Juan Blanco, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Damian Lillard, POR: Lillard has scored between 35 and 50 points in six of his last 10 games, and he’s putting up a robust 22.2 shot attempts over the last five contests. The All-Star has even stepped up his aggressiveness from distance during that stretch, hoisting up nearly one more attempt from three-point range per contest over his season average (10, as compared to 8.4). That’s helped him drain multiple treys in 11 straight, and his overall usage figures to continue at peak levels while the Trail Blazers battle for playoff positioning in the stretch run.
Jerian Grant, CHI: Grant isn’t expected to be back in the Bulls’ regular rotation barring injuries in front of him, and accordingly, he’s played a grand total of 17 minutes in the three games he’s seen action in since the All-Star break. The 25-year-old has posted DNP-CDs in the three other contests over that span as Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne appear set to man point guard duties the rest of the way.
Jrue Holiday, NOP: Predictably, DeMarcus Cousins’ season-ending Achilles injury has spiked Holiday’s usage rate, as his shot attempts are up to 20.2 from a season figure of 15.4 over the last five contests, helping lead to tallies of 24 to 36 points in five of his last six games overall. Moreover, he’s supplementing his above-average rebounding numbers with an elevated number of assists of late, as the 6.5 dimes he’s dished out over the last 10 notably outpace his season figure of 5.6.
J.R. Smith, CLE: Snell has gone through a couple of rough patches this season, but his current situation makes those look like a picnic. Even prior to his infamous, one-game “Soupgate” suspension, Smith was averaging a paltry 3.6 points (on 18.1 percent shooting) across 19.3 minutes in the three previous games. Then, after providing some false hope with a trademark, out-of-nowhere 19-point effort against the Nuggets upon his return, he promptly went scoreless over 22 minutes while taking just three shot attempts versus the Pistons on Monday night. With essentially every other current first-unit option on the Cavs representing a more trustworthy option at this point, Smith’s production is bound to be middling at best on the majority of nights moving forward.
David Nwaba, CHI: Nwaba is one of several young pieces benefitting from coach Fred Hoiberg’s recent decision to focus on player development following the All-Star break. He posted double-digits in the scoring column in five out of the six games following the layoff and has been just as impressive on the glass, hauling in between six and 11 rebounds in the last six games before getting three on Monday. Nwaba is also making excellent use of his 6.8 shot attempts over his most recent five games as the starting small forward, draining 55.9 percent of them on his way to a solid average of 10.2 points across 32 minutes.
Robert Covington, PHI: Covington has now shot under 50.0 percent in 12 of the last 13 contests and is shooting just 35.1 percent from the field — including 30.0 percent from three-point range — during that stretch. Unsurprisingly, those spotty efforts and the fact he hasn’t put up double-digit attempts since Jan. 22 have led to frequent single-digit scoring efforts recently. Moreover, a recent downturn in rebounds has prevented him from making up for the offensive shortfall, as he’s hauling in almost one less board a game (4.6) than his season average (5.5) over the last seven contests.
Paul Millsap, DEN: Millsap has left no doubt as to the fitness of his surgically repaired wrist in his recent return, as he’s posted averages of 11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocks across a relatively modest 25.7 minutes in his first three games back. He’s averaged a solid 9.7 shot attempts in those contests, and with his minutes set to potentially hit 30 after residing in the high 20s the last two games, the veteran big man projects for a corresponding boost in production. Denver continues to chase a postseason spot as well, which helps guarantee Millsap’s playing time and usage down the stretch. His above-average shooting, scoring and rebounding should therefore reward fantasy owners who were patient with him through his extended layoff.
Michael Beasley, NYK: Beasley was on the opposite end of the fantasy spectrum in the immediate wake of Kristaps Porzingis’ season-ending knee injury, but matters have taken a turn for the worse since the All-Star break. Beasley has come out of the layoff cold and notably less involved on offense, posting single-digit point tallies in four of the first five games on his way to averages of 7.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 blocks across 24.6 minutes. The former first-round pick is also connecting on just 34.1 percent of his 8.2 shot attempts during that stretch, with both figures appreciably lower than his season averages.
Larry Nance, Jr., CLE: Nance has quickly acclimated to his new Cleveland digs, and he immediately maximized what should be a multi-game starting opportunity at center on Monday against the Pistons. Nance filled in for Tristan Thompson (ankle) and exploded for a 22-point, 15-rebound double-double. He’d been coming on his reserve role prior to that as well, averaging a solid 11.2 points (on 64.7 percent shooting), 7.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.4 steals. Now looking at the prospect of expanded minutes for multiple contests, his stock sees a significant bump across all formats.
Robin Lopez, CHI: Lopez is one of the veterans that gets the short end of the stick with respect to the Bulls’ renewed focus on player development. He hasn’t taken the floor since the All-Star break as both Cristiano Felicio and Bobby Portis have gotten minutes at center, and while his deactivation may not extend for the duration of the season, there’s simply no guarantee when or if he’ll suit up again.