Pickup of the Day: Giannis Antetokounmpo


(Jerome Miron / USA TODAY Sports)

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.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Tuesday, December 17 is Giannis Antetokounmpo, and I’d been practicing spelling that name for a long time in anticipation of this moment, even though I may be jumping the gun. He’s owned in 9% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.6% of ESPN Leagues, but he is by far the no. 1 pickup today across Yahoo leagues. He’ll likely be available for longer in ESPN leagues because, quite frankly, ESPN has an awful interface that requires you to either spell “Antetokounmpo” perfectly or browse through all players until you find him.

He didn’t play last night, but his averages over the last three games are 12.0 pts, 8.7 reb, 1.7 ast, 0.7 stl, 0.7 blk and 0.3 TO on 47.6 FG% on 7.0 FGA and 80.0% FT on 6.7 FTA in 30 mpg. That FT shooting is a sneakily healthy boost, but otherwise his numbers don’t really stand out. Marvin Williams could do that.

Williams is actually an interesting comparison. As an incredible physical specimen drafted no. 2 overall above Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the 2005 NBA draft, expectations for him were sky high, and he’s now considered a bust despite some solid work for Utah this season. Antetokounmpo, another incredible physical specimen, was drafted 15th this year in what is largely considered the worst draft class since 2000. There were no expectations for him this year, but he has lit the blogosphere on fire, dominating headlines even as fellow Buck John Henson is putting up insanely good career numbers.

Antetokounmpo is getting his first start tonight because O.J. Mayo is out attending his grandmother’s funeral (condolences to Mayo), so this may not be a permanent move. As I mentioned many times before, he’s eventually going to get lots of minutes this season when the Buck give up and commit to playing their young guys, but it’s only mid-December. I don’t think the tanking is happening just yet, even if they are the worst team in the league right now.

Antetokounmpo’s potential is undeniable, though, and not just on the floor. Here’s a translated excerpt from his Greek blog that won me over completely:

It was an amazing experience, the game vs the Heat. Until of course the next day and the game vs the Thunder. I have said many times that Durant is my idol. He is the player I watch the most. When I came out on the court for a workout, he was already there, shooting. Working. I stopped and watched him. He was deadly serious. I could see it in his face. He was not relaxed. He was warming up with tension. I felt a satisfaction, when I saw my idol, approaching basketball with such determination.

 

In the span of just two days I found myself against two superstars like LeBron and Durant and I got the biggest lessons. Two of the biggest and most recognizable basketball players, with huge bank accounts, working hard, like they have something to prove, while in reality they have nothing to prove. LeBron is a two-time champion and four-time MVP. They have both played in so many All Star Games. Even so, work never stops. They do not rest in their glory. They are after perfection.

 

At the same time I saw right in front of my eyes what the combination of talent and hard work can offer to an athlete.

I read something like that from a 19-year old kid, and I can’t help but think this kid just gets it. I’ve only thought that about one other NBA rookie, and I see the same insight and determination in Antetokounmpo, if not necessarily the same polished skill set, as I did in his idol.

If you really need your bench guys to give you something, then I think you might be a little early pulling the trigger on the Alphabet Soup. Otherwise, he’s worth a roster spot just to be able to follow him more closely every day.

Other Notable Players: Many people caught last night’s thrilling point guard battle between elite PGs Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, but how many of you caught the backup battle between mediocre PGs Jarrett Jack and Slo Mo Williams? Jack has averaged 12.0 pts, 3.5 reb, 3.8 ast and 1.0 3pm in his last four, and Williams has 11.0 pts, 2.5 reb, 5.0 ast and 1.8 3pm over his last four…In each game since his 31-point game, Derrick Williams has played in fewer minutes than the last, culminating in last night’s 22 min in which he dropped a 5-0-1-1-0. I was skeptical of his ability to push Jason Thompson out of the line-up after Rudy Gay got there. Should’ve stayed skeptical. This is a timeshare…Jordan Hill isn’t injured. He just picked up four fouls in seven and a half minutes. Don’t worry, Larry Sanders does this kind of stuff all the time and look how well he’s–er, nevermind…An update on Lakers guards: Nick Young is still unbelievably most consistent, Jodie Meeks is regaining his value, Wes Johnson finally put up another weirdly useful line 7-5-6-1-1 in 32 min, and I jumped the gun on Jordan Farmar (see Hindsight below)…Mike Conley sat out last night, and Jerryd Bayless was ehh, just okay. Oh, and if anybody asks, I totally had Jon Leuer at the top of my Top Five Pickups for the last two weeks, but I’d been misspelling his name as “Kosta Koufos“…After 10 games averaging 15.3 pts, 3.7 reb, 2.8 ast and 1.2 3pm in 27 min, Reggie Jackson has averaged just 9-3-3.5 plus no threes in 21 min in his last two games. Some might blame Thabo Sefolosha’s return, but Jackson has been getting steady minutes long before Sefolosha sat for three games. I’m not worried yet. Jackson’s numbers will be up-and-down, but he’s been pretty locked into sixth man minutes for a while now…Al-Farouq Aminu didn’t exactly stuff the stat sheet, but he prodded it from many angles with a 10-8-2-1-2 line. He got even fewer minutes than megabust Austin Rivers, who seems to be the one benefiting the most from Tyreke Evans’s absence. I call Rivers a megabust, but a Twitter commenter did note that Rivers has outplayed max contract-owner Eric Gordon in the last two games, so who’s the real megabust lately?…Andre Iguodala returned last night, and, though he did very little, you can now safely bench Harrison Barnes. If you didn’t drop Draymond Green weeks ago, then A. you can definitely do it now and B. you’re probably paying way too much attention to silly things like your job or your family. Stop neglecting your fantasy basketball team!

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

1. Jon Leuer (25%)
2. Jordan Hill (33%)
4. Marvin Williams (15%)
5. Jordan Farmar (7%)
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo (9%)

Clearly I’m not worried about Hill, although I also ignored the signs for him and Koufos before. Might regret not bumping Glen Davis back up. On the other hand, the bad news on Farmar drops him down, but not too far (see hindsight below). Michael Carter-Williams’s probable return on Friday means Wroten’s value as a starter for your fantasy team is probably done for the moment. Honestly, I’m not sure that Wroten’s less valuable than Antetokounmpo moving forward in the short-term, but the Alphabet Soup is to me what RG3 was to Matthew Berry last year. I can’t speak about him objectively.

Hindsight: All that optimism for a Friday return for Jordan Farmar is gone. Looks like he’s out at least another week, but if he’s back by Christmas, you’ll still be glad you stashed him…Over the All-Star break, when there are no games, I’m going to do a list of my best and worst pickups. Jeff Taylor will definitely be on my list of worst. This guy’s shooting just fell off a cliff this year.

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Pickups of the Day: The Injury Replacements

20131122 Injured Pickups

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.

Last night was a brutal night for a few legit title contenders. First, Marc Gasol left his game with an MCL sprain in his left knee. Then Derrick Rose left with a possibly heartbreaking ACL tear in his previously healthy right knee. Finally, in the last game of the night, Andre Iguodala left after he felt his left hamstring pop. All three were scheduled to have MRIs today that will determine the extent of their damage.

2:33pm PST Update: The Chicago Bulls are reporting that Derrick Rose tore the medial meniscus in his right knee. He is out indefinitely, but this is much better news than an ACL tear. Medial meniscus tears are even quicker to heal than lateral meniscus tears, which is the injury that kept Russell Westbrook out from April 26 to November 2. All things considered, it’s pretty good news as we have a chance of seeing him again this season.

3:00pm PST Update: USA TODAY’s Sam Amick is reporting that Andre Iguodala will not need surgery to repair his hamstring. There is no timeline for his return.

The entire playoff landscape (and one former MVP’s career) has possibly shifted in one night. The fortunes of those fantasy owners who drafted these three players may have as well. On the other hand, new opportunities have also arisen for the players behind the injured ones on their teams’ rotations.

There’s no point in posting any of these newly promoted players’ stat lines from last night, since we’re not interested in any of them for what they did but rather what they might do in the future. Again, until we hear how each MRI comes back later today, we don’t know for sure how much value each of these players actually will have. Based on the information we have now, though, here’s a look at how legit each is:

Draymond Green, GS – SF (1% owned)
Andre Iguodala said he felt a pop and “can’t even walk” following last night’s game. He also added that he “knew it was serious.” That is awful news for a team that has vastly improved its defense in large part due to Iguodala and a healthy Andrew Bogut. The biggest beneficiary of Iggy’s absence will be Harrison Barnes. At 66% owned, he’s not likely to be available in many of your leagues, but he should be 100% owned now that he’ll be a permanent fixture in the starting line-up.

However, another player in line for an increased role who is almost universally available in Yahoo! Leagues is Draymond Green. He should now be the first player off the bench until Toney Douglas returns, and then the first wing off the bench after that. Green has already been a much more efficient scorer this year than he was as a rookie last year, and he played his most minutes of the season tonight (27) with both Curry out and Iggy leaving the game.

Having Green as the first man off the bench is a huge dropoff for Golden State from last year, when their first two off the bench were Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack. Nonetheless, he’s still their best option at this point, and he could become a useful fantasy asset if he continues his upward production in more minutes.

Kosta Koufos, Mem – PF,C (13% owned)
Marc Gasol is the only one to have his diagnosis reported so far. He has a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee. Estimates of how long he’ll be out range from 6-8 weeks to 10-12 weeks. For comparison, the Grizzlies lost Zach Randolph last year to a slight MCL tear for 10 weeks. Despite also trading Rudy Gay during that time frame, the Grizzlies somehow went 23-14. Such a run now would be unexpected without Gasol, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and best post passer this side of Kevin Love (and apparently also Josh McRoberts).

Either way, Gasol will be out for a while. Kosta Koufos will start in his place, though Ed Davis is also very talented and will get some additional burn. After Barnes, Koufos has the most to gain from this promotion. As I described on Tuesday, he’s been able to put up decent stats even in limited minutes this year, and he had spurts last year in Denver where he provided a lot of value in the elusive blocks category.

Unlike Barnes, Koufos is very likely to be available in your league’s free agent pool. Pick him up with confidence and expect some good rebounding and block numbers

Kirk Hinrich, Chi – PG,SG (16% owned)
As terrible as Iguodala and Gasol’s injuries were, the most soul-crushing one of the night may have to be the one to Derrick Rose. After tearing his left ACL in the 2012 playoffs and controversially sitting out the entire 2012-13 season, the former MVP was primed to make a triumphant comeback this year. He had already been struggling to get back into form, but now there’s a possibility that he’s also torn his right ACL, which would finish him for the rest of this season as well.

This would throw the entire Bulls’ franchise plans out of whack. In the much more top-heavy Eastern Conference, the Bulls were considered an early title favorite along with the Pacers and Heat. Even THE title favorite by some fanatical sports fans with notoriously deranged logic. Now, with the possibility of a Greg Oden-like career-altering series of injuries, the Bulls may look into breaking up their team to shed salary and acquire future picks.

2:33pm PST Update: Okay, we can turn off the alarms for now. It’s a medial meniscus tear. We might see Rose back later this season.

In the meantime, we’ll take the conservative path and assume Rose will just miss some time and the roster will remain the same. In this case, Kirk Hinrich will be the biggest beneficiary. I had already previously mentioned that, while Mike Dunleavy will get the start in place of Jimmy Butler, Hinrich will also get plenty of minutes and may outplay Dunleavy. Well, he definitely did more tonight, though obviously much of that was also due to Rose’s exit.

Hinrich will get you steals and assists, but his shooting has been terrible, and he doesn’t take or make as many threes as he did earlier in his career. If the Bulls really do lose Rose for the long-term, expect them to also take a good, hard look at Marquise Teague as well at PG. However, for now, Hinrich is the man.

Other Notable Players: If tonight were a normal, positive night in the NBA, Caron Butler would easily be the Pickup of the Day with his 38-8-3-3 and four 3’s night. He was already playing well before his shoulder injury and has now come back strong. Even with Ersan Ilyasova back as well, Butler has good value…James Anderson is already on a lot of fantasy rosters, but I couldn’t bring myself to trust him. However, now with Tony Wroten injured, Anderson should gain more consistency by claiming a lot of the shots that used to go to Wroten…Major dropoff game for Martell Webster, but believe he’ll usually do much better than that in 41 min. He graduates from our little camp tonight, though, as he climbs up to 41% owned…Another effective game for Terrence Ross in 24 min. Just keep an eye on him in case any of the Rudy Gay or DeMar DeRozan trade rumors come to fruition…Eric Bledsoe missed another game. Despite an inefficient night, anyone who owns Gerald Green should continue playing him until more news about Bledsoe comes out. Captain Obvious, out…In his last four games, Channing Frye has gone (in points-rebounds-threes) 20-3-5, 0-1-0, 17-9-3 and 13-5-2, and then before that were five games of single-digit scoring. I don’t think his value is necessarily tied to Bledsoe’s absence, so he’s still too unreliable for me…So Markieff Morris is the good twin again?…Josh McRoberts: 10-6-5 with two 3’s. And a stinky 40.0% FG. Of course. The adventure continues…Jordan Crawford hasn’t been mentioned in this space for a while because he’s actually been rather terrible lately, killing fantasy owners in FG% while not nearly producing as many assists to compensate. The assists still weren’t there tonight, but he made a comeback in the scoring column with 24 pts on 10/12 from the field. His six turnovers were his worst of the season, however…Coach’s pet Matt Dellavedova got the start, but Jarrett Jack produced. Even Dion Waiters chipped in…Andray Blatche didn’t play nearly as much as I expected, but he still managed to get some garbage time stats…All the Nets starters were pulled early in this blow-out by Minnesota, but my heavily touted Pickup Shaun Livingston especially stunk. He shot 0 for 7 from the floor and 1 for 2 from the line to go with 3 reb, 1 stll, 1 tov and nothing else. Obviously don’t give up on him yet because he’ll remain the starter while Deron Williams will miss Sunday’s game and isn’t likely to return soon, but two pitiful shooting games in a row is a worrying follow-up to such a strong week last week…That’s three good games in a row for Marvin Williams (avg 16.3 pts, 6.3 reb, 1.3 ast, 1.3 stl, 2.7 3’s), who suddenly has developed some three-point range…Between John Lucas III still starting and Trey Burke’s return, it looks like Diante Garrett’s opportunity at fantasy relevance is over, which is a shame because with 7 points, 8 assists, 1 three, and a perfect 3 for 3 from the field in just 16 min…While teammate Steve Blake has been blowing up since Nash left the line-up, Jordan Farmar has struggled. Until tonight. Farmar put up 14 pts, 8 ast and 2 3’s in just 19 min and played a key role, along with Nick Young (more on him in a second), in the Lakers’ bench vastly outplaying Golden State’s. Blake will continue dominating the PG position for the foreseeable future, but this should remind you that the Lakers have a competent third-string quarterback in the event that something happens to Blake…Young puts up the most skeletal scoring lines I’ve seen. Still, over his last three he is averaging 19.3 pts, 1.3 stl, 2.3 3’s, 50.0% FG, 73.3% FT and virtually nothing else. That’s a solid SG to have in your fantasy line-up. Just remember that his shot has a history of disappearing, and, when that happens, Young gives you absolutely nothing else.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):

1. Kosta Koufos (13%)
2. Mo Williams (26%)
3. Jared Sullinger (32%)
4. Jodie Meeks (27%)
5. Caron Butler (28%)

Today we have to say goodbye to Martell Webster, as he graduates to the 41% owned plateau. Meanwhile, Koufos’s high potential and new opportunity pushes him to the top of our list, and Butler’s huge game moves him into the five-spot.

Hindsight: I don’t believe in DeMarre Carroll’s talent, but the guy does keep producing…Told you all Khris Middleton’s days on your roster should be over until the next SF injury…I’m starting to feel like I just got talked into all the John Henson hype…Yes, I do still believe in Shaun Livingston, Luke Ridnour … and Zaza Pachulia (dun dun duuunnnnnn!).

Pickup of the Day: Shaun Livingston

i(Brock Williams-Smith / NBAE via Getty Images)

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.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Wednesday, November 20 is Shaun Livingston. He’s owned in 11% of Yahoo! Leagues and 4.0% of ESPN Leagues, and his value was supposed to end tonight with the return of starting PG Deron Williams. Unluckily for everyone associated with the Brooklyn Nets, except for Livingston, that return lasted a whole 13 minutes.

Here’s a look at his line tonight against Charlotte:
20131120 Shaun Livingston

Nope, not stellar, especially the turnovers for those in nine-cat leagues. However, in the three games that Livingston started after Williams sprained his ankle, he averaged 16.3 pts, 3.0 reb, 3.5 ast, 1.3 stl, and just 1.7 tov on spectacular percentages of 52.2% FG and 89.5% FT. He didn’t even attempt a three, which is odd for a PG though standard for him, but his safe brand of mid- and close-range shots is also how he gives you a FG% (on 11.5 FGA) that a PF would be proud of.

All that was supposed to end tonight with Williams returning to the starting line-up. After just 13 minutes, however, Williams sprained the exact same ankle he’d sprained a week earlier. He’s now day-to-day, but I’d imagine the Nets will be more careful bringing him back next time. In the meantime, everyone back on the Livingston train!

Is he legit? I could go on for hours about the tragic career of Shaun Livingston, how this 6’7″ PG was supposed to grow into the next Magic Johnson before he suffered the most brutal knee injury I’d ever seen. The one thing I remember about him fantasy-wise before his injury, though, was how frustrating he was to own. He’d get you points, rebounds, a few assists, maybe some steals and that was it. His percentages weren’t great for a PG, and he could never hit the three. His turnover rate wasn’t awful, and he’d already been reducing it every year before he shredded his ACL, MCL and LCL all in one go.

For the next seven years, Livingston bounced around the league getting more and more playing time, culminating in a productive stretch last year filling in for an injured Kyrie Irving on the Cavs. Now he’s getting the same opportunity on the Nets, and really he does the same things he’s always done, except much more efficiently. He still just gets you points, rebounds, a few assists, maybe some steals and no threes, but now he’s doing it on much better shooting from both the field and line as well as with fewer turnovers. He’s a guy you can plug and leave in your line-up, and the only thing you have to worry about is when Deron Williams will return.

Other Notable Players: I really wavered between Livingston and Luke Ridnour as the Pickup. Ridnour started tonight for the first time this season and went 13-5-5. Both have value tied to the injury of the normal starting PG for their teams: Williams for Livingston and Brandon Knight for Ridnour. Both Williams and Knight are day-to-day, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear timeline for either’s return, but I put Livingston ahead for now because we’ve actually seen him produce this year. Ridnour has the slightly higher PG ceiling, however, as he gets more assists and can actually hit threes…In other Milwaukee news, both Caron Butler and Ersan Ilyasova returned tonight, making Khris Middleton disposable from fantasy rosters, and I’m getting closer to admitting John Henson (10-7-2-2-2) might be a better pick-up than Zaza Pachulia (11-8-0-1-1) even with Ilyasova cutting into PF minutes…After three mediocre to bad games, Jarrett Jack got back on track with 14 pts, 6 ast and 2 3’s in 33 min, helped in large part by C.J. Miles leaving the game with a calf injury…Beno Udrih followed up a lousy first start last night with a much better start tonight, posting a 19-8-4 with three 3’s and thoroughly claiming the starting PG spot from Pablo Prigioni until Raymond Felton gets back…Terrence Ross topped 32 min and had his first good game of his season as the Raptors went small tonight to match up against the Sixers. Ross was a high lottery pick last year, and the Raps want to utilize him, but it’ll be hard for him to get minutes like this consistently behind DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay…On the other side of the court, MCW returned, pushing Tony Wroten back to the bench. Both Wroten and James Anderson still got opportunities to contribute, and Anderson played better, but their games together at the beginning of the year indicate they’ll both become too inconsistent to use again…Andray Blatche bounced back from a bad game playing behind KG and Reggie Evans to outplay them both with a 25-7 tonight. For what it’s worth, Brook Lopez said he felt good enough to play last night, but who knows how that affects the timetable for his return…Josh McRoberts put up another weird, give-and-take line (6-7-5-1-2, terrible percentages), but I’m keeping an eye on Jeff Adrien. He’s had two solid rebounding games this season, and he could have a Reggie Evans-like impact if he got consistent minutes…A day after I pushed the idea of starting Mike Scott over DeMarre Carroll, Carroll comes out and drops an 11-12-3-2-2 with a three. I don’t believe in him at all, but the fact that I keep mentioning him means he’s producing…John Lucas III had his best game of the season and did it in only 16 min, though all his value came in a flurry of four threes. Diante Garrett was the best PG on the team tonight, but this is all moot now because Trey Burke (59% owned) is back…After five games close to or over 30 min, Mo Williams backtracked to 23 min. Don’t sweat it yet. Hold on to him until we see if this is a blip or the start of a trend…Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk both started tonight, and Sullinger beasted his way to 19-17. I’m not going to gloat too much again, as he could very well drop back down to 16 min in his next game for conditioning issues, but–screw it–TOLDJA!…Boris Diaw actually has racked up some impressive numbers on the strength of strong shooting and back-to-back games of 2 stl and 2 blk. Look at how jerky his minutes are though. I’m not buying it…Gerald Green started again in place of the injured Eric Bledsoe and matched last night’s season-high with 23 points and also dropped six threes. Both he and Goran Dragic had great games, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in a row and can’t wait to get back Bledsoe, who’s day-to-day. Meanwhile, Marcus Morris played Dr. Jekyll again as Markieff continues to fade as Mr. Hyde (Or should the good one be Hyde since he’s the beast? Whatever, this whole analogy is a failure.)…Omer Asik actually got some more meaningful minutes for the first time in over a week, but the way Terrence Jones is playing right now, you still have to get him and play him. And yes, Patrick Beverley (4 stl, 3 3’s) also outplayed Jeremy Lin tonight despite barely touching the ball…There will be no dawn for Kent Bazemore. Golden State opted to let Iggy play point and start Harrison Barnes (63% owned) to play their five best players.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):

1. Terrence Jones (38%)
2. Martell Webster (35%)
3. Mo Williams (26%)
4. Jared Sullinger (22%)
5. Jodie Meeks (27%)

Had to drop McRoberts for his continued abysmal shooting, so of course I had to put man-crush Sullinger in there. Though I trust Sullinger’s impact will outlast the temporarily high values of Ridnour, Livingston and Blatche, and I’m still not convinced Markieff and Marcus won’t pull another swap in value next week. On the other hand, we’ll probably welcome one of those names onto this list regardless tomorrow, as I can’t imagine Jones lasting another day under 40%.

Hindsight: After all that touting of C.J. Miles in the wake of Dion Waiters’s fake illness, Miles goes out and just gets 15 min in one game and then injured after two minutes in the next. Thanks a lot, C.J. Made me look dumb arguing with Chris Towers at CBS.