Working the Wire: Be patient with Deng, Foye, Lee
When playing the waiver-wire game, many people forget that it's not all about which players you're adding to your roster. Who you drop is equally important, and figuring out who you can afford to part ways with is one of the toughest decisions a fantasy owner must make. As we discussed last week, patience is both a virtue and a vice. Be patient with the wrong player and you'll miss out on a ton of worthy free-agent acquisitions. Panic on the wrong player and you'll kick yourself for the rest of the year when a competitor scoops him up off the wire. With that in mind, I've come up with a list of struggling players who, according to the many e-mails I've received, are currently on thin ice with their fantasy owners. Who should you keep and who should you dump?
Luol Deng, SF, Bulls (99 percent owned): Come back down off that ledge, people. It's been only a week, and I already have too many e-mails with the subject line "Drop Deng?" hitting my inbox. Sure, Deng has been dismal in three of his first five contests, but he is simply too talented to shoot just 35.6 percent from the floor for much longer. This is a guy whose career field goal percentage stands at 47.8 percent, and once he finds his touch, he'll be back to the player we thought he was when we drafted him this season. Expect to see more of the guy who put up 18 points, seven rebounds and two steals on Wednesday night in Cleveland and much less of the guy who put up just one point on 0-for-8 shooting on Monday in Orlando.
Randy Foye, PG/SG, Timberwolves (84.5 percent owned): Maybe I'm stubborn, but I still believe in Foye. Like Deng, Foye is struggling with his shot, but he's not going to shoot 27.7 percent from the floor forever -- he's too good for that. And I'm certainly not going to give up on him just because there's talk that Sebastian Telfair might join the starting lineup. I mean, Sebastian Telfair? Really? Sorry, folks, but Foye has way too much talent and potential to give up on after just four games.
Beno Udrih, PG, Kings (47.4 percent owned): Udrih was solid as a starter last season, but he has been downright awful through five games, averaging just 7.0 points, 4.4 assists, 0.2 steals and 0.2 3-pointers per game. One of the knocks against Beno coming into the season was his limited upside, so if you see a player on the wire with some upside potential, like Mario Chalmers or Ramon Sessions, feel free to make the switch now in 10-team leagues. Hold Udrih in 12-team leagues or deeper; he is, after all, still the starting point guard in Sacramento.
Leandro Barbosa, PG/SG, Suns (96.8 percent owned): Generally speaking, I don't get too bent out of shape if a player is performing poorly early in the season so long as they are still receiving consistent minutes. Barbosa, however, has seen his minutes dry up for new head coach Terry Porter. He has plenty of talent, but it won't do your fantasy team any good if he's only seeing 21.5 minutes per game. Feel free to cut him loose in 10-team leagues if there are better options, but hold onto him in 12-team leagues or deeper just in case he breaks back into the rotation.
Brandan Wright, PF, Warriors (0.8 percent owned): Wright's percentage owned is bound to skyrocket after his 18-point, 12-rebound, three-block performance Wednesday night, particularly given the recent news that Al Harrington is on the trading block in Golden State. I'm still not convinced that Wright is ready to produce consistently in the NBA, but he's certainly going to get an opportunity to show us what he's got. With that said, Wright is this week's version of Tyrus Thomas or Darrell Arthur -- the high-risk/high-reward pickup of the week.
Nate Robinson, PG/SG, Knicks (38.6 percent owned): There's nothing like a 24-point first-half performance to wake up the fantasy crowd, is there? Little Nate is thriving in Mike D'Antoni's offense, averaging 15.8 points, 4.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.5 3-pointers through four contests. With numbers like those, Nate is a must-add. He won't be able to continue this type of production on a nightly basis, but he should at least be a solid producer in points, steals and 3-pointers all season long.
Quentin Richardson, SG/SF, Knicks (28.1 percent owned): Q-Rich is as streaky as they come, but when you average the good games with the bad ones you come out with a pretty productive fantasy player. Take all of the 1-for-9 shooting nights with a grain of salt and enjoy the 28-point outbursts he'll put up from time to time.
Matt Barnes, SF, Suns (8.7 percent owned): Prior to missing Wednesday's game due to a family emergency, Barnes was beginning to show signs of life as the starting small forward in Phoenix. After starting the season slow, Barnes went off for 21 points, 5 rebounds and three 3-pointers and followed that with a 10-point, seven-rebound effort in which he drilled another three 3-pointers. Those needing help in the scoring and 3-point categories will surely want to take a long look at Barnes once he returns to the lineup.
Jason Maxiell, PF/C, Pistons (7.0 percent owned): I'll keep this short and sweet since you've likely read enough about the Iverson/Billups trade. At some point, Maxiell is going to benefit from Antonio McDyess' departure, and when he does, you'll want him on your squad. Expect his minutes to creep up into the 25-30 range and for him to be a big contributor in rebounds and blocks.
Amir Johnson, PF, Pistons (3.2 percent owned) Maxiell is slightly more attractive than Johnson, unless you're looking for help in steals and blocks, that is. Johnson is a freakish defensive player who can rack up the steals and blocks Josh Smith style if he gets the minutes. With 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks in just 17.8 minutes, Johnson has considerable upside if he can secure 20-25 minutes per game in the Detroit frontcourt. With McDyess gone, he shouldn't have much of a problem getting the minutes he needs to be productive in most fantasy leagues.
Ramon Sessions/Luke Ridnour, PG, Bucks (37.6 and 3.5 percent owned, respectively): I hate time-shares, so I won't be too high on either Sessions or Ridnour, but both are worthy of a roster spot in deeper fantasy formats. Ridnour has proven in the past to be a viable fantasy point guard, even when stuck in a time-share. In 2006-07, he averaged 11.0 points with 5.2 assists and 1.2 steals as a part of a time-share in Seattle. He could duplicate those numbers in Milwaukee this season. Scott Skiles is a Ridnour fan, so he's unlikely to lose his starting spot anytime soon. Sessions, on the other hand, took advantage of a Ridnour back injury to post some ridiculous numbers. How does 17.3 points, 8.3 assists and 1.7 steals in three games sound? It's a shame he's stuck behind Ridnour on the depth chart because he won't approach those numbers so long as Luke is healthy, but it is possible that the two could coexist in the Bucks' backcourt. Grab Sessions first for his upside, but don't forget about Ridnour in deeper leagues.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.