Here’s a list of the most fantasy-relevant news and notes for all 30 teams around the league:
Atlanta Hawks: On the right fantasy team, Kent Bazemore can be a terrific fit. Any team that is punting shooting percentage but looking for a shooting guard or small forward who makes 3-pointers, dishes out assists and racks up steals should strongly consider making a move for the Hawks’ swingman. In 27 games this season, Bazemore is averaging 12.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown is quietly second on the Celtics in scoring with 15 points per game, and on top of that, he is a nice secondary contributor on the glass, grabbing 5.8 rebounds per game. Brown’s fantasy value takes a hit in category leagues, however, because he is not much of a distributor (1.3 assists per game) and a surprisingly poor free throw shooter (61 percent).
Brooklyn Nets: Keep an eye on Jahlil Okafor. Entering Thursday’s game against New York, the former lottery pick has yet to appear in the three games the Nets have played since the trade, but don’t be surprised if he sees a lot of minutes once the Nets give him the green light. In 105 career games, Okafor has averaged 14.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting 51 percent. If he ends up playing close to 30 minutes a game for the Nets, we could see all of those numbers rise this season.
Charlotte Hornets: At this point, it’s safe to say Nicolas Batum is no longer an efficient offensive player like he once was in his days with Portland. Batum is shooting an icy 37.7 percent in six games this month after making only 40.3 percent of his shots last season, 42.6 percent the year before that and 40 percent in his final season with Portland. That’s not a lot of good stuff to say about a guy on his birthday, but as Batum turns 29 on Thursday, it’s increasingly clear that this area of his game isn’t improving.
Chicago Bulls: Nikola Mirotic wasted no time making his presence felt after returning to the Bulls last week. In four games, he averaged 19.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 3 3PG. These are the categories where he can help, and on a thin Bulls team that could need him to play 32-35 minutes a night, he could also average close to 1.0 SPG as well. Mirotic probably tops out around No. 60 as far as the player ranks go for season-long roto leagues, but his impressive start means he could reach that ceiling soon.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson returned to the court for Tuesday’s game against Atlanta, but he managed only six minutes. While Thompson will likely work his way back onto the fantasy radar at some point, he’s probably better left on the waiver wire for the time being until he gets back in playing shape. Even when Thompson is at 100 percent, he is mostly just a rebound specialist in regards to fantasy.
Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr. has already missed three games due to a hip injury and has been ruled out for the two-game road trip at Golden State and San Antonio. Look for J.J. Barea to become a bigger factor while Smith is out; the soonest the prized rookie point guard could return is Monday’s home game against the Suns.
Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris is starting to look like one of the biggest steals in the 2014 NBA draft, and his fantasy impact is clicking at an all-time high in his fourth year in the league. Not only is Harris averaging a career-best 15.9 PPG, he is also chipping in with 3 RPG, 3.1 APG while being a huge factor in two important categories: 1.9 SPG and 2.3 3PG. He’s zeroing in on moving into the top 50 in the roto fantasy rankings, if he’s not there already.
Detroit Pistons: Once upon a time, the Pistons were a surprising 14-6, but seven straight losses has the team barely above the .500 mark entering mid-December. One of the problems has been the poor shooting of Avery Bradley, who seemed to shed that label in recent years but is making only 33.7 percent of his shots during the team’s current slide. Andre Drummond (48.3 percent) and Tobias Harris (42.7 percent) haven’t shot well, either.
Golden State Warriors: Rookie power forward/center Jordan Bell is raw offensively, but if there’s a team who knows how to best utilize the bouncing big to his fullest potential, it’s the Warriors. Bell is shooting 74.2 percent on the season, with most of his shot attempts coming on dunks and layups, and he’s a blocks specialist worth streaming whenever Draymond Green is out of the lineup as has been the case lately.
Houston Rockets: A dislocated shoulder will put Luc Mbah a Moute on the shelf for a while, as he is set to be reevaluated in a week but could miss 2-3 weeks. His absence hurts the Rockets on the defensive end and takes away one important “glue” player who can thrive without the ball, which could lead to more playing time for veteran forward PJ Tucker.
Indiana Pacers: OK, it’s not a shocker that Victor Oladipo has improved his numbers this season while getting out from under Russell Westbrook‘s shadow in Oklahoma City. But raise your hand if you envisioned him becoming a top-10 fantasy player. … And now put it down. The fifth-year shooting guard has managed to do just that, posting career highs in points (24.3), rebounds (5.3), assists (4.1), steals (1.9), blocks (1.0), 3-pointers (2.7 3PG and 42.6 3FG%) and field goal percentage (47.8 FG%). We haven’t seen a player turn up their production like this in a long time, and if you have Oladipo on your squad this season, give yourself some credit.
LA Clippers: Austin Rivers is benefiting the most from all the injuries on the Cilppers, averaging 31.5 minutes during six games this month and pouring in 17 PPG while shooting 44.2 percent from the field. As long as Rivers plays like this, he’s a decent streaming option who can be an asset in terms of assists and 3-pointers as well.
Los Angeles Lakers: Don’t look now but Julius Randle is heating up. While Larry Nance Jr. continues to start at power forward, Randle is playing more minutes of late — at least 26 in the last three games — and is contributing not only as a scorer and rebounder but also, surprisingly, on the defensive end. He has four blocks and two steals in his last three games and may have inched ahead of Nance as the more valuable forward in fantasy.
Memphis Grizzlies: Forget Utah, Sacramento and the aging San Antonio Spurs. The slowest-paced team in the NBA as of Thursday is none other than the Grizzlies, with only 95.7 possessions per game. To put that into perspective, the Lakers lead the league with nine more per game (104.7). Fewer possessions means fewer opportunities for points, which means you should pause any time one of your players is facing the Grizzlies, who also happen to rank 16th in defensive rating.
Miami Heat: Hassan Whiteside (knee) will miss his eighth consecutive game on Friday against the Hornets, but he took part in some on-court work on Thursday, and he could be closing in on a return. Until then, the team’s few other big men like Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo will continue to see a more prominent role. Adebayo went for 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench in Tuesday’s loss to the Blazers while Olynyk started the game and chipped in 10 and six.
Milwaukee Bucks:John Henson is making only 48.1 percent of his free throws this season, which seems like a red flag for anyone using him in fantasy until you look at how infrequently he gets to the line. The career 56.5 percent free throw shooter is attempting only 2.1 shots per game at the stripe, limiting how much his poor shooting hurts those who have him in category leagues. Right now, his shot-blocking and rebounding make him valuable.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins‘ name-value carries much more weight than his actual fantasy value in category leagues. The reason is simple: all he does is score, and even that is down this season (18.3 PPG), thanks to the addition of Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague. Wiggins’ 43.5 percent shooting and small impact as a distributor (1.9 APG) limit him and will likely leave him outside the top 75 in the roto rankings for the remainder of the season.
New Orleans Pelicans: With Jameer Nelson playing well in the Pelicans’ game against the Bucks on Tuesday, Rajon Rondo mentioned to coach Alvin Gentry that the team should leave Nelson in the game. He did, finishing with 30 minutes, and the Pelicans won. That’s noteworthy because Rondo played only 18 minutes and, given the result, there’s a chance this could be something that happens again, which makes Rondo somewhat of a risky option.
New York Knicks: With Tim Hardaway Jr. sidelined due to a stress reaction in his leg, it has been up to others to carry the scoring load this month. The biggest beneficiary is Kristaps Porzingis, who is averaging 23.3 shots and 27 PPG in the four games he has played without Hardaway this month. Hardaway, for what it’s worth, indicated Thursday that his leg is feeling better, and he expects to be cleared to start running soon.
Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder are desperate to get things turned around after a mediocre opening two months of the season. So desperate, in fact, that they are relying on the 33-year-old Carmelo Anthony to play huge minutes — 35.6 per game in the last five contests — to make up for their lack of depth. Problem is, at this rate, Anthony could very well suffer an injury in the not-too-distant future, and even if he doesn’t, he simply isn’t shooting well (40 FG% for the season) or doing much of anything other than score (17.7 PPG), rebound (6.4 RPG) and shoot 3s (2.0 3PG).
Orlando Magic: Evan Fournier will miss a fourth consecutive game on Friday, as he is already listed as out against the Trail Blazers. Mario Hezonja has been given a chance to blossom in Fournier’s absence, which is somewhat of a silver lining in all this, as the No. 5 overall pick in 2015 averaged 12 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal in his past two games, playing 33 MPG.
Philadelphia 76ers: Trevor Booker‘s fantasy value was expected to take a hit when he was traded from Brooklyn to Philadelphia, but he is averaging 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in three games with his new team. Now, two of those games came with Joel Embiid sidelined, but it’s encouraging that he hasn’t skipped a beat since changing teams.
Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson‘s minutes have predictably risen in the four games since Devin Booker went down, but the efficiency just isn’t there for the No. 4 overall pick this past June. Jackson is just 3-of-21 in his past two games and 9-of-35 (25.7 percent) during the four-game span. Also troubling is that Jackson, who was seen by some as a young Andre Iguodala coming into the season, has just one steal, one block and six assists in 105 total minutes in his last four games.
Portland Trail Blazers: Zach Collins has averaged nine points and five rebounds in his past two games, getting extended minutes for a Blazers team that lacks versatile big men. While his skinny frame makes him an unlikely candidate to thrive and avoid injury as a rookie, he looks the part and is a young center worth thinking about for next season and beyond.
Sacramento Kings: George Hill‘s 18 points in Tuesday’s win over Phoenix was the most he’s scored since rattling off 21 in the season-opener against Dallas back on Oct. 20. Before jumping on the Hill bandwagon, though, it’s worth recognizing that the Suns have the worst defensive efficiency in the NBA and that rookie point guards De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason III are still going to cut into his minutes going forward.
San Antonio Spurs: Kawhi Leonard played 16 minutes in his season debut against the Mavericks on Tuesday, and interestingly, Pau Gasol was held scoreless in 22 minutes and took only two shots. This is something to keep an eye on as Leonard gets back in playing shape and starts getting a heavier workload. If Gasol’s usage and shot attempts take a nose dive, he potentially could become more of a streaming option and less of a must-roster player.
Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas‘ minutes aren’t where you want them to be if you have him on your fantasy team, but he’s making the most of his time on the court. The 7-foot center is averaging 12.8 PPG and 9.5 RPG in 23 MPG through six games this month, but he’s a better option in points leagues than category leagues because he is a non-factor in terms of assists, blocks, steals and 3-pointers.
Utah Jazz: Veteran swingman Joe Johnson, who hasn’t played since Oct. 30 due to a wrist injury, could return to the lineup for Friday’s game in Boston. With Rodney Hood also back, the game against the Celtics is potentially the healthiest the Jazz have been since the season started.
Washington Wizards:John Wall returned to the court on Wednesday against Memphis and played 28 minutes, which is a good indicator that he’s not far from ramping back up to a full workload. Wall’s scoring is down 3.2 PPG and he’s also down 1.8 APG from last season. If that’s where his numbers stay for the rest of the season, he’s not going to be a top-15 fantasy option like many expected, but I’d still put him in the top 25 due to the impact he makes with steals and blocks.