- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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Oftentimes, I worry about not going deep enough in this space, and I want to make sure to help both casual players and those in super-competitive leagues. In order to separate the 10-team leaguers from deep leaguers, this week I'll break it down into "Don't Wait" players, who are worth considering in all formats, and "Up for Debate" players who deserve notice in deep leagues. All of these players are available in a majority of ESPN leagues.
Here are players owned in fewer than 20 percent of ESPN leagues who are worth adding in all formats if they match team needs.
Courtney Lee, SG, Nets (12.6 percent owned): I'm a big fan of Lee's, despite the fact he's averaging just 10.9 points and 0.6 3-pointers on 38.3 percent shooting from the floor. Here's why: He was already an above-average defender as a rookie last season, which translates into solid steals numbers, but also ensures consistent playing time when he's healthy. He also showed signs of being an above-average contributor in two fantasy categories, 3s and steals, and had nice percentages (45 and 83 from the field and line, respectively). Lee was also the primary acquisition in the Vince Carter trade, indicating he'll have a long leash with the Nets. His stats this season are skewed by injury, not having Devin Harris around, and the Nets' record-setting futility, but now that he's healthy and rolling with a new coach, Lee is averaging 14.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 3-pointer and 0.7 blocks in his past three games, registering at least 34 minutes in each contest.
Chris Duhon, PG, Knicks (17.0 percent owned): Nate Robinson is in the doghouse, and Toney Douglas' playing time and performances will be erratic, as those of most rookie point guards are. Duhon has regained some of the value he had last season after averaging around 13 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 3s in his past three games, and has been a key catalyst for the Knicks' 4-1 record in December. His 6.1 assists per game ranks 11th in the league, which doesn't always make a player worth adding, but Duhon also provides solid 3s and steals, making him more than a one-category wonder.
Joel Przybilla, C, Trail Blazers (7.6 percent owned), and Erick Dampier, C, Mavericks (7.3 percent owned): The Vanilla Gorilla benefits from Greg Oden's injury in a major way, and as long as he's starting should average around nine boards with 1.5 blocks per game. Dampier is also an option, and will provide solid boards and blocks as well. But he doesn't jell when the Mavs go up-tempo, so he'll have sporadic nights like Tuesday's one rebound in seven minutes. Both are worth owning in two-center leagues despite being allergic to scoring, and Przybilla especially should have big-time value if the Blazers don't trade for another frontcourt player to compensate for losing Oden. Hurting for big-man stats? These two are the first you should look for on the waiver wire.
Up for Debate
Players owned in fewer than 1 percent of ESPN leagues who should be added in certain situations, depending on your league size, scoring system and team needs.
When it comes to players like the ones below, it really depends on the specific context of your league and team when determining which players are worth adding. Here are some players whose stock has risen recently and are worth adding in deep formats, or if they suit your team's specific needs:
Donte Greene, SF, Kings (0.8 percent owned): Many deep leaguers stashed away Greene's name last season after he averaged 0.5 3s, 0.3 steals and 0.3 blocks in just 13 minutes per game as a rookie. This season, his 24 points per 48 minutes ranks better than Andre Iguodala, Luis Scola and Kevin Garnett, and he's now averaging nearly 23 minutes per game in December. Check this: In the past 15 days, Greene is averaging 1.4 3s and 1.4 blocks per game. To illustrate how rare that combination is, of the 28 players averaging at least 1.4 blocks per game in that span, Shane Battier is the only other one averaging more than 0.5 3-pointers per game. Greene's season averages of 1.1 3s, 0.7 steals and 0.7 blocks make him mini-Battier, a noble designation for a player owned in fewer than 1 out of 100 leagues.
Goran Dragic, PG, Suns (0.3 percent owned): He's one of the best "if the starter gets injured" players, as manning the point in Phoenix is fantasy gold. As a scrub, his eight assists per 48 minutes rank higher than Mike Conley, Brandon Jennings, Derrick Rose and Raymond Felton. But if the unlikely happens -- and oftentimes in the deepest of leagues it takes huge risks to stand out -- and Nash misses time, Dragic will be added in pretty much every competitive league. If you have a garbage roster spot wasted on somebody who'll never crack your starting lineup, beat your opponents to the punch.
Luther Head, SG, Pacers (0.3 percent owned): With Danny Granger gone at least a month, the Pacers will be looking for scoring, and that's something Head can provide. He's played his best ball as a fill-in, averaging about 15 points, 1.7 3s and a steal in 27 starts from 2006 to 2008 filling in for the injured Tracy McGrady, and now he'll be asked to play a similar role for the Pacers. Temper your expectations with Head, and don't expect more than scoring with a handful of 3s and steals, although he will likely score more points than any other player around him on the waiver wire for the next month or so while Granger is sidelined.
Wesley Matthews, SG, Jazz (0.7 percent owned): This undrafted rookie has defied expectations all season, first unexpectedly making the squad in the preseason, then grabbing the starting shooting guard role. Last season at Marquette, he averaged 18.3 points per game on 47.5 and 82.9 percent shooting from the floor and stripe, respectively, with 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 3s, 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. The real test will be when C.J. Miles and Andrei Kirilenko are both healthy at the same time, although Matthews seems entrenched as the starting 2 for the Jazz, averaging nearly 35 minutes per game in December, averaging 11 points, one 3 and one steal per game in that time.
Jerryd Bayless, PG, Trail Blazers (0.4 percent owned): This lightning-quick combo guard is 27th in the league in points per 48, and will continue seeing more PT with Rudy Fernandez sidelined for an undetermined amount of time after surgery to alleviate discomfort in his leg and Travis Outlaw sidelined with a broken foot. He's a slasher who goes to the rack, and his 52.7 percent shooting is due to the fact he's not in love with the 3-ball. This hurts his fantasy value as well, although if you're looking for cheap points that won't hurt your shooting percentage, Bayless is an option who should continue improving as he finally begins to register consistent playing time.
Omri Casspi, SF, Kings (0.9 percent owned): After scoring in double figures in eight of his past nine contests, Casspi is undoubtedly owned in the deepest of leagues; he's proved a capable scorer and source of 3s, as well. He's played professionally in Europe since 2006-07 at age 17, meaning he hasn't faced top competition but has played against grown men. Expect his 51.2 percent shooting from behind the arc to fall to earth, but he's worth adding since his 1.7 3s per game during the past 15 days rank 20th amongst all forward-eligible players.
Jonas Jerebko, SF, Pistons (0.5 percent owned): Jerebko might be a second-rounder, and the second-biggest news story involving a Swede in America, but he's ingrained himself on the Pistons' first team. Like Casspi, he's played professionally for years, adding 30 pounds in the process, and is efficient, shooting 51 percent for the Pistons after 60 percent shooting in his two seasons with Angelico Biella of Italy. He has three double-doubles in his past five games, and like most European players has a 3-point shot as a bigger player (6-foot-10), and is worth adding in any format in which you need points, boards and 3s.
Always know which player on your current roster you will drop if a superior option emerges. If you can't decide because your entire bench is undroppable, then your team is too deep. I know that sounds silly, but turn that depth into value within your starting lineup through trades. This will improve your team and give you the liberty to make speculative transactions, or reactive transactions at the drop of a hat if an unexpected circumstance dictates a significant shift in player value. The following players are worth dropping in some formats. Decide if your league is one of them and cut bait in order to add a player who is heating up or addresses your needs:
Greg Oden, Paul Millsap, Ramon Sessions, Nate Robinson, Rudy Fernandez, Drew Gooden, Darren Collison, Roy Hibbert, Leandro Barbosa, D.J. Augustin, Randy Foye, Jamaal Tinsley, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Terrence Williams, Anthony Parker, Rasual Butler, Chuck Hayes, Corey Brewer, Marreese Speights, Tyler Hansbrough, Ryan Anderson, Marvin Williams, Matt Barnes, George Hill, Rafer Alston, Udonis Haslem, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Steve Blake
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.