Pickup of the Day: Giannis Antetokounmpo


(Jerome Miron / USA TODAY Sports)

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

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Tuesday, December 17 is Giannis Antetokounmpo, and I’d been practicing spelling that name for a long time in anticipation of this moment, even though I may be jumping the gun. He’s owned in 9% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.6% of ESPN Leagues, but he is by far the no. 1 pickup today across Yahoo leagues. He’ll likely be available for longer in ESPN leagues because, quite frankly, ESPN has an awful interface that requires you to either spell “Antetokounmpo” perfectly or browse through all players until you find him.

He didn’t play last night, but his averages over the last three games are 12.0 pts, 8.7 reb, 1.7 ast, 0.7 stl, 0.7 blk and 0.3 TO on 47.6 FG% on 7.0 FGA and 80.0% FT on 6.7 FTA in 30 mpg. That FT shooting is a sneakily healthy boost, but otherwise his numbers don’t really stand out. Marvin Williams could do that.

Williams is actually an interesting comparison. As an incredible physical specimen drafted no. 2 overall above Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the 2005 NBA draft, expectations for him were sky high, and he’s now considered a bust despite some solid work for Utah this season. Antetokounmpo, another incredible physical specimen, was drafted 15th this year in what is largely considered the worst draft class since 2000. There were no expectations for him this year, but he has lit the blogosphere on fire, dominating headlines even as fellow Buck John Henson is putting up insanely good career numbers.

Antetokounmpo is getting his first start tonight because O.J. Mayo is out attending his grandmother’s funeral (condolences to Mayo), so this may not be a permanent move. As I mentioned many times before, he’s eventually going to get lots of minutes this season when the Buck give up and commit to playing their young guys, but it’s only mid-December. I don’t think the tanking is happening just yet, even if they are the worst team in the league right now.

Antetokounmpo’s potential is undeniable, though, and not just on the floor. Here’s a translated excerpt from his Greek blog that won me over completely:

It was an amazing experience, the game vs the Heat. Until of course the next day and the game vs the Thunder. I have said many times that Durant is my idol. He is the player I watch the most. When I came out on the court for a workout, he was already there, shooting. Working. I stopped and watched him. He was deadly serious. I could see it in his face. He was not relaxed. He was warming up with tension. I felt a satisfaction, when I saw my idol, approaching basketball with such determination.

 

In the span of just two days I found myself against two superstars like LeBron and Durant and I got the biggest lessons. Two of the biggest and most recognizable basketball players, with huge bank accounts, working hard, like they have something to prove, while in reality they have nothing to prove. LeBron is a two-time champion and four-time MVP. They have both played in so many All Star Games. Even so, work never stops. They do not rest in their glory. They are after perfection.

 

At the same time I saw right in front of my eyes what the combination of talent and hard work can offer to an athlete.

I read something like that from a 19-year old kid, and I can’t help but think this kid just gets it. I’ve only thought that about one other NBA rookie, and I see the same insight and determination in Antetokounmpo, if not necessarily the same polished skill set, as I did in his idol.

If you really need your bench guys to give you something, then I think you might be a little early pulling the trigger on the Alphabet Soup. Otherwise, he’s worth a roster spot just to be able to follow him more closely every day.

Other Notable Players: Many people caught last night’s thrilling point guard battle between elite PGs Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, but how many of you caught the backup battle between mediocre PGs Jarrett Jack and Slo Mo Williams? Jack has averaged 12.0 pts, 3.5 reb, 3.8 ast and 1.0 3pm in his last four, and Williams has 11.0 pts, 2.5 reb, 5.0 ast and 1.8 3pm over his last four…In each game since his 31-point game, Derrick Williams has played in fewer minutes than the last, culminating in last night’s 22 min in which he dropped a 5-0-1-1-0. I was skeptical of his ability to push Jason Thompson out of the line-up after Rudy Gay got there. Should’ve stayed skeptical. This is a timeshare…Jordan Hill isn’t injured. He just picked up four fouls in seven and a half minutes. Don’t worry, Larry Sanders does this kind of stuff all the time and look how well he’s–er, nevermind…An update on Lakers guards: Nick Young is still unbelievably most consistent, Jodie Meeks is regaining his value, Wes Johnson finally put up another weirdly useful line 7-5-6-1-1 in 32 min, and I jumped the gun on Jordan Farmar (see Hindsight below)…Mike Conley sat out last night, and Jerryd Bayless was ehh, just okay. Oh, and if anybody asks, I totally had Jon Leuer at the top of my Top Five Pickups for the last two weeks, but I’d been misspelling his name as “Kosta Koufos“…After 10 games averaging 15.3 pts, 3.7 reb, 2.8 ast and 1.2 3pm in 27 min, Reggie Jackson has averaged just 9-3-3.5 plus no threes in 21 min in his last two games. Some might blame Thabo Sefolosha’s return, but Jackson has been getting steady minutes long before Sefolosha sat for three games. I’m not worried yet. Jackson’s numbers will be up-and-down, but he’s been pretty locked into sixth man minutes for a while now…Al-Farouq Aminu didn’t exactly stuff the stat sheet, but he prodded it from many angles with a 10-8-2-1-2 line. He got even fewer minutes than megabust Austin Rivers, who seems to be the one benefiting the most from Tyreke Evans’s absence. I call Rivers a megabust, but a Twitter commenter did note that Rivers has outplayed max contract-owner Eric Gordon in the last two games, so who’s the real megabust lately?…Andre Iguodala returned last night, and, though he did very little, you can now safely bench Harrison Barnes. If you didn’t drop Draymond Green weeks ago, then A. you can definitely do it now and B. you’re probably paying way too much attention to silly things like your job or your family. Stop neglecting your fantasy basketball team!

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

1. Jon Leuer (25%)
2. Jordan Hill (33%)
4. Marvin Williams (15%)
5. Jordan Farmar (7%)
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo (9%)

Clearly I’m not worried about Hill, although I also ignored the signs for him and Koufos before. Might regret not bumping Glen Davis back up. On the other hand, the bad news on Farmar drops him down, but not too far (see hindsight below). Michael Carter-Williams’s probable return on Friday means Wroten’s value as a starter for your fantasy team is probably done for the moment. Honestly, I’m not sure that Wroten’s less valuable than Antetokounmpo moving forward in the short-term, but the Alphabet Soup is to me what RG3 was to Matthew Berry last year. I can’t speak about him objectively.

Hindsight: All that optimism for a Friday return for Jordan Farmar is gone. Looks like he’s out at least another week, but if he’s back by Christmas, you’ll still be glad you stashed him…Over the All-Star break, when there are no games, I’m going to do a list of my best and worst pickups. Jeff Taylor will definitely be on my list of worst. This guy’s shooting just fell off a cliff this year.

No Pickup of the Day

Once again, there is no Pickup of the Day today. Check out the Top 5 below to see whom we recommend from already discussed players.

Other Notable Players: Tony Wroten did start again and got 36 min, but missed 10 of his 12 shots. He till finished with 10 rebounds and seven assists though. Michael Carter-Williams is still unsure of when he’ll return, so keep playing Wroten…Nate Robinson filled it up last night with a 16-3-2-4-0 and one 3pm. Outside of scoring and a three, he’s not giving you much per game, however…Glen Rice, Jr. filled in for the injured Martell Webster. Nothing to see here. They don’t play again until Friday, and Webster may even be back by then…Jeff Taylor failed to build on his solid first start for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist when he sat out last night with a bruised heel injury. Anthony Tolliver took over the start and did nothing with it. Josh McRoberts had a nice 11-10-6-1-1 and one 3pm though. He’s put himself back on the map with 8.3 pts, 9.3 reb, 4.3 ast and 2.0 stl in his past three games, though don’t trust him until you see more…Andrew Nicholson has started the last three games with Nikola Vucevic out and Jason Maxiell demoted to the bench. He finally broke through in his best game of the year last night, dropping 19 pts, 11 reb, 4 blk and 2 3pm in 37 min. Vucevic is questionable for tomorrow’s game, so Nicholson still has value for now…I told you if Ed Davis, Zach Randolph or both are out, play Jon Leuer. (Actually I said Leuer’s value collapses when both Davis and Randolph play, then tried to pretend like I said he’s a great play when either sits–calling myself out!) At least until Marc Gasol returns…Jerryd Bayless took over the start for Quincy Pondexter, who’s done for the season, but Bayless didn’t do much. Tony Allen could be back as soon as tomorrow, so this isn’t worth following…Jeremy Evans got the start with Derrick Favors out, but he didn’t do much either. He’s versatile though, and his return pushed Rudy Gobert out of the rotation…Alec Burks looks legit again, but remember he doesn’t get you any peripheral stats, only the meat and potatoes. Over his last seven, he’s averaged 16.6 pts, 3.7 reb, 2.9 ast, 0.3 stl, 0.1 blk, 0.9 3pm, 50.6% FG on 11.6 FGA and 84.8% FT on 4.7 FTA…Derrick Williams blew up for a career-high 31 pts to go with 5 reb, 5 stl and 3 3pm, but remember this was without Rudy Gay in the line-up. Even though he was our Pickup before, Williams’s stock might be even lower now than it was then, as this huge game won’t matter when Gay takes over the starting SF spot. Williams still has to beat out Jason Thompson for most of the minutes at PF to have value, and it’s unclear whether he can yet.

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 (16%)

No change in these parts either, except a one percent increase for Tony Wroten. Sixteen teams and eight games are on the slate tonight though, so we’ll see if anything shakes up.

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: Brandon Bass


(Jared Wickerham / 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 27 is Brandon Bass. He’s owned in 35% of Yahoo! Leagues and 23.5% of ESPN Leagues. On a night with available pickups who’ve had far more explosive games recently (i.e. Jordan Farmar and Aaron Brooks, see Other Notable Players), I’m choosing certainty over upside with our Pickup.

Here’s a look at Bass’s line last night against Memphis:
20131127 Brandon Bass

Bass’s line (6-13-1-0-4) was downright Kosta Koufos-esque (7-13-1-1-3), but his shooting is usually better than this. In the three games since Kelly Olynyk sprained his right ankle, Bass has averaged 13.0 pts, 8.3 reb and 2.3 blk on 50.0% FG and a perfect 11-for-11 from the line. Olynyk was supposed to be out two weeks from the time of his injury on Nov. 23, but he was spotted in a walking boot tonight while his prognosis still seems to be two weeks from now. Keep Bass in your line-up until you see Olynyk playing and cutting into Bass’s value.

Is he legit? Bass had a fast start to this season and quickly rose above 40% before I had a chance to recommend him (plus there was the whole embarrassing part about me being enamored with Vitor Faverani). Boston then decided they’d rather see more of Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, and Bass saw his minutes slip to around 20 a game and lost his starting spot for two games before Olynyk’s injury. Now he seems determined to prove he deserves the minutes, even out-performing himself from earlier in the year. Bass was expected to be the veteran leader and defensive anchor for the Celtics coming into this season. Now he’s finally playing like he is.

Other Notable Players: Glen Davis really produced tonight, but the bigger news is that Jameer Nelson sprained his left foot and did not return. E’Twaun Moore took over and will be in line for more minutes and likely the start, though Victor Oladipo is the real winner here. Still, Moore averaged 11.0 pts, 3.4 reb, 4.9 ast and 1.4 3’s in 21 starts last season…Ed Davis and Jerryd Bayless both had their best games of the year. Marc Gasol’s injury may have opened up opportunities for more than just Kosta Koufos, but wait and see on those two…Kirk Hinrich and Tony Snell both fared much better in their second start together, while Mike Dunleavy dropped off significantly. Hinrich is still the best add here (assuming Jimmy Butler is already gone in your league), but I’m not ready to put Snell ahead of Dunleavy yet…Despite my misgivings about his game, it’s getting hard to ignore Nick Young when he drops 26 points with four threes tonight after averaging 14.7 pts, 1.3 stl and 2.0 3’s in his previous three games. Meanwhile, Jordan Farmar continues lighting it up off the bench. His hyper-productivity in limited minutes (21 mpg in past four) doesn’t seem sustainable, but he’s the 6th ranked Yahoo! player in the past seven days after factoring in tonight’s 15-4-3-2-2 with FIVE threes. Sneaky Steve Blake’s not in any trouble at all, but if you’ve got the roster space, Farmar’s worth a speculative add…Wish I could say the same about Shaun Livingston, but this is his fifth straight single-digit scoring effort, and Alan Anderson outplayed him tonight…Aaron Brooks, who had a great game four nights ago in James Harden’s first night sitting out, had another solid game tonight as Jeremy Lin suffered a right knee contusion. Either Brooks or Francisco Garcia will take over the starting spot if Lin misses time, though that’s also contingent on when James Harden returns. If I had to choose one, I’d pick the more multidimensional Brooks, though this should be Patrick Beverley’s time to prove he can put up more than just defense…Remember when I said Caron Butler was back and Khris Middleton would become useless? Just kidding! Almost tempted to recommend picking up Middleton, since he’s averaging 15.7 pts, 5.3 reb, 2.0 ast and 1.7 3’s on stellar percentages over his last three, but I still refuse to recommend any Bucks. Also, remember when I said John Henson was the only Buck resistant to coach Larry Drew’s mad rotations? Just kidding again!…Nate Robinson: 13.3 pts, 2.0 reb, 2.8 ast, 2.5 3’s over his last four. He’s starting to find his groove off the bench for the Nuggets and was extremely productive in this role last year for the Bulls, though that team was far more offensively challenged…Check out Reggie Jackson with the 23-4-2 game on 71.4% FG and 100% FT! And that’s with Russell Westbrook in the line-up! At 14.0 pts, 5.0 reb, 3.5 ast and 1.0 stl over his last four, he’s a much more versatile weapon off the bench than Jeremy Lamb is. Unlike Robinson, however, I don’t see Jackson’s value as rising so much as fluctuating. I love Jackson’s talent, but he’ll have to exhibit much more consistency playing with Westbrook in the line-up before I trust him again…Samuel Dalembert returned to the starting line-up, but DeJuan Blair stayed productive with a 10-9-2 (stl). Unfortunately, he’s averaging only 19:16 mpg over his last four games while he saw 24:25 mpg over his first four, although his stats haven’t dropped by much. Still a sneaky source of steals from the C-spot…Channing Frye25-9-2-1-2, 3 triples, 83.3% FG, 100% FT. After Big Baby and Brandon Knight, I really needed a Pickup to pan out. The running joke is still that Eric Bledsoe was going to play and then didn’t, and that joke will continue on Friday. Regardless, if Frye is still available in your league, his upside is too high to let Bledsoe’s return worry you…Markieff Morris dropped back below 40% owned, but Marcus Morris has actually been the more productive twin recently with a better FG% and more threes. Markieff had the better game tonight yet somehow finished with a +/- of 0 while Marcus finished with +29 despite both coming off the bench. Wonder if that’s a Yahoo! typo…Raymond Felton returned to the line-up, and Beno Udrih plummeted from 31 min to three. Well, it was frustratingly inconsistent while it lasted…Matt Barnes remained out, but Jared Dudley did not deliver, even while playing 35 min. Usually he does enough small things to still be valuable when he’s not scoring, but he doesn’t seem to be having those opportunities on the Clippers. 

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

1. Channing Frye (25%)
2. Jared Sullinger (35%)
3. Marvin Williams (7%)
4. Glen Davis (32%)
5. Kosta Koufos (25%)

Remember how I told you not to sweat Bledsoe coming back and to pick up Frye with confidence because he’s balling out of this world? I’m taking my own advice. Frye’s been held off this list for way too long. Meanwhile, Beverley needs to prove he has more fantasy value than Aaron Brooks before I’ll consider putting him back. Had to push Sullinger up after a strong performance tonight, while Koufos’s lack of scoring and FG% are troubling.

Hindsight: Josh McRoberts has been terrible lately, but I wasn’t lying about his FG% playing next to Al Jefferson. 50.0% in five games with Jefferson, 31.9% in five games without. The problem is he’s averaging only 6.8 FGA since Jefferson’s return…Harrison Barnes was definitely the guy who took over for Iguodala, while Draymond Green has gotten worse after bumping up to sixth man…Mo Williams, he is not back.

There are no games tomorrow night, so have a Happy Thanksgiving and see you all on Friday!