Fantasy Basketball - 10 Players To Watch When NBA Returns
Justin Fensterman breaks down 10 players to watch for when the NBA regular season resumes play
When is the NBA resuming? We don’t know! When play does get ready to start up again, will there be a final part of the regular season? We don’t know! But, as soon as the first announcement drops, time will start moving faster and faster with business picking up. Stay prepared NOW to dominate later. Here are a few players to watch who were picking up their production prior to the halt of the season. These are player who should still see a big role even if other injured teammates return to the floor. Stay focused! Stay safe! Stay prepared! DOMINATE!
Otto Porter Jr. F CHI: It’s almost comical to start with this player of all players because we all know about his injury history, but before the season got suspended we saw Porter’s minutes start to pick up He had a few strong scoring games and now that he has all of this time to rest, he should come back to having a full workload once we get games. Porter will not only help with scoring, but he’ll also help out on the defensive side by grabbing boards and steals. Porter grabbed six steals total in his last two games. There’s always a risk when investing in Porter because of his health throughout his career, but this Bulls team doesn’t have many option. Beyond Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen , Coby White and Kris Dunn (before he got injured) have been very helpful. Even if Dunn ends up returning, Porter should be the third or fourth option. Markkanen has had a very disappointing season from a health and production standpoint. Porter will spend more time in the post than Markkanen will.
Coby White PG CHI: Since White had already been mentioned, let’s shed some light on his good rookie campaign. White has been one of the healthier Bulls this season and has been a strong producer off the bench. He keeps the offense moving at a quick pace and he has a strong drive to the basket. Other teammates will be back in action and while that will pose a threat to the amount of shots he’ll take, the Bulls second unit is weak and he’ll be able to thrive just like Dennis Schroder does in Oklahoma City. White hit the 20-point mark in 5 of his last 6 games leading up to the suspension of the league and he should still be able to play close to if not 30 minutes per game. White had been fighting for boards and steals more. Tomas Satoransky isn’t anything too special and he still has issues shooting the ball and the Bulls will see more success with White attacking the basket and keeping opposing teams moving around on the court. He’ll likely stick with the second unit once play resumes, but don’t be surprised if the Bulls try starting him to give him more reps with healthy starters on the floor in preparation for next year.
Christian Wood PF, C DET: Wood has been and will continue to be the Pistons featured big man for the rest of the season. They traded away Andre Drummond , released Markieff Morris and Blake Griffin has missed most of the year and even when on-court action returns, the Pistons will likely hold Griffin out because of fears with his Knee. Early in the season, Wood stayed out on the arc a bit more but once the frontcourt situation changed he was forced to play more in the post. Reggie Jackson being off the team helps Wood’s offensive potential. Derrick Rose will likely be back in the lineup once we get games again and Wood should be the second scoring option for the team with Bruce Brown right behind him. Other teams have already shown interest in adding Wood in the offseason. Wood was scoring nearly 25 points per game and grabbing over 9 rebounds per game when play got halted. He was even helpful in grabbing steals and blocks. Thon Maker and John Henson won’t take minutes away from him down the stretch. There are plenty of frontcourt minutes to go around.
Kevin Porter Jr. SG CLE: As the Cavs try to figure out how to build towards the future, they’ll definitely need to develop more of a second unit. Porter will continue to lead the Cavs back ups in scoring. It’ll also be interesting to see if they continue to let Kevin Love play full minutes or even at all because if he’s out of the way, it will give other Guards more shots. Porter had slowly been lifting his stats in multiple categories prior to the season getting halted. Porter was helping out in all areas and regularly scoring in double figures. He had been a bit banged up over the last few weeks, but now he has all of the time in the world to recover and even at full strength he’ll get a ton of shots and minutes. He has shot over 44 percent from the field this season. He has grabbed nearly a steal per game as well while playing over 23 minutes per game. His minutes have been raised to around 26 per game over the last few weeks. Beyond Love and Collin Sexton , Porter’s main competition for shots and time with the ball is Darius Garland , but they can share the court since they play different positions.
De’Andre Hunter SF ATL: It took a few shifts in the roster for Hunter to get the experience he’s needed to adjust to the professional level of play. Once John Collins got suspended, it gave him more room to grow in the Hawks offense, but it wasn’t until Jabari Parker got hurt and then traded that we saw Hunter blossom. The Hawks have been dealing with a revolving door of players being on and off the court and they were pretty active at the trade deadline. Hunter has proven over the last month and a half of action that he not only can handle SF responsibilities, but he can also shift up to PF and bang against bigger players. Over the last few weeks of play, he had been pulling down over seven rebounds per game. He has forced himself in the post more and credit goes to the Hawks for adjusting his role because he had been calling for the ball more at the elbow and it has allowed for him to gain better positioning towards the basket and it gave him better rebounding opportunities. Hunter will still do his damage from downtown once play resumes. There’s a reason he was a top-five draft pick heading into this season. He’ll continue to play over 30 minutes per game for the rest of the way and even if Clint Capela ends up suiting up, Hunter will still get as much SF minutes as he can handle and he’ll continue shifting up to PF when Collins needs a breather.
Malik Beasley G MIN: A lot will hinge on whether or not Karl-Anthony Towns will return to action and be given full minutes. With the Timberwolves looking at the lottery, they may want to protect their investment. Even if Towns returns, Beasley’s value should be safe for the most part. Beasley came in and legitimately boxed Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver out of their rotation spots and he has been an excellent complimentary weapon in the backcourt to D’Angelo Russell. Beasley will attack the basket a bit more than Russell and when Russell draws double-teams, he’ll be able to hit an open Beasley a good amount. Denver is just a very deep team and there’s hardly room for players to get extra minutes because of their depth and it’s no coincidence that Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez have thrived since being traded. The Timberwolves don’t have that much depth and with other guard-forwards needing to step up and play minutes in the post, it has opened things up more for Beasley. Beasley was scoring over 20 points per game in the weeks leading up to the suspension of the league. He also helped pull down boards and was grabbing more than four per game before play was stopped. He has earned his spot and should play close to 30 minutes per game down the stretch. He has gone from being the hunter to the hunted when it comes to the ‘Wolves rotation.
Juancho Hernangomez F MIN: As long as Michael Porter Jr. was on the Nuggets, Hernangomez didn’t have any hope of gaining any kind of rotation security. Hernangomez has a strong drive but complimentary weapons often get lost in Denver because of the great depth that they have. Another bad sign was Denver trading for Jerami Grant in the off-season and with the amount of minutes that Will Barton plays, he would need multiple injuries in order to see an increase in minutes. Now in Minnesota, his main competition for minutes is James Johnson . Hernangomez has been starting for the Timberwolves and should continue to do so for the rest of the way. In his last handful of games before play was stopped, he was playing over 29 minutes per game and shooting over 46 percent from the field. He was helping out a ton on the glass and grabbing steals in the lane. Hernangomez is good at popping out to the arc after initially setting up in the paint. He was hitting two or more three-pointers per game over the last few weeks of live action. It’s great that he can hit long-range shots, but it’s the sacrificing of his body, driving into traffic to draw more contact. Will Towns take shots away from him? Yes! Is there still room for him to produce while splitting minutes with James Johnson ? Absolutely! Hernangomez earned his starting role and even if for some reason the Timberwolves decide to pair Towns with Johnson, Hernangomez will be featured a ton off the bench.
PJ Washington F CHA: It’s been an interesting peaks and valley’s type of season for Washington. After starting the season off strong, he started trying to take advantage of his shooting range too much. Teams started putting more players on the perimeter against Charlotte because none of the guards or forwards wanted to drive the lane except for Terry Rozier . Miles Bridges and Washington hung around the arc way too much and it got to the point that Washington became as dependent on long-range shots as Duncan Robinson has for Miami. A forward has to have a post game of some kind and Washington hit a wall after the first month and a half of the season. Before play was stopped, Washington (like Bridges did a month before him) figured out that there is a way to get a screen at the elbow, shift over a few feet and get an open shot from inside the arc. He’s scored 17 or more points in four of his last five games. Washington has held steady with his rebounding as he has grabbed 5.4 boards per game. With Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist off the team, Washington is forced to log more minutes, especially at PF. Bismack Biyombo has no idea what he’s doing on offense and the only player who will take away a few minutes away from the forwards will be Cody Martin . His 30 minutes per game are safe for the rest of the way.
Marquese Chriss PF, C GSW: People forget that Chriss was a top-10 draft pick and he just hasn’t been able to find his fit in the league. Chriss was an after thought on this Warriors team, but once he was given 15 minutes he showed what he can do. The Warriors got rid of Willie Cauley-Stein and that made Chriss the front man for the Warriors and even though Stephen Curry is back, Chriss will be the prioritized scoring big man for the rest of the season. Draymond Green isn’t really a scorer. Kevon Looney can’t stay healthy and Dragan Bender is essentially the “Chriss 2.0” of this team because he is now in the position that Chriss was in when he first joined the team and is earning more minutes. Bender getting 15-20 minutes will not take away from Chriss. If needed, Chriss can help out at PF if Green is hurt allowing Eric Paschall to spend more time at SF. Chriss scored 13 points and grabbed 9.5 boards in his last eight games. Chriss can hit baby jumpers from right outside the paint. He blocked a shot per game during that stretch and grabbed nearly a steal per game as well. Nobody will take Chriss’ minutes from him.
RJ Barrett SG, SF NY: While most of the focus is on Zion Williamson and Ja Morant , Barrett has been improving his game. He’s taking smarter shots and is driving to the basket a lot. Barrett has been scoring more and can always be relied on for rebounding. One thing that Barrett is doing more of is making better passes. Owners will benefit from this because the Knicks will rely on him a good amount to bring the ball up. In his last few weeks of action, Barrett shot over 45 percent from the field. One added benefit lately has been the impact Elfrid Payton has clearly had on Barrett as the two have bolstered the Knicks perimeter defense throughout the season. Over his last handful of games Barrett grabbed a steal per game. Overuse was a big problem for him earlier in the season as Coach David Fizdale wanted to run him into the ground and play him for 40 minutes a game. In his last few weeks of action, Barrett has been playing 30 minutes per game. He’ll continue to improve his shot selection and long-range game and he’ll also show more improvement in passing and perimeter defense. Expect more steals down the stretch.