Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
He put on a highlight show during a battle with James Harden earlier this week, showing off ridiculous handles, sick passing skills and even some range from deep (calling out Harden in the process). The rookie finished 10-of-11 from the floor during the team’s sixth straight win, as the new-look Grizzlies sport a top-five pace and surprisingly own the eighth seed in the West. Morant has averaged 19.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 10.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 threes over the last week, when he’s been a top-10 fantasy player thanks in part to an increase in minutes. Morant is 20 years old and only going to get better, and he’s running away with the Rookie of the Year award.
Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans
Teammate Zion Williamson also qualifies as an upgrade with him getting an official return date next week (Jan. 22), but Ball deserves a personal apology from me after downgrading him here a few weeks back. He still struggles with his shot (and with turnovers), but he’s become a nightly triple-double threat and an absolute monster in points leagues and in DFS. Injuries in New Orleans have helped, but Ball is back starting, has seen nearly 37 MPG over the last two weeks, and has quickly gone from a disappointment to finally living up to his vast potential. Ball and Zion should be fun to watch for years to come, and suddenly the Pelicans have a 40% chance of making the playoffs.
Kevin Huerter, Atlanta Hawks
Over the last two weeks, he’s averaged 17.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 3.3 threes while shooting 49.5% from the floor, when he’s been the No. 30 fantasy player in 9-cat leagues (over seven games). Hopefully, Atlanta’s recent trade for Jeff Teague doesn’t affect Huerter too much, as he was handling some backup PG duties, but Huerter doesn’t require a massive Usage Rate to carry a bunch of fantasy value anyway (he was already thriving sharing a backcourt with Trae Young, who leads the NBA in time of possession). The Hawks sport a top-three pace, Cam Reddish remains extremely raw on offense, and Jabari Parker is out, so Huerter’s arrow continues to point up now that’s he’s healthy again.
Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers
He’s averaged nearly 16 points with six assists since Jordan Clarkson was traded, seeing a big increase in minutes (35MPG) this month. Garland got off to a slow start during his rookie campaign, but the No. 5 pick has been a top-40 fantasy player in 8-cat leagues over the last two weeks, and he continues to improve each month he’s been in the league. Dante Exum has provided nothing since coming to Cleveland, Kevin Porter Jr. remains sidelined with a knee sprain, and Kevin Love is a prime trade candidate, which would further empower Garland in Cleveland’s young offense. Collin Sexton is showing good growth as well, although it’s a Cavs backcourt that’s better suited for fantasy managers than to fans of defense. Garland remains available in more than half of Yahoo leagues, but that number will continue to shrink.
De’Anthony Melton, Memphis Grizzlies
He quietly ranks as the No. 27 fantasy player per 36-minutes this season (as a sophomore while joining a new team) and just saw the second-most playing time of the year during his last game. Melton also ranks second among all shooting guards in Real Plus-Minus this season (only James Harden is ahead of him), and he’s averaged 11.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 3pt over his last three games in just 21.0 mpg. Melton is someone to watch if his playing time continues to increase, and he’s still available in more than 90% of leagues.
Monte Morris & Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
Jamal Murray suffered an ankle injury Wednesday that required him to be helped off the court. X-rays were negative, but coach Mike Malone said the “(ankle) is rather large, which is kind of scary,” so it’s safe to expect the point guard to miss multiple games. Morris will enter the starting lineup as a result, where he averaged 15.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.7 3pt while shooting 55.4% from the floor last season (six games). He’s still available in 88% of leagues.
Porter Jr. should also see a nice increase in Usage Rate with Murray going down, especially with Gary Harris out too. MPJ has been inconsistent, but he’s also had some big games, comes with a strong pedigree as he was once a consideration for the top pick of last year’s draft and is now looking at a bigger opportunity while Denver deals with injuries (Nikola Jokic and Will Barton also get a fantasy boost). He’s out there on more than 70% of waiver wires.
Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets
His minutes have remained strong, and I don’t have a ton of faith in Kyrie Irving staying healthy over the rest of the season, but there’s no doubt Irving’s surprisingly early return to the court from a shoulder injury is a hit to Dinwiddie’s value. In fact, Dinwiddie’s Usage Rate falls from 33.5% when Irving is off the court all the way down to 23.2% when they’re sharing the floor together. Moreover, Dinwiddie’s assist rate nearly doubles from 19.1% to a whopping 37.4% (league-leading territory) this season when Irving isn’t sharing the backcourt.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
He bounced back Wednesday with a nice game after a couple of rough outings (including getting ejected from one and getting benched for the fourth quarter of another after getting badly outplayed by Jahlil Okafor), but performance isn’t the concern for those who have Drummond (although he’s now 6-of-20 at the free-throw line over the last four games, which is a little alarming). The worry with the big man is that he’s reportedly likely to be traded, and his current situation right now in Detroit (with no Blake Griffin) is pretty much ideal. Drummond will obviously carry a bunch of value wherever he lands, but his fantasy managers should be hoping he’s not traded. A move, however, appears increasingly likely.
Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks
He originally was still providing value despite coming off the bench but had seen his minutes drop in January (22MPG). To make matters worse, he was traded to Atlanta on Thursday. Teague will now backup Trae Young, who sports a top-five Usage Rate and leads the league in time of possession. Kevin Huerter is also playing extremely well at the two, so it’ll take an injury for Teague to regain fantasy relevance, as he’s fine to drop now.