Hollis Thompson is launching from distance with a neon-green light, Gerald Henderson is taking advantage of the wide-open path in front of him, Al-Farouq Aminu is finally playing a real role and Marcus Thornton never stops shooting.
Those are the lessons we're going to dive into this week. As we near the middle of February (already?!), the waiver wire is getting thin, outside help is getting harder to find and owners are getting more stringent when it comes to wheeling and dealing.
With some short-term boosts (Aminu, Thornton) and some longer-term looks (Thompson, Henderson), there is still cheap help to be found in an effort to move up the standings.
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Hollis Thompson, F Philadelphia 76ers: 3-Pointers
I know it’s tough for most NBA fans to watch the Sixers unless Philadelphia is visiting your squad on any given evening, but in addition to forming one of the league’s more promising defensive units as the season has gone on, there has been some nice development on this roster, as well. And while Robert Covington has seemingly sealed up the waiver-wire pickup of the year award with how well he’s produced in a starting role as the Sixers’ small forward (14.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 0.7 blocks and 2.7 triples), Thompson is making a serious push to establish himself on the national radar over the last several contests.
The Georgetown product has now scored in double-figures over five straight games, and he’s been especially productive over his last three. Not so coincidentally, Thompson has been over 30 minutes in all three of those contests, the most playing time he’s seen since mid-December. Nailing a whopping 11 total triples over the last few games, Thompson is averaging 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.66 three-pointers. Given the lack of outside shooting (or shooting in general, really) featured on this roster, Thompson should continue to see steady playing time so long as he continues to produce.
Coach Brett Brown is known for changing his rotations on a whim as he attempts to figure out what works (and what doesn’t) with his rebuilding club, but Thompson’s put together a solid five-game stretch that just can’t be ignored. In February, Thompson is averaging 16.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 3.3 triples on a blistering 59 percent shooting. At the very least, Thompson is worth a roll of the dice. There’s always that one spot on your roster that could use an improvement, and you’ve been waiting for the waiver wire minions to work their magic so you could pull the trigger. Here it is.
Al-Farouq Aminu, F Dallas Mavericks: Defensive Specialist
The Mavericks were hoping Aminu would fill exactly this kind of role when they signed him to a bargain-bin deal, and now that move is starting to pay off. Since February arrived, the former first-round pick looks like a completely different player for Dallas. With averages of 8.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.8 steals, 2.0 blocks and 0.8 triples, Aminu has the kind of multi-cat appeal that is not often found floating freely on the waiver wire.
Aminu’s contributions are never going to jump out the stat sheet at you, but even on his bad nights he finds a way to contribute. On February 5, Aminu scored just two points, but still managed four rebounds, two steals and three blocks. That’s not just some throwaway line despite the fact that he didn’t score or rebound the basketball as desired. Remember, as the season progresses, our options are also dwindling on the waiver wire, as well. On a good night from Aminu, one can expect a little bit of everything like we got on February 2: nine points, five boards, two assists, two steals and two blocks with a triple just to show off.
For as long as the Mavericks remain without a real backup big behind Tyson Chandler, Aminu is going to continue to benefit from small-ball lineups where his activity is necessary. And as one of those players who starts to perform better once he knows he has a consistent role coming his way, Aminu could finally be ready to find the comfort zone in Big D.
One thing owners will need to monitor is what the Mavs do on the buyout market, whether it’s adding Jermaine O’Neal (semi-retired), Amar’e Stoudemire (possible buyout)—or both.
Marcus Thornton, SG Boston Celtics: 3-Pointers
Sample size: Small. Roster spot: Tenuous as the Feb. 19 trade deadline approaches. While those two things can both be said about Marcus Thornton, there’s no discounting the 11 triples he’s swished home over his last three games. As instant offense off the bench, Thornton is embracing his role as a gunner, and has averaged 11.3 shots over that stretch. Of those, Thornton is launching seven per game from behind the 3-point line, so we know where his opportunities are coming from.
Thornton is not unlike Nick Young, and the Louisiana native could very well be a replacement for those relying on Swaggy P to find the funk and break his slump. Thornton isn’t going to give you much beyond points and triples, but that can be good enough to provide fantasy value to the right owner. Averaging better than 15 points per over his last few contests, Thornton appears to finally be establishing some sort of consistent role off the Celtics’ bench. Although he’s been yanked around all season on a rebuilding (and constantly changing) Boston club, Thornton has been able to produce when given the opportunities to do so.
It’s not a gamble for those with a weak stomach considering Thornton could be on the move before long, and even if he’s not, it’s possible he loses the minutes he’s recently earned as the Celtics keep changing things going forward, but for those in need of a short-term boost from behind the 3-point line, Thornton makes sense in leagues where there are at least 12 teams involved.
Gerald Henderson, SG/SF Charlotte Hornets: Points & Steals
Kemba Walker (knee) is nowhere close to a return. Lance Stephenson (Being Lance Stephenson) is going to remain with the second unit. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (hamstring) is out through the All-Star break at a minimum. Are we noticing the opportunities Gerald Henderson has at his fingertips? If not, perhaps it’s time, as he’s wasted no time in re-acclimating to a larger role.
Going into Sunday, Hendo’s averages since the month began: 20.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.7 blocks and a triple on 46.7 percent shooting. Looks like a nice line, doesn’t it? Would have never guessed it was coming from Henderson, would you? Henderson had another nice night on Sunday with 13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, even if he did do it on a lousy 2-of-9 from the field. The key with Henderson is the opportunity he has: It’s enormous. He’s above 30 minutes in every game so far in February, and that type of role hasn’t been guaranteed to him at any other point throughout this season. He’s in a prime spot to take advantage, and so far he’s doing just that.
The disclaimer here is an obvious one: Henderson has never been a guy who has possessed a multi-dimensional fantasy game, but perhaps riding the bench gave him a new perspective for what his team needs him to do.
So far, whatever it is that Hendo is doing—it’s working. I hope he keeps doing it, and I’d bet I’m not alone on that.