Kyrie Irving’s injury is ample evidence that the fantasy basketball playoff landscape can change overnight. But owners shouldn’t just be anticipating the negative, like extended playoff rest. Sometimes the unanticipated can be good news in the form of opened playing time, a late season surge, or, in this case, players ready to climb out of limbo.
1. Jarrett Jack – With Kyrie possibly done for the year, Jack should see a nice spike in ball-handling responsibilities. Granted, he hasn’t exactly been Kevin Durant even when seeing time as the Cavs’ starting point guard, but he should be more at ease to play the point his way now. News that Dion Waiters is replacing Irving in the starting lineup doesn’t spell joy for Jack supporters but there will still be a need to make up for Irving’s lack of scoring, playmaking, and fourth quarter heroics. In the past, Jack has been able to be that guy for other teams. This could be his time to reclaim his reputation.
2. Luol Deng - Not only has Deng climbed out of a major funk—scoring in double-digits 10 out of the last 12 Cavs games—he now has to make up for Irving’s missing numbers. Having Dion Waiters in the starting lineup won’t make scoring easier for the former Bull but Irving’s void will have to be filled by Deng and the other starting five. His value could see a nice mid-round spike.
3. Amir Johnson - You can just tell that Johnson loves playing without the prospect of Patrick Patterson stealing his minutes. His scoring numbers, especially, shoot up in Patterson’s absence. Already a good provider of blocks, steals, and rebounds, Johnson becomes a dangerous asset when also averaging 15-plus points as he’s doing for the past 15 games now. His worth is also buoyed by Toronto’s exceptional playoff schedule.
4. Tony Wroten - Even a team who just gave up 21-straight losses needs a scoring punch. Wroten has been Philly’s man, along with MCW and Young, and is a 20-point scoring threat on any given night. Of course, as a readily available waiver wire option, Wroten doesn’t provide much else in terms of stats (consistently at least). But with the 76ers, just two games removed from overtaking the Buck’s worst record of the league, Wroten could see a spike in minutes with an “injured” MCW becoming a trend.
5. Reggie Jackson - News of Westbrook’s back-to-back games regiment only benefits one person: Reggie Jackson. He hasn’t quite been the consistent weapon we thought he would be at the beginning of the year, but he remains a good option in a 14-team league, and a very good one with Westbrook missing a handful of games.
6. Ramon Sessions – Sessions has always been a quiet deep-league fantasy option and that couldn’t be more the case now as he’s been dropping points, assists, and rebounds while a Buck. There’s not a whole lot of point guard options available as streamers, as 2013-14 has made NBA point guards an endangered species, but Sessions is certainly a solid prospect. In his last seven, for example, he’s averaging 12.5 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.3 rebounds.
7. Draymond Green – The Warriors’ fantasy playoff schedule is horrid, especially if your league has divvied up the first around from now until March 30. But Green has been one of the better waiver wire options of late and could be a nice pickup in deep leagues in the second round of a playoff bracket. As Mark Jackson pointed out recently, Green has the ability to guard five positions, and with David Lee falling out of favor with Jackson, Green will be seeing a nice stretch of minutes. He’s not a big scorer but has been providing rebounds, steals, blocks, threes, and nice shooting numbers (even from the charity stripe). That’s a very rare combo.
8. Tim Hardaway Jr. - It isn’t so much Hardaway’s three-straight 20 point scoring nights that make him an intriguing add, it’s that he’s looking more at ease with Iman Shumpert playing alongside him on the second unit. Outside of points, threes, and field goal percentage, Junior is a dry well, but one worth exploring in deep leagues.