- Brian McKitish, Fantasy Basketball
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Have you ever found yourself looking at your waiver wire pondering whether or not a player like J.J. Redick could help your fantasy squad? I'm sure more than just a few of you thought exactly that sometime last week. It happens more often than you'd like to admit, though it's not always J.J. Redick that we're considering. It's called desperation, folks. Sometimes the wire is so thin that we talk ourselves into adding a player that we know won't pan out. And we rationalize it by saying that it's not a risky move because it's "just a waiver-wire addition." But there is a risk. When you add a player who doesn't produce, you're likely to miss out on one who is producing. With that in mind, before we get into this week's pickups, I'd like to start with a few buzzworthy players I'm not picking up.
Players I'm not reaching for:
Jared Jeffries, SF, Knicks: I hear a lot of chatter about how Jeffries is going to start for the Knicks and how he might be a nice sleeper pickup option. I'm not buying it. Why not? Well for starters, he's still Jared Jeffries yes, the same Jared Jeffries whose best season consisted of 6.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 0.9 steals per game. Jeffries is a fine NBA role player, but he's not a stat-filler, and therefore, he's not much of an option in fantasy leagues. Sure, Mike D'Antoni's Knicks are fantasy-friendly, but Jeffries is much more likely to negatively impact players like Al Harrington, David Lee and Wilson Chandler than he is to have much value himself.
Orlando shooting guards not named Mickael Pietrus: While Courtney Lee intrigues me, I can't get too excited about any of the shooting-guard options in Orlando while Pietrus recovers. Redick can hit a few 3-pointers but hasn't capitalized on the opportunity, and Keith Bogans is a mediocre fantasy option at best when healthy. With so many options, I don't see any one player separating himself from the pack until Pietrus returns.
Shane Battier, SF, Rockets: Typically I'm all for players who can get me a steal, a block and a 3-pointer per game. Problem is, even with Tracy McGrady out, I just don't see Battier reaching those numbers this season like he did last season. Battier needed 36-plus minutes per game to get it done in 2007-08, but he won't get 36-plus minutes this time around. Not unless Ron Artest goes down with an injury. Look, Battier is a fine fantasy role-player for 3s, steals and blocks in 12-team leagues or deeper, but I'm sure there are better options out there in 10-team leagues.
Players I'd stash if I had a roster spot to burn: I'll admit that I have a soft spot for young players with upside. There are many of them this season, most of which are too inconsistent (due to foul problems and a lack of minutes) to own in anything but deeper fantasy formats. Still, I like to keep at least one high-upside player on my roster just in case he pans out. The rest I'll just watch closely to see if any real consistency materializes. The list of players on my personal watch list this season includes Tyrus Thomas, Darrell Arthur, JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, Nick Young and Yi Jianlian. Let's also add Charlie Villanueva into the mix, because he's just as inconsistent despite being somewhat more experienced. I don't recommend owning more than one of these players on the same squad, but all should be watched closely (particularly their minutes and consistency) as the season progresses.
Players named in previous weeks who remain quality waiver-wire additions: Jeff Green, Beno Udrih, Trevor Ariza, Paul Millsap, Andrea Bargnani, Russell Westbrook, D.J. Augustin, Ryan Gomes, Brook Lopez.
Kevin Love, PF, Timberwolves (70.9 percent owned): Typically I won't recommend a player who's owned in more than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues, but Love was available in nearly every 10-team league I'm in, plus some 12-team leagues. I'd venture to guess that his percentage owned is unfairly skewed due to inactive owners who drafted him and forgot to drop him when he averaged just 8.4 points and 6.1 rebounds in the month of November. Love, like many rookies, has been hot and cold this season, but he has also shown flashes of brilliance. After stringing together three straight solid performances, it looks like it's safe to start using him again in fantasy leagues. He's averaging 14.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game over his past three, and has already proven himself as one of the best offensive rebounders in the league. Love ranks seventh in the league with 3.1 offensive boards per game in just 23.1 minutes per game, which tells me that he'll have some staying power here.
Steve Blake, PG, Trail Blazers (6.6 percent owned): If I told you that a player was averaging 12.4 points, 4.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.2 3-pointers per game over his past five, would you consider that player a potential pickup? You sure would, even if that player was named Steve Blake. Blake is quietly having himself a nice season in Portland, and while he's not going to blow you away with his stats, he is going to provide consistent 3-pointers, steals and assists. The way he's playing, he should be owned in all 12-team formats, and even most 10-team formats.
J.R. Smith, SG, Nuggets (30.1 percent owned): I'm not going to lie to you: Smith is one of those players who will probably be added and dropped a couple of thousand times this season. He's that inconsistent. But he's also one of the league's best 3-point shooters (in terms of bulk) when he's got it going. Erratic playing time aside, Smith has put up 16.3 points while drilling 3.5 3-pointers per game over his past four. And that includes a game in which he put up a goose egg in just 7 minutes. Don't consider Smith if you can't stomach the ups and downs, but do grab him if you need a boost in scoring and 3-point shooting.
Rashad McCants, SG, Timberwolves (17.2 percent owned): As the injuries pile up in Minnesota, it's hard not to take a good look at a player like McCants. McCants is a great scorer who hasn't seen much time on the court this season (17.8 minutes). But now a season-ending injury to Corey Brewer and an ankle injury to Mike Miller could open the door for McCants to see more time. On Wednesday night, McCants stepped up to help fill the void with 14 points and a 3-pointer in 32 minutes of action. For now, he's looking like a short-term pickup option, but he has the potential to become a long-term value add for anyone looking to improve in points and 3-pointers.
Tim Thomas, SF/PF, Knicks (4.0 percent owned): If I missed out on Wilson Chandler, Nate Robinson or Chris Duhon, I'd definitely be taking a good look at what Thomas is doing in New York given their fantasy-friendly style of play. The Knicks have a very short bench, and Thomas is getting decent run (27.0 minutes) as a result. Averaging 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 3-pointers and a steal in New York, Thomas should have some long-term value in Mike D'Antoni's system. This offense was made for a guy like Thomas, so even though he won't likely break 30 minutes per night, he'll still be a solid fantasy option for points and 3-pointers.
Kendrick Perkins, C, Celtics (26.1 percent owned): Already a valuable shot-blocking specialist in deeper leagues, Perk has suddenly emerged as an attractive option for points and rebounds as well. Averaging a double-double (11.2 points and 10.0 rebounds) with 1.8 blocks over his past five games, Perkins can now be added in more than just deeper fantasy formats. I'm not sold on his ability to consistently produce in points and rebounds, but he's worth considering if you need a big man. At the very least, he'll provide a short-term boost in blocks.
Sean May, PF, Bobcats (0.4 percent owned): Larry Brown's doghouse is not any place to look for a potential fantasy pickup, but May is showing signs of getting out of the doghouse sometime soon. On Wednesday night, May earned a season-high 27 minutes and posted his first double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds on the evening. He still needs to work on his conditioning a bit, but May could turn himself into a decent fantasy option if he can continue to earn solid minutes in Charlotte. For now, he's only an option in deeper formats, but keep your eye on him, because he did show some nice potential in 2006-07 before the knee injuries.
Luther Head, SG, Rockets (1.2 percent owned): It's déjà vu time, folks. If it feels like we've been here before, it's because we have. Tracy McGrady is out with a knee injury (again), and the Rockets have turned to the versatile Head to help fill the void. In all honesty, I thought it would be Aaron Brooks, not Head, who would be the primary beneficiary of a McGrady injury. But it looks like Head is going to start while McGrady mends (which could be longer than we expect). Head is a scorer and 3-point specialist, but he can also contribute modestly in assists and steals if given the minutes. And over his past three games, Head has seen 29.6 minutes per contest. At the very least, he'll have short-term value as a 3-point specialist, but he could stick around for some time, depending on how long McGrady's knee injury lingers.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian McKitish highlights some of the best values still available on the waiver wire in fantasy basketball.