- Seth Landman, Fantasy Basketball
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With the regular season winding down and stretch-run rosters starting to solidify more and more, it is perhaps more important than ever to pluck guys off the waiver wire who can produce big numbers. Any advantage you can get over your current situation is worthwhile. Even if a player is going to provide you with only a minimal benefit compared with what's already on your roster, it's worth making a move while you still can.
In addition, with fewer games to go, you have less to lose in making a mistake, so don't hesitate to swap a player you have doubts about for one who is producing right now. In the rare case that you make a colossal mistake, especially in roto leagues, you won't get burned as much as you would making a similar mistake in November.
With all of this in mind, here are some players you should consider.
Samardo Samuels, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers: Samuels is available in more than 90 percent of fantasy leagues at the moment, which is pretty surprising considering he's been putting up 14.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game on 50 percent shooting in his past five games. He's got a hold on the starting power forward position for the Cavs and should hold on to it for a while considering Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao are going to be out for the rest of the season. He's played more than 30 minutes in each of his past four games, so the minutes are there, too. As an undersized power forward, he's probably not going to ever contribute much in blocks, and he has some work to do at the charity stripe, but as a scorer and rebounder, he has plenty of potential to be a good fantasy guy.
Jodie Meeks, SG, Philadelphia 76ers: With the 76ers really rounding into form during the past few weeks (they're currently in the top 10 in John Hollinger's Power Rankings), it would seem that Meeks' spot in the starting lineup is entirely safe for the moment. Meeks will always be fantasy-worthy when he's getting minutes because he's a phenomenal 3-point shooter, something the Sixers have been desperate for over the past few seasons. Of late, though, Meeks is showing potential in other areas as well. Most significantly, he's been averaging better than one steal per game for the past month or so and is up to 1.6 per game in his past five games. While he doesn't get to the line all that often, he's fantastic when he's there, knocking down 90 percent of his free throws for the season. Add it all up, and if Meeks can hover around 1.5 steals per game the rest of the way, he'll be a great pickup in all leagues.
Hakim Warrick, PF, Phoenix Suns: You're not going to get steals and blocks out of Warrick; like Samuels, he's mainly just good for points, rebounds and field goal percentage. With Channing Frye out for the next 2-3 weeks with a dislocated shoulder, Warrick should have a chance to put up some decent numbers you can use. He showed his potential on Tuesday night, throwing up 32 points (on 14-for-19 shooting from the floor) to go along with eight rebounds and four assists in the Suns' win against the Rockets. He's shooting 53 percent on the season, and he averages nearly 20 points per 40 minutes of action, so if he can manage 30 or so minutes in the next couple of weeks, you could be looking at 15 points per game and a boost to your field goal percentage numbers as well. Warrick's not a terrible rebounder, either, so he'll help you float in that category, too.
Kirk Hinrich, SG/PG, Atlanta Hawks: He's available in about half of ESPN.com fantasy leagues, which doesn't make much sense when you consider the fact that he's the Hawks' starting point guard for the foreseeable future. Hinrich, for example, got 31 minutes in the loss to the Lakers while Jeff Teague got only nine. And while Hinrich's line might not look like much at first, his 12 points (5-for-10 from the floor), four assists, two 3-pointers, a steal and a block actually make for a pretty productive fantasy night, even though his team didn't play well. As he gets more comfortable with the athletes filling the lanes around him, I'd expect him to get even more productive, and at some point start mimicking the numbers that made him such a desirable fantasy player early in his career when he was with the Bulls.
Tyrus Thomas, PF, Charlotte Bobcats: Thomas hasn't played in almost two months, but considering the total lack of talent on the Bobcats, and how well Thomas was playing before he got hurt, his imminent return could be huge for whichever fantasy owners manage to pick him up. As of this moment, he's probable for Wednesday night's game against the Bulls, and if he goes, he'll be, as usual, a great source of steals and blocks and a pretty decent source of points and rebounds as well. He's not going to help you in the percentages, but players who accumulate steals and blocks the way Thomas does are few and far between. Most important, though, is the fact that the Bobcats really need him, considering the minutes they've had to hand out to guys like Dominic McGuire and D.J. White the past couple of games in the wake of their trading away Gerald Wallace.
Derrick Favors, PF, Utah Jazz: Favors has had his moments this season, but -- as tends to happen with young players -- consistency has been the issue. His moments have been great, though; he put up 16 points, eight rebounds, one steal and one block in just 25 minutes in Utah's blowout loss to the Knicks on Monday night, and he should get plenty of minutes again on Wednesday night against the Raptors with Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Millsap listed as doubtful and questionable, respectively. In addition, the Jazz can really use Favors' defensive abilities alongside Al Jefferson in the post. He's not as safe a pickup as some of the other guys on this list, but with the Jazz possibly falling out of the playoff race during the next couple of weeks, Favors could find himself getting lots of minutes as the team tries to see what it has in him.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.