Pickup of the Day: Lou Williams

(Kevin Liles / USA TODAY Sports)

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

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickups for Saturday, December 14 is Lou Williams. He’s owned in 23% of Yahoo! Leagues and 11.7% of ESPN Leagues, which is a surprisingly high amount considering his minimal contributions so far this year. I’d wager it’s mostly people who drafted him based on Yahoo!’s preseason ranking, which was based on his productive season last year as a scorer off the bench for Atlanta. Last night proved he can still be that guy.

Here’s a look at his line last night against New York:
20131214 Lou Williams

Williams just had a minutes restriction due to his knee surgery lifted on Dec. 10, although it’s unclear what that limit was as he’s still only averaging 23:40 since then. Nonetheless, this is good news for his future value, as Williams put up 14.1 pts, 2.1 reb, 3.6 ast, 1.1 stl and 1.8 3pm off the bench for the Hawks last year. However, this year the Hawks have turned to Shelvin Mack a lot more for his playmaking, so Williams will have more competition for minutes behind Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver, who are both firmly in place as the starters.

He’s not a perfect Pickup, but last night showed he can still light it up off the bench when given the right opportunity.

Other Notables: Jordan Hill got over 30 min for the first time in over two weeks, so he seems like he’s over his ankle injury that’s plagued him all month. There is so little depth down low for the Lakers that he’s automatically valuable if he regains this type of regular minutes, though it’s not clear yet whether that’ll happen…Jarrett Jack has been putting up numbers like a poor man’s Reggie Jackson…While Iman Shumpert remained miserable, both Pablo Prigioni (11-1-6-4-0) and Tim Hardaway, Jr. (13-4-2-3-0) had serviceable games. Amar’e Stoudemire fell back to earth…Both starter Marquis Teague and newly signed D.J. Augustin struggled last night for the Bulls, making neither likely to have value when Kirk Hinrich returns from injury. Mike Dunleavy still contributed but played his lowest number of minutes in two weeks. His value is likely done with both Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng back, as is Taj Gibson’s…Pay no mind to Mo Williams’s 14-3-7 with three threes against Philadelphia. Portland set a record in threes last night, and playing against Philly is the team that made Jeff Taylor look like a star…Giannis Antetokounmpo played a season-high 35 min and put up a 14-9-4-0-1. I’ll keep talking about him because I love this kid, but really the Bucks aren’t ready to admit how awful they really are play him regularly yet. Alphabet just played a lot of garbage minutes last night as the Bucks were down 34 at one point…Vince Carter also put up an impressive 15-6-9-3-1 with Dirk Nowitzki out and has been an under-the-radar source of threes, assists and steals, but the big news was Brandan Wright who had an excellent 19-6 season debut in under 19 min. He mainly played at center while Samuel Dalembert got a DNP-CD, so don’t disqualify this performance too much due to Dirk’s absence. Wright is worth keeping an eye on, as he has a chance at supplementing DeJuan Blair as Dallas’s starting center.

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

1. Al-Farouq Aminu (19%)
2. Marvin Williams (13%)
3. Glen Davis (38%)
4. Kosta Koufos (30%)
5. Tony Wroten (24%)

At this point, I’d wager that Sixers are just keeping Michael Carter-Williams out on purpose to tank. Also, I had to drop Koufos and probably not even far enough, as he has been dominated by Nikola Pekovic as I write this, and the Grizzlies just started Jon Leuer in the second half. If he has a second bad game, we may have to bump Derrick Williams up here tomorrow, and the Pickup will almost certainly be Leuer.

Hindsight: Ready to admit Jeff Taylor’s one good game was a fluke. That’s what playing against the Sixers will do for you.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter at @SneakyFantasyBB for broader and more up to date NBA news!


Pickup of the Day: Greivis Vasquez

(Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

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

Today, however,we’re going to throw that rule out the back door and make the Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Wednesday, December 11 the newly Canadian visa-approved Greivis Vasquez. He’s owned in 62% of Yahoo! Leagues and 56.8% of ESPN Leagues, despite averaging just 9.8 pts, 5.3 ast and not much else this season. However, a few situations changed today that should change his market value drastically.

Those who follow NBA news should know that he was recently traded from Sacramento to Toronto as part of the Rudy Gay trade. That was great news for Isaiah Thomas owners, who are now seeing their firecracker PG flourish in a starting role. The underperforming Vasquez, on the other hand, seemed like he was destined to languish behind Kyle Lowry on Toronto’s roster, but now the news is that Toronto is shopping Lowry to the Knicks.

That would open up the starting PG spot for Vasquez, though Toronto may also take back the injured Raymond Felton. Felton is out for 2-3 weeks, which is likely why New York is moving so quickly on a trade. Thus there’s no guarantee yet that Vasquez will have a clearer role in Toronto than he did in Sacramento, where Thomas was favored. However, the reports from Raptors beat reporter Josh Lewenberg about Vasquez have all been extremely positive so far. If Lowry gets traded, I don’t see Felton or anyone else the Raptors get in return pushing Vasquez out of getting the most minutes from the PG position.

In fact, I’m counting on it. I picked up Vasquez in all my leagues, but it wasn’t just because of the speculation on Lowry’s trade. I also happened to own Steve Blake in all my leagues. Blake is now going to miss at least six weeks after an MRI revealed he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He’d actually soldiered through the injury for several games now because Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar were both unavailable, but the injury must have gotten too severe. Farmar is still at least two weeks away, while Nash may or may not retire, so the Lakers are basically left with Kobe Bryant as their PG unless they sign someone else (fantasy owners should keep an eye on whomever they do).

So how will fantasy owners replace the whopping 9.4 apg in the past month (second only to Chris Paul) that Blake gave them? How about with a guy who averaged 9.0 apg last season in New Orleans? While it may be unrealistic to expect that level of production from Vasquez on a new team, and certainly not while Lowry is still in Toronto, he’s your best gamble for replacing Blake. If he’s available.

Other Notable Players: Since we’re already breaking the under 40% owned rule, we also have to discuss 43%-owned Amar’e Stoudemire’s mini-resurgence. He’s averaging 14.3 pts, 5.0 reb and 1.3 blk on 70.6% FG and 69.2% FT over his last four. I mentioned yesterday that he was getting minutes with Kenyon Martin out. Well Martin played 35 min last night, and Stoudemire still hit 29:40, his most minutes of the season, and dropped 14-9-1-2-1. Obviously, that’s still a long way from the Amar’e who set a Knicks record three years ago on this day after his eighth straight 30-pt game, but he’s certainly better than the one we’ve seen in recent years who’s been defined more by terms like “minutes cap” and “uninsurable contract” than anything he’s done on the court. I don’t think he’ll continue this, and Tyson Chandler should return this month, but now this is becoming an interesting story. I’m not going to fault anyone for picking Stoudemire up and putting a personal investment into it (but I still don’t take back what I said yesterday about the people owning him still living in 2010)…Nikola Vucevic returned to the line-up and pushed Andrew Nicholson back deep onto the bench. Glen Davis continued to have value and be criminally underowned though. When healthy, Orlando’s rotation is quite consistent, so you can trust the players that produce…Josh McRoberts is making another run at respectability, but Jeff Taylor was worse in his second start. This was Taylor’s first game back after his heel injury, and he still played 31 min, so don’t give up on him yet. However, you should keep in mind that the Bobcats just signed Chris Douglas-Roberts, who plays the same position as Taylor and the injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Also, I need to get a cool hyphenated last name…With Tyreke Evans limited off an ankle injury that was supposed to have knocked him out for 1-2 weeks, Al-Farouq Aminu got a lot of burn and put up a 11-14-4-1-2 line that showed off his versatility. Jason Smith also came through with a strong 22-16-1-0-2 line. Both have been tremendous in the four games since Anthony Davis broke his hand, with Aminu averaging 12.0 pts, 13.3 reb, 2.3 ast, 1.8 stl, 0.5 blk and only 1.8 TO, while Smith is averaging 12.5 pts, 12.8 reb, 1.0 ast, 0.3 stl, 1.0 blk and only 1.0 TO. Neither shoots a strong percentage either from the field or the line, but both are contributing enough elsewhere that they should be rostered…Last night’s Bucks game against the Spurs reminds us of another reason why we shouldn’t trust Milwaukee players. When they’re getting blown out, which happens pretty often, coach Larry Drew throws in the towel fast. None of the starters other than O.J. Mayo played more than 21 minutes, and recent stud John Henson and contributor Brandon Knight both flopped. On the bright side, we got to see rooks Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nate Wolters both get some run, as Alphabet posted 15-8-0-2-1 and Wolters 18-1-7-2-1. Don’t expect either to do that regularly until we get to late March…Tony Wroten bounced back last night, and I’m going to keep repeating the mantra that you should keep him in your line-up until Michael Carter-Williams is absolutely confirmed to start. James Anderson (remember him?) actually had a good game again, too, but he’s a mirage…Mike Dunleavy lit up the box score last night with a 20-8-3-3-1 and 3 3pm, albeit on a horrid 29.4% of 24 FGA. He’s been a stud with Luol Deng out injured, though he’s only got a few more games of this left before Deng returns, which could occur as early as tomorrow. Still, if he doesn’t return, you could be in for two more strong Dunleavy performances this week as the Bulls play both Friday and Saturday…As reported above, Ray Felton will be out 2-3 weeks, and Pablo Prigioni got the start over both Tim Hardaway Jr. and Beno Udrih but didn’t do too much with it…Ed Davis was out again last night, and Jon Leuer dropped 17-6-2-2-2 with 2 3pm. Like clockwork. Davis is targeting a return tomorrow…It was the return we’d all been waiting for: Marvin Williams. He wasn’t too impressive in his return (neither was Kobe), but he did push Enes Kanter back way down in the rotation despite some decent games while Williams was gone (all of which the Jazz lost). It should be safe to get Williams back into your line-ups…Let’s see what Derrick Williams and Jason Thompson are like when Rudy Gay is playing before we decide whether to pick them up.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (36%)
2. Glen Davis (38%)
3. Marvin Williams (9%)
4. Al-Farouq Aminu (18%)
5. Jason Smith (22%)

After seeing that Williams will be starting again and Kanter will be stuck back on the bench, I need to move him up given what he’s done in the past. I still believe in Reggie Jackson, Jeff Taylor and Tony Wroten, but I couldn’t continue leaving Aminu and Smith off this list given their monster numbers lately.

Hindsight: You’ll notice that, while their numbers are eye-popping, Aminu and Smith actually have pretty low Yahoo! rankings. This is partially because their percentages have been pretty lousy, but it also reflects a quirk in Yahoo!’s ranking system. Basically, Yahoo! loves the peripheral stats: threes, steals, blocks and percentages. They are right to do so because those stats are hard to get consistently, but I believe they put way too much emphasis on them.

Danny Green is the ultimate example of this. For the year, he averages 7.9 pts, 3.2 reb, 1.4 ast, 1.2 stl, 0.9 blk, 1.7 3pm and only 1.0 TO on 44.3% FG and 100% FT in 23 mpg. The FT% is a mirage, however, as he only takes 0.3 FTA a game, making that contribution negligible. Now 1.7 3pm, 1.2 stl and 0.9 blk are useful stats, and he doesn’t hurt you in FG% or turnovers.

Do those make him the 75th best fantasy player though? Would you rather have him than Manu Ginobili (77th), Evan Turner (95th), Joe Johnson (99th), Corey Brewer (104th) or Jeff Green (116th)?

Those are just some of the players who play Green’s position. There are also guys like Brandon Jennings (79th), David Lee (81st), Jeff Teague (96th), Greg Monroe (101st), Nikola Pekovic (109th), Pau Gasol (111th), Kyrie Irving (118th) and Tony Parker (123rd) who all rank below Green.

Yes, I have definitely used Yahoo! rankings as part of my argument. They are a good reference point and indicator that a player might be weak or strong in an area you may not have noticed, but ultimately you need to be looking at the numbers themselves and how they help your team.

Pickup of the Day: Reggie Jackson

(Mark D. Smith / USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pickup of the Day: Andray Blatche

(Richard Mackson / USA TODAY Sports)

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 Saturday, November 16 is Andray Blatche. He’s owned in 5% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.3% of ESPN Leagues. Fantasy owners who were lucky enough to get him on their fantasy teams last year when he filled in for Brook Lopez can attest to his upside, and he’s about to get the same opportunity again with Lopez limping around on a bum ankle.

Here’s a look at Blatche’s line tonight against LA:
20131116 Andray Blatche

The Nets have been dropping like bad dubstep beats (and bad analogies!) this week, with Deron Williams going down with an ankle sprain last night and apparently infecting Brook Lopez with the same ailment today (in less severe absences, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce also sat out for what Gregg Popovich would categorize as “DNP – Old”). The big winners here are Shaun Livingston and Andray Blatche. Of the two, Blatche has the higher upside. Livingston will give you solid numbers in points, rebounds, assists and the percentages, but I’m wary of players that don’t give me anything in threes, steals, or blocks.

Both Williams and Lopez appear day-to-day, so don’t consider dropping anyone with long-term value for either Livingston or Blatche. We might be looking at a one-week rental at best, but, especially if you’ve just lost either of those Nets starters, their replacements are worthwhile fill-ins.

Is he legit? Oh yeah. In his eight starts filling in for Brook Lopez last year, Andray Blatche averaged 17.9 pts, 9.3 reb, 1.5 ast and 1.8 stl in 30.5 mpg. He’s already dropped similar numbers tonight. Remember, this is a very temporary rental, but the type of numbers Blatche can give you are difficult to find on the waiver wire.

Other Notable Players: Those of you who inserted DeJuan Blair into your line-up received a nice reward with a robust 18-5-2-2-1 line. Nothing about his role has changed in Dallas, so don’t expect this on the regular…Martell Webster didn’t have a good shooting night but still played 42 min and had a decent line. He’ll continue to have value until Trevor Ariza returns, which might be in a week…It was also a terrible shooting night for Josh McRoberts, but he did drop 9 assists and 7 rebounds. He continues to be the most surprising source of assists in fantasy basketball this year, and the fact that Cody Zeller got less than seven minutes tonight just solidifies McBob’s position…How about Shelvin Mack with the 12 pts and 12 ast! Not sure if he got additional run tonight so Jeff Teague could take a break after his monster game last night, but Teague played fine and isn’t injured, so don’t expect more like this from Mack…Tony Wroten had a third straight productive game, and MCW will be out until Wednesday at least. Darius Morris can be ignored, however, as he got all his points during garbage time of a major blowout…Derrick Rose returned, but Kirk Hinrich stayed productive? Okay, now I’m paying attention, because Rose has been anything but reliable this year…Even though I made him a Pickup of the Day, I still should’ve been higher on Terrence Jones. However, it is worth noting that Donatas Motiejunas got 16 min of playing time. Motiejunas is whom the Rockets wanted taking over that PF spot coming into the season, so there might be competition for Jones after all even with Greg Smith injured and Omer Asik sulking at the end of the bench…Dante Cunningham had a similar game to last night’s, except he shot better and added 3 ast and 5 stl. Still think he’s a non-factor though…Another horrible shooting night for Zaza Pachulia, but I am going to continue preaching patience because he’s still contributing in other areas and getting increased minutes. On the other hand, John Henson had a great game in a mere 16 min, but it would’ve been much better if he had been able to stay out of foul trouble…Shaun Livingston put up numbers but–as seems to be the trend tonight–had a disappointing shooting night. That’s not common for him, so except it to get back up above .500 soon. Along with Blatche, Mason Plumlee also took advantage of both Lopez and Garnett’s absences. He had a nice 19-6 night with a steal and a block, though he went a Dwightmarish 5 for 12 at the line. Finally, Alan Anderson and Reggie Evans also played some decent minutes, but both Pierce and Garnett should be back in the line-up by the next game.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues): Another day, and the pickings get slimmer. We bid farewell to Jordan Hill, who hit 41% owned today.

1. Martell Webster (25%)
2. Josh McRoberts (14%)
3. Jodie Meeks (23%)
4. Terrence Jones (13%)
5. Andray Blatche (5%)

Hindsight: I popped the champagne way, way too early on Jared Sullinger (and now am probably shelving him way too early to overcompensate). According to coach Brad Stevens, conditioning was the reason Sullinger only played 14 min tonight. The way Stevens is handling him is not a good sign for anyone hoping for any type of consistency. I am 100% still holding on to Sullinger, but there is a small thought creeping into my mind and wondering if I might be a year early and an offseason of intense conditioning away from his true breakout season.