Pickup of the Day: Reggie Jackson

(Mark D. Smith / USA TODAY Sports)

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

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickups for Sunday, December 8 is Reggie Jackson. He’s owned in 23% of Yahoo! Leagues and 22.8% of ESPN Leagues. Yes, he is the first player to be the Pickup a second time. As a wise man once said, “Fool me once, shame on…shame on you…you fool me, I can’t get fooled again.” Despite getting burned by picking Jackson earlier in the season, I’m letting him fool me twice into believing he can co-exist with Russell Westbrook and become that James Harden/Kevin Martin-type off the bench. Except this time he’s proving it.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Indiana:
20131208 Reggie Jackson

The problem with Jackson earlier in the year, despite my prediction, was that he could not find consistent minutes or production after Westbrook returned from injury despite clearly being the Thunder’s best bench player. However, as I said two days ago, Jackson now has been getting it done with Westbrook in the line-up. He’s averaging 14.9 pts, 3.6 reb, 2.7 ast, 0.6 stl, 1.1 3pm, 1.4 TO, 52.5% FG and 100% FT in 27 mpg over his last seven, all with Westbrook also in the line-up.

Those numbers don’t seem like much, but what stands out to a keen eye is that he doesn’t hurt your team anywhere. Though Yahoo!’s player ratings are admittedly flawed, here’s a partial list of point guards that rank below Jackson (#70) over that two-week stretch: Jameer Nelson (72), Jose Calderon (73), Mike Conley (76), Jamal Crawford (84), Trey Burke (86), Ricky Rubio (100), Ty Lawson (108), Nate Robinson, (110), Tony Parker (124), Eric Bledsoe (130), Kirk Hinrich (132), Jeff Teague (142), Raymond Felton (154), Brandon Knight (169), Steve Blake (207).

Of course, Jackson won’t get you points like Parker, assists like Blake, or steals like Rubio, and Eric Bledsoe is still recovering from injury. It’s ridiculous to think he’s actually worth more than each of those players. How does he rank above all of them then? Because in the past two weeks, a lot of them have been killing their teams with field goal percentages in the .300’s to low .400’s (and high turnover rates for those in 9-cat leagues). Also, though Jackson’s 0.6 stl and 1.1 3pm aren’t spectacular, others are even worse (i.e. Tony Parker’s 0.4 stl and 0.4 3pm).

Here’s my caveat to Jackson that serves as a cap to his ceiling. He is not the perfect player for the Thunder. He is so clearly the fourth most-talented player on that team (after Kevin Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka) that they have to play him with the starters at the end of games, but he can’t match up with the same players that James Harden or Kevin Martin did on the Thunder (though apparently Harden doesn’t anymore).

I keep going back to the Bledsoe analogy, but it’s apt. Last year, Bledsoe made sure the Clippers had the same defensive intensity in the 15 min that Chris Paul was off the court that they had when Paul played, but Bledsoe could never flourish there because his strengths were too redundant and Paul was better than him in all other areas that mattered. I am getting the same vibe with Jackson and Westbrook. Jackson won’t put up the numbers that Harden did when he was on the Thunder, but if they’re going to give him close to the same minutes, he could be worth a spot on your roster.

Other Notable Players: I really wanted the lede for today’s column to be about the Raptors-Kings trade (i.e. the Rudy Gay trade), but frankly, the players who stand to benefit most are way over 40% owned and thus off our radar (In order: DeMar DeRozan until he gets traded, Isaiah Thomas, Jonas Valanciunas/Amir Johnson. Ben McLemore’s value falls). If you’re feeling bold, pick up Terrence Ross, the Raptors’ eighth pick in last year’s draft. They want to know what they have in him, although he will still have to compete with John Salmons and last night’s starter Landry Fields for minutes. On the Kings’ side, I’m not sure anyone other than Thomas benefits, and I’m even wary of that if Thomas starts and has to reduce his usage playing more alongside DeMarcus Cousins. Gay is going to soak up the minutes at the three, which means the Derrick Williams as starting SF experiment is over. He’ll split time with Jason Thompson at PF, so neither Salmons nor Patrick Patterson’s departures benefit their fringe players…Tim Hardaway Jr. had an inauspicious first start in place of the injured Kenyon Martin, as his Knicks (who are 5-14 despite deep playoff aspirations at the beginning of the season) got demolished by the Celtics (who are 10-12 despite the fact that they were supposed to be tanking). He was actually worse than his final playing time of 24:39 indicates, as he got pulled very early after two quick turnovers and mainly sat while the game was still within the remote fantasy of contention. Still, he’s been very productive lately, and this promotion just indicates how much the Knicks expect out of him…Kobe Bryant’s return rocked the Lakers’ rotation, but not in one aspect. The Lakers’ entered the night leading the league in bench scoring at 46.8 ppg. They will hold on to that title, as their bench scored 71 points tonight to the starters’ 23. Put on a hold on Lakers’ players at this point until they adjust to Kobe and he himself adjusts to playing again, but keep in mind that guys like Steve Blake, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill are all dealing with injuries and are all likely dying for the team to get healthier so they can take time to recuperate. Towards the end of December, when Jordan Farmar is nearing a return, I would grab him as soon as possible…With news that Quincy Pondexter is done for the season, more minutes will be opening up for Mike Miller, Jerryd Bayless, and Nick Calathes. Who will really benefit from it is still uncertain at this point. Check back tomorrow when we review the Grizzlies’ game against the Magic tonight…Speaking of that game, remember when I said Jon Leuer has had great games whenever either Zach Randolph or Ed Davis sits? Davis is sitting. Get Leuer into your line-up if you have him.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (36%)
2. Glen Davis (37%)
4. Jeffery Taylor (4%)
3. Kirk Hinrich (36%)
5. Tony Wroten (15%)

Taj Gibson graduates up to 42% owned, so we bid him adieu. Kirk Hinrich has to drop just because of his train-wreck FG% lately. For the last spot, I’m going with the player who will burn bright and then out by the end of this week (Wroten) over the player who will burn dimly but probably stay lit for the entire season (Jackson). MCW has rejoined the team, but he won’t play tonight and may miss the next two games. Jackson will have more value over the course of the season, but Wroten can put up the type of stats that can win this week for you by himself in head-to-head leagues. Finally, it is an absolute sham that Koufos is still under 40% owned. This man is averaging 11.0 pts, 12.3 reb, 1.3 ast, 1.2 stl and 2.0 blk in the last two weeks! Even with Marc Gasol on the way back, he’s more valuable than Gibson!


Pickup of the Day: Mike Dunleavy

i(Doug Pensinger / 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 Thursday, November 21 is Mike Dunleavy. He’s owned in 8% of Yahoo! Leagues and 3.0% of ESPN Leagues, although that should see a bump after he was declared Chicago’s starting SG while Jimmy Butler is out for two weeks with a broken toe.

Here’s a look at Dunleavy’s line tonight against Denver:
20131121 Mike Dunleavy

When I heard Butler would be out for two weeks, I couldn’t decide whether Dunleavy or Kirk Hinrich would be the better pick-up. I actually leaned toward Hinrich, because I thought the Bulls would start him for his defense and bring Dunleavy off the bench for his offense. After coach Tom Thibodeau announced Dunleavy would be the starter, it became clearer that Dunleavy was the better pickup.

However, it should be noted that both Dunleavy and Hinrich played a little over 31 min tonight. It’s not a given that Dunleavy will be better than Hinrich every night, but his fantasy ceiling is definitely higher.

Is he legit? Dunleavy had one borderline All-Star season in Indiana in which he averaged 19.1 pts, 5.2 reb, 3.5 ast, 1.0 stl and 2.0 3’s on good percentages in 36 mpg and played all 82 games. In every year since then, he’s just been a poor facsimile of that season, but he has been an effective weapon off the bench the past two years in Milwaukee. In fact, his value might be better in Chicago off the bench where he could be the primary scoring option à la Nate Robinson last year. As is, he actually got many of his points in garbage time tonight. Still, I’d take 15-5-2 with two threes and excellent percentages however I can get them.

Other Notable Players: As mentioned earlier, Kirk Hinrich also played over 31 min tonight. I’m not convinced Dunleavy will always be the better fantasy play, and Hinrich is the better source of steals and assists…Another player out for two weeks is Matt Barnes of the Clippers, and Jared Dudley stands to benefit the most. Dudley has been a disappointment so far this year, but he got his most minutes tonight (34) with Barnes out. He still didn’t have a good game, but he can be expected to be more productive while receiving minutes in the mid-30s instead of mid-20s…Not a useful player to have right now but a useful name to remember is Reggie Bullock, who also got his most minutes of the season (17) tonight with Barnes out. He’s the Clippers’ first-round pick this year, and they do want to see what they have in him, so expect him to get some more run later in the year if the Clippers lock in their playoff position early.

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

1. Martell Webster (38%)
2. Mo Williams (27%)
3. Jared Sullinger (29%)
4. Jodie Meeks (28%)
5. Patrick Beverley (29%)

As expected, Terrence Jones is now owned in 41% of Yahoo! Leagues and graduates off this list, making room for his Rockets teammate Beverley to push his way in with some strong three-pointer and steal numbers.

Hindsight: Although the Oklahoma City bench was excellent tonight, chipping in 35 points and 23 rebounds, no one there has gotten regular enough minutes to be valuable in fantasy. All my early-season hype for Reggie Jackson, Steven Adams and Jeremy Lamb has been way premature.

Pickup of the Day: Reggie Jackson

(AP Photo / Matt York)

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 Monday, November 4 is Reggie Jackson. This pickup is unlike all others that I’ve recommended so far in that he didn’t have an eye-opening game last night. In fact, he didn’t play at all. He’s tonight’s pickup because he finally dropped below 40% owned in Yahoo! Leagues. He’s at 39% right now, but that number is quickly dropping.

Here’s a look at his most recent game on Sunday against Phoenix:
20131104 Reggie Jackson

This was not an impressive game for Jackson but was notable for one reason: the successful return of Russell Westbrook, who pushed Jackson back to a bench role. In one day, Jackson’s ownership fell 8% across Yahoo! Leagues. In ESPN leagues, he is the most-dropped player of the week, plummeting from 55.6% owned last week to 26.2% now.

So why am I telling you to pick up Reggie Jackson? To answer that question, I’m going to invoke the names of Kevin Martin and James Harden, the last two players to have Jackson’s role as the first Thunder player off the bench and the only second-unit guy who can create his own offense (though Martin was more a catch-and-shoot guy). Both Martin and Harden (who I’m going to call “Marden” just to make it easy on myself) put up solid fantasy numbers coming off the bench in OKC. Jackson is somewhere between the two of them in talent and has the chance to do the same.

Critics would argue this is an apples-to-oranges comparison because Jackson plays a different position than Marden did. They’re right. Marden was a SG that could slot in between Westbrook and Durant. Jackson’s natural position is PG, but will that stop the Thunder from playing him alongside their Big Two?

You might argue playing two PG’s puts the Thunder at a defensive disadvantage. Three things: A) Both Westbrook and Jackson are big 6’3″ guards, so that disadvantage against taller SG’s isn’t quite so large. B) Marden was never a defensive ace either. C) This:

All this is just speculation obviously. I have no idea how the Thunder will actually play Jackson moving forward. I know they would prefer to have Jeremy Lamb be the one to replace Marden and to protect Jackson as their insurance policy to Westbrook, but Lamb isn’t ready yet and Jackson is. Jackson actually played more minutes in his last game with Westbrook than in his previous game without Westbrook, while Lamb played less. Though in that previous game OKC was being blown out and cleared their bench.

Jackson and Lamb may end up canceling out each other’s values this year, and Derek Fisher is somehow still out there soaking up minutes, too. Still, I can’t justify letting a talent like Jackson wallow out on the waiver wire until we see how this situation shakes out.

Is he legit? Yes, if we’re talking about talent. If we’re talking about opportunity, I’m not sure yet. Unfortunately, as Doug Kezirian would tell you, in fantasy basketball opportunity matters a lot more than talent. I’m going to invoke a third name for projecting Reggie Jackson’s future: Eric Bledsoe. What Jackson is this year is what Bledsoe was last year: by far the best backup PG in the league, but also playing behind one of the league’s best starters. What Westbrook is to Jackson, Chris Paul was to Bledsoe. Aside from some startlingly high block totals for a 6’1″ guard and a brief span when Paul was injured, Bledsoe was nearly useless for fantasy last year. Yet many fantasy owners were seduced enough by his flashes of talent–and the unpredictable games when he’d drop a line like 14-4-6-2-2 in under 20 min–to keep stashing him. And waiting. And hoping.

Unfortunately, we turned out to be one year early to the Bledsoe bandwagon. I’m telling you to bet that’s not the case for Jackson this year, but, if it is, I already know his floor: last year’s Eric Bledsoe.

Other Notable Players: Remember when I told you Omri Casspi, and not Francisco Garcia, was the Rockets bench player you wanted to pick up, just not yet? Tonight’s game was fluky because of the frenetic pace and Patrick Beverley being out, but it’s time…C.J. Miles put together a second good game but couldn’t scrape 19 min. If something happens to Dion Waiters or Jarrett Jack, he could be a cheap source of 3’s and steals…Speaking of steals, Corey Brewer is averaging 2.5 while playing over 30 mpg. Get him…You may notice Brandon Bass has slipped in the Top 5 Sneaky Pickups. Part of that is due to his past two poor games, but most of it is due to Jared Sullinger working his way back to health. At some point this season, Boston will want to see how good Sullinger can be with starter’s minutes, while Bass’s workman-like game and defense is more suited to a team with higher aspirations.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):
1. Reggie Jackson (39%)
2. Zaza Pachulia (22%)
3. Brandon Bass (38%)
4. Alec Burks (34%)
5. Corey Brewer (13%)

Accountability: According to Jeff Hornacek, the Suns’ coach, Goran Dragic will only miss two games, which means Gerald Green could become droppable as soon as this Friday. Whatever, coach. I’ll believe it when I see it…Vitor Faverani, what are you doing?