We're getting into the stretch run of most fantasy leagues. Following the All-Star break, there are a lot of interesting opportunities for players to step up in new roles created by moves at the trade deadline. That can mean a new player stepping into a bigger role, or an existing player being handed a bigger role after one of his teammates was traded. We'll go through a few of the cases below.
The Spurs dealing Derrick White to the Celtics paves the way for Vassell to be the full-time starter at shooting guard. Vassell has started all four games since White's departure, and he's averaged 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 combined steals-plus-blocks in 29.0 minutes. The assists are a nice bump up from his season average (1.7), and he'll presumably handle the ball more often and be given opportunities to playmaker. The defensive numbers could also get intriguing with a bigger workload, as he has career averages of 1.4 steals and 0.8 blocks per 36 minutes.
The sophomore has been predictably fantastic since joining Indiana and becoming the No. 1 option. In his four appearances with the Pacers, he's averaged 20.8 points on 14.5 shots, 11.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 39.0 minutes. This kind of upside for Haliburton isn't news to anyone who had their eye on his production when De'Aaron Fox missed time. Specifically, when Fox and Davion Mitchell were off the court, Haliburton averaged 18.3 points, 11.0 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per 36 minutes – very similar to the numbers he's posting with Indiana. His usage could decline when, or if, Malcolm Brogdon returns from his Achilles woes, but who knows how effective he'll be after missing so much time.
Buddy Hield, Pacers
Somewhat of an afterthought during the discourse surrounding the Kings/Pacers swap, Hield is thriving in his new environment. After getting his role reduced in Sacramento, Hield is getting all the minutes he can handle from Rick Carlisle. That's led to averages of 20.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 39.0 minutes, not to mention 3.5 made threes. We saw this kind of production from Hield a few years ago. During the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, he averaged 19.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 31.4 minutes. If he continues seeing minutes north of 35, Hield could be in for the best stretch of his career.
Bradley Beal's season-ending injury has opened up the door for Kuzma to be the No. 1 option on the Wizards. However, he started playing better before Beal went down. Since Dec. 28, he's averaged 20.9 points on 16.2 shots, 9.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.0 blocks in 34.5 minutes – relatively similar to his sophomore numbers with the Lakers (LeBron's first year with the team). It will be interesting to see how Kristaps Porzingis factors into the equation, but Kuzma still shouldn't have any trouble finding minutes and usage for the severely-undermanned squad, especially if Porzingis plays at center.
Hart was already in the midst of a breakout campaign with the Pelicans before he was traded to the Blazers, but that change of scenery now has the power to supercharge his season. Portland is desperately thin for offensive options, and Hart is a versatile guard/wing that can stuff the stat sheet. In his first three games with Portland, he averaged 24.0 points on 13.3 shots, 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists. His shooting will cool down, but the usage is encouraging. It seems fair to expect Hart to continue putting up the numbers he's produced over the past 20 games, which is essentially his breakout stretch – 17.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals in 36.5 minutes.
Justise Winslow, Trail Blazers
Winslow has gone from a borderline rotation player to a full-on starter in Portland. In his five starts with the Blazers, he's averaged 13.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.0 steals and 0.8 blocks in 33.6 minutes. That's close to the numbers he was putting up during his final 77 games in Miami – 11.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.4 blocks. The downside is that he's a terrible shooter, with career splits of 39/28/64. Fantasy managers should prepare for that, but Winslow's ability to stuff the stat sheet on both ends of the court makes him a clear waiver wire pickup if he hasn't already been scooped up.
Thompson cracked 30 minutes for the first time this season Feb. 10, which is an excellent sign for his potential productivity after the break. His per-36-minute numbers have been fantastic, and he'll need to keep that up with Draymond Green still set to miss plenty of time. Per 36, Thompson is posting career highs in assists (4.4), rebounds (5.3) and field-goal attempts (21.1). Fantasy managers who drafted Thompson and stayed patient could be in for a nice payoff.
With so much uncertainty surrounding Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant's availability for the rest of the regular season, Curry will often be the Nets' best offensive option. That's a considerable upgrade in his role compared to the 76ers, where he was anywhere from the second to fourth option on any given night. In his first three appearances with Brooklyn, he's averaged 18.3 points on 14.3 shots, 5.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds in 33.0 minutes. That tracks with the numbers he was putting up per-36 minutes with the Sixers when Tyrese Maxey, Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris were off the court – 17.8 points, 5.8 assists and 2.4 rebounds.
With Chris Paul out 6-8 weeks, Payne is expected to take over as the starter at point guard. While he's struggled this year relative to last season, the upgrade in role may jolt his performances back up. In eight games this season that Payne has seen at least 24 minutes, he's averaged 13.6 points, 4.9 assists and 3.8 rebounds. Per 36 minutes with Paul off the court, those numbers increase to 19.1 points, 6.7 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals. The Suns added Aaron Holiday at the deadline and still have Elfrid Payton, but neither seems trustworthy enough to a level where Payne will regularly see fewer than 30 minutes.