Pickup of the Day: Aaron Brooks


(AP Photo / Pat Sullivan)

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, December 21 is Aaron Brooks. He’s owned in 8% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.9% of ESPN Leagues, but he is the the most added player in Yahoo! Leagues today because Patrick Beverley is out for 4-6 weeks with a broken hand. That just opened up 31 and a half minutes for Houston point guards, of which Aaron Brooks happens to be the only healthy one.

Ignoring the crazy rumors that Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik are being packaged to the Nets or Lakers (not even Prokhorov would pay $30 mil for one year of both…would he?), we should note Lin is hopeful to return on Monday. Even if he does, Brooks should still be pushing 30 mpg as the backup PG. If he doesn’t, watch out.

The biggest concern with Brooks is his recent abysmal FG%. He is averaging a horrific 28.6% FG over his past two weeks, but, when given more regular playing time over seven games in late November and early December, he shot 46.2% FG while averaging 13.9 pts, 2.6 reb, 4.1 ast, 2.0 stl and 2.6 3pm. Those are phenomenal numbers for a PG averaging 24 mpg off the bench, and now he may not have any competition ahead of him. Though the 2.3 TO he averaged during that seven-game stretch would also increase in nine-category leagues, the assists, steals and threes should more than compensate for that.

Other Notable Players: The question for fantasy owners looking at the Kings is no longer how good Derrick Williams can be, but can we trust Jason Thompson? I say no…As predicted, Tobias Harris stayed in the starting line-up, but it was the young gun Victor Oladipo that got pushed out and not the veteran Glen Davis. This keeps Baby’s value steadier than I thought it’d become…Terrence Jones is now back under 40% owned, and his recent collapse in playing time and role suggests the number should be lower than that…Neither Anthony Tolliver nor Chris Douglas-Roberts stepped up in the first game with the Bobhornets missing both Jeff Taylor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist…As well as D.J. Augustin, Tony Snell and Taj Gibson all played last night, it is really hard to trust them with Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng all out. Both Snell and Gibson have proven to be unreliable when both Butler and Deng are in the line-up. It’s questionable whether Augustin will still be useful after Hinrich returns, although “after Hinrich returns” has been a refrain for a long time. Hinrich did go through shootaround before last night’s game, but Augustin’s assist totals are tempting…Khris Middleton answered my challenge about his low FG% by shooting 73.3% on 15 FGA (literally answered it, he found me at a bar after the game and said “How you like them apples?”). He’s been decent lately except for his FG%, but his FG% for the season is better than what it’s been. Caron Butler also had a fantastic game in his return, and it’s notable that the extra minutes for him pushed O.J. Mayo’s minutes back more than they did Giannis Antetokounmpo’s. Keep in mind, though, that this was all done with John Henson sitting out, but his return is most likely just to sink Ekpe Udoh and Miroslav Raduljica’s minutes. Then again, you can never rely on anything with coach Larry Drew…Marco Belinelli pushed Boris Diaw out of the Spurs’ starting line-up and had his second good game in a row, this time with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all active. Let’s see where this goes…Okay, now I am paying attention to Brandan Wright, who is averaging 13.8 pts, 5.0 reb and 2.3 blk in his four games this season and has negated both DeJuan Blair and Samuel Dalembert’s values…And last night it was Channing Frye, P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green, while Miles Plumlee and the Morrises Markieff and Marcus disappointed. Of that group, only Frye is trustworthy right now…Told you Nick Young’s poor FG% was going to catch up with him eventually, but last night was brutal (5-for-18). Chris Kaman had a nice 10-17-3 blk line on almost as brutal FG% (5-for-17). He got the start because Pau Gasol was out with an upper respiratory infection. Gasol is questionable for Monday, but don’t assign even short-term value to Kaman just yet. Those of you who kept playing Jordan Hill were rewarded with a 14-10, but he still only saw 20 min of playing time. Unless there’s some type of secret injury that the Lakers are hiding, it just seems like coach Mike D’Antoni refuses to give him regular minutes despite an utter lack of better options. Finally, we should note that Wes Johnson played more minutes than any other player in last night’s game, and he might’ve finished with a decent night if he didn’t miss all seven of his FGs. I still say keep an eye on him, because his ceiling is high and he’s one of the few Lakers whose playing time doesn’t seem to be in question…Matt Barnes returned for the Clippers, which just reminded me that the Clippers have both Barnes and Jared Dudley. Why? They are virtually the same player. Barnes did post a nice 13-3-3-2-3 and 3 3pm last night though. He put a stop to Dudley’s recently solid play, and Barnes could post some nice numbers if he takes over Dudley’s spot. At least until J.J. Redick returns.

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

1. Jon Leuer (21%)
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (17%)
3. Jordan Farmar (8%)
4. Reggie Jackson (38%)
5. Glen Davis (37%)

We knew Andray Blatche wouldn’t last long on this list with Brook Lopez confirmed to be done for the season today, and he indeed graduated to 40% owned. Meanwhile, I’m keeping my deathgrip on Leuer like I did on Kosta Koufos, and Davis makes his return after showing he can keep his own deathgrip on that starting PF position in Orlando.

Pickup of the Day: Andray Blatche

(Al Bello / Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GET. BLATCHE. NOW.

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

Pickup of the Day: Giannis Antetokounmpo


(Jerome Miron / USA TODAY Sports)

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

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Tuesday, December 17 is Giannis Antetokounmpo, and I’d been practicing spelling that name for a long time in anticipation of this moment, even though I may be jumping the gun. He’s owned in 9% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.6% of ESPN Leagues, but he is by far the no. 1 pickup today across Yahoo leagues. He’ll likely be available for longer in ESPN leagues because, quite frankly, ESPN has an awful interface that requires you to either spell “Antetokounmpo” perfectly or browse through all players until you find him.

He didn’t play last night, but his averages over the last three games are 12.0 pts, 8.7 reb, 1.7 ast, 0.7 stl, 0.7 blk and 0.3 TO on 47.6 FG% on 7.0 FGA and 80.0% FT on 6.7 FTA in 30 mpg. That FT shooting is a sneakily healthy boost, but otherwise his numbers don’t really stand out. Marvin Williams could do that.

Williams is actually an interesting comparison. As an incredible physical specimen drafted no. 2 overall above Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the 2005 NBA draft, expectations for him were sky high, and he’s now considered a bust despite some solid work for Utah this season. Antetokounmpo, another incredible physical specimen, was drafted 15th this year in what is largely considered the worst draft class since 2000. There were no expectations for him this year, but he has lit the blogosphere on fire, dominating headlines even as fellow Buck John Henson is putting up insanely good career numbers.

Antetokounmpo is getting his first start tonight because O.J. Mayo is out attending his grandmother’s funeral (condolences to Mayo), so this may not be a permanent move. As I mentioned many times before, he’s eventually going to get lots of minutes this season when the Buck give up and commit to playing their young guys, but it’s only mid-December. I don’t think the tanking is happening just yet, even if they are the worst team in the league right now.

Antetokounmpo’s potential is undeniable, though, and not just on the floor. Here’s a translated excerpt from his Greek blog that won me over completely:

It was an amazing experience, the game vs the Heat. Until of course the next day and the game vs the Thunder. I have said many times that Durant is my idol. He is the player I watch the most. When I came out on the court for a workout, he was already there, shooting. Working. I stopped and watched him. He was deadly serious. I could see it in his face. He was not relaxed. He was warming up with tension. I felt a satisfaction, when I saw my idol, approaching basketball with such determination.

 

In the span of just two days I found myself against two superstars like LeBron and Durant and I got the biggest lessons. Two of the biggest and most recognizable basketball players, with huge bank accounts, working hard, like they have something to prove, while in reality they have nothing to prove. LeBron is a two-time champion and four-time MVP. They have both played in so many All Star Games. Even so, work never stops. They do not rest in their glory. They are after perfection.

 

At the same time I saw right in front of my eyes what the combination of talent and hard work can offer to an athlete.

I read something like that from a 19-year old kid, and I can’t help but think this kid just gets it. I’ve only thought that about one other NBA rookie, and I see the same insight and determination in Antetokounmpo, if not necessarily the same polished skill set, as I did in his idol.

If you really need your bench guys to give you something, then I think you might be a little early pulling the trigger on the Alphabet Soup. Otherwise, he’s worth a roster spot just to be able to follow him more closely every day.

Other Notable Players: Many people caught last night’s thrilling point guard battle between elite PGs Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, but how many of you caught the backup battle between mediocre PGs Jarrett Jack and Slo Mo Williams? Jack has averaged 12.0 pts, 3.5 reb, 3.8 ast and 1.0 3pm in his last four, and Williams has 11.0 pts, 2.5 reb, 5.0 ast and 1.8 3pm over his last four…In each game since his 31-point game, Derrick Williams has played in fewer minutes than the last, culminating in last night’s 22 min in which he dropped a 5-0-1-1-0. I was skeptical of his ability to push Jason Thompson out of the line-up after Rudy Gay got there. Should’ve stayed skeptical. This is a timeshare…Jordan Hill isn’t injured. He just picked up four fouls in seven and a half minutes. Don’t worry, Larry Sanders does this kind of stuff all the time and look how well he’s–er, nevermind…An update on Lakers guards: Nick Young is still unbelievably most consistent, Jodie Meeks is regaining his value, Wes Johnson finally put up another weirdly useful line 7-5-6-1-1 in 32 min, and I jumped the gun on Jordan Farmar (see Hindsight below)…Mike Conley sat out last night, and Jerryd Bayless was ehh, just okay. Oh, and if anybody asks, I totally had Jon Leuer at the top of my Top Five Pickups for the last two weeks, but I’d been misspelling his name as “Kosta Koufos“…After 10 games averaging 15.3 pts, 3.7 reb, 2.8 ast and 1.2 3pm in 27 min, Reggie Jackson has averaged just 9-3-3.5 plus no threes in 21 min in his last two games. Some might blame Thabo Sefolosha’s return, but Jackson has been getting steady minutes long before Sefolosha sat for three games. I’m not worried yet. Jackson’s numbers will be up-and-down, but he’s been pretty locked into sixth man minutes for a while now…Al-Farouq Aminu didn’t exactly stuff the stat sheet, but he prodded it from many angles with a 10-8-2-1-2 line. He got even fewer minutes than megabust Austin Rivers, who seems to be the one benefiting the most from Tyreke Evans’s absence. I call Rivers a megabust, but a Twitter commenter did note that Rivers has outplayed max contract-owner Eric Gordon in the last two games, so who’s the real megabust lately?…Andre Iguodala returned last night, and, though he did very little, you can now safely bench Harrison Barnes. If you didn’t drop Draymond Green weeks ago, then A. you can definitely do it now and B. you’re probably paying way too much attention to silly things like your job or your family. Stop neglecting your fantasy basketball team!

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

1. Jon Leuer (25%)
2. Jordan Hill (33%)
4. Marvin Williams (15%)
5. Jordan Farmar (7%)
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo (9%)

Clearly I’m not worried about Hill, although I also ignored the signs for him and Koufos before. Might regret not bumping Glen Davis back up. On the other hand, the bad news on Farmar drops him down, but not too far (see hindsight below). Michael Carter-Williams’s probable return on Friday means Wroten’s value as a starter for your fantasy team is probably done for the moment. Honestly, I’m not sure that Wroten’s less valuable than Antetokounmpo moving forward in the short-term, but the Alphabet Soup is to me what RG3 was to Matthew Berry last year. I can’t speak about him objectively.

Hindsight: All that optimism for a Friday return for Jordan Farmar is gone. Looks like he’s out at least another week, but if he’s back by Christmas, you’ll still be glad you stashed him…Over the All-Star break, when there are no games, I’m going to do a list of my best and worst pickups. Jeff Taylor will definitely be on my list of worst. This guy’s shooting just fell off a cliff this year.

Pickup of the Day: 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: Timofey Mozgov

(Nathaniel S. Butler / 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 Tuesday, December 3 is Timofey Mozgov. He’s owned in 10% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.8% of ESPN Leagues. He’s Yahoo!’s most added player so far today, but his massive production these past two games require a lot of perspective.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Brooklyn:
20131203 Timofey Mozgov

17-20-1-1-2 is a monstrous line, even better than the 16-15-1-2-2 that Mozgov put up the previous night against Toronto. Earlier in the year, he also put up a huge 23-9-0-0-4 against the Lakers. What do these three games have in common? Three things: A. JaVale McGee was injured for all of them (and is still out indefinitely). B. Starting center J.J. Hickson didn’t play more than 17.5 minutes in any of them. C. Each team features a legit 7-foot tall center with post moves that the 6’9″ Hickson could not defend. The Lakers have Pau Gasol, Toronto has Jonas Valanciunas and Brooklyn has Brook Lopez.

In fact, Hickson is just a terrible defensive center in general, as other centers like Dwight Howard, Nikola Pekovic, Andrea Bargnani and Joakim Noah have all blown up against him as well. Hickson only managed to hold his own against Dallas and Oklahoma City, two teams that don’t look to their centers to score.

Does Hickson’s struggles and Mozgov’s two monster games signal a shift in roles in Denver? Probably not yet, which means Mozgov isn’t close to a must-add. Outside of his three big games, he’s only averaging 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 16.5 minutes. However, taking a look at Denver’s upcoming schedule, here are the next four centers that Hickson/Mozgov will face:

  • Andrew Bynum (Huge Advantage: Mozgov)
  • Jared Sullinger (Advantage: Hickson)
  • Spencer Hawes (Advantage: Mozgov)
  • Marcin Gortat (Advantage: Mozgov)
  • Derrick Favors (Slight Advantage: Hickson)

When I say advantage, I don’t mean who will defend better, because Hickson is an all-around terrible defender while Mozgov is actually pretty decent. I just mean Hickson is almost assured his regular minutes against Boston and Utah, while Mozgov has a chance to steal the show again against Cleveland, Philly and Washington. That is unless coach Brian Shaw decides simply to play his better center. For the moment, it’s worth hanging on to Mozgov to see if that happens.

Other Notable Players: I told you Glen Davis would have another opportunity at a big night with Nikola Vucevic back, and he delivered in a huge way, dropping 33-3-3-2-0 in 50 minutes. Unfortunately, E’Twaun Moore couldn’t do the same even with Jameer Nelson out and Ronnie Price his only other competition for minutes…James Anderson and Hollis Thompson are both likely to be serviceable but uninspiring as long as Thompson is starting…Don’t get too used to the Bucks’ rotation. They started integrating Ersan Ilyasova back into the rotation last night, and they’ve still got Caron Butler and Larry Sanders to go. Their backcourt finally seems set with O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight though…This might be the last time we can talk about Brandon Bass for a while, who’s now 38% owned and will likely push back up past 40% today. We’ll see what happens when Kelly Olynyk returns though…Michael Beasley. He’s been scoring well and staying out of trouble. Just put him on your radar. If one of the Big Three is forced to miss extended time (we’re talking about Dwyane Wade obviously), Beasley may not become the starter but could regularly see 30 min like he did tonight…Alan Anderson got the start for the injured Paul Pierce but was limited in his contributions. Still, he should get plenty of playing time now. Tyshawn Taylor continued starting over Shaun Livingston, but both are becoming non-newsworthy…Gerald Green did not do well at all in his return to the bench. He’ll be better than 1-for-8 normally and was indeed still productive the last time Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe were both starting…And now Marcus Morris is the better twin again. This Jekyll-and-Hyde routine he’s playing with Markieff Morris is making both unrosterable…With both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph out last night, literally all the backup Memphis bigs had great games against Phoenix: Kosta Koufos (14-12-2-1-2), Ed Davis (21-12-1-0-2), and even Jon Leuer (23-9-1-0-3). The three shot a combined 25-of-36 (69.4%) from the field, a huge indictment of how awful Phoenix’s big men were on defense. Unless Randolph misses more time, though, Koufos is still the only useful player for fantasy. Davis would be in the mix if Randolph were to miss more. Leuer? Not so much…Josh McRoberts picked his game back up, but the assists and threes still aren’t back yet…It’s not even worth discussing Reggie Jackson or Jeremy Lamb’s performances except to mention that coach Scott Brooks is trusting them both more and more. The current OKC roster configuration is still looking for a James Harden/Kevin Martin-type to step up, but neither Jackson nor Lamb have fulfilled the role yet…Jason Thompson had a nice 10-10-2-0-2 line with DeMarcus Cousins out, but I’d still rather have Derrick Williams despite his barren line last night (13-0-0-1-0)…Even after replacing Amir Johnson in the starting line-up, Tyler Hansbrough has been nowhere close to useful. Johnson blew up for 16-10-1-1-1 last night, so coach Dwane Casey might even consider him properly motivated enough to put back into the starting line-up…

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

1. Kosta Koufos (29%)
2. Glen Davis (35%)
3. Marvin Williams (18%)
4. Brandon Bass (38%)
5. Wesley Johnson (13%)

The fact that Brandon Bass was left off this list the past few days was a big oversight on my part. Meanwhile, Koufos and Davis move ahead on account of their big nights, and Johnson beats Robinson out for the last spot after a wrist injury derailed Robinson’s night.

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: Brandon Knight

(AP Photo / Morry Gash)

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 Sunday, November 24 is Brandon Knight. He’s owned in 38% of Yahoo! Leagues and 39.1% of ESPN Leagues. He was heavily mentioned in last night’s column, but, being as he’s still under 40% owned, fantasy owners in need of a PG should get on it and pick him ASAP.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Charlotte:
20131124 Brandon Knight

No, it’s not an impressive line, and it highlights two of his major flaws: poor shooting and turnovers. However, as previously mentioned, he is the point guard of the future in Milwaukee. He was the key piece the Bucks got in return for the sign-and-trade of Brandon Jennings to the Pistons, though a lot of that had to do with the Bucks’ unwillingness to pay Jennings.

Knight and Luke Ridnour’s injuries allowed the other PG’s on the team, Nate Wolters and Gary Neal, to establish some value. However, now that Knight and Ridnour are both back, they should become the starter and backup respectively for the time being.

Is he legit? Knight was coming along and improving in Detroit last year, where he started all 75 games he played and averaged 13.3 pts, 3.3 reb, 4.0 ast and 1.6 3’s while sharing point guard duties with Jose Calderon, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum. Those numbers came erratically, though, as he had 20 games scoring in the 20’s and 30’s and 25 games scoring in single digits.

After a tumultuous summer, he finally landed in Milwaukee as Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings were both on their way out. While hamstring problems have kept Knight ineffective so far, Milwaukee still hopes he is the other half of their backcourt of the future alongside O.J. Mayo. Milwaukee is going to let him play, both as the starting point guard and as off-guard when he shares the court with Luke Ridnour. I expect his FG% and assists eventually to rise while playing alongside Mayo, and, if he can stay healthy, he should have plenty of opportunities to put up gaudy totals.

Other Notable Players: Mike Dunleavy had the better scoring night while Kirk Hinrich got the assists for the Bulls. That’s probably the way it will continue to go between these two with both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler out, though they won’t always be playing under 30 min as they’re getting blown out…Conversely, ignore Darren Collison’s productive night for the Clippers, but do keep in mind that starter Jared Dudley dropped 21 points with four threes in just 21 min. He’s been semi-productive ever since Matt Barnes has been out with a retinal tear…After an abysmal start to the season, Channing Frye has now averaged 12.8 pts, 5.0 reb, 1.4 blk and 2.4 3’s in his last five games, including a 0-1-0 stinker in the middle. I don’t know how much this is directly related to Eric Bledsoe missing the past four games, but anyone who gets you blocks and threes like that is worth a pickup…Speaking of Bledsoe being out, you should keep playing Gerald Green (20-8-2-2, 4 3’s) until you see Bledsoe back. Bledsoe has been trying out his shin before the last two games but hasn’t been able to go so far…Now both Markieff and Marcus Morris are productive? I don’t understand this situation, but, all things being equal, Marcus is the one that hits threes…It’s not Moe Harkless continuing to start. It’s not Andrew Nicholson getting more minutes and being more effective. It’s Tobias Harris returning unexpectedly early that makes me regret my Glen Davis pick last night. Still, Davis is worth holding on to until we see how Orlando’s rotation shakes out with two major pieces returning in two nights…Russell Westbrook sat out tonight just to give him a break in a long stretch without games, and Oklahoma City was blowing out Utah. That explains Reggie Jackson’s start and Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones’s solid games, but don’t expect those to continue…Marvin Williams did not have a good game in this blowout, but he did get the start over Enes Kanter, who also injured his ankle in this game. Williams had three good games previously and now should be in line for even more…Xavier Henry is not back.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (18%)
2. Jared Sullinger (33%)
3. Brandon Knight (38%)
4. Glen Davis (24%)
5. Mo Williams (23%)

Glen Davis drops down on this list while we wait for Orlando to figure out its rotation. Jared Sullinger edges up past Knight because I got overzealous about Knight returning yesterday and discounted Sullinger’s recent consistency. Meanwhile, Marvin Williams and Channing Frye are both knocking at the door, and another poor game by Mo Williams should let one in.

Hindsight: Jordan Crawford should’ve returned to the Top Five list yesterday, but today he’s already at 40% owned…Andray Blatche got the start tonight but didn’t produce, but he was still better than Shaun Livingston who has now had three straight terrible games despite averaging over 28 mpg and having a stellar previous week. Brook Lopez is questionable for Tuesday’s game, but Deron Williams is almost certainly out, so Livingston will get at least another chance to turn it around.