Emerging pickups to target
Oftentimes our bench is a place to store potentially glorious things to come. We occasionally get a glimpse of a player's potential if he fills in due to injuries or goes on a hot streak, and those players who are able to perform well when given that time are the ones worth stashing in case circumstances dictate they eventually earn more consistent PT. Some of the players listed below have recently run into increased minutes that should continue and can help your fantasy squad for the long term, but others have a shorter window that will likely close. But in the window these players have had, they've proven to be fantasy-viable when given the opportunity, so it's nice to have them on your bench due to their high potential rather than some middling starter who has no chance of improving. Here are some highly available players who have played well as of late; some show no signs of stopping, while others will need another injury or lineup shakeup to occur before they have long-term value. But all can get it done when given the opportunity.
Hakim Warrick, PF, Phoenix Suns (24.1 percent owned): Warrick isn't a multicategory threat, but has proven to be an efficient scorer who benefits from playing alongside epic distributor Steve Nash. He had been playing well off the bench, and has now claimed a role in the starting lineup with Hedo Turkoglu relegated to bench duties. Warrick has scored in double digits in four of the past five contests, averaging 15.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game in 27.0 minutes. The points are great, but the best part about them is the fact Warrick is shooting 53.9 percent from the floor for the season, which is no aberration, as he's a career 49.8 percent shooter. This is due to the fact he doesn't settle for long-range jumpers and plays a fine pick-and-roll game with the shaggy-haired Canadian. Warrick is a player who is already worth owning without further circumstance dictating his value, especially if you're in need of efficient scoring.
George Hill, PG/SG, San Antonio Spurs (23.2 percent owned): Hill has hit a season high in minutes twice in the past week, and scored in double-digits in six straight games. In his past five, he's boasting excellent averages of 15.2 points, 1.8 steals and 1.0 3-pointers, as well as contributing from the stripe, nailing 21 of 23 attempts. The Spurs backcourt of Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker has been fantastic to start the season, but both have question marks surrounding them: can Manu stay healthy, and will Parker's off-court distractions affect his on-court performance? Regardless, Hill has emerged as a reliable sixth man for the Spurs, and a viable contributor in points, 3s and steals with solid percentages, especially from the free throw line. No need for an injury to occur here in order for Hill to have value, but just imagining what he could do with starter's minutes makes me tingle in a good way.
Jordan Farmar, PG, New Jersey Nets (7.2 percent owned): Farmar is a prime example of a high-upside player whose chances of contributing are largely dictated by circumstance. He's currently riding high, averaging 22.5 points, 3.5 3s, 6.5 assists, and 1.0 steals per game in the past two contests with Devin Harris out with a left knee strain. Harris has averaged just 65 games per season in the past three years, so even though he's expected to miss only a couple games with this current ding, history tells us Farmar will be relied upon more at some point this season. Once Harris returns, Farmar will return to averaging minutes in the low-20s and be worth playing only in deep formats. We've seen how well he can help in assists, 3s and steals when given the chance, though, and Harris' chances of staying on the court full-time for the rest of the season aren't bright.
Nick Young, SG, Washington Wizards (4.4 percent owned): His increased playing time has been primarily due to injuries to Al Thornton and John Wall, so his current window is closing, although he's proven to be able to provide points and 3s with solid percentages when on the floor. Young has scored at least 13 points in eight of his past 10 contests and is averaging 27 minutes per game during the past 15 days. As Gilbert Arenas will tell you, or fake an injury to prove, Young's a dynamic scorer (26.5 points per-48 minutes, 30th in the league) who can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways, so anytime he's getting significant PT, the points will follow.
Ramon Sessions, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers (3.6 percent owned): Sessions is a bit of a one-category wonder, but even though he doesn't really score, or shoot 3s, or get steals, he provides assists on a consistent basis. He has at least five assists in eight of his past 10 contests, doing so while turning the ball over at a low rate. Of the 37 players averaging at least four assists per game, only eight average fewer than two turnovers, and Sessions is one of them. Dimes can be hard to find, especially those without turnovers attached, and even though Sessions won't give you much else, his 4.4 assists per game illustrates his ability to regularly rack them up.
Marvin Williams, SF, Atlanta Hawks (2.6 percent owned): With Joe Johnson set to miss 4-6 weeks with an elbow injury, Williams should be in line for more playing time and shot attempts. He's a solid scorer who doesn't wow in any other category, but contributes a little bit in 3s, steals, blocks and rebounds, and should start to do so much more, not only just because of the increased playing time, but because of his increased role in the offense. He should be in line for a productive couple months with minutes in the low-to-mid 30s, and provide above-average contributions across the board, especially with his efficient scoring (49.1 percent field goals, 81.1 percent free throws this season).
Thabo Sefolosha, SG/SF, Oklahoma City Thunder (1.8 percent owned): Sefolosha is a lockdown defender who never ceases to provide defensive stats, especially in the steals department, where he's averaging 1.5 per game this season after averaging 1.2 last season and 1.7 in 22 games with the Thunder in 2008-09. And while he doesn't boast the ability to provide any sort of offensive boost, he gives above-average blocks and rebounds for a guard, which can be helpful if you're maxed out at your forward/center positions but still need those categories. Many figured his minutes would decrease this season with the pending emergence of James Harden, but Harden has failed to deliver. This means significant minutes for Thabo, and the ability to be a top-20 overall performer in steals, and a top-10 guard in rebounds and blocks.
Josh McRoberts, PF, Indiana Pacers (0.9 percent owned): McRoberts doesn't score or get many minutes for a starter, although he does contribute in an atypical combination of categories and has been on a blocking spree, with 2.2 swats per game in his past five contests. He's above average on the Player Rater in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, and even drains half a 3-pointer per game, a decent feat for a big man. He's reached 30 minutes in a game only three times this season, although he regularly earns minutes in the mid-20s, and since this is the first year in which he's gotten any sort of regular playing time, look for his per-minute production to continue to improve as it has recently, with the chance of a big spike in overall numbers if an injury hits the Pacers' frontcourt.
Mario Chalmers, PG, Miami Heat (0.9 percent owned): Chalmers' career has been practically derailed after a superb rookie campaign, as he's lost his starting role and most of his minutes to Carlos Arroyo. And while Arroyo has provided a steadying hand and efficient scoring for the Heat, Chalmers possesses the true fantasy potential and ability to contribute steals, 3s and assists when on the floor. He's recently become more involved in the Heat rotation, playing at least 20 minutes per game in each of the past four contests. Even if he simply retains that type of PT, his career stats indicate he'll be more than useful in steals and 3s, where he's averaging 1.5 and 1.2 per game in his career in 27.2 minutes per game, respectively. His skill set is well-suited to the fantasy game, so if Chalmers' playing time continues on the upswing, nab him right away.
Larry Sanders, PF, Milwaukee Bucks (0.1 percent owned): It's easy to notice Sanders after his 14-point, 10-rebound, 8-block performance this Wednesday, although he had been averaging 1.5 blocks per game in the previous four contests with both Drew Gooden and Andrew Bogut sidelined, so it didn't come completely out of nowhere. Once both of those players return, his playing time will be negligible, although we've seen enough in this limited time to know that he can put up huge block numbers when given the opportunity, so if there's a long-term injury to the Bucks' frontcourt, Sanders is a player to target.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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