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.

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Pickup of the Day: Derrick Williams


(AP Photo / Rich Pedroncelli)

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, November 29 is Derrick Williams. He’s owned in 12% of Yahoo! Leagues and 19.0% of ESPN Leagues, but many fantasy owners are ready to embrace his career second-chance now that he’s been traded to Sacramento.

Here’s a look at Williams’s line tonight against the Clippers:
20131129 Derrick Williams

Rather than argue for him myself, I’m going lazy/plagiarist and pasting Matt Stroup’s excellent analysis from Rotoworld before tonight’s game:

Go get Derrick Williams. It’s not clear how much Williams will play in Sacramento, but with only John Salmons/Travis Outlaw ahead of him at SF, and Jason Thompson/Patrick Patterson ahead of him at PF, it’s possible the answer is “a lot.” That wouldn’t necessarily result in standout numbers, as we’ve seen Williams get extended minutes before, with somewhat mediocre results (14.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.9 3s and a weak 0.7 spg / 0.5 bpg in his final 40 games last year). With that said, this is the No. 2 overall pick from 2011 who’s still just 22 years old and has a chance to get a lot of minutes on a bad team. I can nitpick about a lack of defensive stats, but changes of scenery like this don’t pop up this early in the season all that often. Owned in just 10 percent of Yahoo leagues as of Friday morning, Williams is well worth a low-risk, 8-10 game trial if you’ve got room.

Is he legit? He’s not Anthony Bennett, but Derrick Williams has had a disappointing career so far in Minnesota, especially considering it was once debatable whether he or Kyrie Irving should’ve been the first pick of the 2011 draft. A change of scenery was bound to increase his value, except Sacramento’s very problem for years has been its glut of power forwards. However, for some reason, coach Mike Malone is determined to make Williams his starting SF. While there’s no telling yet what will happen when Carl Landry returns, he’s still out for another two months. Williams has Malone’s confidence, so he should have yours as well.

Other Notable Players: Brandon Knight dropped 17-3-2-2 in 30 min tonight with only two turnovers (15 in his last three) and an excellent 7-for-11 from the field (18.5% in last three). As I said when he was Pickup of the Day, the Bucks expect him to be their PG of the future. Unfortunately in the present, they are officially the second-worst team in the NBA and unofficially the worst rotation in fantasy basketball…In other barely worth mentioning news (i.e. Milwaukee Bucks news), Khris Middleton dropped a serviceable 9-5-3-3-2 with one three, and John Henson hit six blocks to go with an otherwise underwhelming 7-5-3 line…Jose Calderon injured his right ankle tonight and didn’t return. Shane Larkin looked bad replacing him. I’d put my faith in Vince Carter instead…Impressive 9-18 line from DeJuan Blair tonight, but no steals. The rebounds are an outlier for a player who only averages 20 mpg like Blair. The steals are his real value add…Bad news for two Lakers starters who had been lighting it up recently. Jordan Hill sprained his ankle after only playing 13 min and did not return to the game. Both Wesley Johnson (27-6-2-0-3, 6 3’s) and Shawne Williams (20-9-3-2-1, 6 3’s) had stellar games in his absence, but don’t expect that to continue as Hill will likely be back on Sunday. Steve Blake’s situation is actually a little more worrisome. He and Jordan Farmar both played almost exactly 24 min each tonight. While Blake still contributed 10 assists tonight, his poor shooting (1-for-6), five turnovers and defensive liability caused him to split time almost evenly with Farmar (13-5-3-1, 2 3’s) at 24 min each. Farmar has been fantastic in his past five games and should be rostered, but the Lakers’ rotation is one of the most unreliable for such a productive fantasy squad…The Rockets blew out the Nets, and both teams pulled out their starters early, which is why you saw such great games from Tyshawn Taylor, Mirza Teletovic, Aaron Brooks, Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi. This game is not representative of what anything we can expect from these players going forward, except for Brooks who should be in line for more minutes with Jeremy Lin out for two weeks. This was especially disappointing for Andray Blatche, who went 0-for-6 in 10 awful minutes despite Kevin Garnett sitting this one out. With Brook Lopez now returned to the line-up, Blatche’s value is in steep decline…Tony Wroten: 24 points in not even as many minutes. Is he back? No. The End…Speaking of unreliable but productive fantasy squads, Phoenix has become a crapshoot in trying to determine who amongst Channing Frye, Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris will be productive. Tonight’s winner was Markieff, as Eric Bledsoe finally returned after so many false starts and reduced both Frye and Gerald Green’s roles…Darren Collison got the start and 40 min tonight with Chris Paul out with a hamstring injury. Collison was underwhelming in Dallas last year, and Jamal Crawford was the far better PG for the Clippers tonight, but Paul is questionable for Sunday, and Collison could have value again.

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

1. Jared Sullinger (38%)
2. Marvin Williams (8%)
3. Glen Davis (34%)
4. Brandon Bass (37%)
5. Channing Frye (9%)

As I previously mentioned, Frye has not had a good record of keeping value while Bledsoe is also in the rotation. Bledsoe has only been back for one game so far, but it’s only validated that belief. Considering Frye’s immense value recently, though, it’s worth hanging on to him to see what happens. Otherwise, Derrick Williams is waiting to grab his spot. Meanwhile, Kosta Koufos falls off this list with news that Marc Gasol could be back in as few as 3-4 weeks.

Hindsight: None! Even Glen Davis and Brandon Knight are looking good right now!

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: Jarrett Jack

(AP Photo / Matt Slocum)

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

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Saturday, November 9 is Jarrett Jack. He’s already up to 38% owned across Yahoo! Leagues and may be out of our Pickup range in the coming days if he keeps producing off the bench.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Philadelphia:
20131110 Jarrett Jack

Speaking of the Cavs, their fairytale rise to contention following LeBron bailing to South Beach seems to have been slightly derailed by two offseason choices that aren’t panning out. The first was signing Andrew Bynum, a calculated risk that is going bust. With the way he’s talking about retiring, I’m no longer sure Bynum’s got more left in the tank than Greg Oden. The second and far less defensible was drafting Anthony Bennett with their no. 1 overall pick, a puzzling choice even in a draft riddled with uncertainty. Bennett has been so awful to start the season, he makes Kwame Brown look like Tim Duncan.

On the other hand, signing Jack was a good choice, as he was a capable backup in Golden State last year (though he makes a lot of odd turnovers) and Kyrie Irving has missed an average of 19 games per year in his first two years. Jack’s had a smaller role in Cleveland so far, but he didn’t really get consistent minutes either last year until December.

Is he legit? Not as much as he was in Golden State. His numbers last night were inflated by the fact that the game went into two overtimes (and I don’t know if he’s ever had three blocks in a game before in his career) but I do expect his minutes to average out closer to the 29 min range he did last year. However, he’s not getting as much of a chance to run the offense playing alongside Irving and Dion Waiters as he did with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. His per-minute assist numbers are already notably down, though the sample size is still small. Nonetheless, there aren’t many readily available point guards on the waiver wire, so Jack might still fulfill a need for you.

Other Notable Players: Andrew Nicholson got 25 min tonight, but the results were pretty Andrew Nicholson-ish…One good game and most of his value came from the FT line. I’m going to need to see more from Tyler Hansborough first…Alec Burks had a bit of a bounceback game, but until he starts dropping threes regularly, he’s a low upside pickup…Kelly Olynyk got the start over Vitor Faverani, who has completely fallen off. Neither are worth rostering. There’s still plenty of room on the Jared Sullinger bandwagon that I’m driving, but Jordan Crawford has also been quite useful since replacing Gerald Wallace in the starting line-up…Zaza Pachulia and John Henson both put up disappointing lines, but they also both continued to start while Larry Sanders sat. Caron Butler meanwhile had his biggest game of the season, but his continued poor shooting is a lead weight to fantasy teams…DeJuan Blair is just a rebounding and steals machine that also happens to brick free throws like crazy.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues): We say goodbye to another Top Sneaky Pickup as Markieff Morris is now at 46% owned.

1. Zaza Pachulia (35%)
2. Martell Webster (17%)
3. Steven Adams (16%)
4. Corey Brewer (20%)
5. Metta World Peace (30%)

Accountability: Man, was I wrong about Jeremy Lin being more useful than Patrick Beverley. It’s only one game, but I’m overreacting because of Lin’s tiff with James Harden and separately with Dwight Howard. Is he running low on friends in Houston?