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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Pickup of the Day: Jordan Farmar


(Gary A. Vasquez / 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 Monday, December 16 is Jordan Farmar. He’s owned in 6% of Yahoo! Leagues and 1.0% of ESPN Leagues, but he could return to the Lakers line-up as early as Friday, where he will find a different situation than when he had left.

In the five games before Farmar suffered the hamstring injury that would keep him benched for the last two weeks, he was averaging 14.6 pts, 3.0 reb, 5.0 ast, 1.2 stl, 2.6 3pm and 1.2 TO on 58.3% FG albeit also on a poor 57.1% FT. He was the Lakers’ highest Yahoo! ranked player, but, most amazingly, he did all of this in just 21:36 mpg as the backup PG to Steve Blake.

Now he returns to a team that literally has no other point guards. Blake is out for six weeks with a torn elbow ligament, and Steve Nash appears closer to retirement than he does to returning on many days. The biggest caveat, however, is that Farmar is also returning to play alongside Kobe Bryant, who has honestly ruined all other Lakers guards’ fantasy values. Well, all except Nick Young, who exists in a different, swaggier dimension than our own.

Nonetheless, Farmar is still the only PG on the team, and he was fantastic before his injury. If he can only do what he did in 21 mpg in the 28-30 mpg that he’s now likely to average, he’s already worth having on your roster.

Other Notable Players: Sticking with the Lakers, Jordan Hill had a terrific 21-9 game, but it’s hard to take that scoring seriously when a guy hits all eight of his field goals. Going 5-of-6 from the line isn’t abnormal for him though. I do believe Hill is bouncing back from his recent slump. I don’t believe he’ll average 20 ppg…The rest of the Lakers were a mess except for Nick Young and Xavier Henry. Henry still doesn’t get enough shots up to be handy, but Young has been consistent, as hard a that is to believe, though he’s not getting your team more than points, threes and poor FG%. In the long run, this Lakers team is better with Kobe, but they certainly lost the identity they (sans Pau Gasol) had before Kobe’s return…Lou Williams did drop eight dimes, even if he didn’t do much else, and Shelvin Mack only played 17 minutes. Williams isn’t going to be consistent, but he’s got that backup guard spot locked up…Kelly Olynyk and Kris Humphries drained Brandon Bass’s value. He’s no longer reliable with Olynyk back. Jared Sullinger: clearly still in the circle of trust…Okay, Alec Burks, now you have my attention. A 31-3-7-4-0 plus 2 3pm night will do that, but keep in mind that he had two games scoring in single digits and on 28.0% FG before this. Burks’s problem is that those steals and threes he posted last night are total outliers. Still, he’s playing better than he did even earlier this season when he was the Pickup…Enes Kanter did very well in his 17 min, while Marvin Williams did poorly in his 28. Not a good sign for Williams, though he’s more likely to slide over to SF and push Richard Jefferson out of the starting line-up than get booted himself for Kanter…Taking a deeper look at Tony Wroten’s numbers, his poor shooting (especially his 56.3% from FT this season) and huge number of turnovers (3.4 as a starter) really stand out. There’s a reason the Sixers are 0-7 since Michael Carter-Williams went out with a knee infection. I can’t imagine the Sixers continue liking Hollis Thompson more than they do Wroten, but James Anderson has also stepped up his value these last four games (15.0 pts, 1.5 3pm, 52.4% FG, 90.9% FT)…If no Brook Lopez, then always play Andray Blatche. But Lopez is expected to return tonight…Brad Beal returned last night, and Trevor Booker saw his production sink. Martell Webster still had a big game, but I’d expect that’s his last for a while. Last time Beal and Trevor Ariza were both healthy, Webster was the odd man out…There’s a dreadful platoon at PG for New York now, with Pablo Prigioni, Beno Udrih and Tim Hardaway Jr. all cannibalizing each other’s values, though Prigioni is expected to be out two weeks with a toe fracture. With Ray Felton still out as well, Udrih is probably the sensible pickup, though Hardaway has more potential. If nothing else, this will hopefully just reignite Kyle Lowry’s trade to New York…If you’re in one of the 27% of Yahoo! Leagues where Tyson Chandler is still available, scoop him up. Depending on how practice goes for him today, he could be back tomorrow. Also, it’s time to get off the Amar’e train…Tobias Harris isn’t ready to pick up where he left off last year yet, which is good news for Glen Davis, as the Big Baby dropped a 14-11-2-2-0, though on some poor shooting…Newly signed PG D.J. Augustin got a lot of run in 37 min for the Bulls, as current starter Marquis Teague looks like he’s got some DNP-CD’s coming his way once Kirk Hinrich gets back. Hinrich will cut most of Augustin’s value and did travel with the Bulls to their game tonight in Houston.

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

1. Jon Leuer (23%)
2. Jordan Farmar (6%)
3. Jordan Hill (34%)
4. Marvin Williams (15%)
5. Tony Wroten (30%)

Shaking things up quite a bit as some poor performances by some Top Five players caused me to sell them for stock in a couple Lakers. Marvin Williams’s role has clearly been reduced from what it was before he got injured, but long-term I think he’s got the best situation. Glen Davis has put up better numbers than Williams, but Tobias Harris is going to make that a timeshare if he doesn’t take the job away outright. Al-Farouq Aminu has another chance to shine even brighter with Tyreke Evans out again tonight, but he’s not making it back up here if he’s outplayed by Austin Rivers again. Finally, MCW could return this Friday, but the whole Eric Bledsoe he’s-back-he’s-not-back scenario, albeit for a completely different injury, is still fresh in my mind.

For more updates and other NBA news, please be sure to follow us on Twitter at @sneakyfantasybb!

Pickup of the Day: Jon Leuer


(AP Photo / Danny Johnston)

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 Sunday, December 15 is Jon Leuer. He’s owned in 20% of Yahoo! Leagues and 12.9% of ESPN Leagues, so many fantasy owners have been like me and slow to jump on the bandwagon. Now though, I can no longer ignore his production, and neither should you.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Minnesota:
20131215 Jon Leuer

After Marc Gasol went out with a sprained MCL, a lot of opportunities opened up. Initially it was Kosta Koufos who took the reins, and he had been great, regularly grabbing double-digit rebounds coupled with some blocks. His offensive touch, however, was very rusty.

Enter Jon Leuer, the sweet-shooting big man from Wisconsin. Injuries to Zach Randolph and Ed Davis, as well as foul trouble for Koufos, allowed Leuer to get more playing time and show his offensive skills. However, now both Randolph and Davis are healthy again, but Leuer is still getting minutes at the expense of the offensively-challenged Koufos, who hasn’t played more than 16 min in his last two games.

Leuer, meanwhile, is the highest Yahoo! ranked Grizzly over the last seven games, averaging 15.9 pts, 8.1 reb, 1.0 ast, 0.7 stl, 0.7 blk, 0.9 3pm, 54.1% FG, 86.7% FT and just 1.1 TO. As with many Yahoo! ranks, this is more a case of not hurting you in any categories than being so spectacular in them, but those peripheral stats add up, and that FG% is on a legit 12.1 FGA.

The real question now is what happens when Gasol comes back, which should happen at the beginning of January at latest. Obviously then Leuer, Koufos and Davis all get pushed back in the rotation, stunting their values. Still, the Grizzlies have been looking for a stretch four to pair with Gasol, and there have been rumors involving trading Randolph to the Pelicans for Ryan Anderson. With Leuer on board, though, the Grizzlies may decide they already have an in-house option.

In the meantime, definitely grab Leuer if he’s available and play him until Gasol gets back.

Other Notable Players: Jeremy Lin sat out with a back injury, so Aaron Brooks had a another one-time nice game. Patrick Beverley continues to be a more useful real-life basketball player than a fantasy player. Lin should be back by Wednesday, and Terrence Jones should be recovered from his flu then as well…Derrick Williams seemed to be on his way to a good fantasy day but then fell off precipitously in the second half of last night’s game. Somehow Travis Outlaw ended up being the forward who got the most minutes. This doesn’t bode well for Williams, but he’s been playing so well since the Rudy Gay trade otherwise…Orlando is ramping back up to full strength with Tobias Harris’s minutes increasing and Mo Harkless back, but Glen Davis did enough yesterday to have a productive day. His minutes are in danger, though…Didn’t see this coming: instead of either Al-Farouq Aminu or Anthony Morrow getting the most of Tyreke Evans’s absence, it was megabust Austin Rivers who had the best performance. He’s regarded as a megabust for a reason though, so don’t bother latching on. He hasn’t done enough to even afford a bandwagon yet…I hate talking about the Phoenix Suns. I called them Non-Pickups for a reason. Anyway, nobody under 40% owned did anything of note, unless you consider being disappointing notable. 41% owned Channing Frye had his first good game in his last four if that counts for anything.

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

1. Jon Leuer (20%)
2. Al-Farouq Aminu (19%)
3. Marvin Williams (15%)
4. Tony Wroten (29%)
5. Glen Davis (38%)

With the selection of Leuer as the Pickup, Koufos officially completes his collapse from topping the Top Five for 12 days in a row to off the list completely in just two days. Perhaps the fact that he was on the list for that long without going over 40% owned should’ve been a sign that I was clinging on to him too hard. In any case, if Leuer is really getting the minutes Koufos used to get, then he deserves Koufos’s old spot at the top of the chart. Meanwhile, Michael Carter-Williams is missing his seventh consecutive game tonight, and Wroten’s been so good that there’s talk of playing them both together in the backcourt when MCW returns. Though that article does just seem to assume Evan Turner won’t be around for long.

Hindsight: Actually, before his last two stinkbombs, Koufos had been averaging 10.6 pts, 11.5 reb, 1.1 ast, 0.9 stl, 2.0 blk and just 1.6 TO in the eight games he started since Gasol’s injury. His 40.0% FG wasn’t good, but his 81.0% FT was fantastic for a center. So no, I was not clinging on to him too hard. He was legit.

Pickup of the Day: Terrence Ross


(John E. Sokolowski / 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 Pickups for Tuesday, December 10 is 2013 Dunk Contest Champ Terrence Ross. He’s owned in 2% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.6% of ESPN Leagues, and his first start of the season last night didn’t do anything to move that meter. Yet it’s the very fact that he started that should pique interests.

Here’s a look at his line last night against San Antonio:
20131210 Terrence Ross

There’s not much to look at here. Ross’s shooting was miserable, as were his turnover though those are abnormal, as he’s averaged only 1.4 in his career even in per-36 min numbers. His FG% is better than that, but not by much (40.6% career). The four threes were nice, but what was even nicer were the 38 minutes.

As I mentioned two days ago, the Raptors took Ross with the eighth pick in the draft last year (one pick ahead of Andre Drummond – oof, but two ahead of Austin Rivers – phew), so they’ll want to see what they have with him. However, he was a product of the Bryan Colangelo era, so new wunderkind GM Masai Ujiri has no feelings of responsibility to keep him.

Still, Rudy Gay’s departure means Ross is going to get to play. Landry Fields does not seem to be in favor, and John Salmons should not play a major factor for a team clearly looking to rebuild, despite sitting atop the Titanic Division not too long ago. If he’s proves his value, you’ll have a promising young SG/SF looking at 30-35 mpg. If he continues playing like he did last night, release him back onto the waiver wire and take a good look at Salmons.

Other Notable Players: Raymond Felton is back, so Tim Hardaway Jr. is done for now (Update: Actually, it turns out he tweaked his hamstring injury and could now be out for a while. Timmy is interesting again!)…The last three Knicks games have all been blowouts in one direction or the other, so, in a surprising development, Amar’e Stoudemire has actually been getting some run. He is owned by the 39% of Yahoo! fantasy owners who still believe it’s 2010, but, with the injuries to Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin, Stoudemire might be worth something if his own injuries let him stay on the court long enough…Jarrett Jack put up about the emptiest line you can have (17-0-1-0-0, 3 3pm, 2 TO), but he has averaged 13.3 pts, 4.0 reb, 2.3 ast and 2.0 3pm in his last three. While he’s not reliable yet, he has been cutting into Dion Waiter’s productivity lately. The Waiters trade rumors subsided after he was excellent a week ago, but if he is still on the block and gets moved, pick up Jack immediately…The Spurs have one of the deepest rotations in the league, and Marco Belinelli had to be near perfect just to put up what he did (4-for-5 FG, 2-for-2 FT). Still, 12.6 pts, 2.3 reb, 2.4 ast, 1.0 stl, 2.3 3pm on 59.4% FG over his last eight…Been watching Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a while because he’s young, talented and gets a lot of minutes for the Pistons. Don’t read too much into what he did in last night’s blowout, but keep KCP on your watch list for when Detroit falls out of the playoff race and starts playing their young guys…Too little, too late for Alan Anderson, whose value is done now that Paul Pierce is back. Thanks for nothing. Deron Williams returned in this same game and was tremendous, effectively ending the anticlimactic Shaun Livingston experiment…Checking up on two former Pickups, John Henson (58% owned) and Brandon Knight (59%) now seem to be the only Bucks with stable value. Let’s not discuss Zaza Pachulia…Look at the players who didn’t play for the Bulls (Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose), and you’ll know why Mike Dunleavy rocked it last night (24-5-3-0-2, 2 3pm). Just keep in mind that two games ago he finished a stretch where he scored under four points in four out of five games. The lack of offensive threats might also explain why Kirk Hinrich shanked all 10 of his shots. Tony Snell was better, but he’s still not worth owning…On a slower night, we need to have a serious discussion about the shifting values of Channing Frye, Markieff MorrisP.J. Tucker and Marcus Morris, who are all cannibalizing each other. Right now, I can’t even tell you who to trust…Wesley Johnson lost his starting spot to Jodie Meeks, and Robert Sacre recorded a DNP-CD, though his replacement Shawne Williams still didn’t do much. Meeks has been great lately, but it’s debatable who really has value here (aside from comedic value, in which case it’s definitely Swaggy P. Young) until we see a few more games with Kobe Bryant.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (37%)
2. Glen Davis (37%)
3. Jeffery Taylor (4%)
4. Tony Wroten (18%)
5. Reggie Jackson (26%)

Kirk Hinrich falls off this list with his latest awful performance and the rumor that the Bulls are interested in signing D.J. Augustin. Chicago is desperate to make something work at that position, and Hinrich is not the answer. Michael Carter-Williams will not play tonight. Again, I encourage playing Wroten until you see MCW forcibly yank him out of the line-up.