Fantasy Basketball Edge: Players on the rise heading into Playoffs

The fantasy playoffs are getting close, players are going down left and right and surprise names are going to pop up and be useful fantasy contributors.

In today’s Fantasy Edge, I’ll take a look at a few interesting situations we have seen after the All-Star break.

CJ McCollum in a lead role

With Damian Lillard yet to play after the All-Star game with a groin injury, CJ McCollum has been on a huge roll.

He is the third ranked player in fantasy leagues, ahead of guys like James Harden, Luka Dončić, and LeBron James, averaging 55.93 points per game.

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It’s a pretty clear reason why he is up that high.

Without Damian Lillard, McCollum has seen his usage skyrocket to 34.7% over these three games, which when you compare it to his season-long number of 25.7%, it’s a huge leap.

But, that’s not all. McCollum’s assist numbers have gone from 4.1 per game all the way up to 10.7 in his last three games, and he’s also grabbing more rebounds.

It’s excellent production, but of course, when Lillard is back, McCollum will go back to playing at shooting guard and the ball will come out of his hands, dropping his usage, assists, and fantasy scoring.

Jayson Tatum, CJ McCollum and Mitchell Robinson could be key men in the Fantasy playoffs. Image: Getty

Next-level Jayson Tatum

We have seen an evolved Jayson Tatum of late and it’s frightening or exciting depending on whether he is on your team or your opponent.

Over the season, Tatum is the 26th ranked player, but post break, he is all the way up to ninth, averaging 51.24 points.

Yes, Kemba Walker has been out, but it doesn’t feel like the McCollum situation with Lillard as to why GTatum has ascended.

He is now the Celtics best player and it is showing.

It’s not just after the break, however. In February, Tatum is shooting better at the rim (over 61%), from the mid range (three percentage points better than the rest of the season), from the left corner (a whopping 64%), and above the break (hitting 49% compared to 37% before February).

Some of that three-point shooting could regress, but paired with Tatum’s increased confidence and better shot selection, and more usage, he should be able to keep up an improved level of play.

Is John Collins a stretch Big?

We are still awaiting Clint Capela’s Atlanta debut, but in the meantime, Collins is evolving before our eyes.

He’s the 19th ranked player after the All-Star break, averaging 46 points per game, but the most interesting thing is that over February, Collins is hitting 45% of his threes, and taking three attempts per game.

That’s pushed to 25 points and 11 rebounds, and he’s blocking 1.2 shots per game.

But if the three point shooting is real, it makes his fit with Capela a lot better and will enable him to maintain his fantasy value at such a high level.

Deandre Ayton - Rim protector?

In his rookie season, Ayton didn’t even block a shot per game, ending with 67 blocks in 71 games.

This season, it’s a different story, as Ayton is up to 1.6 blocks per game and it’s gotten better of late, up to 1.9 blocks in his last 11 games.

He still hasn’t figured out how to get to the free throw line or hit threes, but adding blocks to his 20 and 10 frame, is a great way to cement yourself in the top 20 for fantasy (he’s 21st this season).

According to NBA.com, Ayton has a defensive field goal percentage against of 53.1%, which is the lowest number on his team and combined with the fact that he defends the most field goal attempts per game, it’s impressive for a second-year guy who struggled so much on that end last season.

Is it finally time For Mitchell Robinson to play?

It’s been frustrating for Mitchell Robinson, and his fantasy managers, and Knicks fans, this season.

Somehow, on this joke of a team, Robinson has played only 23 minutes a game and started fewer games than he did as a rookie.

Yes, foul trouble has been an issue averaging 5.2 fouls per 36 minutes versus 5.7 last season, but of late, he has curbed that fouling propensity with his foul rate down to 4.6 per 36 in the last month.

Curiously, that hasn’t led to an increase in minutes over that time. But, Robinson has now played 26 and 30 minutes in the last two games and in his last three contests, he is averaging 38.8 fantasy points, which has vaulted him into the top 40.

If the foul rate can stay down and Mike Miller gives him minutes in the high 20s, Robinson is going to be a key factor for the fantasy playoffs and live up to his expectations, finally.

Every week, I’ll be looking at some weird trends across the NBA and seeing what they mean, so make sure you’re checking out The Edge, here every Friday.