Working the Wire: Still plenty of league activity
I don't normally like to repeat pickups from last week, but sometimes it's necessary if a certain player continues to go unnoticed despite solid production. Such is the case with Mickael Pietrus, who is owned in just 29.7 percent of ESPN leagues but has averaged 12.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 0.9 blocks and 1.1 3-pointers in seven games this month. It is possible, as one reader pointed out last week, that Pietrus' percentage owned is depressed due to the fact that many owners have abandoned their teams at this point of the season. That is a good point, but how do we then explain the fact the Charlie Villanueva, Ricky Davis and Kendrick Perkins (all great pickups) have skyrocketed up the "Most Added" list? It seems to me Pietrus just isn't getting the love he deserves for a variety of reasons -- namely coach Don Nelson's fickle nature.
Look, I know Don Nelson can change his tune at any time, and I know Pietrus is a risk. But he's not any riskier than anyone else you might find on the wire at this time of year. Fact of the matter is, the way he is playing right now, Pietrus needs to be owned in all but the shallowest of fantasy leagues. Heck, this is a guy who could average 13 points, 7 rebounds 1.3 steals, a block and a 3-pointer per game for the remainder of the season. Isn't that worth the risk? And if Pietrus is already gone in your league, here are a few more players who might be worth an investment for the stretch run:
Tim Thomas, SF/PF, Clippers (32.4 percent owned) Thomas always seems to have moderate value whenever injuries strike in Los Angeles, and with both Chris Kaman and Al Thornton nursing injuries, Thomas has been able to get free for three straight double-digit-scoring games. In those games, Thomas has averaged 16.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.7 3-pointers. Don't confuse him for a guy who's going to provide all-around value, but be sure to consider Thomas if you need points and 3s at this stage of the game, as he could average a cool 14 points and 1.5 3-pointers the rest of the way. Kaman's back injury could prove to be problematic for the rest of the season, which should ensure that Thomas secures ample minutes going forward.
Ronald "Flip" Murray, SG, Pacers (0.0 percent owned): Since joining the Pacers at the beginning of the month, Flip has averaged 11.9 points, 1.6 steals and 0.7 3-pointers in just 18.7 minutes per game. With per-minute stats like those, one must think that even a slight increase in minutes would make Murray an immediate fantasy attraction, no? And that time could be coming soon, as Flip's play earned him a start over Travis Diener in the Pacers' last outing. Now, before we get too excited here, realize that Flip's starting role might not be a permanent solution for Indiana head coach Jim O'Brien. Even O'Brien himself has stated that this could be a temporary move, so Murray could very well find himself back on the bench if Diener breaks out of his recent shooting slump. That said, Flip's ability to put up points, 3-pointers and steals should not go overlooked in fantasy leagues. Those who are currently holding on to Diener might want to consider swapping him for Flip.
Ryan Gomes, SF/PF, Timberwolves (20.4 percent owned): If you've been playing the wire at all this season, you probably already know the deal with Gomes. He can be a boon to fantasy owners when he's hot -- and a complete bust when he's not. Consistency is not his strong suit, but I will say this, Gomes has the tendency to sustain his hot streaks for longer than most inconsistent players. Anyone else remember his run back in the month of January, when he averaged 15.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.9 3-pointers? His value held constant for the majority of the month before tailing off early in February. Well, he's back at it again, with averages of 14.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.9 3-pointers in March. Grab him now, but be sure to realize that he might not be the best long-term option out there.
Ronny Turiaf, PF, Lakers (0.5 percent owned): Those who missed out on Dikembe Mutombo, who is averaging 5.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in just 19 minutes per game this month, might have an answer to their shot-blocking woes in Turiaf. He won't have long-lasting value like Dikembe will, but he will be more productive over the next week or so while Pau Gasol nurses a sprained left ankle. Turiaf, like Deke, will not bring much to the table in terms of scoring points, but he will grab more rebounds and might block more shots simply because he'll see 25-30 minutes per game while Gasol mends. Over his past five contests, Turiaf is averaging 7.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 21.8 minutes. Look for those numbers to improve slightly with his increase in minutes. Consider grabbing the big man for a short-term boost if you're in a tight race in the shot-blocking department.
Jason Williams, PG, Heat (37.7 percent owned): Let's face it, pretty much anyone can have value in Miami right now, including Williams. Sure, he's an injury concern, but he is averaging 12.8 points, 3.9 assists, 2.4 3-pointers and a steal in 27.8 minutes during the month of March. As far as free-agent point guards are concerned, I'd rank Williams ahead of both Atkins and Murray despite the fact that he could be shut down at any time due to his injury history.
I'm not as high on Daequan Cook (8.7 percent owned) as most folks, but even I'm not stupid enough to ignore a guy who's getting 37.8 minutes over his past five contests. Averaging 11.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.4 steals and 2.0 3-pointers over that span, Cook isn't exactly lighting the world afire, but he does have some nice upside, and at the very least he'll be a 3-point specialist for fantasy owners. That said, I'd love to see Cook do more in the steals department, and if I was picking up a guard from the Heat, my first choice would be Williams.
Like I said previously, anyone can have value in Miami right now, even Earl Barron (0.0 percent owned), who went off for 21 points and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes Sunday night. Barron doesn't figure to have many more games like this in the future, but those in deeper leagues can give him a shot if only because the Heat have about eight healthy players at the moment.
Jerry Stackhouse (6.6 percent owned) has been making some noise as a role player for the Mavericks, with averages of 12.8 points, 3.4 assists and 0.9 3-pointers over his past five games. Stack can be a solid addition for those in need of points, 3-pointers and free-throw percentage.
With Wally Szczerbiak still in a shooting slump, Sasha Pavlovic (2.4 percent owned) might be able to offer some value in deeper leagues. Pavlovic, who returned from a foot injury last week, was able to get loose for 24 points and 5 3-pointers in just his second game back in the lineup. Sasha is an option only for those in need of points and 3-pointers, but if you are still holding on to Wally, you might want to dump him for Pavlovic.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.