With the fantasy playoffs in full swing and many leagues in the middle of their championship or semifinal weeks, I figured I’d start this column by taking a look at a number of players that may be floating around your league’s waiver wire, yet are putting up surprisingly solid numbers.
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* Bruno Caboclo poured in a career-high 24 points vs. the Thunder on Monday and also added 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and four 3-pointers in 35 minutes. Over the Grizzlies last four games, Bruno is averaging 12.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.0 treys and 1.0 turnovers in 32.7 minutes. It’s also important to note that, including Wednesday, Memphis still has three games left this week.
* Miles Bridges has scored in double-figures in each of the Hornets last four games and has logged over 30 minutes in each contest as well. During this four-game stretch, he is averaging 14.3 points (on 60 percent shooting), 7.5 rebounds, 2.8 dimes, 1.8 steals, and 2.0 triples. The Hornets have two more games this week and then play four times next week.
* Dwayne Bacon, Bridges’ teammate, scored a career-high 20 points with five 3-pointers on Sunday, and then backed it up with 24 points (9-of-16 FGs), six rebounds, one assist, three steals, one block and four 3-pointers in 36 minutes on Tuesday. Nicolas Batum (illness) has missed the last few contests due to a virus and is expected to return on Friday. However, Jeremy Lamb injured his ankle on Tuesday night and may be sidelined. Batum was bumped to the bench before he got sick, so Bacon should be in line for plenty of run even with Batum back in the mix.
* Seth Curry has been stuffing the stat sheet of late. He has scored 20 points of two of Portland’s last three games, averaging 18.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.7 trifectas and 1.3 steals while slashing 50%/ 47%/ 91%. And, on Monday, the Blazers announced that C.J. McCollum (left knee) will not travel with the Blazers on their upcoming 4-game road trip. Thus, Curry should see plenty of playing time and shot attempts the rest of this week and beyond. Jusuf Nurkic’s devastating knee injury also opens up some offensive touches going forward.
* Speaking of the awful, unfortunate Nurkic injury, Enes Kanter obviously sees his fantasy value spike. In addition to Kanter, Zach Collins, Meyers Leonard and Jake Layman should all be expected to see an uptick in playing time. If we’re going to prognosticate as to which of these three is the biggest beneficiary, Collins is the likeliest choice. He has a well-rounded, fantasy-friendly game, which allows him to contribute on both ends of the floor. His per-36 minute averages this season are encouraging: 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 treys, and 1.7 blocks. If he logs minutes in the mid-20’s going forward, he should be worthy of a roster spot in standard leagues.
* Pat Connaughton is another player that has taken advantage of injuries to carve out a fantasy-relevant role for himself. With both Malcolm Brogdon and Donte DiVincenzo (heel) sidelined for the season, Connaughton has stepped in and stepped up for the Bucks. Over Milwaukee’s last five games, he is averaging a robust 10.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.0 triples, 1.2 steals and 0.8 turnovers in 30.9 minutes, while slashing .514/ .476/ .833. He ranks inside the top-50 overall in nine-category formats during this stretch.
* JaVale McGee has been climbing the ranks of all-time great Lakers centers this month. I am matched up against him in the playoffs this week, so his otherworldly explosion has burned me. Over the Lakers’ last three games, McGee is averaging 23.3 points (on 80 percent shooting), 16.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 5.0 blocks. Seriously. He has tallied at least 17 points, 13 boards and four blocks in three consecutive contests, which is the longest such streak in Lakers franchise history. And dating back to the middle of the month, he’s at 18/13 and 3.5 blocks over L.A.’s last six games.
* DJ makes his FT’s
Coming into the 2018-19 season, DeAndre Jordan has appeared in 750 games. In those 750 contests, he had made just 1,357 of his 3,045 free throw attempts, or 44.6 percent. He is the only player in NBA history to attempt more than 3,000 freebies yet shoot below 50 percent from the charity stripe.
However, this season Jordan has tweaked his mechanics, including his foot placement at the line, and has also incorporated an adjustment to the mental aspect to help alleviate the pressure he feels. Before each free throw, DJ asks a teammate, ‘Who you got?’ or ‘Who you guarding?’
Remarkably, Jordan has made over the 70 percent of the free throws he’s attempted this season. Since arriving in New York via a mid-season trade to the Knicks, he’s converting 77.4 percent of his free throws and, dating back to the All-Star break, DJ is shooting a scorching 81 percent from the stripe. To put that in perspective, during this stretch, he has a higher FT percentage than Eric Gordon, Kyle Lowry and Donovan Mitchell.
* Remarkable Rookies:
Young poured in 33 points and dished out 12 assists, to go along with one rebound, one steal, five triples and just one turnover in a victory over the Pelicans on Tuesday. It was the sixth 30-point, 10-assist game for Young this season. That’s the most 30/10 games by a rookie in the last 50 years. Young had been tied with both Michael Jordan and Stephen Curry, who had five such games. The only rookie in league history with more 30/10 games as a rookie is Oscar Robertson, who had 25 back in 1960-61.
Also, consider this: over the previous five seasons, all NBA rookies combined accounted for a grand total of just two games with at least 30 points and ten dimes. Young has five in the last five weeks. Furthermore, from 2011-12 through 2017-18, no rookie tallied at least 30/10 and three made 3-pointers in a single game. Trae has done it five times already.
Meanwhile, out in Dallas, Luka Doncic did it all, ripping off 28 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists and four turnovers in 36 minutes. It was Luka’s seventh triple-double in his young NBA career, which ties him with Magic Johnson for the most ever by an NBA player prior to his 21st birthday. (LeBron James is third with five). In addition, it’s important to note that Doncic doesn’t turn 21 until February 28th of 2020. He’ll have blown this record out of the water by the time he's old enough to drink.