We’re in the crucial home stretch of the fantasy campaign and rest-of-season value is coming firmly into focus. It’s nice to be appreciative of what some waiver wire gems have done for you to date, but we’re now in the “what have you done for me lately” stage of the game as teams battle for playoff positioning and prepare for a lengthy postseason run.
Question 1: Nerlens Noel or Willie Cauley-Stein and Terrence Ross in a nine-category dynasty league where I can keep one side forever?
I know it’s an annual tradition that we all get excited about players that emerge with value as a result of the trade deadline, but it’s important not to get carried away when setting our expectations. Because this is a dynasty format we have to consider both then and now, but in both scenarios, it comes back to the same singular name: Noel.
It still doesn’t feel like Noel gets enough credit for the kind of contributor, both in reality and fantasy, that he’s capable of consistently being. Noel will be just 23 years young in April, and he’s already shown that he can be an elite rim protector in this league. Now that he’s finally escaped Philadelphia and landed on a team that plans to build its roster with Noel as its starting center—Mark Cuban did not bring in a long-term answer at a position of need in a contract season only to watch him walk this summer—it’s time to again view him through the proper lens.
There is elite top-50 upside here due to Noel’s defensive contributions, and he’s going to serve as an anchor of a club that is finally starting to think about its rebuild in the post-Dirk Nowitzki era. Although Trill & T-Ross are both playing in renewed and growing roles, there just isn’t enough for me to bank on in order to pass on Noel’s difference-making ability.
Question 2: Terrence Jones or Malcolm Brogdon?
Unlike milk for Ron Burgundy on that hot day in Anchorman, Milwaukee was a good choice for Jones when it came to his fantasy value and chance to build a market for himself entering another summer of free agency. Although it was mildly surprising to see Jones and his minimum salary pass through waivers unclaimed, the Bucks decided to take a flier on the big man after losing Michael Beasley—at least temporarily—to a knee injury. Mirza Teletovic has been a disappointment for the majority of the season and Thon Maker is still as raw as fresh tuna at the sushi bar, so there is an opportunity for Jones to make his presence felt.
But as we all know, there are no guarantees when it comes to Jason Kidd’s rotations.
Brogdon is clearly trending up—he’s reassumed his rightful place as the team’s starting point guard—and had averaged 17.3 points, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 2.0 3-pointers over his last three games prior to Friday’s tilt vs. Los Angeles. Given we’ve seen Brogdon consistently—and surprisingly—produce in his inaugural season when given the opportunity and that Jones has only shown flashes, I’m much more inclined to ride with the guy who has already earned his spot.
Question 3: Terrence Ross or Tyler Johnson for the rest of the season?
It’s somewhat amazing that there have been so many questions about Johnson’s value this season given he’s been a steady top-75 asset, and that concerning chatter over a crowded Miami backcourt has quickly faded into a dampened whimper.
Johnson does a little bit of everything—including underrated defensive contributions—and it’s not a fluke that he came into Friday’s matchup vs. Orlando with season averages of 14.0 points, 4.2 boards, 3.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.2 treys. The $50 million contract Miami kept him on sent sticker shock up and down the spines of some, but it’s not generating that same reaction any longer.
Question 4: Richaun Holmes, Alan Williams or Willie Cauley-Stein with one open roster spot?
I really like what Holmes brings to the table for both an NBA team and fantasy roster, but the momentum Big Sauce is gathering in Phoenix might soon cause a dust storm. I’ll take Williams, especially since the playing time is moving in the right direction, he’s got the backing of his head coach and is contributing in five fantasy categories.
Question 5: In a 16-team points league, should I make a move to grab Josh Richardson off of the waiver wire? If so, which one of these players should I drop: Denzel Valentine, Larry Nance or Ivica Zubac?
Zubac is an elite stash, so he’s an easy first one to eliminate. You’ll want to keep him on the roster.
Nance has really struggled to make an impact, but he also has the potential to be an asset. Valentine has a jammed path to playing time at point guard (Rajon Rondo, Cameron Payne, Jerian Grant), shooting guard (Dwyane Wade) and small forward (Jimmy Butler) despite the front office’s desire to see the young man play, while Richardson is again working his way back from injury after significant time away and is not promised to enjoy the same role so many projected for him initially on this team.
I’d personally be more patient with Valentine than Nance because the Lakers are emphasizing playing time for Julius Randle and Zubac going forward, but by no means is Richardson, Nance or Valentine a “must-have” in standard formats right now.