Do know he’ll be overpriced in keeper/dynasty leagues, so be warned.
*Marquese Chriss, PF, Suns: The logjam of bigs will eventually burst in Phoenix in order to allow Chriss to begin reaching what might be an unlimited ceiling. We all got excited following his 27-point, six-rebound outburst against the Bucks last weekend, yet Chriss is gone back to scraping for minutes. This may be Devin Booker’s team today, but once Coach Earl Watson commits to Chriss, you’ll want to partake. The ups and downs are a given, but Chriss will show enough to make us pundits add words like “breakout” and “potential All-Star” around his name next October.
*Bobby Portis, PF, Bulls: The trade deadline is looking like a win-win for Portis, whose minutes would skyrocket if either Taj Gibson and/or Nikola Mirotic are traded. The franchise appears high on him, which makes his current lack of minutes painful for those hoping to see Portis break out.
The other side of the coin could see Portis included in a package with either of the aforementioned duo or even a move to entice someone to take Rajon Rondo. Portis could thrive in a new environment, especially if his new locale means a more significant role. Watch and adjust because I think Portis will get minutes regardless if he’s in Chicago or (fill in city of choice).
*Mindaugas Kuzminskas, SF/PF, Knicks: Another hour, another trade rumor involving Carmelo Anthony. Sigh. Real talk, though, it’s time for Anthony to leave New York. While he loves the city and it invites opportunities for his wife, ‘Melo’s fate as a Knick will not end with him and Phil Jackson smiling and giggling.
If/when Anthony is finally paroled from MSG traded, Kuzminskas, who has seen increased usage of late, will be the player who benefits. Kuzminskas’ per-36 numbers (14.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists) don’t jump off the chart, but with Kristaps Porzingis moving into the role of primary scorer, Kuzminskas would be a good complement. Then again, all of this would be moot if Anthony wakes up next Friday on a franchise that won’t allow Charles Oakley in the building.
*Brandon Ingram, SF, Lakers: Why the hell does Luol Deng continue to thieve minutes for Ingram? The closest the Lakers are getting to the playoffs is when you go into Dynasty mode on NBA2K17, so why isn’t the second overall pick not getting his love?
Deng will be useful to some playoff contender, but even if Deng is still on the roster, the time is now to give Ingram 29-32 minutes a night and see what the kid can do. His shooting percentage has hovered near 50 percent over the last couple of weeks, and while Ingram remains raw, I’m feeling that he can offer solid numbers once Coach Luke Walton simply tests him in the fire.
Best Fantasy Friendly Games of the Week
*Warriors at Nuggets, Monday: This game screams STACK louder than an angry President Trump tweet. The league’s top-scoring squad heads to the Rocky Mountains against the fourth-most proficient scoring unit in a rematch of a 127-119 win for Golden State on Jan. 2. Draymond Green recorded a triple-double on a night that saw five players score more than 20 points and 11 total hitting double-figures. This is one of those games that justifies the coin you plunk over for League Pass each year.
*Kings at Lakers, Tuesday: Look, I feel you should the meaning of this date brings either brief memories of loves won, lost and those that make you feel like the Falcons defense in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. That’s why I offer this no-so-brilliant gem between two teams going nowhere and are at the bottom half of the league in points allowed. I can’t deliver wine, chocolates and an intimate setting, but DeMarcus Cousins tearing his way through the Lakers frontcourt and the duo of D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams firing away from long range is a reasonable counter.
*Heat at Rockets, Wednesday: Miami entered Saturday with a 14-game win streak that started with a 109-103 takeover at Houston on Jan. 17. Point guard will be the main event, with the Heat’s Goran Dragic (averaging over 22 points per game in the streak) taking on Fantasy hoops deity James Harden, he of the “I’ve scored at least 40 Fantasy Points Per Game in 18 of my last 20 entering Saturday’s game against the Suns.” The undercard will be an intriguing brawl in the low post between Hassan Whiteside (45 FPPG in his last five prior to Saturday) and youthful Rockets banger Clint Capela, who is quietly emerging as a true must-start performer. Houston hangs up nearly 115 points per game at Toyota Center, which also makes Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and (if healthy) Eric Gordon must-plays.
Best Fantasy Matchups to Exploit
*Steph Curry vs. Nuggets, Monday: We all like the production Jameer Nelson has provided in the wake of Mudiay’s absence, but man, oh man, he could be in “Open Water” with Curry, who has averaged 27.5 points and 5.5 assists in the two previous meetings against Denver. Like the movie, this may not have a happy ending for Nelson.
(Stop. Open Water came out in 2004. If you’re yapping about a spoiler for a movie pushing near its teens, that’s on you for not watching it.)
*Andre Drummond vs. Mavericks, Wednesday: The Mavs’ 26th-ranked defense in field goal percentage allowed plays right in the hands of Drummond, especially if he’s within five feet of the basket. More than 14 percent of his scores result in dunks, and considering Dallas’ lack of an interior presence, the results could be profitable for Drummond, who has averaged 43.8 FPPG entering Saturday.
*Michael Beasley vs. Nets, Wednesday: One has to figure the Nets will have their hands full in containing Giannis Antetokounmpo, making this a tempting play for Beasley, whose usage rate was climbing before Jabari Parker’s season-ending knee injury. He might have to make nice and share minutes with rookie Thon Maker and Mirza Teletovic, yet Beasley’s the kind of player who can come out of nowhere and give a team a 15- to 20-game run of solid production. And it’s the Nets. Must we further explain?
Best One-on-One Matchups to Watch
*Russell Westbrook vs. John Wall (Thunder at Wizards, Monday): Goodness, Wall is having perhaps the best season of his career, yet he has been overshadowed by the ridiculously-ill campaigns of Westbrook, Harden, Curry and Isaiah Thomas. He entered Saturday’s play averaging 53.3 FPPG in his last five and has nine games of 20 or more points in his last 12. Wall more than held his own against Kyrie Irving in last Monday’s Game of the Year candidate, and considering how the Wizards have protected their house of late, I’m liking Wall’s chances to trade shots with the undisputed king of triple-doubles.
Like last Monday, this will be on TNT, so screw the Bachelor, Monday Night Raw and the 800th takeover of Pawn Stars on History Channel and watch, damn you.
*Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Nikola Jokic (Timberwolves at Nuggets, Wednesday): Jokic officially made his star turn at MSG on Friday night and now belongs in the upper crust of Fantasy big men. KAT has resided there all season and has been beastly since the turn of the calendar, recording 11 double-doubles in 14 games (he grabbed eight, eight and nine boards in the other three). Both are among the league leaders in PER, with Jokic (26.8) ranked eighth and Towns sitting at 15th.
Towns has owned the Nuggets this season, averaging 26.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and four blocks in the previous three meetings. Jokic’s 14 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.7 dishes against Towns borders on “meh,” so look for him to come strong. This will be a fun matchup over the next few years. Stay tuned.
*Jrue Holiday vs. Mike Conley (Pelicans at Grizzlies, Wednesday): Not as prolific as the previous two but will be as entertaining. Holiday (45.4 FPPG in his last 10) is looking like the perimeter sidekick Anthony Davis has been longing for, yet it remains to be seen if Holiday can maintain a torrid pace that has seen his shoot more than 53 percent from the field and 43 percent from behind the stripe. Conley’s going to be Conley, meaning you’ll see him score 20, hand out seven assists while grabbing a steal or two and make you feel like you didn’t see it.
TEAMS PLAYING THREE GAMES:
TEAMS PLAYING TWO GAMES:
Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Bulls, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Thunder, Magic, 76ers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Kings, Spurs, Raptors, Jazz, Wizards
TEAMS PLAYING ONE GAME:
*Other events that Brandon doesn’t care much for: Any and all awards shows (at least until MSNBC provides live coverage of the Fantasy Sportswriters Awards), any all-star game with the word “Celebrity” in front of it, Tax Day, the anniversary of when his longtime friend Ollie Jones set him on a blind date, nights before flying back to Houston, National Popcorn Day and the day the Rockies are mathematically are eliminated from the National League playoffs)