After one of the more enjoyable All-Star Weekends in recent memory, it’s time for those in fantasy basketball leagues to refocus after the long break and gear up for the playoffs. Basketball of course isn’t nearly as popular as football and the mighty NFL but it’s slowly gaining fans as superstars in both the Western and Eastern conference have started to emerge. The daily fantasy leagues are helping the NBA get more attention and we’ll look to help you out there in the coming days as well as those in old school 8- and 9-category leagues.
Finding player information can be a bit of a challenge especially when compared to the blanket coverage the NFL receives. We’ll do our best here to play a part in giving you as much information as possible while you search your league’s waiver wire. Before we jump into the fantasy, let’s do a quick recap of how the league is faring at the halfway point.
No one is getting more positive press than Steph Curry and the streaking Warriors as they look to defend their title and obliterate records along the way with their sights clearly set on the Bulls’ 72-win total. The Spurs are close behind in the standings but when they played a few weeks ago the standings proved to be the only place they were close.
Westbrook and Durant have been doing their usual heavy lifting to keep the Thunder in the conversation while the Clippers are navigating some troubled waters at the moment with Chris Paul trying to keep the team afloat after Blake Griffin made the bone-headed decision to attack a team staffer. After the Thunder and Clippers, the West has the Grizzlies, Mavs, Blazers and Jazz all vying for playoff spots. The Rockets and Kings are the drama queens of the West currently looking in from the outside.
The gap between the West and the East has been extreme in recent seasons but the East is closing in fast. King James still reigns supreme with his team of old wily vets while the upstart Raptors and Celtics are nipping at their heels. Last year’s darlings, the Atlanta Hawks are in the middle of the pack this season while only 8 games separate teams 5-13 in the rest of the conference.
The All-Star break is a good way to recharge those batteries and for those teams looking to make that final push for the playoffs as they’ll be working the phones with the Thursday trade deadline fast approaching. As is the usual case in every league, big names are being mentioned as possible trade scenarios unfold, but in the end, we’ll be lucky if we get one major blockbuster. I’ll be back after the deadline on Friday with analysis of any major trades that go down.
So with that said, let’s take a look at possible waiver wire additions and injuries concerns by category –
Chairman of the Boards – Just before the break, Taj Gibson of the Chicago Bulls pulled himself out of a game with a left foot strain and was unable to return. With the front line of the Bulls already thin, Gibson’s health is of the utmost concern. Reports early this week noted that Gibson was seen in a hospital, so it would be no surprise to see the Bulls play it safe with one of their best rebounders. If Gibson misses time, look for early season sensation Bobby Portis to get another chance to make some noise.
Assisted Living – For those riding the rejuvenated wave of Tony Parker’s surprise season, be prepared for the bottom to drop. Since missing a game last month in Phoenix, Parker bounced back and doled out 5-or-more assists in over half his games heading into the break. With the playoffs looming and the Spurs settling in to that 2 seed with little chance to catch the Warriors, expect Parker to be parked on the bench down the stretch. Parker’s time as an assist asset is coming to a close. It might be wise to pluck Patty Mills off the wire (only 7% owned in ESPN leagues) although I know you really don’t want to depend on fantasy output from the Spurs as Popovich could sit anybody on a whim.
Block(s) Party – While Jerami Grant is likely to return to a bench role after the break for the Sixers, he has been able to flourish in that role and put up numbers regardless. For those who own Nerlens Noel, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to pull a little handcuff action here. Grant has shown serious skills and ball-hawking ability nabbing 21 blocks in his previous 12 games and while being only 15% owned, he’s at minimum, someone to keep on your watch list.
Points of Emphasis – The Trailblazers were off to a tepid start but have since heated up and now find themselves in the mix in the bottom half of the playoff race in the West. The Blazers have been searching for that third scoring option to help out ‘should have been All-Star’ Damian Lillard and preseason favorite C.J. McCollum. Gerald Henderson has emerged putting up double figure scoring in 8 of the last 9 contests, chipping in valuable steals in the process. If the Blazers want to keep fighting for the playoffs, Gerald Henderson will have to be a big part of those plans. Being eligible at forward and guard makes him even more enticing to own.
Man of Steals – Finding steals on the waiver wire is always a challenge no matter what league you’re in. In the past, you could always plug in someone like Tony Allen of the Grizzlies but all you would be doing there is hurting yourself in the other categories. Finding someone that can chip in across the board is always ideal. Although he’s been constantly plagued by nagging injuries, hopefully Patrick Beverley was able to get some rest and relaxation and can get back to being the defensive spark plug the Rockets need. At 14% ownership, Beverley is likely available and ready to contribute.