1) Jimmy Butler had an eventful week, first making news after electing to “rest” during the All-Star game, even challenging Lou Williams to a game of 1-on-1 for $100K, and then suffering a knee injury that will sideline him indefinitely. It’s a brutal blow both to fantasy owners (he was the No. 10 ranked player this year) and Minnesota (they’ve allowed a ghastly 114.6 points per 100 possessions when Butler is off the court this season, a mark that would easily rank last in the NBA on the season).
2) Nemanja Bjelica is the biggest beneficiary, as he’s now looking at a significant increase in playing time and is owned in just 15 percent of Yahoo leagues (and will be a popular cheap target in DFS for the time being). Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns all stand to benefit as well with jumps in Usage Rate. KAT is even playing better defense of late.
3) There was some Trey Burke hype when he first joined New York, and now he’s the most added player in Yahoo leagues (still owned in just 20 percent though). The former top-10 pick has averaged 25.5 points and 7.0 assists over the last two games, when he’s attempted a whopping 41 shots while averaging a modest 28.0 mpg.
4) One game after going off for a career-high 38 points, Bobby Portis saw just 19 minutes of action, as he’s still not getting starter’s run. But he’s scored double digits in eight straight games, and he’s going to be fully unleashed at some point. Portis remains available in half of Yahoo leagues.
5) Teammate Lauri Markkanen may be hitting the proverbial rookie wall, as he’s scored just three points in two straight games (while shooting 1-of-8 in each). The 20-year-old’s production has fallen off noticeably on the second night of back-to-backs this season, and he stayed plenty active over the All-Star break, so it’s possible Markkanen is wearing down.
6) Alex Len may never be consistent (and Tyson Chandler still looms), but he’s recorded back-to-back double-doubles, grabbing 13 boards in each game. His FG% is up to 56.9 on the year, and there’s no reason for the tanking Suns not to let him loose. Len is owned in just 35 percent of leagues, but there’s a ton of upside if his new starting role becomes permanent.
7) Paul George leads the NBA with 4.4 deflections per game (the next closest is Robert Covington and Thaddeus Young tied at 3.8), and teammate Russell Westbrook recovers the most loose balls per game (2.0), while DeMarcus Cousins drew the most charges per game (0.50) before going down.
8) Among players who’ve averaged at least 20 mpg this season, Isaiah Thomas owns by far the worst plus/minus (-7.1) in the NBA.
9) Buddy Hield has his flaws, but his catch-and-shoot FG% (52.3) is the best in the NBA.
10) Andre Drummond became just the fourth player to lead the NBA in rebounds at the All-Star break in at least three straight seasons. (How crazy is it that Shaq never led the NBA in rpg or bpg in any season during his career?)
11) Drummond’s current 15.7 rpg mark is the most since Dennis Rodman averaged 16.1 in 1996/97. And Drummond’s 4.8 screen assists per game are tied for the most in the league this season.
12) I really enjoyed the first “Uncle Drew” commercial, but it’s hard to see that working as a movie.
13) The Spurs are the No. 3 seed right now but just two games ahead in the loss column of the No. 9 seeded Clippers. And the No. 10 seeded Jazz look like a lock to make the playoffs if healthy. San Antonio is obviously coached better than any team, but the Kawhi Leonard situation is as murky as ever, and their schedule is incredibly difficult down the stretch. As crazy as it sounds, the Spurs aren’t a lock to make the playoffs.
14) Although S.A. did just end a four-game losing streak by winning in Cleveland, when the Cavs starters other than LeBron James combined to score 14 points (the lowest for any game during his career).
15) The Cavs have the best record in the Eastern Conference in close games (+/- 5 points in the final five minutes), while the Raptors are barely .500. While most football games within a score are generally considered 50/50 toss ups, basketball is different, as defense simply intensifies at the end of games. In other words, this means something.
16) The Rockets have won 12 straight games (their second such streak this year) and have shot more three-pointers than twos this season.
17) J.J. Barea has averaged 16.0 points and 10.3 assists over the past three games, a two-week span in which he’s been a top-45 fantasy player. He’s handed out 9.1 apg over the last seven contests and is owned in only 26 percent of leagues, so add Barea if you need dimes.
18) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has his legal issues behind him and is seeing a ton of run lately (despite playing on an expiring contract), even hoisting 20 shots during a win in Sacramento on Saturday. The young Lakers continue to produce a surprising amount of productive fantasy players, which works nicely for those who like to play late slate DFS.
19) Julius Randle has averaged 19.6-8.9-5.0 over the last seven games despite seeing a modest 31.7 mpg. He’s shot 61.3 percent from the field over that span, although he has gone 0-for-6 at the line the last two games.
20) Anthony Davis is predictably going bonkers without DeMarcus Cousins, as he’s averaged 39.2 points, 14.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 3.4 steals and 2.8 blocks over the past five games (all Pelicans wins), shooting 54.0 percent from the floor and 83.0 percent from the line. The video game numbers stretch has AD pulling away as the clear top fantasy player this year, and only health can prevent him from finishing that way.
21) Davis recently became the first player ever to score 40 points with 15 rebounds, five steals and five blocks in a game, and interestingly, he’s assisted an abnormally high amount for an elite scorer.
22) Speaking of hot stretches, Nikola Jokic just ripped off three straight triple-doubles, recording one of them in NBA-record time (it took him just 14:33 of court time, reaching the feat with nearly two minutes still to go before halftime). Jokic followed that span up with a ho-hum 21-14-8 performance Sunday, shamefully falling two assists shy of his fourth straight triple double. He’s the only player in the NBA currently averaging 10 boards and six assists.
23) I don’t believe Russell Westbrook much appreciated a taunting Swaggy P.
24) Over the last month, Josh Richardson has been the No. 20 ranked fantasy player, ahead of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.