By Nick Whalen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
It’s Week 15 of the fantasy basketball season, which means it’s time to lock in and gear up for the stretch run. In most leagues, the trade deadline has passed, so managers who opted not to make any moves will be working the waiver wire harder than ever.
This week’s schedule is another jam-packed one, with all 30 teams playing three or four games. For the most part, this will be the case the rest of the way, as the league packs in the remainder of its abbreviated, 72-game schedule.
On the news front, many of the headlines revolve around new faces in new places. Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, and Norman Powell have all debuted for their new teams, while we’re still waiting to see a few others — namely, Victor Oladipo — don a different uniform. Meanwhile, the post-deadline buyout market has produced even more movement, with veterans Andre Drummond, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Jeff Teague all landing on contending rosters.
Let’s take a look at how the biggest deadline deals have fared thus far, as well as check in on some of the other top fantasy storylines of the week:
New faces, new places
Nikola Vucevic made his Bulls debut Saturday night in San Antonio, finishing with 21 points, nine rebounds, and three assists in 32 minutes of a 120-104 loss. Chicago stumbled again Monday night against the Warriors — a 116-102 defeat — but Vucevic again posted 21 points and nine boards, this time adding six assists and a block. The big man appears to be settling in well as the Option 1B to Zach LaVine’s 1A, though it’s worth noting that he took only 13 shots Monday night — his fewest in any game since January.
Aaron Gordon saw his first action in a Nuggets uniform in Sunday’s blowout win over Atlanta, which he finished with 13 points, two rebounds, one assist, and one steal in 21 minutes. Gordon was immediately inserted in the starting five, and it looks like Denver will go forth with a lineup of Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr., Gordon, Will Barton, and Jamal Murray.
It was a nightmare debut in Boston for Evan Fournier, who went 0-of-10 from the field (0-5 3PT) on his way to a scoreless night in Monday’s loss to the Pelicans. Fournier became just the fourth player in the last 40 years to shoot 0-of-10 or worse in his first game with a new team.
On the other end of Orlando’s deadline fire sale, Wendell Carter debuted for the Magic in Sunday’s 96-93 loss to the Lakers. In 20 minutes off the bench, Carter posted eight points, eight rebounds, and one steal, while getting to the free-throw line seven times — his most since Jan. 17.
The Blazers and Raptors swapped guards at the deadline, and the two teams squared off in Tampa Bay on Sunday night. It was actually the second game in new uniforms for Gary Trent Jr. and Norman Powell, who each made their respective debuts Friday night.
Delon Wright landing in Sacramento looks to have put an end to his run as a borderline-top-80 player in eight-category leagues. He’s played 23 minutes off the bench in each of his first two appearances, totaling just six points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and one steal.
Kelly Olynyk has started each of his first two games with the Rockets, though that will likely change when Christian Wood (illness) returns to action. Olynyk went for 16 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals in Saturday’s win over Minnesota. He followed up with 25 points, nine boards, two assists, two blocks, and a steal Monday versus Memphis. For the season, Olynyk ranks just outside the top 100 in eight-cat leagues.
Victor Oladipo was sidelined Monday by a non-COVID illness, but he could play for the Heat as soon as Wednesday night at Indiana. There’s a good chance Oladipo will start right away and serve as the nominal point guard.
Nets coach Steve Nash said Monday that LaMarcus Aldridge will probably sit out two-to-four more games as he ramps up his conditioning. The 35-year-old hasn’t played since March 1. Also of note: Nash told the media Aldridge will have an opportunity to compete for a starting spot.
Andre Drummond officially joined the Lakers on Sunday night, so his debut could come Wednesday against Milwaukee, assuming he’s in game shape. While Drummond has his flaws, the Lakers were in desperate need of a talent infusion as they head into a particularly challenging portion of their second-half schedule.
Thunder shelving Horford for rest of season
Over the weekend, the Thunder quietly announced Horford will no longer be active for any games the rest of the way. The news was met with as little surprise as possible, as Horford had already been rested for six of the previous eight games. Entering Tuesday, Oklahoma City sits just 3.5 games out of the 10 seed in the West, but the franchise is blatantly shifting its efforts toward player development and draft positioning.
While this is bad news for managers who took a flyer on Horford — though you probably dropped him a week or two ago — it’s great news for those who grabbed Moses Brown from the waiver wire. In 10 games for the Thunder, Brown is averaging 11.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 27.9 minutes. His role should now be secure going forward, though OKC did bring in another young center in Tony Bradley, who debuted with eight points and five boards in 14 minutes off the bench Monday night.
Odds and ends
Jusuf Nurkic made his long-awaited return Friday night in Orlando, playing 19 minutes and finishing with eight points, eight rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block. He also saw 19 minutes in Sunday’s win over Toronto and posted 10 points, four boards, two assists, and a block. Expect Nurkic’s workload to gradually increase over the next several games.
Over the past month, Russell Westbrook ranks as the sixth most-valuable player in eight-category leagues (total value). Despite shooting just 63.4 percent from the free-throw line, Westbrook has re-established himself as an elite fantasy guard, averaging 25.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 11.8 assists and 1.9 steals over his last 14 games.
Another guard on the rise is De’Aaron Fox, who ranks one spot ahead of Westbrook in eight-cat leagues over the last month. Over his last 14 games, Fox is putting up 29.3 points, 7.3 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 threes, and 1.7 steals, while shooting 52.2 percent from the field. Like Westbrook, Fox’s major flaw is free-throw shooting, though his figure (74.5% FT) isn’t quite as damaging.
Robert Covington casually ranks fourth in total value in the last month, thanks to averages of 12.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.0 threes, 1.9 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.9 blocks. His defensive numbers could regress as Nurkic settles in, but Covington has eight blocks and four steals in the two games since the big man’s return. For the season, he’s up to 37th overall in total value after a brutal start.
If James Harden says he’s the MVP of the league, I’m at least willing to listen. Harden’s quote came after Friday’s win in Detroit, when he went off for 44 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists with Kyrie Irving (personal) sidelined. After another huge night Monday against Minnesota — 38 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds — Harden is up to 27.1 points, 11.3 assists, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game since the start of February (24 games). While no player has ever won the MVP after switching teams mid-season, the door is at least cracked open for Harden to make a run with both Joel Embiid and LeBron James missing significant time due to injury.
A second-year guard to monitor: New Orleans’ Nickeil Alexander-Walker. In five starts with Lonzo Ball (hip) sidelined, Alexander-Walker is averaging 17.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 block and 3.8 made threes (40.4% 3Pt) across 34.0 minutes.
Malik Beasley has struggled in his first two games back from a 12-game suspension. While he’s started both contests, Beasley is a combined 7-of-29 from the field, including 6-of-22 from beyond the arc. He finished Monday’s loss to the Nets with only nine points and four turnovers in 31 minutes.
Ja Morant is barely a top-85 player (total value) over the last month, despite playing in every game. Over his last 15 contests, Morant is averaging 19.1 points and 7.1 assists, but he’s providing virtually nothing else, adding just 3.7 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks, and 0.9 three-pointers. Morant is shooting 42 percent from the field and 73.7 percent at the line in that span, and in nine-category leagues, his 2.9 turnovers push him all the way down to 150th.