- John Cregan, Fantasy Basketball
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At this stage of our crazily compacted season, we're all in the same boat: riding the waiver-wire seas in search of ways to give our teams that bit of added spark that could be the difference between victory and defeat.
I like this stage of the season because it allows me to scratch my player-movement itch in a less invasive manner. A season's not going to be sunk because I dropped Jameer Nelson for Gustavo Ayon. But it could very well spell the difference in a close categorical battle or two.
It's also a good time to look to the wire. After the opening week of the season, this is the most fruitful free-agent period of the fantasy season. Thanks to the ripple effect of multiple trade-deadline deals -- and some subsequent buyouts and shutdowns -- we've got plenty of fresh names to kick around.
A couple of weeks back, I wrote a small novella on players I had my eye on planning for the post-deadline period. Now that the deadline has come and gone, I want to take a trip through some squads that have made some recent shifts in their rotations.
Reasons for shift: Buyout, injury
But ye basketball gods finally granted Boris Diaw a chance to catch on with a contender, as Diaw was finally bought out of the remainder of his contract. That, and a recent aggravation of Corey Maggette's oft-maligned back, has opened up some new opportunities up front in Charlotte.
Bismack Biyombo should already be on your radar, but Tyrus Thomas' minutes have been on a recent upswing (24.7 minutes per game during the past seven days). Thomas, who has to be one of the most added/dropped big men in fantasy history, has a very streaky pedigree. Once or twice a season, he'll go on a mini-tear as if to remind people that he was once a high lottery pick.
Taking Monday's team-wide clunker versus the 76ers out of the equation (no Corey Maggette), Thomas has shown signs of building up into a mild roll as of late. He also now has small forward eligibility, giving him a nice little added dimension for forward-hungry squads.
Two more names I'll throw out: Reggie Williams and D.J. White. I think Charlotte will do everything it can to not shut down Maggette (he's the only reliable veteran scorer on the wing), but if Maggette remains sidelined, both Williams and White could flash enough fantasy potential to warrant a pickup.
Williams was one of Don Nelson's final D-League superstars (one of Nelson's special fantasy gifts was bestowing relevance upon heretofore unknown D-Leaguers), averaging 15.2 ppg down the stretch for Golden State in 2009-10. And D.J. White's solid per-40 numbers (15.2 points, 8.9 rebounds) have long fueled interest -- well, at least my interest -- as to what he'd put up given a steady diet of minutes.
Reason for shift: Trade
As promised, both Tristan Thompson and Alonzo Gee have made strides post-deadline. Thompson's 27-point, 12-rebound romp against the Nets and his newfound eligibility at center are both good reasons to give him a pickup. But be just as excited about his rising MPG, which is up to 31.4 in his past five games.
Alonzo Gee is one of the most-added players in fantasy, and is quietly giving the Cavs the most stable small forward play they've had since LeBron departed for the Heat.
One thing I like about Gee -- it's not his still-developing outside shot -- is the fact that he does something to help his owners every night. He was horrible from the field last night against the Hawks (1-9 FG, 0-3 on 3s), but still clawed his way to a near double-double (9 points, 13 rebounds), and threw in four assists as gravy.
Reason for shift: Trade, Injury, End of Chinese Season
Denver is sort of a more stable and productive version of Sacramento; the Nuggets have a ton of players who could be top-50 fantasy players with more minutes, but there's too much depth at certain positions to let anyone truly break out.
Nene for JaVale McGee could be a masterstroke a year or two from now, but for now McGee's muddling Kenneth Faried's coming-out party. Between those two, Al Harrington, Timofey Mozgov and Chris Andersen, it's going to be a bit of a struggle for a big Nugget to be a huge night-in, night-out contributor.
Here's hoping George Karl eventually turns to a Faried-McGee pairing in the paint. In terms of style and skill set, they actually complement one another quite nicely. Oh, and is Wilson Chandler (one of my favorite players of the past couple of seasons) still available in your league? If so, stop reading this and go pick him up. I'll wait.
Reason for shift: Rodney Stuckey's toe
Just throwing this in here in case Stuckey's injury becomes a lingering issue. Obviously, Ben Gordon (45 points Wednesday night) stands to gain in Stuckey's absence, but Will Bynum (10 points, 6 assists) could also contribute in deeper leagues.
Reason for shift: Trade, Injury, Shutdown
Now can you see why I was so excited about Klay Thompson getting a starting gig? Overall, Golden State is currently fertile territory because the Warriors are very thin at several spots, those being point guard, power forward and center.
Jeremy Tyler got the start at center Wednesday night in place of the injured Andris Biedrins (who can't buy a break). It's too bad Golden State didn't grab J.J. Hickson, because he could have been a prime late-season breakout candidate as a Warrior. Dominic McGuire could end up scrapping his way to 25-30 minutes a night. When he was getting that many MPG as a Wizard, McGuire could put together some intriguing stat lines, so keep an eye on him.
We're still looking at a time-share on the wing. It's going to be hard to predict who out of Dorell Wright, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush will be productive. My guess is two out of three of those guys will post a serviceable stat line per game, with the odd man out shifting on a nightly basis.
Reason for shift: Trade
Foye had a huge night (23 points) Wednesday as the starting shooting guard, with Nick Young (12 points) starting at small forward ahead of the temporarily moribund Caron Butler. Mo Williams looks like he'll retain his value regardless of who starts ahead of him.
Reason for shift: Trade
And I'm back. I actually took a break from writing this to pick up Ramon Sessions in one of my leagues. He had his best outing yet as a Laker (17 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds) Wednesday night at the Mavericks, and I'd assume he should be starting ahead of Steve Blake by next week. Also, don't forget about Matt Barnes, who seems to be enjoying playing with Sessions (58 points and 30 rebounds over his past five games).
Reason for shift: Trade
Milwaukee is suddenly loaded offensively and is on a major roll, having won six straight. Both Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings have taken small hits in value, but the perpetually streaky Carlos Delfino (16.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.3 3s per game, 2.0 spg in his past three games) looks like he's about to go off on one of his binges. When he gets minutes and he's on, Delfino's the kind of guy who can help you win a week seemingly singlehanded.
Delfino could get pushed for minutes by the (also) newly resurgent Mike Dunleavy. In just 28.8 MPG, Dunleavy has averaged 18.8 points, 4.6 assists and 2.4 3-pointers in his past five games. He's been having a vintage, throwback month. To watch him play, it seems like he could have finally escaped the injury bug that sapped his firmly prodigious fantasy talent. With five more minutes a night, he could start cracking 20 ppg on a regular basis down the stretch. (On a personal note, I also love his SG eligibility.)
Reason for shift: Injury
Just a quick reminder; if Nikola Pekovic stays on the shelf, keep an eye on Anthony Tolliver. He's another ex-Don Nelson prodigy who had a nice run at the end of the 2009-10 season. I've always liked Tolliver because of his ability to add 3s from the center position.
Reason for shift: Trade, Injury, Resting for Playoffs
The creaky but still dangerous Spurs are a tough team to peg. Gregg Popovich is going to have to rest Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker as much as possible, which means that fantasy opportunities will open up for other Spurs up and down the lineup. The problem is reliably predicting who's going to rest and when.
Kawhi Leonard seems like a strong play for the duration, but Stephen Jackson is still easing into his new team. I was bullish on Jackson as a Spur, but I may need to revise my outlook based on the small amount of minutes he's received to date. Daniel Green has been starting ahead of him at SG and producing (14 points, 7 rebounds Wednesday night), and it's conceivable Popovich uses Jackson as a sixth man.
Reason for shift: Injury
With Josh Howard undergoing yet another surgery, Gordon Hayward's going to receive a fresh opportunity to play his way onto the fantasy radar. With 28-30 MPG seemingly locked in, Hayward's a good bet for a late-season surge.
Reasons for shift: Trade, Shutdown
Nene (22 points, 10 rebounds Wednesday night) has been grabbing all the attention in the new-look Wizards frontcourt, but don't sleep on the high-motor, medium-upside duo of Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker. Andray Blatche has been put on a (probably permanent) conditioning vacation, meaning there are minutes to go around for all three players. Roger Mason has been on fire from downtown since the trade, and could help some of you in need of 3s in medium-to-deep leagues.
5dDavid M. Hale