Players to stash now if you have an open roster spot

Special to Yahoo Sports

Just because the NBA trade deadline has passed, it doesn’t mean there aren’t players worth stashing in fantasy basketball. There are still a few who could be one injury away from being valuable options. Also, some could step into added minutes if their struggling team decides to sit some starters down the stretch. Let’s discuss five players to consider adding now if you have an open roster spot.

The Spurs dove further into their rebuild at the trade deadline, dealing away Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson. They are thin at center, although they aren’t in as much trouble at guard since they brought in Devonte’ Graham in the Richardson deal. They aren’t near the playoff hunt, but they are in a four-horse race with the Rockets, Pistons and Hornets for the worst record in the league.

In addition to not having a ton of talent on the roster, the Spurs are still without Devin Vassell (knee), who does not have a firm timetable for his return. Tre Jones (foot) has also missed five of their last six games. With injuries mounting, Branham has logged an average of 33 minutes during the previous seven games. He didn’t let his opportunity go to waste, averaging 17.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.3 three-pointers. The Spurs are in no rush to bring Vassell back, and they could also take a cautious approach with Jones down the stretch. Branham could be looking at substantial playing time moving forward, so adding him now could not only pay off in the immediate future — but even more so in the long run.

TJ McConnell, Indiana Pacers (86 percent available)

We had McConnell on this list earlier in the season, and it paid off in a big way. There was a 10-game stretch in January in which Tyrese Haliburton was injured. McConnell didn’t start all of those games, but he did take on significantly more minutes. The point guard used those added minutes to average 14.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.9 three-pointers. He also shot 64.6 percent from the field and 92.3 percent from the free-throw line.

TJ McConnell #9 of the Indiana Pacers has fantasy value

TJ McConnell spent his fantasy value when Tyrese Haliburton was out. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Now that Haliburton is healthy again, McConnell has returned to a limited role. Over the last seven games, he has put up 9.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 19 minutes per game. However, we’ve already seen what the veteran can do when Haliburton is out. McConnell could be a difference-maker during the fantasy playoffs if the All-Star gets injured again.

Nick Richards, Charlotte Hornets (92 percent available)

The Hornets didn’t enter the season with much margin for error if they were going to make the playoffs. Injuries to their top players quickly ended their hopes, forcing them to be sellers at the deadline. They held onto Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and Kelly Oubre Jr. but deal Mason Plumlee to the Clippers. He had been playing well as Charlotte’s starting center, but he is a free agent after the season, and they had a promising rookie Mark Williams waiting in the wings.

With Plumlee gone, Williams has taken over as the team’s starting center. Richards has also re-entered the bench rotation, appearing in three straight games. Even in limited minutes, he averaged 7.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 0.7 blocks while shooting 63.6 percent from the field. Should anything happen to Williams, Richards could step into heavy playing time and at least approach a double-double on a nightly basis.

Thybulle could not establish a prominent enough role on the 76ers to be fantasy relevant. He is an excellent defender, but his deficiencies on the offensive end often kept him on the bench. After averaging a career-high 26 minutes per game last season, he only played an average of 12 minutes per game this season. With the 76ers pushing for a title and the wing’s role dwindling, they decided to move him at the deadline and replace him with Jalen McDanielswho has a much higher offensive ceiling.

Now a member of the Trail Blazers, Thybulle should find himself with added minutes. Portland traded away Josh Hart and Gary Payton IIleaving Thybulle to battle with Cam Reddish and Nassir Little for minutes. In his first two games with the team, he played 26 and 30 minutes, respectively. That helped him rack up a total of five steals and three blocks. Don’t expect much from him in the scoring department, but if he can regularly play 25 or more minutes per game, he can help fantasy managers who need defensive contributions.

Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers (77 percent available)

Staying with the Trail Blazers, one of the reasons why they might have decided it was time to move on from Payton so quickly is because of the promise that Sharpe has shown in his rookie season. Sharpe has logged at least 22 minutes with Portland’s guard depth depleted over the last four games. That helped him contribute averages of 13.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.3 three-pointers.

The problem with Payton being gone is that while it opens up more minutes for Sharpe, it also leaves the Trail Blazers very thin at guard. If anything were to happen to Damian Lillard Or Anfernee Simmons, Sharpe would likely be thrust into the starting lineup — and nearly 30 minutes a game. Not only would he play more, but because Lillard and Simons are two of their leading scorers, Sharpe could also see a spike in his usage rate. The opportunity for him to shine might already be here with Simons (ankle) having left Tuesday’s game against the Wizards. Sharpe could be thrust into a starting job if Simons is not ready to return after the All-Star break.

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