Working the Wire: Thomas, Boone solid as starters
Before we get into this week's pickups, let's take a look at some of the league's more underrated and unappreciated fantasy players. These are guys who should be owned in more leagues than they currently are, but for one reason or another they just aren't getting the fantasy love they deserve.
Antonio Daniels, PG/SG, Wizards (37.0 percent owned): Daniels missed a bunch of games in December with a sore knee but has come back strong in January with averages of 10.6 points, 5.9 assists and 0.9 steals in 34.8 minutes per game since the new year. Looking at those numbers, I'm not sure why he's owned in only 37 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Kurt Thomas, PF/C, SuperSonics (35.2 percent owned): I've been saying this for months, but Thomas has been consistently solid since stepping into the starting lineup back in early December. Averaging 6.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.3 blocks per game in 27 starts this season; Thomas could be a decent replacement if you recently lost Andrew Bynum to injury.
Josh Boone, PF/C, Nets (30.2 percent owned): There is no replacement for a guy like Bynum, but Boone (much like Thomas) can help fill the void for the time being. Boone has been a consistent fantasy performer since joining the starting lineup in New Jersey, averaging 10.9 points, 9.2 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.8 blocks in 15 starts. With numbers like those, it's hard to believe that he's available in nearly 70 percent of fantasy leagues, but I can understand if you don't want to take on his horrendous 34.8 percent free throw percentage.
Jeff Foster, PF/C, Pacers (2.4 percent owned): We'll keep this one short and simple. Any time Jermaine O'Neal goes down, your first reaction should be to check to see if Foster is available in your league. Foster is a fairly straightforward kind of player; he can rebound and that's about it. The thing is, he pulls down boards in bulk when big Jermaine isn't around. In the seven games that O'Neal has missed this season, Foster has averaged a very solid 8.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.6 blocks in 32.5 minutes. With O'Neal out for the next two to three weeks (or possibly longer), Foster will have enough time to help some owners climb the ranks in the rebounding category.
Thabo Sefolosha, SG/SF, Bulls (0.0 percent owned): In just his second season as a pro, Sefolosha has shown flashes of brilliance in limited action but has yet to receive anything close to what would be considered extended playing time until now. Taking advantage of injuries to Kirk Hinrich (back) and Luol Deng (Achilles), Sefolosha has been inserted into the Bulls' starting lineup and has averaged 11.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 0.5 3-pointers per game as a starter. Quality numbers, no doubt, but for how long will it last? I'm not sure that Sefolosha will have a gig when the Bulls return to full strength, but it's hard to argue with his play on the court, particularly his defensive skills. Sefolosha has incredibly long arms, and is a very tough defender on the perimeter. With his confidence growing, he might be able to secure himself more minutes for Jim Boylan's Bulls, and he has the kind of upside (especially in the steals category) that's worth taking a risk on at this point of the season.
The Chris Webber (2.4 percent owned) rumors are starting to spread like wildfire, and it's almost inevitable that we'll be seeing C-Webb suiting up for some team (Lakers maybe?) in the very near future. It's hard to say how Webber will fit in without knowing what team he'll be playing for, but it might be worthwhile to grab him in deeper formats just in case he lands in a favorable situation. At 34 years of age, Webber is nowhere near the player he once was, but he can still be a solid end-of-the-bench type of player in deeper fantasy leagues. He averaged 11.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and a steal per game for the Pistons last season, which is right around what we should expect depending on where he lands.
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Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if you recently lost Andrew Bynum, now would most definitely qualify as a desperate time. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if that still makes it OK to consider adding Kwame Brown (14.6 percent owned) in fantasy leagues, especially after a seven-turnover game last Thursday. I guess it's all right to add him in deeper formats, but I think I'd actually rather own Ronny Turiaf (0.2 percent owned) than Brown. And this is coming from a former Brown supporter.
Linas Kleiza's (13.7 percent owned) 41-point barrage last Thursday night had some folks rushing to the waiver wire, and that's fine, as long as you aren't expecting another outburst like that in the near future. With Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony around it's going to be hard for Kleiza to put up consistent scoring numbers, although he can be an effective 3-point specialist in fantasy leagues. Kleiza is hitting 1.2 3-pointers per game in just 23.6 minutes on the season and has an opportunity to secure more playing time because of injuries to Kenyon Martin and Nene.
Kleiza is a decent gamble in deeper formats, but if you're going for a 3-point specialist, why not try Juan Carlos Navarro (32.8 percent owned)? JCN has been a streaky fantasy performer but has produced at high levels whenever Darko Milicic or Pau Gasol has been out of the lineup. Recently, however, Navarro has been putting up numbers regardless of who's in the lineup, averaging 19.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.6 steals and 4 3-pointers in 34.9 minutes over his past five games. Yes, I said four 3-pointers per game. There's no doubt that Navarro can produce if given the minutes, but for how long will he continue to earn PT for Marc Iavaroni? That question can be answered by only Iavaroni himself, which makes Navarro a risky proposition in fantasy leagues. Of course, with high risk comes high reward, and Navarro makes for a very nice gamble for anyone who needs to make a move in the 3-point category.
Bobby Jones (1.3 percent owned) turned some heads last week when he put up 20 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 2 3-pointers and a block in 40 minutes in a surprise start against the Sonics on Thursday night. Jones' fine play, combined with an injury to Mike Miller, earned him another start on Saturday night, but he didn't fare quite as well, going for 8 points, 5 rebounds and a steal in 37 minutes. He is a long shot to continue earning big-time minutes in Iavaroni's rotation but is worth taking a look at if you're in a league that runs deeper than 12 teams.
Josh Whitling brought up a very good point in Saturday's Box Score Blog when he discussed Kyle Korver's (23.9 percent owned) value in Utah. Korver is currently ice cold from downtown, connecting on just 26.5 percent of his 3-point attempts. Considering that Korver is a career 40.6 percent shooter from behind the arc, we can and should expect him to start knocking down a few more 3s as he becomes more comfortable in Jerry Sloan's offense. He is attempting 3.8 3-pointers per game, which means he'll probably start making around 1.5 per game once he really irons out his shot. And if he does start shooting better, there's always the chance that he'll earn more minutes over Ronnie Brewer. I've been adamantly against owning Korver if you didn't own him when he was in Philadelphia, and I still stand by that, but there's no denying that he can be a valuable 3-point specialist once his shot starts falling again.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.
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