Pickup of the Day: Terrence Jones


(Soobum Im / 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 Wednesday, December 25–#NBAXmas–is Terrence Jones. After a strong stretch earlier in the season, his numbers took a huge dive during and following a bout with the flu this month, to the point where his ownership dropped to 35% in Yahoo! Leagues and 28.6% in ESPN Leagues. It was never clear why Jones declined so much even after recovering from his illness, but last night’s game showed he’s still got the mojo he had earlier this year.

Here’s a look at his line last night against San Antonio:
20131225 Terrence Jones

Still got it! This is by far his best game since he dropped 16 points, 13 reb, 2 stl, 5 blk and 2 3pm against Orlando on Dec. 8. In the seven games between that game and last night’s, however, he was terrible. Here’s a comparison of how he did in those seven games against his other 15 starts this season:

20131225 Terrence Chart

Right now, we can only speculate as to whether his play was due to the after-effects of the flu or something more persistent, but his near across-the-board contributions (albeit with disappointing FT%) when he is playing well makes him worth the gamble. If he’s back on track, you need to get him back into your rotation or at least on your bench so you can monitor him.

Other Notable Players: If the Bulls ever trade either Luol Deng or Carlos Boozer, grab Taj Gibson immediately. Here’s a look at Gibson’s numbers with and without Deng in the line-up this season:

20131226 Taj Chart

Gibson’s numbers seem decent even overall, but he scored in single digits in nine of his first 13 games before Boozer slipped in production for three games. Then Gibson went off, culminating in a 26-14 and 5 blk in a triple-OT affair on Dec. 2. After that, Boozer got productive again, but Deng went out, so Gibson was able to keep his numbers up until Deng returned on Dec. 14. Gibson looked to be heading back to his early-season levels of unproductivity at that point, until Deng missed the last three games. Now Gibson is playing strong again, but this will end again as soon as Deng returns.

What to do with Gibson then? If you have a free roster spot, stash him. This is a guy who plays the extremely valuable PF/C position who is getting more opportunities this year than any since his rookie season before Boozer arrived in Chicago.

Another notable event in Chicago was the return of Kirk Hinrich to the starting line-up, though he only managed 20 min and D.J. Augustin outplayed him in his 33 min. Hinrich has gotten a lot of minutes at PG this year with Derrick Rose out, though possibly undeservedly considering he’s shooting a career-low 34.5% FG. Augustin has definitely outplayed Hinrich recently, but this is likely to become a timeshare that sinks both players’ values.

So Brooklyn still sucks, but Mirza Teletovic put up 17 pts, 2 blk, and 3 3pm in 19 min. As Rotoworld’s Aaron Bruski noted, those are Andrea Bargnani numbers when Bargnani is actually good (not last night). Anything is a possible in a post-Brook Lopez world. Speaking of whom, his anticipated successor Andray Blatche has been subpar in both games since Lopez’s season ended, but Blatche is going to receive too many opportunities to ignore.

As far as that other crappy team in the boroughs, there was plenty of notable fantasy pickup news with Raymond Felton and Carmelo Anthony both sitting on the bench looking like this. Beno Udrih was awful, which is bad news considering both Felton and Pablo Prigioni are still expected to be out a while longer. Another PG option to which the Knicks may turn is rookie Tim Hardaway Jr., who put in an efficient 10 points on 4-of-8 FG in the first half and then a more J.R. Smith-esque 11 points on 4-of-11 FG in the second. You would expect a noted defender like him to get more steals, but he doesn’t. Amar’e Stoudemire scoring 22 points in last night’s blowout was nice, but he hadn’t scored in double-digits or played 20 min in his previous four games.

The Lakers actually played the Heat pretty tightly last night, considering the blowouts that preceded their game. Jodie Meeks was excellent, dropping 17-4-3-2-0 with 4 3pm on 50.0% FG. You’re welcome, 1.5 people who picked him up because of Tuesday’s column. I still like him way more than I like Nick Young, who scored a little more last night (20 pts) but got no steals and shot 38.9% FG.

Jordan Hill looked great against the weak Miami frontline, going 7-5-1-3-2 in his 12 min in the first half. He wasn’t as good with 2-5-0-1-1 in his 12 min in the second. Somehow, coach Mike D’Antoni still managed to keep his minutes limited even without playing either Chris Kaman or Robert Sacre. Considering Pau Gasol is now day-to-day, one would expect D’Antoni would have no choice but to play Hill 30+ min. It seems like a lock, but D’Antoni has become a savant at finding ways to jerk Hill’s minutes around.

The big news should’ve been that Jordan Farmar returned and played over 32 min, but he only managed a paltry 3-5-2-0-0 while missing six of his seven shots and committing four turnovers. He did not look aggressive at all, but this should change as he gets more comfortable with his recovering hamstring. Also, as noted before in this blog, the Heat are an absolutely brutal matchup for opposing point guards. “Backup PG” Xavier Henry didn’t do too badly, going 14-5-2-2-0, but he’s destined for a deeper bench role now.

Aaron Brooks seemed good in his first game playing behind Jeremy Lin, but he was horrible last night. Unlike many fantasy prognosticators, I am still fully on-board with Brooks’s value. Houston won’t likely play him like they did Patrick Beverley, where both Lin and Beverley often saw the court together at the end of games, but Brooks hopefully will get chances to come in as a scorer and playmaker off the bench much the same way that Isaiah Thomas did earlier this year for Sacramento.

Both Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes put up duds last night after alternating good games for the previous two, and that’s all the news from the only marquee matchup on Christmas.

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

1. Terrence Jones (35%)
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (19%)
2. Jordan Farmar (18%)
3. Reggie Jackson (39%)
4. Glen Davis (38%)

Jones takes the top spot, and Augustin falls off. I’m not worried for Antetokounmpo’s value with news that Larry Sanders is probable to return this Friday. Sanders is more likely to affect John Henson and Miroslav Raduljica’s values, though he was miserable earlier this season and will have to work even harder to get back to the level at which he was playing last year under a different coach.

That does it for Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickups for 2013. I am out of the country until the second week of January, where I’ll have many, many games and much, much player news on which to catch up and report to you. In the mean time, follow @sneakyfantasybb on Twitter to catch any brief up-to-date news I may need to report.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday season, and have a happy new year!

Pickup of the Day: Jodie Meeks


(AP Photo / Ross D. Franklin)

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

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Monday, December 23 is Jodie Meeks. He’s owned in 26% of Yahoo! Leagues and 13.8% of ESPN Leagues. Much more press following Kobe Bryant’s injury has been given to Xavier Henry playing the point, Jordan Farmar’s return, and Nick Young’s general swagginess, but Meeks has quietly outperformed all non-Pau Gasol Lakers lately with a combination of threes, good percentages, and steals.

It’s been eight days since we’ve recommended a player based on his previous night’s performance, but here’s a look at Meeks’s line last night against Phoenix:
20131223 Jodie Meeks

Meeks’s value collapsed during Kobe’s six-game return, but he was excellent before and now becoming excellent again now that Kobe will be wearing his custom Boswell suits on the bench for six weeks.

Here’s a breakdown of Meeks’s numbers before, during, and after Kobe:

20131223 Jodie Chart

A lot of his recent value has been due to the fact that he’s played a lot more than his usual number of minutes with injuries decimating the Lakers, but there was clearly a huge dropoff in his production when Kobe was in the line-up. Before Kobe, however, this was a guy who shot 50% from the field, 83.7% from the line and hit 2.3 threes in under 30 mpg. I don’t know if he can keep up his most recent streak of steals, but Meeks is a solid SG prospect that should become even better when a real PG, like Jordan Farmar, is setting up his shots.

Other Notable Players: Here’s the argument why Khris Middleton isn’t the Pickup: he is averaging an astounding 45 mpg over his last four games, three of which went into overtime. He also dropped 29 points in another overtime game on Dec. 6, but in those five games in between? 7.8 pts, 3.4 reb, 1.4 ast, 0.2 stl, 0.8 3pm on 36.8% FG in 28 mpg.

I’m desperately scrambling in one of my leagues after losing Brook Lopez for the year, so please excuse some fawning over mediocre or fluky big man performances possibly for the rest of the year (Re: Jordan Hill). That being said, Cody Zeller had his best game of his professional career so far last night in that overtime win against the Bucks, dropping 12-7-4-0-2 in 22 min. Somehow, Charlotte is currently the six-seed in a putrid Eastern Conference, but if their season collapses later in the year, we may see more of him. Right now, he’s not a threat to steal minutes away from either Josh McRoberts or Al Jefferson.

By the way, Lopez is actually still owned in 60% of Yahoo! Leagues despite being done for the season. Give or take a few percentage points for people who just refuse to believe news and hold out for his return, ownership percentages for guys like him, who at one point were 100% owned, are a good indicator of how many fantasy managers are mostly or completely inactive. Another example: Derrick Rose is still owned in 36% of Yahoo! leagues despite being declared out for the season a month ago. In ESPN leagues, BroLo and D-Rose are at 41.3% and 16.5% respectively, so those managers might be more active.

Another strong game for Glen Davis, while Victor Oladipo continues tumbling. Whether or not Jameer Nelson or Arron Afflalo are traded, at some point this year Oladipo will take back the reins. In the meantime, Big Baby seems like he’s the bigger staple in the line-up.

It says a lot that Lou Williams couldn’t produce in 34 minutes of an OT game. And what do we think about DeMarre Carroll’s 8-4-2-1-1 with 2 3pm? As much as I rave about Wes Johnson, I need to mention that Carroll has been a better version of him.

Brooklyn is just a terrible team, but I find it interesting that Mirza Teletovic played 30 min. 31 mpg over his last two including one with BroLo, though Teletovic is anything but consistent with his production so far.

Brandan Wright fell off, but Vince Carter stacked two nice games each around a goose egg on Dec. 20. 14.8 pts, 3.8 reb, 5.8 ast, 1.0 stl, 1.8 3pm on 57.1% FG and 80.0% FT in those four games overall.

Jeremy Lin came back, but Aaron Brooks still pushed 30 min and was good, as predicted. What’s also interesting is Terrence Jones also played 30 min, his most minutes in 10 days. He’s fallen off hard for almost two weeks now, but he was so good before that you at least need to keep an eye on him if not add him.

Kosta Koufos, Jon Leuer and Ed Davis were all so subpar that coach Dave Joerger gave 33 min to James Johnson? Johnson’s value disappears when Tayshaun Prince returns, but a return to the starting line-up might mean Koufos can once again become a double-double + blocks machine.

Just when I thought John Salmons might overtake Terrence Ross, Ross comes out, drops 23 points on 62.5% FG, and makes me look like a fool. Although once again he didn’t do more than get points and threes.

Mediocre big man alert: Timofey Mozgov dropped a double-double, but it was with Kenneth Faried out. Coach Brian Shaw expects Faried to play Friday.

Drop Jordan Hill. Some people might still believe in him, but his recent numbers indicate that coach Mike D’Antoni has no interest in playing his second-best big man consistently regardless of matchups. Also, Chris Kaman is no good again now that Gasol’s back.

And last night it was Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green and Marcus Morris who showed up for the Suns. Plumlee’s career rebounding night shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, as numerous big men have had career nights against the Lakers this year. Green however has been good three games in a row now, averaging 21 points and 5.3 threes in 28 mpg. His biggest problem this year has been staying consistent with both Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe in the line-up, and he’s doing that now. Still, who knows if he’ll be a victim of the Suns’ carousel next game.

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

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (18%)
2. Jordan Farmar (14%)
3. Reggie Jackson (38%)
4. Glen Davis (37%)
5. D.J. Augustin (22%)

Goodbye Jon Leuer, hello D.J. Augustin. Augustin should probably be much higher for a guy who averaged 13.7 pts, 2.3 reb, 8.0 ast, 1.7 stl and 3.0 3pm on 50.0% FG and 80.0% FT, but I still distrust what I’m seeing from him until Kirk Hinrich returns. Though he’s certainly producing a lot more than was expected from him when Chicago picked him up. The Lakers only wish they could say the same about Kendall Marshall.

Hindsight: So I was holding on to Leuer too long. He is by far the Grizzlies’ most offensively talented big man off the bench, but his streak of seven straight double-digit scoring games did correspond to six Grizzly losses…A little over a week ago, I dropped Brandon Knight to pick back up Jordan Hill. If you want to stop reading my blog forever now, I’ll understand. In my defense, I wanted another big man because BroLo couldn’t stay healthy (and now rests in peace on our waiver wire), and I thought Knight’s FG% would sink my team. I still think his FG% will drop back off, but BK — 25.0 pts, 8.8 reb, 7.8 ast, 2.8 3pm on 45.7% FG over his last four. For someone else’s team. Damn.

And with that last nugget of coal in my stocking, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. There are no games tonight, so I’ll talk to you all again the day after #NBAXmas!

Pickup of the Day: 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: Jordan Farmar


(Gary A. Vasquez / USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pickup of the Day: 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: Reggie Jackson


(Mark D. Smith / USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pickup of the Day: Jeffery Taylor

(Brock Williams-Smith / NBAE via Getty Images)

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

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickups for Friday, December 6 is Jeffery Taylor. He’s owned in 4% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.2% of ESPN Leagues. These percentages haven’t really bumped at all since his career-high scoring game last night (albeit it was 20 points), but that is a travesty given the opportunity that he’s now receiving.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Philadelphia:
20131206 Jeffery Taylor

Taylor is an example of why I love fantasy basketball. He plays for the Charlotte Bobcats, a team that has been in the bottom 10 of arena attendance every year since it was formed. They hold the record for the worst single-season win percentage in history and likely average less than one nationally-televised game a year (they have zero on ABC, ESPN or TNT this year, as I assume they also do most years).

Who, outside of the Queen City, even knows who Jeff Taylor is? If you’re a fantasy basketball player worth your salt, you do. Because last year, while you were checking Bobcats box scores to see Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s progress, you kept wondering to yourself who was this Jeff Taylor kid that kept getting minutes while MKG struggled?

While MKG has the motor, athleticism and pedigree that made him the no. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Taylor–the 31st pick in that same draft–beats him handily in one area: basketball skills. Namely, he knows how to score and make plays. As he should, being four years older than MKG.

After a fantastic summer league and preseason, Taylor actually had a serviceable eight-game stretch in mid-November when he averaged 12.3 pts, 3.4 reb and 1.1 3pm in 26 min. Since then, however, poor shooting (34.1%) and foul trouble (2.9 in 20.5 mpg) have kept him languishing on the bench. And then MKG broke his hand.

With MKG sidelined for 4-6 weeks, I already mentioned that Taylor is likely going to be a good pickup. While he may not generally put up the type of numbers he did against Philly, which plays at the highest pace in the league, he now looks primed for 30 mpg, assuming he stays out of foul trouble. Get him in your line-up and ride him while he’s still hot.

Other Notable Players: Khris Middleton has been heating up just as Caron Butler is expected to return. If you’re looking for long-term potential, he doesn’t have many games left as the Bucks’ only real SF. He has been playing so well that it should be hard for coach Larry Drew to justify playing Butler over him, but I don’t trust Drew at all to make the right call on rotations…Martell Webster left last night’s game with an ankle injury. The Wizards will see how he feels tomorrow to determine whether he can play Monday. Either way, Otto Porter Jr. is not a good add. He was terrible in pre-season and struggled last night, too. I’d expect the Wiz to turn to Chris Singleton if Webster misses time…Any time Michael Carter-Williams is out, you have to play Tony Wroten, who approached another triple-double last night (21-8-9) while the rest of his team mainly struggled. The problem is that MCW’s missed games seem to spring up sporadically, although he is expected to sit again tonight…Kris Humphries-Kardashian got minutes because Jared Sullinger got in foul trouble. Don’t get your hopes up on him or down on Sullinger…Tim Hardaway, Jr. has now had an extremely productive three-game stretch where he’s averaging 16.0 pts and a ridiculous 4.0 3pm on 57.1% FG. Those numbers are a fluke, but the talent isn’t. He’s the reason the Knicks are open to trading Iman Shumpert. If that happens, Hardaway becomes the immediate Pickup…I’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger on Reggie Jackson again after getting burned earlier this season, but he’s averaging over 28 mpg over his last four, the highest of any four-game stretch of this season. The kicker: all four were also with Russell Westbrook in the line-up. During that stretch, Jackson is averaging 14.5 pts, 3.8 reb, 3.3 ast and 1.3 3pm on 51.1% FG and 100% FT. Of all the players under 40% owned in Yahoo! Leagues, I am by far highest on Jackson’s talent. I only questioned his opportunities, but now he seems usable if you need PG help…Al-Farouq Aminu was awful last night, but he got the attempts. Unfortunately, he missed 11 of those attempts and had five more blocked…Tyreke Evans sprained his ankle last night and will have to get an MRI to see the extent of the damage. If he misses time, not only will the Pelicans lean on Aminu more, but three-point specialist Anthony Morrow may see some value come his way…Markieff Morris was good again as Channing Frye struggled, but P.J. Tucker has now had two 18-point games in a row, one better than the last. The values of Phoenix’s players are getting as hard to predict as Milwaukee’s and the Lakers’. Don’t worry about Frye yet, don’t start Morris regularly again, and pick up Tucker if you can afford the bench space. The Suns like his defense and may keep giving him chances…Ignore anything any bench player contributed in Portland’s 42-point route of Utah. However, note that Alec Burks has had four good games even before this one…Wesley Johnson filling up the stat sheet with a 13-2-2-5-1 and three 3pm! Kobe Bryant will change everything when he returns tomorrow, but, like I said in my Lakers column, I’m not worried about Johnson’s role. Jodie Meeks, on the other hand, thanks for the curtain call…Lakers starters Pau Gasol, Steve Blake and Jordan Hill are the walking wounded lately. Hill seems to be the only one affected in terms of playing time so far, as Robert Sacre is now starting. Still, Sacre only played 17 min last night, as the Lakers mainly went smaller with Gasol at C and either Johnson or Shawne Williams at PF. Gasol will have to miss time eventually, at which point I’d be ready to trust Sacre. As for Blake, he’ll try to gut through his injuries a little longer with Jordan Farmar already on the shelf and Steve Nash still doubtful to return tomorrow.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (33%)
2. Glen Davis (37%)
3. Taj Gibson (37%)
4. Kirk Hinrich (36%)
5. Jeffery Taylor (4%)

Fantasy owners finally do the right thing and push Brandon Bass up to 41% owned, making this the second time so far this year that he’s graduated over 40%. New, shiny Pickup Taylor beats out Wes Johnson for the final spot.

No New Pickup / Injury Report

There is no new Pickup of the Day today. Check out the Top Five to see who to pick up. Here’s some recent news on injured players who may be sitting out or playing tonight:

  • Zaza Pachulia and Ekpe Udoh are both out for the Bucks. John Henson and Ersan Ilyasova should take advantage, though it might even trickle down all the way to Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
  • Michael Carter-Williams is out for the Sixers. Play Tony Wroten.
  • Remember Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is now out for 4-6 weeks for the Bobcats, so Jeffery Taylor gets the start and has a chance to step up. He’s been shooting poorly all year, but he was a bright spot for the Cats last season. If I had to make a call on somebody as the Pickup today, he’d be it.
  • Paul Millsap is day-to-day with a knee injury but right now is still expected to play tonight for the Hawks. DeMarre Carroll benefits most if Millsap sits.
  • Jordan Crawford has a wrist injury but is expected to play today for the Celtics. Avery Bradley benefits if he doesn’t.
  • Nikola Vucevic and Jameer Nelson are both hopeful to play for the Magic. Glen Davis benefits most if Vucevic sits and Victor Oladipo if Nelson does. I’ve given up on E’Twaun Moore.
  • Russell Westbrook is a game-time decision for the Thunder. Reggie Jackson is always a good play when Westbrook sits.
  • Chandler Parsons is a game-time decision for the Rockets. Aaron Brooks should already be productive with Jeremy Lin out, but Omri Casspi could continue getting some run. Omer Asik will sit until mid-December or whenever he’s traded, and Terrence Jones should break out of his slump.
  • Marvin Williams is out again for the Jazz, which means Enes Kanter gets yet another chance to re-establish himself back into the starting line-up.
  • DeMarcus Cousins expects to play for the Kings. Jason Thompson and Derrick Williams become interesting if he doesn’t, but he will.
  • Pau Gasol is probable and Chris Kaman is doubtful for the Lakers. Despite his recent woes, it’s worth a shot to keep Jordan Hill in your line-up (more on him in Other Notable Players). Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant has long confirmed he won’t return tonight. He’s shooting for Sunday, and that may be when Nash returns as well. Fantasy teams that employ Jodie Meeks, Nick Young or Steve Blake can rest easy for one more night.

Other Notable Players: Iman Shumpert hit five threes last night, but Tim Hardaway Jr. has been coming on strong lately (13.7 pts, 3.0 3pm, 53.8% FG, 100% FT over last three) though he got most of his points in garbage time last night. If the rumors around Shump getting traded come to fruition, however, he would get the start and would be pickup-worthy…Alan Anderson has not been getting it done at all in place of the injured Paul Pierce. I’m now turning my attention to Mirza Teletovic, though he’s been struggling with a hand injury himself…While Willie Green has become the starter since J.J. Redick’s injury, Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison are the players seeing the most benefit. Crawford’s already 83% owned in Yahoo! Leagues, but Collison is only at 8%, was already coming on strong even before Redick went out, and is a cheap fill-in at PG (12.8 pts, 2.5 reb, 2.0 ast, 1.0 3pm, 51.4% FG 81.8% FT since injury)…Quincy Pondexter’s putting up some numbers lately. His 22 points against Brooklyn was fluky, but last night he did well due to Tony Allen sitting out. Allen is questionable for Saturday…Michael Beasley again took advantage of a lack of Dwyane Wade and dropped 15-7-2-1-2 last night one game after dropping a season-high 23 points. He has been very good coming off the bench for the Heat this year, but he just doesn’t play consistently enough when Wade is in the line-up. Wade is actually out quite often, but Beasley isn’t rosterable unless there’s an expected stretch of absence. That’d be terrible news for Heat fans though. They’ve lost both of their last two without Wade against a mediocre Detroit team and a Chicago team reeling after losing Derrick Rose…Speaking of the Bulls, Carlos Boozer broke out of his slump and had a good game, but Taj Gibson still delivered (19-6-0-1-1 in 24 min). He’s looking legit, although his 44 minute triple-OT game is throwing off his recent numbers…Kirk Hinrich has been playing decently and shooting better (for him) recently. He’s averaging 12.8 pts, 4.8 reb, 6.8 ast, 1.3 st and 1.5 3pm on 40.5% FG (vs. 38.0% for the year) and 91.7% FT (on 3.0 FTA) over his last four…He didn’t play last night, but Jordan Hill has dropped down to 37% owned after three subpar games followed by three lousy games after a fantastic four-game stretch that saw his ownership shoot through the dome. He’s only been limited in his last two games because of an ankle injury, and he’s had five days to rest since his last game. People may hopping off his bandwagon too early, however (me included, dropped him for Taj Gibson last night). If you haven’t dropped him yet, check how he does tonight. This is one guy who also shouldn’t be too affected by Kobe’s return.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (31%)
2. Glen Davis (37%)
3. Brandon Bass (39%)
4. Taj Gibson (34%)
5. Kirk Hinrich (35%)

I’m very reluctantly bumping Marvin Williams out of the Top Five, but the level of Gibson’s recent play cannot be ignored. Also, Hinrich’s strong play bumps him up ahead of Wesley Johnson, who’s still sporadic in his production. Johnson is a good source of threes, steals and blocks, however, and I am still not worried about him after Kobe returns.

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.

Pickups of the Day: Figuring Out the Los Angeles Lakers

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

There is no clear Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Sunday, December 1. If you put a suitcase of cash in my hands and forced me to pick (I prefer that analogy to the one about a gun to my head), I’d say it’s Wesley Johnson. He’s owned in 13% of Yahoo! Leagues and 8.2% of ESPN leagues. However, I don’t want to talk just about Wesley Johnson. There is far more that needs to be said about the entire fantasy mess and goodness that is the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers play the fourth fastest pace in the league, which spreads extra value around to all their players. It might be spread a little thin, though, as only two players average over 30 mpg for the year, followed by nine others averaging over 17 mpg. For the past two weeks, the Lakers are one of only two teams that have eight players in the Top 120 of Yahoo! rankings (tied for first with Houston, three teams are tied for second with six each, and Cleveland is the worst and only team with just one–Anderson Varejao at #114 ). Those eight Top 120 players don’t even include former stud Pickups Xavier Henry and Jordan Hill or starting PG Steve Nash.

Let’s break down the team by sections to see how recent events are affecting each.

Big Men: The big story two weeks ago was how Jordan Hill had become a revelation for the Lakers, averaging 18.8 pts, 12.0 reb and 1.8 blk while shooting 61.7% FG and 89.5% FT on 19 FTs in four games. Chris Kaman got pushed back to the bench, and coach Mike D’Antoni had finally found a mobile, energetic big man to play alongside Pau Gasol, who was expected to be a dominant fantasy player sans Kobe but instead has suffered through career lows in FG% and FTA.

Well in the six games since Hill’s breakout week, he’s averaged 6.0 pts, 8.7 reb and 0.8 blk while shooting 38.6% FG and 100% FT on just 2 FTs. Things got worse for Hill last Friday as he sprained his ankle. Though he still played tonight, he was limited to just 15 min. The Lakers could’ve used more, though, as Gasol was limited by a right ankle injury of his own and will undergo an MRI tomorrow. Where was Kaman through all this? Sitting through his fourth straight “Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision” since returning from a back injury.

Who did that leave to take advantage of the opening at center? The Ragin’ Cajun Robert Sacre, who posted an eye-popping 12-7-4-2-3 line on 62.5% FG and 100% FT in a season-high 23 min. This was notably the best game by far of Sacre’s career. Another player who might’ve taken more advantage had he not fouled out tonight was opening day starting PF Shawne Williams. In the previous game when Hill sustained his injury, Williams posted an excellent 20-9-3-2-1 line with six threes.

If Gasol’s MRI results cause him to miss time, Jordan Hill will reap the biggest benefit. However, while he’s still hobbled and Kaman is in D’Antoni’s doghouse, there are definitely openings for both Sacre and Williams. Whether Hill starts at PF or C, one of the two will start alongside him and the other is bound to be the first big off the bench.

Point Guards: Of the eight Lakers in Yahoo!’s Top 120 for the past two weeks, who was the highest ranked? Surprisingly, Jordan Farmar, who averaged 14.6 pts, 3.0 reb, 5.0 ast, 1.2 stl, 0.6 blk and 2.6 3pm in just under 22 mpg in the five games before last night. This despite him being the backup PG to Steve Blake, who’s already a backup PG himself to the injured Steve Nash. Farmar has been so good that he’s still the Lakers’ top-ranked player of the last two weeks even after playing less than a minute last night before leaving the game with a hamstring injury.

Farmar is expected back by the Lakers’ next game on Friday, and even Nash is expected to practice on Tuesday and could also return by Friday. Yet right now Blake is the only healthy PG on the entire team, unless they decide to call Andrew Goudelock back from Russia. Blake remains the PG to own on the Lakers, especially since Farmar’s stock just got a little riskier.

Swingmen: This is where the biggest glut of fantasy value lies with the Lakers. Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young and Xavier Henry all have taken turns being the best Laker swingman of the week, and, yes, all of them are under 40% owned. Though one Laker swingman, who’s 98% owned despite not playing a single minute this year, looms over all of them. That would be Kobe Bryant, and he could return as early as Friday, although Sunday is more likely. Bringing back a player who commands that much of the offense (a polite way of saying he hogs the ball) is destined to have an impact on every player’s value, but the party is especially over for the other swingmen.

So why pick up Johnson over the others? Ignore the fact that he’s the highest Yahoo! ranked Laker of the entire season and that he’s played the most minutes of every Laker except Gasol in the past week. As I said, Kobe will change everything when he returns, so Johnson’s current accomplishments must be discounted. However, there are two main reasons to think that Johnson will still retain his value.

The first is his position. Johnson has been the Lakers’ starting SF since November 12. He should stay in the line-up when Kobe reclaims the starting SG spot, and he’s most likely to keep seeing a similar number of minutes. Second is how Johnson gets his value. Meeks, Young and Henry all get their value from scoring and threes. While Johnson also makes threes, a large part of his production is in averaging over a steal and a block per game for the year. Plus he’s a better rebounder than the other three.

When Kobe (who averaged 20.4 FGA last year even when he still had to share the ball with Dwight Howard) returns, shots will become scarce, but defensive stats will still be readily available. As long as Johnson can hit the spot-up three regularly, he can be the prototypical “3 & D” guy who’d be the perfect fit next to Kobe. That’s why he’s today’s honorary Pickup.

Other Notable Players: A few days ago, I asked when we’d finally see the Summer League MVP version of Jonas Valanciunas again. As is the case with many opposing big men, salvation came in the form of the Denver Nuggets. Valanciunas physically dominated J.J. Hickson, who only saw 14 minutes while the much larger Timofey Mozgov played 31 min and posted an awesome 16-15-1-2-2 on 50.0% FG and 66.7% FT. It was a big day overall for Mozgov, as Rudy Gay tried to Mozgov him but ended up getting LeBron’d. Hickson is a liability on defense, but–matchups aside–it’s unlikely to see him lose the start…Speaking of Denver’s bench mob, Nate Robinson has scored in double-digits in seven games in a row now, despite only once playing over 24 min (24:04 on Nov. 21). Over that time span, he’s averaging 14.6 pts, 1.4 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.0 stl and 2.3 3pm on 50.0% FG and 88.9% FT. He was in this same position as a bench scorer last year for the Bulls, except they were the 26th ranked team in pace, while the Nuggets this year are third in paceRookie Hollis Thompson started today while both James Anderson and Tony Wroten came off the bench. This change is likely going to stick. Thompson didn’t do much, but he does sink the fantasy values of both Anderson and Wroten…J.J. Redick will be out for the next 6-8 weeks with hand and elbow injuries, but no successor revealed himself yesterday in his absence. It certainly wasn’t Jared Dudley, who played his second-fewest minutes of his season, or Willie Green, who started in Redick’s place. If anything, it just looks like Jamal Crawford’s role will expand again…Sacramento also went bench mob on Golden State yesterday, as Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and Patrick Patterson led a furious fourth-quarter rally for the Kings. Notably, Patterson and Jason Thompson, who spent a lot of time playing with the bench unit, both outperformed previous Pickup Derrick Williams. It’s only his second game, but Williams is already experiencing why many panned this trade: there are way too many forwards on the Kings. Tonight, Williams, Patterson, Thompson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes all played over 20 min, and that’s with Travis Outlaw on the bench and Carl Landry still to return. Though coach Mike Malone made a commitment to start and play Williams heavily at SF in his first game, it remains to be seen whether he keeps it up…Oh Reggie Jackson, you know I want to (18-5-4, 1 3pm), but I know you too well (24 min)…New Orleans fans, fantasy basketball owners, and plain old enjoyers of great NBA basketball cried in horror today as Anthony Davis fractured his left hand. There is no timetable yet for his return. Ryan Anderson joined the starting line-up coming out of the halftime break and is the obvious winner fantasy-wise. It gets cloudier after that, however. Fantasy owners would like starting center Jason Smith, who’s a superb midrange shooter and has had productive stretches this year, to gain more value, but he didn’t show that today. On the other hand, Al-Farouq Aminu sat out the entire first half but got a lot of run in the second. Right now, both are worth watching, but neither is worth adding.

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

1. Marvin Williams (15%)
2. Kosta Koufos (26%)
3. Glen Davis (36%)
4. John Henson (35%)
5. Nate Robinson (26%)

As expected, we say goodbye to Jared Sullinger (42%) and Channing Frye (43%) tonight, as both graduate to the 40% owned club. Nate Robinson just edges out Marco Belinelli for the final spot on account of having been productive for longer.

Hindsight: I was completely wrong about Al Jefferson’s effect on Josh McRoberts. Despite playing well in his initial games next to Jefferson, McBob has seen his numbers drop across the board. That includes his already abysmal FG% and his life-saving assists and threes. This is simply a case of Jefferson taking over shots and possessions. McRoberts is droppable in all but the deepest formats…On the day I made Mo Williams the Pickup, he posted a 12-5-6-3-2 in 31 min. Since then, he hasn’t scored in double-digits or topped 24 min. Looking at his numbers before and after his five productive games in mid-November seems to tell me I fell for a fluke.