Fantasy basketball 30: Embiid taking his game to new heights

Not only has Joel Embiid been on an NBA MVP pace this season, he has been showing career-best fantasy basketball numbers in some key areas. AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Who is trending up? Which rotations are changing? And what's the latest with the notable injuries around the NBA?

Here's a look at the most fantasy relevant news and notes for all 30 teams:

Atlanta Hawks: How good is Clint Capela playing right now? The veteran center has averaged 25.0 points, 18.7 rebounds and 4.0 blocks during his past three games, numbers that were helped by the monstrous 27-point, 26-rebound, 5-block effort Wednesday against Detroit. Capela fell to the sixth round in most fantasy drafts this season, but he has a chance to move into the third round in next season's drafts if he continues to play like this. His woeful free throw shooting (54.5%) is one of the only knocks to his game.

Boston Celtics: Kemba Walker is back, and there's more good news: His minutes restriction has been raised to 25-28 minutes for Friday's game against Philadelphia. Walker, who has averaged 33.8 MPG during his career, played 20 minutes in his season debut on Sunday and logged 22 minutes against the 76ers on Wednesday.

Brooklyn Nets: So much attention was put on how the Nets' new Big 3 would be able to coexist on the court, but too little may have been put on how much time they'll be on the court. Wednesday's double-overtime loss to Cleveland marked the first game Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden all played together, and the Nets effectively used a six-man rotation with Jeff Green starting instead of Joe Harris and DeAndre Jordan getting the start at center. Harris logged 42 minutes off the bench, while Green played 45 minutes and Jordan 24. Nobody else played more than 12 minutes, even with the two extra five-minute periods. If the Nets stick with this shortened rotation, the Big 3 are all going to play huge minutes and put up monstrous numbers -- as long as they can stay healthy.

Charlotte Hornets: Cody Zeller broke his hand in the season opener back on Dec. 23, but the veteran big man is listed as probable to play Friday against Chicago. This should shift some roles in what has been a very thin Hornets frontcourt, moving Bismack Biyombo back to the bench and limiting P.J. Washington's opportunities to get time at the five. Zeller (available in 98.1% of ESPN leagues) can be a productive fantasy option for the right team and is worth keeping on your radar as a streamer after posting a career high 11.1 PPG and 7.1 RPG last season.

Chicago Bulls: Patrick Williams is one of the more impressive rookies so far this season, but a hip injury kept the No. 4 pick of 2020 out of the lineup in the Bulls' win over the Rockets on Monday. Williams participated in Thursday's practice, which is an encouraging sign that he could return to the court for Friday's game against the Hornets, but nothing is official yet. Keep an eye on that leading up to tip-off.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Jarrett Allen came off the bench and logged 31 minutes in his first game with the Cavs, beating his former team with a 2OT win over the Nets. Allen played all of the two overtimes and finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks, while Andre Drummond, the starter, was benched late in regulation and sat both overtimes, finishing with just 26 minutes. What about JaVale McGee, you might be asking? The veteran center, a subject of trade rumors since Allen was acquired, didn't get in the game. This is a situation worth tracking in the weeks ahead, as more nights like this would mean less fantasy value for Drummond.

Dallas Mavericks: Kristaps Porzingis has impressed in the five games he's played since making his season debut on Jan. 13, putting up 20.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG and 1.8 BPG in that span. What's easy to overlook, though, is that he's managed to accumulate these numbers in only 29.6 MPG. Once he's at full speed and playing a couple more minutes each night -- his career average is 31.2 -- we could see even more production from Dallas' versatile big man.

Denver Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr., who hasn't played since Dec. 29 at Sacramento, rejoined the Nuggets Thursday after being forced to self-isolate for three weeks due to COVID-19. His status for Friday's game in Phoenix is uncertain, and his minutes will likely be limited in his first few games back, but expect Will Barton to slide back to the bench once MPJ is at full speed.

Detroit Pistons: Wayne Ellington hasn't been on the fantasy radar in years, but the veteran shooting guard has suddenly carved out a role on this rebuilding Pistons roster as a guy who does two things: shoot and score. Ellington, a first-round pick way back in 2009, has averaged more than 28.5 MPG during his last three games, and 25 of his 28 shot attempts in that span have come from beyond the 3-point arc. In this current role, Ellington (available in 99.0% of ESPN leagues) is an under-the-radar 3-point specialist worth streaming.

Golden State Warriors: James Wiseman endured the worst game of his young career in Monday's loss to the Lakers (4 points, 3 rebounds in 13 minutes), but the promising rookie center followed that with arguably his best game as a pro, scoring a career-high 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, as well as a career-high four assists in Wednesday's blowout wire-to-wire win over the Spurs. While Wiseman isn't playing huge minutes at this stage of his career (20.0 MPG in in 10 games this month), his value in fantasy as a scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker are all becoming apparent. The Warriors made a point to get Wiseman involved with a number of lobs and alley-oops against the Spurs, a development that could boost his 50.4 FG% even further in the months to come.

Houston Rockets: DeMarcus Cousins is still on 39.4% of rosters in ESPN leagues, but right now, that is based purely on name value. Cousins has averaged just 14.2 MPG in his first 10 games with the Rockets, and that alone should keep him on the waiver wire, but the production hasn't been great either; his 6.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 2.0 APG aren't going to cut it, and it's clear that Christian Wood is the present and the future at center for the Rockets.

Indiana Pacers: With newly acquired Caris LeVert out infinitely and expected to undergo surgery to address the small mass found on his left kidney, the Pacers have used Edmond Sumner in the starting lineup and leaned on more minutes from Aaron Holiday off the bench during the past two games. Sumner is a super-athletic player who has floated under the radar in his first three years in the league. This is a big opportunity for him to show what he can do. Holiday busted out for 16 points and 12 assists against the Warriors on Jan. 12 -- showing what he's capable of -- and the 2018 first-rounder can get to the rim and finish. Both Sumner and Holiday are intriguing and worth keeping an eye on while LeVert is out.

LA Clippers: Lou Williams has long been a source of points, 3-pointers and assists during his lengthy NBA career, but the 34-year-old isn't rosterable in fantasy right now. He is playing just 19.3 MPG and averaging 9.1 PPG and 2.5 APG. The scoring is his lowest output since his second year in the league, way back in 2006-07. It's notable that Lou Will is still rostered in 50.5% of ESPN leagues.

Los Angeles Lakers: It's rare to see a player of Kyle Kuzma's caliber log a career-low in MPG, but that's currently the situation for the former University of Utah standout. Kuzma (rostered in 39.7% of ESPN leagues) has still managed to put up numbers (10.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.9 3PG), but his ceiling is low as long as he's playing right around 25.0 MPG.

Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies didn't have the eight players required to play Wednesday against Portland, forcing that game to be postponed, and the NBA has already postponed Memphis' next three games as well. The soonest the Grizzlies can return to the court is Jan. 27 against the Bulls, but even that is far from a sure thing, so plan accordingly.

Miami Heat: Duncan Robinson failed to make four 3s in a game in four of his first five games of the season. Since then, the 3-point specialist has made at least four 3s in seven of eight games, averaging 4.5 3PG during that span to go with 17.1 PPG. He remains available in 40.2% of ESPN leagues.

Milwaukee Bucks: I've written a lot about Khris Middleton in this space in recent years, but his efficient shooting has gone up yet another notch this season. Middleton is on pace to set new career highs in FG% (52.7), 3FG% (43.9) and FT% (93.2) in his ninth year in the league, which is a big reason why he's also at a career-best pace at PER (23.33).

Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards is an appealing name after being the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, and he's currently rostered in 40.7% of ESPN leagues because of that, but so far, the physical swing man hasn't rewarded fantasy managers very much. Edwards, who is playing 25.0 MPG, is shooting just 35.9% from the field and averaging 12.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.5 SPG and 0.2 BPG. Unless things pick up significantly, he's best left on the waiver wire at this point.

New Orleans Pelicans: Patience is wearing thin with Lonzo Ball in New Orleans, as several national publications wrote about in recent days. Ball worked hard to improve his shooting motion over the offseason -- and it definitely passes the eye test -- but so far it hasn't translated to better efficiency for the No. 2 pick in 2017. Ball is shooting just 38.7% from the field and 28.2% from 3-point range and currently isn't even a top-80 player in any fantasy format.

New York Knicks: Nerlens Noel doesn't play enough or score enough to be a factor in points leagues, but his shot-blocking prowess makes him worth a look in category leagues. Noel, available in 95.4% of ESPN leagues, has 10 blocks in his past three games, and his 1.7 BPG for the season ranks No. 7 in the NBA.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is currently on a career-high pace in terms of scoring (21.0 PPG) and FG% (50.5), but the most impressive improvement from previous years is his assists. After averaging 3.3 APG as a rookie with the Clippers in 2018-19 (and the same number with the Thunder last season), SGA has doubled his average to 6.6 APG this season -- even while playing 1.3 MPG less than last season. Gilgeous-Alexander has dished out 17 assists in his past two games.

Orlando Magic: Evan Fournier (a free agent in 48.8% of ESPN leagues) returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing nine games due to back spasms, finishing with 24 points, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 3s in 28 minutes. The versatile veteran wing was already one of the main scoring options on this team when Markelle Fultz was healthy, but with Fultz now out for the season, he will likely take on an even bigger scoring role. Fournier's 21 shot attempts in his first game back was a good sign.

Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid is putting up MVP-caliber numbers so far in 2020-21 -- doing it all on the court -- but his improved shooting is noteworthy. Embiid's 54.5 FG% is well above his career average (48.3%) and his 83.9 FT% and 36.8 3FG% would also be career highs if the season ended today. When you add in the scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and shot-blocking, the only question with Embiid is whether he can stay on the court. But this season, with COVID-19 being a looming concern around the league, the same can be said about every player.

Phoenix Suns: Chris Paul is at 0.8 SPG and 0.8 3PG through his first 13 games in Phoenix, and if he continues at that pace in these categories, his fantasy value is almost solely tied up in his assists, which are up from 6.7 per game last season to 8.2 this season. Paul's 13.5 PPG and 0.8 SPG are both well below his previous career lows of 15.6 PPG and 1.6 SPG.

Portland Trail Blazers: With CJ McCollum and his 26.7 PPG, 5.0 APG and 4.8 3PG now sidelined at least four weeks due to a stress fracture in his left foot, the Blazers find themselves in a difficult spot. No team can afford to absorb this type of loss, especially a team like Portland that lacks depth. In their first game without McCollum, Rodney Hood moved into the starting lineup and scored 21 points in 25 minutes, while Gary Trent Jr. played 24 minutes off the bench. Those two will see a bigger role in the month ahead, and Damian Lillard, Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony will likely see a bump in scoring.

Sacramento Kings: De'Aaron Fox is putting up numbers that are very comparable to his first three years in the league, but one area of concern is his poor free throw shooting (68.1%). Fox is a career 71.5% shooter at the line, already a low number for a point guard, and it is especially troublesome for fantasy managers, considering that the speedy point guard gets to the line 6.3 times per game.

San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge has been a star in this league for a long time, but his numbers have taken a steep dropoff in his 15th NBA season. His 13.5 PPG and 4.6 RPG and 43.2 FG% are all well below his career averages of 19.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG and 49.1 FG%. And while his 84.6 FT% remains impressive for a big man, it is nullified by the fact that he's getting to the line a career-low 1.1 times per game; his career average is 4.4 FTA.

Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam's availability for Friday's game against the Heat is questionable after the forward took a hard fall in Wednesday's loss to Miami and injured his groin. Siakam missed Thursday's practice, and if he's unable to play Friday, the Raptors will be severely shorthanded in the already thin frontcourt. Chris Boucher and Aron Baynes are the only other true bigs on the roster.

Utah Jazz: In his second season with the Jazz, Jordan Clarkson is quietly playing the best basketball of his career. The seventh-year pro is providing instant offense off the bench, posting career highs in FG% (49.2), as well as 3FG% (43.0), FT% (94.4), PPG (17.6) and RPG (4.7). Clarkson is capable of going off for a big scoring night, making him a sneaky good option in DFS leagues, and his improved shooting makes him worth rostering in roto and points leagues as well. He remains available in 21.4% of ESPN leagues.

Washington Wizards: The NBA has postponed Friday's game between the Wizards and Bucks, citing the number of unavailable players for the Wizards, contact tracing for other players on Washington's roster, and the lack of practice time the team had before the scheduled game. This will be the sixth consecutive postponed game for the Wizards, who haven't played since Jan. 11. As is the case with the Grizzlies' upcoming postponements, fantasy managers need to be aware of this and adjust their rosters accordingly.