With fantasy football season mercifully winding down, Christmas marks the unofficial start of both the real-life NBA season and fantasy basketball season for casual fans. If your fantasy squad has gotten off to a slow start, there’s still plenty of time to turn your fortunes around.
It’s imperative to pay attention to recent results, as rotation changes often impact the fantasy value of players in hardly noticeable ways. While shifting from 34 to 30 minutes of playing time a night doesn’t sound all that significant, it’s often the difference between a reliable every-night starter and a matchup-based play.
Here, we’ll highlight three players who’ve caught fire of late and three players whose fantasy stock is plummeting. You shouldn’t necessarily sell high on the rising players or buy low on the falling players; instead, use this to recalibrate your expectations for all of them moving forward.
Pau Gasol, PF/C
Despite the Chicago Bulls changing head coaches over the offseason, Pau Gasol has remained one of fantasy’s most consistent players this year, finishing with at least 30 DraftKings points in all but four of the 25 games in which he’s played this season. That includes a monster 30-point, 15-rebound, five-assist, five-block eruption in Chicago’s quadruple-overtime loss to the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 18, a game in which he played an astonishing 48 minutes.
Though his playing time has dipped by four minutes compared to 2014-15, that figures to spike in the coming weeks, as Joakim Noah is set to miss the next two-to-four weeks with a left shoulder sprain. Bobby Portis should work his way into the Bulls’ frontcourt rotation with Noah sidelined, but Gasol will likely benefit the most from Noah’s injury as Chicago’s other lone true center.
Khris Middleton, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks
Early on in the season, Khris Middleton looked like a major swing-and-miss for the fantasy community, as he was struggling to replicate the late-season production from 2014-15 that made him a draft-day darling. Thankfully, he’s beginning to come alive in recent weeks, though, making him a sneaky buy-low candidate if his owner has been underwhelmed by his early-season output.
Over his past five games, Middleton averaged 18.8 points, 5.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.8 treys and 1.8 steals in a whopping 36.7 minutes, giving him two nights in which he topped 40 points in DraftKings scoring. Seeing as he had precisely one such performance through his first 25 contests, it appears as though the fourth-year forward is back to making a wide-reaching impact for his fantasy owners.
Hassan Whiteside, C, Miami Heat
Speaking of fantasy darlings who disappointed owners in the early going, Hassan Whiteside fell into a brutal slump at the beginning of the month, averaging just 23.9 minutes and 24.8 DraftKings points a night in the seven-game stretch from Nov. 30 to Dec. 13. In the five games since, however, he’s gone off for 14.8 points, 13.2 rebounds and 3.6 blocks in 32.0 minutes, good for 39.7 DraftKings points.
Whiteside is never going to be a prolific scorer given all of the other options Miami has offensively, but owners drafted him with the expectation of double-digit rebounds and two blocks per game at the bare minimum. Seeing as he’s working on a seven-game streak with at least 10 boards and has racked up 18 rejections in his last five contests, it appears as though he’s finally living up to his draft-day promise.
Tony Wroten, PG
Nothing eviscerates a player’s fantasy value more than his real-life team waiving him, as Philadelphia 76ers point guard Tony Wroten learned the hard way on Christmas Eve. To make room for the newly acquired Ish Smith, the Sixers decided to cut bait on the Wrecking Ball just eight games after he made his season debut.
Seeing as the Sixers reportedly attempted to send Wroten to New Orleans in exchange for Smith but found no interest, per Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears, the fourth-year combo guard may struggle finding a new basketball home. Regardless, there’s virtually zero chance of him carving out a role on any team as significant as the one he had in Philadelphia, making him waiver-wire fodder in all non-dynasty leagues.
Deron Williams, PG, Dallas Mavericks
Precisely one month ago, I wrote the following about Deron Williams: “With no imminent threat to his playing time, what makes him a sell-high? Given his previous injury history, he’s a ticking time bomb.” Here’s hoping you followed that advice if you owned him, as he strained his left hamstring Tuesday and underwent an MRI on Christmas Eve to determine the severity of the injury, per Nets Daily’s Tom Lorenzo.
Seeing as Williams heard “a little pop” Tuesday, per Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com, it’s difficult to imagine him returning to action when Dallas meets Chicago on Saturday, although no timetable for his return has been established. For now, Williams owners can only hold out hope that his hammy won’t sideline him for an extended period of time, although his lengthy injury history isn’t working in their favor.
Victor Oladipo, PG/SG, Orlando Magic
Victor Oladipo is shaping up to be one of the biggest draft-day disappointments of the year, as new head coach Scott Skiles has ravaged his fantasy value by moving him to a sixth-man role. Though the third-year Indiana product initially thrived upon joining the reserve unit, averaging 18.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals and 1.0 treys in his first six games, his production has plummeted ever since.
In Oladipo’s past seven games, he’s averaged just 8.0 points on 36.1 percent shooting, 3.9 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 0.4 treys and 0.3 blocks in 26.1 minutes, slotting him 150th on ESPN’s Player Rater in the past 15 days. Suffice it to say, owners were hoping for far more when they plunged a late-third or early-fourth-round pick into him on draft day, but expectations for his rest-of-season production may need to be significantly recalibrated at this point.