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Fantasy Basketball Risers and Fallers: Week 21


Okay, so I think we need to talk about something real quick that has nothing to do with this column. That thing is this:

JAMES HARDEN MADE WES JOHNSON FALL DOWN AND THEN HE JUST STOOD THERE AND THEN MADE SURE HE WAS BEHIND THE LINE AND THEN HE HIT A THREE.

It was a wild moment in a first quarter where the Rockets looked dominant. The Clippers got things together over the next couple of quarters, but Houston took control again late and won easily. But, I mean, does any of that matter? Because the real important thing was that play, that stare. (Also, Harden HAS to hit that shot. The play backfires and becomes an embarrassment if that ball doesn't go through the basket.)

Anyway, after two weeks interrupted by All-Star Game-related things, we're back on track here in this week's column. The old structure--four risers and three fallers--is back and #MaybeBetterThanEver. Let's take a look at some potential risers and fallers heading into Week 21 of the NBA season.

 

Risers for Week 21

RISER: Lonzo Ball (G, LAL)

Is Lonzo already a divisive figure among NBA fans and writers? Oh yeah! Lonzo isn't likely to give you major production in points, so if that's a category you're desperate for then you'll need to look elsewhere. But what Lonzo can do is give you above average rebounding and steals numbers and a good amount of assists. On Thursday night, for instance, Ball finished with just eight points, but the guard added six rebounds, seven assists, and SIX steals. His defense is big. (Also, since returning from injury he's gone 8-for-12 from long range. Is he turning a corner offensively? Probably not, but maybe!)

RISER: Dwyane Wade (G, MIA)

I'm hesitant to make the statement "Dwyane Wade is back" after two strong games, but I'm feeling cautiously optimistic about Wade as an option for the rest of the season. Yes, Chicago Wade and Cleveland Wade--and even late first Miami stint Wade--were disappointments, but the Heat star looks refreshed. He's got back-to-back 20+ point games for the first time since February of 2017. A sign this could continue? Wade has shot the ball thirteen or more times in four of his last five games. In Cleveland, he shot the ball that many times on just seven occasions. The Heat seem committed to using Wade as a scorer.

RISER: Nemanja Bjelica (F, MIN)

With Jimmy Butler out, the Timberwolves have moved Bjelica into the starting lineup. It hasn't been the most successful thing from a statistical perspective, but he's a good add in deeper leagues because of his rebounding, his ability to get steals, and his ability to make threes, though that last one has been inconsistent lately. I like him as an addition right now, though, because just a little improvement in that area would go a long way toward improving his performance.

RISER: Nikola Vucevic (C, ORL)

He's back! Vucevic missed 23 games with a fractured hand, but in his first four games back he's averaging 15.8 points and seven rebounds per game. Those are solid numbers, especially when compared to the limited offense that his replacement, Bismack Biyombo, was able to give the Magic.

 

Fallers for Week 21

FALLER: Bismack Biyombo (C, ORL)

True story: the first time I heard Kendrick Lamar's "Humble," I thought he was singing "Sit down, Biyombo." I'm not sure why I thought Kendrick was referencing Biyombo, but I thought it for some reason and was very wrong.

Anyway, Biyombo the basketball player. He's back in a reserve role and while he'll still provide rebounding and blocks in limited minutes, but that lack of major minutes just makes it hard to know what to expect. In four games with Vucevic back, here are Biyombo's rebounding numbers: 5, 2, 0, 11. How can you trust him in your lineups if you could get anything in that range?

FALLER: Maximilian Kleber (F, DAL)

Okay, so you didn't have much reason to play Kleber even when he was starting 34 games for Dallas earlier in the year, but if you're in a deep league and had him on your radar still, just say bye. He;s played 19 minutes in four games since the All-Star break ended and has a total of two points, two rebounds, and an assist in that time. With Dwight Powell establishing himself as the Mavericks center (quick shout-out to an honorable mention riser for this week, Dwight Powell, who is only an honorable mention because he's performed well for most of February and should already be on your radars) and Nerlens Noel back in action, Kleber is out of the rotation.

FALLER: Tyler Ulis (G, PHO)

Less a faller and more of a "keep falling"er, Ulis returned from a back injury last Friday. Before that, he had been playing major minutes and shooting the ball enough to merit something--if not actual fantasy adds, then at least some excitement for the second-year player. But a now-healthy Ulis isn't seeing the floor, with the Suns opting for a backcourt rotation of Elfrid Payton, Devin Booker, Troy Daniels, and Shaquille Harrison.

 

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