Pickup of the Day: Jon Leuer


(AP Photo / Danny Johnston)

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, December 15 is Jon Leuer. He’s owned in 20% of Yahoo! Leagues and 12.9% of ESPN Leagues, so many fantasy owners have been like me and slow to jump on the bandwagon. Now though, I can no longer ignore his production, and neither should you.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Minnesota:
20131215 Jon Leuer

After Marc Gasol went out with a sprained MCL, a lot of opportunities opened up. Initially it was Kosta Koufos who took the reins, and he had been great, regularly grabbing double-digit rebounds coupled with some blocks. His offensive touch, however, was very rusty.

Enter Jon Leuer, the sweet-shooting big man from Wisconsin. Injuries to Zach Randolph and Ed Davis, as well as foul trouble for Koufos, allowed Leuer to get more playing time and show his offensive skills. However, now both Randolph and Davis are healthy again, but Leuer is still getting minutes at the expense of the offensively-challenged Koufos, who hasn’t played more than 16 min in his last two games.

Leuer, meanwhile, is the highest Yahoo! ranked Grizzly over the last seven games, averaging 15.9 pts, 8.1 reb, 1.0 ast, 0.7 stl, 0.7 blk, 0.9 3pm, 54.1% FG, 86.7% FT and just 1.1 TO. As with many Yahoo! ranks, this is more a case of not hurting you in any categories than being so spectacular in them, but those peripheral stats add up, and that FG% is on a legit 12.1 FGA.

The real question now is what happens when Gasol comes back, which should happen at the beginning of January at latest. Obviously then Leuer, Koufos and Davis all get pushed back in the rotation, stunting their values. Still, the Grizzlies have been looking for a stretch four to pair with Gasol, and there have been rumors involving trading Randolph to the Pelicans for Ryan Anderson. With Leuer on board, though, the Grizzlies may decide they already have an in-house option.

In the meantime, definitely grab Leuer if he’s available and play him until Gasol gets back.

Other Notable Players: Jeremy Lin sat out with a back injury, so Aaron Brooks had a another one-time nice game. Patrick Beverley continues to be a more useful real-life basketball player than a fantasy player. Lin should be back by Wednesday, and Terrence Jones should be recovered from his flu then as well…Derrick Williams seemed to be on his way to a good fantasy day but then fell off precipitously in the second half of last night’s game. Somehow Travis Outlaw ended up being the forward who got the most minutes. This doesn’t bode well for Williams, but he’s been playing so well since the Rudy Gay trade otherwise…Orlando is ramping back up to full strength with Tobias Harris’s minutes increasing and Mo Harkless back, but Glen Davis did enough yesterday to have a productive day. His minutes are in danger, though…Didn’t see this coming: instead of either Al-Farouq Aminu or Anthony Morrow getting the most of Tyreke Evans’s absence, it was megabust Austin Rivers who had the best performance. He’s regarded as a megabust for a reason though, so don’t bother latching on. He hasn’t done enough to even afford a bandwagon yet…I hate talking about the Phoenix Suns. I called them Non-Pickups for a reason. Anyway, nobody under 40% owned did anything of note, unless you consider being disappointing notable. 41% owned Channing Frye had his first good game in his last four if that counts for anything.

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

1. Jon Leuer (20%)
2. Al-Farouq Aminu (19%)
3. Marvin Williams (15%)
4. Tony Wroten (29%)
5. Glen Davis (38%)

With the selection of Leuer as the Pickup, Koufos officially completes his collapse from topping the Top Five for 12 days in a row to off the list completely in just two days. Perhaps the fact that he was on the list for that long without going over 40% owned should’ve been a sign that I was clinging on to him too hard. In any case, if Leuer is really getting the minutes Koufos used to get, then he deserves Koufos’s old spot at the top of the chart. Meanwhile, Michael Carter-Williams is missing his seventh consecutive game tonight, and Wroten’s been so good that there’s talk of playing them both together in the backcourt when MCW returns. Though that article does just seem to assume Evan Turner won’t be around for long.

Hindsight: Actually, before his last two stinkbombs, Koufos had been averaging 10.6 pts, 11.5 reb, 1.1 ast, 0.9 stl, 2.0 blk and just 1.6 TO in the eight games he started since Gasol’s injury. His 40.0% FG wasn’t good, but his 81.0% FT was fantastic for a center. So no, I was not clinging on to him too hard. He was legit.

Advertisements

Pickup of the Day: Taj Gibson

(Marc Serota / 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 Monday, December 2 is Taj Gibson. He’s owned in 25% of Yahoo! Leagues and 9.5% of ESPN Leagues. Though he had a career night last night, the box score must be viewed with a refined perspective when a game goes into three overtimes and guys like Ryan Anderson and Luol Deng are pushing an hour of playing time. So yes, it’s fair to put an asterisk next to Gibson’s career-high 26 points, but even his work in his previous games makes him a promising pickup.

Here’s a look at his line last night against New Orleans:
20131202 Taj Gibson

How many times can Gibson be expected to top 44 minutes this season? He did it four times last year, but, unless Carlos Boozer is injured or traded, it won’t be much more than that this year. Therein lies the rub for his value. Over his past three games, Gibson has averaged an astounding 22.3 pts, 8.7 reb, 1.0 ast and 2.0 blk on 66.7% FG and 78.6% FT. This has directly coincided with Boozer’s worst three-game stretch of the season, where he’s averaging 7.3 pts, 6.7 reb, 2.3 ast and 0.7 blk on 33.3% FG and 100% FT (on two total free throws).

Boozer is averaging 15 and 9 on the season and is likely to regress back up to the mean, but Gibson is playing his most minutes this season of any since Boozer joined the Bulls. With Rose out for yet another season, it’s very possible that the Bull may blow up the roster and start rebuilding. They’ve wanted to move Boozer for a while now, but his onerous contract ($15.3 mil this year, $16.8 mil next) makes that very difficult. Still, if a Russian oligarch was willing to pay $89 mil for Joe Johnson, moving Boozer isn’t impossible.

The Bulls clearly would rather have Gibson play a larger role in their future than Boozer (though Gibson’s contract is much more enticing albeit longer). Don’t expect many nights of 22 and eight with two blocks, but you should feel confident stashing Gibson on your bench for now.

Other Notable Players: There’s plenty to say about other potential pickups from last night’s triple-overtime extravaganza. Jason Smith (12-14-1-0-1) and Al-Farouq Aminu (14-9-1-3-0) both had value with Anthony Davis out for 4-6 weeks. Smith was more involved in the offense, though. On the Bulls side, Kirk Hinrich saw the second-most minutes after Deng (53) and posted 13-6-11 but shot horrifically (4-of-15 FG, 0-of-8 3pm). Along with Gibson, Mike Dunleavy also exploded off the bench (23-7-5-2-0, 6 3pm). Tony Snell was not productive. Of everyone, Smith and Hinrich are the safest choices as they will continue getting the most minutes and shots, though their upsides are limited. It will take a lot more than one good game for Dunleavy to re-ingratiate himself to fantasy owners after three previous games with only one FG each…Jameer Nelson missed the game, so E’Twaun Moore got the start. He was brutal, as were most of Orlando’s starters, but it’s disappointing neither he nor Glen Davis could make a better case for keeping their starting spots. Davis should get another good chance tonight though, as Nikola Vucevic had to get an X-Ray on his sprained ankle last night…The fact that DeMarre Carroll is the 88th Yahoo! ranked player for the year tells me Yahoo! still way overvalues even the slightest threes and steals. He has something like 10 good games to nine bad ones, but last night was one of the good ones. If you’re in a deep league and can afford to keep him in your line-up, he’s worth a pickup….Belineeeelliiiiiiiiiiiii is the new Ginoooobiliiiiiiiiiiiii. 14.0 pts, 2.8 reb, 2.0 ast, 1.0 stl, 2.3 3pm in the last four for Marco BelinelliFrancisco Garcia had a great game last night (13-6-2-0-4, 3 3pm) with Chandler Parsons sitting out. On the other hand, Terrence Jones had an awful game, while Omri Casspi (13-6-0-2-0, 2 3pm) took most of the PF minutes. It’s unknown if Parsons will miss more games, but Jones is not likely to continue playing this poorly, while Garcia and Casspi should see their roles diminished…Is Alec Burks, who’s already risen and fallen this year, on the rise again? 16.7 pts, 3.7 reb, 3.0 ast, 1.3 3pm, 53.1% FG, 80.0% FT over his last three. This Jazz team is much better in general with Trey Burke at the point. Though not for Enes Kanter…We need to see more, Mo Williams. More.

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

1. Marvin Williams (18%)
2. Kosta Koufos (28%)
3. Glen Davis (35%)
4. Nate Robinson (26%)
5. Wesley Johnson (13%)

Henson’s one big game starting for the Bucks apparently built a lot of buzz, as he pushes up to 40% owned. Tough choice between Wes Johnson and Gibson for that final spot. While Gibson has potential, Johnson’s been getting it done in steals (1.0), blocks (1.6) and threes (1.3) all year and has been even better recently (1.0, 1.8, 2.5 respectively over last four).

Hindsight: Dunleavy’s big game last night reminds me that he’s averaged 6.3 ppg in all his other games since I made him the Pickup. Oof…There’s a big slate of games tonight, so there’ll be plenty of time for regrets and hopefully also some gloating. Talk to you all again in a few hours!

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.

Pickup of the Day: Steve Blake

(AFP Photo / Scott Halleran)

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 Sunday, November 10 is Steve Blake. He’s owned in 14% of Yahoo! Leagues, but his stock has been slowly rising as Steve Nash’s continues to fall.

Here’s a look at his line last night against Minnesota:
20131110 Steve Blake

Remember that weird tidbit from coach Mike D’Antoni’s introductory press conference with the Lakers last year about how he’d always wanted to coach Steve Blake and that he’d been trying to get Blake on one of his teams for 10 years?  At that point we all collectively said, “Huh, Steve Blake?”, but now it seems he might’ve been serious.

Steve Nash has been battling back pain all year and will see a doctor about it on Monday. If the 40-year old PG needs to be shut down for any amount of time, both Blake and Jordan Farmar’s values will shoot up. Originally, Farmar looked like the heir apparent here, but Blake has caught fire since hitting the game winner in Houston. He will get first crack at the starting spot if Nash is out.

Is he legit? We do have to remember this is Steve Blake we’re talking about here. He might end up getting 36 mpg, but even his per-36 min numbers haven’t looked great. He will get you threes, assists, and the occasional steal, but he doesn’t get to the FT line and his FG% has always been subpar. Still, he will be the captain of a Mike D’Antoni offense, and this is an offense that has made valuable fantasy producers out of Steve Blake’s ilk before (Holla Q-Rich, Leandro Barbosa, and Raja Bell!).

Other Notable Players: Also on the Lakers, Jodie Meeks continues to be Mr. Consistency if you’re looking for a stable source of threes. His FT% has always been good, but his .507 FG% this year is nearly 10% above his career average. Nash’s injury helps him as well, as he’s likely sliding into the starting SG spot…Jason Smith had his best game and most minutes of the season as Greg Stiemsma fell out of the rotation. His midrange shooting creates good spacing for Anthony Davis, but the Very Rich Man’s Jason Smith, aka Ryan Anderson, could be making his return as early as Tuesday…As expected, J.R. Smith returned to the line-up and took minutes away from Iman Shumpert, while Metta World Peace had the second-most playing time after Carmelo Anthony…Reggie Jackson, looking revitalized! This was more what I had in mind when I said hold on to him even after Russell Westbrook comes back, though it must be noted Westbrook was ejected from this game…Steven Adams, on the other hand, did not have a good game and didn’t play many minutes, but Kendrick Perkins continues to be ineffective and played just a smidge fewer minutes. Adams is a good guy to stash in roto leagues while we wait for him to take over Perkins’s job, but he’s not going to be a useful rotation piece in head-to-head leagues…Gerald Green still had a productive game despite Goran Dragic’s return but also saw his minutes drop to the fewest since Dragic went out. The Suns have looked good with Green in the starting line-up, but his production is likely about to get too inconsistent to keep him…The Nuggets didn’t play last night, but an opportunity is about to arise for someone with the news that JaVale McGee is out indefinitely with a broken leg. The question is who will absorb his minutes? The options are J.J. Hickson, Anthony Randolph, and Timofey Mozgov with Darrell Arthur as a longshot. None of them have played much. Arthur will likely still be buried on the bench. Mozgov might get the start but doesn’t have the talent. Randolph has the most talent but has never strung together any streak of consistency in his entire career. Hickson actually had good value last year averaging a double-double for Portland and will probably be the winner here, though will it be enough? McGee only played 16 mpg this season. If one of the above players takes all his minutes, that player will instantly become valuable. If those minutes are divvied up more evenly amongst the platoon, none of them will.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):
1. Zaza Pachulia (34%)
2. Steve Blake (14%)
3. Corey Brewer (22%)
4. Metta World Peace (31%)
5. J.J. Hickson (38%)

Accountability: No regrets last night, baby! I’m feeling good about Metta, Reggie and Markieff Morris, and I’m going to keep pimping Steven Adams.