Pickups of the Day: The Los Angeles Lakers…Again

This season I will highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s owned in less than 40% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

Earlier this season, I highlighted the struggles of the new-look Los Angeles Lakers and discussed what to make of their rotations in Mike D’Antoni’s very fantasy-friendly offense (and very opposing-team-friendly defense). At the end, I mentioned that Kobe Bryant’s return would soak up many of the shots that were available to all Lakers. He didn’t quite do that (12.2 FGA), but he did throw off the entire team’s chemistry, as the previously 10-9 Lakers that won six of their last eight games before Kobe’s return went 2-4 afterwards. My main notes on the Lakers during that time were that we were still waiting to see how the team would ultimately settle in around Kobe.

Well, so much for that. Kobe will now miss the next six weeks with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. I am obviously an NBA fan as well as a fantasy basketball fan, but I’ll leave the analysis on the impact to Kobe’s legacy and his $48.5 million albatross contract to the always excellent Ramona Shelbourne and the Lakers’ future prospects to the preminent Zach Lowe. We will, of course, focus on the fantasy ramifications for the rest of the squad instead:

Swingmen: Welcome back from purgatory, Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry, Nick Young and Wesley Johnson! It was a short and not altogether terrible stay for most of them, softened especially by the complete collapse of the Lakers’ point guard situation (see below). Meeks was the biggest loser of Bryant’s return, even though he mainly kept his place in the starting line-up and his minutes. He should also benefit most from Kobe’s injury and go back to scoring in the mid-teens, 2+ threes a game, and a career-defying high FG%. Xavier Henry stayed inconsistent, while Wesley Johnson remained Yahoo!’s highest-ranked Laker by continuing to produce a 1+1+1 in steals, blocks and threes.

The biggest winner during Kobe’s return was sixth man Nick Young, who never played less than 27 min or scored less than 13 points. He averaged 17.2 points, 3.0 reb, 1.8 ast, 2.7 3pm, 0.2 stl, 0.7 blk and just 1.0 TO in those six games. Shooting 42.7% on 12.7 FGA wasn’t great, but 87.0% on 4.3 FTA was nice. He is now 39% owned, but he will see the least improvement (and may even decline if we judge by his pre-Kobe numbers this season). I’m once again highest on Wesley Johnson, who should now return to the starting line-up and add some more points to those steals, blocks and threes.

Point Guards: Can you name the only healthy PG on the Lakers? Give yourself a life-affirming pat on the back if you said Kendall Marshall, whom the Lakers signed yesterday after he averaged 19.4 pts, 9.6 ast, and 1.9 stl in nine D-League games. Since our last check-up on the Lakers, they’ve absolutely been ravaged at this position. Steve Blake’s elbow injury is putting him out for six weeks, Jordan Farmar’s hamstring was judged to be not ready and will be re-evaluated on Dec. 24, and the team announced Steve Nash would be out another month at the same press conference they announced Kobe’s injury.

With the Lakers otherwise looking at playing Meeks or Henry at PG, Marshall may be in line for lots of minutes in at least their next three games. However, as I noted earlier this week, Farmar is still the guy you really want, as he was excellent even in limited minutes before his injury. If all goes well at his re-evaluation, he could play as soon as Christmas. If not, well, let’s see what Marshall looks like in these next three.

Big Men: Chris Kaman came back for a game and then disappeared again with a whimper. Shawne Williams hasn’t done anything in the eight games since he scored 20 points at the end of November. Robert Sacre got the starting center job and then lost it just as quickly. That basically just leaves Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill as the Lakers’ only fantasy-viable big men.

Gasol has actually been quite good for the past month, finally raising his FG% up to around 50% for the past two weeks when it’s been 43.9% for the year. Hill has been struggled a lot with an ankle injury, but finally strung together back-to-back 15-9 and 21-9 games before getting benched for fouling four times in only seven and a half minutes with in his latest game. Still, after Gasol, he’s really the Lakers’ only other productive big man.

This is a team that’s even thinner than they were the last time we talked about them. The talent is still bunched up at the wings, but the lack of talent at the point and in the post isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That makes fantasy options clearer: Jordan Farmar and Jordan Hill. As long as they run Mike D’Antoni’s offense and keep up the fourth highest pace in the league, Lakers players will continue to step up and be useful for your fantasy teams.

Other Notable Players: Anthony Davis is back! Al-Farouq Aminu may continue to get minutes as long as Tyreke Evans is injured, and Jason Smith was starting at center even before Davis was out, but we’ve likely seen the end of their upsides…Jared Dudley has averaged a remarkable 16.7 pts, 4.3 reb, 2.7 ast and 3.3 3pm on 61.3% FG and 100% FT in his last three. I’d advise caution in trusting him as he was awful previously, but projections for him were high coming into this season, and he may finally be taking advantage of J.J. Redick’s absence…Marvin Williams is not the same guy he was before his injury, or at least doesn’t have the same role. He’s managed to remain relevant in the five games since his return with his 1.8 stl, 0.8 blk and 1.6 3pm, but he’s not gettign nearly the same minutes or shots that he used to get…Tobias Harris got a start with Arron Afflalo out, but it’s not yet known when he’ll be a permanent fixture in the starting rotation after Afflalo returns. Glen Davis is still most likely to get pushed out though could still be a force on the bench. The Magic are somehow looking notably deep at PF and C…Josh McRoberts dropped 13-7-7 in a season-high 44 min on Wednesday and is shooting much better recently, though still on too low a number of FGA and FTA to matter. He’s still a low-end source of assists, steals and threes for deep leagues…Terrence Ross has gotten a lot more minutes since the Rudy Gay trade, but he’s shooting terribly and not proving much more effective than backup John Salmons. Since he only got you points and threes anyway, he’s not really worth owning…Brook Lopez returned, so you can stop playing Andray Blatche. Whether or not you drop him is up to you. Lopez can’t seem to stay healthy…Solid 21-4-5-2-0 and 5 3pm game for Beno Udrih in his first start for the injured Pablo Prigioni, though it took double overtime for him to do it. Tim Hardaway Jr. hasn’t stepped up, so Udrih may actually have some value if he can outplay Raymond Felton, who is expected to return on Monday. Despite how awful Felton has been this year, Udrih actually doing that is questionable…Giannis Antetokounmpo played 42 min on Wed, but put up pedestrian numbers, only attempted three shots (albeit also seven FTs) and fouled out. Although will O.J. be back tonight, he’ll be coming off the bench behind The Great Greek Hype. It remains to seen how the minutes will be split, but Alphabet’s upside is vast even for this rookie season…Jerryd Bayless got another start and again was ehh. Jon Leuer had only one rebound but continues to light it up otherwise, although fantasy owners are still disrespecting him by dropping him down to 24% owned…Another reminder that San Antonio’s rotations are far from reliable. Tony Parker sat the last two games, while Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili sat the latter one as well. Marco Belinelli started the first one and fell flat, then came roaring off the bench for 28 points and four threes in the next with Ginobili out. Belinelli is offering you points, threes, good FG% and nothing else (too few FTs to be significant). Patty Mills was far more effective starting in place of TP in the second game (20-5-2-3-0, 2 3pm) than Cory Joseph was in the first (4-3-nothing). Mills still has little value unless Parker sits though…D.J. Augustin had back-to-back games of 8-2-9-2-0 and 2 3pm and 15-0-5-1-0 and 3 3pm. He’s not a good PG, but he still has a lot of value as long as Chicago’s only other PG is Marquis Teague. Kirk Hinrich’s return date is still uncertain…Other injuries also continue to plague the Bulls, as Luol Deng sat their last game on the bench with walking boot and Jimmy Butler left on crutches with an ankle sprain. Taj Gibson benefited most, putting up 16-6-3-2-2. He was very effective when both were out for a stretch earlier this season. Tony Snell also got 41 min in their absence, but his most notable contribution was missing 11 of 15 shots…Terrence Jones returned from his illness and put up six assists and little else in 27 min. We mention him because his poor recent performance and the fact that Omer Asik is no longer going to be traded anytime soon have dropped his Yahoo! ownership down to 43%, and he may slip into our Sneaky Pickup territory again if he keeps up his poor play. He was too good last month to continue discounting…After two poor games, Reggie Jackson got back on track with an 18-5-2 and 2 3pm, albeit also with six turnovers. Keep playing him.

Top Five Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):

1. Jon Leuer (24%)
2. Jordan Hill (32%)
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo (9%)
4. Jordan Farmar (7%)
5. Reggie Jackson (36%)

I still have faith in the two Lakers despite Hill’s disappointing game and Farmar’s injury setback. I’d put Farmar higher on the list if I was more confident he’s getting good news next Tuesday. Antetokounmpo continuing to start means he gets to rise on this list. The top and bottom meanwhile are held by recent steady stalwarts.

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