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.

Advertisements

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.

Pickup of the Day: Reggie Jackson


(Mark D. Smith / 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 Sunday, December 8 is Reggie Jackson. He’s owned in 23% of Yahoo! Leagues and 22.8% of ESPN Leagues. Yes, he is the first player to be the Pickup a second time. As a wise man once said, “Fool me once, shame on…shame on you…you fool me, I can’t get fooled again.” Despite getting burned by picking Jackson earlier in the season, I’m letting him fool me twice into believing he can co-exist with Russell Westbrook and become that James Harden/Kevin Martin-type off the bench. Except this time he’s proving it.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Indiana:
20131208 Reggie Jackson

The problem with Jackson earlier in the year, despite my prediction, was that he could not find consistent minutes or production after Westbrook returned from injury despite clearly being the Thunder’s best bench player. However, as I said two days ago, Jackson now has been getting it done with Westbrook in the line-up. He’s averaging 14.9 pts, 3.6 reb, 2.7 ast, 0.6 stl, 1.1 3pm, 1.4 TO, 52.5% FG and 100% FT in 27 mpg over his last seven, all with Westbrook also in the line-up.

Those numbers don’t seem like much, but what stands out to a keen eye is that he doesn’t hurt your team anywhere. Though Yahoo!’s player ratings are admittedly flawed, here’s a partial list of point guards that rank below Jackson (#70) over that two-week stretch: Jameer Nelson (72), Jose Calderon (73), Mike Conley (76), Jamal Crawford (84), Trey Burke (86), Ricky Rubio (100), Ty Lawson (108), Nate Robinson, (110), Tony Parker (124), Eric Bledsoe (130), Kirk Hinrich (132), Jeff Teague (142), Raymond Felton (154), Brandon Knight (169), Steve Blake (207).

Of course, Jackson won’t get you points like Parker, assists like Blake, or steals like Rubio, and Eric Bledsoe is still recovering from injury. It’s ridiculous to think he’s actually worth more than each of those players. How does he rank above all of them then? Because in the past two weeks, a lot of them have been killing their teams with field goal percentages in the .300’s to low .400’s (and high turnover rates for those in 9-cat leagues). Also, though Jackson’s 0.6 stl and 1.1 3pm aren’t spectacular, others are even worse (i.e. Tony Parker’s 0.4 stl and 0.4 3pm).

Here’s my caveat to Jackson that serves as a cap to his ceiling. He is not the perfect player for the Thunder. He is so clearly the fourth most-talented player on that team (after Kevin Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka) that they have to play him with the starters at the end of games, but he can’t match up with the same players that James Harden or Kevin Martin did on the Thunder (though apparently Harden doesn’t anymore).

I keep going back to the Bledsoe analogy, but it’s apt. Last year, Bledsoe made sure the Clippers had the same defensive intensity in the 15 min that Chris Paul was off the court that they had when Paul played, but Bledsoe could never flourish there because his strengths were too redundant and Paul was better than him in all other areas that mattered. I am getting the same vibe with Jackson and Westbrook. Jackson won’t put up the numbers that Harden did when he was on the Thunder, but if they’re going to give him close to the same minutes, he could be worth a spot on your roster.

Other Notable Players: I really wanted the lede for today’s column to be about the Raptors-Kings trade (i.e. the Rudy Gay trade), but frankly, the players who stand to benefit most are way over 40% owned and thus off our radar (In order: DeMar DeRozan until he gets traded, Isaiah Thomas, Jonas Valanciunas/Amir Johnson. Ben McLemore’s value falls). If you’re feeling bold, pick up Terrence Ross, the Raptors’ eighth pick in last year’s draft. They want to know what they have in him, although he will still have to compete with John Salmons and last night’s starter Landry Fields for minutes. On the Kings’ side, I’m not sure anyone other than Thomas benefits, and I’m even wary of that if Thomas starts and has to reduce his usage playing more alongside DeMarcus Cousins. Gay is going to soak up the minutes at the three, which means the Derrick Williams as starting SF experiment is over. He’ll split time with Jason Thompson at PF, so neither Salmons nor Patrick Patterson’s departures benefit their fringe players…Tim Hardaway Jr. had an inauspicious first start in place of the injured Kenyon Martin, as his Knicks (who are 5-14 despite deep playoff aspirations at the beginning of the season) got demolished by the Celtics (who are 10-12 despite the fact that they were supposed to be tanking). He was actually worse than his final playing time of 24:39 indicates, as he got pulled very early after two quick turnovers and mainly sat while the game was still within the remote fantasy of contention. Still, he’s been very productive lately, and this promotion just indicates how much the Knicks expect out of him…Kobe Bryant’s return rocked the Lakers’ rotation, but not in one aspect. The Lakers’ entered the night leading the league in bench scoring at 46.8 ppg. They will hold on to that title, as their bench scored 71 points tonight to the starters’ 23. Put on a hold on Lakers’ players at this point until they adjust to Kobe and he himself adjusts to playing again, but keep in mind that guys like Steve Blake, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill are all dealing with injuries and are all likely dying for the team to get healthier so they can take time to recuperate. Towards the end of December, when Jordan Farmar is nearing a return, I would grab him as soon as possible…With news that Quincy Pondexter is done for the season, more minutes will be opening up for Mike Miller, Jerryd Bayless, and Nick Calathes. Who will really benefit from it is still uncertain at this point. Check back tomorrow when we review the Grizzlies’ game against the Magic tonight…Speaking of that game, remember when I said Jon Leuer has had great games whenever either Zach Randolph or Ed Davis sits? Davis is sitting. Get Leuer into your line-up if you have him.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (36%)
2. Glen Davis (37%)
4. Jeffery Taylor (4%)
3. Kirk Hinrich (36%)
5. Tony Wroten (15%)

Taj Gibson graduates up to 42% owned, so we bid him adieu. Kirk Hinrich has to drop just because of his train-wreck FG% lately. For the last spot, I’m going with the player who will burn bright and then out by the end of this week (Wroten) over the player who will burn dimly but probably stay lit for the entire season (Jackson). MCW has rejoined the team, but he won’t play tonight and may miss the next two games. Jackson will have more value over the course of the season, but Wroten can put up the type of stats that can win this week for you by himself in head-to-head leagues. Finally, it is an absolute sham that Koufos is still under 40% owned. This man is averaging 11.0 pts, 12.3 reb, 1.3 ast, 1.2 stl and 2.0 blk in the last two weeks! Even with Marc Gasol on the way back, he’s more valuable than Gibson!

Pickup of the Day: Tony Wroten


(Howard Smith / 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 Saturday, December 7 is Tony Wroten. He’s owned in 12% of Yahoo! Leagues and 12.4% of ESPN Leagues. Any time Michael Carter-Williams is out, which has happened a number of times so far this season, Wroten has had tremendous value. With MCW hospitalized the past three days with a bacterial skin infection in his knee, Wroten may see great value for a while.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Denver:
20131207 Tony Wroten

Wroten has one of the most dramatic starter/reserve splits this year that I’ve seen, averaging 19.8 pts, 4.8 reb, 5.3 ast and 1.5 stl in six starts and just 9.9 pts, 2.7 reb, 2.4 ast and 0.7 stl in 13 games off the bench. Each of his starts have come with MCW sitting out, and he always seems to deliver in that super-fast-paced 76ers offense.

While MCW’s bacterial infection is under control, he’s still in UPenn hospital and has no timetable for return. Though it may only be temporary, this is a good time to scoop up Wroten and play him immediately and for as long as you can. MCW’s day-to-day status may well turn out like Eric Bledsoe’s, who always seemed on the verge of coming back but ended up missing six games. I was too hesitant to buy in on Gerald Green during that time, and I’m not going to make the same mistake with Wroten. Grab Wroten and start him until you see MCW back in the line-up.

Other Notable Players: Nate Robinson had an exceptionally good game, but mainly because Ty Lawson was out…Randy Foye has actually been a sneaky-good value in the past five games. He’s averaging 1.0 stl, 0.8 blk, 1.8 3pt and 93.8% FT on 3.8 FTA. His 36.4% FG on 8.8 FGA is pretty painful, however…Darren Collison fell back to earth after two semi-productive games, but he’s been on and off like this ever since J.J. Redick went out. He doesn’t have any value unless either Chris Paul or Jamal Crawford also miss time…Kirk Hinrich had an atrocious shooting night last night, which plummets his FG% to 28.1% on 10.7 FGA over the past three games. You can’t ignore his 5.0 reb, 7.3 ast, 2.0 stl and 1.3 3pm though. On the other hand, you can ignore Mike Dunleavy’s on-again-off-again production until he’s consistent. In his past six, he’s had four games with three or fewer points…Taj Gibson went off yet again with Luol Deng sitting out with an Achilles issue. Deng’s MRI was negative, and his swelling may subside enough to allow him to play by Tuesday, but Gibson has been producing like a star on the bench even before this…Kosta Koufos has just been beasting the boards lately (12.3 reb over past six, also 1.2 stl and 2.0 blk), but Jon Leuer also saw value again with Ed Davis sitting out. His value collapses, though, when both Davis and Zach Randolph play…Meanwhile, Quincy Pondexter’s recent strong play earned him a start in place of the injured Tony Allen, where he promptly fell on his face and sucked dirt…Alan Anderson finally put up a line somewhere in the realm of usable despite starting for Paul Pierce for four games now. Also, Shaun Livingston returned to the starting line-up, got 35 min, and did nothing with them. Neither are worth picking up (or back up in the unfortunate case of Livingston) still. Coach Jason Kidd is just spinning wheels now, though the Nets at least won…Luis Scola’s double-double in garbage time was a nice reminder of the featured player he used to be, but emphasis on used to be…It’s disappointing to see Rudy Gobert only get two minutes even with both Derrick Favors and Marvin Williams out. It makes sense that recently returned Jeremy Evans would start over him, but that mega-bust Andris Biedrins would get almost seven times as much playing time tonight? That’s a clear sign Gobert won’t see any value this season until the garbage days of April…Alec Burks has now put together a solid stretch of six games. His upside is limited because he rarely gets you steals and blocks and barely shoots threes, but 16.0 pts, 3.8 reb, 3.3 ast, 1.0 3pm, 48.1% FG on 11.7 FGA and 82.2% FT on 4.8 FTA is serviceable.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (34%)
2. Glen Davis (37%)
3. Taj Gibson (39%)
4. Kirk Hinrich (35%)
5. Jeffery Taylor (4%)

Taj Gibson is now pushing 40%, but I’d caution against overly optimistic outlooks of his value. He got his 21-10 last night with Deng sitting out. Deng is not expected to miss much if any more time.

Hindsight: Derrick Williams, the former no. 2 overall draft pick and bust in Minnesota, is still a bust in Sacramento. Well, he’ll always have his Under Armour commercial.

Pickup of the Day: Derrick Williams


(AP Photo / Rich Pedroncelli)

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 Friday, November 29 is Derrick Williams. He’s owned in 12% of Yahoo! Leagues and 19.0% of ESPN Leagues, but many fantasy owners are ready to embrace his career second-chance now that he’s been traded to Sacramento.

Here’s a look at Williams’s line tonight against the Clippers:
20131129 Derrick Williams

Rather than argue for him myself, I’m going lazy/plagiarist and pasting Matt Stroup’s excellent analysis from Rotoworld before tonight’s game:

Go get Derrick Williams. It’s not clear how much Williams will play in Sacramento, but with only John Salmons/Travis Outlaw ahead of him at SF, and Jason Thompson/Patrick Patterson ahead of him at PF, it’s possible the answer is “a lot.” That wouldn’t necessarily result in standout numbers, as we’ve seen Williams get extended minutes before, with somewhat mediocre results (14.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.9 3s and a weak 0.7 spg / 0.5 bpg in his final 40 games last year). With that said, this is the No. 2 overall pick from 2011 who’s still just 22 years old and has a chance to get a lot of minutes on a bad team. I can nitpick about a lack of defensive stats, but changes of scenery like this don’t pop up this early in the season all that often. Owned in just 10 percent of Yahoo leagues as of Friday morning, Williams is well worth a low-risk, 8-10 game trial if you’ve got room.

Is he legit? He’s not Anthony Bennett, but Derrick Williams has had a disappointing career so far in Minnesota, especially considering it was once debatable whether he or Kyrie Irving should’ve been the first pick of the 2011 draft. A change of scenery was bound to increase his value, except Sacramento’s very problem for years has been its glut of power forwards. However, for some reason, coach Mike Malone is determined to make Williams his starting SF. While there’s no telling yet what will happen when Carl Landry returns, he’s still out for another two months. Williams has Malone’s confidence, so he should have yours as well.

Other Notable Players: Brandon Knight dropped 17-3-2-2 in 30 min tonight with only two turnovers (15 in his last three) and an excellent 7-for-11 from the field (18.5% in last three). As I said when he was Pickup of the Day, the Bucks expect him to be their PG of the future. Unfortunately in the present, they are officially the second-worst team in the NBA and unofficially the worst rotation in fantasy basketball…In other barely worth mentioning news (i.e. Milwaukee Bucks news), Khris Middleton dropped a serviceable 9-5-3-3-2 with one three, and John Henson hit six blocks to go with an otherwise underwhelming 7-5-3 line…Jose Calderon injured his right ankle tonight and didn’t return. Shane Larkin looked bad replacing him. I’d put my faith in Vince Carter instead…Impressive 9-18 line from DeJuan Blair tonight, but no steals. The rebounds are an outlier for a player who only averages 20 mpg like Blair. The steals are his real value add…Bad news for two Lakers starters who had been lighting it up recently. Jordan Hill sprained his ankle after only playing 13 min and did not return to the game. Both Wesley Johnson (27-6-2-0-3, 6 3’s) and Shawne Williams (20-9-3-2-1, 6 3’s) had stellar games in his absence, but don’t expect that to continue as Hill will likely be back on Sunday. Steve Blake’s situation is actually a little more worrisome. He and Jordan Farmar both played almost exactly 24 min each tonight. While Blake still contributed 10 assists tonight, his poor shooting (1-for-6), five turnovers and defensive liability caused him to split time almost evenly with Farmar (13-5-3-1, 2 3’s) at 24 min each. Farmar has been fantastic in his past five games and should be rostered, but the Lakers’ rotation is one of the most unreliable for such a productive fantasy squad…The Rockets blew out the Nets, and both teams pulled out their starters early, which is why you saw such great games from Tyshawn Taylor, Mirza Teletovic, Aaron Brooks, Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi. This game is not representative of what anything we can expect from these players going forward, except for Brooks who should be in line for more minutes with Jeremy Lin out for two weeks. This was especially disappointing for Andray Blatche, who went 0-for-6 in 10 awful minutes despite Kevin Garnett sitting this one out. With Brook Lopez now returned to the line-up, Blatche’s value is in steep decline…Tony Wroten: 24 points in not even as many minutes. Is he back? No. The End…Speaking of unreliable but productive fantasy squads, Phoenix has become a crapshoot in trying to determine who amongst Channing Frye, Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris will be productive. Tonight’s winner was Markieff, as Eric Bledsoe finally returned after so many false starts and reduced both Frye and Gerald Green’s roles…Darren Collison got the start and 40 min tonight with Chris Paul out with a hamstring injury. Collison was underwhelming in Dallas last year, and Jamal Crawford was the far better PG for the Clippers tonight, but Paul is questionable for Sunday, and Collison could have value again.

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

1. Jared Sullinger (38%)
2. Marvin Williams (8%)
3. Glen Davis (34%)
4. Brandon Bass (37%)
5. Channing Frye (9%)

As I previously mentioned, Frye has not had a good record of keeping value while Bledsoe is also in the rotation. Bledsoe has only been back for one game so far, but it’s only validated that belief. Considering Frye’s immense value recently, though, it’s worth hanging on to him to see what happens. Otherwise, Derrick Williams is waiting to grab his spot. Meanwhile, Kosta Koufos falls off this list with news that Marc Gasol could be back in as few as 3-4 weeks.

Hindsight: None! Even Glen Davis and Brandon Knight are looking good right now!

Pickup of the Day: Reggie Jackson


(AP Photo / Matt York)

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 Monday, November 4 is Reggie Jackson. This pickup is unlike all others that I’ve recommended so far in that he didn’t have an eye-opening game last night. In fact, he didn’t play at all. He’s tonight’s pickup because he finally dropped below 40% owned in Yahoo! Leagues. He’s at 39% right now, but that number is quickly dropping.

Here’s a look at his most recent game on Sunday against Phoenix:
20131104 Reggie Jackson

This was not an impressive game for Jackson but was notable for one reason: the successful return of Russell Westbrook, who pushed Jackson back to a bench role. In one day, Jackson’s ownership fell 8% across Yahoo! Leagues. In ESPN leagues, he is the most-dropped player of the week, plummeting from 55.6% owned last week to 26.2% now.

So why am I telling you to pick up Reggie Jackson? To answer that question, I’m going to invoke the names of Kevin Martin and James Harden, the last two players to have Jackson’s role as the first Thunder player off the bench and the only second-unit guy who can create his own offense (though Martin was more a catch-and-shoot guy). Both Martin and Harden (who I’m going to call “Marden” just to make it easy on myself) put up solid fantasy numbers coming off the bench in OKC. Jackson is somewhere between the two of them in talent and has the chance to do the same.

Critics would argue this is an apples-to-oranges comparison because Jackson plays a different position than Marden did. They’re right. Marden was a SG that could slot in between Westbrook and Durant. Jackson’s natural position is PG, but will that stop the Thunder from playing him alongside their Big Two?

You might argue playing two PG’s puts the Thunder at a defensive disadvantage. Three things: A) Both Westbrook and Jackson are big 6’3″ guards, so that disadvantage against taller SG’s isn’t quite so large. B) Marden was never a defensive ace either. C) This:


All this is just speculation obviously. I have no idea how the Thunder will actually play Jackson moving forward. I know they would prefer to have Jeremy Lamb be the one to replace Marden and to protect Jackson as their insurance policy to Westbrook, but Lamb isn’t ready yet and Jackson is. Jackson actually played more minutes in his last game with Westbrook than in his previous game without Westbrook, while Lamb played less. Though in that previous game OKC was being blown out and cleared their bench.

Jackson and Lamb may end up canceling out each other’s values this year, and Derek Fisher is somehow still out there soaking up minutes, too. Still, I can’t justify letting a talent like Jackson wallow out on the waiver wire until we see how this situation shakes out.

Is he legit? Yes, if we’re talking about talent. If we’re talking about opportunity, I’m not sure yet. Unfortunately, as Doug Kezirian would tell you, in fantasy basketball opportunity matters a lot more than talent. I’m going to invoke a third name for projecting Reggie Jackson’s future: Eric Bledsoe. What Jackson is this year is what Bledsoe was last year: by far the best backup PG in the league, but also playing behind one of the league’s best starters. What Westbrook is to Jackson, Chris Paul was to Bledsoe. Aside from some startlingly high block totals for a 6’1″ guard and a brief span when Paul was injured, Bledsoe was nearly useless for fantasy last year. Yet many fantasy owners were seduced enough by his flashes of talent–and the unpredictable games when he’d drop a line like 14-4-6-2-2 in under 20 min–to keep stashing him. And waiting. And hoping.

Unfortunately, we turned out to be one year early to the Bledsoe bandwagon. I’m telling you to bet that’s not the case for Jackson this year, but, if it is, I already know his floor: last year’s Eric Bledsoe.

Other Notable Players: Remember when I told you Omri Casspi, and not Francisco Garcia, was the Rockets bench player you wanted to pick up, just not yet? Tonight’s game was fluky because of the frenetic pace and Patrick Beverley being out, but it’s time…C.J. Miles put together a second good game but couldn’t scrape 19 min. If something happens to Dion Waiters or Jarrett Jack, he could be a cheap source of 3’s and steals…Speaking of steals, Corey Brewer is averaging 2.5 while playing over 30 mpg. Get him…You may notice Brandon Bass has slipped in the Top 5 Sneaky Pickups. Part of that is due to his past two poor games, but most of it is due to Jared Sullinger working his way back to health. At some point this season, Boston will want to see how good Sullinger can be with starter’s minutes, while Bass’s workman-like game and defense is more suited to a team with higher aspirations.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):
1. Reggie Jackson (39%)
2. Zaza Pachulia (22%)
3. Brandon Bass (38%)
4. Alec Burks (34%)
5. Corey Brewer (13%)

Accountability: According to Jeff Hornacek, the Suns’ coach, Goran Dragic will only miss two games, which means Gerald Green could become droppable as soon as this Friday. Whatever, coach. I’ll believe it when I see it…Vitor Faverani, what are you doing?