Pickup of the Day: Trevor Booker

(Kevin C. Cox / 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 Pickups for Friday the 13th of December is Trevor Booker. He’s owned in 5% of Yahoo! Leagues and 2.3% of ESPN Leagues, and quite frankly he might only have one game left of value. On the other hand, it’s very slow right now for pickups, and I can’t keep telling you to pick up Terrence Ross day after day (although I have).

Here’s a look at Booker’s line last night against Atlanta:
20131213 Trevor Booker

Booker’s contributions can be summed up in three words: Nene is injured. That’s not to say Booker isn’t a good player. He’s serviceable, but he’s gotten opportunities in the past and hasn’t been spectacular. He started 14 games last year and 32 two years ago and wasn’t great over the long run in either season. He’s undersized, doesn’t usually get blocks and is a poor FT shooter.

Still, he’s a bull, and he’s most valuable in temporary spurts like this when Nene is suffering from a minor Achille’s injury and will just miss a few games. Nene isn’t playing tonight against the Clippers, and Booker has averaged 18.0 pts, 13.0 reb and 1.5 blk on 56.7% FG in his last two starts for Nene. If a guy you don’t really use, like Ed Davis or Kelly Olynyk, is languishing at the end of your bench, you may want to consider picking up Booker and riding the hot streak.

Other Notable Players: Jeff Taylor is still getting the minutes but not delivering on the production. His 20-point night against Philly is starting to look like a mirage created by the Sixers’ league-leading pace….On the night Tobias Harris returned, it was Andrew Nicholson who heavily outplayed Glen Davis. Eventually, Harris is going to get the starting PF spot back, which means Big Baby’s value is about to get less secure…It’s a broken record now, but just keep playing Tony Wroten. There is still no time table for Michael Carter-Williams’s return…Terrence Ross dropped a nice 24-5-0-1-1 line with another four threes. He’s going to get the minutes over John Salmons, but he may not do much other than score and hit triples…I reserve the right to talk about Amar’e Stoudemire even though he’s not under 40% owned, because he really should be. He set yet another season-high in minutes last night for the injury-riddled Knicks, as well as a season-high in points. This will not last; Tyson Chandler’s return will sink his value if his knees don’t do it themselves. Still, as a fan of basketball and not the just the fantasy kind, this is definitely something I’m following and rooting for (the only thing I’m following and rooting for on the Knicks, aside from the hope that James Dolan one day soon is arrested for some grievous felony and ousted from MSG)…In news more indicative of the Knicks’ actual status, there is somehow not a single guard on the team worth owning right now. Last night made it clearer than ever that they need Kyle Lowry…Kelly Olynyk returned, which could mark the end of Brandon Bass’s productivity. Jared Sullinger should not be affected, and Olynyk himself isn’t useful enough to own…Brook Lopez sat and Andray Blatche ruled. Always play Blatche when Lopez is out. Mirza Teletovic showed some signs of life, but he’s not likely to consistently produce on what’s supposedly a deep roster…Both Ed Davis and Zach Randolph played, and yet Jon Leuer was still productive at the expense of Kosta Koufos. Koufos has been fantastic in Marc Gasol’s absence but has also suffered from some foul trouble lately and isn’t an offensive threat. He should still continue to get the lion’s share of minutes at center, but if this turns into a timeshare with Leuer, nobody wins…One game after both Al-Farouq Aminu and Jason Smith put up silly stats, both crash back to earth. Luckily for Aminu, Tyreke Evans apparently rushed back too soon from his left ankle sprain, as he sprained the same ankle again last night. Same as before, Anthony Morrow might also benefit from Evans’s absence…The Lakers are a mess since Kobe Bryant’s return. The surprisingly stable one through all of this? Nick Young, though his mediocre FG% and poor FT% prevents him from ranking higher. Wes Johnson did finally put up a nice 13-3-1-2-1 reminiscent of what he did pre-Kobe last night, and Jodie Meeks got up 16 shots even if he missed 13 of them…You’ve got to respect Reggie Jackson now. He’s fulfilling that sixth man role that made Kevin Martin and James Harden so successful in OKC…Jimmy Butler returned for Chicago, but instead of Mike Dunleavy who took the hit, it was Taj Gibson. When Luol Deng returns, both will suffer…Can’t wait for the Bucks to reach the tanking part of their season, so we can see much more Giannis Antetokounmpko (whose name I can now almost spell from memory). In the meantime, their rotation outside of John Henson is still too erratic to trust…Just say yes to Marco Belinelli, who really has taken over what Danny Green did last year…Marvin Williams is back, so get him back into your line-ups even though he hasn’t been good yet. Enes Kanter obviously suffered, though Alec Burks may suffer, too, from the renewed depth like he did last night. Jeremy Evans had a surprisingly nice game, and Richard Jefferson has actually been consistent, putting up 15.0 pts and 2.3 3pm on 58.3% FG and 81.8% FT in the last four games. He’s essentially taken over what Williams did, but I wouldn’t expect that to continue now that Williams is back…Rudy Gay’s arrival seemed to have pushed Jason Thompson deeper into the rotation, and not Derrick Williams, who still got over 30 min. Hang on to Williams, but let’s see another game before we anoint him the winner…I just want to note that Dwight Howard hit a three and went a perfect 7-for-7 from the FT line last night. Whaaaaattt…Marreese Speights, 16-9 in 15:34. He’s been teasing us with his potential since he was still in Philly. It’s not going to happen here.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (33%)
2. Al-Farouq Aminu (18%)
3. Marvin Williams (12%)
4. Glen Davis (38%)
5. Tony Wroten (23%)

Should’ve never bumped Wroten. He bumps Smith, but Aminu actually rises because of Evans’s injury. Davis falls because of Harris’s return.

Hindsight: What’d I tell you about the Suns? Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are studs, and everyone else cannibalizes each other’s values. Though Miles Plumlee put up a loaded 12-9-2-4-3 line that pushed him back up to 40% owned today from 39% last night. Otherwise, he’d be today’s Pickup. When I put up one of those lines (points-rebounds-assists-steals-blocks), and both of the last two numbers are above two, that’s a good fantasy night barring only an apocalyptic shooting percentage.


Non-Pickups of the Day: The Phoenix Suns

(Jennifer Stewart / USA TODAY Sports)

There is no Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Thursday, December 12. Check the Top Five for whom you should pick up.

As promised, however, we’re going to review Phoenix’s rotation and see if we can’t parse something out of the mess among Channing Frye, Markieff Morris, P.J. Tucker and Marcus Morris. While Eric Bledsoe was out, Frye and Gerald Green were the fantasy beasts to own. However, since his return, things have gotten more muddled.

Here’s a look at their main rotation’s fantasy output in the six games since Bledsoe’s return, sorted by their Yahoo! rankings:

Bledsoe and Goran Dragic are both studs, so we’ll ignore them. Archie Goodwin is the last man in their regular rotation, and Green has fallen off the map since Bledsoe’s return, so we’ll ignore them as well.

That leaves Frye, Tucker, the two Morris twins, and surprisingly also Miles Plumlee, whose minutes and value have declined despite there being no other players even resembling a traditional center on the active roster (Emeka Okafor and Alex Len are both injured).

Unfortunately, what this chart tells us is mostly what we already know: that those five Phoenix players are cannibalizing each other’s values. If I had to recommend one, it’d be Tucker, who is averaging the most minutes and provides a serviceable number of rebounds and threes to go with a solid 1.8 steals. His FG% isn’t great, but he averages a low number of turnovers for nine-cat leagues. However, Phoenix plays him so many minutes because he’s a good defender, but he has a very low upside.

After him, though, I’m at a loss. Frye was a multi-cat monster in threes, steals, blocks and percentages while Bledsoe was out, but he’s tapered off quite a bit since then. Plumlee is putting up the type of numbers that Taj Gibson did before Gibson was useful for fantasy teams. Markieff has been the third-leading scorer on the team and gets rebounds, FG% and not a bad FT%, but he gives you nothing in the peripheral stats and averaged 3.0 TO in those six games. He alternates being productive with his brother Marcus, who has big games once in a while but in the long run has only been reliable for threes.

Who does that leave to pick up? If you need low-end value at the wings, Tucker. If you’re looking for upside or consistency, nobody at this point. It’s frustrating reading box scores for this team and seeing Marcus drop 22 points on 13 shots, Tucker put up an 18-13-3 with two threes, or Markieff a 25-11 (with no steals, blocks or threes) and know that one game later they might score four or eight points.

Until someone out of this group establishes themselves again, it’s not worth hanging on to any of them. If you’re in a deep league and must own one (and hopefully not more than that), be sure to check out the Suns Fantasy Scouting Report to read up on whom to play.

Other Notable Players: Frustratingly, Brook Lopez sprained the same left ankle last night that kept him out several games before. Andray Blatche took advantage and posted a 21-9-3 playing the exact same number of minutes (27:43) that Lopez did. Lopez will miss tonight’s game, but, if he misses more, Blatche is definitely worth rostering again…Jeremy Lin returned to Houston’s line-up last night a little rusty but should begin putting up fantasy-quality stats again soon. Meanwhile, no one should’ve still been playing either Patrick Beverley or Aaron Brooks given how awful both have been in the six games that Lin was out. Beverley still has value even with Lin in the line-up, though he hasn’t done anything to justify playing him lately. Brooks got a “Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision” last night, and that speaks for itself.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (36%)
2. Glen Davis (39%)
3. Marvin Williams (10%)
4. Al-Farouq Aminu (17%)
5. Jason Smith (22%)

The Top Five remains unchanged, but Glen Davis might see a bump back if Tobias Harris’s second return this season cuts into his value.

Hindsight: Perhaps it was too early to pull the trigger on Greivis Vasquez. According to the New York Daily News, worst-Knicks-owner-in-franchise-history James Dolan blocked the trade for Kyle Lowry because he was furious over news of the deal leaking to the press and was afraid he was getting fleeced for a third time by Raptors GM Masai Ujiri. If you somehow wormed Isiah Thomas into that story, it’d be the most James Dolan thing I’d heard in 2013. Meanwhile, the Nets are in the mix for Lowry as well but are balking at including their 2020 first-round pick. The Raptors had also inquired about the Knicks’ 2018 first-rounder, which should give you an idea of how bleak the futures of the two highest-payrolled NBA franchises are right now.

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: Al-Farouq Aminu

(AP Photo / Gerald Herbert)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pickup of the Day: Taj Gibson

(Marc Serota / 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 Monday, December 2 is Taj Gibson. He’s owned in 25% of Yahoo! Leagues and 9.5% of ESPN Leagues. Though he had a career night last night, the box score must be viewed with a refined perspective when a game goes into three overtimes and guys like Ryan Anderson and Luol Deng are pushing an hour of playing time. So yes, it’s fair to put an asterisk next to Gibson’s career-high 26 points, but even his work in his previous games makes him a promising pickup.

Here’s a look at his line last night against New Orleans:
20131202 Taj Gibson

How many times can Gibson be expected to top 44 minutes this season? He did it four times last year, but, unless Carlos Boozer is injured or traded, it won’t be much more than that this year. Therein lies the rub for his value. Over his past three games, Gibson has averaged an astounding 22.3 pts, 8.7 reb, 1.0 ast and 2.0 blk on 66.7% FG and 78.6% FT. This has directly coincided with Boozer’s worst three-game stretch of the season, where he’s averaging 7.3 pts, 6.7 reb, 2.3 ast and 0.7 blk on 33.3% FG and 100% FT (on two total free throws).

Boozer is averaging 15 and 9 on the season and is likely to regress back up to the mean, but Gibson is playing his most minutes this season of any since Boozer joined the Bulls. With Rose out for yet another season, it’s very possible that the Bull may blow up the roster and start rebuilding. They’ve wanted to move Boozer for a while now, but his onerous contract ($15.3 mil this year, $16.8 mil next) makes that very difficult. Still, if a Russian oligarch was willing to pay $89 mil for Joe Johnson, moving Boozer isn’t impossible.

The Bulls clearly would rather have Gibson play a larger role in their future than Boozer (though Gibson’s contract is much more enticing albeit longer). Don’t expect many nights of 22 and eight with two blocks, but you should feel confident stashing Gibson on your bench for now.

Other Notable Players: There’s plenty to say about other potential pickups from last night’s triple-overtime extravaganza. Jason Smith (12-14-1-0-1) and Al-Farouq Aminu (14-9-1-3-0) both had value with Anthony Davis out for 4-6 weeks. Smith was more involved in the offense, though. On the Bulls side, Kirk Hinrich saw the second-most minutes after Deng (53) and posted 13-6-11 but shot horrifically (4-of-15 FG, 0-of-8 3pm). Along with Gibson, Mike Dunleavy also exploded off the bench (23-7-5-2-0, 6 3pm). Tony Snell was not productive. Of everyone, Smith and Hinrich are the safest choices as they will continue getting the most minutes and shots, though their upsides are limited. It will take a lot more than one good game for Dunleavy to re-ingratiate himself to fantasy owners after three previous games with only one FG each…Jameer Nelson missed the game, so E’Twaun Moore got the start. He was brutal, as were most of Orlando’s starters, but it’s disappointing neither he nor Glen Davis could make a better case for keeping their starting spots. Davis should get another good chance tonight though, as Nikola Vucevic had to get an X-Ray on his sprained ankle last night…The fact that DeMarre Carroll is the 88th Yahoo! ranked player for the year tells me Yahoo! still way overvalues even the slightest threes and steals. He has something like 10 good games to nine bad ones, but last night was one of the good ones. If you’re in a deep league and can afford to keep him in your line-up, he’s worth a pickup….Belineeeelliiiiiiiiiiiii is the new Ginoooobiliiiiiiiiiiiii. 14.0 pts, 2.8 reb, 2.0 ast, 1.0 stl, 2.3 3pm in the last four for Marco BelinelliFrancisco Garcia had a great game last night (13-6-2-0-4, 3 3pm) with Chandler Parsons sitting out. On the other hand, Terrence Jones had an awful game, while Omri Casspi (13-6-0-2-0, 2 3pm) took most of the PF minutes. It’s unknown if Parsons will miss more games, but Jones is not likely to continue playing this poorly, while Garcia and Casspi should see their roles diminished…Is Alec Burks, who’s already risen and fallen this year, on the rise again? 16.7 pts, 3.7 reb, 3.0 ast, 1.3 3pm, 53.1% FG, 80.0% FT over his last three. This Jazz team is much better in general with Trey Burke at the point. Though not for Enes Kanter…We need to see more, Mo Williams. More.

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

1. Marvin Williams (18%)
2. Kosta Koufos (28%)
3. Glen Davis (35%)
4. Nate Robinson (26%)
5. Wesley Johnson (13%)

Henson’s one big game starting for the Bucks apparently built a lot of buzz, as he pushes up to 40% owned. Tough choice between Wes Johnson and Gibson for that final spot. While Gibson has potential, Johnson’s been getting it done in steals (1.0), blocks (1.6) and threes (1.3) all year and has been even better recently (1.0, 1.8, 2.5 respectively over last four).

Hindsight: Dunleavy’s big game last night reminds me that he’s averaged 6.3 ppg in all his other games since I made him the Pickup. Oof…There’s a big slate of games tonight, so there’ll be plenty of time for regrets and hopefully also some gloating. Talk to you all again in a few hours!

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: Jordan Hill

(Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hindsight: What happened to you, Martell Webster?

Pickup of the Day: Steve Blake

(AFP Photo / Scott Halleran)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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