- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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Oftentimes, the players who emerge midseason as fantasy contributors are ones we knew could do it if only given the minutes. I covered many of these last week, along with the fact that it's crucial to pay close attention to those high-potential players who aren't getting the opportunity. But the magic of fantasy hoops is the fact that sometimes relative no-names come out of the woodwork and put up numbers worthy of a roster spot. This week will feature several such players, some of them you may have barely known existed a month ago. All of them are available in most leagues, so they should be options if you're looking for a replacement for a disappointing or injured player who is wasting a roster spot on your team.
Tyler Hansbrough, PF, Indiana Pacers (3.8 percent owned): He was far from unknown in college, but since entering the NBA, Hansbrough hasn't even been a blip on the fantasy radar. That changed when he dropped 23 points with 12 rebounds, a steal and two blocks in 36 minutes his first start of the season on Jan. 7. He has failed to match that glory in the three starts since, scoring 10, 12 and 6 points in 23, 25 and 17 minutes, respectively. He has natural scoring ability that should allow him to have more 20-plus efforts, but his rebounding and block numbers in college weren't dominant. He averaged 8.1 rebounds and 0.4 blocks per game his senior season, numbers that won't translate well against the bigger, more athletic big men in the NBA. The good news is that he averaged 1.2 steals his senior year and 1.5 steals his junior year, and for his NBA career is averaging 0.5 steals per game in just 16.3 minutes. It'll be a bumpy ride as he grows more accustomed to the NBA game and the fact he can't dominate the way he did in college, but Hansbrough has the tools to contribute in points and steals with a handful of rebounds if he continues to start.
Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks (3.1 percent owned): CDR doesn't rank among the relative unknowns, as he has had stints of fantasy relevance in the past. This occured most notably in Nov. 2009 with the Nets, when he averaged 17.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.5 3-pointers, 1.3 steals and 0.5 blocks per game, and was rostered in many fantasy leagues. But that season was marred with inconsistency, and just a few months later in February he was off the map, averaging just 3.3 points per game. He has come on strong as of late, with games of 30 points on Jan. 7 and 24 points Jan. 8, and so far this month is averaging 12.2 points, 0.8 3s, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks on 52.7 percent shooting from the floor. He's become a key player in the Bucks rotation, and his ability to do a bit of everything as well as positional versatility has brought him back into the fantasy discussion. He clearly has the talent to contribute, it's mostly a matter of getting the minutes and offensive looks, both of which he's currently doing. He's a solid glue player who won't wow you anywhere, but provides some scoring, 3s, steals and even blocks from the guard position, which is always a hard to find bonus. His improved play and recent scoring outbursts has made him worth noticing as of late, and if you're looking for a versatile guy you can play in several positions on your roster, Douglas-Roberts has surfaced as a fantasy option once again.
Corey Brewer, SG/SF, Minnesota Timberwolves (1.4 percent owned): Brewer added a 3-point shot to his repertoire last season and was a deep-league option for 3s and steals, but has been virtually invisible this season. He was recently inserted into the starting lineup at shooting guard, and has scored in double figures in three of his past four games, while averaging 2.2 steals per game in his past five. He's always been fantastic on a per-minute basis in steals, but hasn't gotten enough minutes or shown enough versatility to be a fantasy option this season. Now that he's starting, that should change, and he should be able to give you more than 1.5 steals per game with close to a 3-pointer if he continues getting minutes. He definitely won't knock you over with all-around contributions and will have trouble scoring consistently, but the one thing he will do is steal the ball in bunches. If that's where your team is hurting most, his recent insertion into the starting lineup makes Brewer worth a look.
Manny Harris, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers (1.2 percent owned): The woeful Cavs need offense wherever they can find it, and have recently received it from the unlikely Harris, who is definitely one of the aforementioned anonymous players making some noise. In his past five contests, he's averaging 10.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.0 3s and 0.8 steals per game, and has notched 41 minutes in each of the Cavs' past two games. Looking at his college averages of 17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.4 3s and 1.4 steals per game, Harris boasts some versatility and the ability to score with solid peripherals. His recent stint of increased playing time is largely due to the absence of Daniel Gibson and Mo Williams, although the Cavs are far from loaded with options and Harris has proved his ability to contribute, so he should continue to see floor time. Gibson and Anthony Parker have been mentioned in trade rumors, which could open up more long-term viability for Harris, but based upon his recent play the Cavs will have no option but to continue turning to him. He can score, drain 3s, get steals and provide solid rebounds from the guard position, so even if you had no idea who he was a month ago, you should pay attention to how Harris plays from now on.
Gary Neal, PG/SG, San Antonio Spurs (0.5 percent owned): The Spurs did it again with Neal, snagging what seems to be ridiculous value out of an undrafted player. He's been a consistent threat from long range this season, and has significantly cut into the value of George Hill, who is losing some of his looks to the sharpshooter. Neal is averaging 1.6 3s per game in just 18.4 minutes, and even though his minutes will likely stick in the 20-per-game range, he's got undoubted value from downtown and the green light to gun. He's not a player worth considering if you want well-rounded numbers, but if you need 3s in a deeper league, Neal is worth a look. He has nowhere to go but up as he establishes legitimacy off the Spurs bench, and sees plenty of open looks with opposing defenses keying in on Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
Patrick Patterson, PF, Houston Rockets (0.2 percent owned): Patterson played much of the season in the D-League, but has surfaced as a regular rotation guy for the Rockets, who are falling out of contention and are without Yao Ming for the rest of the season. Even though Brad Miller, Jordan Hill and Chuck Hayes will be around to suck up his minutes, the Rockets have to see him as their future and will want to continue seeing what he can do, especially if he continues to contribute when on the floor. He's averaging 5.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game while shooting an insane 70 percent from the floor in just 15.0 minutes per game this season, including 1.2 blocks per game in his past seven contests. His career college stats of16.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 0.7 steals and 58.5 percent shooting in three seasons at Kentucky show a glimpse of his potential, especially since he was on a star-studded team where he was sharing the ball with several other current NBA players. An interesting note is that in his junior season he started attempting 3s, and went 24-for-69 from downtown, something he won't do from the NBA 3-point line yet, but definitely demonstrates his ability to make jumpers. Right now he's only a deep-league option if you're desperate for blocks, although he's brimming with potential and should see his playing time continue to increase as the Rockets begin focusing on the future.
Patrick Mills, PG, Portland Trail Blazers (0.1 percent owned): Here's another guy many fantasy owners were asking, "who?" about when he started showing up in the box scores. But Mills has turned some heads, averaging 11.5 points, 2.5 assists, 1.3 3s and 1.0 steals in 21.1 minutes per game this month. Brandon Roy was a regular ball handler who took the pressure off Andre Miller, and now Mills has taken some of that responsibility upon himself with Roy out indefinitely. His college stats of 18.4 points, 3.9 assists, 2.6 3s and 2.2 steals per game in his final season exhibit his ability to contribute in multiple categories, and I especially love that combination of 3s and steals. He's not afraid to hoist it from downtown, averaging 4.2 attempts from long range this month, and if he continues to play around 20 minutes per game as he has recently, Mills is a valid option in 3s and steals who also accrues a handful of assists. Disregard the fact he wasn't anywhere near the fantasy radar at the start of the season, this game is all about what a player can do for you now, and Mills' play has him shedding that anonymity.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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