A flurry of player movement transpired in the hours leading up to Thursday afternoon's trade deadline in the NBA. For some sage analysis on the statistical winners and losers of the deadline through a fantasy lens, resident hoops expert Andre' Snellings has you covered.
Snellings deftly identifies Detroit's Christian Wood as a key winner at the deadline, as the surprising departure of Andre Drummond within the division to Cleveland opens a massive batch of opportunities as a scorer, defender and rebounder for the versatile big man. The fantasy public is already acting on such counsel, as Wood is the single most-added player in ESPN fantasy basketball leagues this week.
One under-the-radar beneficiary of the deadline who merits mention is Ky Bowman of the Golden State Warriors. An undrafted rookie from the 2019 class, Bowman has spent the year on a two-way contract and on Thursday was converted to a multiyear contract with the big club in the wake of D'Angelo Russell's departure to Minnesota.
With Russell's scoring and passing creation off the roster, it's worth noting that in Bowman's 10 starts this season for Golden State, he produced 11.9 PPG, 3.9 APG, 1.6 SPG and 1.4 3PG on strong shooting efficiency from the floor in 30 MPG. In nearly 800 minutes on the floor sans Russell this season, on a per 36 basis, Bowman has netted clips of 12.5 PPG, 4.5 APG and 4.0 RPG, signaling real value in competitive fantasy formats in the weeks ahead. Bowman is currently rostered in less than one percent of ESPN leagues.
Bobby Portis, New York Knicks: 4 points (1-8 FG), 3 rebounds, 1 assist
The Knicks didn't fortify their depth chart at point guard via the trade market, leaving Payton as the lead distributor going forward. Payton continued to prove productive in this role with the Knicks in downing the Magic on Thursday night, as he produced the first line in the NBA since 2008, and just the second since 1994, to include at least 15 points, 9 dimes and 7 steals. Payton is a premier addition in all formats. Sticking with New York, the departure of Marcus Morris and his somewhat elite 3-point efficiency should result in Reggie Bullock enjoying more shooting volume in the coming weeks. He took 13 shots for just the third time this season on Thursday. Power forward Taj Gibson is also worth a look in deeper leagues, given increased usage and rebounding opportunities with Morris now on the Clippers.
Westbrook reached 20,000 points for his career, becoming the 46th player in NBA history to reach this illustrious mark. The performance marked Westbrook's third 40-point showing with Houston this season. Houston's small-ball approach was a success on Thursday against the Lakers, with the recently acquired Robert Covington proving effective in defending the paint relative to his size; the dynamic defender tallied four combined steals and blocks and should be considered a potential breakout fantasy option down the stretch, given a blend of elite defensive rates and uncontested catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. Sticking with the Rockets, Danuel House Jr. seems to have secured a meaningful role in the rotation and is a worthy add in all formats.
What's ailing Philly's Joel Embiid? The 76ers lost their fourth straight game as they faded down the stretch against the superior Bucks on Thursday evening in Milwaukee. Embiid made just six of his 26 attempts from the floor. Embiid has appeared disengaged at times this season and continues to struggle in adjusting to hard double-teams without the floor spacing JJ Redick used to provide. It seems that paying off his first-round price tag as a fantasy contributor is a long shot at this point. I'd be willing to market Embiid in fantasy trade talks if he strings together a huge line or two in the coming weeks.
For a young big man who isn't struggling, we find Zion Williamson thriving as an efficient scoring force for New Orleans; he tallied 21 points on just 11 shots Thursday night and is now shooting 57.4% from the floor on the season, marking the best scoring efficiency by a player through eight career games since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1984-85 (min. 100 attempts). In what is an almost daily refrain, make sure you look for shares of Josh Hart in all formats, as his strong rebounding and savvy assist and shooting rates continue to surface in box scores.
Chicago's Chandler Hutchison produced 16 points and eight rebounds in a loss to the Pelicans on Thursday night and should continue to surface as a helpful utility option in deeper leagues, given the Bulls' depleted frontcourt.
Injuries of note
Per ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Dallas' Kristaps Porzingis (facial injury) is listed as questionable for the Mavericks' game against the Wizards on Friday. Porzingis said he suffered a broken nose in Wednesday's loss to the Grizzlies, but he returned to that game.
Boston's Kemba Walker is considered questionable with a knee injury ahead of Friday night's matchup with the Hawks.
Analytics advantage for Friday
Miami's Jimmy Butler is listed as doubtful ahead of Friday's road game in Sacramento, while rookie Tyler Herro has already been ruled out. This means shares of Goran Dragic in DFS play could prove ultimately rewarding in facing a Kings team allowing roughly 47 fantasy points per game to point guards on DraftKings' scoring key. Shooting guard Kendrick Nunn also surfaces as a key value, given what should be a sizable uptick in usage if Butler isn't available.
Top players to watch on Friday
Damian Lillard has averaged 40.7 PPG and 9.3 APG during his past 10 appearances. Dame has done the bulk of his scoring damage from behind the arc, setting an NBA record with six straight games with six or more 3-point field goals made. Lillard faces a stout Utah defense, albeit one he burned for 51 points and 12 dimes in the past week. Seeing whether Lillard can sustain his amazing scoring and shooting success against Donovan Mitchell and the Utah defense is a compelling element in Friday night's tilt that airs on ESPN.