Monday, March 4, 2024

Basketball Pickups: Nickeil Alexander-Walker dominates Jazz

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In the four games he started in place of the injured Jaden McDaniels, Timberwolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker did little to excite fantasy managers. Playing nearly 28 minutes per game, he averaged 6.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.5 3-pointers, shooting 32.1% from the field and 33.3% from the foul line. Given those numbers, there was no reason for fantasy managers to buy into Alexander-Walker, regardless of how much time McDaniels stands to miss. But things changed on Wednesday, as Anthony Edwards took a hard fall on a dunk attempt during the third quarter of Minnesota’s win over Oklahoma City.

With the ball-dominant Edwards joining McDaniels on the sideline, Alexander-Walker (4% rostered, Yahoo) had a new life in fantasy basketball circles. And he made the most of his opportunity on Thursday, finishing Minnesota’s 101-90 win over the Jazz with 20 points, five rebounds, seven assists, five steals, two blocks, and four 3-pointers in 36 minutes. Only Karl-Anthony Towns attempted more shots than NAW’s 16, and he established new season-highs in points and 3-pointers, and the five steals are a career-high.

Whether or not Alexander-Walker has fantasy value beyond Thursday will depend on Edwards’ availability. Having him out of the lineup ensured that NAW’s usage would increase, and it’s also worth noting that he was up against an offense that ranks dead last in the NBA in turnovers per game. You credit Alexander-Walker for his performance and the fantasy managers who had him rostered, but the stars were certainly aligned for him.

Let’s take a look at a few more of Thursday’s top pickups:

Jonathan Kuminga (17%), Moses Moody (7%), and Brandin Podziemski (3%)

With Chris Paul and Gary Payton II already ruled out due to injury, Moody and Podziemski would play more minutes. However, even more playing time opened when Andrew Wiggins was ruled out after slamming the car door on his right hand. Instead of moving up in the pecking order among fellow reserves, Moody was in the starting lineup for Thursday’s game against the Clippers. He was sold, finishing with 13 points, three rebounds, one assist, one block, and one 3-pointer in 28 minutes. As for Podziemski, he played 31 minutes off the bench and finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and two 3-pointers.

And we must recognize Kuminga, who’s rostered in 17% of Yahoo league. He also played well on Thursday, finishing with 17 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block, and three 3-pointers in 23 minutes. Kuminga offers the highest fantasy upside, but the lows can be dire. All three are worth a look for as long as Wiggins is sidelined, as he’s the former lone starter of the trio, with Paul and Payton usually coming off the bench.

Donte DiVincenzo (7%)

Some people had already begun to discuss whether or not Quentin Grimes should be replaced in the starting lineup ahead of Thursday’s game against the Pistons, given how poor he’s shot the basketball. Those conversations should only intensify in the aftermath of DiVincenzo’s performance. Shooting 4-of-8 from three, he finished with 12 points, three rebounds, two assists, and one blocked shot. Grimes, by comparison, went scoreless in 16 minutes, accounting for one rebound and two steals. Grimes’ ability to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter scoring option keeps him in the starting lineup; if Tom Thibodeau were to make a change, DiVincenzo would be an excellent option to fill that void.

Killian Hayes (12%)

Regarding the game between the Knicks and Pistons, Monty Williams made two notable changes to his rotation, with Hayes and Isaiah Livers starting. At the same time, Jaden Ivey and Ausar Thompson were asked to come off the bench. Of the four players involved in those changes, Hayes was the best performer in the loss to the Knicks, putting up 23 points, three rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block, and two 3-pointers in 28 minutes. If Williams were settled on a starting lineup, it would be easier to count on Hayes in most leagues.

Ayo Dosunmu (2%)

With the Bulls playing without Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, Dosunmu was moved into the starting lineup for Thursday’s game against the Bucks. He scored 14 points with six rebounds, six assists, three steals, and one 3-pointer in 39 minutes. Dosunmu’s effectiveness as a streamer moving forward will depend on the availability of LaVine and DeRozan. Detroit is back in action on Saturday when they host the Cavaliers.

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