Pickup of the Day: Giannis Antetokounmpo


(Jerome Miron / 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 Tuesday, December 17 is Giannis Antetokounmpo, and I’d been practicing spelling that name for a long time in anticipation of this moment, even though I may be jumping the gun. He’s owned in 9% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.6% of ESPN Leagues, but he is by far the no. 1 pickup today across Yahoo leagues. He’ll likely be available for longer in ESPN leagues because, quite frankly, ESPN has an awful interface that requires you to either spell “Antetokounmpo” perfectly or browse through all players until you find him.

He didn’t play last night, but his averages over the last three games are 12.0 pts, 8.7 reb, 1.7 ast, 0.7 stl, 0.7 blk and 0.3 TO on 47.6 FG% on 7.0 FGA and 80.0% FT on 6.7 FTA in 30 mpg. That FT shooting is a sneakily healthy boost, but otherwise his numbers don’t really stand out. Marvin Williams could do that.

Williams is actually an interesting comparison. As an incredible physical specimen drafted no. 2 overall above Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the 2005 NBA draft, expectations for him were sky high, and he’s now considered a bust despite some solid work for Utah this season. Antetokounmpo, another incredible physical specimen, was drafted 15th this year in what is largely considered the worst draft class since 2000. There were no expectations for him this year, but he has lit the blogosphere on fire, dominating headlines even as fellow Buck John Henson is putting up insanely good career numbers.

Antetokounmpo is getting his first start tonight because O.J. Mayo is out attending his grandmother’s funeral (condolences to Mayo), so this may not be a permanent move. As I mentioned many times before, he’s eventually going to get lots of minutes this season when the Buck give up and commit to playing their young guys, but it’s only mid-December. I don’t think the tanking is happening just yet, even if they are the worst team in the league right now.

Antetokounmpo’s potential is undeniable, though, and not just on the floor. Here’s a translated excerpt from his Greek blog that won me over completely:

It was an amazing experience, the game vs the Heat. Until of course the next day and the game vs the Thunder. I have said many times that Durant is my idol. He is the player I watch the most. When I came out on the court for a workout, he was already there, shooting. Working. I stopped and watched him. He was deadly serious. I could see it in his face. He was not relaxed. He was warming up with tension. I felt a satisfaction, when I saw my idol, approaching basketball with such determination.

 

In the span of just two days I found myself against two superstars like LeBron and Durant and I got the biggest lessons. Two of the biggest and most recognizable basketball players, with huge bank accounts, working hard, like they have something to prove, while in reality they have nothing to prove. LeBron is a two-time champion and four-time MVP. They have both played in so many All Star Games. Even so, work never stops. They do not rest in their glory. They are after perfection.

 

At the same time I saw right in front of my eyes what the combination of talent and hard work can offer to an athlete.

I read something like that from a 19-year old kid, and I can’t help but think this kid just gets it. I’ve only thought that about one other NBA rookie, and I see the same insight and determination in Antetokounmpo, if not necessarily the same polished skill set, as I did in his idol.

If you really need your bench guys to give you something, then I think you might be a little early pulling the trigger on the Alphabet Soup. Otherwise, he’s worth a roster spot just to be able to follow him more closely every day.

Other Notable Players: Many people caught last night’s thrilling point guard battle between elite PGs Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, but how many of you caught the backup battle between mediocre PGs Jarrett Jack and Slo Mo Williams? Jack has averaged 12.0 pts, 3.5 reb, 3.8 ast and 1.0 3pm in his last four, and Williams has 11.0 pts, 2.5 reb, 5.0 ast and 1.8 3pm over his last four…In each game since his 31-point game, Derrick Williams has played in fewer minutes than the last, culminating in last night’s 22 min in which he dropped a 5-0-1-1-0. I was skeptical of his ability to push Jason Thompson out of the line-up after Rudy Gay got there. Should’ve stayed skeptical. This is a timeshare…Jordan Hill isn’t injured. He just picked up four fouls in seven and a half minutes. Don’t worry, Larry Sanders does this kind of stuff all the time and look how well he’s–er, nevermind…An update on Lakers guards: Nick Young is still unbelievably most consistent, Jodie Meeks is regaining his value, Wes Johnson finally put up another weirdly useful line 7-5-6-1-1 in 32 min, and I jumped the gun on Jordan Farmar (see Hindsight below)…Mike Conley sat out last night, and Jerryd Bayless was ehh, just okay. Oh, and if anybody asks, I totally had Jon Leuer at the top of my Top Five Pickups for the last two weeks, but I’d been misspelling his name as “Kosta Koufos“…After 10 games averaging 15.3 pts, 3.7 reb, 2.8 ast and 1.2 3pm in 27 min, Reggie Jackson has averaged just 9-3-3.5 plus no threes in 21 min in his last two games. Some might blame Thabo Sefolosha’s return, but Jackson has been getting steady minutes long before Sefolosha sat for three games. I’m not worried yet. Jackson’s numbers will be up-and-down, but he’s been pretty locked into sixth man minutes for a while now…Al-Farouq Aminu didn’t exactly stuff the stat sheet, but he prodded it from many angles with a 10-8-2-1-2 line. He got even fewer minutes than megabust Austin Rivers, who seems to be the one benefiting the most from Tyreke Evans’s absence. I call Rivers a megabust, but a Twitter commenter did note that Rivers has outplayed max contract-owner Eric Gordon in the last two games, so who’s the real megabust lately?…Andre Iguodala returned last night, and, though he did very little, you can now safely bench Harrison Barnes. If you didn’t drop Draymond Green weeks ago, then A. you can definitely do it now and B. you’re probably paying way too much attention to silly things like your job or your family. Stop neglecting your fantasy basketball team!

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

1. Jon Leuer (25%)
2. Jordan Hill (33%)
4. Marvin Williams (15%)
5. Jordan Farmar (7%)
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo (9%)

Clearly I’m not worried about Hill, although I also ignored the signs for him and Koufos before. Might regret not bumping Glen Davis back up. On the other hand, the bad news on Farmar drops him down, but not too far (see hindsight below). Michael Carter-Williams’s probable return on Friday means Wroten’s value as a starter for your fantasy team is probably done for the moment. Honestly, I’m not sure that Wroten’s less valuable than Antetokounmpo moving forward in the short-term, but the Alphabet Soup is to me what RG3 was to Matthew Berry last year. I can’t speak about him objectively.

Hindsight: All that optimism for a Friday return for Jordan Farmar is gone. Looks like he’s out at least another week, but if he’s back by Christmas, you’ll still be glad you stashed him…Over the All-Star break, when there are no games, I’m going to do a list of my best and worst pickups. Jeff Taylor will definitely be on my list of worst. This guy’s shooting just fell off a cliff this year.

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.

Pickup of the Day: Trevor Booker

(Kevin C. Cox / 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 the 13th of December is Trevor Booker. He’s owned in 5% of Yahoo! Leagues and 2.3% of ESPN Leagues, and quite frankly he might only have one game left of value. On the other hand, it’s very slow right now for pickups, and I can’t keep telling you to pick up Terrence Ross day after day (although I have).

Here’s a look at Booker’s line last night against Atlanta:
20131213 Trevor Booker

Booker’s contributions can be summed up in three words: Nene is injured. That’s not to say Booker isn’t a good player. He’s serviceable, but he’s gotten opportunities in the past and hasn’t been spectacular. He started 14 games last year and 32 two years ago and wasn’t great over the long run in either season. He’s undersized, doesn’t usually get blocks and is a poor FT shooter.

Still, he’s a bull, and he’s most valuable in temporary spurts like this when Nene is suffering from a minor Achille’s injury and will just miss a few games. Nene isn’t playing tonight against the Clippers, and Booker has averaged 18.0 pts, 13.0 reb and 1.5 blk on 56.7% FG in his last two starts for Nene. If a guy you don’t really use, like Ed Davis or Kelly Olynyk, is languishing at the end of your bench, you may want to consider picking up Booker and riding the hot streak.

Other Notable Players: Jeff Taylor is still getting the minutes but not delivering on the production. His 20-point night against Philly is starting to look like a mirage created by the Sixers’ league-leading pace….On the night Tobias Harris returned, it was Andrew Nicholson who heavily outplayed Glen Davis. Eventually, Harris is going to get the starting PF spot back, which means Big Baby’s value is about to get less secure…It’s a broken record now, but just keep playing Tony Wroten. There is still no time table for Michael Carter-Williams’s return…Terrence Ross dropped a nice 24-5-0-1-1 line with another four threes. He’s going to get the minutes over John Salmons, but he may not do much other than score and hit triples…I reserve the right to talk about Amar’e Stoudemire even though he’s not under 40% owned, because he really should be. He set yet another season-high in minutes last night for the injury-riddled Knicks, as well as a season-high in points. This will not last; Tyson Chandler’s return will sink his value if his knees don’t do it themselves. Still, as a fan of basketball and not the just the fantasy kind, this is definitely something I’m following and rooting for (the only thing I’m following and rooting for on the Knicks, aside from the hope that James Dolan one day soon is arrested for some grievous felony and ousted from MSG)…In news more indicative of the Knicks’ actual status, there is somehow not a single guard on the team worth owning right now. Last night made it clearer than ever that they need Kyle Lowry…Kelly Olynyk returned, which could mark the end of Brandon Bass’s productivity. Jared Sullinger should not be affected, and Olynyk himself isn’t useful enough to own…Brook Lopez sat and Andray Blatche ruled. Always play Blatche when Lopez is out. Mirza Teletovic showed some signs of life, but he’s not likely to consistently produce on what’s supposedly a deep roster…Both Ed Davis and Zach Randolph played, and yet Jon Leuer was still productive at the expense of Kosta Koufos. Koufos has been fantastic in Marc Gasol’s absence but has also suffered from some foul trouble lately and isn’t an offensive threat. He should still continue to get the lion’s share of minutes at center, but if this turns into a timeshare with Leuer, nobody wins…One game after both Al-Farouq Aminu and Jason Smith put up silly stats, both crash back to earth. Luckily for Aminu, Tyreke Evans apparently rushed back too soon from his left ankle sprain, as he sprained the same ankle again last night. Same as before, Anthony Morrow might also benefit from Evans’s absence…The Lakers are a mess since Kobe Bryant’s return. The surprisingly stable one through all of this? Nick Young, though his mediocre FG% and poor FT% prevents him from ranking higher. Wes Johnson did finally put up a nice 13-3-1-2-1 reminiscent of what he did pre-Kobe last night, and Jodie Meeks got up 16 shots even if he missed 13 of them…You’ve got to respect Reggie Jackson now. He’s fulfilling that sixth man role that made Kevin Martin and James Harden so successful in OKC…Jimmy Butler returned for Chicago, but instead of Mike Dunleavy who took the hit, it was Taj Gibson. When Luol Deng returns, both will suffer…Can’t wait for the Bucks to reach the tanking part of their season, so we can see much more Giannis Antetokounmpko (whose name I can now almost spell from memory). In the meantime, their rotation outside of John Henson is still too erratic to trust…Just say yes to Marco Belinelli, who really has taken over what Danny Green did last year…Marvin Williams is back, so get him back into your line-ups even though he hasn’t been good yet. Enes Kanter obviously suffered, though Alec Burks may suffer, too, from the renewed depth like he did last night. Jeremy Evans had a surprisingly nice game, and Richard Jefferson has actually been consistent, putting up 15.0 pts and 2.3 3pm on 58.3% FG and 81.8% FT in the last four games. He’s essentially taken over what Williams did, but I wouldn’t expect that to continue now that Williams is back…Rudy Gay’s arrival seemed to have pushed Jason Thompson deeper into the rotation, and not Derrick Williams, who still got over 30 min. Hang on to Williams, but let’s see another game before we anoint him the winner…I just want to note that Dwight Howard hit a three and went a perfect 7-for-7 from the FT line last night. Whaaaaattt…Marreese Speights, 16-9 in 15:34. He’s been teasing us with his potential since he was still in Philly. It’s not going to happen here.

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

1. Kosta Koufos (33%)
2. Al-Farouq Aminu (18%)
3. Marvin Williams (12%)
4. Glen Davis (38%)
5. Tony Wroten (23%)

Should’ve never bumped Wroten. He bumps Smith, but Aminu actually rises because of Evans’s injury. Davis falls because of Harris’s return.

Hindsight: What’d I tell you about the Suns? Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are studs, and everyone else cannibalizes each other’s values. Though Miles Plumlee put up a loaded 12-9-2-4-3 line that pushed him back up to 40% owned today from 39% last night. Otherwise, he’d be today’s Pickup. When I put up one of those lines (points-rebounds-assists-steals-blocks), and both of the last two numbers are above two, that’s a good fantasy night barring only an apocalyptic shooting percentage.

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.