By Mike Barner, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
The end of the NBA regular season is rapidly approaching. The fantasy playoffs have already started in most leagues, and things have been difficult with so many players across the league dealing with injuries. As we focus on the final few weeks, here are some players to consider adding now who could pay off when it matters the most.
Nick Richards, Charlotte Hornets (61 percent available)
The trade that sent Mason Plumlee to the Clippers opened up significant playing time at center. Mark Williams took over as the starting center, with Richards stepping in as his primary backup. Over 12 games coming off the bench since the trade deadline, Richards averaged 6.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while shooting 57.4 percent from the field and 81.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Williams has missed the Hornets’ last three games with a thumb injury, leaving Richards to start at center. He didn’t disappoint, providing 10.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. The Hornets have nothing left to play for, so expect them to take a cautious approach with Williams. Even when he does return, Richards should play enough off the bench to make an impact in fantasy. The Hornets play four games in Week 23, followed by three games the following week.
Dennis Smith Jr., Charlotte Hornets (66 percent available)
Richards isn’t the only member of the Hornets who has seen his role increase down the stretch. With LaMelo Ball (ankle) out for the season, Smith is one of the top players on the Hornets’ second unit. Since Ball went down, Smith has averaged 10.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.5 steals over eight games. Given their favorable schedule for the next two weeks, Smith is another member of the Hornets to consider adding now.
Xavier Tillman, Memphis Grizzlies (52 percent available)
The Grizzlies are trying to hold onto one of the top spots in the Western Conference despite missing a few key players — although they should get Ja Morant back next week. Up front, they will operate without Steven Adams (knee) and Brandon Clarke (Achilles) for the rest of the regular season. With injuries leaving the Grizzlies with limited options, Tillman has averaged 28 minutes while starting each of the last nine games.
Tillman has made the most of his opportunity to start, putting up 11.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.4 steals over those nine games while shooting 59.2 percent from the field. The Grizzlies play four games in each of the final three weeks of the regular season, making Tillman an ideal center to add for fantasy managers who need help at the position.
Santi Aldama, Memphis Grizzlies (79 percent available)
Aldama was selected with the 30th pick in the 2021 Draft. The Grizzlies had quality depth, so he only averaged 11 minutes during his rookie season. The big man has been more involved this season, logging 22 minutes per game. With the Grizzlies dealing with so many injuries, he has the potential for even more playing time.
While Aldama doesn’t usually provide much in the way of assists or steals, he has averaged 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 three-pointers over the last four games. He also shot 53.1 percent from the field and 87.5 percent from the free-throw line during that stretch. With a minimum of 20 to 25 minutes likely coming his way on a nightly basis, he is another member of the Grizzlies to consider adding.
Kris Dunn, Utah Jazz (75 percent available)
The Jazz have been rolling with limited depth at guard since trading away Mike Conley Jr. and Malik Beasley. Collin Sexton (hamstring) hasn’t played in a month, and the Jazz aren’t going to rush him back onto the floor. Jordan Clarkson (finger) has missed six of their last seven games and is also in danger of being shut down if the Jazz fall further back of the final spot in the play-in tournament.
In turn, Dunn has taken on a significant role. Over nine games since joining the team, he has averaged 11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting 53.1 percent from the field. The Jazz close out the season with four games in each of the final three weeks, making Dunn a prime option on waivers for those who need a guard.
Terrence Ross, Phoenix Suns (91 percent available)
Yet another injury to Kevin Durant (ankle) puts the Suns in a tricky situation. The hope is that Durant will be ready to return by the playoffs, but he hasn’t exactly had much time to gel with his new team. The Suns dealt away some of their depth when they brought over Durant, so their second unit is short on viable scoring options.
Ross is the only player they have coming off the bench that can score in bunches. Over four games since Durant went down, he has averaged 11.3 points and 2.8 three-pointers. It has been a mixed bag, with him scoring at least 18 points in a game twice, and three or fewer points twice. The Suns have three games in Week 23, then four games each in the final two weeks of the regular season. While he won’t provide much outside of points and three-pointers, he can still do enough damage in those two areas to be worth considering in deeper leagues.