Sekou Doumbouya, Detroit Pistons
The No. 15 pick of last year’s draft (in which he was considered the top international prospect), Doumbouya has been unleashed as Detroit’s new starting power forward for the foreseeable future with Blake Griffin likely out for the season after undergoing knee surgery. Doumbouya produced top-90 fantasy value during his first four starts, and he wasn’t playing much at all beforehand — and just turned 19 years old — so there’s a ton of untapped potential here (check out him posterizing Tristan Thompson). Christian Wood is worth a stash in deep leagues, while Andre Drummond and Derrick Rose also deserve fantasy upgrades with the Griffin news, but it’s the exciting rookie Doumbouya who benefits most, and “Dr. Doom” is still available in more than 60% of Yahoo leagues.
Thaddeus Young, Chicago Bulls
With Wendell Carter Jr. suffering a high-ankle sprain and reportedly set to miss multiple weeks, Young is looking at an expanded role. He moved into the starting lineup for the first time this season Wednesday night, resulting in a nice fantasy game (and finishing as the only Bulls starter without a negative +/-). Daniel Gafford will have his moments and can be stashed in deeper leagues, but the veteran Young is who you want to add to your team, and he’s still available in more than 60% of leagues. He’s a big help in the steals department and has tied his career-high with 1.1 3PT in just 22 MPG during his first year in Chicago, and he’s now looking at more run.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder’s three-guard lineup is thriving, helping the team win eight of its last 10 games with SGA leading the way. Gilgeous-Alexander got off to a slow start after changing cities during the offseason, but he’s settled in comfortably in OKC, producing second-round fantasy value over the last two weeks (eight games). SGA’s outside shot remains a work in progress, but he’s among the league-leaders in drives, and the 21 year old continues to only get better. Meanwhile, the soon-to-be 35-year-old Chris Paul is being asked to play heavy minutes (at least for him) recently, and any injury to CP3 would lead to even bigger production from Gilgeous-Alexander.
Jarrett Culver, Minnesota Timberwolves
He’s averaged 15.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 steals 0.8 blocks and 1.8 threes over the last five games (31.8 MPG) while taking advantage of all the injuries in Minnesota. While his Usage Rate will take a hit once the Timberwolves get healthy, Culver’s seen solid minutes throughout his rookie campaign, and the No. 6 pick of the draft should get all the run he can handle over the second half with the team likely lottery-bound. Culver’s shooting needs major improvement (43.8 FT% is pretty brutal), but the defensive stats give him nice upside, and he’s currently rostered in just 35% of leagues.
Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic
He continues to show improvement each month, scored a career-high 25 points Monday and is averaging 2.8 steals over five games in January. The loss of Jonathan Isaac was devastating to fantasy managers, and his unique skillset isn’t replaceable, but it should also lead to Fultz handling the offense even more (while Aaron Gordon remains a trade candidate). Fultz has also encouragingly shown improvement at the free-throw line lately, yet he’s surprisingly rostered in a modest 38% of leagues right now. He has a better Real Plus-Minus than Russell Westbrook, Trae Young and many other point guards so far this season and appears to be well worth the small gamble Orlando took taking him on essentially for free.
Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets
It’s hard to complain about Westbrook considering he somehow has a higher Usage Rate (33.6) this season compared to last (33.4) despite now sharing the court with James Harden, but he’s struggled shooting lately and continues to sit out games during back-to-backs. Westbrook is 1-for-14 from downtown over the last four contests (and went 1-for-5 at the line one game), putting him outside the top-110 fantasy players over the last two weeks, but more annoying to his managers is the insistence to rest him, which coach Mike D’Antoni says they will implement throughout the season. With seven more back-to-back sets, we know Westbrook is guaranteed to miss (at least) 15% of the rest of his games.
Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks
New York’s coaching change brought hope of more playing time for Robinson. Instead, he’s not only remained in a bench role but has even seen his minutes decrease lately. A sprained toe may be partially to blame, but Robinson saw just 22 minutes during Wednesday’s loss despite Julius Randle and Marcus Morris both being inactive and Taj Gibson being in foul trouble (Robinson was not). There’s too much upside to drop him, but Robinson has been one of the bigger fantasy disappointments this season, and the lack of playing time remains frustrating.
Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
What a rollercoaster he’s put fantasy managers on lately, trading tantalizing performances (25 points in 22 minutes) with surprising duds (two points Wednesday despite Paul Millsap and Will Barton out). There’s obvious long-term potential here, but the inconsistent minutes and unsustainable shooting (he went 11-of-12 from the field in that 25-point outburst) combined with lackluster defensive stats suggest the former top prospect isn’t going to be a big fantasy help in the immediate future.