Who is trending up? Which rotations are changing? What’s the latest with the notable injuries and players in health and safety protocols around the NBA?
Here’s a look around the league at the most fantasy relevant news and notes for all 30 teams:
Atlanta Hawks: Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter are among the Hawks’ 12 players included in the league’s health and safety protocols. Offensively, Trae Young has had to bear a lot of the burden. Over the last 14 games, he averaged 30.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 9.6 APG and 1.1 SPG in 35.7 MPG. It is expected that some of Young’s teammates will rejoin the Hawks rotation for Friday’s matchup with the Cavaliers.
Boston Celtics: Dennis Schroder and Jayson Tatum are two of six Celtics who are included in the league’s health and safety protocols. In the last four games, Robert Williams III has provided first round value for fantasy managers in category formats. Over that span of time, he has averaged 14 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.0 SPG and 2.5 BPG. Williams is likely to exceed the expectations fantasy managers had for him prior to the season if he stays healthy.
Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving cleared league health and safety protocols on Tuesday and was back at practice on Wednesday, according to head coach Steve Nash. It may take up to two weeks for the veteran point guard to reacclimate. The presence of Irving, who is not vaccinated and can only participate in road games, negatively impacts Patty Mills‘ outlook. In the last 14 games with the Nets’ roster decimated by COVID-19, Mills averaged 17.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, and 35 MPG.
Charlotte Hornets: Jalen McDaniels has gotten some extra minutes with Miles Bridges, P.J. Washington and Scottie Lewis in the Hornets’ protocols. So far this season, he has averaged only 18 MPG. However, McDaniels puts up 15.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per 40 minutes, and is getting more playing time on the short-handed squad. If you need a short-term streamer, he’s available in 98.4% of ESPN leagues.
Chicago Bulls: Coby White has thrived since the Bulls have five players in the protocols, including Lonzo Ball. As a result, he averaged 15.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.8 APG and 31.3 MPG during the last four games. White is available in 90% of ESPN leagues. Those fantasy managers who were able to acquire Nikola Vucevic weeks ago have been rewarded. In his last eight games, he has six double-doubles.
Cleveland Cavaliers: As Collin Sexton is also out for the season, the Cavaliers were dealt a devastating blow when Ricky Rubio suffered a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee. Darius Garland should clear protocols soon and should be heavily relied on. In addition, Isaac Okoro is available in 93% of ESPN leagues and could see more minutes. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft has averaged 13 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per 40 minutes this season.
Dallas Mavericks: In the media, discussion has continued about Luka Doncic‘s work ethic, conditioning and underwhelming statistical performance — at least by his standards — so far this season. Jalen Brunson is fantasy relevant with or without Doncic on the court, and is available in 42.3% of ESPN leagues. This season, he is one of fantasy’s top waiver-wire picks, averaging 16.1 PPG, 5.5 APG, 3.8 RPG and 1.1 3PG.
Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic has been on a tear lately trying to close the gap on Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant in this year’s Most Valuable Player Award race. Jokic is the third player in the last 40 years to average 25 points, 20 rebounds and five assists in three games, following Charles Barkley in 1986 and DeMarcus Cousins in 2015. Jokic is currently on pace for the best PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of all time. Due to the lack of talent around him, this trend should continue.
Detroit Pistons: Hamidou Diallo went for a season-high 31 points and chipped in with 13 rebounds, four assists and four steals on Wednesday against the Knicks. He has averaged a healthy 14 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.0 APG and 2.0 SPG for the month of December. With the Pistons eight players in the league protocols, Diallo should continue to be given opportunities, and is available in 95% of ESPN leagues. Don’t forget about Saddiq Bey, too. The second-year swingman is available in 40% of ESPN leagues and has scored 15 or more points in seven-straight games.
Golden State Warriors: Draymond Green is one of three Warriors in the protocols. His absence gives Juan Toscano-Anderson the opportunity to see more minutes which makes him a streaming option in deeper formats. This season, JTA has averaged just 16.7 minutes per game, but he averages 12 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists per 40 minutes. Toscano-Anderson is available in almost all ESPN leagues.
Houston Rockets: In his return from a thigh injury, Kevin Porter Jr. had a standout game against the Lakers, scoring 22 points, grabbing five rebounds, dishing out nine assists, and making a steal and a block. Porter Jr.’s field goal percentage and turnovers are areas of improvement, but his contributions elsewhere compensate for them. Porter Jr. is available in 45% of ESPN leagues.
Indiana Pacers: As we approach the deadline, trade rumors continue to surround the Pacers. It was Sun Tzu who said “in the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity,” which applies to Oshae Brissett. Brissett only plays 17 minutes per game, but he averages 14.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists per 40 minutes. He should be on your watch list.
LA Clippers: Paul George is expected to miss three to four weeks with a torn ligament in his right elbow, but he could miss much longer. It should open up more opportunities for Terance Mann. He has averaged 29 MPG this season with a USG of 14.6%. Meanwhile, George had a 33% USG. Mann is available in 87.6% of ESPN leagues, and Clippers coach Ty Lue has publicly stated Mann “can be more aggressive offensively.”. He can provide points, rebounds and assists.
Los Angeles Lakers: Malik Monk has averaged 20 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 BPG and 35.4 MPG over his last three games. LeBron James is the only other Lakers player to have averaged more PPG than Monk over this time period. He’s available in 92.6% of ESPN leagues and worth a look.
Memphis Grizzlies: In December, Desmond Bane has been superb and has shown why he is a legitimate candidate for the Most Improved Player award. This month, Bane has averaged 19 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 SPG and 30.6 MPG. Thus far in December, he is a top-50 player in category formats and available in 33.6% of ESPN leagues.
Miami Heat: On Wednesday, Gabe Vincent was placed in the league’s protocols. In the last nine games, he averaged 14.3 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.4 RPG,and 1.2 SPG. With Vincent out, Tyler Herro will be inserted into the starting lineup. In his last nine games, Herro — the Sixth Man of the Year frontrunner — has averaged 18.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 4.2 APG.
Milwaukee Bucks: Jrue Holiday has been ranked among the top-40 players in category formats for the past two weeks, averaging 25 PPG and 8.2 APG as the Bucks had several players through the league protocols. He has a USG of 25% this season, which may decrease as Donte DiVincenzo — who made his season debut on Dec. 25 — shakes some rust off and sees his minutes increase. Fantasy managers have an opportunity to deal Holiday while his fantasy value is high.
Minnesota Timberwolves: In most leagues, Patrick Beverley should be on a roster. Because of his assists and rebounding numbers, he will retain fantasy relevancy even when D’Angelo Russell returns from the protocols. This season, Beverley has averaged 8.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.0 SPG and 1 BPG in 26.6 MPG. You can find him in 90% of ESPN leagues.
New Orleans Pelicans: Josh Hart‘s field goal percentage has been 64.2% over the last seven games. During this period, he has averaged 17 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 5.1 APG and 1.3 SPG in a whopping 37 MPG as the Pelicans have had various players in and out of the protocols. Hart is available in 62.2% of ESPN leagues, so he’s a valuable addition to any hoops team, but if you already have Hart on your roster, I recommend you put him on your trade block to see what offers you receive.
New York Knicks: Kemba Walker has been reintegrated into the Knicks rotation after returning from his exile by Tom Thibodeau. However, since a 44-point outburst against the Wizards on Dec. 23, Walker has scored just 22 points in his past three games. Alec Burks, on the other hand, should be back on the radar of fantasy managers after scoring a season high 34 points, grabbing four rebounds, giving two assists and taking three steals on Wednesday against the Pistons. He is available in 86% of ESPN leagues.
Oklahoma City Thunder: A tremendous performance by Aaron Wiggins on Wednesday against the Suns may allow him to play more minutes. His last three games with the Thunder, who had six players in the league protocols, Wiggins averaged 20 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG and 1.3 3PG. The rookie second-rounder out of Maryland is available in nearly all ESPN leagues and as a swingman should be able to play with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Orlando Magic: Franz Wagner scored 38 points against the Bucks on Wednesday, becoming the youngest player in franchise history with a 30-point game. Shaquille O’Neal was the previous youngest. In 38 minutes, Wagner collected seven rebounds, three assists, a steal, a block, and four 3-pointers. Somehow, the versatile Rookie of the Year candidate is available in 44.3% of ESPN leagues; he should be rostered in more leagues.
Philadelphia 76ers: December has been a fantastic month for Joel Embiid. He has averaged 29 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 SPG and 1.3 BPG in 34.7 MPG. That being said, when participating in fantasy basketball leagues, you should never get too comfortable. Embiid is someone you should consider trading. Why? Because if Ben Simmons is traded, the players acquired could lower Embiid’s usage rate. Additionally, and just as importantly, Embiid has never played more than 64 games in a season.
Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker made history Wednesday night against the Thunder. He joined LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the only players in league history with 10,000 points and 800 3-pointers before their 26th birthday. Meanwhile, JaVale McGee continues to be absurdly efficient, averaging only 16.2 MPG this season. In addition, McGee’s USG is 23%, and he averages 25.7 points and 18 rebounds per 40 minutes, making him especially useful whenever Deandre Ayton is out. McGee is available in 87.4% of ESPN leagues.
Portland Trail Blazers: There are seven Trail Blazers in the league protocols, including Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington. Nassir Little had a disappointing line against the Jazz on Wednesday night, but has been solid for the month of December and logged an impressive 28.4 MPG. He has averaged 9.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.6 SPG and 2.0 BPG during the month, and is available in 94.3% of ESPN leagues despite being able to contribute in multiple statistical categories.
Sacramento Kings: After missing six games due to the protocols, Davion Mitchell returned to the Kings with an underwhelming performance. The point guard, who is available in 96% of ESPN leagues, averaged 12.6 PPG, 5.0 APG and 2.2 RPG in his previous five games. The Kings have been one of the healthiest teams in the league when it comes to COVID-19, so Mitchell is someone you should keep an eye on; the rookie has the talent to heat up.
San Antonio Spurs: With Dejounte Murray in the protocols, Derrick White is expected to pick up the slack. White has averaged 14.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG and 30.7 MPG this season with a USG of 21.2%. Kevin Johnson is also playing well. He has averaged 18.7 points and 7.3 rebounds over the last three games. Johnson is only available in 27.5% of ESPN leagues.
Toronto Raptors: Fantasy managers are wondering if Chris Boucher will remain an integral part of the Raptors rotation after one of his best games of his career against the 76ers on Tuesday night. In December, Boucher played well, averaging 14.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG and 24.7 MPG on the short-handed Raptors. If you have the roster space, you should make a preemptive pickup prior to Toronto’s Dec. 31 game against the Clippers. Boucher is available in 41% of ESPN leagues.
Utah Jazz: In spite of playing behind Rudy Gobert, Hassan Whiteside has been productive with his 15.4 MPG. The veteran center, who twice has led the league in blocks per game and once has led in rebounds per game, averages 21 points and 17.5 rebounds per 40 minutes this season and is a deeper league target available in 65% of ESPN leagues.
Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal and Montrezl Harrell are two of eight Wizards players who are in league protocols. Consequently, Kyle Kuzma has scored at least 10 points in three-straight games. He has also amassed at least 10 rebounds in two of those games. Despite playing 32.4 MPG this season, Kuzma remains available in 22% of ESPN leagues.