Fantasy Basketball 2019: NBA Pickups to Watch After Feb. 20

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2019

Dion Waiters flourished in expanded minutes right before the NBA's All-Star break.
Dion Waiters flourished in expanded minutes right before the NBA's All-Star break.Glenn James/Getty Images

Before the NBA returns from the All-Star break on Thursday night, fantasy basketball managers still have time to reassess their rosters for second-half title pushes.

Although some gamers might have needed the pause as much as a fatigued NBA player, others may feel like a streaking shooter who must shake off the rust and regain their rhythm. A successful fantasy owner monitors the day-by-day minutiae for minutes and usage alterations to gain an edge off the waiver wire. Everyone now, however, will have to circle back all the way to Valentine's Day to refresh their memories.

Timed shortly after the trade deadline, managers have also had days to dissect the immediate aftermath of several transactions. In most cases, the sample sizes are too small to form lasting conclusions. Yet with the NBA regular season set to conclude as soon as April, gamers might have no choice but to act now and hope the trends stick.

Let's look at a few free agents, each owned in no more than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues, to pluck off free agency as NBA action resumes.

                 

Avery Bradley, PG/SG, Memphis Grizzlies (20 Percent Owned)

Avery Bradley scored a season-high 33 points in his second game with the Grizzlies.
Avery Bradley scored a season-high 33 points in his second game with the Grizzlies.Jeff Haynes/Getty Images

Avery Bradley has already run the gamut in three games with the Memphis Grizzlies. After a pedestrian eight-point debut, he made 15 of 21 field-goal attempts to drop a season-high 33 points with six rebounds and assists apiece. 

Then he posted 15 points and five assists against the Chicago Bulls. Maybe those tallies are just right.

The defensive-minded guard never gained much traction with the Los Angeles Clippers, with whom he averaged 8.2 points per game with the worst field-goal percentage (38.3) since his rookie campaign. Before the move, however, he notched 15 points in 40 games for the Detroit Pistons after making his mark with the Boston Celtics.

Bradley also showed some signs of life prior to the latest in-season trade. He closed January's final seven games with 12.9 points (11-15 in every game), 4.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists before a three-tilt swoon.  

According to NBA.com, he solidified a higher usage rate (24.3) in his Memphis arrival than any Grizzlies guard beside Mike Conley has posted this season. They sorely need a perimeter producer, so look for Bradley to fill the void over their final 23 games.

               

Dion Waiters, SG/SF, Miami Heat (18 Percent Owned)

A healthy Waiters is starting to gain some momentum.
A healthy Waiters is starting to gain some momentum.Glenn James/Getty Images

The break is typically the time for players to enjoy a tropical paradise, but fantasy gamers can celebrate the NBA's return by purchasing a ticket to Dion Waiters Island.

Since returning from offseason ankle surgery on Jan. 2, the mercurial shooting guard has registered just 9.9 points and 22.6 minutes in 18 games for the Miami Heat. Before the break, however, he began to look comfortable with an expanded starting role.

In Miami's past four games, Waiters averaged 16.8 points and 3.8 assists in 33.8 minutes. Back to his own ways, the aggressive shooter made 16 of his 36 three-point attempts.

Per David Furones of the Sun-Sentinel, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra commended Waiters' progress.

"You can see he's starting to get his step back and be able to get into the paint and make plays," Spoelstra said. "It makes our offense more dynamic."

Although hardly a multi-category contributor at his finest, the 27-year-old has shown a propensity to score in bunches. He averaged 15.8 and 14.3 points over the past two seasons, respectively, while setting personal highs in field-goal (42.4 percent) and three-point (39.5 percent) shooting during a breakout 2016-17 campaign.

Even if he's not the most efficient or versatile producer, Waiters is at least a hot hand worth riding out of the intermission.

                 

Jake Layman, SF, Portland Trail Blazers (14 Percent Owned)

Jake Layman caught the hot hand before the All-Star break.
Jake Layman caught the hot hand before the All-Star break.Sam Forencich/Getty Images

In Layman's terms, Jake had a nice stretch right before the break.

In five February contests, the forward posted 16.2 points per game for the Portland Trail Blazers with a 64 field-goal percentage. He put a bow on the surge by tallying 17 points and one Michael Jordan shrug in a 129-107 win over the Golden State Warriors.

Dating back to Jan. 1, he's averaging 12.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 three-pointers per game. Before the hiatus, he swiped two steals against Golden State after swatting four blocks against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

He won't be a league winner, but fantasy managers should shrug alongside Layman and add the scorching-hot shooter. There's a scoring opportunity in Rip City for someone to grab beyond Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. 

                

Marquese Chriss, F/C, Cleveland Cavaliers (10 Percent Owned)

Marquese Chriss has capitalized on playing time with the Cavaliers.
Marquese Chriss has capitalized on playing time with the Cavaliers.Jason Miller/Getty Images

The eighth overall pick in 2016's NBA draft, Marquese Chriss has been foisted to three teams in as many seasons. But this relationship could last.

Chriss played 23 combined minutes in his final 12 games with the Houston Rockets, who shipped him off to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team trade involving the Sacramento Kings. The 21-year-old logged 23 minutes in his Cavs debut, reaching double-digit points (13) for the first time this season.

Given enhanced playing time for the lottery-bound squad, Chriss has recorded 14.3 points and 6.3 boards, with a 55 field-goal percentage and 20.4 percent usage rate in four games, per NBA.com.

Entrenched in a tight race to the bottom—resuming with Thursday's pivotal matchup against his first franchise, the Phoenix Suns—Cleveland should keep giving Chriss as many minutes as he can handle. While a returning Kevin Love also commands playing time, he could continue to sit when a back-to-back arises. It also won't be surprising to see him rested later in the season to maximize the Cavs' odds of landing a top pick.

A raw talent with immense upside, Chriss is the perfect player to utilize during a tank. He won't lead Cleveland to more victories, but he could help fantasy investors pursue a title.

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