Commentary

Thabeet, Williams strong pickups

Updated: April 2, 2010, 2:25 PM ET
By Josh Whitling | Special to ESPN.com

You're still here because you care. You stayed for the credits of the movie; hopefully I can provide a few deleted scenes. I thank you for being here, and caring, regardless of your reasons. Perhaps you're simply motivated by the free fun fantasy hoops provides in this bleak economic climate, or perhaps the only way to communicate with a friend or family member is through your fantasy hoops message board. Or maybe it's for whatever your "league prize" may be, or to emerge victorious in a Jacob versus Man-In-Black-type rivalry, or even to boost your ego. Any way you bounce the ball, there are still leagues to be won, players accruing late-season value and opportunities to capitalize upon apathetic owners and pick up obvious players without much competition.

Plenty has already been written about different keeper candidates for next season, but the flip side of keeper-league owners adding these potential-laden players not expected to produce this season is that obvious guys like Mike Miller and Tayshaun Prince go unclaimed or dropped because their ceiling was reached a few years ago.

No-brainers

These players are owned in most competitive leagues, although in order to avoid being accused of highlighting players that many would never consider, here are some players available in shallow leagues worthy of a roster spot. Due to their obvious nature, I'll include just one nugget for each, and save the analysis for the D-listers.

Mike Miller, SG/SF, Washington Wizards (47.6 percent owned): Better late than never; injuries to Josh Howard, Al Thornton and Randy Foye have made him start-worthy.

Tayshaun Prince, SF, Detroit Pistons (44.4 percent owned): He's back to providing the type of points/rebounds/3s/steals/blocks combination that makes him ideal fantasy glue, although where did these assists come from (25 in his past four contests)?

Taj Gibson, PF, Chicago Bulls (13.6 percent owned): Five straight games of 10 or more boards; three consecutive months of at least 1.1 blocks per game; 25 players drafted ahead of him last summer.

Drew Gooden, PF/C, Los Angeles Clippers (37.6 percent owned): He's a double-double machine with five straight, which started with a 26-point, 20-rebound explosion March 23. Gobble him up the way he's gobbling up boards.

Deep leagues

Kyle Korver, SF, Utah Jazz (0.7 percent owned): Korver is ranked 41st on ESPN's seven-day Player Rater, and he scored a season-high 21 points with three 3s, two steals, a block, four rebounds and two assists Wednesday. You add Korver for the 3s, but his reputation as a one-trick pony isn't completely warranted, as he provides just enough steals and free throw accuracy.

Earl Watson
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty ImagesEarl Watson has games of 13, 13 and 11 assists in his past seven contests.
Earl Watson, PG, Indiana Pacers (7.3 percent owned): I know, he's been starting and predictably decent for most of the season, and his 1.3 steals per game cancel out the fact that he's not much of a 3-point threat anymore (as recently as 2005-06, he was knocking down 1.8 3s per game). Well, look at March compared to the rest of the months, and you'll see season highs in assists, steals and 3s (6.8, 1.8 and 0.9, respectively). He didn't get more minutes or just now nab the spot, but he's growing more comfortable with his role, even potentially securing a role for next season.


Steve Blake, PG, Clippers (2.2 percent owned): Baron Davis' back will keep him out for at least the weekend, and with the Clippers out of playoff contention, I wouldn't be surprised if they shut the big guy down for the season. Blake will do what he does in Davis' absence, so look for modest assists, steals and 3s from the scrappy Blake, who always seems to surface as having value despite his situation.

Hasheem Thabeet, C, Memphis Grizzlies (2.0 percent owned): Thabeet's in line for increased PT with Marc Gasol out for the rest of the season, and he was already having the type of impact in the block category in the past couple of weeks that people expected at the beginning of the season, as only three players are averaging better than Thabeet's 2.3 swats per game in the past 15 days.

Carlos Arroyo, PG, Miami Heat (0.7 percent owned): He dropped consecutive eight-assist games to finish off March, a month in which he averaged 4.9 assists, 0.5 steals and 48 and 95 percent shooting from the field and stripe, respectively. Five assists is five assists, and Arroyo, Luke Ridnour, Blake and Shaun Livingston are pretty much the only widely available options that will provide five dimes on a regular basis at this point.

Jermaine Taylor, SG, Houston Rockets (0.1 percent owned): A second-round pick of the Wizards from UCF, Taylor seemed to come out of nowhere recently and dropped three consecutive games of 14 points or more while filling in for the injured Kevin Martin, with averages of 1.7 3s and 2.0 3s in that span. He also grabbed 10 rebounds with four steals Wednesday, demonstrating fantasy potential beyond scoring. Taylor is the rare player who hasn't had fantasy value at any point of the season until now, making him available in pretty much every format. Martin has a sprained left shoulder and is questionable for Friday's contest, and there's no question that his return will seriously kill Taylor's buzz. He's worth starting as long as Martin is out, although once Martin returns, monitor Taylor's minutes closely and drop him for another flavor-of-the-day type if he's once again relegated to mop-up duty.

James Harden
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty ImagesJames Harden has multiple steals in four of his past five games.
James Harden, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder (6.9 percent owned): The quietly productive rookie missed six games in mid-March, and plays too much of a supporting role to be counted upon for regular 20-point outbursts despite the fact that he has the tools to average close to 20 per game someday in the right situation. Harden is versatile enough that he'll adapt his game to his team, and with Kevin Durant to shoulder the scoring load and Russell Westbrook running the ship in OKC, Harden will fill in as needed and provide a bit of everything: points, boards, assists, steals, 3s, even a handful of blocks. The promising thing about his fantasy game is the tremendous contribution from behind the arc, where Harden is averaging 1.2 treys per game on 38 percent shooting in fewer than 23 minutes per game, and it keeps getting better, with March averages of 1.4 3s and 1.8 steals per game.


Terrence Williams, SF, New Jersey Nets (5.7 percent owned): Williams is ranked 46th on the seven-day Player Rater, and dropped a career-high 21 points with nine assists and five boards Wednesday. Williams' broad statistical contributions are starting to intrigue me with each passing night, as his rebound/assist combo is fantastic for a tweener. In addition, he provides just enough points, 3s and steals already that the fact he's growing more comfortable with the NBA game (which, as with Jrue Holiday, has always been thought to have suited him better than the college game, as neither was dominant in the NCAA), indicates we'll see improvement there next season. In March, he averaged 14.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 0.7 3s and 0.5 blocks. Williams is going to be one of my top players to watch early next season and will be a draft-day sleeper.

Jason Kapono, SG/SF, Philadelphia 76ers (1.0 percent owned): In perhaps his biggest accomplishment since playing in 3-point contests at the All-Star break, Kapono has started at shooting guard for the Sixers, and is primed to be a 3-point threat to finish the season. As he gets in a groove, Kapono is capable of tons and tons of 3s, and he took 11 shots from downtown Wednesday but, perhaps more importantly, played 36 minutes, his season high by a wide margin (only the second time above 30 minutes). With minutes in the mid-30s, Kapono will average better than two 3s.

Kris Humphries, PF, Nets (0.3 percent owned): On Wednesday, Humphries scored in double digits for the first time since March 17, and a quick glance at his game log make it appear as if he's been slumping compared to when he burst out of nowhere in January and had four double-digit scoring games in a string of six. But look more closely at Humphries' performance and you'll notice he's averaging 7.2 boards and 1.3 blocks in his past six contests, with at least one block in each game. Nothing too amazing, but a steady source of rebounds and blocks who's available in basically every format.

Mickael Pietrus, SF, Orlando Magic (3.3 percent owned): He missed four games for three different reasons in March, and has seen his playing time decrease as the season has progressed. Even when Pietrus has missed time, the Magic have flexed their ridiculous depth with guys like J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson off the bench. Well, he returned from a two-game absence to drop six 3s Thursday night, and while he's healthy he can be a beast from downtown.

Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

Josh Whitling

Fantasy Basketball
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

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