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By Mike Barner, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
With COVID-19 running rampant through the league this season, we’ve seen players who normally don’t play a lot step into significant fantasy basketball roles. Some of those players have flopped in their opportunities, but others have thrived.
With that in mind, let’s focus on some players who could become excellent fantasy options if only they were moved into expanded roles on a more permanent basis.
Without further ado, here is my All More-Minutes Team — the fantasy edition.
De’Anthony Melton, Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are one of the deepest teams in the league. While that’s great for their chances to continue winning games out West, it’s not ideal for fantasy managers. One player who has remained in a limited role is Melton, who entered this season having never averaged more than 20 minutes per game. While he only averaged 20.0 minutes per game last season, he still finished with averages of 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.7 three-pointers. That means, per 36 minutes, he posted 16.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.1 steals and 3.0 three-pointers.
Despite injuries and COVID absences, Melton has only seen a slight increase in playing time this season, averaging 23 minutes per game. When he has received added playing time, he’s taken advantage. Across five games in which he has played at least 30 minutes, he averaged 15.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.6 three-pointers.
It’s pretty clear that if Melton is going to reach his fantasy potential, he’s going to need to be traded. If the Grizzlies want to make a play for a superstar in an effort to make a championship push, then Melton could be someone that they look to move. If that were to happen, he’d be a player to immediately add off waivers.
Malik Beasley, Minnesota Timberwolves
For the first time in his career, Beasley was unleashed last season. He averaged 33 minutes per game, which he turned into averages of 19.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 3.5 three-pointers per game. Even with him attempting 8.7 three-pointers per game, he shot 44.0 percent from the field.
Injuries to D’Angelo Russell were a big part of the reason Beasley saw so many minutes last season. This time around, Russell has been healthier, and the Wolves also added veteran Patrick Beverley to the roster. As a result, Beasley has been pushed to the bench, where he’s only averaged 27 minutes per game, resulting in 12.3 points and 3.0 three-pointers.
During a recent stretch in which the Timberwolves dealt with an outbreak of COVID, he averaged 34 minutes across nine games. He was his usual productive self, putting up 18.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.4 three-pointers during that stretch. While the Timberwolves might not be that involved in the trade market, both Beverley and Russell have dealt with their share of injuries during the past. If either of them were to be sidelined, Beasley would be someone to immediately add if you need a scoring boost for your fantasy squad.
Honorable mentions: Shake Milton, Tyus Jones
Cameron Johnson, Phoenix Suns
When Johnson was selected with the 11th pick in the 2019 draft, the Suns were a very different-looking team. They had yet to bring in Chris Paul, operating with Ricky Rubio as their starting point guard. Once they brought in Paul, they went from a young team with potential to one that was immediately capable of making deep playoff runs. Along with Paul, they also added veteran forward Jae Crowder, a three-and-D specialist who is battle-tested in the playoffs.
With Crowder in the fold, Johnson has yet to receive a significant increase in playing time. However, when Crowder was out for a six-game stretch from December 27 to January 6, Johnson averaged 32 minutes per game. He used his added playing time to produce 17.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 3.7 three-pointers, while shooting 55.1 percent from the field, during that stretch.
As bright as the future looks for Johnson, it’s likely going to take Crowder leaving the team for him to move into a significant role. The problem is, Crowder is still under contract for one more season. Johnson is someone to currently covet more in dynasty leagues rather than redraft formats.
Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies
Since the Grizzlies have such a deep team, it’s no surprise that Melton isn’t the only one who makes this list. Clarke has had excellent per-36 minute numbers during his tenure in the league, including last season when he averaged 15.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks. However, playing time has been an issue, and it’s become worse with him averaging just 18 minutes per game this season.
Clarke has started to play more lately, averaging 23 minutes over the last 10 games. While that’s still not a ton of run, he’s gone for 14.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks during that stretch. However, Steven Adams missed four of those contests, and Memphis had other key players in and out of the lineup.
Adams still has another year left on his contract, and he might not be easy to trade given that the one year is for just under $18 million. Assuming the Grizzlies hold on to him, Clarke’s upside will likely remain capped despite the flashes he’s shown through two-and-a-half NBA seasons.
Honorable mentions: P.J. Washington, Danilo Gallinari
Omer Yurtseven, Miami Heat
This one might be the easiest case yet for a player to get more minutes. Yurtseven barely saw the floor early in the season but was thrust into a starting role when both Bam Adebayo and Dewayne Dedmon went down with injuries. What happened next could certainly be categorized as a pleasant surprise.
Yurtseven didn’t just help keep the Heat stay afloat during his tenure in the starting five. In fact, they went 7-3 with him in that role. He averaged 31 minutes a game during that stretch, producing robust averages of 13.6 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting 54.5 percent from the field. The only real downside was that he averaged only 0.5 blocks, but anyone who snagged him off the waiver wire was thrilled by his production. During his run as a starter, Yurtseven ranked as a top-75 player in 8-cat leagues.
Adebayo and Dedmon are both healthy now, which resulted in Yurtseven not even seeing the floor in Monday’s win over the Raptors. Given that he is only 23 years old, and that he played so well with Adebayo out, don’t expect the Heat to be in any rush to trade Yurtseven. He’s a nice asset to have in their back pocket, though fantasy managers can dream of the numbers he could put up for a team like Oklahoma City.
Honorable mentions: Alperen Sengun, Daniel Gafford