Now that the All-Star break is done and dusted, NBA teams are heading in one of two directions: the playoffs or the lottery. As we know, the direction of a team can impact a player's Fantasy value both directly and indirectly. With most teams having now played three games since the break, we have a small sample size in terms of changes in value. With many of you heading into the Fantasy playoffs, let's look at some players who could be on an upward trajectory based on the past week.
Let's dive in.
Season Rank: 72 / 7-day Rank: 12
After a relatively modest start to his rookie season, Kessler has taken off over the past couple of months. In the three games since the break, he has gone to another level, averaging 8.7 points and 15.0 rebounds per game, to go with an incredible 4.7 blocks. His defensive mindset is unmatched, providing elite numbers despite having only played 60 career games. The Jazz are now fully invested in Kessler as their starting center of the future. Unlike many young shot blockers coming into the league, Kessler has some bulk to go with his size, allowing him to absorb contact on both ends of the floor. His pairing with Lauri Markkanen is flawless in terms of what each of them brings to the court. The Jazz are still looking to win games despite slowing after a red-hot start to the season. Kessler is locked into a 30-minute role, and as long as he remains healthy, he could easily be a second-round asset rest of season.
Season Rank: 69 / 7-day Rank: 21
With a Fantasy output similar to Kessler's, Poeltl provides elite blocks and rebounds while scoring efficiently, albeit on low volume. Beginning the season in San Antonio, the assumption was that he would be traded prior to the deadline, something that came to fruition when he was moved back to Toronto. Since the move, his production has increased on both ends of the floor. Across the past four games, he is averaging 14.3 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks. While this sees him putting up second-round value over that period, it is hard to view him in the same category as Kessler. The Raptors can and will often run with a small-ball lineup, which limits Poeltl's opportunities on some nights. He has played fewer than 30 minutes in three of the past four games, a trend that is cause for concern. He will undoubtedly be a better Fantasy option now that he is playing for a team that actually wants to win. However, managers should view him as more of a top-50 player compared to what he has been doing recently.
Season Rank: 63 / 7-day Rank: 39
Another player who was moved before the deadline, Johnson arrived in Brooklyn with a few questions regarding his role. Any fears were quickly laid to rest, with Johnson sliding straight into the starting lineup. Outside of a blowout loss to the Bulls, Johnson has played at least 30 minutes in every game. In three games since the break, he has put up 18.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.3 3-pointers, good enough for top-40 value. Unfortunately, the Nets have lost five of their past six games, putting them on the cusp of falling out of the playoff race. It remains to be seen exactly how they will approach the remaining games, although it would make sense for them to continue pushing for wins. Having missed a sizable chunk of the season due to a knee injury, Johnson is likely itching to play as many minutes as he can on a nightly basis. Based on what we have seen over the past week, it's reasonable to think he could be a sneaky top 50 player ROS.
Season Rank: 127 / 7-day Rank: 45
Yet another player moved at the deadline, Richardson arrived in New Orleans, seemingly as a depth piece off the bench. However, following the break, coach Willie Green decided to replace Trey Murphy in the opening unit. Richardson was tasked with the role and has looked good doing so. In the three games since the move, Richardson has put up top-50 value thanks to averages of 11.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.7 triples. After a few rough seasons, Richardson may have rediscovered the form that saw him project as a multi-season top-70 asset early in his career. Since then, he has flip-flopped around the league, resulting in borderline standard league value. It is unclear whether he will remain a starter, casting some doubt over his ROS value. With that said, the Pelicans need him to play upwards of 28 minutes per night, landing him firmly as a top-80 player moving forward.
Season Rank: 152 / 7-day Rank: 77
Everyone is asking whether Eason is finally about to break out. Based on the past three games, the answer might be yes. However, before we fall over ourselves to grab him, his recent production needs to be examined objectively. The past week has resulted in top-80 value, brought about by averages of 12.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 27.4 minutes per game. His ability to put up numbers has never been questioned since his impressive preseason. The issue has been playing time. He is averaging fewer than 20 minutes per game for the season, enough to garner borderline top-150 value. While he has played at least 29 minutes in his past two games, the fact Jae'Sean Tate has been either injured or in foul trouble has to be taken into account. Given our sample size when it comes to Stephen Silas and his decision-making, we might want to err on the side of caution here. I need to see at least a week of healthy playing time before deeming Eason a must-add player.