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The long, long wait for basketball to return from the All-Star Break is finally over, but it's a little difficult to use a one or two game sample as a way of telling you which players to pick up this week. Instead, I'll be giving you part two of what I started last week. What does that mean?

Well, last week I took a look at all the tanking teams and how their current situation could lead to certain players rising and falling as the season winds down and as teams get a little more careful with injuries. Last week, for example, I pegged Robin Lopez as a potential faller and look what happened: the Bulls didn't play him in their first game back from the All-Star break.

So, this week, let's go the opposite direction. Teams that are fighting for the top seeds in their conferences--how will their players fare over the remainder of the season? Let's take a look at some potential risers and fallers heading into Week 20 of the NBA season from the following set of teams: Golden State, Houston, San Antonio, Boston, Cleveland, Toronto, and Washington. We're avoiding most of that big Western Conference mess for now, but I'll make sure to take a better look at those teams in the coming weks.

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The Contending Teams

Golden State Warriors

Riser: Steph Curry missed some time before the break, but he's the engine of the Warriors and the team finds themselves in an unexpected position in the second-half: fighting for the one seed instead of just, you know, having the one seed. Expect the team to be less cautious with Curry and for him to look closer to the pre-Durant version of himself on some night.

Faller: Zaza Pachulia was moved to the bench on Thursday for the first time as a Warrior and played just seven minutes. He was already most likely off the fantasy radar in shallower formats, but if he continues to see his minutes decrease then he'll be off the fantasy radar for everyone.

 

Houston Rockets

Riser: P.J. Tucker is now the starting power forward for the Rockets after Ryan Anderson's continued inconsistency on offense and struggles on defense necessitated a move. As a starter, Tucker is capable of giving fantasy owners 10 points and a handful of rebounds per night. He can also be a lot more useful on the defensive end for steals and blocks.

Faller: Gerald Green is SO. MUCH. FUN. But with Trevor Ariza (leg) back and Joe Johnson being worked into the rotation, Green's most likely role moving forward will be garbage time minutes until another injury puts him back into the rotation. There's no point trusting him at this point.

 

San Antonio

Riser: Rudy Gay played just 19 minutes on Friday night in his return to action, but he should be crucial down the stretch for the Spurs if they want to make the playoffs. He's obviously no Kawhi Leonard, but Rudy Gay playing his best basketball is a good player who can help fantasy squads and San Antonio.

Faller: Davis Bertans had been playing twent or more minutes per game in the four games before the break and had nine or more points in all of those games plus four or more rebounds as well. But with Gay back and the Spurs playing Pau Gasol more minutes as they turn on the burners for the playoff race, Bertans played just 14 minutes and recorded just a single stat--one assist.

 

Boston Celtics

Riser: Greg Monroe is of interest because he's the most skilled of Boston's big men. A lot depends on center Aron Baynes, who left Friday's game with an elbow injury--if he misses some time, I really like Monroe as a streaming option until he's back. If he doesn't miss time, I'm still a fan of Monroe in deeper leagues, though his upside in that situation is limited.

Faller: Terry Rozier stopped being the butt of all those "Celtics wouldn't trade Terry for anything" jokes with an incredibly impressive stretch over the last few weeks before the All-Star break, but the return of Marcus Smart will return Rozier to the role of the fourth guard in Boston's rotation, a thing that lowers his fantasy appeal.

 

Toronto Raptors

Riser: I mean, it's obvious, but DeMar DeRozan is having his best NBA season right now and there's no reason to expect that to change. Toronto can get the one seed. DeRozan's offense will be what drags them there.

Faller: There are a lot of reasons to love OG Anunoby from a real life perspective, but less reason to be excited about him as a fantasy player at this point. His offensive game just isn't there yet. Is he a big part of Toronto's success? Sure! But don't expect the rookie to suddenly become a strong fantasy option down the stretch.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Riser: After that trade shook things up, I'm still a little uncertain about the roles on the Cavs. Larry Nance Jr. led the bench in minutes in Cleveland's second post-break game, while Rodney Hood led in minutes during the loss to Washington on Thursday. I settled on Nance because his rebounding ability could be a much needed thing inside for the Cavs, which should keep him on the court more as the season moves along.

Faller: Poor, poor Jeff Green, who finds himself at the bottom of Cleveland's rotation. In four games since the trades happened, Green has played more than twenty minutes just once after spending much of the season in a role that game him heavy minutes off the bench. That 24 point outing on February 9, with the rest of the team missing as the newly-acquired players headed to Cleveland, is almost an afterthought now.

 

Washington Wizards

Riser: I'm really interested in Kelly Oubre Jr. and how he's played lately for Washington. Double-digit scoring and defensive intensity are good things for the Wizards and for fantasy owners, but there is the concern of how his role shifts once John Wall returns.

Faller: Speaking of John Wall, any value that Tomas Satoransky has right now--and he does have value as a shooter and a passer!--drops once John Wall returns from a knee injury. Wall could be back by the middle or end of March, so Satoransky isn't falling in value yet, but you can bet that Wall will be pressed back into a key role as soon as he's able to return.

 

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