Helpers in boards, steals and blocks
Welcome to the third and final installment of the Working the Wire special event, with a focus on players ready to help in specific categories. Up last are the defensive stats: rebounds, steals and blocks. These can be difficult to obtain off the wire because they don't typically come out of nowhere for a player, as one usually needs starter's minutes to contribute. It's hard to grab 9.0 boards or 1.5 steals per game on a regular basis off the bench. Luckily, several lineups have been shaken by trades and injuries recently, opening up opportunities for defensively apt players to contribute. So make sure to grab them if you need them, and remain active. This time of the season, apathy begins to run rampant among fantasy leagues. Trade deadlines have passed, and seemingly insurmountable leads have been established, causing owners to be lazy in checking their lineups. Even if it seems impossible, continue making daily roster decisions, as you never know how the final month of the season will shake out. Let's take a look at widely available defensive helpers for the stretch run:
Kris Humphries, PF, New Jersey Nets (47.9 percent owned)/Samuel Dalembert, C, Sacramento Kings (53.8 percent owned): Both players are likely to be owned in any competitive league with 12 or more teams, but if you're in one of the approximately half of leagues where either is available, both are must-owns if you need boards. Dalembert is averaging 9.2 rebounds per game in the past 30 days and has at least nine rebounds in seven consecutive contests. He's starting at center and currently splitting time with DeMarcus Cousins, and should be a steady source of boards with good field goal percentage from here on out. Humphries has been fantastic all season when he's on the court, but his playing time has been erratic. Now that Derrick Favors is out of the picture, he's starting and getting more minutes for the Nets. As a starter this season, he's averaging 9.0 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 0.5 steals per game while shooting 50.4 percent from the floor. He has 11 and 15 rebounds in the past two games, respectively, and on Monday he played a season-high 41 minutes. He ranks third in the league in rebounds per 48 minutes behind Kevin Love and Dwight Howard for the season and should be rostered in all formats now that he's starting. If you're in the type of league where both are available, I rank him ahead of Dalembert, although Dalembert's 15.3 rebounds per 48 minutes ranks him ninth in the league, so both are fantastic options if available and you need rebounds.
Kenyon Martin, PF, Denver Nuggets (25.3 percent owned): Martin is regularly seeing 25-30 minutes per game for the Nuggets. He's averaging 9.3 rebounds per game in his past three contests and should be able to vacuum up around eight rebounds per game in the starting lineup next to the light boarding of Gallinari when he returns from injury. It's easy to forget that Martin averaged 9.4 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.2 steals per game in just 58 contests last season thanks to his injury-prone nature, but he's healthy and starting now, making him a solid option for all three defensive stats, especially rebounds.
Chuck Hayes, PF/C, Houston Rockets (19.2 percent owned): Hayes is having a breakout campaign with career highs across the board, and even though he doesn't score, he's another player who contributes in all three defensive categories. He's averaging 9.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game in the past 30 days in 30.3 minutes per game. He's hit double-digit rebounds in four of the past five games and has been consistent as well, grabbing at least seven boards in 26 of his past 27. Grab him if he's available and your team needs D.
Nazr Mohammed, C, Oklahoma City Thunder (0.4 percent owned): A solid short-term option until Kendrick Perkins makes his Thunder debut sometime in mid-March, Mohammed is starting at center for OKC. He grabbed seven rebounds in his first start and should hover around that number while starting in the depleted Thunder frontcourt.
Marvin Williams, SF, Atlanta Hawks (2.2 percent owned): Marvin is playing big minutes with the Hawks, averaging 31.1 minutes per game in the past 30 days with 1.0 steals in that span. He's played himself into shape and improved recently, with 1.4 steals per game in his past eight contests. He's a solid all-around option who provides steals from the small forward position, as well as a helpful 3s and blocks combo, averaging 0.6 3-pointers and 0.6 blocks per game in the past 30 days.
Josh McRoberts, PF, Indiana Pacers (1.8 percent owned): McRoberts is developing as a player and regularly seeing around 25 minutes per game for the Pacers. He's averaging 1.6 steals per game in his past seven contests and 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game in his past five. He's got the confidence of head coach Frank Vogel and, despite low scoring numbers, is putting up nice peripheral defensive stats, emerging as an option in deeper leagues if you're in need of steals and blocks. That he provides those steals from the power forward position is a bonus, as that can be hard to find, so grab him if you need steals in deep formats and watch his production improve as he grows more and more comfortable with the NBA game.
Jared Dudley, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns (1.2 percent owned): With 2.0 steals per game in his past five contests, Dudley has played well lately, and his minutes have picked up. He also can score and drain 3s, and with 1.4 3s and 1.1 steals per game in the past 30 days he has become a reliable option off the bench for the Suns.
Ronnie Brewer, SG, Chicago Bulls (0.6 percent owned): Brewer's value was in jeopardy around the trade deadline, as the Bulls were actively looking for a shooting guard, but with no luck. Brewer has played his way back into the rotation with 20-plus minutes in three straight contests. He's always a stalwart in steals, with 2.0 steals per game in his past five games and 1.4 per game in the past 30 days. He should continue seeing around 20 minutes per game, which is enough for Brewer to average around 1.5 steals per contest. He doesn't provide much else but is one of the best thieves in the game, as his 2.94 steals per 48 minutes for the season ranks fifth-best in the league. He's a one-category wonder, but if you're locked in a tight steals race, Brewer is a player who will have an impact.
James Johnson, SF/PF, Toronto Raptors (1.5 percent owned): He wasn't getting much opportunity in Chicago but is now playing 28 minutes per game for the Raptors, averaging 1.8 blocks and 1.3 steals per contest. For his career, Johnson averages 0.7 blocks per game in just 12.1 minutes, but now that he's starting at small forward for the Raptors, he should continue to see those excellent per-minute numbers translate into beneficial overall statistics. He will produce blocks and steals if getting the chance, and the opportunity is there in his new digs, so pounce if you need blocks in deeper leagues and enjoy that Johnson provides them from the small forward position.
Darrell Arthur, PF, Memphis Grizzlies (1.2 percent owned): Arthur is benefiting from the absence of Rudy Gay, averaging 1.2 blocks per game during the past 30 days. He's also a decent scorer and rebounder, so although he's not a natural shot-blocker, he should provide decent all-around stats with more than a block per game while Gay is sidelined.
Spencer Hawes, C, Philadelphia 76ers (0.8 percent owned): Hawes' playing time has been inconsistent this season, although the 7-footer is a solid shot-blocker, with 1.4 per game in his past five contests and 1.2 blocks per game in the past 30 days. He put up a nice February in which he averaged 7.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks and shot 53.5 percent from the floor. As long as he's getting around 20 minutes per game, he should hover around 1.5 blocks per contest, making him viable in deep formats.
Ekpe Udoh, PF, Golden State Warriors (0.1 percent owned): Unlike Arthur, Udoh is a natural shot-blocker, and he is primed to help teams down the stretch after his first start on Wednesday. He's averaging 2.2 blocks per game in his past five contests and 1.1 blocks per game on the season in just 14.7 minutes. He has at least one swat in eight consecutive contests and, now that he's starting, could legitimately average 2.0 blocks per game with the increased minutes. He's a specialist with newfound opportunity and has surfaced as an excellent deep-league option for blocks that should turn some heads down the stretch.
Larry Sanders, PF, Milwaukee Bucks (0.1 percent owned): Sanders has a nice short-term window while Andrew Bogut is sidelined for the next week or so, and he's proved the ability to block shots in bunches when given the playing time. He's averaging 1.2 blocks per game in just 14.2 minutes this season and could easily average between 2-3 blocks per game while Bogut is out. The team likely will want to develop him down the stretch, so monitor his playing time, as he's worth a deep-league look any time he's getting minutes. During the next week, he's undoubtedly an option for those in search of a boost in blocks.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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