- John Cregan, Fantasy Basketball
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We're three weeks into the proceedings, and I think I might be cyberstalking Wilson Chandler.
My team in the ESPN Writers' Auction League may be off to a fast start, but I know all too well that's a lead that could go up in smoke at the twist of a hamstring or a D'Antonian brain cramp, because when it comes to blocks, he's all I've got. Take away his blocks, and I fall five points in the standings.
I get up, check the box scores of any games I've missed, then Google "Wilson Chandler" to see if there's any up-to-the-minute news on his ever-changing place within Mike D'Antoni's rotation. I base my League Pass viewing schedule on his whereabouts. As I write this, I know Chandler is currently enjoying an episode of "Law & Order," because he just told me via Twitter.
If my interest in Chandler makes you uncomfortable, it makes me extra uncomfortable because I pride myself in building categorical depth. I strive to build teams that aren't reliant on a single player's production to compete in a given category.
The key to constructing this type of depth is to acquire players who produce out-of-position stats. Shooting guards who give assists, point guards who rebound, centers who hit 3s. My teams are always brimming with these types.
So let's take a look at some players who have displayed the tendency to produce out-of-position numbers.
Evan Turner, SG, Philadelphia 76ers (6.8 per game)
Landry Fields. SG, New York Knicks (6.7 per game)
Kyle Lowry, PG, Houston Rockets (4.4 per game)
Raymond Felton, PG, New York Knicks (4.1 per game)
Mike Conley, PG, Memphis Grizzlies (4.0 per game)
The 76ers are producing some intriguing fantasy numbers this season, and Turner's rising production is becoming difficult to ignore. He's still struggling to find his shot (42.2 percent from the field), but he's trying to make up for it by going hard after boards. If he keeps showing up in the hustle columns, he'll put the rest together sooner rather than later.
Obviously, the Knicks are going to be a smorgasbord of out-of-position stats, but Landry Fields has come out of nowhere this season to stake a very bright little spot on the fantasy radar. His 21-point, 17-rebound line the other night wasn't as impressive as Love's 31-31, but curved for position? It was right up there. Conley's currently in a mini-slump, but he's still giving solid across-the-board value given his low ADP (104.0).
Matt Bonner, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs (2.5 per game)
Charlie Villanueva, PF/SF, Detroit Pistons (2.1 per game)
Al Harrington, PF, Denver Nuggets (1.8 per game)
Channing Frye, PF/C, Phoenix Suns (1.5 per game)
Anthony Tolliver, PF/C, Minnesota Timberwolves (0.8 per game)
Tim Duncan's season-long offensive struggles have led to some new, notable stats coming out of San Antonio. Richard Jefferson's resurgent, George Hill's reliable, and Matt Bonner is killing it from behind the arc. He won't give you much else, but any big man who can nail seven 3s in one night (against the Thunder, no less) has now become a full-blown Garrity. (In my dictionary, a "Garrity" is a center you roster in deeper leagues only for his 3-point ability.)
It's sort of cheating listing Villanueva and Harrington. They're both small forwards at heart, but they qualify at PF, so on here they go. Frye's numbers might be off his 2009-10 pace, but he's still solid across the board, giving owners subtle boosts in 3s, steals and blocks. And Tolliver's showing his Don Nelson-inflated numbers weren't a fluke; if he can start clawing his way up toward 25 minutes per game (MPG), he'll get scarfed off waiver wires faster than you can say "Ricky Rubio."
Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana Pacers (3.4 per game)
Al Horford, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks (3.3 per game)
Paul Millsap, PF, Utah Jazz (2.9 per game)
Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies (2.6 per game)
Ronny Turiaf, PF/C, New York Knicks (2.6 per game)
Big men who can dish are my single favorite statistical anomaly. While 2.5-3.5 dimes a night might not leap off the page, in a category as top-heavy as assists, a center that can pass is worth his weight in gold.
And Roy Hibbert would constitute a walking Fort Knox. Fantasy editor Keith Lipscomb can wax lyrical on Hibbert better than I can, but lost in all the blocks and boards is the fact that he's evolving into one of the best passing big men in the NBA. Georgetown has a tendency to turn out skilled big men; it's one reason to keep your eye on the struggling Greg Monroe. Horford and Millsap are bigger names, but like Hibbert, their assist numbers are so subtly gaudy that they're impossible to ignore.
Yes, Laker fans, I know I've left off your precious Pau Gasol (3.9 per game). Two reasons: You've got enough to crow about, and I want to put the spotlight on his bigger, just-as-versatile brother.
Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies (1.5 per game)
Reggie Evans, PF, Toronto Raptors (1.5 per game)
Andray Blatche, PF/C, Washington Wizards (1.4 per game)
LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Portland Trail Blazers (1.3 per game)
Glen Davis, PF/C, Boston Celtics (1.2 per game)
I'll come right out and say it: Marc Gasol is the most underrated center in fantasy basketball this season. I know that doesn't quite jibe with his ADP (52.0), but keep in mind he started the season hurt, and he's already up to 8.19 on the Player Rater.
I've been wrong to deride Reggie Evans as an Amir-Johnson-killing one-trick pony. He's an Amir-Johnson-killing two-trick pony. Evans may be the most depressing power forward to own in all of fantasy, but he's borderline elite in two categories, which means he's worth a roster spot in medium to deep leagues.
With Greg Oden out for the season, not even Joel Przybilla can stand in the way of LaMarcus Aldridge getting 35 minutes a night. He's always been able to score and rebound, but Aldridge's upswing in the defensive columns has been an underreported fantasy storyline this season.
Wilson Chandler, SG/SF, New York Knicks (2.4 per game)
Francisco Garcia, SG/SF, Sacramento Kings (1.0 per game)
Brandon Rush, SG, Indiana Pacers (0.8 per game)
Eric Gordon, SG, Los Angeles Clippers (0.6 per game)
Aaron Afflalo, SG, Denver Nuggets (0.5 per game)
Next to big men who get assists, guards who block shots are my second favorite anomaly. Look at the gulf between Chandler and any other shooting guard in blocks and you'll see why I'm so obsessed.
Two players to watch that could be available in your league are Francisco Garcia and Brandon Rush. The versatile Garcia has been roster-worthy in the past. We all know he needs only 25-30 MPG to return some value, but the Kings continue to sport one of the more frustrating rotations in the league.
I've been waiting on Rush to become a fantasy mainstay for three seasons . He's got a special statistical something -- shooting guards who can average a steal, a 3 and a block per game are few and far between. The problem with Rush is a lack of motor. There might just be a link between that and his recent five-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. But the fact that it's a head issue and not a talent issue means that Rush still has a chance to become a decent fantasy player in the future.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
7hAdam Lewis, Special to ESPN.com
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