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Normally, this column is centered around players who just recently got hurt, or are dealing with an injury. And it makes sense, too. When a starting point guard, for instance, goes down, the fantasy stock rises for the backup point guard, who will see an uptick in minutes, as well as other players in the offense. Oh, also, two plus two is four. You know, in case you needed anymore obvious statements from yours truly. Anyway, most of these stock pieces were headlined by injured players.
This time? Things are different.
Yep. Instead of focusing on players who will be absent for an extended period of time, Week 14 is headlined by two returning guards who will help fantasy owners in a big way.
Let’s start in Toronto, where shooting guard DeMar DeRozan has been back from his groin injury that forced him to miss over 20 games, and he’s been playing well. Over his last five games, he’s posting some very strong all-around numbers, averaging 18.8 points, six rebounds, 6.4 assists, and a steal per game, all while logging 34.6 minutes per game. He’s fully healthy, Toronto is unleashing him, and, my favorite part, DeRozan is attacking. During that span, he’s attempted a healthy 43 free-throws (8.6 per game), averaging nearly seven drives to the basket per game on the season. And over the last few years, fantasy owners were upset about DeRozan’s lack of versatility in his game, but he’s answered that with over five rebounds and assists over his last five games. But, of course, playing alongside Kyle Lowy, he’ll still have plenty of opportunities to score. Lowry is averaging about 60 passes per game, while ranking 10th in the NBA in points created by assists per game (17.2).
Then there’s Ricky Rubio, who returned from a severe ankle sprain on Monday night, playing 21 minutes. He accumulated 10 points, four assists and three rebounds. Oh, and he tossed a beautiful lob to Andrew Wiggins, exciting fantasy owners even more. Rubio missed 42 games with the ankle sprain, but will be eased back into the heavy-minute rotation. He probably won’t play more than 25 minutes for the next few games, so now is your final chance to buy-low on the talented point guard who was averaging 9.5 points, nine assists, 5.2 rebounds and a steal per game before suffering the injury. Minnesota plays at the seventh-highest pace in basketball, a fantasy friendly offense with a bad defense. And this team has talented scorers that are healthy now, so Rubio should be able to maintain his 21.7 points created off assists per game, good for the fourth-most in the league. And because of the style of offense and tempo in Minnesota, Rubio will have plenty of chances for helpers, too.
Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat- An obvious one, right? Well because Whiteside has been taking the league by storm as of late, a lot of fantasy owners are wondering whether or not they should sell high on the Miami center. Honestly, I’d be very afraid to get rid of this guy right now. Over his last five games, he’s averaging a video game-esque 17.4 points, 15.8 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game. He led all players in blocked shots during the month of January by far, only going one game all month without a block. Whiteside is playing 31 minutes per game over his last five outings, and opponents are only shooting 41 percent at the rim against him this season. Miami has confidence in him, and I truly believe he is going to be one of those guys who wins you a fantasy league, and I don’t know how comfortable I’d be in trading him away.
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks- Not many people realize how strong Middleton (or the Bucks) have been playing this season. Over his last seven games, he’s averaging 17.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, three assists, and 2.1 steals. He’s also been dynamite from beyond the arc, sinking 43 percent of his triples this year, good for the ninth-best rate in the NBA. His combination of steals and threes (1.6 and 1.3, respectively) have launched him towards the top-50 overall players in fantasy over the last month or so. The handful of injuries to some of the Milwaukee big men have helped Middleton log 37 minutes per game over his last five outings, and with his strong play as of late, it’s hard to imagine the Bucks will scale his minutes back down too much. Besides, his playing time has increased in each of the last three months, too.
Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets- Dwight Howard is going to be sidelined for the foreseeable future, and Motiejunas has been impressive all season for Houston, even in a limited role. He recorded his sixth double-double of the season on Wednesday night, and is averaging an impressive 18.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 triples per game over his last five outings. Howard will be out for a while, as he won’t even be reevaluated for another four weeks, let alone return to practice, games, etc. Outside of James Harden, Motiejunas actually has the highest usage rate on the Rockets this season, notching 1.14 points per possession with Howard off the court. And after experimenting with him last year, Houston is looking to unleash the talented seven-footer in 2015.
Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans- The other week, I wrote-up Gordon as a buy. With an uptick in minutes with the Jrue Holiday injury, Gordon has posted strong numbers as of late, averaging 15 points, 3.2 rebounds, six assists and nearly three triples per game over his last five contests. He’s playing around 35 minutes per game during that span, too. However, Holiday will be back eventually, probably a week or so after the All-Star break. I don’t mind hanging onto Gordon if you need him, but if you don’t, and could use a big man, it may be worth a try to test the waters and sell high on him.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat- Sure, I get it. Anyone can talk about a player’s value being down while they are hurt. And it’s true. Wade is nursing a nagging hamstring injury that will sideline him for at least the next 2-3 weeks for Miami. However, if you look at some of the numbers, you’ll notice Wade hasn’t been all that hot when he has been on the court. First, his field goal percentage is the lowest it’s been since 2009 (.487). And, Mario Chalmers actually leads this team in offensive touches per game. With LeBron James gone, many would have assumed Wade would handle that role. The aging guard isn’t getting to the free throw line nearly as much, either, averaging just five trips per game, while only driving the basketball seven times per game, which ranks just 27th in the league, also behind Chalmers.
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