The mailbag column comes in a little early this week so that everyone can take their minds off of their pressing fantasy basketball questions and enjoy some family time over the holiday. Let's dive into the submissions, one of which comes from a familiar face.
Hey, Mike. Long time listener, first time caller. What do you make of Caris LeVert's recent role decrease? Victim of blowouts, or could he be in Carlisle's doghouse? - @Alex_NBArutha
A question from one of the Three Amigos. How could I not answer it?
Like Alex said, the Pacers have been involved in some blowouts lately. Both of their last two games were decided by at least 17 points and LeVert didn't log more than 20 minutes in either contest. Their last close game was a three-point loss to the Hornets in which LeVert only logged 18 minutes. That's the most concerning game of the three.
Prior to this recent three-game stretch, LeVert had logged 31 minutes in back-to-back games. In the 11 games that he's played in this season, he's played at least 30 minutes five times.
The answer to this question is, it might be a little of both for LeVert. Once the Pacers play in more competitive contests, he should play more again. However, it also appears unlikely that he'll average 32 minutes per game again like he did last season. It might take an injury to someone else on the roster for him to reach that level of consistent playing time.
The fact that this is even a question shows how good Bamba has been this season. After failing to average more than 16 minutes per game in any of his first three seasons in the league, he's averaged 30 minutes per game this season. He's turned that into valuable averages of 10.7 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 1.0 steals and 1.3 three-pointers per game. His 45.2 percent shooting from the field isn't great, but his 70.8 percent shooting from the free-throw line would be the highest mark of his career.
As good as Bamba has been, I'd make this trade. Brown is back from his recent hamstring injury, scoring 19 points across just 23 minutes against the Rockets on Monday. He's coming off of back-to-back seasons with averages of at least 20.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.3 three-pointers per game. In addition to that, he shot at least 48.1 percent from the field in both seasons.
Also working in this fantasy managers favor is that he still has Towns and Jackson to fill his center spot. Nance and Mann might feel inconsequential in this deal, but also adding Nance could be key. He's started to play more lately, leaving him with averages of 9.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals over his last seven games.
This might be a good opportunity to buy low on Middleton. Before contracting COVID-19, Middleton averaged 22.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.3 steals across the first four games of the season. Over four games since returning from his illness, he's averaged 14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 0.8 steals. He only shot 42.5 percent from the field during that stretch, which is unusual for him given that he's shot at least 47.6 percent in both of the last two seasons. As he starts to get his legs back under him, expect his efficiency to improve.
While Middleton is a buy-low candidate, Turner might be a sell-high one. He's a great source for blocks, averaging 3.1 of them per game. However, he's shooting 53.1 percent from the field, which is abnormally high for him. He hasn't shot higher than 48.7 percent in any of the last four seasons. Even with his added efficiency, he's only averaged 12.7 points per game. He provides virtually nothing in the way of assists, and while his current average of 7.5 rebounds per game would be a career-high, that's still not a great mark for a center. Middleton has averaged at least 6.0 rebounds per game in each of the lat three seasons, so he's not that far behind Turner in that regards.
The unique combination of blocks and three-pointers that Turner provides from the center spot isn't as appealing in points leagues as it is roto formats, so I'd make the move to add Middleton.
The Kings have mercifully moved on from Luke Walton as their head coach, something they probably should have done after last season. Bagley was in his doghouse this season, beginning things completely out of the Kings rotation. Heading into their first game with Alvin Gentry as interim head coach, he hadn't logged more than 18 minutes in a game this season.
It's only been one game with Gentry at the helm, but it wasn't encouraging to see Bagley play just 12 minutes off the bench. With that being said, Williams doesn't have much upside. With the Celtics getting healthy again, he only scored two points across 25 minutes against the Rockets on Monday. It might take a trade for Bagley to start playing more, but I think that eventually happens, so adding him now might not be a bad idea.