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: Jordan Farmar


(Gary A. Vasquez / 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 Monday, December 16 is Jordan Farmar. He’s owned in 6% of Yahoo! Leagues and 1.0% of ESPN Leagues, but he could return to the Lakers line-up as early as Friday, where he will find a different situation than when he had left.

In the five games before Farmar suffered the hamstring injury that would keep him benched for the last two weeks, he was averaging 14.6 pts, 3.0 reb, 5.0 ast, 1.2 stl, 2.6 3pm and 1.2 TO on 58.3% FG albeit also on a poor 57.1% FT. He was the Lakers’ highest Yahoo! ranked player, but, most amazingly, he did all of this in just 21:36 mpg as the backup PG to Steve Blake.

Now he returns to a team that literally has no other point guards. Blake is out for six weeks with a torn elbow ligament, and Steve Nash appears closer to retirement than he does to returning on many days. The biggest caveat, however, is that Farmar is also returning to play alongside Kobe Bryant, who has honestly ruined all other Lakers guards’ fantasy values. Well, all except Nick Young, who exists in a different, swaggier dimension than our own.

Nonetheless, Farmar is still the only PG on the team, and he was fantastic before his injury. If he can only do what he did in 21 mpg in the 28-30 mpg that he’s now likely to average, he’s already worth having on your roster.

Other Notable Players: Sticking with the Lakers, Jordan Hill had a terrific 21-9 game, but it’s hard to take that scoring seriously when a guy hits all eight of his field goals. Going 5-of-6 from the line isn’t abnormal for him though. I do believe Hill is bouncing back from his recent slump. I don’t believe he’ll average 20 ppg…The rest of the Lakers were a mess except for Nick Young and Xavier Henry. Henry still doesn’t get enough shots up to be handy, but Young has been consistent, as hard a that is to believe, though he’s not getting your team more than points, threes and poor FG%. In the long run, this Lakers team is better with Kobe, but they certainly lost the identity they (sans Pau Gasol) had before Kobe’s return…Lou Williams did drop eight dimes, even if he didn’t do much else, and Shelvin Mack only played 17 minutes. Williams isn’t going to be consistent, but he’s got that backup guard spot locked up…Kelly Olynyk and Kris Humphries drained Brandon Bass’s value. He’s no longer reliable with Olynyk back. Jared Sullinger: clearly still in the circle of trust…Okay, Alec Burks, now you have my attention. A 31-3-7-4-0 plus 2 3pm night will do that, but keep in mind that he had two games scoring in single digits and on 28.0% FG before this. Burks’s problem is that those steals and threes he posted last night are total outliers. Still, he’s playing better than he did even earlier this season when he was the Pickup…Enes Kanter did very well in his 17 min, while Marvin Williams did poorly in his 28. Not a good sign for Williams, though he’s more likely to slide over to SF and push Richard Jefferson out of the starting line-up than get booted himself for Kanter…Taking a deeper look at Tony Wroten’s numbers, his poor shooting (especially his 56.3% from FT this season) and huge number of turnovers (3.4 as a starter) really stand out. There’s a reason the Sixers are 0-7 since Michael Carter-Williams went out with a knee infection. I can’t imagine the Sixers continue liking Hollis Thompson more than they do Wroten, but James Anderson has also stepped up his value these last four games (15.0 pts, 1.5 3pm, 52.4% FG, 90.9% FT)…If no Brook Lopez, then always play Andray Blatche. But Lopez is expected to return tonight…Brad Beal returned last night, and Trevor Booker saw his production sink. Martell Webster still had a big game, but I’d expect that’s his last for a while. Last time Beal and Trevor Ariza were both healthy, Webster was the odd man out…There’s a dreadful platoon at PG for New York now, with Pablo Prigioni, Beno Udrih and Tim Hardaway Jr. all cannibalizing each other’s values, though Prigioni is expected to be out two weeks with a toe fracture. With Ray Felton still out as well, Udrih is probably the sensible pickup, though Hardaway has more potential. If nothing else, this will hopefully just reignite Kyle Lowry’s trade to New York…If you’re in one of the 27% of Yahoo! Leagues where Tyson Chandler is still available, scoop him up. Depending on how practice goes for him today, he could be back tomorrow. Also, it’s time to get off the Amar’e train…Tobias Harris isn’t ready to pick up where he left off last year yet, which is good news for Glen Davis, as the Big Baby dropped a 14-11-2-2-0, though on some poor shooting…Newly signed PG D.J. Augustin got a lot of run in 37 min for the Bulls, as current starter Marquis Teague looks like he’s got some DNP-CD’s coming his way once Kirk Hinrich gets back. Hinrich will cut most of Augustin’s value and did travel with the Bulls to their game tonight in Houston.

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

1. Jon Leuer (23%)
2. Jordan Farmar (6%)
3. Jordan Hill (34%)
4. Marvin Williams (15%)
5. Tony Wroten (30%)

Shaking things up quite a bit as some poor performances by some Top Five players caused me to sell them for stock in a couple Lakers. Marvin Williams’s role has clearly been reduced from what it was before he got injured, but long-term I think he’s got the best situation. Glen Davis has put up better numbers than Williams, but Tobias Harris is going to make that a timeshare if he doesn’t take the job away outright. Al-Farouq Aminu has another chance to shine even brighter with Tyreke Evans out again tonight, but he’s not making it back up here if he’s outplayed by Austin Rivers again. Finally, MCW could return this Friday, but the whole Eric Bledsoe he’s-back-he’s-not-back scenario, albeit for a completely different injury, is still fresh in my mind.

For more updates and other NBA news, please be sure to follow us on Twitter at @sneakyfantasybb!

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: Greivis Vasquez

(Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pickup of the Day: 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: 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: 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.