Pickup of the Day: Shaun Livingston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pickup of the Day: Josh McRoberts

(Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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