I'm trying to broaden my appeal, in order to serve a wider audience. With countless varieties of fantasy hoops leagues, a player's value and relevance are heavily dictated by the characteristics of the league, its size and scoring system. Available players who went undrafted and have never been owned in one league are starters in others. So as a service to all my people, this week I'll cover more players with less analysis about each, in order to put more blips on your fantasy radar.
To ensure you have the tools, strategies and tactics in place to consistently make accurate judgments on player value and wise decisions regarding add/drops, I'll also impart some fundamental waiver-wire strategy that can be universally applied, regardless of the league format. Now that the honeymoon of the first quarter of the season has passed, it's all about in-season strategy: Diligent box score perusal, roster maintenance and judgments and decisions made about how to utilize the value you accrued through the draft and early free agency dictates how your team will trend from here.
Most fantasy sports veterans recall the glory bestowed upon them by a player they snatched early one season who finished as a top performer and secured a championship for their fantasy team. Last year maybe it was Mario Chalmers or Brook Lopez. Two years ago, Rajon Rondo or Danny Granger. Well, this year it has been Marc Gasol, Brandon Jennings or Channing Frye. In most leagues, those players were gobbled up in the first couple weeks, and it's necessary to dig deeper. Still, there are a handful of players available in at least 20 percent of fantasy leagues who should be added in all formats, so no matter how much upside that sleeper you're storing on your bench has, add one of these players who will immediately impact your fantasy team and start in many formats:
Even though the early-season gems are gone in competitive leagues, and it's unlikely one of your competitors dropped Tyrus Thomas because he or she just had to have Andray Blatche, currently insignificant players will still emerge and impact the fantasy landscape. However, now the catalyst will be a specific circumstance: injury, trade, coaching change, etc. Understanding the potential impact and likelihood of those circumstances is the best way to ensure your ability to make wise choices regarding in-season strategy.
This understanding is augmented by consistent research, reading team and injury news, watching box scores and monitoring statistics. Once that knowledge is in place, ensuring that it is regularly utilized by implementing specific strategies like those listed below is critical to success.
If you're reading this, I assume you do the research. Here are a few more specific tips to assist you in fleecing the waiver wire of top talent while dropping the appropriate players, which is the primary method of impacting team value from this point forward:
• Closely monitor minutes: Look at the outliers. If a player's minutes were unusually low, was it due to foul trouble? Injury? Just a bad shooting night? Is he in the coach's doghouse? If his minutes were high, was it due to another player's injury? Was he the hot hand? Was it garbage time? Is the coach auditioning him for a larger role? Know why players get minutes, so you can predict what will happen when an injury or trade causes a shakeup, or who will benefit from another player's struggles.
• Identify players on your team with greater potential of injury or those in danger of seeing playing time fluctuate, and ask yourself: Who is their backup, and what will his value be if your player goes down? The handcuff strategy isn't nearly as common in hoops as it is in football, but in leagues in which Paul Millsap is available, he's worth consideration as Carlos Boozer insurance, especially in leagues with more bench spots.
• Monitor who starts and at which position. Did any players start at positions where they currently don't have fantasy eligibility? Will this continue, and if so, when will the player gain eligibility there and what will it mean for his value?
• Read Working the Wire. I'll do some dirty work for you. Examine the players I mention, and make an add/drop decision based upon the context of your league and your team needs. Then make a comment at the bottom, lauding my unflappable swag.
• Keep a "watch list," or flag players that you want to scrutinize. Set expectations for what that player has to do, and by when, in order to make him worth adding. ESPN leagues allow you to click on the flag icon, although computers, crayons and diaries suffice.
Here are 15 players who are worth examining in various league sizes and formats, along with a nugget or two about each:
Samuel Dalembert, C, 76ers (68.1 percent owned): He's averaging 31.0 minutes, 11.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.2 steals the past five games, Marreese Speights is out for another month, Elton Brand is fragile, and Jason Smith inexperienced. That makes Dalembert the perfect example of a player with low value who was underperforming, and now is a must-add if you need center help simply because of circumstance. His 14.7 rebounds per 48 minutes is a higher rate than those of Andrew Bynum, Nene and Al Horford.
Kenyon Martin, PF, Nuggets (19.8 percent owned): Inconsistent, but always ends up with impressive defensive numbers. He's averaging 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks per game for the season and 2.3 blocks and 1.5 steals in his past nine contests.
James Harden, SG, Thunder (9.9 percent owned): With 1.3 3s and 1.1 steals per game, Harden joins Rasheed Wallace as the only players who average more than one 3-pointer and one steal in fewer than 21 minutes per game, and Harden's 1.9 assists per turnover is the highest of any rookie not playing the point.
Derek Fisher, PG, Lakers (7.5 percent owned): Seven assists and five steals in Tuesday's contest shows he still has game, and his 3s made should increase as his 31 percent shooting from downtown trends toward the 40 percent he shot in each of the past two seasons.
Chris Andersen, PF/C, Nuggets (7.4 percent owned): With three blocks per game in his past five, the Birdman is mimicking the value he had late last season, when he averaged about 3.1 blocks per game during the final 30 games of the season and had the most impact on one category of any player during that time. Add him now if you need swats.
Luke Ridnour, PG, Bucks (6.2 percent owned): Averaging 6.6 assists per game in his past eight contests, Ridnour's 8.4 assists per 48 minutes is good for 20th in the league, and assists are scarce; add him now if you're desperate for dimes.
Courtney Lee, SG, Nets (5.7 percent owned): He scored in double figures in each of his first two games back from injury, and when his conditioning returns, the steals and 3s should start coming.
Anderson Varejao, PF, Cavaliers (4.7 percent owned): One of nine players averaging at least 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
Hakim Warrick, PF, Bucks (4.5 percent owned): Warrick is averaging 16 points and seven rebounds in his past five games, but has terrible peripheral statistics and is worth considering only in non-roto formats.
Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, Raptors (4.0 percent owned): No. 40 on the Player Rater in the past 15 days.
Erick Dampier, C, Mavericks (4.0 percent owned): Only player in my 12-team, super-competitive keeper league who is available and averaging nine or more rebounds per game.
Delonte West, SG, Cavaliers (3.0 percent owned): West can be pretty fantastic when given minutes, and he's averaged 26 in his past two games. His career 0.4 blocks per game, including a block per game this season in just 18 minutes, is impressive among players 6-foot-3 or shorter.
Matt Bonner, PF/C, Spurs (1.9 percent owned): 1.9 3s per game is the second most of any center-eligible player behind Frye, and he's even more valuable in turnover formats.
Jamaal Tinsley, PG, Grizzlies (1.7 percent owned): Mandatory Conley handcuff. It'll take time to find his groove, but Tinsley has huge upside if he starts and stays healthy, and should put up good per-minute stats once in better shape; he should be around seven assists and 1.5 steals if he starts, five assists and a steal as a backup.
Thabo Sefolosha, SG/SF, Thunder (1.5 percent owned): Often defends opponent's best perimeter player, and will continue to see big minutes because of it. He's one of nine players averaging at least 1.5 steals and 0.7 blocks per game, and his 5.8 rebounds per game is fourth highest of any guard-eligible player.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.