This week’s Risers and Fallers column lands during the first round of March Madness, when the attention of many a basketball fan is focused on the college game. Still, we trust your ability to multi-task and take advantage of the distraction to improve your fantasy basketball team’s roster by following our recommendations.
Ja Morant, PG, Memphis Grizzlies: Morant’s suspension will end on Monday and he will be eligible to play against the Mavericks that night. However, he’s not expected to suit up for that game as he works his way back into playing shape. The official announcement by the NBA means that Morant could conceivably play on Wednesday against the Rockets. If that happens, he would have a chance to play three times next week, and four times in each of the final two weeks of the season. However, he’s technically still without a timetable for his return, so nothing is guaranteed.
Trey Murphy III, SG/SF, New Orleans Pelicans: Murphy backed up Sunday’s 41-point extravaganza with 20 points, three rebounds, three steals, a block and four more 3-pointers in Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers. Murphy has scored in double figures in six straight games, has played at least 30 minutes in all seven of his March games, and is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon — especially with Zion Williamson still not on the fantasy radar. Murphy and the Pelicans play three times next week, then finish out the season with back-to-back four-game weeks.
Zach Collins, C, San Antonio Spurs: I got all excited about him when Jakob Poeltl was shuttled to the Raptors and Collins is paying off in a big way. He’s been a late second-round fantasy talent over the past couple of weeks and has scored 25 and 23 points in his last two games. He’s doing more than just scoring, averaging 18.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.2 blocks and 2.4 3-pointers on 54.8% shooting this month. Those are monster numbers and Collins has simply become a “must have” fantasy player right now. He’s somehow rostered in fewer than 20% of ESPN leagues and the Spurs play four games next week.
Kyle Anderson, SF/PF, Minnesota Timberwolves: “Slow Mo” has been a fantasy monster for three straight games by averaging nearly 15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 10.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.3 blocks and shooting 59.4% from the floor and 100% from the line. For the month of March, he’s at 12.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.3 blocks and 0.8 3-pointers in six games. The Wolves are in the midst of a four-game week and finish out the season 3-4-3 in games played per week. He’s available in about 65% of ESPN leagues. I’d take a chance on him right now, even with the three-game week on the horizon.
Immanuel Quickley, PG, New York Knicks: Quickley has been on fire for the last few months and has emerged as a “Sixth Man of the Year” candidate in New York. He’s been especially hot over the last two weeks, returning early fourth-round fantasy value. He’s had one bad game in March, when he hit just 1-of-11 shots in a loss to the Kings, but has otherwise been a star in both real life and fantasy. Even when you include that Sacramento dud, Quickley is averaging 19.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.1 steals and 3.0 3-pointers on 45.9% percent shooting in his eight March games. He might be available in your league because the Knicks are in the midst of a two-game week and only play three times next week.
Myles Turner, PF/C, Indiana Pacers: Turner has been in foul trouble in three straight games, fouling out of two of them and has scored more than 16 points just once in March. His numbers are down and he has grabbed five-or-fewer rebounds in four of his five March games. He missed a few games due to a back injury but returned for Thursday’s game at Milwaukee, where he had 11 points and eight rebounds. If you throw out his seven-block bonanza against the Rockets on March 9, this month hasn’t been kind to Turner (or his fantasy managers). He has averaged 14.4 points, just 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in five March games and is struggling at the line, hitting just 68/8% of his free throws. That translates to eighth-round fantasy value, but maybe he’ll get it turned around now that his back is feeling better.
The good news is that the Pacers play four times in each of the next two weeks. I just hope Turner can stay on the court between the foul trouble and the gimpy back. The Pacers only have one back-to-back left on the schedule (March 24-25 next weekend), so he’ll hopefully be good to go the rest of the way. The Pacers are currently “on the outside, looking in” for the playoffs, but still have a shot at getting into a play-in situation. Hopefully, that’s enough incentive to keep running him out there.
Mike Conley, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves: Conley has a six- and seven-point game over his last four outings and hasn’t been doing much of anything this month. He’s averaging 13.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.2 3-pointers in his six March games and is being outplayed by teammate Kyle Anderson. Besides, with just three games next week, you might want to hit the waiver wire and look for a hotter point guard.
Darius Garland, PG/SG, Cleveland Cavaliers: Garland’s scoring has been fine and he’s averaging 22.0 points and 7.6 assists in seven March games. However, he’s hit just 40.7% of his shots over his last five games (35-of-86) and has hit just 72.7% of his free throws this month. He doesn’t have a single block in March and is averaging just 3.1 rebounds to go along with 3.1 turnovers. He has been a 10th-round fantasy player over the last couple of weeks. Add to the mix that the Cavs play just three times in each of the last three weeks of the season and it’s starting to feel like Garland’s 2022-23 is going to end on a sour note.
Tobias Harris, SF/PF, Philadelphia 76ers: Harris appears to be the weak link in Philadelphia and hasn’t scored more than 11 points in any of his last six games. In seven March contests, he’s averaged just 9.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks and is shooting just 41.1% from the floor. He hasn’t missed a free throw since he went 0-for-2 on Feb. 25, but he also hasn’t been worth using in fantasy for some time, returning just 10th-round value over the last two weeks. There might be some light at the end of the tunnel with the 76ers finishing the season with a 4-4-4 weekly schedule. Still, you might be able to find a better player floating around on your waiver wire.
Desmond Bane, SG, Memphis Grizzlies: The thought was that Bane would shine with Morant out of action, but he has pretty much fizzled, returning just 12th-round fantasy value over the last two weeks. The scoring has been there at 20.8 points per game in his eight March outings, but the steals have dried up. In fact, the only one he’s had over his last eight games came on Wednesday night — and he had five turnovers in that one.
The numbers don’t look terrible on the whole, with 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists to go along with the nearly 21 points, but the fact he’s not stealing the ball, only hitting 2.6 3-pointers a night, and has committed 11 turnovers over his last three games has left a lot to be desired by his fantasy managers. With four games in each of the last three weeks you simply continue to ride with Bane and hope that the eventual return of Morant will help get him kick-started back into gear. \