Michael Beasley, New York Knicks: Points
The Knicks have cooled off after a better than expected start, but as the year has progressed, Beasley has established himself as a critical contributor on the offensive end of the floor. And given New York is looking to take some pressure off of a tired Kristaps Porzingis with Tim Hardaway, Jr. (leg) still sidelined, no one is questioning Beasley’s value on this roster any longer.
Following a December that saw him average 15.4 points and 5.4 rebounds on 51.9% shooting in just 21.5 minutes per game, Beasley is making it look easy in January with averages of 19.3 points, 9.3 boards, 1.3 steals, 1.0 blocks, and 1.0 3-pointers on 60.5% from the field over his first three games this month. Regardless of the fantasy format, those numbers don’t belong on the waiver wire.
Sometimes you have to travel around the world in order to find yourself a home, and Beasley’s professional hoops journey, an odyssey that has seen him literally go to China and back, might just be reaching a defining point in his 10th season. Beasley will have good reason to celebrate his 29th birthday this week.
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Gerald Green, Houston Rockets: 3-pointers
Houston has been a high-powered attack all season long, but Green’s contributions are a new and welcomed development. The veteran wing was signed as insurance when Luc Mbah a Moute (shoulder) and Chris Paul (groin/knee) were on the shelf, but given his seamless fit, his instant production, and most importantly, James Harden’s hamstring injury, Green is now set to stick around for the entirety of the campaign.
Since a debut that saw him go scoreless over 11 minutes, Green has played at least 22 minutes in every contest, averaging a surprising 19.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.0 steal, 1.0 turnover, and a whopping 5.0 (!) triples on 33-of-62 (53.2%) shooting, including an absurd 53.2% from distance. Of Green’s 62 total field goal attempts, 47 of them have come from behind the 3-point line, meaning 75.8% of his shot attempts over the aforementioned period have been triples.
Anyone in the market for a bargain-bin specialist with a neon green light in a high-octane offense shouldn’t hesitate to pounce on Green as a short-term play, especially with matchups vs. Chicago, Portland, Phoenix, and the Clippers upcoming.
Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers: Points, 3-pointers
It’s unusual that a former second-round pick who came to the NBA straight from high school earns more money annually at age 31 than he did on his prior contract, but that’s the way the script is setting up for Mr. Williams.
Lou Will’s seven million dollar salary has to be one of the best bargains in basketball—even if it is often overlooked when discussing the league’s best deals—and given the way LA’s year has gone, the veteran scorer is in position to be on the move once again before the February trade deadline. On one hand, the Clippers absolutely need the offense Williams continues to provide with Blake Griffin (concussion) sidelined again and the backcourt decimated by injuries. On the other, Williams stands to be a very appealing trade chip.
And for that reason, Williams is someone to think about selling high on if the right deal presents itself over the next few weeks.
A fantasy difference-maker in December (14 games) with averages of 25.2 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.4 3-pointers on 43.3% from the floor, Sweet Lou has been like candy to begin 2018 by averaging 27.3 points, 6.3 assists, and 2.7 triples on 45.1% shooting, including an elite 96.6% from the charity stripe on 9.7 attempts per game over his first three contests. Williams is going to get all of the shots he can handle with Griffin—and Austin Rivers (heel)—on the sidelines, and he’s still going to have free rein when Blake comes back because the Clippers are in a desperate position. The same can’t be said if Williams heads elsewhere, and that’s a very real risk to consider for anyone relying on his services.
For a guy who has been dealt twice already since the start of the 2016-17 season and could be jettisoned again in the near future, Williams is quite the desired commodity.
Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics: Steals
Smart will only be 24 years old when he hits restricted free agency this summer, and that’s going to be a significant part of the sales pitch when it’s time for Happy Walters to make his case in July. But until that time arrives, Smart will do all of his talking on the court.
It’s been a pattern of inconsistent production this season—including a career-worst 34.7% from the field—but Smart has shown improvement thus far in 2018 with averages of 14.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.0 3-pointer on 43.9% shooting in January. While no one rostering Smart relies on him to be a model of efficiency, he’s one of those players who can hurt you more than he can help you during unproductive stretches, so it’s important to monitor what he’s doing more than you might with others on your roster.
The schedule is another factor to consider in assessing Smart’s outlook. The Celtics have already played 43 games due to a front-loaded schedule, and Boston only takes the court three times over the next two weeks due to their matchup vs. Philadelphia in London on Thursday. Given Smart’s short-term outlook and long-term ceiling, the “point guard pitbull” is someone I would be thinking about sending off in a two-for-one deal that nets you an important roster upgrade needed to move up in the standings.
Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers: Rebounds, Field Goal Percentage
The decision to waive Andrew Bogut was not about finding minutes for Ivica Zubac or Thomas Bryant, but instead about adding some much-needed roster balance and auditioning some shooting. That's good news for Randle, who should continue to see minutes at both power forward and center.
Randle has plenty to play for with an uncertain free agency process staring him in the face, and he had picked it up over his last five games entering Sunday’s favorable matchup vs. Atlanta, averaging 17.2 points and 9.8 rebounds—including three double-doubles—on 35-of-60 (58.3%) shooting. The Lakers would likely love to trade the big man given he’s almost certainly not a part of the still-developing future, so it’s in the organization’s best short and long-term interests to see Randle on the court instead of sitting on the bench.