Pickup of the Day: Aaron Brooks


(AP Photo / Pat Sullivan)

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 Saturday, December 21 is Aaron Brooks. He’s owned in 8% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.9% of ESPN Leagues, but he is the the most added player in Yahoo! Leagues today because Patrick Beverley is out for 4-6 weeks with a broken hand. That just opened up 31 and a half minutes for Houston point guards, of which Aaron Brooks happens to be the only healthy one.

Ignoring the crazy rumors that Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik are being packaged to the Nets or Lakers (not even Prokhorov would pay $30 mil for one year of both…would he?), we should note Lin is hopeful to return on Monday. Even if he does, Brooks should still be pushing 30 mpg as the backup PG. If he doesn’t, watch out.

The biggest concern with Brooks is his recent abysmal FG%. He is averaging a horrific 28.6% FG over his past two weeks, but, when given more regular playing time over seven games in late November and early December, he shot 46.2% FG while averaging 13.9 pts, 2.6 reb, 4.1 ast, 2.0 stl and 2.6 3pm. Those are phenomenal numbers for a PG averaging 24 mpg off the bench, and now he may not have any competition ahead of him. Though the 2.3 TO he averaged during that seven-game stretch would also increase in nine-category leagues, the assists, steals and threes should more than compensate for that.

Other Notable Players: The question for fantasy owners looking at the Kings is no longer how good Derrick Williams can be, but can we trust Jason Thompson? I say no…As predicted, Tobias Harris stayed in the starting line-up, but it was the young gun Victor Oladipo that got pushed out and not the veteran Glen Davis. This keeps Baby’s value steadier than I thought it’d become…Terrence Jones is now back under 40% owned, and his recent collapse in playing time and role suggests the number should be lower than that…Neither Anthony Tolliver nor Chris Douglas-Roberts stepped up in the first game with the Bobhornets missing both Jeff Taylor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist…As well as D.J. Augustin, Tony Snell and Taj Gibson all played last night, it is really hard to trust them with Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng all out. Both Snell and Gibson have proven to be unreliable when both Butler and Deng are in the line-up. It’s questionable whether Augustin will still be useful after Hinrich returns, although “after Hinrich returns” has been a refrain for a long time. Hinrich did go through shootaround before last night’s game, but Augustin’s assist totals are tempting…Khris Middleton answered my challenge about his low FG% by shooting 73.3% on 15 FGA (literally answered it, he found me at a bar after the game and said “How you like them apples?”). He’s been decent lately except for his FG%, but his FG% for the season is better than what it’s been. Caron Butler also had a fantastic game in his return, and it’s notable that the extra minutes for him pushed O.J. Mayo’s minutes back more than they did Giannis Antetokounmpo’s. Keep in mind, though, that this was all done with John Henson sitting out, but his return is most likely just to sink Ekpe Udoh and Miroslav Raduljica’s minutes. Then again, you can never rely on anything with coach Larry Drew…Marco Belinelli pushed Boris Diaw out of the Spurs’ starting line-up and had his second good game in a row, this time with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all active. Let’s see where this goes…Okay, now I am paying attention to Brandan Wright, who is averaging 13.8 pts, 5.0 reb and 2.3 blk in his four games this season and has negated both DeJuan Blair and Samuel Dalembert’s values…And last night it was Channing Frye, P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green, while Miles Plumlee and the Morrises Markieff and Marcus disappointed. Of that group, only Frye is trustworthy right now…Told you Nick Young’s poor FG% was going to catch up with him eventually, but last night was brutal (5-for-18). Chris Kaman had a nice 10-17-3 blk line on almost as brutal FG% (5-for-17). He got the start because Pau Gasol was out with an upper respiratory infection. Gasol is questionable for Monday, but don’t assign even short-term value to Kaman just yet. Those of you who kept playing Jordan Hill were rewarded with a 14-10, but he still only saw 20 min of playing time. Unless there’s some type of secret injury that the Lakers are hiding, it just seems like coach Mike D’Antoni refuses to give him regular minutes despite an utter lack of better options. Finally, we should note that Wes Johnson played more minutes than any other player in last night’s game, and he might’ve finished with a decent night if he didn’t miss all seven of his FGs. I still say keep an eye on him, because his ceiling is high and he’s one of the few Lakers whose playing time doesn’t seem to be in question…Matt Barnes returned for the Clippers, which just reminded me that the Clippers have both Barnes and Jared Dudley. Why? They are virtually the same player. Barnes did post a nice 13-3-3-2-3 and 3 3pm last night though. He put a stop to Dudley’s recently solid play, and Barnes could post some nice numbers if he takes over Dudley’s spot. At least until J.J. Redick returns.

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

1. Jon Leuer (21%)
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (17%)
3. Jordan Farmar (8%)
4. Reggie Jackson (38%)
5. Glen Davis (37%)

We knew Andray Blatche wouldn’t last long on this list with Brook Lopez confirmed to be done for the season today, and he indeed graduated to 40% owned. Meanwhile, I’m keeping my deathgrip on Leuer like I did on Kosta Koufos, and Davis makes his return after showing he can keep his own deathgrip on that starting PF position in Orlando.

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.

No New Pickup / Injury Report

There is no new Pickup of the Day today. Check out the Top Five to see who to pick up. Here’s some recent news on injured players who may be sitting out or playing tonight:

  • Zaza Pachulia and Ekpe Udoh are both out for the Bucks. John Henson and Ersan Ilyasova should take advantage, though it might even trickle down all the way to Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
  • Michael Carter-Williams is out for the Sixers. Play Tony Wroten.
  • Remember Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is now out for 4-6 weeks for the Bobcats, so Jeffery Taylor gets the start and has a chance to step up. He’s been shooting poorly all year, but he was a bright spot for the Cats last season. If I had to make a call on somebody as the Pickup today, he’d be it.
  • Paul Millsap is day-to-day with a knee injury but right now is still expected to play tonight for the Hawks. DeMarre Carroll benefits most if Millsap sits.
  • Jordan Crawford has a wrist injury but is expected to play today for the Celtics. Avery Bradley benefits if he doesn’t.
  • Nikola Vucevic and Jameer Nelson are both hopeful to play for the Magic. Glen Davis benefits most if Vucevic sits and Victor Oladipo if Nelson does. I’ve given up on E’Twaun Moore.
  • Russell Westbrook is a game-time decision for the Thunder. Reggie Jackson is always a good play when Westbrook sits.
  • Chandler Parsons is a game-time decision for the Rockets. Aaron Brooks should already be productive with Jeremy Lin out, but Omri Casspi could continue getting some run. Omer Asik will sit until mid-December or whenever he’s traded, and Terrence Jones should break out of his slump.
  • Marvin Williams is out again for the Jazz, which means Enes Kanter gets yet another chance to re-establish himself back into the starting line-up.
  • DeMarcus Cousins expects to play for the Kings. Jason Thompson and Derrick Williams become interesting if he doesn’t, but he will.
  • Pau Gasol is probable and Chris Kaman is doubtful for the Lakers. Despite his recent woes, it’s worth a shot to keep Jordan Hill in your line-up (more on him in Other Notable Players). Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant has long confirmed he won’t return tonight. He’s shooting for Sunday, and that may be when Nash returns as well. Fantasy teams that employ Jodie Meeks, Nick Young or Steve Blake can rest easy for one more night.

Other Notable Players: Iman Shumpert hit five threes last night, but Tim Hardaway Jr. has been coming on strong lately (13.7 pts, 3.0 3pm, 53.8% FG, 100% FT over last three) though he got most of his points in garbage time last night. If the rumors around Shump getting traded come to fruition, however, he would get the start and would be pickup-worthy…Alan Anderson has not been getting it done at all in place of the injured Paul Pierce. I’m now turning my attention to Mirza Teletovic, though he’s been struggling with a hand injury himself…While Willie Green has become the starter since J.J. Redick’s injury, Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison are the players seeing the most benefit. Crawford’s already 83% owned in Yahoo! Leagues, but Collison is only at 8%, was already coming on strong even before Redick went out, and is a cheap fill-in at PG (12.8 pts, 2.5 reb, 2.0 ast, 1.0 3pm, 51.4% FG 81.8% FT since injury)…Quincy Pondexter’s putting up some numbers lately. His 22 points against Brooklyn was fluky, but last night he did well due to Tony Allen sitting out. Allen is questionable for Saturday…Michael Beasley again took advantage of a lack of Dwyane Wade and dropped 15-7-2-1-2 last night one game after dropping a season-high 23 points. He has been very good coming off the bench for the Heat this year, but he just doesn’t play consistently enough when Wade is in the line-up. Wade is actually out quite often, but Beasley isn’t rosterable unless there’s an expected stretch of absence. That’d be terrible news for Heat fans though. They’ve lost both of their last two without Wade against a mediocre Detroit team and a Chicago team reeling after losing Derrick Rose…Speaking of the Bulls, Carlos Boozer broke out of his slump and had a good game, but Taj Gibson still delivered (19-6-0-1-1 in 24 min). He’s looking legit, although his 44 minute triple-OT game is throwing off his recent numbers…Kirk Hinrich has been playing decently and shooting better (for him) recently. He’s averaging 12.8 pts, 4.8 reb, 6.8 ast, 1.3 st and 1.5 3pm on 40.5% FG (vs. 38.0% for the year) and 91.7% FT (on 3.0 FTA) over his last four…He didn’t play last night, but Jordan Hill has dropped down to 37% owned after three subpar games followed by three lousy games after a fantastic four-game stretch that saw his ownership shoot through the dome. He’s only been limited in his last two games because of an ankle injury, and he’s had five days to rest since his last game. People may hopping off his bandwagon too early, however (me included, dropped him for Taj Gibson last night). If you haven’t dropped him yet, check how he does tonight. This is one guy who also shouldn’t be too affected by Kobe’s return.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (31%)
2. Glen Davis (37%)
3. Brandon Bass (39%)
4. Taj Gibson (34%)
5. Kirk Hinrich (35%)

I’m very reluctantly bumping Marvin Williams out of the Top Five, but the level of Gibson’s recent play cannot be ignored. Also, Hinrich’s strong play bumps him up ahead of Wesley Johnson, who’s still sporadic in his production. Johnson is a good source of threes, steals and blocks, however, and I am still not worried about him after Kobe returns.

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.