John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
He’s been dominant since returning from his 25-game suspension, checking in as the No. 7 player in 9-cat leagues. Collins has been attempting far more threes this season while also contributing more than ever on the defensive end, as he’s seen his BPG go from 0.6 last season to 2.0 this year. Trae Young is a usage rate hog, but the rest of Atlanta’s roster is thin and the team sports a top-five pace, so this situation should continue to lead to first-round fantasy production from Collins moving forward, as the 22 year old is only getting better (teammate Kevin Huerter also deserves to be upgraded and added in all formats, as he’s playing much better lately with his shoulder healthier).
Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs
He’s picked it up since having his minutes restriction removed, rewarding patient fantasy managers after a sluggish start. Murray has been a top-40 fantasy player over the last month in a modest 26 MPG, so there’s room for even more from the 23 year old who should improve the further removed he is from ACL surgery. Back starting and seeing more minutes, there’s a lot to be excited about Murray, who’s a terrific rebounder and is nabbing 2.8 steals per-36 minutes this season. He’s going to be a big fantasy asset for years to come.
Nemanja Bjelica, Sacramento Kings
Marvin Bagley is dealing with a mid-foot sprain that required a trip to see a specialist last week, so players in Sacramento’s frontcourt are in store for a boost, and it’s possible it’s not just short term. Bjelica sees a nice uptick in usage rate without Bagley, and he’s quietly been a top-65 player over the last month and will now see increased opportunities (along with Richaun Holmes). It would help if the Kings stopped running the league’s slowest pace, but either way, Bjelica should be rostered in more than the half of Yahoo leagues like he currently is.
Jordan McRae, Washington Wizards
The Wizards are the endless weekly waiver wire gift, and McRae is the latest beneficiary of seeing playing time on a team with a top-three pace and the NBA’s worst Defensive Efficiency. McRae is averaging 19.8 points over the last week (four games) and has been firing up shots from downtown at will in this offense. Bradley Beal’s latest injury isn’t serious, but Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans, Mo Wagner and Thomas Bryant all remain banged up, so an already thin roster continues to offer a bunch of fantasy opportunities. McRae is available in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues, and the values of Isaiah Thomas, Gary Payton II, and Troy Brown Jr. all get a short-term boost as well.
Derrick Favors, New Orleans Pelicans
The perennial disappointment started off slow with his new team this year but has played much better of late, averaging 13.6 rebounds over his last five games since having his minutes restriction lifted. The imminent return of Zion Williamson will hurt, but Favors doesn’t require a heavy usage rate or big minutes to be productive, especially when healthy. He’s improved each month since joining New Orleans, so expect a top-50 type finish down the stretch from Favors.
Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves
Karl-Anthony Towns has missed eight straight games with a knee injury and has been in the news recently as part of trade rumors. Meanwhile, Dieng grabbed 20 rebounds during Monday’s game and has been a top-25 fantasy player over the last two weeks. During 10 games in which he’s started this season, Dieng has averaged 13.7 points, 9.6 boards, 1.6 steals, 1.1 blocks and 1.7 threes while shooting 83.3% from the line, so we’re talking about league-winning upside should KAT’s return not go smoothly.
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
He hasn’t been a top-150 player over the last month and is now dealing with a sore Achilles that Orlando is sure to be cautious with, so Gordon hasn’t exactly been a strong return on investment so far this year. If he can get healthy, Gordon will benefit from the recent (and devastating) news of Jonathan Isaac going down for 8-10 weeks with a knee injury, but he sports a career-worst True Shooting% and his lowest PER since his rookie season, so it may take a trade out of Orlando for Gordon to reach his potential. In the meantime, with Orlando’s injuries, Terrence Ross, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic and Amile Jefferson are the main beneficiaries.
OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
He’s been a major disappointment after a nice start to the season, failing to take advantage of a big opportunity with Toronto suffering a ton of injuries to its frontcourt. His poor play resulted in a move to a bench role recently, although he was back starting Thursday. Fantasy managers are losing patience either way, as Anunoby has gone ice cold while shooting just 21.7% from three during December.
Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks
He’s sidelined with a sore knee, and while the good news is that it’s not his surgically repaired one, fantasy managers can rightly worry given coach Rick Carlisle said KP is “without a timetable” to return. Hopefully, the team is just being cautious, but it’s also especially worrisome for someone with his history and who stands around 7’4”. Maxi Kleber has played well when starting this season, remains available in more than 70% of Yahoo leagues and will be well worth using as long as Porzingis is sidelined.