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!

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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: The Injury Replacements

20131122 Injured Pickups

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.

Last night was a brutal night for a few legit title contenders. First, Marc Gasol left his game with an MCL sprain in his left knee. Then Derrick Rose left with a possibly heartbreaking ACL tear in his previously healthy right knee. Finally, in the last game of the night, Andre Iguodala left after he felt his left hamstring pop. All three were scheduled to have MRIs today that will determine the extent of their damage.

2:33pm PST Update: The Chicago Bulls are reporting that Derrick Rose tore the medial meniscus in his right knee. He is out indefinitely, but this is much better news than an ACL tear. Medial meniscus tears are even quicker to heal than lateral meniscus tears, which is the injury that kept Russell Westbrook out from April 26 to November 2. All things considered, it’s pretty good news as we have a chance of seeing him again this season.

3:00pm PST Update: USA TODAY’s Sam Amick is reporting that Andre Iguodala will not need surgery to repair his hamstring. There is no timeline for his return.

The entire playoff landscape (and one former MVP’s career) has possibly shifted in one night. The fortunes of those fantasy owners who drafted these three players may have as well. On the other hand, new opportunities have also arisen for the players behind the injured ones on their teams’ rotations.

There’s no point in posting any of these newly promoted players’ stat lines from last night, since we’re not interested in any of them for what they did but rather what they might do in the future. Again, until we hear how each MRI comes back later today, we don’t know for sure how much value each of these players actually will have. Based on the information we have now, though, here’s a look at how legit each is:

Draymond Green, GS – SF (1% owned)
Andre Iguodala said he felt a pop and “can’t even walk” following last night’s game. He also added that he “knew it was serious.” That is awful news for a team that has vastly improved its defense in large part due to Iguodala and a healthy Andrew Bogut. The biggest beneficiary of Iggy’s absence will be Harrison Barnes. At 66% owned, he’s not likely to be available in many of your leagues, but he should be 100% owned now that he’ll be a permanent fixture in the starting line-up.

However, another player in line for an increased role who is almost universally available in Yahoo! Leagues is Draymond Green. He should now be the first player off the bench until Toney Douglas returns, and then the first wing off the bench after that. Green has already been a much more efficient scorer this year than he was as a rookie last year, and he played his most minutes of the season tonight (27) with both Curry out and Iggy leaving the game.

Having Green as the first man off the bench is a huge dropoff for Golden State from last year, when their first two off the bench were Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack. Nonetheless, he’s still their best option at this point, and he could become a useful fantasy asset if he continues his upward production in more minutes.

Kosta Koufos, Mem – PF,C (13% owned)
Marc Gasol is the only one to have his diagnosis reported so far. He has a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee. Estimates of how long he’ll be out range from 6-8 weeks to 10-12 weeks. For comparison, the Grizzlies lost Zach Randolph last year to a slight MCL tear for 10 weeks. Despite also trading Rudy Gay during that time frame, the Grizzlies somehow went 23-14. Such a run now would be unexpected without Gasol, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and best post passer this side of Kevin Love (and apparently also Josh McRoberts).

Either way, Gasol will be out for a while. Kosta Koufos will start in his place, though Ed Davis is also very talented and will get some additional burn. After Barnes, Koufos has the most to gain from this promotion. As I described on Tuesday, he’s been able to put up decent stats even in limited minutes this year, and he had spurts last year in Denver where he provided a lot of value in the elusive blocks category.

Unlike Barnes, Koufos is very likely to be available in your league’s free agent pool. Pick him up with confidence and expect some good rebounding and block numbers

Kirk Hinrich, Chi – PG,SG (16% owned)
As terrible as Iguodala and Gasol’s injuries were, the most soul-crushing one of the night may have to be the one to Derrick Rose. After tearing his left ACL in the 2012 playoffs and controversially sitting out the entire 2012-13 season, the former MVP was primed to make a triumphant comeback this year. He had already been struggling to get back into form, but now there’s a possibility that he’s also torn his right ACL, which would finish him for the rest of this season as well.

This would throw the entire Bulls’ franchise plans out of whack. In the much more top-heavy Eastern Conference, the Bulls were considered an early title favorite along with the Pacers and Heat. Even THE title favorite by some fanatical sports fans with notoriously deranged logic. Now, with the possibility of a Greg Oden-like career-altering series of injuries, the Bulls may look into breaking up their team to shed salary and acquire future picks.

2:33pm PST Update: Okay, we can turn off the alarms for now. It’s a medial meniscus tear. We might see Rose back later this season.

In the meantime, we’ll take the conservative path and assume Rose will just miss some time and the roster will remain the same. In this case, Kirk Hinrich will be the biggest beneficiary. I had already previously mentioned that, while Mike Dunleavy will get the start in place of Jimmy Butler, Hinrich will also get plenty of minutes and may outplay Dunleavy. Well, he definitely did more tonight, though obviously much of that was also due to Rose’s exit.

Hinrich will get you steals and assists, but his shooting has been terrible, and he doesn’t take or make as many threes as he did earlier in his career. If the Bulls really do lose Rose for the long-term, expect them to also take a good, hard look at Marquise Teague as well at PG. However, for now, Hinrich is the man.

Other Notable Players: If tonight were a normal, positive night in the NBA, Caron Butler would easily be the Pickup of the Day with his 38-8-3-3 and four 3’s night. He was already playing well before his shoulder injury and has now come back strong. Even with Ersan Ilyasova back as well, Butler has good value…James Anderson is already on a lot of fantasy rosters, but I couldn’t bring myself to trust him. However, now with Tony Wroten injured, Anderson should gain more consistency by claiming a lot of the shots that used to go to Wroten…Major dropoff game for Martell Webster, but believe he’ll usually do much better than that in 41 min. He graduates from our little camp tonight, though, as he climbs up to 41% owned…Another effective game for Terrence Ross in 24 min. Just keep an eye on him in case any of the Rudy Gay or DeMar DeRozan trade rumors come to fruition…Eric Bledsoe missed another game. Despite an inefficient night, anyone who owns Gerald Green should continue playing him until more news about Bledsoe comes out. Captain Obvious, out…In his last four games, Channing Frye has gone (in points-rebounds-threes) 20-3-5, 0-1-0, 17-9-3 and 13-5-2, and then before that were five games of single-digit scoring. I don’t think his value is necessarily tied to Bledsoe’s absence, so he’s still too unreliable for me…So Markieff Morris is the good twin again?…Josh McRoberts: 10-6-5 with two 3’s. And a stinky 40.0% FG. Of course. The adventure continues…Jordan Crawford hasn’t been mentioned in this space for a while because he’s actually been rather terrible lately, killing fantasy owners in FG% while not nearly producing as many assists to compensate. The assists still weren’t there tonight, but he made a comeback in the scoring column with 24 pts on 10/12 from the field. His six turnovers were his worst of the season, however…Coach’s pet Matt Dellavedova got the start, but Jarrett Jack produced. Even Dion Waiters chipped in…Andray Blatche didn’t play nearly as much as I expected, but he still managed to get some garbage time stats…All the Nets starters were pulled early in this blow-out by Minnesota, but my heavily touted Pickup Shaun Livingston especially stunk. He shot 0 for 7 from the floor and 1 for 2 from the line to go with 3 reb, 1 stll, 1 tov and nothing else. Obviously don’t give up on him yet because he’ll remain the starter while Deron Williams will miss Sunday’s game and isn’t likely to return soon, but two pitiful shooting games in a row is a worrying follow-up to such a strong week last week…That’s three good games in a row for Marvin Williams (avg 16.3 pts, 6.3 reb, 1.3 ast, 1.3 stl, 2.7 3’s), who suddenly has developed some three-point range…Between John Lucas III still starting and Trey Burke’s return, it looks like Diante Garrett’s opportunity at fantasy relevance is over, which is a shame because with 7 points, 8 assists, 1 three, and a perfect 3 for 3 from the field in just 16 min…While teammate Steve Blake has been blowing up since Nash left the line-up, Jordan Farmar has struggled. Until tonight. Farmar put up 14 pts, 8 ast and 2 3’s in just 19 min and played a key role, along with Nick Young (more on him in a second), in the Lakers’ bench vastly outplaying Golden State’s. Blake will continue dominating the PG position for the foreseeable future, but this should remind you that the Lakers have a competent third-string quarterback in the event that something happens to Blake…Young puts up the most skeletal scoring lines I’ve seen. Still, over his last three he is averaging 19.3 pts, 1.3 stl, 2.3 3’s, 50.0% FG, 73.3% FT and virtually nothing else. That’s a solid SG to have in your fantasy line-up. Just remember that his shot has a history of disappearing, and, when that happens, Young gives you absolutely nothing else.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (13%)
2. Mo Williams (26%)
3. Jared Sullinger (32%)
4. Jodie Meeks (27%)
5. Caron Butler (28%)

Today we have to say goodbye to Martell Webster, as he graduates to the 41% owned plateau. Meanwhile, Koufos’s high potential and new opportunity pushes him to the top of our list, and Butler’s huge game moves him into the five-spot.

Hindsight: I don’t believe in DeMarre Carroll’s talent, but the guy does keep producing…Told you all Khris Middleton’s days on your roster should be over until the next SF injury…I’m starting to feel like I just got talked into all the John Henson hype…Yes, I do still believe in Shaun Livingston, Luke Ridnour … and Zaza Pachulia (dun dun duuunnnnnn!).

Pickup of the Day: Shaun Livingston

i(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 Pickup for Wednesday, November 20 is Shaun Livingston. He’s owned in 11% of Yahoo! Leagues and 4.0% of ESPN Leagues, and his value was supposed to end tonight with the return of starting PG Deron Williams. Unluckily for everyone associated with the Brooklyn Nets, except for Livingston, that return lasted a whole 13 minutes.

Here’s a look at his line tonight against Charlotte:
20131120 Shaun Livingston

Nope, not stellar, especially the turnovers for those in nine-cat leagues. However, in the three games that Livingston started after Williams sprained his ankle, he averaged 16.3 pts, 3.0 reb, 3.5 ast, 1.3 stl, and just 1.7 tov on spectacular percentages of 52.2% FG and 89.5% FT. He didn’t even attempt a three, which is odd for a PG though standard for him, but his safe brand of mid- and close-range shots is also how he gives you a FG% (on 11.5 FGA) that a PF would be proud of.

All that was supposed to end tonight with Williams returning to the starting line-up. After just 13 minutes, however, Williams sprained the exact same ankle he’d sprained a week earlier. He’s now day-to-day, but I’d imagine the Nets will be more careful bringing him back next time. In the meantime, everyone back on the Livingston train!

Is he legit? I could go on for hours about the tragic career of Shaun Livingston, how this 6’7″ PG was supposed to grow into the next Magic Johnson before he suffered the most brutal knee injury I’d ever seen. The one thing I remember about him fantasy-wise before his injury, though, was how frustrating he was to own. He’d get you points, rebounds, a few assists, maybe some steals and that was it. His percentages weren’t great for a PG, and he could never hit the three. His turnover rate wasn’t awful, and he’d already been reducing it every year before he shredded his ACL, MCL and LCL all in one go.

For the next seven years, Livingston bounced around the league getting more and more playing time, culminating in a productive stretch last year filling in for an injured Kyrie Irving on the Cavs. Now he’s getting the same opportunity on the Nets, and really he does the same things he’s always done, except much more efficiently. He still just gets you points, rebounds, a few assists, maybe some steals and no threes, but now he’s doing it on much better shooting from both the field and line as well as with fewer turnovers. He’s a guy you can plug and leave in your line-up, and the only thing you have to worry about is when Deron Williams will return.

Other Notable Players: I really wavered between Livingston and Luke Ridnour as the Pickup. Ridnour started tonight for the first time this season and went 13-5-5. Both have value tied to the injury of the normal starting PG for their teams: Williams for Livingston and Brandon Knight for Ridnour. Both Williams and Knight are day-to-day, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear timeline for either’s return, but I put Livingston ahead for now because we’ve actually seen him produce this year. Ridnour has the slightly higher PG ceiling, however, as he gets more assists and can actually hit threes…In other Milwaukee news, both Caron Butler and Ersan Ilyasova returned tonight, making Khris Middleton disposable from fantasy rosters, and I’m getting closer to admitting John Henson (10-7-2-2-2) might be a better pick-up than Zaza Pachulia (11-8-0-1-1) even with Ilyasova cutting into PF minutes…After three mediocre to bad games, Jarrett Jack got back on track with 14 pts, 6 ast and 2 3’s in 33 min, helped in large part by C.J. Miles leaving the game with a calf injury…Beno Udrih followed up a lousy first start last night with a much better start tonight, posting a 19-8-4 with three 3’s and thoroughly claiming the starting PG spot from Pablo Prigioni until Raymond Felton gets back…Terrence Ross topped 32 min and had his first good game of his season as the Raptors went small tonight to match up against the Sixers. Ross was a high lottery pick last year, and the Raps want to utilize him, but it’ll be hard for him to get minutes like this consistently behind DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay…On the other side of the court, MCW returned, pushing Tony Wroten back to the bench. Both Wroten and James Anderson still got opportunities to contribute, and Anderson played better, but their games together at the beginning of the year indicate they’ll both become too inconsistent to use again…Andray Blatche bounced back from a bad game playing behind KG and Reggie Evans to outplay them both with a 25-7 tonight. For what it’s worth, Brook Lopez said he felt good enough to play last night, but who knows how that affects the timetable for his return…Josh McRoberts put up another weird, give-and-take line (6-7-5-1-2, terrible percentages), but I’m keeping an eye on Jeff Adrien. He’s had two solid rebounding games this season, and he could have a Reggie Evans-like impact if he got consistent minutes…A day after I pushed the idea of starting Mike Scott over DeMarre Carroll, Carroll comes out and drops an 11-12-3-2-2 with a three. I don’t believe in him at all, but the fact that I keep mentioning him means he’s producing…John Lucas III had his best game of the season and did it in only 16 min, though all his value came in a flurry of four threes. Diante Garrett was the best PG on the team tonight, but this is all moot now because Trey Burke (59% owned) is back…After five games close to or over 30 min, Mo Williams backtracked to 23 min. Don’t sweat it yet. Hold on to him until we see if this is a blip or the start of a trend…Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk both started tonight, and Sullinger beasted his way to 19-17. I’m not going to gloat too much again, as he could very well drop back down to 16 min in his next game for conditioning issues, but–screw it–TOLDJA!…Boris Diaw actually has racked up some impressive numbers on the strength of strong shooting and back-to-back games of 2 stl and 2 blk. Look at how jerky his minutes are though. I’m not buying it…Gerald Green started again in place of the injured Eric Bledsoe and matched last night’s season-high with 23 points and also dropped six threes. Both he and Goran Dragic had great games, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in a row and can’t wait to get back Bledsoe, who’s day-to-day. Meanwhile, Marcus Morris played Dr. Jekyll again as Markieff continues to fade as Mr. Hyde (Or should the good one be Hyde since he’s the beast? Whatever, this whole analogy is a failure.)…Omer Asik actually got some more meaningful minutes for the first time in over a week, but the way Terrence Jones is playing right now, you still have to get him and play him. And yes, Patrick Beverley (4 stl, 3 3’s) also outplayed Jeremy Lin tonight despite barely touching the ball…There will be no dawn for Kent Bazemore. Golden State opted to let Iggy play point and start Harrison Barnes (63% owned) to play their five best players.

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

1. Terrence Jones (38%)
2. Martell Webster (35%)
3. Mo Williams (26%)
4. Jared Sullinger (22%)
5. Jodie Meeks (27%)

Had to drop McRoberts for his continued abysmal shooting, so of course I had to put man-crush Sullinger in there. Though I trust Sullinger’s impact will outlast the temporarily high values of Ridnour, Livingston and Blatche, and I’m still not convinced Markieff and Marcus won’t pull another swap in value next week. On the other hand, we’ll probably welcome one of those names onto this list regardless tomorrow, as I can’t imagine Jones lasting another day under 40%.

Hindsight: After all that touting of C.J. Miles in the wake of Dion Waiters’s fake illness, Miles goes out and just gets 15 min in one game and then injured after two minutes in the next. Thanks a lot, C.J. Made me look dumb arguing with Chris Towers at CBS.

Pickup of the Day: Alec Burks

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(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

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 Saturday, November 2 is Alec Burks. He is owned in 28% of Yahoo! leagues, and that number isn’t climbing despite some consistent production and me pimping him in casual passing last Wednesday to my rabid fan base of one or zero readers.

Here’s a look at his line tonight against Houston:20131102 Alec Burks

We’re approaching the end of the first week, which means the clear-cut early waiver wire stars are disappearing (e.g. Miles Plumlee, Lance Stephenson, MCW). Thus anyone still scouring free agents to replace a poor draft pick is left to look for consistency or to stash a project in roto leagues.

Alec Burks definitely falls under the former category. He’s averaging 18 pts, 3.7 reb, and 3.0 ast in a little over 32 mpg, and his numbers have been fairly consistent from game-to-game. Like everyone in Utah, he’s getting a lot of opportunities this year because five of the top six players in mpg on last year’s team have left, replaced essentially by cap space and future draft picks.

Burks is a former Utah lottery pick that has really improved his on-ball defense and is getting rewarded with significant playing time. Based on his per-36 min numbers from past seasons, factoring in some typical third-year player improvement, and dropping in a giant dollop of flat-out guessing, I’d expect Burks to put up 18-4-2 with one steal, less than a three, and percentages that won’t kill you from the SG position moving forward.

Is he legit? He’s legit for what he is, a decent contributor in a deep league or when you need to rotate a guy in, but he’s not going to win your week for you. I think his role on this team is safe, even after Trey Burke returns. Though if he does get bumped up to the starting line-up, I can’t see his stats improving much, unless Coach Tyrone Corbin listens to this outrageous suggestion to play him at PG.

Other Notable Players: Look who’s scored 14 points in every game. None other than the Round Mound of Ratatouille: Boris Diaw. Tim Duncan played his first full game of the year, and Diaw still played his most minutes this year. Is it really worth holding on to a guy like Amare Stoudemire (58% owned) or Cody Zeller (50%) over him (5%)?…I stand by what I said about Josh McRoberts. He didn’t get much playing time last night as he was being abused by Anthony Davis, but no Charlotte starter played more than 27 min in this blowout…I’m not worried about Zaza Pachulia’s bad night, but it’s worth mentioning for the second night in a row that John Henson had a productive game. Larry Sanders’s poor play is worth monitoring, as both Pachulia and Henson have value while Sanders is sinking his…Tony Wroten (of the best-in-the-league 3-0 76ers!) is sort of a poor man’s Alec Burks right now, but with better 3-point shooting. Until he’s the one getting 33 mpg instead of James Anderson, however, he’s simply Watch List…Both Jason Thompson and Travis Outlaw put up garbage-time double-doubles as Sacramento got crushed by Golden State and DeMarcus Cousins was benched for doing DeMarcus Cousins-ish things. Thompson is likely more legit and most worth watching, as Patrick Patterson doesn’t seem to be cutting it as Carl Landry’s replacement.

Accountability: Nate Wolters turned out to be the biggest beneficiary of Brandon Knight’s injury, not Gary Neal. Oops. With the Bucks off until Wednesday and Knight likely to return then, however, neither are worth a roster spot anymore.