- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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I'm not going to lie, there's a good chance you don't want to actually pick up any of the players listed below. At least not yet. Based on the size and depth of your league, this column might act more like a "players to watch" list. Some weeks, there are "must-adds" that are widely available and have recently become rife with value because of injuries, lineup shakeups or hot streaks. This week, only one player really falls under that category, although here are several options that are likely available in your league who have been playing better recently and are at least worth monitoring as future pickups if they continue to play well.
Jodie Meeks, SG, Philadelphia 76ers (4.8 percent owned): When rookies fail to shine, the Meeks shall inherit the value. Evan Turner's time as a key part of the Sixers rotation has been put on the back burner, and Meeks is the player benefitting most. He's certainly capitalizing on his opportunity. After dropping 19 points with four 3-pointers on Thursday night, he's racked up an eye-popping 15 treys in his past three games, and during that span he's averaging 20.3 points on 55.3 percent shooting. He's the closest thing to a "must-add" on this list, as he's been deadly from downtown and finds himself in an opportune new role as the Sixers' starter. If you're in need of 3s in any format, Meeks is worth adding immediately. Bear in mind he won't really help in any other category and is bound to see his 50.9 percent shooting from downtown drop, but it's clear that he's a force in points and 3s with low turnovers (0.7 per game in 21.2 minutes). So, if your team needs help from downtown, your first agenda item is to see if Meeks is still available on your waiver wire.
J.J. Redick, SG, Orlando Magic (2.7 percent owned): Redick was recently sidelined with an icky tummyache but played 23 and 25 minutes in his past two games since returning, which is enough playing time to make him worth adding if you're in need of 3s. He started the season in an awful shooting slump, going 3-for-29 from downtown in his first 10 games of the season, but has turned it around recently by knocking down 16 of his past 32 attempts from behind the arc. Now that he's healthy and seeing minutes in the mid-20s, Redick should have no problem averaging 1.5 3s and 0.5 steals per game with excellent free throw shooting and low turnovers. Don't look to him if you're in search of all-around statistics, but Redick can be deadly from downtown, and now that his slump has seemingly passed, he should be in line for some big nights from behind the arc.
Spencer Hawes, C, 76ers (2.3 percent owned): Hawes boasts impressive size as a legitimate 7-footer and a skill set that should translate well to the fantasy game if he can put it all together. He's averaging 8.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in his past five contests and, most importantly, 23.4 minutes per game. If he can continue seeing minutes in the 20s, Hawes should be able to average more than a block per game and even has the ability to contribute in 3s, steals and assists if his game is firing on all cylinders. He's been a disappointment since he was a lottery pick in 2007, but he undoubtedly boasts the ability to be a teriffic fantasy player if he reaches his potential and gets consistent playing time. The minutes are looking better, and given his upside he's worth a speculative add becasue if his potential to block shots and help in several other areas, including steals and potentially 3s. Those are stats you don't typically see from a center.
Jason Thompson, PF, Sacramento Kings (2.1 percent owned): Thompson is starting for the Kings now, which should bode well for his season averages. He has two double-doubles in his past four contests, including Wednesday's 22-point, 14-rebound, 2-block effort against the Wizards, and he's shown in the past that he has the ability to put up solid numbers when getting minutes. He played just 16.3 minutes per game in November, which isn't enough for him to find his groove, and was the subject of trade rumors. But now it seems as if he's become a key part of the Kings' frontcourt rotation and should be able to average about 12.0 points, 8.0 boards, 1.0 blocks and 0.5 steals with his newfound playing time. He'll hurt you from the stripe with his career free throw percentage of .697 but will help you from the floor, as indicated by his .495 percentage this season and career .484 mark. The Kings' rotation has been all over the place this season, so he could well be coming off the bench again in a few weeks. As long as he's starting and flirting with 30 minutes per game, Thompson should have value in points, rebounds and blocks with efficient field goal shooting.
Raja Bell, SG, Utah Jazz (1.3 percent owned): Bell has been getting big minutes all season as the starting shooting guard for the Jazz, although he was doing little with the playing time to start the season. He has recently been scoring more, with double-digit games in five of his past six after posting two such efforts all season beforehand. He has once again found the outside-shooting stroke that has made him fantasy-worthy in the past. He's averaging 1.8 3s in December and 1.3 per game in his past 11 contests. He posted four straight seasons with the Suns in which he drained at least 2.0 3s per game and shot better than 40 percent from downtown, and now that he's finding his niche with the Jazz , Bell should be able to hover around 1.5 treys per game with close to a steal and low turnovers.
Omri Casspi, SF/PF, Kings (1.1 percent owned): The sophomore from Israel has had an up-and-down second season, much like he did as a rookie, with spectacular nights like Monday's 21-point, 10-rebound effort on the heels of a 5-point effort in which he saw just 13 minutes of playing time. He is very streaky, as his double-digit scoring games seem to come in bunches (he hit double digits in four of five contests to start November, then didn't reach the mark for the rest of the month), although he appears to be on the cusp of a run after excellent outings in his past two contests. His real value is in his ability to contribute 3s and steals from the power foward position -- stats atypical of most big men -- so if you're in need of help in those categories but don't have room for another guard on your starting roster, Casspi could be a way to make up ground.
Shawne Williams, SF, New York Knicks (0.3 percent owned): Williams possesses an intriguing combination of 3s, steals and blocks and has recently worked his way into the Knicks' rotation, after logging at least 21 minutes in three of the past four contests. He averaged 13.3 points, 3.3 3s, 1.0 blocks and 0.7 steals in the three games leading up to Wednesday's goose egg in just 11 minutes of play. His playing time will be too inconsistent in the short term to deem him worth adding in most leagues, but his upside is huge, with career averages of 0.6 3s and 0.3 steals and blocks in just 13.5 minutes per game. Those numbers indicate he could contribute more than 1.0 in each category with significant playing time. He's averaging 1.7 3s in his six contests this season so far, so that's the category where he's primed to provide the most assistance, although his ability to contribute in steals and blocks makes him a player worth watching in all formats. Just think of the delightful averages he could put up if he played even 20 minutes per game.
Pooh Jeter, PG, Kings (0.1 percent owned): His homey Eeyore would likely tell you not to bother with Jeter because of his limited role, although Jeter scored 13 points with 9 assists, 2 steals and a 3-pointer on Wednesday. Jeter has recently worked his way into the Kings' rotation, averaging 16.5 minutes per game in his past four contests. He will need more playing time on a consistent basis before becoming worth adding to your fantasy team, but he's done well in his limited time, averaging 2.8 assists and 0.6 steals in just 11.6 minutes per game this season. Those numbers should continue to increase since he's begun to see more playing time off the Kings' bench. Monitor his minutes because if he can start earning at least 20 per game on a consistent basis he would likely provide enough assists to be relevant in deep leagues, with decent steals thrown in.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.