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.

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Pickup of the Day: John Henson

2(Gary Dineen / 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 Saturday, November 30 is John Henson. He’s owned in 31% of Yahoo! Leagues and 40.1% of ESPN Leagues. If I’ve learned one thing this year, it’s don’t trust the Milwaukee Bucks. After watching both injuries and coach Larry Drew jerk around the fantasy values of Larry Sanders, O.J. Mayo, Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia, Brandon Knight, Caron Butler, Khris Middleton, Gary Neal and Nate Wolters (remember them??), I recommended ignoring all Bucks players…except Henson. Henson, I said, was the only Buck with stable value. I was wrong. In his very next game, Henson played his fewest minutes of the year (15) and recorded a 5-5-2-0-1. Yet, here we are three days later, and Henson is the Pickup.

Here’s a look at his line tonight against Boston:
20131130 John Henson

Henson gets the Pickup due to one major change and one major constant. The change is that he started at center tonight for the first time in his career (he’d previously only started at PF). Coach Drew admitted Pachulia is still banged up from his summer foot surgery and finally gave the much more effective Henson the start. Henson did what you expect him to, which is rack up rebounds and blocks while giving you a little scoring. In many ways, he’s similar to the Bucks’ normal starting center, Larry Sanders, except for the part where Sanders put himself out of commission for six weeks by breaking his thumb while popping bottles over dudes’ heads in da club.

That’s the major constant. John Henson has played all 16 games this year, making him and O.J. Mayo (who’s been awful) the only mainstays of Milwaukee’s rotation who have. While Henson may continue getting the start over Pachulia, keep mind that the Bucks also played this game without Butler and Ilyasova. Then of course there’s the looming specter of Sanders, who’s the rightful starting center despite not doing much with that opportunity in the games he did play this season. At this point, though, I think Henson has played well enough to merit a larger role even when everyone is healthy, but I also think we’ll never see everyone healthy on this team at any point this year.

Is he legit? Last year, Henson was the rare per-minute stat phenom that superseded his ridiculous per-minute numbers when given the actual minutes. His per-36 projections were 16.5 pts, 12.9 reb and 1.8 blk. However, in his one game between 30-39 min, he played 31 min and posted 14 pts, 15 reb and 4 blk. It got even more ridiculous in his two games over 40 min, as in those he averaged 22.5 pts, 20.5 reb and 3.5 blk! These are the kind of numbers Wilt, Russell and Thurmond posted in the 1960’s when they were punking unathletic 6’8″ white guys!

Henson’s per-36 numbers are more pedestrian this year, but you can expect some silly rebounding and block totals if he continues getting starter’s minutes. Whether he continues, though, is still up in the air. After all, you can’t trust the Milwaukee Bucks.

Other Notable Pickups: One other quick note about the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo (who I will start calling by his nickname Alphabet, even though I hate it, because his real name is too ridiculous) had his best game of his pro career (10-7-4, 2 3’s) in 28 min, while Khris Middleton fell off and both Caron Butler and Ersan Ilyasova sat. This won’t become commonplace for Alphabet (ugh) yet, but his upside is tremendous…Andrew Bynum is not any close to under 40% owned, but it’s worth noting that he posted his first 20-10 game since May 14, 2012 when he did it in the playoffs against Oklahoma City. Add the five blocks to his 20-10, and you’d have to go back to November 15, 2009 against the Aaron Brooks and Luis Scola-led Rockets to find another game like that. I can almost guarantee Bynum will see his minutes capped in his next game, but it’s fun to see a reminder of what he’s capable of when healthy and motivated, even against an elite defender like Joakim Noah…Two good games with heavy minutes in a row for Chicago’s new starting backcourt of Kirk Hinrich and Tony Snell. Hinrich has a higher upside because Jimmy Butler will return and kick Snell back to the bench, but, if Snell keeps this up, he’ll have played his way into coach Tom Thibodeau’s trust…Of course, on the day both Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez return to the line-up and just one day after Andray Blatche posted zero points in 10 min, Blatche drops a 21-8-1-1-1 in 24 min off the bench. Don’t buy into it. Including tonight’s game, Blatche is averaging 8-6-1 in nine games with both KG and Lopez…A more interesting development is Shaun Livingston losing his starting spot to Tyshawn Taylor. Livingston had the better night–though that’s not saying much–but this demotion was a long time coming after he posted seven straight subpar games since his 23-point breakout against Portland…Kosta Koufos had his finest game yet as a starter this year (10-11-2-2-3), and he should be owned and started in all formats even if Marc Gasol will be back sooner than expected. Interestingly, Ed Davis also started and posted a serviceable 10 and 8 as Zach Randolph sat with an ingrown toenail. It’s an ingrown toenail, though. Don’t pick up Davis…Instead of Shane Larkin, Gal Mekel got the start at PG for the injured Jose Calderon. Mekel did get seven assists but otherwise did nothing of note other than miss a bunch of shots…Patrick Beverley may never put up fantasy lines anywhere close to the best of Linsanity, but his 11-6-5-3-1 and 3 threes tonight were very versatile. Plus I clearly overestimated Aaron Brooks’s possible impact…He’s hidden in San Antonio’s deep rotation, but Marco Belinelli is averaging 13.4 pts, 2.6 reb, 2.2 ast and 2.8 3’s on 53.3% FG and 83.3% FT over his last five games. He’s averaging just under 23 min (did I mention San Antonio’s rotation is deep?), but he’s producing…Final reminder to pick up Jared Sullinger, who posted a 21-14 tonight (though not much else other than a three and good FG%). He’s at 39% owned tonight, and we’ll probably have to stop talking about him tomorrow when he likely clears 40%…Okay, so everyone hang on to your Channing Frye stock, feel free to sell on Gerald Green if you need to (Eric Bledsoe is set to start the next game), and Markieff over Marcus Morris again, for now…Way too many people are still sleeping on Marvin Williams. He’s been excellent, is averaging 32 mpg and won’t be giving Enes Kanter his starting spot back any time soon. The Jazz as a team looked great tonight, as seven of the nine players who played scored 12+ points. You know who didn’t? Enes Kanter.

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

1. Jared Sullinger (39%)
2. Channing Frye (39%)
3. Marvin Williams (10%)
4. Kosta Koufos (26%)
5. Glen Davis (35%)

This will be our last look at Jared Sullinger and Channing Frye for a while, as both are bound to blow over 40% by tomorrow after both had great games tonight. Sullinger just barely edges Frye out for that top spot because I’m still wary of what happens when Bledsoe rejoins Frye in the starting line-up and reclaims all his shots, but Frye’s fantasy upside is definitely higher. Meanwhile, Koufos’s strong game and Bass’s disappointing one tonight causes a switch in the bottom two. This, by the way, is the strongest Top Five we’ve ever had, and the ownership percentages back it up. Expect to see Henson and Bellineli join this group tomorrow night if no other notable players arise.

Hindsight: In other don’t-follow-my-own-advice-about-the-Bucks news, I just dropped Derrick Williams for Brandon Knight in one league following Knight’s almost-but-not-really-that-close-to-a-triple-double line of 20-9-8-1-1 and three threes tonight. As I said before I soured on all Milwaukee players, the Bucks want Knight to be their PG of the future. He’ll play a lot.

Pickup of the Day: Zaza Pachulia

(AP Photo / Morry Gash)

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 Wednesday, November 6 is Zaza Pachulia. He is the 24th ranked fantasy player by averages, I’ve been pushing him since the Bucks’ first game this season, and yet he’s still only owned in 26% of Yahoo! leagues. However, tonight’s news about Larry Sanders makes him a must-own. In fact, screw you, Greivis Vasquez! I’m picking up Pachulia in my own league!

Here’s a look at Pachulia’s line tonight against Cleveland:
20131106 Zaza Pachulia

The 41 min tonight are a season-high for Pachulia and mainly due to two reasons outside his control. The first was that Ersan Ilyasova was out with an injury (which also gave John Henson a lot of run, see Other Notable Players below). The second was the continuing roller coaster ride that is, as the more-apt-than-ever Zach Lowe nickname goes, LARRY SANDERS!

Sanders, who is already having a disappointing start and averaging under 17 and a half minutes per game, is currently under investigation for smashing multiple champagne bottles over people’s heads at a Milwaukee nightclub. The official designation for Sanders being out in tonight’s game was a “sore thumb.” Yeah, okay. The CBS report that he’s out indefinitely sounds premature to me, but it is entirely possible that he misses even more time pending this investigation.

First of all, this is tragic. Sanders has had disciplinary problems in the past, but last year he proved to be a natural genius in the area of interior defense. The Bucks clearly believed they’d have much more of the latter than the former when they signed him to a $44 million contract this summer, but that hasn’t turned out to be the case so far. As I just waxed poetic about Metta World Peace’s career arc a few hours ago, I certainly hope Sanders gets in touch with MWP and takes a few lessons on how counseling can help him get his life and career back under control. Though I also wonder how much the organization paying him $44 million has been doing in that regard.

Commentary aside, Pachulia has already been outplaying Sanders this year, and that now looks like it will continue for a while longer.

Is he legit? Pachulia was always a productive player for the Atlanta Hawks, but he never got consistent minutes there after Al Horford joined the team. Now with opportunity beckoning in Milwaukee, we could see a better version of what he was back in 2005-07 when he was still a regular starter and averaged 12 & 8 with a steal per game. So far this year he seems to be a better passer and shooter than he was then, which has already boosted his points and assists. The Sanders situation needs monitoring–both the investigation and his struggles this season–but Pachulia will definitely benefit in the meantime.

Other Notable Players: Of course, on the same day I say Markieff and Marcus Morris are just going to devalue Plumlee and Frye without being viable fantasy starters, they both go off. Plumlee even still had a good game. Frye not so much. This rotation is a fluid situation to watch, but both Morris brothers are worth a speculative add…While, I’m atoning for sins, I also said Josh McRoberts was less likely to break out of his slump than Brandon Bass and Vitor Faverani. Wrong. Both McBob and Biddy Bass had solid games tonight. Fav was outplayed by Kelly Olynyk, but I’m not buying that yet. Still holding on to my Jared Sullinger stock though…Andrew Nicholson had a sloppy game, but he put up 16 shots and played more minutes than starters Maurice Harkless and Jason Maxiell as the Orlando bench bolstered a beastly night from Nikola Vucevic to end the Clippers’ winning streak…Going back to the Bucks, John Henson also had a great game tonight with Ersan Ilyasova out of the lineup. Henson’s going to have value all season long…Gary Neal also went off for the Bucks, though Nate Wolters started. Both got heavy minutes, but both would also be tentative pickups with Brandon Knight’s return looming…No, coach Scott Brooks is not going with Derek Fisher over Reggie Jackson. Jackson actually suffered a left hip contusion and didn’t return to the game. He’s not expected to be out long, but if it is serious, Jeremy Lamb would be a good pickup…I just realized four of the five Sixers starters are over 80% owned in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues, and legitimately so. As a fantasy owner, you’ve got to love “bad” teams. If James Anderson can outplay Tony Wroten, which he hasn’t until tonight despite vastly out-earning him in minutes, he’d be worth a look, too…Zach Randolph only played eight minutes because his fiancée went into labor. Do not pick up Ed Davis.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):
1. Reggie Jackson (33%)
2. Metta World Peace (27%)
3. Zaza Pachulia (26%)
4. Martell Webster (14%)
5. Corey Brewer (15%)

Accountability: I already said I was sorry for that call on McBob and the Morris twins!

Pickup of the Day: Alec Burks

i-1
(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

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 2 is Alec Burks. He is owned in 28% of Yahoo! leagues, and that number isn’t climbing despite some consistent production and me pimping him in casual passing last Wednesday to my rabid fan base of one or zero readers.

Here’s a look at his line tonight against Houston:20131102 Alec Burks

We’re approaching the end of the first week, which means the clear-cut early waiver wire stars are disappearing (e.g. Miles Plumlee, Lance Stephenson, MCW). Thus anyone still scouring free agents to replace a poor draft pick is left to look for consistency or to stash a project in roto leagues.

Alec Burks definitely falls under the former category. He’s averaging 18 pts, 3.7 reb, and 3.0 ast in a little over 32 mpg, and his numbers have been fairly consistent from game-to-game. Like everyone in Utah, he’s getting a lot of opportunities this year because five of the top six players in mpg on last year’s team have left, replaced essentially by cap space and future draft picks.

Burks is a former Utah lottery pick that has really improved his on-ball defense and is getting rewarded with significant playing time. Based on his per-36 min numbers from past seasons, factoring in some typical third-year player improvement, and dropping in a giant dollop of flat-out guessing, I’d expect Burks to put up 18-4-2 with one steal, less than a three, and percentages that won’t kill you from the SG position moving forward.

Is he legit? He’s legit for what he is, a decent contributor in a deep league or when you need to rotate a guy in, but he’s not going to win your week for you. I think his role on this team is safe, even after Trey Burke returns. Though if he does get bumped up to the starting line-up, I can’t see his stats improving much, unless Coach Tyrone Corbin listens to this outrageous suggestion to play him at PG.

Other Notable Players: Look who’s scored 14 points in every game. None other than the Round Mound of Ratatouille: Boris Diaw. Tim Duncan played his first full game of the year, and Diaw still played his most minutes this year. Is it really worth holding on to a guy like Amare Stoudemire (58% owned) or Cody Zeller (50%) over him (5%)?…I stand by what I said about Josh McRoberts. He didn’t get much playing time last night as he was being abused by Anthony Davis, but no Charlotte starter played more than 27 min in this blowout…I’m not worried about Zaza Pachulia’s bad night, but it’s worth mentioning for the second night in a row that John Henson had a productive game. Larry Sanders’s poor play is worth monitoring, as both Pachulia and Henson have value while Sanders is sinking his…Tony Wroten (of the best-in-the-league 3-0 76ers!) is sort of a poor man’s Alec Burks right now, but with better 3-point shooting. Until he’s the one getting 33 mpg instead of James Anderson, however, he’s simply Watch List…Both Jason Thompson and Travis Outlaw put up garbage-time double-doubles as Sacramento got crushed by Golden State and DeMarcus Cousins was benched for doing DeMarcus Cousins-ish things. Thompson is likely more legit and most worth watching, as Patrick Patterson doesn’t seem to be cutting it as Carl Landry’s replacement.

Accountability: Nate Wolters turned out to be the biggest beneficiary of Brandon Knight’s injury, not Gary Neal. Oops. With the Bucks off until Wednesday and Knight likely to return then, however, neither are worth a roster spot anymore.