Robert Covington, Houston Rockets
Normally, getting traded to a team with two players who rank top-five in Usage Rate like James Harden and Russell Westbrook do wouldn’t be a positive, but Covington’s value doesn’t rely on scoring. As such, he appears to be a perfect fit in Houston’s new extreme small-ball system. The move to a contender also removes any shutdown risk Covington had in Minnesota, where he was being badly underused. Other than during one blowout, Covington’s minutes have been up since joining Houston, where he’ll continue to fire up threes at will and be a huge help in steals and blocks.
Moreover, Westbrook is also really thriving in the small lineups, relentlessly attacking the rim. The style may not help the Rockets ultimately win a championship, but it’s going to produce three top-20 fantasy players down the stretch.
Naz Reid & James Johnson, Minnesota Timberwolves
Karl-Anthony Towns recently underwent an MRI on an ailing wrist, and he’s reportedly going to miss “multiple games” after the All-Star break. Reid is the pickup with the most fantasy upside (too bad Gorgui Dieng was traded), as he’s been a top-10 player over the last two weeks and ranks No. 34 on the year on a per 36-minute basis. Reid is available in 98% of Yahoo leagues right now.
James Johnson got the start Wednesday and also becomes a viable add with KAT set to miss additional games (newcomer Omari Spellman appears to be a buyout candidate), while new teammate D’Angelo Russell sees a significant fantasy boost as the team’s clear alpha. It’s a small sample, but Russell’s Usage Rate has been top-10ish in Minnesota without KAT on the court.
Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns
He’s played much better since replacing Dario Saric (who’s since been injured) in the starting lineup, as Bridges has been a top-50 fantasy player over the last two weeks (eight games), and the defensive specialist is beginning to show signs of real growth on the offensive end. Bridges’ steal rate (2.3%) ranks in the 96th percentile, and his block rate (1.2%) is in the 84th at his position, per Cleaning the Glass. He’s looking at more playing time as one of Phoenix’s building blocks moving forward, so there’s good upside here in cat leagues.
Caris LeVert, Brooklyn Nets
Kyrie Irving could return after the All-Star break, but he’ll remain an injury risk regardless and it’s hard to ignore how well LeVert has played during his absence. Since being inserted into the starting lineup five games ago, LeVert has averaged 24.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.4 threes with strong percentages. The hot shooting isn’t sustainable, but LeVert’s slow start makes sense considering the seriousness of his leg injury last season, and Irving is simply unlikely to return and stay on the court over the rest of the season (LeVert’s Usage Rate jumps to 31.3% with Irving off).
Marquese Chriss, Golden State Warriors
The enigmatic big has looked more comfortable since having his two-way contract converted into a standard deal, and the former lottery pick should continue to thrive as Golden State’s starting center. Consistency has been a problem before with Chriss, but he’s in a good situation on the NBA’s thinnest roster right now, and he’s quietly been the No. 16 ranked fantasy player over the last week. He’s just 22 years old, so he’s still getting better and the lob finisher is already showing good chemistry with Andrew Wiggins, who’s highly impressed since joining Golden State.
Jae Crowder, Miami Heat
His hot shooting since being dealt to Miami is sure to regress, but Crowder should still be added to fantasy teams after how well he’s played in his new surroundings. Coming off the bench but averaging more minutes than he was in Memphis, Crowder is up to 18.0 ppg with the Heat, as he’s remarkably been the No. 2 fantasy player over three games since the trade. No one expects it to last, but he’s benefiting from Miami’s new rotation, and there’s no doubt Crowder has seen his fantasy value increase with the trade to the Heat.
Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings
He’s already been sidelined, but Bagley’s outlook took a further hit after he recently addressed the media for the first time since his injury while wearing a big walking boot and strongly suggesting he won’t see the court again this season. If true, it’s a frustrating end to a sophomore campaign that saw him appear in just 13 games while losing valuable development time, and Bagley disappointingly doesn’t even rank as a top-150 fantasy asset in 9-cat leagues. While patient fantasy managers with IL spots available can wait until his foot injury gets further clarity, others can feel free to drop Bagley with the Kings likely to be cautious — and after his recent pessimistic comments suggesting we won’t see him again until next season.
Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz
He remains a starter and is seeing good minutes, but Ingles’ Usage Rate has been way down recently, as he’s hit double figures scoring just once over the last 10 games. Mike Conley has been put back into Utah’s starting lineup, and even Jordan Clarkson has cut into Ingles’ production. When the Jazz have everyone healthy, Ingles becomes a drop candidate.