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!

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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: 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.

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: Jordan Crawford

(AP Photo / Charles Krupa)

This season I will try to highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s available in at least 60% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Monday, November 11 is Jordan Crawford. Really, the Pickup should be Zaza Pachulia again, but it feels too early in the season to repeat a previous Pickup, so we’ll save Pachulia for Other Notable Pickups (see below). Meanwhile, we’ll stick with Crawford as our main guy, who’s 17% owned and will be rising significantly after dropping a surprising double-double on the Magic.

Here’s a look at his line tonight against Orlando:
20131111 Jordan Crawford

The number that jumps out the most is the 10 assists. Crawford has been averaging 10 more minutes per game since replacing Gerald Wallace in the starting line-up, but that wasn’t the his only break. Boston coach Brad Stevens also quickly realized Avery Bradley was not a PG and handed the car keys to Crawford.

He certainly responded strongly with 16-5-10, a steal, great percentages and–most impressively for a newly minted PG–ZERO turnovers. The far more widely owned Bradley didn’t do terribly either, putting up 24 points and 3 steals with great percentages…and absolutely no other positive stats. It’s too early to say both players won from this switch in roles, but this arrangement certainly worked tonight.

Is he legit? My impression of Jordan Crawford had always been that of the chucker on the Wizards. He didn’t get many opportunities to establish a new impression in his first year in Boston, but he’s getting a chance this year to carve out a role on this new tanking leaner Celtics team. For example, I’m pretty sure Crawford has never had a 10:0 assists-to-turnover ratio in his entire professional career. That number won’t last, but it’s not entirely flukey either. So far this year Crawford is having the lowest turnover rate of his career. He’s also producing his lowest personal foul rate along with his best FT% and assist rate. This really does look like a new, smarter Jordan Crawford than the guy who shot without conscience in Washington. His value’s going to fall when Rajon Rondo comes back, but who knows when that’ll be? Also, if Boston becomes as bad as everyone expects them to be, what would even be the point of bringing Rondo back early and playing him late? Pick up Crawford, and see how far he can takes his career this year.

Other Notable Players: On to the real story: the fact that Zaza Pachulia is still only 35% owned. He’s been a Top 5 Sneaky Pickup since we’ve had a Top 5, and he’s been the top Pickup ever since Larry Sanders got into a barfight. Well turns out Sanders will require surgery for the thumb injury he suffered while cracking champagne bottles over dudes’ heads, so he’ll be out for six weeks. This also boosts John Henson’s value, at least until Ersan Ilyasova returns, but Pachulia is now more a lock than ever. PICK. HIM. UP…Al Jefferson returned to the line-up for the Bobcats, and Josh McRoberts returned to fantasy relevance with a 19-6-7 line and 5 threes. This is by far his best game of the year, but he’s been plagued by inconsistency even when he receives large minutes. When he is on, though, he’s a surprising source of assists and threes from the PF spot…For some reason, Kelly Olynyk is 43% owned despite his mediocre play. Well he certainly rewarded fantasy owners that stuck with him with a solid 16-7-5 tonight, but Jared Sullinger played nearly as well in around the same minutes. Sullinger’s role is more versatile, though, as he can be a fill-in for Olynyk, Brandon Bass or Jeff Green. I’m a broken record now, but the Sullinger revolution is coming…Steve Nash is reported to be out for two weeks to recuperate from nerve root irritation in his back. This is Steve Blake’s time, but, if he struggles, keep an eye on Jordan Farmar, too…The confirmed winner of the JaVale McGee Is Injured contest is J.J. Hickson. He’s already 39% owned, so snatch him up quickly…Derrick Rose limped out of the Bulls game and didn’t return, but his injury is being reported as a minor hamstring tweak. Don’t go out and pick up Kirk Hinrich. Unless you just love Kirk Hinrich. Then who am I to stop you?

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):
1. Zaza Pachulia (35%)
2. Steve Blake (27%)
3. Metta World Peace (32%)
4. Jordan Crawford (17%)
5. Corey Brewer (28%)

Accountability: Nothing about my Pickups this time, but rather two offhand comments I made about players whose ownerships are way too high for this blog. First, Andrew Bynum looks less like a complete bust now that he’s had a fairly successful start. 11-6-2 with two blocks in almost 21 min is a big win for him. Second, Jeremy Lin was once again the better fantasy PG in Houston, and that’s a huge understatement after he had a spectacular 31-point game reminiscent of his Linsanity days against the Raptors (albeit with zero assists). Meanwhile, Patrick Beverley missed all five of his shots from the field. I have no idea if Lin’s relationships with James Harden and Dwight Howard are still tense, but let’s just forget I ever doubted he was the Rockets PG you wanted on your fantasy team.

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.

Pickup of the Day: Patrick Beverley

(AP Photo / David J. Phillip)

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 Thursday, November 7 is Patrick Beverley. He is currently owned in 28% of Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues, and he didn’t do much to inspire an uptick in that number tonight other than start. Nonetheless, there are some reasons to keep an eye on him.

Here’s a look at his line tonight against LA:
20131107 Patrick Beverley

It’s not an impressive line, but the two numbers that should stand out are the 33:49 min and 10 FGA. Yes, Beverley missed nine of those attempts, but that’s clearly not going to be the case every night. In six playoff games last year, Beverley averaged 33.3 mpg and 10.8 FGA and posted 11.8 pts, 5.5 reb, 2.8 ast, 1.2 stl and 1.3 3’s. It’s a small sample size, and the numbers aren’t tremendous, but it’s an example of what you might expect from Beverley moving forward. Though you have to take into account that Dwight Howard now commands a lot of touches on offense. Theoretically he should free up space for other players to get clearer shots like he did in Orlando, but that was not what happened last year in LA.

By the way, for those Jeremy Lin owners who were concerned about him losing the starting job to Beverley, don’t be. Lin still played 31 min off the bench and posted an excellent line. His skills are much better utilized with the second unit where he’ll be the primary ballhandler and scorer and get to go against the opposing team’s second unit guards. The Rockets also played a smallball Beverley-Lin-Harden-Parsons-Howard line-up at the end of this game, so Lin seems like he’ll still get playing time to close out games.

Is he legit? No, on a normal night with a full slate of games, Patrick Beverley would barely get a mention. He is an available player worth watching, but I’d put him only slightly above Jodie Meeks, and neither are anywhere close to my Top 5 (see below). Beverley is going to get minutes and may give you good rebounding for a PG to go with a few steals and 3’s, but Lin is still the Rockets PG you want for fantasy purposes.

Other Notable Players: What can we say about the Lakers’ guards? Not many conclusive things. Wesley Johnson is actually Yahoo!’s highest-ranked Laker at #72 (even ahead of Pau Gasol) due to some surprisingly good peripheral stats: 1.4 3’s, 1.0 stl, 1.8 (!!!) blk. Those blocks aren’t from one fluke game either; Johnson has consistently blocked shots every game. You’d have to be somewhat desperate to swallow his 8.4 ppg on 34% shooting, though that doesn’t include his 16 pts on 40% shooting from tonight. For what it’s worth, I’d rather have Jodie Meeks, who’s been by far the most consistent if not spectacular guard on this team and has already done this in stretches last year. Meanwhile, Jordan Farmar could be a useful fantasy PG if only he could get the minutes, Steve Blake and Nick Young aren’t useful at all (in fantasy, Blake’s game-winner tonight was obviously clutch in real life), and Xavier Henry has been my worst Pickup call of the season so far. Just to be thorough, Steve Nash is owned in 70% of Yahoo! leagues but ranks behind ALL of the above players except Henry…I have nothing to say about the other two games.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):
1. Reggie Jackson (29%)
2. Metta World Peace (29%)
3. Zaza Pachulia (31%)
4. Martell Webster (17%)
5. Corey Brewer (16%)

Accountability: To be fair, Xavier Henry was our Pickup on the first day of the season, and I cautioned that it’s ridiculous to judge any player after one game…To no surprise, Larry Sanders was not charged in the bar fight for which he was being investigated. Not sure if the Bucks will suspend him for the incident, but he’ll soon be returning to the team. Zaza Pachulia is still a solid Pickup, but you have to believe the Bucks front office will eventually force coach Larry Drew to give their $44 million man as many opportunities to succeed as possible.