Post-NBA-All-Star-break fantasy basketball predictions

FINALLY! The NBA returns tonight after a week-long All-Star break in Indianapolis that featured Steph Curry beating Sabrina Ionescu in a first-of-its-kind, memorable three-point shootout, Mac McClung capturing his second slam dunk championship, Bennedict Mathurin winning MVP of the Rising Stars challenge, the Pacers taking home the Skills Challenge and Damian Lillard capping off the weekend in historical fashion, becoming the first player in NBA history to win the three-point competition and take home All-Star Game MVP honors in the same year.

Outside of the unavoidable post-All-Star Game discourse, it was entertaining and a welcome reset as we look forward to the final 28-or-so games to close out the 2023-24 regular season.

Now that teams have had the opportunity to rest, get healthy and fire their head coach in one instance, with only four weeks remaining until the fantasy playoffs, here are my post-All-Star-break predictions.

High-level, rapid-fire predictions

  • Joel Embiid won't return to help fantasy managers in the playoffs.

  • Victor Wembanyama will become the sixth player in NBA history to record at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks in an NBA game (and the only one to do it as a rookie).

  • OG Anunoby won't return by Week 22 (the start of the fantasy playoffs).

  • Damian Lillard knocks down at least one half-court shot in a game.

  • Zion Williamson leads the Pelicans in assists per game from now until the end of the season.

  • Draymond Green provides third-round value for the rest of the season.

  • De'Aaron Fox will finish in the top 20 in per-game value from now until the end of the season.

  • Ben Simmons won't last five games as a starter, with Kevin Ollie coaching the Nets.

  • Andrew Nembhard will finish the season ranked higher than Bennedict Mathurin in every format (it's close).

  • Ayo Dosunmu and Andre Drummond will continue to be a thing.

Rookies who will make an impact outside of Wemby and Chet Holmgren

Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets

I'm sold on Miller the rest of the way, mainly because he'll benefit whether LaMelo Ball returns or not. Miller's averaged 23.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists with 2.3 stocks and 48/41/88 shooting splits since the Heat acquired Terry Rozier 10 games ago. That level of production on both ends of the floor looks like at least a top-40 player for the rest of the season.

Keyonte George, Utah Jazz

He's started 19 of 50 games this season, but more importantly, George has started the last three games for Utah over Kris Dunn, which will continue moving forward. He's been one of the most added players in fantasy basketball recently, and it's justified considering the opportunity ahead. He's coming off a career-high 33-point performance with nine 3s and three steals, showcasing why he can be an explosive player in fantasy.

I wish I had grabbed more shares during the All-Star break because his growth this month is apparent:

Baking in his inefficiency, George will be a top-90 player from now until the rest of the season.

Scoot Henderson, Portland Trail Blazers

He's starting for the rest of the season, and to the surprise of no one, Malcolm Brogdon (elbow) is out with an injury. Scoot's been better in February, posting an 18/4/6 line in 33-plus minutes per game. Like George, he'll struggle with his efficiency, but if we're talking points leagues, Scoot will be a top-100 player the rest of the way and needs to be rostered in far more leagues (he's still available in 44% of leagues).

Other rookies I like: Brandin Podziemski, Cam Whitmore, Amen Thompson and Toumani Camara

Players on shutdown watch

Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizz are 13th in the Western Conference and 16 games below .500. For perspective, the Warriors are one game over .500 and currently occupy the final spot in the Play-In Tournament. That leaves a very slim chance for a Memphis playoff berth, and without Ja Morant — and potentially Desmond Bane and Marcus Smart — for the rest of the season, why play JJJ? He's been on a scoring tear lately, averaging 24.4 points per game over the past two months; however, the rest of his production has been underwhelming.

Five boards and two stocks per game from the reigning Defensive Player of the Year will not cut it, and I would trade him in fantasy before it's too late. He missed his previous contest with a quad injury, and with Memphis evaluating many of its young players, the appeal is dwindling for JJJ, who's ranked outside of the top 140 in nine-category formats over the past month.

Deandre Ayton, Portland Trail Blazers

Ayton's done more procrastinating than dominating thus far in Portland, seeing a significant downtick in his scoring and overall aggression offensively this season. There have been numerous examples of him setting useless screens and playing next to no defense, which pretty much sums up his persona as a talented but often inconsistent player.

And what's the quickest way to help Portland's cause? Continue to stack up the losses while giving minimal effort.

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The Blazers have the fifth-worst record in the NBA, and with no incentive to win, Ayton will not be a factor by the time the fantasy playoffs roll around. He's a top-60 player in per-game value in nine-category formats, but his efficiency and rebounding largely sway it. Trust me when I say he's not someone you'll want to invest in down the stretch. By season's end, he will fall out to be near the 150s in total value.

Mark Williams, Charlotte Hornets

I was close to including LaMelo Ball here, too, but at least he's practicing and participating in on-court activities, unlike Mark Williams. The third-year center has been dealing with a back injury since early December and remains without a timetable for his return. Hornets HC Steve Clifford hinted (more than once) that Williams is not particularly close to returning. Charlotte recently signed Marques Bolden to a 10-day contract, further indication of Williams' continued absence.

Nick Richards and the recently acquired Grant Williams have been handling the center duties. At this point, the fantasy managers rostering Mark Williams in 67% of leagues should not exercise patience but rather drop him and not look back.

Other players with shutdown risks: Victor Wembanyama, Devin Vassell, Kyle Kuzma, Jordan Poole and Jerami Grant