With the All-Star break in the rearview mirror, the NBA second half starts off with an impressive slate of games this Thursday (3/11). More games give you more flexibility if someone in your lineup is ruled out, so make sure to check in on the status of each player around 30 minutes prior to tip-off. Now, let’s dive in and look at a few players at each position who might give you that extra boost up to the top of your contests’ leaderboard!
Kemba Walker (1.25X) BOS @ BKN
It’s no secret that Kemba Walker did not look like himself to start the season. He wasn’t hitting his 3’s at his usual percentage and also didn’t show off his craftiness around the rim like we saw when he was in Charlotte. Knee issues have continued to plague him going back to the beginning of last season’s bubble environment and caused him to miss the start of the season. However, these last four games have trended positively for Kemba. He’s scored over 20 points in each game within that span and the Celtics have won all four. Look for Brad Stevens and the Celtic offense to continue to rely on Kemba’s scoring, since Tatum hasn’t quite looked like himself post-COVID diagnosis.
The Celtics are up against the Nets and the newly acquired Blake Griffin. We all know the Nets are the type of team who prefer to outscore you rather than play defense, so expect a high-scoring, fast-paced game with plenty of opportunities for Kemba to show he’s back to his All-Star form. Marcus Smart is planning to make his return to the lineup in this game as well, but expect his return to include a minutes restriction so Kemba will still be the driver of the offense.
Tyrese Maxey (1.95X) PHL @ CHI
Thanks to a barber visit gone wrong, the 76ers will be without potential MVP Joel Embiid and potential DPOY Ben Simmons for Thursday’s matchup against the Bulls. The entire 76ers offense is built around those two players so the 76ers bench needs to step up their production. The defensive game plan for the Bulls will be focused on slowing down Tobias Harris and Seth Curry, so look for Maxey to take full advantage of the opportunity in an increased role he’ll have for this game. Maxey hasn’t gotten consistent minutes as of late and is minimized when Joel and Ben play, but without those two, his scoring balloons from 9.5 points to 21.3 points per 36 minutes.
Initially, I thought of putting Tobias or Seth here, but Seth has been very inconsistent this year and needs someone to create for him on offense since he primarily gets his looks by running around screens and his off-ball movement. He just doesn’t have the 1-on-1 scoring touch that Maxey has already shown. Tobias has been great this year for the 76ers (Doc Rivers just knows how to coach him) but his efficiency dips when he is counted on as the number one option. Add all of that together along with the fact that the Bulls are a bottom 10 defensive team and Tyrese has a great opportunity to shine in this game.
John Wall (1.35x) HOU @ SAC
In some ways this is a matchup of the current John Wall vs the next generation’s John Wall in De’Aaron Fox. Wall has had an incredible bounce back year and as of late put in back-to-back 30+ points games. He’s been the Rockets main offensive weapon and with Christian Wood looking like he won’t be ready to play on Thursday, the Rockets need to continue to depend on his offensive production.
To really sum up why Wall is a good choice for your lineup, he’s going up against potentially the worst team in the league with the worst defense. Expect Wall to continue his great play and remind everyone who he was before his injuries.
Harrison Barnes (1.55x) HOU @ SAC
Barnes has been excellent as of late by scoring over 20 points per game in his last four contests and next up is a Rockets team with a bottom three defensive rating. Barnes is a potential trade target as we get closer to the trade deadline, so it’s in the best interest of the Kings to put him in a position to succeed in order to maximize his trade value. With Daniel House as his primary defender, Barnes has averaged 21.9 points per 36 minutes on 50% from three-point range.
The Rockets’ defensive focus should be on stopping Fox at the point of attack and sticking with Hield on the perimeter, so Barnes should get plenty of open looks if the Kings are able to swing the ball around the perimeter and make the Rockets scramble on defense.
Zion Williamson (1.25x) MIN @ NOP
This one is pretty easy. Coming off his first All-Star appearance Zion has been almost unstoppable. Everyone knows he wants to finish with his dominant hand and nobody has been able to stop him. This brings us to Thursday’s matchup with the Timberwolves who haven’t been able to stop anyone this season.
Zion will be a common pick, but that’s for good reason. Zion’s attack is relentless and I don’t see anyone on the Wolves with the ability to slow him down. I think the only true Zion stopper is the inability of the Pelicans to make the playoffs. Don’t overthink it and put Zion in your lineup.
Terrence Ross (1.7x) ORL @ MIA
Injuries have plagued the Magic this season, and it doesn’t look like it will be stopping anytime soon. Evan Fournier missed his last game with a groin strain and is currently a game-time decision for Thursday’s game. Normal recovery time for a groin strain is at least 2 weeks, so even if Fournier plays, expect the Magic to monitor his minutes opening up more playing time for Ross. Ross has been good as of late too, and his scoring increases by nearly 10 points per 36 minutes when he isn’t sharing the floor with Fournier. In both his starts this season without Fournier, he’s scored 23 points and 28 points.
Another wrinkle that works in Ross’ favor is that the Magic are rumored to want to move Fournier, so avoiding a re-aggravation of his groin strain should be the top priority in their minds.
Dwight Howard (1.8x) PHL @ CHI
In a similar vein to Tyrese Maxey, with Embiid out, look at Dwight to get the start and the majority of Philly’s minutes at the center position. Without Embiid or Simmons on the court, Dwight has been a beast in the paint by averaging 14.9 points, 17.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes. Wendell Carter Jr will get the matchup vs Howard, and while Carter shows a lot of promise on the defensive end, Dwight has a knack to really get under his opponent’s skin by overwhelming them with his physicality.
I don’t think he has it in tank to be dominate night in and night out, but in instances where he is back in the starting lineup, he’s been producing and shown shades of vintage Dwight.
DeAndre Ayton (1.5x) PHX @ PDX
I’m apologizing in advance for the horrible pun, but the Suns have really been a bright spot of the NBA season so far. They are only two games in the loss column behind the league leading Utah Jazz, and look better each game they play. Ayton as a player has developed nicely these past couple of seasons and adding CP3 to the team only accelerated his growth. He’s going up against a Portland team with a lack of size in the front court outside of Enes Kanter. Ayton has dominated that matchup so far this season, averaging 26.5 points, 7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes against Kanter.
Devin Booker was a late scratch to the All-Star game with a knee injury, so even if he plays (Phoenix GM James Jones said he would have played if it was the playoffs) expect the Suns and their training staff to ease Booker back into the lineup and lean more on CP3 and Ayton to carry the load.
Nerlens Noel (1.7x) NYK @ MIL
Last but not least we have Nerlens Noel. The injury to Mitchell Robinson has really opened up opportunity and minutes for him on this season’s surprising Knicks squad. We all know Thibs likes to play his starters heavy minutes, and that has been the story with Noel lately. He has played 37+ minutes over his last four games and within those games, he’s scored at least eight points and tied his season-high in rebounds with multiple blocks and steals.
In Thursday’s game against the Bucks, he’ll be primarily matched up against Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis. With his quickness advantage, look for Noel to roll hard to the rim if Lopez or Portis are slow to rotate on defense.
This article expresses the personal views of the writer and does not reflect the view(s) of SuperDraft in any way.
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