Playing their second game in as many nights, the Rockets were down two starters for Sunday’s game against the Celtics. Fred VanVleet was sidelined due to a back injury, while Jabari Smith Jr. sat after spraining his ankle during the final minute of Saturday’s overtime win over Utah. As a result, two rookies moved into the starting lineup, with one having the best game of his brief NBA career.
Amen Thompson (14% rostered, Yahoo) and Cam Whitmore were tabbed to start against Boston, and while the latter struggled, the former flourished in the nine-point defeat. Thompson shot 5-of-10 from the floor and 5-of-6 from the foul line, scoring 15 points with 14 rebounds, five assists, one steal, and two turnovers in 32 minutes. Recording his second double-double, Amen established career-highs in points and rebounds. As for Whitmore, he shot 2-of-7 and finished with five points, four rebounds, one steal, one block, and one 3-pointer in 27 minutes. He’s had better nights than this and will also in the future.
The fantasy values for both players depend on the availability of established starters ahead of them in the pecking order. However, there could come a point later in the season when Houston decides to give Thompson and Whitmore even more opportunities to prove themselves. So, Sunday’s performance (at least for Thompson) was one for fantasy managers to file away in their memory banks for “silly season.”
Let’s look at a few more of Sunday’s top pickups:
Dillon Brooks (38%)
The rookies mentioned above weren’t the only Rockets who experienced usage increases. Brooks attempted a season-high 22 shots against Boston, and while he only made eight, the veteran wing did produce a line of 25 points, five rebounds, one assist, four steals, and five 3-pointers in 40 minutes. Brooks did this without committing a turnover, so category league managers only took a hit in the field-goal percentage department. He remains ranked outside the top 150 in 9-cat per-game value, but that’s significantly higher than fellow starter Jalen Green.
Norman Powell (42%)
With only six games on Sunday’s schedule, adding Powell was excusable, even though Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were available for the matchup with Brooklyn. One of the top 3-point shooters in the league this season, Powell hit two more in the Clippers‘ comeback win, finishing with 12 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. He isn’t a great “add” on busier game nights, especially with the Clippers being relatively healthy on the perimeter. Still, Sunday was an excellent spot to nab a few 3-pointers by rostering Powell.
Bilal Coulibaly (8%)
The Wizards rookie remains a work in progress offensively, but the defense is something else. Coulibaly racked up four blocks and one steal in the Wizards’ loss to the Nuggets while accumulating nine points, three rebounds, one assist, and one 3-pointer. Coulibaly isn’t a player who will help fantasy managers too much right now, but he should be a factor come “silly season.” The Wizards are now 7-35 on the season; they won’t be anywhere near a Play-In Tournament spot come April. Coulibaly is averaging 26.3 minutes per game this season; he shouldn’t have much difficulty playing 30 consistently after the trade deadline.
Sam Hauser (4%)
Returning to that matchup between the Celtics and Rockets, Hauser made a spot start due to the absences of Jrue Holiday (elbow) and Al Horford (rest). He didn’t have a great night shooting the basketball, going 3-of-12 from three and finishing with nine points, seven rebounds, six assists, one steal, one block, and three 3-pointers. But the minutes (31) were there, and this was the first game of a back-to-back for Boston, which visits Dallas on Monday. While Holiday and Horford are expected to be available, what about Kristaps Porzingis? Not too many people chose to add Hauser, but he could offer modest streaming value on Monday, depending on who’s available.
Alec Burks (31%)
Speaking of Monday, this could be another prime spot for Burks, as Cade Cunningham is listed as doubtful for the Pistons‘ game against Milwaukee. Burks went off for 33 points in Saturday’s loss to the Bucks, the second time he’s exceeded 30 points in his last three games. The veteran guard, who’s hit double figures in 13 straight games, has averaged 21.5 points per game in the six that Cunningham has missed despite coming off the bench. Burks’ name has come up in trade rumors recently, as multiple teams with playoff ambitions are reportedly interested. His recent play has done nothing to dissuade potential suitors.
Patrick Williams (27%)
Williams is probable for Monday’s game against the Suns with a right ankle strain, the same injury he’s been dealing with for a few games. No Zach LaVine (ankle) means he’ll be in the starting lineup if cleared for Monday’s game against the Suns. And in 19 games that Williams has played this season without LaVine, he’s averaged 12.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocks, and 1.7 3-pointers, shooting 48.2% from the field and 76.5% from the foul line.