NBA Fantasy: Players Trending Up, Players Trending Down

NBA Fantasy: Players Trending Up, Players Trending Down

This article is part of our NBA Observations series.

As the All-Star break hits our rearview mirror, we've hit the stretch run in fantasy basketball. Fantasy managers prepare to make a push for a title, so let's take stock of some players who are trending up or down, and what to expect from them moving forward.

Trending Up

Vince Williams Jr., Memphis Grizzlies

It has been a lost season for the Grizzlies. Injuries have decimated their roster and destroyed any hopes that they had of making the playoffs. Ja Morant (shoulder) has been lost for the season, while Desmond Bane (ankle) and Marcus Smart (finger) have missed multiple weeks. Add that to injuries for several depth players and Williams has been thrust into a more prominent role.

Williams has started and averaged 34 minutes over his last 18 games. During that span, he put up 15.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.9 three-pointers per game. He even shot 48.4 percent from the field and 80.6 percent from the free-throw line, making him a very valuable fantasy option. Bane and Smart should be back at some point this season, but neither appears to be close to retaking the floor. Until they return, Williams should continue to be one of the focal points of the team.

Keyonte George, Utah Jazz

The Jazz are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, and their depth has been a big reason for their success. They did thin things out a little at the trade deadline, though, moving Kelly Olynyk

As the All-Star break hits our rearview mirror, we've hit the stretch run in fantasy basketball. Fantasy managers prepare to make a push for a title, so let's take stock of some players who are trending up or down, and what to expect from them moving forward.

Trending Up

Vince Williams Jr., Memphis Grizzlies

It has been a lost season for the Grizzlies. Injuries have decimated their roster and destroyed any hopes that they had of making the playoffs. Ja Morant (shoulder) has been lost for the season, while Desmond Bane (ankle) and Marcus Smart (finger) have missed multiple weeks. Add that to injuries for several depth players and Williams has been thrust into a more prominent role.

Williams has started and averaged 34 minutes over his last 18 games. During that span, he put up 15.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.9 three-pointers per game. He even shot 48.4 percent from the field and 80.6 percent from the free-throw line, making him a very valuable fantasy option. Bane and Smart should be back at some point this season, but neither appears to be close to retaking the floor. Until they return, Williams should continue to be one of the focal points of the team.

Keyonte George, Utah Jazz

The Jazz are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, and their depth has been a big reason for their success. They did thin things out a little at the trade deadline, though, moving Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji to the Raptors. They also dealt Simone Fontecchio to the Pistons. Another important decision that they made was to move George to the starting five and shift Kris Dunn to the bench.

Since moving into the starting lineup, George has averaged 17.0 point, 2.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 4.3 three-pointers over three games. He was aided by a 33-point outburst against the Warriors, but the key stat was that he logged at least 29 minutes in all three games. Over the 12 games in which he has logged at least 30 minutes this season, he has averaged 15.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 2.2 three-pointers. His 39.1 percent shooting from the field this season is a problem, but for fantasy managers who can absorb that, or for those in points leagues, George's new role significantly increases his upside.

Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors

Wiggins is having the worst statistical season of his career. He is averaging just 12.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 three-pointers. Not only is he logging a career-low 27 minutes per game, but his usage rate is down to 20.2 percent. Even his 44.9 percent shooting from the field is on pace to be his worst mark since the 2019-20 season.

With Wiggins struggling to make an impact, he was briefly moved to the second unit. That might have been just the wakeup call that he needed. He has worked his way back into the starting lineup, serving in that role in each of his last 15 games. During that span, he averaged 14.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.5 three-pointers. Not only did he average 30 minutes over those 15 games, but he also shot 51.5 percent from the field. While his production still isn't what fantasy managers have been accustomed to in seasons past, he is at least worth rostering again.

Trending Down

Jordan Poole, Washington Wizards

Poole's tenure with the Wizards has been nothing short of a disaster. He was positioned to take off in a leading role for a rebuilding team that is lacking scoring options. However, he is only averaging 15.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.9 three-pointers per game. His efficiency has been the main culprit with him shooting 40.0 percent from the field and 30.3 percent from behind the arc.

Things were even worse for Poole heading into the break. He has averaged just 10.9 points over his last 12 games, shooting 33.1 percent from the field during that span. With his modest contributions in rebounds and assists, Poole needs to score a lot of points and be more efficient to be worth deploying in fantasy. If managers need to make room on their roster for a hot waiver wire add or someone returning from injury, it's not a crazy idea to move on from Poole.

Dereck Lively II, Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks haven't had the best center options in recent seasons. They hoped to have found a long-term answer at the position when they selected Lively with the 12th pick in the 2023 Draft. He has been their starting center for most of the season and has certainly had his ups and downs. However, his overall averages of 9.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game have made him fantasy relevant.

With the Mavericks looking to make a deep playoff run, they acquired Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington at the trade deadline. Gafford is a more proven option at the five and provides a similar skillset that Lively does. In the first game that they played together, Lively logged just 17 minutes off the bench. Gafford played 23 minutes as the starter, posting 10 points and 10 rebounds. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Lively will likely be hard-pressed to maintain his average of 26 minutes per game going forward. There is the potential that he logs closer to 20 minutes per game, which might make him difficult to justify rostering down the stretch.

Max Strus, Cleveland Cavaliers

Strus has provided the Cavaliers with much-needed shooting, draining 2.4 three-pointers per game. That puts him on pace to average at least that many three-pointers for the third straight season. He has also proven to be a better passer, dishing out 3.7 assists per game.

The Cavaliers dealt with several key injuries earlier in the season, including Darius Garland and Evan Mobley missing multiple weeks. Now that everyone is healthy again, Strus has seen his production take a hit. Over the last nine games, he has averaged only 8.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.7 three-pointers. It's important to note that he only logged 28 minutes per game during that stretch, compared to his season average of 32 minutes per game. For those who don't need his three-point contributions, Strus is not a must-roster player now that the Cavaliers are at full strength again.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Barner
Mike started covering fantasy sports in 2007, joining RotoWire in 2010. In 2018, he was a finalist for the FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. Mike also won the 2022-23 FSGA NBA Experts Champions league. In addition to RotoWire, Mike has written for Sportsline, Sports Illustrated, DK Live, RealTime Fantasy Sports, Lineup Lab and KFFL.com.
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