It’s playoff time.
With the majority of leagues entering postseason play on Monday, it’s critical that owners are still looking to find value where their opposition isn’t looking. That means examining hot streaks, cold spells, injury issues, depth charts and loads of split statistics. Or you could just read Rotoworld every day and still be ahead of the competition. Your call. But if you’ve made it this far, odds are you’re already a member of the latter group and that’s why your team is still playing at this point.
With teams fighting for seeding from both ends of the spectrum, the last few weeks almost always throw a few curveballs—and even a couple of knuckle-curves—at owners unexpectedly. Your roster is a constant evolution, not unlike Anthony Morrow’s role with the Thunder this season, and it’s imperative to always keep it moving forward.
This is not the time to be complacent. Take advantage of the little tweaks where it makes sense to do so on your roster.
Here are a handful of names to target, and this week’s batch even includes a couple of guys who are still weirdly floating around too many waiver wires.
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Brandan Wright, F/C Phoenix Suns: Blocks, Field Goal Percentage
When Alex Len has his health under him and is fueled with the confidence he showed earlier this season, one can understand what the Phoenix Suns saw when tabbing him at No. 5 in the 2013 draft. However, Len has now dealt with multiple ankle sprains again this season after battling through an injury-plagued rookie campaign, and although the seven-footer has returned to the lineup, there is every reason to believe Phoenix will exceed with extreme caution as their season unfolds over the next few weeks.
In his first game back from injury, Len played just 18 minutes, and this time it wasn’t because of foul trouble since he had just one all game. Showing some expected signs of rust, Len managed just a 2-of-10 effort from the field for five points, six boards and a steal. That doesn’t help anyone, and that’s not the reason you rostered Len on your team to begin with originally. In his second game back, Len managed to perform a little better with 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks (five fouls) in just under 26 minutes.
And that’s where Wright comes in.
Prior to Sunday’s dud of just eight points, three boards and a block (4-of-7 shooting), Wright had averaged an impressive 14.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in the three contests prior. Did I mention that he also shot 18-of-25 (72 percent!) from the field during that stretch? Although he’s no longer a member of the starting lineup with Len back in the fold, Wright is going to be integral for the remainder of the campaign. With Miles Plumlee having been shipped to Milwaukee, there is no tangible depth behind Wright to challenge him for minutes in his current role.
Let’s put it all together: Injury concerns to the current starter, Wright already plays a key role in the rotation, he contributes in several desirable stats for fantasy owners and should have nothing but opportunity down the stretch. In other words, if you’re just reading this...it might be too late.
J.J. Redick, SG Los Angeles Clippers: 3-Pointers
Jamal Crawford (calf) is not a lock to return this season, and that means the Clippers are now paper-thin at two critical positions in shooting guard and small forward. That’s good news for Matt Barnes, and it’s better news for J.J. Redick.
For those who haven’t noticed, Redick has been on a tear since the All-Star break with averages of 19.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals and 2.8 triples on 46.9 percent shooting, including 41 percent from distance and a scorching 97.8 percent from the foul line. The Duke product is also firing up an insane 6.9 attempts per game in the unofficial second half of the season, and as good as that has been, Redick has taken it to a new level in March when the Clippers have needed him most.
Part of Redick’s uptick in production was due to Blake Griffin (elbow) missing time, but another part of it is that the Clippers need this version of Redick to show himself on the regular. With averages of 21.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.9 steals and 3.1 triples (12 games) while seeing just about 37 minutes per contest, Redick is producing in admirable fashion. It’s been Redick’s best month of the season, and the fact that he’s averaging 16.2 shots per game this month (Chris Paul, for reference, is at 17.9) indicates the Clippers are continuing to look in his direction.
Redick is an ideal trade target in a classic 2-for-1 exchange.
Ish Smith, PG Philadelphia 76ers: Steals, Assists
Ish, one of the fastest point guards the NBA has ever seen, has run hot and cold since he joined Philadelphia, but Smith has found a nice little groove over the last four games. With at least 26 minutes in each of those contests, the speedster is averaging 13.8 points, 7.5 assists and 1.5 steals. Also encouraging for Smith’s stock is the fact that he’s hoisted up double-digit shot attempts in every contest since March 4—and he’s only seen his role grow since that time.
Coming into Sunday, Smith had actually seen more playing time than Canaan in each of the last two contests—both Sixers wins—and sure enough, although the Sixers lost to the Lakers on Sunday to snap a two-game winning streak, Smith again saw more minutes (29) than Canaan (22). Both point guards shot horribly from the field, but Smith’s nine points and nine dimes (4-of-13 shooting) ran circles around Canaan’s effort: 1-of-12 shooting, three points, two assists and five fouls.
Brett Brown has illustrated an impressive ability to motivate his players in every contest regardless of the score, the team’s record or where Philadelphia is on the schedule, and because he’s playing for an NBA future, Smith shouldn’t have much trouble finding his own internal motivation, either. That’s a recipe that should make for some successful results even if there is a sprinkle or two of inconsistency mixed in, and as someone who’s available in the large majority of the leagues on the waiver wire so late in the year, I’d compare a late-season flier on Smith to buying a $2 scratch ticket. It’s all upside.
Anthony Morrow, SG/SF Oklahoma City Thunder: 3-Pointers
In a familiar and running theme in OKC’s injury-plagued season, Anthony Morrow is the next man up.
Since March began, Morrow has been a man possessed from behind the three-point arc, but the three-point sniper’s onslaught from the floor has been on and popping since right after the All-Star break. Since that point in the season, Morrow is shooting an electric 49.0 percent from the field—and get this—an unbelievable 48.6 percent while averaging 6.4 attempts from distance. Averaging 2.6 triples per game is quite good, but averaging 3.1 puts him Morrow in an elite class, and that’s what he’s been able to do this month. On Sunday, Morrow added 12 more points, two more steals a block and two more triples to his stat sheet, giving him four straight games with at least a steal in addition to his performance from deep.
What’s been most impressive in Morrow’s emergence has been how he’s performed when his club has needed him to step up. Before Sunday’s contest, Morrow had made a whopping 35 triples since March 8 (six games), and that means he’s connecting on nearly six triples per contest. On Sunday, he dropped another two down the well, so while that’s not as impressive as his recent onslaught, the Thunder also won in a blowout on Sunday against Miami.
A true specialist, Morrow’s fantasy value is dependent on his ability to swish the trey ball. But with an expanding role, his team needing him to do more and as one of the best three-point shooters this league has ever seen, Morrow projects well over the remainder of the season and will remind a lot of fans why he was one of free agency’s best bargain-bin values of the offseason.