Brandon Miller shines vs. Spurs

By Raphielle Johnson

While all 30 teams haven’t played at least 41 games yet, this is essentially the official halfway point of the regular season. For fantasy managers, that means few secrets remain regarding worthwhile pickups. So, we’re moving the threshold up to 50% rostered from 40% moving forward. Friday’s seven-game slate was headlined by a matchup of title contenders in Boston, and Pascal Siakam made his Pacers debut in Portland. Denver’s win over Boston did not produce any worthwhile fantasy adds, but that wasn’t the case with every game.

The rematch was played in Charlotte one week after the Spurs and Hornets met in San Antonio. Brandon Miller (41%), who exited that first game with a lower back contusion suffered after Keldon Johnson fouled him on a dunk attempt, was back in the Hornets lineup for Friday’s game. The rookie had one of the best nights of his young NBA career, finishing the win with 24 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals, and four 3-pointers. Miller shot 8-of-14 from the field and 4-of-5 from the foul line and played 35 minutes.

He hasn’t been a great fantasy option this season, ranking just outside the top 150 in 8-cat per-game value (and outside the top 200 in 9-cat). And moving into the starting lineup full-time in late November hasn’t done much for his value, either. However, even with Friday’s victory, the Hornets will not factor into the race for a Play-In Tournament spot, which could impact how the currently sidelined Gordon Hayward is handled between now and the end of the season. It may be a bit early for some standard league managers to go all-in with Miller, but he’ll have value during the “silly season.”

Let’s take a look at a few of Friday’s other top pickups, including one for Saturday’s eight-game slate:

Jeremy Sochan (47%)

I have not been on the Sochan bandwagon, but he has been an improved player recently. Finishing Friday’s loss to the Hornets with 11 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, one steal, one block, and one 3-pointer in 34 minutes, Sochan has provided top 100 per-game value in 8- and 9-cat formats over the past two weeks. The decision to finally move Tre Jones into the starting lineup has benefitted Victor Wembanyama the most. Still, it has also taken some pressure off Sochan as a playmaker, which could positively impact his fantasy value.

Aaron Nesmith (30%)

Nesmith returned to the Pacers lineup after missing three games with bilateral shin soreness, logging 28 minutes and tallying 12 points, four rebounds, two assists, and three 3-pointers. The minutes were good, but Nesmith plays a position that Bennedict Mathurin and Buddy Hield can play when the Pacers need more offensive firepower. If he can continue to hit the high 20s, Nesmith can benefit from the opportunities that will come his way playing alongside Tyrese Haliburton and Pascal Siakam. Some managers will drop Nesmith right away, but exercising some patience wouldn’t be the worst approach to take.

Jabari Walker (14%)

The Trail Blazers welcomed back Deandre Ayton on Friday, but his return impacted Duop Reath, not Walker. Walker remained a starter, playing 41 minutes and recording a line of 13 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, and one blocked shot. Between his jumping Toumani Camara in the rotation and Portland being down multiple rotation players, Walker’s worthy of consideration in deep leagues. Also, Scoot Henderson had to leave Friday’s game at halftime with a nasal contusion. He and Walker don’t play the same position, but Portland’s lack of healthy guards put Chauncey Billups in a difficult spot on Friday, forcing him to go big on occasion.

Marvin Bagley III (35%)

Pressed into a starting role, Bagley was outstanding in his Wizards debut on Thursday against the Knicks. Daniel Gafford (concussion protocol) is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Spurs, so it’s no lock that he’ll be cleared to play. And even if he is cleared, it’s not like the Wizards are loaded with rotation-caliber big men. Bagley will play regardless of what happens with Gafford, and he may only need 25 minutes to provide solid fantasy value. If he’s sitting on your waiver wire, rolling the dice on Bagley wouldn’t be the worst idea, especially if there’s a need for a healthy frontcourt option.

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