- Seth Landman, Fantasy Basketball
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Last week, I talked about players who might get moved. Of course, you know what happened. Very few fantasy-relevant players moved. Still, things just feel different post-deadline, and today I'll look at three players you might find climbing the ranks in the coming weeks based on their new, expanding roles.
These players aren't yet relevant on the Player Rater, but they have a chance to climb the rankings very quickly. In addition, I will take a look at two players who I think are on the upswing in the second half of the season.
Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Houston Rockets: Of the Rockets' 10 most common lineups this season, only two haven't featured one of the two power forwards the Rockets just traded -- Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson. Originally, I figured Thomas Robinson would play a lot right away, but now it seems that Motiejunas, because of his ability to stretch the floor, will get his fair share of minutes. In the couple of games that the Rockets have played since the deadline, they've gone small with Chandler Parsons and Carlos Delfino starting at the two forward spots. However, if Motiejunas can keep up his productivity, he's going to get every chance to play more than the 23 minutes he got against the Wizards on Saturday.
That's good, because the early indicators would suggest that Motiejunas has a chance to be a valuable fantasy player. The Rockets have already announced that he'll start Wednesday night's game against the Bucks. Patterson has been a top-150 performer on the Player Rater this season based on per-game averages, which means he has been worth owning at times in deep leagues. He doesn't have the talent Motiejunas has, so if Motiejunas can get going, we could be looking at a top-100 commodity the rest of the way. He is not rebounding much for a big man, but he has been extremely efficient offensively and looks like he might be the rare 7-footer who can step out and make 3-pointers -- a valuable trait in the Rockets' high-paced offense. He's certainly worth a flyer in deep leagues if you're looking for a big man.
E'Twaun Moore, PG/SG, Orlando Magic: I'm not suggesting that Moore is anywhere near the player that J.J. Redick is, but Redick is 64th on the Player Rater based on per-game averages, so just coming close to his production would be of major value. Here are Moore's numbers this season on a per-40-minute basis: 15.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Redick's averages, for comparison, are 19.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists. Redick does this with a whole lot more efficiency, but the point is that Moore might be able to contribute enough in steals and rebounds. He might be able to rack up a few more steals than Redick as well.
Moore has played three games since the trade and is averaging 12 points, 7.3 assists, 1.0 blocks, 1.3 steals and 2.0 3s per game. Yes, he's shooting a terrible percentage, but you can stomach that for the other good stuff. Even if he's just able to duplicate the 4.5 assists Redick has averaged this season while throwing in the occasional steal and 3-pointer, Moore will be worth owning in most leagues. If you need assists, you might consider picking him up now before someone else does.
Tobias Harris, SF, Orlando Magic: Harris was one of the pieces the Magic wanted back from Milwaukee in surrendering Redick, and the early returns look positive. He has played two games for the Magic, and in both he played big minutes off the bench (28 per game). In those minutes, he is chipping in per-game averages of 15.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks -- not too shabby for a guy who has played just 12.7 minutes per game in 30 games this season.
Harris has real potential. He's a good scorer from all over the floor and is willing and able to draw fouls and convert free throws. He could develop a 3-point shot and should be able to do all of this while shooting a pretty good percentage from the floor. Harris is extremely young (just 20), so he is of particularly high value in keeper leagues (depending on your rules).
Here's a look at two other players who I think are on the upswing in the second half of the season. (Player Rater ranking based on per-game averages in parentheses.)
Ricky Rubio, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves (119): If you watch Rubio play, the fact that he's ranked this low on a per-game basis seems unthinkable. He's all over the court, and it seems like good things are constantly happening when he has the ball. Sadly, his game isn't exactly tailor-made for fantasy leagues. Yes, he does rack up gigantic numbers in assists and steals (averaging 9.2 and 4.4, respectively, over his past five games), but his shooting percentage is a serious killer. The Wolves were plus-10 in Rubio's 39 minutes Tuesday night (in a loss to the Suns), but he was just 2-for-12 from the floor. Clearly, shooting a high percentage isn't essential to his effectiveness.
Looking again at his past five games, the numbers that really impress me are his free throw shooting stats. He is attempting 8.4 per game over that stretch, with three games in which he attempted double-digit free throws. He's making 83.3 percent of them too. That means that even though he's shooting a putrid 27.5 percent from the floor, he's scoring 12.6 points per game, and when you add the rest of what he does to the mix, you get a pretty exciting fantasy player. He should be able to crack the top 100 by season's end, and that probably understates how valuable he actually is.
Courtney Lee, SG, Boston Celtics (176): Lee has not been the player many of us hoped he would be this season, but that has started to turn around as of late. It's worth paying attention to, because he's available in just about all fantasy leagues. In February, he is averaging 10.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 3s per game while shooting 47.2 percent from the floor. Those numbers are pretty good, as he has moved up to 121st on the Player Rater over the past 30 days, making him worth owning in most leagues.
Over his past five games, those numbers look even better. He is averaging 12.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.4 3s per game while shooting 52.2 percent shooting from the floor. Let's hope he finds some more 3-point attempts too, because he is shooting better than 40 percent from behind the arc in February and is a 38 percent shooter on 3s for his career. The Celtics are in dire need of solid guard play and will lean on Lee a lot in the coming weeks. As a result, he's worth having on your roster in the hope that he responds to the call.
Seth Landman looks at players whose fantasy value will likely rise in the second half of the season as a result of recent trades, including Houston's Donatas Motiejunas and Orlando's E'Twaun Moore. Also, established players who are on the upswing.