NBA Observations: Weekly News and Notes, Late-Season Studs, Best Value Picks + More

NBA Observations: Weekly News and Notes, Late-Season Studs, Best Value Picks + More

This article is part of our NBA Observations series.

The end of the fantasy basketball season is nearly upon us. While the NBA season runs for another 13 days, many fantasy leagues – especially head-to-head leagues – wrap up this coming Sunday, April 3. 

That means the days of waking up to check box scores, RotoWire injury alerts and standings changes, as well as scour the waiver wire for potential adds, are nearly over. With that in mind, we'll use this week's piece – the final of its kind for 2021-22 – to look back at some of the broader storylines and trends from the NBA's first full, semi-normal season since 2018-19.

For managers deep in the trenches battling for league titles, we'll still highlight the top fantasy news of the week. After all, how could we not dive into Monday night's battle between Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson Drew Eubanks and Isaiah Roby?

Let's dive in.

Late-season news and notes

  • Mercifully, a handful of teams announced recently that key players will not return before the end of the regular season. For the most part, it was the usual suspects, with the Trail Blazers and Thunder leading the way.
    • Oklahoma City officially shut down Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley and Josh Giddey. That trio joins Mike Muscala, Ty Jerome and Lu Dort, who had already been ruled out for the season.
      • For Gilgeous-Alexander, it's the second time in two seasons that he'll finish out the year on the sidelines. He'll miss OKC's final 10 games after sitting out the final 29 contests a year ago.
    • In Portland, Jusuf Nurkic, Anfernee Simons and Eric Bledsoe joined Damian Lillard, Nassir Little and Joe Ingles on the rest-of-season inactive list. 
      • Nurkic hadn't played since before the All-Star break, while Bledsoe never suited up for the Blazers after coming over from the Clippers as part of the Norman Powell/Robert Covington deal. The decision to hold Simons out is a bit more interesting, as he's only 22 years old and had thrived in the absence of Lillard and CJ McCollum. But Simons is supposedly battling tendinitis in his left knee, so maybe the injury is more legitimate than it initially appeared. 
    • The free-falling Pacers, who are on course for their highest draft pick in more than 30 years, also got in on the fun Monday, when they confirmed that Myles Turner will not return before the end of the season. A foot injury has sidelined Turner since Jan. 14. He'll end up missing Indiana's final 39 games.
      • No word yet on Malcolm Brogdon or Chris Duarte, who each continue to miss time down the stretch. Monday's loss to the Hawks marked Brogdon's fifth straight absence due to rest, while Duarte has missed six straight games with a toe injury.
  • The Celtics lost starting center Robert Williams to a torn meniscus over the weekend. Williams is still evaluating his options, but he's expected to miss several weeks and will likely remain out through at least Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs.
  • Evan Mobley departed Monday night's game with a sprained left ankle and did not return. Thankfully, X-rays returned negative, but Mobley could still be looking at a short-term absence.
  • Ja Morant remains without a firm timetable, but the Grizzlies announced last week that he'll remain out through at least next Tuesday's (April 5) game at Utah. Morant is set to be evaluated later that week, at which point we should know whether or not he'll be able to get back on the floor before the end of the regular season.
    • Memphis continues to roll without its superstar. Monday night's blowout win over the Warriors moved the Grizzlies to 18-2 this season when Morant doesn't play. Even so, entering the playoffs with Morant out, or even limited, would be a major concern for the West's No. 2 seed.
  • Don't look now, but Paul George may be back at just the right time for the Clippers, who are essentially locked into the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. George was able to go through some recent practices, and he could be back on the court as soon as Tuesday night against Utah. As of Tuesday afternoon, the star wing is considered questionable. George has not played since suffering a sprained right elbow back on Dec. 22 (43 missed games).
  • When Chris Paul injured his thumb just before the All-Star break, it looked as though his regular season might be over. But after a faster-than-expected recovery, Paul made his return to action Thursday at Denver, putting up 17 points and 13 assists in 30 minutes of a 140-130 victory. Paul looked even better in Sunday's statement win over the Sixers, when he dropped 19 points and 14 assists in a full workload (36 minutes).
    • With the 1 seed locked up, the Suns could opt to build in some rest for the Point God down the stretch, but thus far there's been no indication that Paul is interested in missing any more time.
    • Phoenix is still awaiting the return of Cam Johnson, who's now missed 12 straight contests with a quad injury. Prior to going down, Johnson averaged 15.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 3.1 threes over his last 14 games.
  • Brandon Ingram was back on the floor for Sunday's come-from-behind win over the Lakers, putting an end to a 10-game absence. Ingram didn't miss a beat, going for 26 points on 17 shots, to go with seven rebounds and five assists, in just 26 minutes.
    • Herb Jones racked up six steals in the victory, giving him 118 on the season – third-most in the NBA behind only Dejounte Murray and Tyrese Haliburton. Jones now has 43 more steals than any other rookie (Scottie Barnes, 75). Over his last seven games alone, Jones has racked up 20 steals.
  • Tuesday's matchup against Chicago will mark Kyle Kuzma's sixth consecutive absence due to a right knee injury. The Wizards insist that they're not shutting Kuzma down – he did go through a partial practice Monday – but it remains to be seen when he'll be able to get back on the floor.
  • LeBron James is considered doubtful to play in Tuesday night's game against Dallas. With Anthony Davis (foot) not yet ready to return, this will almost certainly go down as another loss for the Lakers, who have the second-toughest remaining schedule. With the Spurs right on their heels, the Lakers missing the playoffs altogether is a very real possibility – if not a likelihood, at this point. 
    • Los Angeles still hasn't won back-to-back games since Jan. 4 and Jan. 7 – an incredible 35-game streak that could very well extend through the end of the season.
    • The Lakers' remaining opponents: Dallas, Utah, Golden State, Phoenix, Denver (2x), New Orleans, Oklahoma City 
  • The Blazers and Thunder met late Monday night in perhaps the tankiest game in NBA history. Portland started Drew Eubanks, Elijah Hughes, CJ Elleby, Keon Johnson and Brandon Williams, while OKC countered with Isaiah Roby, Aleksej Pokusevski, Aaron Wiggins, Vit Krejci and Theo Maledon. Truly an NBA 2K draft class come to life.
    • I highlight this game not only for comedy purposes – the Thunder prevailed 134-131 in overtime – but because these two extreme-tanking teams have actually produced some of the season's best late-season fantasy additions.
    • Over the last month, five Thunder players – Gilgeous-Alexander (18), Pokusevski (58), Roby (62), Bazley (103) and Tre Mann (109) – rank inside the top-110 in 8-cat total value. Meanwhile, Eubanks ranks 44th overall during that same span, and Trendon Watford, who's currently sidelined with a knee injury, ranks 61st.
    • Roby had perhaps the best game of his life Monday night, finishing with 30 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals, two blocks nad four three-pointers.
    • Mann is another name to closely monitor over the final days of the season. Prior to being scratched from Monday's game with a hamstring injury, Mann racked up 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.4 made threes (42.9% 3Pt) over his last eight games. 
  • Speaking of late-season additions, Marvin Bagley has come on strong of late in Detroit – at least by his standards. Over his last five starts, Bagley is averaging 19.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and shooting 60.6 percent from the field.
  • Still no definitive updates on Ben "Ben 10" Simmons with the playoffs rapidly approaching. Brooklyn only has seven games remaining, so it's looking less and less likely that Simmons is able to debut before the end of the regular season. 

Who were the best values of the season?

Given how many big names missed extensive time this season, there's been plenty of room for non-superstar players to climb up fantasy leaderboards. Here are some of the notable players who vastly out-performed their preseason ADP:

Dejounte Murray: The NBA's leader in steals ranks seventh overall in 8-cat value behind only Nikola Jokic, Trae Young, Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum and Stephen Curry. Murray entered the season with an ADP of 50.9 in Yahoo leagues. On average, Murray was selected near the end of the fourth round or early fifth round.

Tyrese Haliburton: With an ADP (54.3) just a few spots later than Murray's, Haliburton is on pace to out-perform his preseason value by nearly four full rounds. A lack of missed games has certainly helped, but Haliburton has improved his numbers to 14.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 2.1 threes per game with strong shooting efficiency. The jump in steals has been especially valuable. Haliburton ranks second behind Murray in total steals on the season.

Miles Bridges: He didn't take much of a leap from his second to his third NBA season, but Bridges broke out in a big way in Year 4. After getting out to a red-hot start, Bridges has cooled off from three (32.3%), but he's still shooting 48.7 percent from the field and has been one of the most reliable wings in fantasy basketball. Entering Tuesday night, Bridges ranks 14th in 8-cat total value.

DeMar DeRozan: The veteran's ADP (53.9) was completely justifiable during draft season, but it quickly became obvious that he was on his way to a career-best season at age 32. Even after a bit of a recent swoon, DeRozan is averaging 27.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 0.9 steals with a 50/35/87 shooting line – good for 13th in total value.

Desmond Bane: Coming in with a 131.8 Yahoo ADP, Bane wasn't even drafted in many fantasy leagues. But after making major leaps in virtually every category, and playing in 72 of 76 games thus far, Bane ranks 25th overall in total value.

Jordan Poole: There was considerable buzz around Poole during draft season, but his final ADP (101.6) reflected the lingering questions surrounding his role with Klay Thompson's return on the horizon. Other injuries on the roster have boosted Poole, but even his biggest supporters wouldn't have predicted that he'd rank inside the top-40 in total value.

Top-100 rookies

Every year, at least a handful of rookies end up being high-impact fantasy players, and the 2021 draft class was no exception. A year after a strong crop of first-year players – including Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, Tyrese Maxey and Desmond Bane – entered the league, this season's rookie is shaping up to be even better.

As of Tuesday, five rookies rank inside the top-100 in 8-cat total value. A year ago, that number was four, so at first glance it's not a massive difference. However, the key difference this time around is all five players – Herbert Jones, Scottie Barnes, Franz Wagner, Evan Mobley and Cade Cunningham – rank inside the top-60. Using per-game rankings, which helps standardize for missed games, Josh Giddey would also rank inside the top-100.

Relative to last season, this year's class is a bit more top-heavy. It's not hard to imagine Barnes, Mobley and Cunningham, in particular, being perennial top-20-to-30 guys for the next decade. The question is how much depth will the class end up cultivating?

Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs, Alperen Sengun, Jonathan Kuminga, Chris Duarte and Ayo Dosunmu, just to name a few, have all shown varying degrees of promise. But how many of this year's rookie will follow in the footsteps of Desmond Bane, Saddiq Bey, Tyrese Maxey or Cole Anthony and make that leap into top-100 status in Year 2? Only time will tell. Either way, the Barnes-Mobley-Cunningham trio will each be highly sought-after fantasy assets come this fall.

First round review

A quick look at where the top-12 players selected in Yahoo drafts currently rank.

Nikola Jokic

ADP: 1.3

Current rank (8-cat, total value): 1st

Luka Doncic

ADP: 3.0

Current rank: 19th

Stephen Curry

ADP: 3.4

Current rank: 6th

James Harden

ADP: 4.9

Current rank: 9th

Giannis Antetokounmpo

ADP: 5.0

Current rank: 10th

Kevin Durant

ADP: 5.8

Current rank: 22nd

Damian Lillard

ADP: 7.0

Current rank: 206th

Karl-Anthony Towns

ADP: 8.5

Current rank: 3rd

Jayson Tatum

ADP: 9.4

Current rank: 5th

Joel Embiid

ADP: 9.7

Current rank: 4th

Anthony Davis

ADP: 12.9

Current rank: 102nd

Trae Young

ADP: 13.0

Current rank: 2nd

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Nick Whalen
Now in his 10th year with the company, Nick is RotoWire's Senior Media Analyst, a position he took on after several years as the Head of Basketball Content. A two-time FSWA award winner, Nick co-hosts RotoWire's flagship show on Sirius XM alongside Jeff Erickson. He also co-hosts RotoWire's Football and Basketball podcasts. You can catch Nick's NBA and NFL analysis on VSiN and DraftKings, as well as RotoWire's various social and video channels. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @wha1en.
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