Denzel Valentine (Owned 26 percent on Yahoo!/10.9 percent on ESPN) – Amidst all the craziness going on with the Chicago Bulls, at least they’ve found a way to get their rookie involved. To nobody’s surprise, it took a season-ending injury to Dwayne Wade for that to happen. Wade suffered a fractured elbow, which made Valentine the next man up.
While the shooting percentages haven’t been ideal, Valentine has found myriad ways to get involved for Fantasy purposes. Over his past six games, Valentine is averaging 10.2 points with six rebounds and 2.5 treys in 28.8 minutes per night. Until his most recent game against the Raptors, he had a five-game stretch during which he scored 11 or more points in each contest. What’s funny about that is his per-36 numbers have him at 10.8 points per game. Spot on!
He also showed the ability to contribute in many different ways at the college level. In his final year at Michigan State, Valentine averaged 19.2 points with 7.8 assists, 7.5 rebounds and shot 44 percent from downtown. He’s currently shooting 34 percent from 3-point land this season, so he might even be able to improve upon what he’s done. He should be owned based on his usage alone, as he’ll get close to 30 minutes per game down the stretch. Owners can expect him to contribute points, rebounds, 3-pointers and a few steals here and there with a bad field-goal percentage.
Austin Rivers (Owned 24 percent on Yahoo!/18.4 percent on ESPN) – News flash: even with the Clippers healthy, they still don’t have a ton of depth. Rivers’ season has been a roller coaster. He was incredible while Chris Paul was out but other than that, it’s been inconsistent. Over his past four games, however, he’s back just when Fantasy owners need him most.
It’s the Fantasy playoffs and for those with daily transactions, the Clippers have been a very busy team. They’ve played a ton of games recently but have a bunch more in the near future, so that helps. Rivers has scored double-digit points in four straight games, with 17 or more in three of those. He’s shooting 54.8 percent during that span, while contributing a few treys, rebounds, and assists.
People like to give Doc Rivers trouble because he plays his son but Austin has made improvements this season. He’s posted career-high shooting percentages across the board, which has led to a 55 percent true-shooting percentage. Yes, he is not a good defensive player, and likely never will be, but he still has Fantasy value. There are a ton of bad defenders who are awesome in Fantasy Basketball (James Harden anyone?). Rivers should be owned in 12-team leagues or deeper for points and 3-pointers while the Clippers play all these games.
Josh Richardson (Owned 27 percent on Yahoo!/4.2 percent on ESPN) – I’m not going to lie. I sat here and wrote about Richardson early in the season, with lofty expectations. There have been a multitude of reasons he hasn’t met those expectations to this point but perhaps he can finally thrive down the stretch.
One big reason Richardson has been limited at times is that Dion Waiters was absolutely lights-out. Waiters always had a bunch of potential and was known more for being a reckless player who would force bad shots, similar to J.R. Smith. Instead, he unleashed his full repertoire, displaying the ability to score efficiently, make players as a passer and even play defense. Unfortunately, Waiters suffered a severe ankle sprain and could miss the rest of the season. That’s where Richardson steps in.
Richardson has dealt with injuries himself but appears to finally be healthy. In fact, he’s coming off one of his better games during he scored 14 points on 6-13 shooting with two rebounds, two assists, two triples, and a block. What I liked most about Richardson earlier in the season was that he could be a legitimate “three-and-d” player. His per 36 minutes numbers had him at 2.3 treys with 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks. That’s near-elite production from a wing player if he can earn the minutes. Well, the minutes are back. Over the past week Richardson is averaging just over 29 minutes per game while doing a little bit of everything. He should be owned in 12-team leagues or deeper for points and 3-pointers with decent defensive production.
Taurean Prince (Owned 3 percent on Yahoo!/1.7 percent on ESPN) – Between Paul Millsap and Kent Bazemore suffering injuries, the Hawks need another substantial piece in their rotation. Taurean Prince is an interesting player who has upside for Fantasy purposes but you have to know what you’re getting with him.
First, he does have a ton of defensive potential but is extremely limited offensively. Prince was a four-year player at Baylor and didn’t really score much until his senior year. Despite averaging 15.9 points per game in 2015-16, he shot just 43 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point land. He is a beast, however, when it comes to rebounds, steals and blocks.
Over the past week, Prince is averaging 11.7 points on just 37.5 percent shooting to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 30 minutes per game. His per 36 numbers have him at 12.1 points with 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 blocks. If you can swallow the field goal percentage, the defensive upside is worth it. He’ll continue to see heavy minutes because both Bazemore and Millsap are still out. He should be owned in 14-team leagues or deeper for defense and rebounding.
Skal Labissiere (Owned in 27 percent on Yahoo!/15.4 percent on ESPN) – Remember when I wrote about Skal a few weeks ago? Why couldn’t Kings coach Dave Joerger just make me look good then? Instead of using valuable time to develop his young players and waiting until now. Regardless, Skal has taken off recently, including a monster game against the Phoenix Suns.
In that game, he went for 32 points on 11 for 15 shooting with 11 rebounds, two steals and a three-pointer. The kid can absolutely play. I don’t care if it was against the Suns. When I first wrote about Skal, I mentioned that he moves like a guard in a center’s body. He is slender at 6’11” but has tremendous length, which helps when rebounding and playing defense. His slim body allows him to make quicker-than-average moves when working against defenders. He also has an underrated jump shot, which can even reach the three-point line.
Over the past two weeks Skal’s averaging 14.3 points on 63 percent shooting with 6.4 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in just 20 minutes. His production will be inconsistent but with the Kings out of it, his minutes should increase. He could have a few more huge games in him. He should be owned in 10-team leagues or deeper.
To a lesser extent . . .
Georgios Papagiannis (Owned 4 percent on Yahoo!/0 percent on ESPN) is more of the traditional center but still very young at just 19 years old. Like Skal, Papa should earn more minutes, as the Kings will look to develop their young players. It really doesn’t make sense for them to keep playing Kosta Koufos.
While just 19 years old, Papa is huge at 7’1” and his displaying some rebounding skills while scoring efficiently. He’s played 22 or more minutes in each of the last two games, grabbing 10 or more rebounds in each. He also registered at least one block AND steal in each of those contests. When you’re 7’1”, blocks are easier to come by. He’s only worth looking at in 16-team leagues or deeper right now but if he earns more minutes, shallower leagues should pay attention.
All stats used before March 22 games.
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