Pickup of the Day: Greivis Vasquez

(Stephen Dunn / 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.

Today, however,we’re going to throw that rule out the back door and make the Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Wednesday, December 11 the newly Canadian visa-approved Greivis Vasquez. He’s owned in 62% of Yahoo! Leagues and 56.8% of ESPN Leagues, despite averaging just 9.8 pts, 5.3 ast and not much else this season. However, a few situations changed today that should change his market value drastically.

Those who follow NBA news should know that he was recently traded from Sacramento to Toronto as part of the Rudy Gay trade. That was great news for Isaiah Thomas owners, who are now seeing their firecracker PG flourish in a starting role. The underperforming Vasquez, on the other hand, seemed like he was destined to languish behind Kyle Lowry on Toronto’s roster, but now the news is that Toronto is shopping Lowry to the Knicks.

That would open up the starting PG spot for Vasquez, though Toronto may also take back the injured Raymond Felton. Felton is out for 2-3 weeks, which is likely why New York is moving so quickly on a trade. Thus there’s no guarantee yet that Vasquez will have a clearer role in Toronto than he did in Sacramento, where Thomas was favored. However, the reports from Raptors beat reporter Josh Lewenberg about Vasquez have all been extremely positive so far. If Lowry gets traded, I don’t see Felton or anyone else the Raptors get in return pushing Vasquez out of getting the most minutes from the PG position.

In fact, I’m counting on it. I picked up Vasquez in all my leagues, but it wasn’t just because of the speculation on Lowry’s trade. I also happened to own Steve Blake in all my leagues. Blake is now going to miss at least six weeks after an MRI revealed he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He’d actually soldiered through the injury for several games now because Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar were both unavailable, but the injury must have gotten too severe. Farmar is still at least two weeks away, while Nash may or may not retire, so the Lakers are basically left with Kobe Bryant as their PG unless they sign someone else (fantasy owners should keep an eye on whomever they do).

So how will fantasy owners replace the whopping 9.4 apg in the past month (second only to Chris Paul) that Blake gave them? How about with a guy who averaged 9.0 apg last season in New Orleans? While it may be unrealistic to expect that level of production from Vasquez on a new team, and certainly not while Lowry is still in Toronto, he’s your best gamble for replacing Blake. If he’s available.

Other Notable Players: Since we’re already breaking the under 40% owned rule, we also have to discuss 43%-owned Amar’e Stoudemire’s mini-resurgence. He’s averaging 14.3 pts, 5.0 reb and 1.3 blk on 70.6% FG and 69.2% FT over his last four. I mentioned yesterday that he was getting minutes with Kenyon Martin out. Well Martin played 35 min last night, and Stoudemire still hit 29:40, his most minutes of the season, and dropped 14-9-1-2-1. Obviously, that’s still a long way from the Amar’e who set a Knicks record three years ago on this day after his eighth straight 30-pt game, but he’s certainly better than the one we’ve seen in recent years who’s been defined more by terms like “minutes cap” and “uninsurable contract” than anything he’s done on the court. I don’t think he’ll continue this, and Tyson Chandler should return this month, but now this is becoming an interesting story. I’m not going to fault anyone for picking Stoudemire up and putting a personal investment into it (but I still don’t take back what I said yesterday about the people owning him still living in 2010)…Nikola Vucevic returned to the line-up and pushed Andrew Nicholson back deep onto the bench. Glen Davis continued to have value and be criminally underowned though. When healthy, Orlando’s rotation is quite consistent, so you can trust the players that produce…Josh McRoberts is making another run at respectability, but Jeff Taylor was worse in his second start. This was Taylor’s first game back after his heel injury, and he still played 31 min, so don’t give up on him yet. However, you should keep in mind that the Bobcats just signed Chris Douglas-Roberts, who plays the same position as Taylor and the injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Also, I need to get a cool hyphenated last name…With Tyreke Evans limited off an ankle injury that was supposed to have knocked him out for 1-2 weeks, Al-Farouq Aminu got a lot of burn and put up a 11-14-4-1-2 line that showed off his versatility. Jason Smith also came through with a strong 22-16-1-0-2 line. Both have been tremendous in the four games since Anthony Davis broke his hand, with Aminu averaging 12.0 pts, 13.3 reb, 2.3 ast, 1.8 stl, 0.5 blk and only 1.8 TO, while Smith is averaging 12.5 pts, 12.8 reb, 1.0 ast, 0.3 stl, 1.0 blk and only 1.0 TO. Neither shoots a strong percentage either from the field or the line, but both are contributing enough elsewhere that they should be rostered…Last night’s Bucks game against the Spurs reminds us of another reason why we shouldn’t trust Milwaukee players. When they’re getting blown out, which happens pretty often, coach Larry Drew throws in the towel fast. None of the starters other than O.J. Mayo played more than 21 minutes, and recent stud John Henson and contributor Brandon Knight both flopped. On the bright side, we got to see rooks Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nate Wolters both get some run, as Alphabet posted 15-8-0-2-1 and Wolters 18-1-7-2-1. Don’t expect either to do that regularly until we get to late March…Tony Wroten bounced back last night, and I’m going to keep repeating the mantra that you should keep him in your line-up until Michael Carter-Williams is absolutely confirmed to start. James Anderson (remember him?) actually had a good game again, too, but he’s a mirage…Mike Dunleavy lit up the box score last night with a 20-8-3-3-1 and 3 3pm, albeit on a horrid 29.4% of 24 FGA. He’s been a stud with Luol Deng out injured, though he’s only got a few more games of this left before Deng returns, which could occur as early as tomorrow. Still, if he doesn’t return, you could be in for two more strong Dunleavy performances this week as the Bulls play both Friday and Saturday…As reported above, Ray Felton will be out 2-3 weeks, and Pablo Prigioni got the start over both Tim Hardaway Jr. and Beno Udrih but didn’t do too much with it…Ed Davis was out again last night, and Jon Leuer dropped 17-6-2-2-2 with 2 3pm. Like clockwork. Davis is targeting a return tomorrow…It was the return we’d all been waiting for: Marvin Williams. He wasn’t too impressive in his return (neither was Kobe), but he did push Enes Kanter back way down in the rotation despite some decent games while Williams was gone (all of which the Jazz lost). It should be safe to get Williams back into your line-ups…Let’s see what Derrick Williams and Jason Thompson are like when Rudy Gay is playing before we decide whether to pick them up.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (36%)
2. Glen Davis (38%)
3. Marvin Williams (9%)
4. Al-Farouq Aminu (18%)
5. Jason Smith (22%)

After seeing that Williams will be starting again and Kanter will be stuck back on the bench, I need to move him up given what he’s done in the past. I still believe in Reggie Jackson, Jeff Taylor and Tony Wroten, but I couldn’t continue leaving Aminu and Smith off this list given their monster numbers lately.

Hindsight: You’ll notice that, while their numbers are eye-popping, Aminu and Smith actually have pretty low Yahoo! rankings. This is partially because their percentages have been pretty lousy, but it also reflects a quirk in Yahoo!’s ranking system. Basically, Yahoo! loves the peripheral stats: threes, steals, blocks and percentages. They are right to do so because those stats are hard to get consistently, but I believe they put way too much emphasis on them.

Danny Green is the ultimate example of this. For the year, he averages 7.9 pts, 3.2 reb, 1.4 ast, 1.2 stl, 0.9 blk, 1.7 3pm and only 1.0 TO on 44.3% FG and 100% FT in 23 mpg. The FT% is a mirage, however, as he only takes 0.3 FTA a game, making that contribution negligible. Now 1.7 3pm, 1.2 stl and 0.9 blk are useful stats, and he doesn’t hurt you in FG% or turnovers.

Do those make him the 75th best fantasy player though? Would you rather have him than Manu Ginobili (77th), Evan Turner (95th), Joe Johnson (99th), Corey Brewer (104th) or Jeff Green (116th)?

Those are just some of the players who play Green’s position. There are also guys like Brandon Jennings (79th), David Lee (81st), Jeff Teague (96th), Greg Monroe (101st), Nikola Pekovic (109th), Pau Gasol (111th), Kyrie Irving (118th) and Tony Parker (123rd) who all rank below Green.

Yes, I have definitely used Yahoo! rankings as part of my argument. They are a good reference point and indicator that a player might be weak or strong in an area you may not have noticed, but ultimately you need to be looking at the numbers themselves and how they help your team.

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Pickup of the Day: Al-Farouq Aminu


(AP Photo / Gerald Herbert)

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 Pickups for Wednesday, December 4 is Al-Farouq Aminu. He’s owned in 11% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.3% of ESPN Leagues. Two games into the 4-6 weeks that Anthony Davis is expected to miss with a fractured hand, it seems that both Aminu and Jason Smith will have value replacing Davis’s production in the starting line-up. Smith has also been solid in the last two games, so why Aminu? Upside. Lots and lots of upside.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Dallas:
20131204 Al-Farouq Aminu

A 16-21-1-3-0 line is insane for a guy who hasn’t scored that many points or grabbed even half that many boards in any other game this year, though interestingly enough Aminu posted a very similar 16-20-1-0-1 line against this exact same team last season. He has that ability. If you’re looking for upside guy to grab and stash on your bench, he’s a worthy pickup.

Over the two games that Davis has missed so far, Aminu has averaged 15.0 pts, 15.0 reb and 3.0 stl on 51.9% FG and 25.0% FT. The rebounds are obviously fluky due to last night’s game, but these numbers do accurately reflect two of his notable trends all year: great steals (1.4 in 22 mpg) and awful free-throw shooting (48.1% on 1.6 FTA). However, the FT% is far and away below the 75.4% he was averaging in his career before this season, so expect that to regress back up to the mean.

Ultimately this sample size is far too small to predict anything for Aminu yet, unlike Smith who has been the Pelican’s starting center for a while now. At the very least, he’ll get you steals and a decent number of rebounds even in limited minutes, though what he could get you is much higher.

Other Notable Players: The other half of the tandem replacing Davis, Jason Smith, has averaged 12.0 pts and 11.5 reb in the past two, though it should also be noted that he also had a fluky game where he played 47 min in a triple-overtime affair. Smith’s value has obviously increased, and I also expect his numbers to be more secure than Aminu’s. If you wanted to pick up a guy to play right away, Smith will cause fewer headaches, unless Aminu explodes of course…DeJuan Blair started and played a season-high 29 min tonight. His contributions weren’t notable, but this change might stick as Samuel Dalembert neither injured nor late for practice but still only played 19 min off the bench…Gerald Green was much better in his last stint playing behind both Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. P.J. Tucker did keep Green on the bench more than usual by playing well, but you shouldn’t hold on to Green too long anymore if you’re eyeing a better choice in your free agent pool…The Rockets rotation got very short tonight with Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik all sitting. That does not explain why Terrence Jones only got 23 min, the second game in a row in which he played limited minutes while Omri Casspi got over 30. Jones has played too well recently to assume this will continue, but it’s a troubling situation for Jones owners and potentially rewarding situation for owners who could use a versatile forward like Casspi…At the same time, Aaron Brooks has now averaged 11.8 pts, 2.3 reb, 4.8 ast, 2.3 stl and 1.8 3pm in the four games that Lin has sat out so far. Sadly, Patrick Beverley isn’t any more valuable than Brooks is (9.0 pts, 5.8 reb, 3.0 ast, 1.8 stl, 1.5 3pm) despite averaging almost 10 more min per game. Though Beverley does commit significantly fewer turnovers (0.5 vs. 2.0 per game)…The Bucks spread the love wide with nine players topping 19 min but only Ersan Ilyasova topping 30. The one notable aspect was coach Larry Drew playing Luke Ridnour (10-3-8-3-0) 28 min over just 19 for Brandon Knight (12-1-3), who played poorly despite having three straight productive games previously. I don’t expect that switch to stick, but Drew has been known to be erratic with his rotations…Some other bullet points from that game since it seems like everyone did something: Ekpe Udoh blocked six shots, Khris Middleton hit four threes on 83% from the field, Giannis Antetokounmpo posted a 6-6-4-1-3…Marvin Williams missed tonight’s game with inflammation in his Achilles, allowing Enes Kanter to get the start and a shot at playing his way back into the rotation. Against a tough Pacers frontline, Kanter was fantastic, dropping a 20-10 in 40 min. That is not good news for Williams. The Jazz want to develop Kanter, and Williams may have just lost his starting job.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (30%)
2. Glen Davis (36%)
3. Brandon Bass (39%)
4. Wesley Johnson (13%)
5. Marvin Williams (17%)

Despite good to graet games from our current top three, all of their ownership percentages only went up by one point each. That means we get to keep Bass on this list just a little longer. Meanwhile, Kanter’s resurgence makes Williams a shakier bet to continue logging 30+ min.

Hindsight: Yesterday’s Pickup Timofey Mozgov failed to establish himself as the superior center over J.J. Hickson last night despite both Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao having their way with Hickson. This was the ideal matchup for Mozgov to prove his value, and the fact that he didn’t deliver makes his long-term value shaky again…Another former Pickup, John Henson, fared a lot better, posting 12-9-2-2-3 in 29 and a half minutes.

Pickups of the Day: Figuring Out the Los Angeles Lakers

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.

There is no clear Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Sunday, December 1. If you put a suitcase of cash in my hands and forced me to pick (I prefer that analogy to the one about a gun to my head), I’d say it’s Wesley Johnson. He’s owned in 13% of Yahoo! Leagues and 8.2% of ESPN leagues. However, I don’t want to talk just about Wesley Johnson. There is far more that needs to be said about the entire fantasy mess and goodness that is the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers play the fourth fastest pace in the league, which spreads extra value around to all their players. It might be spread a little thin, though, as only two players average over 30 mpg for the year, followed by nine others averaging over 17 mpg. For the past two weeks, the Lakers are one of only two teams that have eight players in the Top 120 of Yahoo! rankings (tied for first with Houston, three teams are tied for second with six each, and Cleveland is the worst and only team with just one–Anderson Varejao at #114 ). Those eight Top 120 players don’t even include former stud Pickups Xavier Henry and Jordan Hill or starting PG Steve Nash.

Let’s break down the team by sections to see how recent events are affecting each.

Big Men: The big story two weeks ago was how Jordan Hill had become a revelation for the Lakers, averaging 18.8 pts, 12.0 reb and 1.8 blk while shooting 61.7% FG and 89.5% FT on 19 FTs in four games. Chris Kaman got pushed back to the bench, and coach Mike D’Antoni had finally found a mobile, energetic big man to play alongside Pau Gasol, who was expected to be a dominant fantasy player sans Kobe but instead has suffered through career lows in FG% and FTA.

Well in the six games since Hill’s breakout week, he’s averaged 6.0 pts, 8.7 reb and 0.8 blk while shooting 38.6% FG and 100% FT on just 2 FTs. Things got worse for Hill last Friday as he sprained his ankle. Though he still played tonight, he was limited to just 15 min. The Lakers could’ve used more, though, as Gasol was limited by a right ankle injury of his own and will undergo an MRI tomorrow. Where was Kaman through all this? Sitting through his fourth straight “Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision” since returning from a back injury.

Who did that leave to take advantage of the opening at center? The Ragin’ Cajun Robert Sacre, who posted an eye-popping 12-7-4-2-3 line on 62.5% FG and 100% FT in a season-high 23 min. This was notably the best game by far of Sacre’s career. Another player who might’ve taken more advantage had he not fouled out tonight was opening day starting PF Shawne Williams. In the previous game when Hill sustained his injury, Williams posted an excellent 20-9-3-2-1 line with six threes.

If Gasol’s MRI results cause him to miss time, Jordan Hill will reap the biggest benefit. However, while he’s still hobbled and Kaman is in D’Antoni’s doghouse, there are definitely openings for both Sacre and Williams. Whether Hill starts at PF or C, one of the two will start alongside him and the other is bound to be the first big off the bench.

Point Guards: Of the eight Lakers in Yahoo!’s Top 120 for the past two weeks, who was the highest ranked? Surprisingly, Jordan Farmar, who averaged 14.6 pts, 3.0 reb, 5.0 ast, 1.2 stl, 0.6 blk and 2.6 3pm in just under 22 mpg in the five games before last night. This despite him being the backup PG to Steve Blake, who’s already a backup PG himself to the injured Steve Nash. Farmar has been so good that he’s still the Lakers’ top-ranked player of the last two weeks even after playing less than a minute last night before leaving the game with a hamstring injury.

Farmar is expected back by the Lakers’ next game on Friday, and even Nash is expected to practice on Tuesday and could also return by Friday. Yet right now Blake is the only healthy PG on the entire team, unless they decide to call Andrew Goudelock back from Russia. Blake remains the PG to own on the Lakers, especially since Farmar’s stock just got a little riskier.

Swingmen: This is where the biggest glut of fantasy value lies with the Lakers. Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young and Xavier Henry all have taken turns being the best Laker swingman of the week, and, yes, all of them are under 40% owned. Though one Laker swingman, who’s 98% owned despite not playing a single minute this year, looms over all of them. That would be Kobe Bryant, and he could return as early as Friday, although Sunday is more likely. Bringing back a player who commands that much of the offense (a polite way of saying he hogs the ball) is destined to have an impact on every player’s value, but the party is especially over for the other swingmen.

So why pick up Johnson over the others? Ignore the fact that he’s the highest Yahoo! ranked Laker of the entire season and that he’s played the most minutes of every Laker except Gasol in the past week. As I said, Kobe will change everything when he returns, so Johnson’s current accomplishments must be discounted. However, there are two main reasons to think that Johnson will still retain his value.

The first is his position. Johnson has been the Lakers’ starting SF since November 12. He should stay in the line-up when Kobe reclaims the starting SG spot, and he’s most likely to keep seeing a similar number of minutes. Second is how Johnson gets his value. Meeks, Young and Henry all get their value from scoring and threes. While Johnson also makes threes, a large part of his production is in averaging over a steal and a block per game for the year. Plus he’s a better rebounder than the other three.

When Kobe (who averaged 20.4 FGA last year even when he still had to share the ball with Dwight Howard) returns, shots will become scarce, but defensive stats will still be readily available. As long as Johnson can hit the spot-up three regularly, he can be the prototypical “3 & D” guy who’d be the perfect fit next to Kobe. That’s why he’s today’s honorary Pickup.

Other Notable Players: A few days ago, I asked when we’d finally see the Summer League MVP version of Jonas Valanciunas again. As is the case with many opposing big men, salvation came in the form of the Denver Nuggets. Valanciunas physically dominated J.J. Hickson, who only saw 14 minutes while the much larger Timofey Mozgov played 31 min and posted an awesome 16-15-1-2-2 on 50.0% FG and 66.7% FT. It was a big day overall for Mozgov, as Rudy Gay tried to Mozgov him but ended up getting LeBron’d. Hickson is a liability on defense, but–matchups aside–it’s unlikely to see him lose the start…Speaking of Denver’s bench mob, Nate Robinson has scored in double-digits in seven games in a row now, despite only once playing over 24 min (24:04 on Nov. 21). Over that time span, he’s averaging 14.6 pts, 1.4 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.0 stl and 2.3 3pm on 50.0% FG and 88.9% FT. He was in this same position as a bench scorer last year for the Bulls, except they were the 26th ranked team in pace, while the Nuggets this year are third in paceRookie Hollis Thompson started today while both James Anderson and Tony Wroten came off the bench. This change is likely going to stick. Thompson didn’t do much, but he does sink the fantasy values of both Anderson and Wroten…J.J. Redick will be out for the next 6-8 weeks with hand and elbow injuries, but no successor revealed himself yesterday in his absence. It certainly wasn’t Jared Dudley, who played his second-fewest minutes of his season, or Willie Green, who started in Redick’s place. If anything, it just looks like Jamal Crawford’s role will expand again…Sacramento also went bench mob on Golden State yesterday, as Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and Patrick Patterson led a furious fourth-quarter rally for the Kings. Notably, Patterson and Jason Thompson, who spent a lot of time playing with the bench unit, both outperformed previous Pickup Derrick Williams. It’s only his second game, but Williams is already experiencing why many panned this trade: there are way too many forwards on the Kings. Tonight, Williams, Patterson, Thompson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes all played over 20 min, and that’s with Travis Outlaw on the bench and Carl Landry still to return. Though coach Mike Malone made a commitment to start and play Williams heavily at SF in his first game, it remains to be seen whether he keeps it up…Oh Reggie Jackson, you know I want to (18-5-4, 1 3pm), but I know you too well (24 min)…New Orleans fans, fantasy basketball owners, and plain old enjoyers of great NBA basketball cried in horror today as Anthony Davis fractured his left hand. There is no timetable yet for his return. Ryan Anderson joined the starting line-up coming out of the halftime break and is the obvious winner fantasy-wise. It gets cloudier after that, however. Fantasy owners would like starting center Jason Smith, who’s a superb midrange shooter and has had productive stretches this year, to gain more value, but he didn’t show that today. On the other hand, Al-Farouq Aminu sat out the entire first half but got a lot of run in the second. Right now, both are worth watching, but neither is worth adding.

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

1. Marvin Williams (15%)
2. Kosta Koufos (26%)
3. Glen Davis (36%)
4. John Henson (35%)
5. Nate Robinson (26%)

As expected, we say goodbye to Jared Sullinger (42%) and Channing Frye (43%) tonight, as both graduate to the 40% owned club. Nate Robinson just edges out Marco Belinelli for the final spot on account of having been productive for longer.

Hindsight: I was completely wrong about Al Jefferson’s effect on Josh McRoberts. Despite playing well in his initial games next to Jefferson, McBob has seen his numbers drop across the board. That includes his already abysmal FG% and his life-saving assists and threes. This is simply a case of Jefferson taking over shots and possessions. McRoberts is droppable in all but the deepest formats…On the day I made Mo Williams the Pickup, he posted a 12-5-6-3-2 in 31 min. Since then, he hasn’t scored in double-digits or topped 24 min. Looking at his numbers before and after his five productive games in mid-November seems to tell me I fell for a fluke.

Pickup of the Day: Jared Sullinger

(AP Photo / Charles Krupa)

This season I will highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s available in at least 60% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Friday, November 15 is Jared Sullinger. My friends, I told you to be wary of Brandon Bass in the long run because Sullinger wasn’t healthy to start the year. I told you Boston would want to see how Sullinger could handle starter’s minutes. I told you to hold on to your Sullinger stock. I told you he was outplaying Kelly Olynyk. I told you to get on the bandwagon. I told you the revolution was coming.

That’s right. Six times I’ve brought up Jared Sullinger in Other Notable Players without having the stones to make him the Pickup of the Day because I am a pansy conservative risk-taker in fantasy basketball, but, after last night, Sullinger leaves me no choice. He is currently owned in 14% of all Yahoo! Leagues, 3.6% of all ESPN Leagues, and 100% of my fluttering heart.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Portland:
20131115 Jared Sullinger

If you’ve already owned and been playing Sullinger for the past week and a half like I have, you’ve already been getting some usable if not spectacular numbers from him. He’d been doing it in 20-25 min while competing for playing time with Olynyk, Bass and Vitor Faverani. However, Sullinger is just more consistent than Faverani, more versatile than Bass, and more talented than Olynyk.

Boston is a team in transition (i.e. Boston is a team ready to blow up its roster at any time), and it wants to know what it has in its talent. It knows what it has in Bass and Rajon Rondo. It knows both its rookies, Olynyk and Faverani, are going to struggle adjusting to the NBA. So mainly, it wants to know what it’s got in Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Sullinger (and now probably also Jordan Crawford) and whether it wants to keep any of them. That is why I predicted these guys would get playing time. That is why I wasn’t sold on Brandon Bass during his hot start.

(That is not why I picked Vitor Faverani as our third Pickup of the Day. Listen, that was early in the season, and honestly I’d rather just pretend it never happened.)

Is he legit? There has always been two knocks on Jared Sullinger. The first is that he has an injury history. The second is that he’s too undersized and unathletic to be a PF in the NBA. The injury concern has been very legitimate so far. He missed 37 games and all of the playoffs last year, and coach Brad Stevens has handled him with kids’ gloves this year, even sitting him out the last game after he banged his knee in practice. He still has conditioning issues and it’s very early in the season, but at least Sullinger appears to have conquered the back problems that have plagued him dating all the way back to OSU.

As for the second knock, I’m going to pull a Matthew Berry trick and show you a comparison:

Player MP FG% FT% 3P PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV
A 31.0 0.530 0.733 0.3 17.3 9.7 1.2 1.1 0.8 1.8
B 29.6 0.559 0.767 0.7 17.5 10.6 1.9 0.7 1.4 2.0

These stats look eerily similar don’t they? Player A is Jared Sullinger, and those are his stats through 74 career college games. Player B is another player who scouts considered to be too undersized and unathletic to be a PF in the NBA while he was in college, and those are his career stats through 37 career college games. Who is Player B? Kevin Love.

What does this mean? Absolutely nothing. But what am I trying to insinuate? Obviously that Jared Sullinger could be as good as Kevin Love! (Though I’m not the only one making comparisons) While that might be my irrational man-crush talking, it is worth noting that Jared Sullinger’s per-minute numbers this year aren’t terribly different than what they were last year, except that he’s scoring at nearly double the rate. Per 36 minutes, his ppg last year was 10.9. This year it’s 21.7. This corresponds with him attempting more shots from the field (9.1 vs 16.1), more threes (0.2 vs 2.9), and more free throws (2.5 vs 4.6) while shooting better percentages in all three categories (although his 28.6% from three isn’t something to brag about).

This is truly an improved Jared Sullinger we’re looking at, and he’s dying for the opportunity to prove it. An opportunity that Boston is going to give him. To sum up the way-too-long drivel above, there are only three things you need to know about Sullinger: 1. Get him. 2. Play him. 3. Stick with him.

Other Notable Players: If not for my selfish desire to over-validate my faith in Sullinger, the Pickup would be Shaun Livingston. Deron Williams injured his ankle tonight, and his status for next week is currently in jeopardy. The latest news from him is that it’s not as bad as it was when he injured the same ankle last October and sat out for a month. In the meantime, Livingston will be a good source of points, rebounds, and assists with strong percentages. His ceiling as a PG is limited, however, as he’s always been weak in steals and nonexistent in threes…Milwaukee was completely shut down by Indiana, the best defense in the league, so don’t stress too much on the low numbers because that won’t happen every night. Call it stubbornness, but I did not view Zaza Pachulia’s 4-11 line as a bust. Yes he missed 12 of 14 shots, but he took 14 shots in just 24 min. Meanwhile, John Henson did have three blocks, though only coupled it with an 8-8 in 28 min…Kirk Hinrich played 40 min with Derrick Rose out tonight. Rose will be back tomorrow. Just to let you know it’s non-news…Michael Carter-Williams didn’t play again tonight, and, while it’s no triple-double, Tony Wroten did have another good night. It seems Wroten will continue to have value while MCW is wearing a boot, which he’s still expected to be lugging around tomorrow. James Anderson, on the other hand, fell back to earth with a 2-4-5 line. I did not understand the rush to pick him up after his last game. He’s gotten regular rotational minutes all year and even played over 44 min before without much value. Hopefully the one or two people who read this column heeded my warning against him…I also don’t understand the buzz about DeMarre Carroll. He did have a good game tonight, but, same as Anderson, he’s another guy who averages over 30 mpg while doing nothing with it…On the other hand, Mo Williams has now had three effective games while playing around 30 mpg each. This is a situation worth monitoring, as Williams has always been a valuable PG when given regular minutes…Josh McRoberts is back on the radar with another solid game. He’s averaging the most assists of any C-eligible player, aside from Kevin Love, for the season (4.1 apg) and the most of any C-eligible player, period, in the last week (5.5 apg)…C.J. Miles did not have a good game, but he did get 33 min while Waiters was out sick. Considering the numbers that Miles put up in limited minutes, he could be in line for a big game tomorrow if Waiters is out again…Vince Carter has averaged a 17-3-2 with 2.7 threes since putting up a goose egg 10 days ago. He was a valuable contributor last year in Dallas with 13-4-2 and 2.0 threes, and he’s in the exact same position this year. Though he has almost no upside at this point of his career, 28% owned seems a little low considering the quality of some of the guys owned more than he is…DeJuan Blair put up a funky 9-7-5-3-2 line. Of all C-eligible players, he leads the league in spg (2.2) followed closely by the incomparable Anthony Davis (2.1)…We’ve had a J.J. Barea sighting! Unfortunately, he’s been far less helpful for the Timberwolves this year with most of the team actually healthy. Consider this game just a reminder of what he can do off the bench when given a chance, but he won’t get many this year…On the other end in that game, Timofey Mozgov fell off while J.J. Hickson put up a decent double-double. It seems coach Brian Shaw played Mozgov more in the previous game just to take advantage of match-ups. The 42% owned Hickson is still the guy to have…We had a Morris twin swap tonight. Markieff has struggled since coming back from his illness a few days ago, but Marcus Morris picked up the slack with a 13-9 and 2 threes…Boris Diaw: 17-5-2-2-2 too inconsistent for me still…Don’t look now (actually, please do, don’t just believe what I’m saying), but Richard Jefferson has actually strung together two decent games now, and he probably should have had an even better one tonight had Utah’s two starting guards decided to pass more instead of going 10-35 combined….Speaking of which, Utah will likely soon realize neither John Lucas III nor Alec Burks should be their starting PG. “Soon” as in sooner than Trey Burke is expected to return, which means recently picked up Diante Garrett could be in for an extended look…I lied about Livingston. If not for Sullinger, the Pickup today would be Jodie Meeks. Though we’ll have to change his nickname from “Mr. Consistency” to “Mr. Averages Out in the End”…Jordan Hill and Steve Blake regressed but still contributed. Don’t ask me to trust Nick Young though. I don’t trust anyone whose sole value is points. He’s Francisco Garcia without as many threes.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues): We sadly have to say goodbye to both Steve Blake and Corey Brewer today as both pass the 40% owned mark. Averaging 12.0 pts, 4.3 reb, 9.8 ast, 1.3 stl, and 2.3 3’s in the four games this past week, Blake’s been an elite PG in place of Steve Nash. Brewer’s value has been more long-term and is in his versatility. He and Wilson Chandler were the only players in the past week to average 2.0 3’s, 2.0 stl, and 50.0% FG or more.

1. Jordan Hill (37%)
2. Martell Webster (23%)
3. Jared Sullinger (14%)
4. Josh McRoberts (14%)
5. Jodie Meeks (18%)

Hindsight: Nope. No regrets here. I’m basking too much in the glow of my rewarded faith in Jared Sullinger. Come back tomorrow and ask me about Zaza Pachulia. And if Sullinger only plays 20 min and puts up single digits against Minnesota, just leave me to drown in my own tears.

Pickup of the Day: Jordan Hill


(Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports)

This season I will try to highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s available in at least 60% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Tuesday, November 12 is Jordan Hill. He’s 9% owned in Yahoo! Leagues and 1.1% owned in ESPN Leagues, but expect those numbers to bump up after he got his first start of the season and dropped the first 20/10 of his career on a career-high 21 points.

Here’s a look at his line tonight against New Orleans:
20131112 Jordan Hill

Much to Pau Gasol’s consternation, coach Mike D’Antoni demoted Chris Kaman back to the bench after just three days as a starter and switched in Jordan Hill for his energy. Considering the Lakers crushed the Pelicans thanks in large part to a heavy dose of Hill, Pau will just have to go home and wipe his tears away with his stacks of $100 bills.

This move actually didn’t affect Kaman at all, as he still had a decent game playing around the same 20 min he always gets. Hill, on the other hand, had the best 26 min of any Laker this season. He obviously won’t do this every night, but I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet if he stays in the starting line-up and continues to get starter’s minutes. Or Gasol could be rolling his eyes when D’Antoni changes the line-up again in another three days.

Is he legit? I’d be going out of my mind if Hill had put up these numbers against defensive savant Anthony Davis, but he actually did this against a steady stream of Greg Stiemsma, Jason Smith, and Jeff Withey while Davis stayed on Gasol. That’s not nearly as impressive. Still, Hill is huge, does bring a lot of energy, and has put up startlingly good per-minute numbers ever since he got to the Lakers (as in 15-13 per 36). As long as his minutes push up against 30 mpg, he’ll be a valuable asset.

Other Notable Players: After all the time I’ve spent hyping up Zaza Pachulia, he goes out and drops a 3-5-0. Keep in mind, though, that he didn’t even practice on Monday due to an injury, and the Bucks were getting blown out. I wouldn’t worry about him, but now I won’t sigh at you in disappointment if you drop him to fill a more pressing need…In lieu of more Zaza, we got to see Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Henson get some run together, an interesting tandem since the two account for a combined wingspan of 14’9″ and combined weight of maybe 150 lb. Meanwhile, Gary Neal’s hot and cold streak continues, and don’t pay attention to Mike Beasley’s big garbage time numbers…Stiemsma went down with a sprained knee and had to be carried back to the locker room, meaning 15 mpg just opened up for Pelicans big men. Jason Smith did not have a good game, but he has been excellent recently. Now he could be in line for steady minutes even after Ryan Anderson returns…Steve Blake had a good game with 10 assists but little else in 27 min, but don’t ignore Jordan Farmar’s 9-7-8 in 20 min. The fewer minutes for Blake was due to the Lakers’ blow-out, but I don’t believe he’s in the clear yet in terms of completely having the job over Farmar…DeJuan Blair had another strong rebounding night, but his value isn’t as high when he isn’t grabbing steals…The Sixth Man of my Top 5 is definitely Jodie Meeks. After tonight, his percentages are a ridiculous (and completely unsustainable) 53-48-85, while he’s giving you 13 points and 2.2 threes a game. He’s consistent, too, meaning he’s getting close to those numbers every night and not wildly alternating between good and bad games. Still, I can’t advocate picking him over Crawford’s and Blakes’s assists, Metta’s steals, Hill’s upside, and Pachulia’s $20 that he pays me every night to keep him at the top of my list.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):
1. Zaza Pachulia (36%)
2. Steve Blake (32%)
3. Jordan Hill (9%)
4. Metta World Peace (33%)
5. Jordan Crawford (26%)

Hindsight: What happened to you, Martell Webster?

Pickup of the Day: Steve Blake

(AFP Photo / Scott Halleran)

This season I will try to highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s available in at least 60% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Sunday, November 10 is Steve Blake. He’s owned in 14% of Yahoo! Leagues, but his stock has been slowly rising as Steve Nash’s continues to fall.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Minnesota:
20131110 Steve Blake

Remember that weird tidbit from coach Mike D’Antoni’s introductory press conference with the Lakers last year about how he’d always wanted to coach Steve Blake and that he’d been trying to get Blake on one of his teams for 10 years?  At that point we all collectively said, “Huh, Steve Blake?”, but now it seems he might’ve been serious.

Steve Nash has been battling back pain all year and will see a doctor about it on Monday. If the 40-year old PG needs to be shut down for any amount of time, both Blake and Jordan Farmar’s values will shoot up. Originally, Farmar looked like the heir apparent here, but Blake has caught fire since hitting the game winner in Houston. He will get first crack at the starting spot if Nash is out.

Is he legit? We do have to remember this is Steve Blake we’re talking about here. He might end up getting 36 mpg, but even his per-36 min numbers haven’t looked great. He will get you threes, assists, and the occasional steal, but he doesn’t get to the FT line and his FG% has always been subpar. Still, he will be the captain of a Mike D’Antoni offense, and this is an offense that has made valuable fantasy producers out of Steve Blake’s ilk before (Holla Q-Rich, Leandro Barbosa, and Raja Bell!).

Other Notable Players: Also on the Lakers, Jodie Meeks continues to be Mr. Consistency if you’re looking for a stable source of threes. His FT% has always been good, but his .507 FG% this year is nearly 10% above his career average. Nash’s injury helps him as well, as he’s likely sliding into the starting SG spot…Jason Smith had his best game and most minutes of the season as Greg Stiemsma fell out of the rotation. His midrange shooting creates good spacing for Anthony Davis, but the Very Rich Man’s Jason Smith, aka Ryan Anderson, could be making his return as early as Tuesday…As expected, J.R. Smith returned to the line-up and took minutes away from Iman Shumpert, while Metta World Peace had the second-most playing time after Carmelo Anthony…Reggie Jackson, looking revitalized! This was more what I had in mind when I said hold on to him even after Russell Westbrook comes back, though it must be noted Westbrook was ejected from this game…Steven Adams, on the other hand, did not have a good game and didn’t play many minutes, but Kendrick Perkins continues to be ineffective and played just a smidge fewer minutes. Adams is a good guy to stash in roto leagues while we wait for him to take over Perkins’s job, but he’s not going to be a useful rotation piece in head-to-head leagues…Gerald Green still had a productive game despite Goran Dragic’s return but also saw his minutes drop to the fewest since Dragic went out. The Suns have looked good with Green in the starting line-up, but his production is likely about to get too inconsistent to keep him…The Nuggets didn’t play last night, but an opportunity is about to arise for someone with the news that JaVale McGee is out indefinitely with a broken leg. The question is who will absorb his minutes? The options are J.J. Hickson, Anthony Randolph, and Timofey Mozgov with Darrell Arthur as a longshot. None of them have played much. Arthur will likely still be buried on the bench. Mozgov might get the start but doesn’t have the talent. Randolph has the most talent but has never strung together any streak of consistency in his entire career. Hickson actually had good value last year averaging a double-double for Portland and will probably be the winner here, though will it be enough? McGee only played 16 mpg this season. If one of the above players takes all his minutes, that player will instantly become valuable. If those minutes are divvied up more evenly amongst the platoon, none of them will.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):
1. Zaza Pachulia (34%)
2. Steve Blake (14%)
3. Corey Brewer (22%)
4. Metta World Peace (31%)
5. J.J. Hickson (38%)

Accountability: No regrets last night, baby! I’m feeling good about Metta, Reggie and Markieff Morris, and I’m going to keep pimping Steven Adams.