- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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With nearly a month of play under our belt, player values are becoming relatively clear. And even though new contributors are still emerging, those who have started the season as busts are likely just that -- and it's time to cut bait. It's important early on not to freak out too much if a player you drafted with high hopes isn't performing to the level you expected, but at this point, it's not an aberration. Meanwhile, more-valuable options are likely waiting to be plucked off the waiver wire that will bolster your team's overall value. If you're waiting for a player to break out but he hasn't shown signs of doing so yet, it's time to take a good, hard look at the available options and be prepared to set them free.
Below are some widely available players who went largely undrafted but are prepared to help fantasy teams now. If you've got a player riding your bench who you're waiting on to break out, it's probably not going to happen, and your chances of improving are suffering because of it. Let them go, and be proactive about constant roster improvement. Here are some options to consider that are likely outperforming your draft-day busts:
Kyle Lowry, PG, Houston Rockets (14.1 percent owned): With Aaron Brooks out another couple weeks, Lowry is poised to continue piling up assists and steals as he has the past five games, when he's averaging 7.4 dimes and 2.8 steals per game. He was unable to take full advantage of Brooks' absence at first, as he was plagued by back issues and poor conditioning to start the season, and even though his numbers will take a hit once Brooks returns, he should put up good enough numbers until then that he's worth a short-term add, and worth starting, in basically all formats. Since his window of opportunity is relatively short (The earliest Brooks will return is December 4), don't drop a player who will have season-long value for Lowry, but if you have any sort of expendable or rotating roster spot, Lowry is a must-add.
C.J. Miles, SF, Utah Jazz (5.3 percent owned): Miles is the Jazz's top scoring option off the bench, and has been performing well lately, with recent games of 25 and 20 points, as well as averages of 14.8 points, 1.8 3s, 1.0 steals and 0.8 blocks per game in his past five contests. He doesn't only score, as he has a nice combination of steals and blocks, and is providing 1.3 3s per game for the season, which would be a career high. He also turns the ball over just once per game, a trait difficult to find in players who regularly score in double figures. Despite his bench role, Miles has forged fantasy value that should remain, and has become a reliable option in points, 3s, steals and blocks with low turnovers.
Matt Barnes, SF, Los Angeles Lakers (4.8 percent owned): Barnes does a little bit of everything, which gives him solid value even though he has been ranging between 20-25 minutes per game recently. In his past five games, he's averaging 10.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 3s, 1.4 steals and 0.6 blocks, logging at least 20 minutes in each contest, and sits at 44th on the 15-day Player Rater. Even though Ron Artest is locked into the starting job, Artest is averaging just 23.2 minutes per game in his past five, and his playing time is trending downward while Barnes' is trending upward. Barnes is a bit like Shane Battier; he doesn't provide very many huge nights, but then you look at his well-rounded averages and are surprisingly impressed, and he's always higher on the Player Rater than you would have assumed (in Barnes' case he's ranked 78th overall). Take advantage of his slowly increasing playing time and grab Barnes, as his value has nowhere to go but up as he gets more acclimated to the Lakers' roster and can fill in at multiple positions if an injury occurs.
Brad Miller, C, Houston Rockets (2.7 percent owned): Yao Ming will be out for at least another week, although even when he does return his minutes will be limited, so Miller has a viable and long-term role in the Rockets' frontcourt rotation. In the six games that Yao has missed thus far, Miller has averaged 13.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.8 3s and 0.5 steals per game, and he always boasts superb percentages. Miller's not your typical center, which is where he can be helpful; he provides solid assists, 3s and free throw percentage, stats big men typically don't produce. Chuck Hayes starts at center, although he and Miller are basically in a time-share with Yao out, and Miller's steadying presence on the floor should keep him out there even when Yao returns.
Anthony Tolliver, PF/C, Minnesota Timberwolves (2.3 percent owned): Darko Milicic is the big man in Minnesota getting all the attention recently, but Tolliver continues to play well, providing a helpful combination of 3s and blocks off the bench for the Wolves. His averages of 10.8 points, 1.2 3s and 1.0 blocks per game in his past five contests illustrate his recent bump in value since he cooled down after a hot start. He's only a deep-league option, although his ability to drain 3s from the center spot provides him with the type of value that helps if you're looking to make up ground in that category.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, C, Miami Heat (2.1 percent owned): He snared the starting job before Udonis Haslem went down, and looks to be in line for 20-25 minutes per game, which should be good for around seven rebounds and a block with excellent percentages. Word is that Haslem might be out for the rest of the season, leaving a gaping hole in the Heat's frontcourt, and even though they'll likely find a replacement (Erick Dampier was recently signed), Ilgauskas finds himself in an important role for the Heat, and should put up serviceable numbers for deeper, two-center leagues.
Mickael Pietrus, SG/SF, Orlando Magic (1.1 percent owned): The most promising statistic about Pietrus is the fact he's averaging 25.2 minutes per game in Orlando's past five contests. We know he's talented and capable of helping fantasy teams when getting playing time, but the Magic boast the type of depth that can be a fantasy value killer for rotation guys like Pietrus. His value largely lies in the 3-point department, as he's averaging 2.4 treys per game this season and 2.6 per game this month, although he also is averaging 0.7 steals and 0.4 blocks per game for his career in just 21.7 minutes per game. Feel free to add Pietrus if you need 3s, and he'll also provide a handful of steals and blocks, as well as roster flexibility with his guard/forward eligibility.
Matt Bonner, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs (0.7 percent owned): Bonner won't give you any sort of all-around production, but if you're in search for 3s, he's one of the best options to improve in your standings in that category, not only because he's averaging 3.4 per game in his past five contests, but also because of his center eligibility. He's one of the few options at center who can help in this department, and along with Channing Frye and Andrea Bargnani is one of three center-eligible players averaging more than one 3-pointer per game. His current stats are inflated due to a game in which he dropped seven treys, but as long as he's in the rotation he should average between 1.5-2.0 3s per game. You'll have to compensate elsewhere on your roster for his lack of boards and blocks from the center spot, although if you're trying to make up ground in 3s and have maxed out your options at guard and forward, Bonner is a sure bet to boost your chances.
Donte Greene, SF, Sacramento Kings (0.2 percent owned): Paul Westphal recently tweaked the Kings lineup and Greene is now starting, which is fantastic news for fantasy owners. He's raw, but boasts a fabulous combination of 3s, steals and blocks, with career averages of 0.7 3s, 0.4 steals and 0.5 blocks per game in just 17.9 minutes per game. He's bound to be inconsistent, although the type of stats he puts up are extra fantasy-friendly, as he could average more than one steal, 3-pointer and block per game now that he's in the starting lineup. Whereas most of the players on this list are solid fill-ins and bench improvers, Greene has the type of upside that could make him a fantasy starter if he continues to get minutes.
Luther Head, SG, Kings (0.1 percent owned): Head is another beneficiary of the Kings' roster shakeup, as he's been inserted into the starting lineup in place of Beno Udrih, and has responded with double-digit scoring in four of the past five contests. Head doesn't provide balanced all-around numbers, but his career averages of 1.3 3s and 0.8 steals per game in 23.0 minutes demonstrate his ability to contribute in those two categories, and now that he's starting he should regularly pour them in.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Josh Whitling discusses players available in most leagues who can help to replace those draft-day disappointments on fantasy rosters.