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!

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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: Timofey Mozgov

(Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images)

This season I will highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s owned in less than 40% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Tuesday, December 3 is Timofey Mozgov. He’s owned in 10% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.8% of ESPN Leagues. He’s Yahoo!’s most added player so far today, but his massive production these past two games require a lot of perspective.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Brooklyn:
20131203 Timofey Mozgov

17-20-1-1-2 is a monstrous line, even better than the 16-15-1-2-2 that Mozgov put up the previous night against Toronto. Earlier in the year, he also put up a huge 23-9-0-0-4 against the Lakers. What do these three games have in common? Three things: A. JaVale McGee was injured for all of them (and is still out indefinitely). B. Starting center J.J. Hickson didn’t play more than 17.5 minutes in any of them. C. Each team features a legit 7-foot tall center with post moves that the 6’9″ Hickson could not defend. The Lakers have Pau Gasol, Toronto has Jonas Valanciunas and Brooklyn has Brook Lopez.

In fact, Hickson is just a terrible defensive center in general, as other centers like Dwight Howard, Nikola Pekovic, Andrea Bargnani and Joakim Noah have all blown up against him as well. Hickson only managed to hold his own against Dallas and Oklahoma City, two teams that don’t look to their centers to score.

Does Hickson’s struggles and Mozgov’s two monster games signal a shift in roles in Denver? Probably not yet, which means Mozgov isn’t close to a must-add. Outside of his three big games, he’s only averaging 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 16.5 minutes. However, taking a look at Denver’s upcoming schedule, here are the next four centers that Hickson/Mozgov will face:

  • Andrew Bynum (Huge Advantage: Mozgov)
  • Jared Sullinger (Advantage: Hickson)
  • Spencer Hawes (Advantage: Mozgov)
  • Marcin Gortat (Advantage: Mozgov)
  • Derrick Favors (Slight Advantage: Hickson)

When I say advantage, I don’t mean who will defend better, because Hickson is an all-around terrible defender while Mozgov is actually pretty decent. I just mean Hickson is almost assured his regular minutes against Boston and Utah, while Mozgov has a chance to steal the show again against Cleveland, Philly and Washington. That is unless coach Brian Shaw decides simply to play his better center. For the moment, it’s worth hanging on to Mozgov to see if that happens.

Other Notable Players: I told you Glen Davis would have another opportunity at a big night with Nikola Vucevic back, and he delivered in a huge way, dropping 33-3-3-2-0 in 50 minutes. Unfortunately, E’Twaun Moore couldn’t do the same even with Jameer Nelson out and Ronnie Price his only other competition for minutes…James Anderson and Hollis Thompson are both likely to be serviceable but uninspiring as long as Thompson is starting…Don’t get too used to the Bucks’ rotation. They started integrating Ersan Ilyasova back into the rotation last night, and they’ve still got Caron Butler and Larry Sanders to go. Their backcourt finally seems set with O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight though…This might be the last time we can talk about Brandon Bass for a while, who’s now 38% owned and will likely push back up past 40% today. We’ll see what happens when Kelly Olynyk returns though…Michael Beasley. He’s been scoring well and staying out of trouble. Just put him on your radar. If one of the Big Three is forced to miss extended time (we’re talking about Dwyane Wade obviously), Beasley may not become the starter but could regularly see 30 min like he did tonight…Alan Anderson got the start for the injured Paul Pierce but was limited in his contributions. Still, he should get plenty of playing time now. Tyshawn Taylor continued starting over Shaun Livingston, but both are becoming non-newsworthy…Gerald Green did not do well at all in his return to the bench. He’ll be better than 1-for-8 normally and was indeed still productive the last time Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe were both starting…And now Marcus Morris is the better twin again. This Jekyll-and-Hyde routine he’s playing with Markieff Morris is making both unrosterable…With both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph out last night, literally all the backup Memphis bigs had great games against Phoenix: Kosta Koufos (14-12-2-1-2), Ed Davis (21-12-1-0-2), and even Jon Leuer (23-9-1-0-3). The three shot a combined 25-of-36 (69.4%) from the field, a huge indictment of how awful Phoenix’s big men were on defense. Unless Randolph misses more time, though, Koufos is still the only useful player for fantasy. Davis would be in the mix if Randolph were to miss more. Leuer? Not so much…Josh McRoberts picked his game back up, but the assists and threes still aren’t back yet…It’s not even worth discussing Reggie Jackson or Jeremy Lamb’s performances except to mention that coach Scott Brooks is trusting them both more and more. The current OKC roster configuration is still looking for a James Harden/Kevin Martin-type to step up, but neither Jackson nor Lamb have fulfilled the role yet…Jason Thompson had a nice 10-10-2-0-2 line with DeMarcus Cousins out, but I’d still rather have Derrick Williams despite his barren line last night (13-0-0-1-0)…Even after replacing Amir Johnson in the starting line-up, Tyler Hansbrough has been nowhere close to useful. Johnson blew up for 16-10-1-1-1 last night, so coach Dwane Casey might even consider him properly motivated enough to put back into the starting line-up…

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

1. Kosta Koufos (29%)
2. Glen Davis (35%)
3. Marvin Williams (18%)
4. Brandon Bass (38%)
5. Wesley Johnson (13%)

The fact that Brandon Bass was left off this list the past few days was a big oversight on my part. Meanwhile, Koufos and Davis move ahead on account of their big nights, and Johnson beats Robinson out for the last spot after a wrist injury derailed Robinson’s night.

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: Glen Davis

(Steve Mitchell / 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 Saturday, November 23 is Glen Davis. He’s owned in 14% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.1% of ESPN Leagues, although his Yahoo! ownership already rose 4% as I wrote this entry. As for ESPN, I really wonder if they’re just a bunch of 8 and 10 team leagues, as there are an astounding number of solid waiver wire players who are literally under 1% owned.

Anyway, here’s a look at Big Baby’s line tonight against Miami:
20131123 Glen Davis

First of all, if you need a PG, your Pickup tonight should be Brandon Knight. I tell you this because he’s already owned in 38% of Yahoo! Leagues and is thus harder to acquire than Big Baby. He doesn’t get the top spot tonight because he’s never been great at getting assists (the premium stat that you want from your PG), his shooting has always been poor, and I imagine him initially to be in more of a timeshare with Luke Ridnour. Still, he is talented, and the Bucks were willing to let Brandon Jennings go to have Knight and his rookie salary instead.

On the other hand, Davis is not part of Orlando’s future. I expect him to displace mis-positioned Moe Harkless as the starting PF, but Harkless is part of Orlando’s future, so the team may want to keep him in as a starter for continuity. Coach Jacque Vaughn wouldn’t even commit to starting Tobias Harris, a better player than either Davis or Harkless, over Harkless when Harris returns from injury.

So why do I believe in Glen Davis? In two words: Arron Afflalo. In five: Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson. Neither of these players are part of Orlando’s future either, but Afflalo is averaging 36 mpg (and having a career year) while Nelson is getting 31 mpg (and looking like he should be a backup). The common belief is that Orlando is shopping these two players and thus letting other teams get a good look at them play, which may explain why Afflalo is playing out of position at SF while Nelson and Victor Oladipo try to mesh in the backcourt despite the Magic announcing they wanted to try Oladipo at PG.

That’s why I believe the Magic will put Big Baby in the starting line-up and give him the same treatment, letting him increase his own trade value as much as possible. Obviously, there’s no way to predict what Afflalo, Nelson and Davis’s values will be if and when they get traded, but, for now, Orlando seems content to let them run amok.

Other Notable Players: Patrick Patterson put up an effective 21-7 line with Jason Thompson limited to only 10 min with foul trouble. Neither had actually been too effective even in more minutes previously, though Patterson is better at avoiding fouls. No action should be taken yet for Patterson…Jared Dudley only posted 11-2-2, albeit with 3 3’s, but his value is on the rise with Barnes still out for two weeks with a retinal tear…The starters in Philly got the green light to chuck the ball up tonight with both Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes out. Take James Anderson for instance, who launched 10 threes and only connected on one. He finished with a decent 13-5-1-3-1 line if you ignore the abysmal 4 for 18 shooting. Daniel Orton continued to start in place of Young, but, with Hawes also out, he actually played 35 min (most of his career) and posted a 10-10-1-0-2 (also his first career double-double). The former Kentucky teammate of DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall was annihilated by Roy Hibbert, however, and posted the lowest +/- of anyone in the game (-21). The Sixers will continue favoring Lavoy Allen over him, but neither Young (personal reasons) nor Hawes (sore knee) are expected out much longer…The big winner of Raymond Felton’s injury in New York seems to be absolutely no one. After posting a 19 pts & 8 ast in his last game, Beno Udrih came way back to earth with 6 pts & 3 ast. Iman Shumpert, Pablo Prigioni and Tim Hardaway Jr. all also failed to step up as the lowly Knicks were spanked by the slightly less lowly Wizards. Probably could’ve used that Linsanity guy tonight…One night after I criticized his lack of assists, Jordan Crawford goes out and drops 10 dimes to go with 12 pts and 3 reb (and 4 tov). Brandon Bass, whose ownership has actually dropped down to 33%, had his first good game in his last four with Kelly Olynyk out for possibly two weeks with a sprained ankle. Seems Bass, and not Vitor Faverani, will be the one to absorb the available minutes Olynyk is leaving on the floor. Jared Sullinger’s value was unaffected…With James Harden missing tonight and Monday with a foot injury, both Patrick Beverley (17-3-2, 5 3’s) and Jeremy Lin (19-5-5-2-1, 2 3’s, 5 tov) had good games, but the real story for Houston was Aaron Brooks (26-4-5-2, 6 3’s, 4 tov) coming out of nowhere and lighting up the Wolves. He’s got a Nate Robinson feel to him, and, once upon a time (in 2010), Brooks had tremendous value for Houston and even won the Most Improved Player award. Yet tonight is likely to be his best game of this year unless Lin or Beverley also miss extended time…In the four recent games that Al Jefferson sat out, Josh McRoberts averaged 31.0% FG. In the two games with Jefferson back so far, McRoberts has shot 40.0% and 71.4%. The assists weren’t there tonight, but he is a better player next to Jefferson…Don’t look too deeply into either the Bucks’ starters having crappy games across the board or Khris Middleton and John Henson having good games off the bench. The Bucks were getting demolished. As stated above, you should just pay attention to Brandon Knight’s return, as he’s likely to clear 40% owned by tomorrow…By the same token as the Bucks game, discount any fantasy-related notions you may have from the Cleveland-San Antonio box score, as the Cavs were obliterated. The only thing you should know is that Jarrett Jack left with a neck strain and didn’t return, although that may be because the Cavs were down by 30 for most of the night…Mo Williams already had two straight bad games coming into tonight, and now he’s got three. This time, though, it was due to him being tossed for instigating a fight with Andrew Bogut. This fight also got Draymond Green and Wesley Matthews ejected. We’ll have to wait until Williams’s next game, assuming he’s not suspended, to see if his value bumps up again.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (15%)
2. Glen Davis (14%)
3. Brandon Knight (38%)
4. Jared Sullinger (32%)
5. Mo Williams (25%)

Two soon-to-be starters bum-rush their way onto list as they return from injury. Do I expect them to be better than those guys below them? Not necessarily, but Davis and Knight are proven commodities who should soon be receiving starting duties now that they’re back with their teams.

Hindsight: I don’t think you can really put too much of Metta World Peace’s disappearance on me when the entire Knicks team has turned into a black hole for fantasy.

Pickups of the Day: The Injury Replacements

20131122 Injured Pickups

This season I will highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s owned in less than 40% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pickup of the Day: Shaun Livingston

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

This season I will highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s owned in less than 40% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pickup of the Day: Josh McRoberts

(Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

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 Monday, November 18 is Josh McRoberts. He’s owned in 17% of Yahoo! Leagues and 4.7% of ESPN Leagues. Really, I wanted to pick Mo Williams again, but that would’ve been redundant. McRoberts is at the head of the Top Five, so he kind of gets the nod by default.

And with that sterling endorsement, here’s a look at his line tonight against Toronto:
20131118

McRoberts again was a great source of threes and assists from the center position. He now leads all C-eligible players in assists on the season (4.7), and he and Kevin Love (4.5 apg) are the only centers who average more than four assists and a three per game. Of course, Love hits almost three 3-pointers a game and crushes McBobby in points, rebounds and percentages, but we’re cherry-picking stats here to make my guy look good.

Where McRoberts really hurts you, however, is field goal percentage. He’s averaging 37.5% for the year, and barely has more games shooting over 40% FG (three) than games shooting 0% FG (two). Taking a look at his shot chart, we find McRoberts is actually a terrible shot except from the left block and at the top of the key. He’s an especially atrocious 17.6% from midrange.

However, one positive is that McRoberts actually had two of his best games of his season (17-5-5, 4.0 3’s, 54.5% FG) playing next to Al Jefferson. Having Jefferson drawing defensive attention down low freed up easy shots for McRoberts. While conventional wisdom may be that playing with Jefferson will cut into McRoberts’s production, the exact opposite has been true so far. Jefferson could be back in the line-up as early as this Wednesday, and McRoberts owners should be hoping for nothing less.

Is he legit? Josh McRoberts’s line is like nothing I have ever seen from the center position: 37.5% FG, 76.9% FT, 1.7 3’s, 9.3 pts, 4.7 reb, 4.7 ast, 0.8 stl, 0.5 blk, 1.8 tov. He’s like a backup guard that can’t shoot.

Take a look at his per-minute numbers, and you’ll realize he has never played like this in his entire professional career, even last year when he was also in Charlotte. Ignoring his rookie season in which he played 28 total min across eight games, this is how his Per-36 minutes numbers in previous years compare to this one:

In rebounds, he averaged between 7.9-9.5 in previous years. This year he’s averaging 5.7. In assists, he averaged between 2.1-3.4 in previous years. This year he’s averaging 5.9. In three pointers attempted, he averaged between 0.4-2.0 in previous years. This year he’s averaging 5.3.

I don’t know what to predict out of this season. I can say McRoberts’s career field goal and rebound rates are better than this, but his career three-pointer and assist rates are also worse. Is there a balance, or is this just who he is now? Like I said, his FG% should go up as soon as Jefferson gets back, and he seems to be locked into 29-30 mpg. McRoberts’s numbers may be strange this year, but no doubt they will be useful.

Other Notable Players: 12-5-6-3-2 in 30 min from Mo Williams tonight. He’s legit and climbing into my Top Five…Speaking of PG’s, 23-2-2 from Shaun Livingston tonight on 8-14 FG and 7-7 FT and, as expected, not much else (one steal)…McRoberts wasn’t the only productive Bobcat. Jeffery Taylor dropped 20 points with two threes, and has scored in double digits and averaged over 29 min in his past five games. His contributions in non-points categories are inconsistent, to put it politely…Kirk Hinrich didn’t score much, but he still got 25 min and led the Bulls in assists. It’s hard to rely on him at this point unless we see an utter collapse by Derrick Rose…After J.J. Hickson’s 18-19-2-1-2 tonight, you may feel completely safe dropping Timofey Mozgov. There is no more C controversy in Denver (cut to Mozgov dropping a 20-10 while Hickson gets 20 min off the bench on Thu)…There’s no way the Thunder don’t exercise their team option on Reggie Jackson next summer, but I’d love to see him on a team that’ll give him 35 mpg…Another good game from Tony Wroten, while James Anderson yo-yo’s his way back to respectability. With MCW planning to return on Wednesday, however, you may be seeing the final acts of their set…It’s a shame Toney Douglas is still out with a stress reaction in his left tibia, as he’d be the obvious benefactor if Stephen Curry turns out to be dealing with the dreaded c-word (concussion, what were you thinking?). Without Douglas, though, I’m not even sure who runs the offense. Kent BazemoreNemanja Nedovic? Or do they go no PG (like Utah has disastrously), let Iggy bring the ball up the court and just move Harrison Barnes into the starting line-up?…In three of his last four games, Marvin Williams has played over 26 min and averaged nearly a 14-8 with 2.3 threes. In that fourth game, he sucked, but this is a situation to monitor in case Richard Jefferson or Alec Burks (or both) drop off (like both did tonight)…No, it’s not Diante Garrett time yet…Kosta Koufos put up an impressive 10-9-2-2-4 line on 5 of 5 shooting in just 18 min. He’s not getting nearly enough minutes to matter right now, but he did provide decent value, especially in blocks, in spurts last year with Denver…With news that  Metta World Peace has gotten his knee drained and Raymond Felton is taking medication for a pinched nerve, we may be seeing more Iman Shumpert as ballhandler. I’m not buying the hype on Pablo Prigioni or Tim Hardaway Jr., but then I didn’t buy the hype on Andrea Bargnani either…On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kobe Bryant has already returned to Lakers practice and been cleared for all basketball activities. There is still no timetable for his return, but when he does, both Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks’s values will slip.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):
1. Josh McRoberts (17%)
2. Jodie Meeks (26%)
3. Martell Webster (29%)
4. Terrence Jones (23%)
5. Mo Williams (22%)

Hindsight: One thing I completely overlooked when choosing Andray Blatche as the Pickup of the Day on Saturday: how much less crucial he’d be with Kevin Garnett on the team. While Blatche was invaluable to the Nets last year when Brook Lopez got injured, this year KG and Reggie Evans are keeping Blatche in a bench role. He still had a decent 10-5-1-2-2 line in 22 min, but he’s not worthy of starting for your fantasy team when he’s benched on his real team.

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: Martell Webster

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(D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

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 Wednesday, November 13 is Martell Webster. He’s owned in 15% of Yahoo! Leagues and 1.2% of ESPN Leagues, which is actually a dip from where he was before posting three straight lousy games. His performance tonight might change that though, depending on what’s happening with Trevor Ariza.

Here’s a look at his line tonight against San Antonio:
20131113 Martell Webster

This is Webster’s best game by far, and it was 100% because Ariza went out with a hamstring injury. Ariza will get an MRI on his hamstring and may miss extended time with this injury, and Webster is the no. 1 candidate to reap all those minutes, most likely moving into the starting line-up as well.

Is he legit? One would think that there wouldn’t be many shots left to go around playing alongside John Wall and Brad Beal (okay okay, so only I did), but Ariza made it work very successfully, and there’s no reason to think Webster can’t do the same. The rebounds tonight are totally fluky, but this year Webster’s been a strong source of threes and steals even in a limited role off the bench. It’s only going to get better as he absorbs most of Ariza’s minutes.

Other Notable Players: I’ve been following the exploits of James Anderson and Tony Wroten in this space for a while, but I never saw this coming. With Michael Carter-Williams out tonight, Anderson scored a career-high 36 points while Wroten dropped a career-first triple-double. Unfortunately, this does nothing to clarify whether either will gain fantasy relevance when MCW returns. The track record for both is still way too inconsistent for me to recommend a pickup…Jeremy Lin, as I said before and never ever wavered from ever, is the PG you want in Houston. Both he and Patrick Beverley started tonight with James Harden out. Both did well, but Lin continues to be hell-bent on recreating Linsanity in Houston. Beverley did have a very efficient game, and we’ll see if he keeps it up…Terrence Jones got the start over Omer Asik, who finished with fewer than five minutes in an overtime game. Not looking good for Asik, but Jones’s stock just went up with a double-double and three blocks tonight. Omri Casspi did also have a good game…John Henson put up a decent line tonight (can’t be mad at 5 blk!) with Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders and Zaza Pachulia all out, but Khris Middleton turned out to be the big winner, especially with news that Caron Butler had to go back to the locker room with a shoulder injury. Though what we’re all really waiting for is more Giannis Antetokounmpo time…Just a reminder that Corey Brewer is only 31% owned, and he just dropped 27 points with five threes and two steals…Steve Blake and Jordan Hill blew up tonight, while Pachulia didn’t pay me his bribe play at all after posting two poor games. I know Pachulia will be back and meaningful minutes will be waiting for him. I wouldn’t drop him if I didn’t need to, but I can’t recommend picking him up with so many other strong options…Wesley Johnson started for the second game in a row and put up numbers in literally every category. His value is entirely in the peripheral stats (2 3’s, 3 stl, 5 blk tonight), but he needs 30 mpg like he got tonight to rack them up consistently. The Lakers got very little from their bench and lost tonight, though, so coach Mike D’Antoni might be cooking up more changes. Hill and Blake are probably safe until Nash gets back. Johnson, not so much…Just after I call Jodie Meeks Mr. Consistency, he goes out and finishes with one three and a bunch of bagels. Here’s a guy who was giving his team more off the bench…Timofey Mozgov thoroughly outplayed J.J. Hickson tonight. There’s discord brewing at the C position for Denver. Neither the Nuggets nor the Lakers give opposing big men many problems, though, so don’t get up too high on either Mozgov or Hill just yet (as I move Hill to no. 1 on my Top 5)…Remember how Gerald Green was going to drop off after Goran Dragic got back? Somebody forgot to tell him to do that…Ben McLemore and Jason Thompson were moved to the starting line-up with great results for the Kings. Even if Thompson gets regular minutes, though, he doesn’t contribute much more than in points and rebounds, the two easiest categories to get. But check out how well underperformers Greivis Vasquez and Marcus Thornton did under the new arrangements.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):
1. Jordan Hill (19%)
2. Steve Blake (34%)
3. Martell Webster (15%)
4. Corey Brewer (31%)
5. Patrick Beverley (35%)

Hindsight: Reggie Jackson spent a lot of time atop my Top 5 Sneaky Pickups, and now he clearly isn’t worth a roster spot. Things are going to be different with Zaza, though. They are. Really…I had high hopes for Steven Adams if he ever replaced Kendrick Perkins in the starting line-up. Well Perkins was out tonight, but Adams still did not capitalize. Despite the 17-10-3 (blk) game, he’s not ready yet…So that’s two disappointments on the Thunder. The lesson, as always, is the overlooked teams produce the most overlooked fantasy players. Check out the Sixers, Lakers, Suns, Celtics and Bucks for evidence.