Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a rotating panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic. Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's Joe Kaiser and Kyle Soppe, and ESPN reporter Kieran Darcy.
The Phoenix Suns have reportedly decided to shut down Eric Bledsoe for the remainder of the season. Which Suns players will benefit the most from Bledsoe's absence and are they worth picking up as free agents?
Kieran Darcy: Tyler Ulis definitely seemed to benefit from Bledsoe's absence Wednesday night, posting a career-high 13 assists, along with 13 points. That's a promising sign. And he should continue to get plenty of minutes, with Brandon Knight missing the past month due to injury. If you're looking for assists in particular, Ulis is worth taking a chance on.
As for who's going to replace Bledsoe's 21.1 points per game, it'll likely be a mix of players. But Marquese Chriss did score 17 Wednesday against the Kings, more than double his season average (8.3 PPG), along with 7 rebounds and 5 blocks. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not?
Joe Kaiser: Ulis is the guy to watch here, even more than Knight. He played 39 minutes Wednesday with both Bledsoe and Knight (back spasms) out of the lineup and finished with 13 points and 13 assists while adding a pair of steals. The 5-foot-10 point guard provides assists, which is always one of the most difficult stat to come by in fantasy hoops, and that makes him extremely valuable in the final month of the regular season.
Phoenix seems to already know where it stands with Knight, and after shopping him around the league before the trade deadline, I'd be surprised if it gave him anywhere close to the same amount of minutes as Ulis.
Kyle Soppe: With Phoenix operating at the third-fastest pace in the league, Ulis isn't just a nice add, but a potential difference-maker in the fantasy playoffs. Last night, in the first game without Bledsoe, the rookie out of Kentucky played 39 minutes, took 18 shots and recorded a silly 13-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Of course, you cannot simply extend one game forward for the next month, but the minutes and usage are very safe on a team that will use the rest of this season to evaluate what it has moving forward.
Am I crazy to think his ceiling is Jrue Holiday? Savvy owners will look ahead and notice that the Suns play three of their final five games against teams that also rank in the top-seven offenses in terms of pace. The Bledsoe injury is unfortunate, but failing to acquire Ulis would be the true mistake from a fantasy perspective.