Working the Wire: Riding the roller coaster
If you are anything like me, you might have an unhealthy obsession with young players that possess inordinate amounts of upside, even if those players are still too inexperienced to offer the consistency and stability that a veteran could provide. It's in our nature, as fantasy owners, to become fascinated with upside. At the same time, we're also an impatient bunch at heart, and we're quick to make a move when a player isn't getting it done. These two emotions pull at each other, particularly early in the season, when inconsistency is the norm among young players who are still getting their sea legs and coaches are still tinkering with their lineups.
It's quite the predicament, really; especially this season when there seems to be a large number of prospects that are making us nauseous as we ride their roller-coaster-like ups and downs. Should we weather the storm, or should we cash in our youth for some veteran stability? Four players in particular come to mind when examining this question.
Tyrus Thomas, PF, Bulls (19.9 percent owned): How frustrating is this dude? One night he goes off for 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks, and the next night he gives you nothing. To make matters worse, his minutes are starting to dry up, thanks mostly to his awful 28.6 percent shooting from the floor. If there is one silver lining here it's that T2 is still getting it done on the defensive end, averaging 1.1 steals and 2.1 blocks per game. Thomas is a definite drop candidate in most league formats, but feel free to stick with him as long as he's serving a need for your team on the defensive end. Personally, I'm holding onto him in my deeper leagues because I need the blocks, and if he happens to start producing in points and rebounds (which is highly possible), well, that's just icing on the cake.
Darrell Arthur, PF, Grizzlies (3.6 percent): Just like Tyrus Thomas, Arthur isn't receiving the minutes we might like, but he is still producing on the defensive end with 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.6 blocks in just 23.0 minutes per game. I shudder to think what those numbers might look like in 30-35 minutes per game, and I think we'll find out once Memphis realizes that he is their future at the power-forward position (in the second half). So for now we're stuck with a player who is highly productive in limited minutes, which is only useful for those who are lacking in rebounds, steals and blocks. Those in shallow leagues can hold off on him for now, but be sure to keep a close eye on his minutes, because even a slight bump in playing time would make Arthur a star in fantasy leagues.
Mario Chalmers, PG, Heat (34.5 percent): Chris Quinn's emergence has scared many potential Chalmers buyers off the market, but Chalmers is still earning enough minutes to be worth your while depending on your needs. He's much more of a two-category specialist than anything else, but there are plenty of folks that could use the help in assists (5.1) and steals (2.5). Heck, the steals alone (which include a 9-steal game) make him worthy of a roster spot in deeper formats.
Wilson Chandler, SF, Knicks (11.0 percent): Here's a guy who, unlike the rest of the young players listed here, should be owned in all fantasy formats. Somehow I have a feeling that we'll see his percentage-owned skyrocket after his 27-point, 7-rebound, 3-steal, 1-block performance Wednesday night. Inconsistency aside, Chandler is showing a lot in New York. He's versatile both on the court and in his statistical output, and he will continue to thrive in Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo system. Take the off nights with a grain of salt, because at the end of the day, Chandler is averaging 14.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.1 3-pointers. And as we get deeper into the season, we'll probably even start to see some consistency in his game as his minutes stabilize.
Players named in previous weeks who remain quality waiver-wire additions: Wilson Chandler, Nene, Marquis Daniels, Rudy Fernandez, Kelenna Azubuike, Nate Robinson, Spencer Hawes, Brandan Wright, Roger Mason, Matt Barnes, Mario Chalmers, Darrell Arthur, Jason Thompson, Tyrus Thomas.
Jeff Green, SF, Thunder (13.5 percent): Green posted a huge line in Kevin Durant's absence Wednesday night: 25 points, 10 rebounds, 3 3-pointers and a steal. He won't be able to duplicate that line when Durant returns, but Green has quietly emerged as a viable fantasy option, averaging 16.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.2 3-pointers in his past five games. There's no way he'll continue to shoot 52 percent from downtown, but it would not be surprising if he averages 14-15 points, 6-7 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.2 3-pointers going forward.
Beno Udrih, PG, Kings (39.7 percent): OK, perhaps I was a little harsh on Udrih when I suggested that he be dropped in 10-team leagues last week. In fact, since the words were published, Udrih went off for 18 points, 3 assists and a steal Tuesday and followed that up with a 30-point, 7-assist, 2-steal game Wednesday night. Granted, Kevin Martin was missing in action for both of those contests, but Beno may be turning the corner here. Remember, he did average 14.4 points, 5.0 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.9 3-pointers as a starter last season.
Yi Jianlian, SF/PF, Nets (23.7 percent): Apparently it's much easier to produce in the NBA than it is in the Olympics. Perhaps the pressure got to him in Beijing? All I know is that this is not the same player that looked lost this summer. Like the youngsters discussed in the opening, Jianlian will not be a model of consistency. He will, however, earn a bunch of minutes for the rebuilding Nets. Averaging 12.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.0 3-pointers and 0.8 blocks over his past five, Jianlian is looking like a must-add in all formats despite his inconsistency. His rare ability to contribute both 3-pointers and blocks makes him all the more attractive, especially when considering he'll likely receive 30-plus minutes per game going forward.
JaVale McGee, PF, Wizards (0.6 percent): If you haven't read Adam Madison's "If You're Hardcore" this week, I suggest you do so. You'll notice him pimping JaVale McGee's fantastic per-minute statistics, and I'd like to jump on the bandwagon. McGee is averaging 8.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in just 19.2 minutes per game this season. That's production, folks. He has seen 25-plus minutes in just two games, but has posted a double-double with multiple blocks in both contests. It's a small sample size, but it's promising, and McGee is quickly becoming one of my favorite sleeper additions early this season.
Nick Young, SG, Wizards (12.3 percent): Don't look now, but Nick Young is scoring a cool 15.5 points in 27.0 minutes per game for the Wizards. And he's doing it without really getting hot from downtown yet. Last year the kid shot 40 percent from 3-point land; this year he's struggling from long distance, at just 16.7 percent. He'll start drilling some of those 3-pointers soon enough, and we could be in for a treat once he does. The most impressive thing about Young's season thus far has been his aggressiveness on the offensive end. He's getting to the free-throw line almost at will with 4.2 attempts per game, and he's shooting 92.0 percent for the season. Grab him for his points and free-throw percentage, and don't be surprised if he starts adding in a 3-pointer and a steal per game to boot.
Aaron Brooks, PG, Rockets (2.3 percent): With his ability to provide instant offense off the bench, Brooks is dangerously close to having fantasy value in Houston. Averaging 11.9 points and 1.4 3-pointers in just 20.9 minutes per game, it is clear that any injury in Houston (which could happen at any moment) would create an opportunity for Brooks. I'd love to see more assists and steals, but Brooks has enough upside to warrant a pickup right now in 12-team leagues or deeper. Those in 10-team leagues should hold off for now, but be sure to keep him on the radar for a little later on in the season.
Luc Mbah a Moute (2.4 percent): I spent the last week using colorful four-letter words for the man whose name I can't pronounce, who also happens to be killing Charlie Villanueva's value in Milwaukee. Then I figured, why curse him when I might be able to embrace him? Clearly a favorite of Scott Skiles, Mbah a Moute has earned 31.8 minutes per game in his past five, while averaging 11.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game. I'm not overly impressed with his numbers, but I am convinced that Skiles is going to give Mbah a Moute plenty of run thanks to his defensive abilities. He deserves a look for that reason alone.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.