We’re almost at the mid-way point of the 2019-20 NBA season. At this point in your season-long fantasy basketball league, you should have a good sense of what kind of team you’ve got the rest of the season. Barring any injuries (knock on wood), you shouldn’t be searching the waiver wire for guys to plug in as starters. You want guys with upside who can pay dividends down the road, whether in the playoffs or future seasons if you’re in a keeper format. This week, we take a look at a few younger players who are performing well enough to consider rostering — both in the short term and for potential down the road.
Michael Porter Jr., SF, Denver Nuggets (11.6 percent owned on ESPN)
I will preface this paragraph by mentioning that Mike Malone is the Nuggets head coach. Malone likes messing with the fantasy community by mixing up his rotations whenever he feels like it. With that said, I think Porter has proved he deserves more playing time moving forward.
Porter scored a career-high 25 points in 23 minutes on Thursday against the Indiana Pacers. He’s played over 20 minutes in two of his past four games and scored at least 19 points in each game. He’s also had games in which he doesn’t see many minutes, but that’s the caveat.
Porter won’t be a reliable fantasy start on most nights and it’ll be hard to predict when to play him. Track his usage and if a trend sticks out, he’s not a bad guy to have on your bench. I think if the Nuggets go through some injuries, Porter could step into a featured role and thrive.
P.J. Washington, PF, Charlotte Hornets (22.5 percent)
Washington recently returned from a broken pinky injury and has been crushing it for the Hornets. He has at least 14 points and four rebounds in each of the five games since returning, failing to reach double-digit fantasy points once. He’s also hit nine 3-pointers during this stretch and is playing big minutes — at least 28 in each game, including as many as 39 minutes last game.
Head coach James Borrego is going with a condensed rotation that is widely riding the starters, and the Hornets are actually only 2.0 games out of a playoff spot in the East. The competitive nature of this team is important when considering Washington’s usage. So long as he remains consistent and the team is in games, he should see plenty of minutes. The only thing you’d like to see if more of a presence on the glass.
Like Porter, Washington is more of a stash keeper play, but he’s getting pretty consistent playing time and is posting decent numbers, so he’s a much safer option on most nights. We’ve see what players out of Kentucky are capable of and I fully believe Washington has that type of ceiling in his career.
Aaron Holiday, PG, Indiana Pacers (10.4 percent)
The Pacers haven’t been able to stay very healthy in the backcourt — mostly Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo. Because of this, the team has had to use Aaron Holiday as the primary ball-handler and it’s actually worked out fine — at least from a fantasy perspective. Holiday has played at least 30 minutes in eight of his past nine games. Over that stretch, he’s averaging 13.4 points and 6.1 assists while shooting 48.6 percent from downtown.
Even when Brogdon was in the lineup during that stretch, it seems Holiday was productive off the bench and his minutes didn’t get impacted much. My feeling overall is that Brogdon will struggle to stay healthy given his back issue and Oladipo will be eased back into action when he’s ready to return. So Holiday should retain value in fantasy basketball. He’s a streaky shooter but can provide 3PT, AST and a decent amount of points for your team.
Jordan McRae, SG, Washington Wizards (6.2 percent)
McRae is becoming the ultimate irrational confidence man for the Wizards. One game he comes off the bench and scores 35 points and 27 fantasy points. The next game he gets his first start for the Wizards and only scores 11 points in 29 minutes. We really don’t know what to expect from McRae on any given night, but that’s OK, because Washington is widely unpredictable this season. The Wiz’s past four games tell a unique story: 14-point win vs. DEN, 19-point loss vs. POR, 21-point loss vs. ORL, 18-point win vs. MIA. That’s two BLOWOUT wins over contenders, and two blowout losses to teams below .500.
McRae’s value may be tied to the status of Bradley Beal, who has been in and out of the lineup due to a leg injury. This may be the case moving forward if the Wizards give up on the season, so Beal may rest most often then not. McRae is 28 years old and at this point we don’t know if he’ll ever be more than a bench scorer, but at this point we know he can fill it up and he’s making the most of his minutes. McRae is more of a deep, deep, stash play whose value would be tied more to injuries or trades. Oh yeah, and McRae is probably a candidate for a trade as well, so maybe a change of scenery boosts his value? It could also hurt, though.