Now that the NBA is back in action it's time to take a look at the latest Risers and Fallers in the world of fantasy basketball.
We're going to focus on what happened in Thursday night's return to action, as well as what went down just prior to the break.
Consider this the "what have you done for me lately?" version of this column.
Jakob Poeltl, C, Toronto Raptors
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Poeltl went nuts with 30 points, nine rebounds, a steal and six blocks on 15-of-17 shooting in Tuesday's win over the Magic just before the All-Star break last Tuesday. His career high is 31 points and the six swats tied his career high. And just in case you thought that was a fluke, he backed it up with 21 points, a career-high 18 rebounds, three steals and a block in Thursday's return to action. He's played at least 30 minutes in two straight games and has clearly entrenched himself as the starting center in Toronto after just four games. And if you look at his last three, he's averaging 19 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 3.3 blocks. Sure, it's a small sample size but he's clearly thrilled to be back with the team that drafted him and vice-versa. The Poeltl ride should be a fun one the rest of the way but if you want to trade him right now (trust me on this), his value will never be higher.
Malaki Branham, SG, San Antonio Spurs
The fact that Branham is rostered in just 6.5% of ESPN leagues is kind of mindblowing after the run he has been on in February. The Spurs lost their 15th straight game on Thursday and Branham has become one of the focal points of their offense, behind Keldon Johnson. He's scored 23 points in two straight games and hit double figures in eight of his last nine, shoots it lights-out, has hit at least two 3-pointers in five straight games and in eight of his last nine, and is solid in assists and steals. Stop what you're doing right now and go find a way to pick him up.
Michael Porter Jr., SF/PF, Denver Nuggets
MPJ's numbers appear to be on the rise after he went off for 25 points, six rebounds, a block and six 3-pointers in Thursday's win over the Cavaliers. The six triples tied his season high and he's cooking over his last three, averaging 21.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 5.3 3-pointers. Compare that to the 19.6 points. 3.9 rebounds, 0.6 blocks and 3.6 triples he was averaging in February before Thursday's game and it looks like he could be ready to take off. We've waited long enough, right? And just like with Poeltl, trading MPJ right now makes sense as his value isn't likely to get any higher this season and his hot shooting (22-of-45) is due to cool off sooner than later.
Myles Turner, C/PF, Indiana Pacers
Despite all the trade rumors and not being embraced by Pacer fans Turner is having an incredible year, as well as his best month of the season after Thursday's 40-point explosion that included a career-high eight 3-pointers in an overtime loss to the Celtics. It's too bad Turner can't fully celebrate last night's success but he is on fire. HE hit 13-of-15 shots, 8-of-10 3-pointers and 6-of-7 free throws and added two assists and a block in the loss. He had been in a 3-point shooting funk coming in, hitting just 2-of-13 of them in his previous three games, but got back on track last night. He's now averaging 20.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 2.3 3-pointers in eight February games. And just like some of these other guys, this could be your sign to trade Turner before he falls back to earth. Having said that, The Pacers still think they have a shot at the playoffs but they're 3.5 games behind the No. 10 Wizards and are running out of time. If they're going to get there, Turner is going to have to keep playing like this.
Malik Beasley, SG, Los Angeles Lakers
Beasley has played in four games for the Lakers and scored 22 points on Feb. 13 and then went off for 25 points, three rebounds, one assist, three steals and seven 3-pointers on Thursday night. He's averaging 18.3 points, 2,7 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 5.0 3-pointers over his last three games and it doesn't hurt that D'Angelo Russell went down with an ankle injury last night. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been looking for someone to help carry the scoring load in L.A. and Beasley appears to be the answer. And the fact he is stealing and bombing threes is a bonus. Beasley is available in over 60% of ESPN leagues and is worth grabbing if you need a warm body for your roster.
Talen Horton-Tucker, PG/SG/SF, Utah Jazz
THT hit just 2-of-11 shots on Thursday but still had nine points, seven rebounds, six dimes, two steals, a block and a 3-pointer in 35 minutes. Had his shot been falling he might have had a monster line. He started this game, sending Ochai Agbaji to the bench, and could stick there the rest of the way. THT is averaging 13.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.2 blocks and 0.8 3-pointers in his six February games and has hit at least one 3-pointer in three straight games. He's rostered in just 8.7% of ESPN leagues and I'm guessing that number is about to start climbing. And speaking of Agbaji, he's worth keeping an eye on after averaging 14.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 3-pointers over his last two. But if you picked up Agbaji last week, I'd dump him for THT.
Nassir Little, SF/PF, Portland Trail Blazers
With Damian Lillard resting on Thursday, Little joined Cam Reddish in the starting lineup and hit 10-of-19 shots and five 3-pointers for 26 points, three rebounds, two assists, four steals and a block in 34 minutes. Reddish has started two straight games for the Blazers and is averaging 21 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 3.5 3-pointers in 34 minutes in those two. I still don't trust Reddish and am more intrigued by both Little and Shaedon Sharpe with Anfernee Simons out indefinitely with a sprained ankle. Sharpe came off the bench for 22 minutes, but hit just 4-of-14 shots and a 3-pointer for nine points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal. Little scored just one point in his previous game and had scored in single figures (or had zero points) in 10 of his 11 previous games before Thursday's explosion. And who sticks in the starting lineup remains a mystery when Lillard returns. But Little has the best fantasy game of the three players, while Reddish is simply going to score with some empty stat lines. At this point, I'd grab Little and see what happens. Reddish is also worth grabbing if he sticks in the starting five and you need a scorer, while Sharpe simply belongs on your watch list. There are no guarantees with Little but if he can steal the starting job from Reddish, the sky's the limit. All three players are rostered in fewer than 5% of ESPN leagues, meaning they should all be available in yours. I'd rank them: 1. Little, 2. Reddish, 3. Sharpe.
James Wiseman, C, Detroit Pistons
The Pistons aren't making the playoffs and have to find out what they have in Wiseman the rest of the way. He's played 24 minutes in both of his games since being moved to Detroit and is averaging 9.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 0.5 blocks in them. He should only get better from here and while I wouldn't drop a good player for him, if you need a center and have some dead weight on your roster, grabbing Wiseman might make sense. He has a real chance to be a silly-season hero over the last month of the season. And his rise is going to hurt both Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart.
Jalen Duren, C, Detroit Pistons
Suns-Bucks, 1 p.m. (ABC)
Lakers-Mavs, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Timberwolves-Warriors, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Clippers-Nuggets, 10 p.m. (ESPN)
Cavaliers-Celtics, 7:30 p.m.
Pelicans-Trail Blazers, 10 p.m.
*All times Eastern
Duren started on Thursday but played just 23 minutes and hit 1-of-5 shots for two points, eight rebounds and a steal in a tough loss to the Magic. He was in foul trouble, as he's prone to be. Duren scored 30 points with 17 rebounds on Feb. 10 and has been in a free fall ever since. He's scored a total of 10 points over his last three games, his minutes are falling with the arrival of Wiseman and there simply aren't enough balls to go around for three centers (Isaiah Stewart being the other one). If you grabbed Duren after the 30-point explosion, throw him back for a hot free agent. And yes, it's possible he could go on a silly-season tear later in the season but I think Wiseman is going to get a better look going forward.
Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Toronto Raptors
The rise of Poeltl and the return of O.G. Anunoby from his wrist injury should mean the end of Achiuwa's fantasy value. After playing 25-plus minutes in 14 straight games, Achiuwa saw just 20 minutes off the bench last night and hit 2-of-6 shots for six points, six rebounds and a block. While the emergence of Poeltl or the return of Anunoby would have been enough to derail Achiuwa by itself, the combo of both of them playing big minutes now should effectively bury him. Drop him for a hot free agent.
Derrick White, PG/SG, Boston Celtics
The Celtics are suddenly healthy again with both Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown back in action. White still played well on Thursday with 17 points, three boards, two assists and three 3-pointers but has played just 27 and 25 minutes in each of his last two games. Prior to that, he had played between 32 and 43 minutes in seven straight games. White's not an automatic drop at this point, but managers rostering him should be ready for a dip in his stats. With Smart, Brown and Malcolm Brogdon all healthy, there just aren't enough minutes to go around for all of them.
Trey Murphy III, SG/SF, New Orleans Pelicans
Josh Richardson is starting for the Pelicans now and Murphy saw just 23 minutes off the bench on Thursday, hitting 3-of-8 shots and a 3-pointer for nine points, two rebounds and a steal. He also scored just two points last Wednesday before the break in 20 minutes after playing at least 28 minutes in his previous eight games. The Pels are healthy again and Murphy appears to be the odd man out. Drop him for a hot free agent and think about grabbing him later on if Brandon Ingram's toe acts up again, or if another starter goes down for the Pelicans.
Harrison Barnes, SF/PF, Sacramento Kings
Barnes wasn't moved at the break and is fading fast for the Kings. He was averaging just 12.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 3-pointers on 43% shooting coming into Thursday's game and then hit 5-of-9 shots for 15 points, three rebounds, two assists, a steal and a 3-pointer on 5-of-9 shooting in 24 minutes last night. Trey Lyles is coming on and played 21 minutes on Thursday and Barnes doesn't do enough outside of scoring to make him a must-have fantasy player. Dropping him for a hot free agent makes sense right now.
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