Wednesday, July 17, 2024

2022 Fantasy Basketball: Eleven players to target on tanking teams

With just under a month left in the regular season, more than a handful of teams have begun officially tanking, resting veterans and giving young players increased run. Injuries also play a factor, real or exaggerated. Some teams are taking it to more extreme lengths than others – looking at you OKC and Portland.

Below is a list of players thriving on teams without much left to play for.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wizards

Washington hasn’t entered a full-on tank, though the team is four games back from the 10-seed Hornets. Adding KCP may be riskier than adding some younger players on worse teams, but he’s seen a significant usage and workload spike since Bradley Beal was lost for the season. He’s shown an ability in previous seasons to be Fantasy-relevant when given the minutes, so his production isn’t all smoke and mirrors.

Over the past 14 games, he’s averaged 17.0 points on 46.4 percent shooting, 2.6 3s at 47.4 percent, 3.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals in 32.7 minutes. Volume 3s aren’t necessarily the most scarce resource on the waiver wire, but many other 3-point threats aren’t pitching in 17.0 points per game on top of it.

Trendon Watford, Trail Blazers

Watford’s workload has increased significantly this month, and he’s seeing plenty of minutes in the frontcourt alongside Drew Eubanks. Part of that is due to Justise Winslow‘s (Achilles) absence. Even though he’s set to return soon, Drew Eubanks has just been on 10-day deals, so he may be let go when Winslow returns, and Watford’s minutes will stay elevated as he plays more center. Over his past six appearances, Watford has averaged 17.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 blocks in 33.0 minutes.

Assuming Eubanks doesn’t stick around, Portland won’t have any other good center options while Jusuf Nurkic (foot) remains out semi-indefinitely. He was announced out for four weeks in late February, but it would be surprising if he returned given Portland’s place in the standings and his status as an impending unrestricted free agent.

Devin Vassell, Spurs

Derrick White being dealt to Boston opened up a spot in the starting lineup, which, unsurprisingly, was filled by the second-year Vassell. Since becoming a full-time starter, he’s averaged 13.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.9 combined steals-plus-blocks. He’s also launching 5.5 3s per game, hitting 1.9 (34.7%). There might be room to grow there. At the very least, Fantasy managers are getting solid all-around production, and the defensive numbers are nice. Ultimately, he has a high floor, as he’s taken double-digit shot attempts in 11 of his past 13 appearances.

Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks, Knicks

New York’s backcourt got thin quickly, as Derrick Rose, Cam Reddish and Kemba Walker are all likely out for the year. That’s led to extra minutes for Burks and Quickley, who are both worth looks despite being at very different points in their careers on a failing team. The 30-year-old Burks has started the past nine games, with averages of 11.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 34.0 minutes. He’s shooting better from 3 (39.1%) than from the field (38.1%). Usually, that would correct, but it’s been the case all season.

Quickley is acting as a sixth-man, and over the past eight games, he’s averaged 14.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.0 steals in 27.4 minutes. Encouragingly, he’s hitting 4.4 free throws per game at 92.1 percent and 1.8 3s at 40.0 percent. That kind of shot profile bodes well for a young player moving forward, and he’s an intriguing Dynasty league option.

Jalen Smith and Isaiah Jackson, Pacers

With Domantas Sabonis now in Sacramento and Myles Turner still out with a foot injury, the Pacers’ frontcourt has taken a dramatic downturn. Smith and Jackson have been the most consistent options, though Oshae Brissett, Terry Taylor and Goga Bitadze have been in the mix for those in deeper leagues.

Smith has had the highest floor of the bunch, averaging 13.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.1 blocks over the past 10 games – taking at least seven shots in every game and grabbing fewer than six rebounds just once. Jackson is performing similarly, but with more blocks – 11.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.6 swats over the past 10. Pick and choose who to add based on your team’s needs.

Darius Bazley, Tre Mann and Aleksej Pokusevski, Thunder

What a surprise; the Thunder have a ton of guys in elevated roles at the end of the year. Bazley’s role fluctuated earlier in the year, but he’s started the past 18 games with averages of 13.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.0 steals-plus-blocks. He’s not exactly an efficient scorer (45/33/68 splits), but the defensive numbers help make up for it.

Mann has stepped up with Lu Dort and Josh Giddey both likely out for the year (Giddey might return, but it’s very murky). He’s started 19 of his past 20 appearances with averages of 13.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.3 steals in 29.9 minutes. Fantasy managers who need field-goal percentage bumps need to avoid him, as he’s shooting 36.7 percent from the field. 

The enigma that is Pokusevski has been given a more consistent role down the stretch after struggling earlier in the year and spending 21 games in the G League. His past 15 NBA appearances have seen him average 11.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 blocks-plus-steals in 24.7 minutes. Surprisingly, he’s shooting efficiently, with splits of 47/35/82.

Marvin Bagley, Pistons

It seemed like Bagley was about to be in line for many more minutes and much more usage with Isaiah Stewart dealing with a bone bruise in his knee, but Stewart returned sooner than expected Tuesday. Bagley still saw 30 minutes and posted 13 points, six rebounds, two blocks and one assist. His past six games have been solid, with averages of 15.8 points on 57.1 percent shooting, 8.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 30.3 minutes. His usage and minutes can only slip so far, as Detroit would be wise to see what they have in Bagley before he hits restricted free agency.

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