Pickup of the Day: Terrence Jones


(Soobum Im / 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 Wednesday, December 25–#NBAXmas–is Terrence Jones. After a strong stretch earlier in the season, his numbers took a huge dive during and following a bout with the flu this month, to the point where his ownership dropped to 35% in Yahoo! Leagues and 28.6% in ESPN Leagues. It was never clear why Jones declined so much even after recovering from his illness, but last night’s game showed he’s still got the mojo he had earlier this year.

Here’s a look at his line last night against San Antonio:
20131225 Terrence Jones

Still got it! This is by far his best game since he dropped 16 points, 13 reb, 2 stl, 5 blk and 2 3pm against Orlando on Dec. 8. In the seven games between that game and last night’s, however, he was terrible. Here’s a comparison of how he did in those seven games against his other 15 starts this season:

20131225 Terrence Chart

Right now, we can only speculate as to whether his play was due to the after-effects of the flu or something more persistent, but his near across-the-board contributions (albeit with disappointing FT%) when he is playing well makes him worth the gamble. If he’s back on track, you need to get him back into your rotation or at least on your bench so you can monitor him.

Other Notable Players: If the Bulls ever trade either Luol Deng or Carlos Boozer, grab Taj Gibson immediately. Here’s a look at Gibson’s numbers with and without Deng in the line-up this season:

20131226 Taj Chart

Gibson’s numbers seem decent even overall, but he scored in single digits in nine of his first 13 games before Boozer slipped in production for three games. Then Gibson went off, culminating in a 26-14 and 5 blk in a triple-OT affair on Dec. 2. After that, Boozer got productive again, but Deng went out, so Gibson was able to keep his numbers up until Deng returned on Dec. 14. Gibson looked to be heading back to his early-season levels of unproductivity at that point, until Deng missed the last three games. Now Gibson is playing strong again, but this will end again as soon as Deng returns.

What to do with Gibson then? If you have a free roster spot, stash him. This is a guy who plays the extremely valuable PF/C position who is getting more opportunities this year than any since his rookie season before Boozer arrived in Chicago.

Another notable event in Chicago was the return of Kirk Hinrich to the starting line-up, though he only managed 20 min and D.J. Augustin outplayed him in his 33 min. Hinrich has gotten a lot of minutes at PG this year with Derrick Rose out, though possibly undeservedly considering he’s shooting a career-low 34.5% FG. Augustin has definitely outplayed Hinrich recently, but this is likely to become a timeshare that sinks both players’ values.

So Brooklyn still sucks, but Mirza Teletovic put up 17 pts, 2 blk, and 3 3pm in 19 min. As Rotoworld’s Aaron Bruski noted, those are Andrea Bargnani numbers when Bargnani is actually good (not last night). Anything is a possible in a post-Brook Lopez world. Speaking of whom, his anticipated successor Andray Blatche has been subpar in both games since Lopez’s season ended, but Blatche is going to receive too many opportunities to ignore.

As far as that other crappy team in the boroughs, there was plenty of notable fantasy pickup news with Raymond Felton and Carmelo Anthony both sitting on the bench looking like this. Beno Udrih was awful, which is bad news considering both Felton and Pablo Prigioni are still expected to be out a while longer. Another PG option to which the Knicks may turn is rookie Tim Hardaway Jr., who put in an efficient 10 points on 4-of-8 FG in the first half and then a more J.R. Smith-esque 11 points on 4-of-11 FG in the second. You would expect a noted defender like him to get more steals, but he doesn’t. Amar’e Stoudemire scoring 22 points in last night’s blowout was nice, but he hadn’t scored in double-digits or played 20 min in his previous four games.

The Lakers actually played the Heat pretty tightly last night, considering the blowouts that preceded their game. Jodie Meeks was excellent, dropping 17-4-3-2-0 with 4 3pm on 50.0% FG. You’re welcome, 1.5 people who picked him up because of Tuesday’s column. I still like him way more than I like Nick Young, who scored a little more last night (20 pts) but got no steals and shot 38.9% FG.

Jordan Hill looked great against the weak Miami frontline, going 7-5-1-3-2 in his 12 min in the first half. He wasn’t as good with 2-5-0-1-1 in his 12 min in the second. Somehow, coach Mike D’Antoni still managed to keep his minutes limited even without playing either Chris Kaman or Robert Sacre. Considering Pau Gasol is now day-to-day, one would expect D’Antoni would have no choice but to play Hill 30+ min. It seems like a lock, but D’Antoni has become a savant at finding ways to jerk Hill’s minutes around.

The big news should’ve been that Jordan Farmar returned and played over 32 min, but he only managed a paltry 3-5-2-0-0 while missing six of his seven shots and committing four turnovers. He did not look aggressive at all, but this should change as he gets more comfortable with his recovering hamstring. Also, as noted before in this blog, the Heat are an absolutely brutal matchup for opposing point guards. “Backup PG” Xavier Henry didn’t do too badly, going 14-5-2-2-0, but he’s destined for a deeper bench role now.

Aaron Brooks seemed good in his first game playing behind Jeremy Lin, but he was horrible last night. Unlike many fantasy prognosticators, I am still fully on-board with Brooks’s value. Houston won’t likely play him like they did Patrick Beverley, where both Lin and Beverley often saw the court together at the end of games, but Brooks hopefully will get chances to come in as a scorer and playmaker off the bench much the same way that Isaiah Thomas did earlier this year for Sacramento.

Both Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes put up duds last night after alternating good games for the previous two, and that’s all the news from the only marquee matchup on Christmas.

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

1. Terrence Jones (35%)
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (19%)
2. Jordan Farmar (18%)
3. Reggie Jackson (39%)
4. Glen Davis (38%)

Jones takes the top spot, and Augustin falls off. I’m not worried for Antetokounmpo’s value with news that Larry Sanders is probable to return this Friday. Sanders is more likely to affect John Henson and Miroslav Raduljica’s values, though he was miserable earlier this season and will have to work even harder to get back to the level at which he was playing last year under a different coach.

That does it for Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickups for 2013. I am out of the country until the second week of January, where I’ll have many, many games and much, much player news on which to catch up and report to you. In the mean time, follow @sneakyfantasybb on Twitter to catch any brief up-to-date news I may need to report.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday season, and have a happy new year!

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Pickup of the Day: Jodie Meeks


(AP Photo / Ross D. Franklin)

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 23 is Jodie Meeks. He’s owned in 26% of Yahoo! Leagues and 13.8% of ESPN Leagues. Much more press following Kobe Bryant’s injury has been given to Xavier Henry playing the point, Jordan Farmar’s return, and Nick Young’s general swagginess, but Meeks has quietly outperformed all non-Pau Gasol Lakers lately with a combination of threes, good percentages, and steals.

It’s been eight days since we’ve recommended a player based on his previous night’s performance, but here’s a look at Meeks’s line last night against Phoenix:
20131223 Jodie Meeks

Meeks’s value collapsed during Kobe’s six-game return, but he was excellent before and now becoming excellent again now that Kobe will be wearing his custom Boswell suits on the bench for six weeks.

Here’s a breakdown of Meeks’s numbers before, during, and after Kobe:

20131223 Jodie Chart

A lot of his recent value has been due to the fact that he’s played a lot more than his usual number of minutes with injuries decimating the Lakers, but there was clearly a huge dropoff in his production when Kobe was in the line-up. Before Kobe, however, this was a guy who shot 50% from the field, 83.7% from the line and hit 2.3 threes in under 30 mpg. I don’t know if he can keep up his most recent streak of steals, but Meeks is a solid SG prospect that should become even better when a real PG, like Jordan Farmar, is setting up his shots.

Other Notable Players: Here’s the argument why Khris Middleton isn’t the Pickup: he is averaging an astounding 45 mpg over his last four games, three of which went into overtime. He also dropped 29 points in another overtime game on Dec. 6, but in those five games in between? 7.8 pts, 3.4 reb, 1.4 ast, 0.2 stl, 0.8 3pm on 36.8% FG in 28 mpg.

I’m desperately scrambling in one of my leagues after losing Brook Lopez for the year, so please excuse some fawning over mediocre or fluky big man performances possibly for the rest of the year (Re: Jordan Hill). That being said, Cody Zeller had his best game of his professional career so far last night in that overtime win against the Bucks, dropping 12-7-4-0-2 in 22 min. Somehow, Charlotte is currently the six-seed in a putrid Eastern Conference, but if their season collapses later in the year, we may see more of him. Right now, he’s not a threat to steal minutes away from either Josh McRoberts or Al Jefferson.

By the way, Lopez is actually still owned in 60% of Yahoo! Leagues despite being done for the season. Give or take a few percentage points for people who just refuse to believe news and hold out for his return, ownership percentages for guys like him, who at one point were 100% owned, are a good indicator of how many fantasy managers are mostly or completely inactive. Another example: Derrick Rose is still owned in 36% of Yahoo! leagues despite being declared out for the season a month ago. In ESPN leagues, BroLo and D-Rose are at 41.3% and 16.5% respectively, so those managers might be more active.

Another strong game for Glen Davis, while Victor Oladipo continues tumbling. Whether or not Jameer Nelson or Arron Afflalo are traded, at some point this year Oladipo will take back the reins. In the meantime, Big Baby seems like he’s the bigger staple in the line-up.

It says a lot that Lou Williams couldn’t produce in 34 minutes of an OT game. And what do we think about DeMarre Carroll’s 8-4-2-1-1 with 2 3pm? As much as I rave about Wes Johnson, I need to mention that Carroll has been a better version of him.

Brooklyn is just a terrible team, but I find it interesting that Mirza Teletovic played 30 min. 31 mpg over his last two including one with BroLo, though Teletovic is anything but consistent with his production so far.

Brandan Wright fell off, but Vince Carter stacked two nice games each around a goose egg on Dec. 20. 14.8 pts, 3.8 reb, 5.8 ast, 1.0 stl, 1.8 3pm on 57.1% FG and 80.0% FT in those four games overall.

Jeremy Lin came back, but Aaron Brooks still pushed 30 min and was good, as predicted. What’s also interesting is Terrence Jones also played 30 min, his most minutes in 10 days. He’s fallen off hard for almost two weeks now, but he was so good before that you at least need to keep an eye on him if not add him.

Kosta Koufos, Jon Leuer and Ed Davis were all so subpar that coach Dave Joerger gave 33 min to James Johnson? Johnson’s value disappears when Tayshaun Prince returns, but a return to the starting line-up might mean Koufos can once again become a double-double + blocks machine.

Just when I thought John Salmons might overtake Terrence Ross, Ross comes out, drops 23 points on 62.5% FG, and makes me look like a fool. Although once again he didn’t do more than get points and threes.

Mediocre big man alert: Timofey Mozgov dropped a double-double, but it was with Kenneth Faried out. Coach Brian Shaw expects Faried to play Friday.

Drop Jordan Hill. Some people might still believe in him, but his recent numbers indicate that coach Mike D’Antoni has no interest in playing his second-best big man consistently regardless of matchups. Also, Chris Kaman is no good again now that Gasol’s back.

And last night it was Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green and Marcus Morris who showed up for the Suns. Plumlee’s career rebounding night shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, as numerous big men have had career nights against the Lakers this year. Green however has been good three games in a row now, averaging 21 points and 5.3 threes in 28 mpg. His biggest problem this year has been staying consistent with both Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe in the line-up, and he’s doing that now. Still, who knows if he’ll be a victim of the Suns’ carousel next game.

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

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (18%)
2. Jordan Farmar (14%)
3. Reggie Jackson (38%)
4. Glen Davis (37%)
5. D.J. Augustin (22%)

Goodbye Jon Leuer, hello D.J. Augustin. Augustin should probably be much higher for a guy who averaged 13.7 pts, 2.3 reb, 8.0 ast, 1.7 stl and 3.0 3pm on 50.0% FG and 80.0% FT, but I still distrust what I’m seeing from him until Kirk Hinrich returns. Though he’s certainly producing a lot more than was expected from him when Chicago picked him up. The Lakers only wish they could say the same about Kendall Marshall.

Hindsight: So I was holding on to Leuer too long. He is by far the Grizzlies’ most offensively talented big man off the bench, but his streak of seven straight double-digit scoring games did correspond to six Grizzly losses…A little over a week ago, I dropped Brandon Knight to pick back up Jordan Hill. If you want to stop reading my blog forever now, I’ll understand. In my defense, I wanted another big man because BroLo couldn’t stay healthy (and now rests in peace on our waiver wire), and I thought Knight’s FG% would sink my team. I still think his FG% will drop back off, but BK — 25.0 pts, 8.8 reb, 7.8 ast, 2.8 3pm on 45.7% FG over his last four. For someone else’s team. Damn.

And with that last nugget of coal in my stocking, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. There are no games tonight, so I’ll talk to you all again the day after #NBAXmas!

Pickup of the Day: Andray Blatche

(Al Bello / 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 Friday, December 20 is once again Andray Blatche, and this time it’s not even close. He’s owned in 36% of Yahoo! Leagues and 22.3% of ESPN Leagues, but he should be close to 100% owned for the rest of the season. In fact, if you own Brook Lopez, go get him right now. If you haven’t heard why yet, it’s got nothing to do with the 6-3-2 that Blatche dropped last night and everything to do with the news that Lopez has broken his foot and is likely done for the season.

Having previously lived in Washington, D.C. and closely followed the Gilbert Arenas-era Wizards, I’m surprised that I’d ever feel so fervently about Andray Blatche, the guy who slept in the Verizon Center for several nights as a rookie because he blew all his substantial paychecks and couldn’t pay rent. Yet, he’s not been the same player since moving to Brooklyn. As previously mentioned, he averaged 17.9 pts, 9.3 reb, 1.5 ast and 1.8 stl in 30.5 mpg in eight starts for Lopez last season.

Blatche hasn’t started as much this season as the Nets have a deeper bench and thus have also rotated guys like Kevin Garnett, Reggie Evans and Mirza Teletovic in the starting line-up (KG is technically a regular starter, but injuries have rotated him in and out). Still, Blatche’s numbers in his nine games without Brook Lopez aren’t much worse: 17.6 pts, 6.4 reb, 1.1 ast, 1.3 stl, 0.8 blk on excellent 56.1% FG and 82.9% FT in 27.6 mpg.

Of all the players who stand to benefit from Lopez’s 31+ mpg that just opened up every night–Blatche, Evans, Teletovic and rookie Mason Plumlee–Blatche has been by far the most productive both in reality and in fantasy. He may have a little more competition for minutes than he did last year, but he’s the Nets’ best option. That’s saying a lot for a guy who once couldn’t pay rent on an NBA salary.

As for Brook Lopez himself, the official word is that he’s only “likely” to miss the rest of the season. He will be further evaluated in the upcoming days, and surgery will be likely. We may not know his actual timetable until the end of next week, but I have a hard time believing this will be like Marc Gasol’s timetable shifting from 6-8 weeks to 3-4 weeks. The expectation is that it’s season-ending, so at best you’re looking at a return close to the playoffs. If Blatche or someone else prominent is available in your leagues (somehow Paul Pierce and Spencer Hawes were available in some of my leagues), drop Lopez and grab them right now. If you’re in a deeper league without many notable options in your free agents pool, I understand if you want to hold on to him just a bit longer, but there’s likely no light at the end of this tunnel.

Other Notable Players: Some more Nets notes first from their overtime barn-burner against the Sixers last night. Pierce has clearly shaken off the rust from his injury, but Alan Anderson managed to drop 26-5-2-1-1 and 5 3pm last night. The 26 points were more than he scored in his previous four games combined, however. Still untrustworthy. Meanwhile Mirza Teletovic got the start for Garnett and dropped six threes to go with four rebounds, two assists and a block. He’s been an interesting source of points and threes for three of his past four games, but, in that fourth game, he posted a 0-0-0-1-1. Unfortunately, the Nets have absolutely no incentive to tank as they don’t even own their own first-round pick until 2019, so don’t expect them to give up and start playing their young prospects like Teletovic or Mason Plumlee any time soon. It’ll be interesting to see what they do the rest of the year, but most likely what they’ll do is suck very hard…Michael Carter-Williams finally returned from injury, but Tony Wroten still managed a decent 19-3-3 and 2 3pm game, though his turnover problems continued with four last night. He played less than 24 min last night, however, and he doesn’t look any closer to supplanting Hollis Thompson in the starting line-up. There isn’t much benefit to be gained from keeping him on your roster at this point, unless you’re waiting for the next MCW injury…Drop Marvin Williams if you haven’t already. Enes Kanter is on his way to reclaiming the starting PF spot, and even Jeremy Evans is outplaying Williams. Alec Burks continues looking like an interesting pickup, although his lack of peripheral stats (outside points-rebounds-assists) still makes him a limited asset…Lou Williams got most of his 25 points in garbage time, and he scored seven points total in his previous two games. He’s at least averaging out to what I expected he’d be getting when I made him the Pickup, but this wasn’t what I was hoping for…O.J. Mayo returned but came off the bench behind Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, Mayo was great, while Alphabet Soup was underwhelming. Like I said before, we’re too early on Antetokounmpo at this point, but his time is coming. He’s still worth a stash but not a play yet. On the other hand, Khris Middleton would be a more interesting play if he wasn’t averaging 36.0% FG over his past seven games…Mediocre PG alert: Jarrett Jack is averaging 14.3 pts, 4.7 reb, 4.3 ast and 1.0 3pm over his last three…Isaiah Thomas isn’t anywhere near our radar as a potential pickup, but I’m pointing out his subpar performance last night as an example of Miami’s formidable defense against point guards. Matchups don’t matter in fantasy basketball nearly as much as they do in fantasy football, but Miami has been the worst team for opposing point guards for years now…Danny Granger returned for the Pacers, which helps them a lot as a team but won’t matter nearly as much in fantasy. There is no reason he needs to be 55% owned, and Lance Stephenson owners should have no reason to fear. If the Paul George owner in your league is actually nervous about this, he or she is probably also dumb enough to get suckered into a lopsided trade for George…Terrence Ross continued doing what he does, which is not much, and Greivis Vasquez’s stock continues to plummet as we get further removed from the Kyle Lowry trade rumors…Not buying this Brandan Wright thing yet…It was the bench mob’s turn in Phoenix last night, as Markieff Morris, Gerald Green and Marcus Morris produced while P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee mainly disappointed. Frye was especially disappointing as he topped 20 points in his two previous games before dropping three last night. Meanwhile, Markieff filled up the stat line with 25-6-2-3-3, 2 3pm and 73.3% of a whopping 15 FTA. He is averaging a solid 1.2 stl and 1.2 blk over his last five, but Frye’s fantastic 2.6 3pm and better FG% still makes him more valuable. Obviously all the Phoenix players mentioned here are erratic from game-to-game, but Plumlee, Frye and Markieff flatten out to useful averages in the longer run…Remember when Corey Brewer was a useful fantasy player?…The big winners of the first of many Kobe Bryant-less Lakers game last night were Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry and Nick Young. Henry got the start at PG with mixed results, but he’ll own that spot until Jordan Farmar returns if you can stomach the low FG% and turnovers. I still believe Meeks has the most room to improve his stats, but the night obviously belonged to Swaggy P, another former Wizard who was abysmal in D.C. but has found new life with his new squad. I was too late to jump on his bandwagon, as he’s already up to 45% owned (I’m still stupidly refusing to drop Lopez for him), but he’s been a shockingly strong source of points and threes, though I’d expect his FG% to drop closer to his career 42.8%…On the other hand, I have no idea what coach Mike D’Antoni is doing with Jordan Hill, who only played 14 min last night despite a clear lack of big man options behind him on the Lakers’ bench. Even if he struggles again tonight, what are we to make out of this situation? Is D’Antoni really planning to rotate four guys through that PF position in every game?…Jon Leuer has now had two disappointing games in a row. I’m not sure what’s happening there, but neither Ed Davis nor Kosta Koufos did anything too inspiring. Leuer is averaging 14.0 pts, 5.7 reb and 2.0 3pm on 56.3% FG over his last three even after two stinkers, just to show you how strong a player he’s been. I wouldn’t give up on him yet, but something strange has been happening…Beno Udrih couldn’t keep his decent-to-good streak of games up to three, so he’s not worth owning now that Raymond Felton is targeting a Monday return. I’m seeing flashes of Patrick Beverley in Tim Hardaway Jr., which is not a good thing for fantasy purposes.

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

1. Andray Blatche (36%)
2. Jon Leuer (23%)
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo (18%)
4. Jordan Farmar (8%)
5. Reggie Jackson (37%)

GET. BLATCHE. NOW.

Hindsight: Well, former Pickup Jeff Taylor goes from disappointing to more clearly disappointing. He’s done for the year with a ruptured Achilles.

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.

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.

Pickup of the Day: Terrence Ross


(John E. Sokolowski / 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 Tuesday, December 10 is 2013 Dunk Contest Champ Terrence Ross. He’s owned in 2% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.6% of ESPN Leagues, and his first start of the season last night didn’t do anything to move that meter. Yet it’s the very fact that he started that should pique interests.

Here’s a look at his line last night against San Antonio:
20131210 Terrence Ross

There’s not much to look at here. Ross’s shooting was miserable, as were his turnover though those are abnormal, as he’s averaged only 1.4 in his career even in per-36 min numbers. His FG% is better than that, but not by much (40.6% career). The four threes were nice, but what was even nicer were the 38 minutes.

As I mentioned two days ago, the Raptors took Ross with the eighth pick in the draft last year (one pick ahead of Andre Drummond – oof, but two ahead of Austin Rivers – phew), so they’ll want to see what they have with him. However, he was a product of the Bryan Colangelo era, so new wunderkind GM Masai Ujiri has no feelings of responsibility to keep him.

Still, Rudy Gay’s departure means Ross is going to get to play. Landry Fields does not seem to be in favor, and John Salmons should not play a major factor for a team clearly looking to rebuild, despite sitting atop the Titanic Division not too long ago. If he’s proves his value, you’ll have a promising young SG/SF looking at 30-35 mpg. If he continues playing like he did last night, release him back onto the waiver wire and take a good look at Salmons.

Other Notable Players: Raymond Felton is back, so Tim Hardaway Jr. is done for now (Update: Actually, it turns out he tweaked his hamstring injury and could now be out for a while. Timmy is interesting again!)…The last three Knicks games have all been blowouts in one direction or the other, so, in a surprising development, Amar’e Stoudemire has actually been getting some run. He is owned by the 39% of Yahoo! fantasy owners who still believe it’s 2010, but, with the injuries to Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin, Stoudemire might be worth something if his own injuries let him stay on the court long enough…Jarrett Jack put up about the emptiest line you can have (17-0-1-0-0, 3 3pm, 2 TO), but he has averaged 13.3 pts, 4.0 reb, 2.3 ast and 2.0 3pm in his last three. While he’s not reliable yet, he has been cutting into Dion Waiter’s productivity lately. The Waiters trade rumors subsided after he was excellent a week ago, but if he is still on the block and gets moved, pick up Jack immediately…The Spurs have one of the deepest rotations in the league, and Marco Belinelli had to be near perfect just to put up what he did (4-for-5 FG, 2-for-2 FT). Still, 12.6 pts, 2.3 reb, 2.4 ast, 1.0 stl, 2.3 3pm on 59.4% FG over his last eight…Been watching Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a while because he’s young, talented and gets a lot of minutes for the Pistons. Don’t read too much into what he did in last night’s blowout, but keep KCP on your watch list for when Detroit falls out of the playoff race and starts playing their young guys…Too little, too late for Alan Anderson, whose value is done now that Paul Pierce is back. Thanks for nothing. Deron Williams returned in this same game and was tremendous, effectively ending the anticlimactic Shaun Livingston experiment…Checking up on two former Pickups, John Henson (58% owned) and Brandon Knight (59%) now seem to be the only Bucks with stable value. Let’s not discuss Zaza Pachulia…Look at the players who didn’t play for the Bulls (Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose), and you’ll know why Mike Dunleavy rocked it last night (24-5-3-0-2, 2 3pm). Just keep in mind that two games ago he finished a stretch where he scored under four points in four out of five games. The lack of offensive threats might also explain why Kirk Hinrich shanked all 10 of his shots. Tony Snell was better, but he’s still not worth owning…On a slower night, we need to have a serious discussion about the shifting values of Channing Frye, Markieff MorrisP.J. Tucker and Marcus Morris, who are all cannibalizing each other. Right now, I can’t even tell you who to trust…Wesley Johnson lost his starting spot to Jodie Meeks, and Robert Sacre recorded a DNP-CD, though his replacement Shawne Williams still didn’t do much. Meeks has been great lately, but it’s debatable who really has value here (aside from comedic value, in which case it’s definitely Swaggy P. Young) until we see a few more games with Kobe Bryant.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (37%)
2. Glen Davis (37%)
3. Jeffery Taylor (4%)
4. Tony Wroten (18%)
5. Reggie Jackson (26%)

Kirk Hinrich falls off this list with his latest awful performance and the rumor that the Bulls are interested in signing D.J. Augustin. Chicago is desperate to make something work at that position, and Hinrich is not the answer. Michael Carter-Williams will not play tonight. Again, I encourage playing Wroten until you see MCW forcibly yank him out of the line-up.

Pickup of the Day: Jeffery Taylor

(Brock Williams-Smith / NBAE via Getty Images)

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

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickups for Friday, December 6 is Jeffery Taylor. He’s owned in 4% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.2% of ESPN Leagues. These percentages haven’t really bumped at all since his career-high scoring game last night (albeit it was 20 points), but that is a travesty given the opportunity that he’s now receiving.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Philadelphia:
20131206 Jeffery Taylor

Taylor is an example of why I love fantasy basketball. He plays for the Charlotte Bobcats, a team that has been in the bottom 10 of arena attendance every year since it was formed. They hold the record for the worst single-season win percentage in history and likely average less than one nationally-televised game a year (they have zero on ABC, ESPN or TNT this year, as I assume they also do most years).

Who, outside of the Queen City, even knows who Jeff Taylor is? If you’re a fantasy basketball player worth your salt, you do. Because last year, while you were checking Bobcats box scores to see Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s progress, you kept wondering to yourself who was this Jeff Taylor kid that kept getting minutes while MKG struggled?

While MKG has the motor, athleticism and pedigree that made him the no. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Taylor–the 31st pick in that same draft–beats him handily in one area: basketball skills. Namely, he knows how to score and make plays. As he should, being four years older than MKG.

After a fantastic summer league and preseason, Taylor actually had a serviceable eight-game stretch in mid-November when he averaged 12.3 pts, 3.4 reb and 1.1 3pm in 26 min. Since then, however, poor shooting (34.1%) and foul trouble (2.9 in 20.5 mpg) have kept him languishing on the bench. And then MKG broke his hand.

With MKG sidelined for 4-6 weeks, I already mentioned that Taylor is likely going to be a good pickup. While he may not generally put up the type of numbers he did against Philly, which plays at the highest pace in the league, he now looks primed for 30 mpg, assuming he stays out of foul trouble. Get him in your line-up and ride him while he’s still hot.

Other Notable Players: Khris Middleton has been heating up just as Caron Butler is expected to return. If you’re looking for long-term potential, he doesn’t have many games left as the Bucks’ only real SF. He has been playing so well that it should be hard for coach Larry Drew to justify playing Butler over him, but I don’t trust Drew at all to make the right call on rotations…Martell Webster left last night’s game with an ankle injury. The Wizards will see how he feels tomorrow to determine whether he can play Monday. Either way, Otto Porter Jr. is not a good add. He was terrible in pre-season and struggled last night, too. I’d expect the Wiz to turn to Chris Singleton if Webster misses time…Any time Michael Carter-Williams is out, you have to play Tony Wroten, who approached another triple-double last night (21-8-9) while the rest of his team mainly struggled. The problem is that MCW’s missed games seem to spring up sporadically, although he is expected to sit again tonight…Kris Humphries-Kardashian got minutes because Jared Sullinger got in foul trouble. Don’t get your hopes up on him or down on Sullinger…Tim Hardaway, Jr. has now had an extremely productive three-game stretch where he’s averaging 16.0 pts and a ridiculous 4.0 3pm on 57.1% FG. Those numbers are a fluke, but the talent isn’t. He’s the reason the Knicks are open to trading Iman Shumpert. If that happens, Hardaway becomes the immediate Pickup…I’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger on Reggie Jackson again after getting burned earlier this season, but he’s averaging over 28 mpg over his last four, the highest of any four-game stretch of this season. The kicker: all four were also with Russell Westbrook in the line-up. During that stretch, Jackson is averaging 14.5 pts, 3.8 reb, 3.3 ast and 1.3 3pm on 51.1% FG and 100% FT. Of all the players under 40% owned in Yahoo! Leagues, I am by far highest on Jackson’s talent. I only questioned his opportunities, but now he seems usable if you need PG help…Al-Farouq Aminu was awful last night, but he got the attempts. Unfortunately, he missed 11 of those attempts and had five more blocked…Tyreke Evans sprained his ankle last night and will have to get an MRI to see the extent of the damage. If he misses time, not only will the Pelicans lean on Aminu more, but three-point specialist Anthony Morrow may see some value come his way…Markieff Morris was good again as Channing Frye struggled, but P.J. Tucker has now had two 18-point games in a row, one better than the last. The values of Phoenix’s players are getting as hard to predict as Milwaukee’s and the Lakers’. Don’t worry about Frye yet, don’t start Morris regularly again, and pick up Tucker if you can afford the bench space. The Suns like his defense and may keep giving him chances…Ignore anything any bench player contributed in Portland’s 42-point route of Utah. However, note that Alec Burks has had four good games even before this one…Wesley Johnson filling up the stat sheet with a 13-2-2-5-1 and three 3pm! Kobe Bryant will change everything when he returns tomorrow, but, like I said in my Lakers column, I’m not worried about Johnson’s role. Jodie Meeks, on the other hand, thanks for the curtain call…Lakers starters Pau Gasol, Steve Blake and Jordan Hill are the walking wounded lately. Hill seems to be the only one affected in terms of playing time so far, as Robert Sacre is now starting. Still, Sacre only played 17 min last night, as the Lakers mainly went smaller with Gasol at C and either Johnson or Shawne Williams at PF. Gasol will have to miss time eventually, at which point I’d be ready to trust Sacre. As for Blake, he’ll try to gut through his injuries a little longer with Jordan Farmar already on the shelf and Steve Nash still doubtful to return tomorrow.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (33%)
2. Glen Davis (37%)
3. Taj Gibson (37%)
4. Kirk Hinrich (36%)
5. Jeffery Taylor (4%)

Fantasy owners finally do the right thing and push Brandon Bass up to 41% owned, making this the second time so far this year that he’s graduated over 40%. New, shiny Pickup Taylor beats out Wes Johnson for the final spot.

No New Pickup / Injury Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pickups of the Day: Figuring Out the Los Angeles Lakers

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

There is no clear Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Sunday, December 1. If you put a suitcase of cash in my hands and forced me to pick (I prefer that analogy to the one about a gun to my head), I’d say it’s Wesley Johnson. He’s owned in 13% of Yahoo! Leagues and 8.2% of ESPN leagues. However, I don’t want to talk just about Wesley Johnson. There is far more that needs to be said about the entire fantasy mess and goodness that is the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers play the fourth fastest pace in the league, which spreads extra value around to all their players. It might be spread a little thin, though, as only two players average over 30 mpg for the year, followed by nine others averaging over 17 mpg. For the past two weeks, the Lakers are one of only two teams that have eight players in the Top 120 of Yahoo! rankings (tied for first with Houston, three teams are tied for second with six each, and Cleveland is the worst and only team with just one–Anderson Varejao at #114 ). Those eight Top 120 players don’t even include former stud Pickups Xavier Henry and Jordan Hill or starting PG Steve Nash.

Let’s break down the team by sections to see how recent events are affecting each.

Big Men: The big story two weeks ago was how Jordan Hill had become a revelation for the Lakers, averaging 18.8 pts, 12.0 reb and 1.8 blk while shooting 61.7% FG and 89.5% FT on 19 FTs in four games. Chris Kaman got pushed back to the bench, and coach Mike D’Antoni had finally found a mobile, energetic big man to play alongside Pau Gasol, who was expected to be a dominant fantasy player sans Kobe but instead has suffered through career lows in FG% and FTA.

Well in the six games since Hill’s breakout week, he’s averaged 6.0 pts, 8.7 reb and 0.8 blk while shooting 38.6% FG and 100% FT on just 2 FTs. Things got worse for Hill last Friday as he sprained his ankle. Though he still played tonight, he was limited to just 15 min. The Lakers could’ve used more, though, as Gasol was limited by a right ankle injury of his own and will undergo an MRI tomorrow. Where was Kaman through all this? Sitting through his fourth straight “Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision” since returning from a back injury.

Who did that leave to take advantage of the opening at center? The Ragin’ Cajun Robert Sacre, who posted an eye-popping 12-7-4-2-3 line on 62.5% FG and 100% FT in a season-high 23 min. This was notably the best game by far of Sacre’s career. Another player who might’ve taken more advantage had he not fouled out tonight was opening day starting PF Shawne Williams. In the previous game when Hill sustained his injury, Williams posted an excellent 20-9-3-2-1 line with six threes.

If Gasol’s MRI results cause him to miss time, Jordan Hill will reap the biggest benefit. However, while he’s still hobbled and Kaman is in D’Antoni’s doghouse, there are definitely openings for both Sacre and Williams. Whether Hill starts at PF or C, one of the two will start alongside him and the other is bound to be the first big off the bench.

Point Guards: Of the eight Lakers in Yahoo!’s Top 120 for the past two weeks, who was the highest ranked? Surprisingly, Jordan Farmar, who averaged 14.6 pts, 3.0 reb, 5.0 ast, 1.2 stl, 0.6 blk and 2.6 3pm in just under 22 mpg in the five games before last night. This despite him being the backup PG to Steve Blake, who’s already a backup PG himself to the injured Steve Nash. Farmar has been so good that he’s still the Lakers’ top-ranked player of the last two weeks even after playing less than a minute last night before leaving the game with a hamstring injury.

Farmar is expected back by the Lakers’ next game on Friday, and even Nash is expected to practice on Tuesday and could also return by Friday. Yet right now Blake is the only healthy PG on the entire team, unless they decide to call Andrew Goudelock back from Russia. Blake remains the PG to own on the Lakers, especially since Farmar’s stock just got a little riskier.

Swingmen: This is where the biggest glut of fantasy value lies with the Lakers. Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young and Xavier Henry all have taken turns being the best Laker swingman of the week, and, yes, all of them are under 40% owned. Though one Laker swingman, who’s 98% owned despite not playing a single minute this year, looms over all of them. That would be Kobe Bryant, and he could return as early as Friday, although Sunday is more likely. Bringing back a player who commands that much of the offense (a polite way of saying he hogs the ball) is destined to have an impact on every player’s value, but the party is especially over for the other swingmen.

So why pick up Johnson over the others? Ignore the fact that he’s the highest Yahoo! ranked Laker of the entire season and that he’s played the most minutes of every Laker except Gasol in the past week. As I said, Kobe will change everything when he returns, so Johnson’s current accomplishments must be discounted. However, there are two main reasons to think that Johnson will still retain his value.

The first is his position. Johnson has been the Lakers’ starting SF since November 12. He should stay in the line-up when Kobe reclaims the starting SG spot, and he’s most likely to keep seeing a similar number of minutes. Second is how Johnson gets his value. Meeks, Young and Henry all get their value from scoring and threes. While Johnson also makes threes, a large part of his production is in averaging over a steal and a block per game for the year. Plus he’s a better rebounder than the other three.

When Kobe (who averaged 20.4 FGA last year even when he still had to share the ball with Dwight Howard) returns, shots will become scarce, but defensive stats will still be readily available. As long as Johnson can hit the spot-up three regularly, he can be the prototypical “3 & D” guy who’d be the perfect fit next to Kobe. That’s why he’s today’s honorary Pickup.

Other Notable Players: A few days ago, I asked when we’d finally see the Summer League MVP version of Jonas Valanciunas again. As is the case with many opposing big men, salvation came in the form of the Denver Nuggets. Valanciunas physically dominated J.J. Hickson, who only saw 14 minutes while the much larger Timofey Mozgov played 31 min and posted an awesome 16-15-1-2-2 on 50.0% FG and 66.7% FT. It was a big day overall for Mozgov, as Rudy Gay tried to Mozgov him but ended up getting LeBron’d. Hickson is a liability on defense, but–matchups aside–it’s unlikely to see him lose the start…Speaking of Denver’s bench mob, Nate Robinson has scored in double-digits in seven games in a row now, despite only once playing over 24 min (24:04 on Nov. 21). Over that time span, he’s averaging 14.6 pts, 1.4 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.0 stl and 2.3 3pm on 50.0% FG and 88.9% FT. He was in this same position as a bench scorer last year for the Bulls, except they were the 26th ranked team in pace, while the Nuggets this year are third in paceRookie Hollis Thompson started today while both James Anderson and Tony Wroten came off the bench. This change is likely going to stick. Thompson didn’t do much, but he does sink the fantasy values of both Anderson and Wroten…J.J. Redick will be out for the next 6-8 weeks with hand and elbow injuries, but no successor revealed himself yesterday in his absence. It certainly wasn’t Jared Dudley, who played his second-fewest minutes of his season, or Willie Green, who started in Redick’s place. If anything, it just looks like Jamal Crawford’s role will expand again…Sacramento also went bench mob on Golden State yesterday, as Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and Patrick Patterson led a furious fourth-quarter rally for the Kings. Notably, Patterson and Jason Thompson, who spent a lot of time playing with the bench unit, both outperformed previous Pickup Derrick Williams. It’s only his second game, but Williams is already experiencing why many panned this trade: there are way too many forwards on the Kings. Tonight, Williams, Patterson, Thompson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes all played over 20 min, and that’s with Travis Outlaw on the bench and Carl Landry still to return. Though coach Mike Malone made a commitment to start and play Williams heavily at SF in his first game, it remains to be seen whether he keeps it up…Oh Reggie Jackson, you know I want to (18-5-4, 1 3pm), but I know you too well (24 min)…New Orleans fans, fantasy basketball owners, and plain old enjoyers of great NBA basketball cried in horror today as Anthony Davis fractured his left hand. There is no timetable yet for his return. Ryan Anderson joined the starting line-up coming out of the halftime break and is the obvious winner fantasy-wise. It gets cloudier after that, however. Fantasy owners would like starting center Jason Smith, who’s a superb midrange shooter and has had productive stretches this year, to gain more value, but he didn’t show that today. On the other hand, Al-Farouq Aminu sat out the entire first half but got a lot of run in the second. Right now, both are worth watching, but neither is worth adding.

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

1. Marvin Williams (15%)
2. Kosta Koufos (26%)
3. Glen Davis (36%)
4. John Henson (35%)
5. Nate Robinson (26%)

As expected, we say goodbye to Jared Sullinger (42%) and Channing Frye (43%) tonight, as both graduate to the 40% owned club. Nate Robinson just edges out Marco Belinelli for the final spot on account of having been productive for longer.

Hindsight: I was completely wrong about Al Jefferson’s effect on Josh McRoberts. Despite playing well in his initial games next to Jefferson, McBob has seen his numbers drop across the board. That includes his already abysmal FG% and his life-saving assists and threes. This is simply a case of Jefferson taking over shots and possessions. McRoberts is droppable in all but the deepest formats…On the day I made Mo Williams the Pickup, he posted a 12-5-6-3-2 in 31 min. Since then, he hasn’t scored in double-digits or topped 24 min. Looking at his numbers before and after his five productive games in mid-November seems to tell me I fell for a fluke.

Pickup of the Day: Channing Frye


(Kim Klement / 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, November 26 is Channing Frye. He didn’t play tonight, but there were no significant performances, so I dug deeper in into the free agents pool to find someone under-owned and came up with three PF/C’s, all with caveats.

John Henson has been a fantastic source of blocks and boards and also has been fairly resilient to coach Larry Drew’s befuddling rotations so far, but Milwaukee is a mess. I’m recommending everyone to avoid that entire situation for the time being. Brandon Bass has also seen consistent production again with Kelly Olynyk out of the line-up for two weeks, but he has the lowest upside. That leaves Frye, who is 20% owned in Yahoo! Leagues and 5.5% owned in ESPN Leagues.

Here’s a look at his line Monday night against Miami:
20131126 Channing Frye

This was a solid game, and, as previously mentioned, he averaged 12.8 pts, 5.0 reb, 1.4 blk and 2.4 3′s in the five games beforehand. What muddles up this productivity is that all but one of these games came with Eric Bledsoe out of the line-up. Bledsoe doesn’t play Frye’s position and shouldn’t affect Frye’s minutes, but the offense does run through Bledsoe when he’s on the floor. Most of Frye’s games alongside Bledsoe have been awful, though the sample size is too small even to argue a correlation at this point.

Frye could well be playing himself back into shape after missing all of last season to undergo heart surgery. I’m much less worried about his value dropping than I am about Gerald Green’s when Bledsoe returns. Therein lies yet another problem. Who knows when Bledsoe will be back? He tested his shin in pre-game the last two games and didn’t play either. After initial reports that he’d be back tomorrow, now even that has dropped back to a maybe. Either way, you should keep both Frye and Green in your line-ups until you actually see Bledsoe’s name next to some minutes in the box score.

Is he legit? In the last seven days, no other NBA player is averaging over 2.5 threes and 1.0 blocks per game except Channing Frye (2.8 3’s, 1.2 blk). That is a sweet, sweet pair of stats to go with 13.4 pts, 5.6 reb, and 1.2 stl. Before his surgery, Frye actually was playing even better, though his mpg has fallen every year since 2011. If he can sustain this level of play with both Bledsoe and Goran Dragic in the line-up, he will rocket up the Top 5 List, and I’ll have to kick Danny Green off my own fantasy boat.

Other Notable Players: Steve Blake wasn’t bad tonight (15-3-5, 2 3’s in 30 min), but Jordan Farmar (22-2-8-1, 3 3’s in 26 min) was just better. Nick Young also seems to have displaced Jodie Meeks as the Lakers’ three-point gunner, or maybe Meeks isn’t getting as many looks as a starter while Young has always bombed away without conscience. Expectedly, Young’s FG% is much worse…Another strong game for Andray Blatche (24-5-0-2-2) and another disappointingly uneven one for Shaun Livingston (5-6-7-2). It’s as if that dunk in traffic last week sapped the rest of Livingston’s offense for the entire season…Glen Davis’s value was in trouble for about one game. Tobias Harris was deactivated again today after feeling pain in his ankle. To make things even more interesting, Mo Harkless only played 11 min, giving Davis (32 min), E’Twaun Moore (30) and Andrew Nicholson (25) all extra playing time. Big Baby was underwhelming, but both Moore and Nicholson had good games off the bench. There’s been a lot of back-and-forth in the Magic rotation recently, so it’s worth waiting to see how this turns out…Jermaine O’Neal turned back the hands of time and posted an 18-8 against the Pelicans, but his large share of the minutes only came due to a one-game suspension to Andrew Bogut.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (24%)
2. Jared Sullinger (34%)
3. Marvin Williams (6%)
4. Glen Davis (32%)
5. Patrick Beverley (31%)

Hindsight: Did I panic over Big Baby’s value one day after recommending him when Harris returned? Naaah, that couldn’t have been me.