Fantasy Basketball: It's time to drop LeBron James
By Mike Barner, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
With the fantasy playoffs underway in many leagues, and others starting the postseason soon, some fantasy managers might be facing difficult decisions. A lot of players are injured right now, so dropping someone might be necessary to add the hot waiver wire option. Let’s discuss five players to consider moving on from at this important time of the season.
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (99 percent rostered)
This might seem wild, with James having yet another special season. He has been a top fantasy option, averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 2.1 three-pointers per game while shooting 50.1 percent from the field. The Lakers are fighting to make the play-in tournament, and they improved their chances by making several additions at the trade deadline.
The reason to drop James — other than if you have an IL spot to stash him — is that he is likely facing a lengthy absence because of a foot injury. He did not play Tuesday against the Cavaliers, and the news is bleak beyond then. At a minimum, he will be out for at least a couple of weeks. Even for those in a rotisserie league that comes down to the final day of the regular season, James might not appear in enough games down the stretch to provide significant contributions. There is also the concern that if the Lakers fall out of playoff contention, they might not bring James back at all.
Ben Simmons, Brooklyn Nets (57 percent rostered)
Simmons has barely been involved offensively, averaging just 6.9 points per game. While he has shot 56.6 percent from the field, he is only shooting 43.9 percent from the charity stripe. Still, his averages of 6.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.3 steals have made him worth holding onto in some formats, specifically points leagues.
The problem with Simmons is that he has moved to the second unit after the Nets shook up their roster at the trade deadline. Across his last four games, he averaged only 4.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists in that role. He logged an average of 17 minutes per game during that stretch, then sat out the following three games with a knee injury. Even if his health improves, he likely won’t play enough to be worth holding onto. The Nets certainly have plenty of wing depth, including some young players they will want to continue developing heading into next season.
Kyle Lowry, Miami Heat (67 percent rostered)
Lowry has taken a significant step backward this season. He is only shooting 39.6 percent from the field, which would be the first time since the 2009-10 season that he shot worse than 40 percent. His assists are also down significantly to 5.3 per game. He had racked up at least 7.3 assists per game in each of the last four seasons.
Lowry has not only seen a decline in production but has also been limited to 44 games because of injuries. A knee injury has forced him to miss each of the Heat’s last nine games, and he has already been ruled out Wednesday against the 76ers. When he eventually returns, he could be on a minutes limit for at least a couple of games. The Heat want to make a deep run in the playoffs, so expect them to take a cautious approach with their veteran point guard’s return. Add the potential for more missed time and minutes restrictions to his already underwhelming production, and the time is now to move on from Lowry.
Saddiq Bey, Atlanta Hawks (67 percent rostered)
The Hawks did not move John Collins at the trade deadline. Instead, they acquired Bey from the Pistons. They have a lot of depth at forward, making things a little tricky. Also, they have a new head coach in Quin Snyder, who could change their rotations.
Even with potential changes, it’s difficult to envision Bey starting over Collins or De’Andre Hunter. Over his last three games coming off the bench, Bey has only averaged 6.7 points and 5.0 rebounds. He’s an injury away from a prominent role, and he can rack up three-pointers in bunches when given extended playing time. However, waiting for an injury to one of his teammates that might never come is not advisable at this point in the season.
Jalen Duren, Detroit Pistons (44 percent rostered)
After beginning the season with a limited role off the bench, Duren was given a shot in the starting lineup. He immediately made an impact, averaging 11.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks across his first 25 games in that role. During that span, he also shot 69.3 percent from the field and 70.3 percent from the charity stripe. Everything was shaping up for him to have a monster finish to the season.
As good as things were looking for Duren, his situation isn’t nearly as rosy anymore. The Pistons acquired James Wiseman from the Warriors, adding another promising young center to the mix. Also, Marvin Bagley III has returned from a lengthy absence because of a hand injury. Duren has missed the last two games because of an ankle injury, and he only averaged 2.0 points and 8.0 rebounds over the two games that he played with Wiseman. Even when Duren is healthy again, the presence of Wiseman doesn’t make him as appealing in fantasy anymore.