Working the Wire: A look at the 'chopping block'
When playing the waiver-wire game, many people forget that it's not all about which players you're adding to your roster. Which guys you drop is equally important, and figuring out whom you can afford to part ways with is one of the toughest decisions a fantasy owner must make. A few years ago, I absolutely refused to drop Al Jefferson from one of my teams, simply because I knew he had the upside to be dominant if given the minutes. Turns out I was a year early on the big guy, and I ended up missing out on a ton of quality free agents because of my dedication to him. On the flip side, I'm sure more than a few folks dropped Big Al early last season, only to watch him tear up the court for the next five months. These are tough decisions we must make, so I've come up with a list of struggling players who are on the chopping block, with my decision on whether to cut them or keep them:
Charlie Villanueva, F, Bucks: It's disappointing, but he's a must-drop right now if you haven't already done so. Sure, he'll have nice value if Yi Jianlian goes down with an injury, but I wouldn't hold on to him for that reason alone. Yi, meanwhile, is still available in some leagues, and at this point, he shouldn't be.
Luis Scola, F/C, Rockets: Even though I tabbed him as a future "for real" in Are You For Real last week, it's time to part ways with the highly touted European in the present. Just be sure to keep a close eye on his minutes and be ready to scoop him back up later (especially if Yao Ming suffers an injury).
Anthony Parker, G/F, Raptors: This is tough to say because Parker had a nice 2006-07 season, but he has to go. There's only one player in this Raptors lineup who is averaging more than 30 minutes, and that's Chris Bosh at 30.9 minutes per game. As long as coach Sam Mitchell continues to roll with his deep bench, we won't be able to rely on a guy like Parker.
Josh Childress, F/G, Hawks: Here's one guy I won't be dropping. Sure, he's struggling right now, but we all know he's better than this, and the key here is that he's still getting 30.2 minutes per night. As long as he continues to earn that kind of playing time, he will end up being a nice option for points, steals and field goal percentage.
Troy Murphy, PF/C, Pacers (31.7 percent owned): It's surprising that T-Murph is still available in nearly 70 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues (as of late Sunday evening), especially after he posted 16 points, 5 rebounds and 2 3-pointers Friday and 18 points, 10 rebounds and 3 3-pointers Saturday night. Injury is always a concern with Murphy, but there's no harm in using him right now while he's healthy. With Ike Diogu out and Jermaine O'Neal struggling, the Pacers don't have many options in their frontcourt, so Murphy should continue to post strong numbers in points, rebounds and 3-pointers.
Derek Fisher, PG, Lakers (43.9 percent owned): Fisher isn't flashy, and he won't wow you with tools or upside. But he'll be consistent enough to warrant our attention in most fantasy formats. Averaging 14.0 points, 3.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.4 3-pointers through five games, Fisher has looked rejuvenated now that he's back in L.A. I'd like to see a few more assists out of the point guard slot, but Fisher has never been a big-time assist guy. He's more of a shooting guard in a point guard's body and has always been a nice option for 3s and steals throughout his career. Look for Fisher to produce numbers somewhere around 13 points, 4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 3-pointers.
Bonzi Wells, SG, Rockets (17.4 percent owned): Two big games last week have put Wells back on the fantasy map. That will happen when you go for 14 points, 15 rebounds and a steal, then follow that up three nights later with 18 points, 7 boards and a steal. Talent has never been an issue for Wells; he's always had it. Injury and attitude have been his downfall throughout his career, but he seems to be fitting in well with the new-look Rockets. Of course, just as soon as everyone starts getting excited, Wells struggled with his shot Sunday night in Charlotte. He was still able to grab 6 rebounds and grab a steal in 25 minutes, and that's why we should all take a good look at Bonzi: He's a rebounding and steal machine when he's getting minutes.
Steve Blake/Jarrett Jack, PG, Trail Blazers (6.4 and 4.4 percent owned, respectively): Since his demotion to the bench Wednesday, all Jack has done is come out and average 16.7 points, 3.0 assists, 0.7 3-pointers and a steal per game in 26.0 minutes. Whether he's using the demotion as a motivational tool or he just plays better with the second unit doesn't matter much to me. The only thing that matters is that Jack is starting to play more like he did last season, when he put up 12.0 points, 5.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.8 3s per game.
Since the lineup change, the Blazers are 3-0, so expect to see Blake running with the starting five for the foreseeable future. Blake is dishing like a madman, averaging 8.7 assists and a 3-pointer per game in his three starts. Of course, as long as these two continue to split time, they will limit each other's effectiveness. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be owned in fantasy leagues. Blake is the guy you want if you need a boost in assists and 3s, and Jack should be considered if you're looking for points and steals.
If Vince Carter is going to miss any significant time with his sprained ankle, you can expect to see a lot more of third-year swingman Antoine Wright in New Jersey. Wright already is earning decent playing time (28.5 minutes per game) and is showing some quality upside, with averages of 11.8 points, 1.3 3-pointers and a steal per game. Wright might be only a short-term option for now, but he is the Nets' third-highest scorer and is a potential difference-maker in points, steals and 3s.
The Kings' latest attempt to replace Mike Bibby involves former Tony Parker backup Beno Udrih. The 25-year-old hasn't seen much of the court in his three-year career, but he's definitely more of a pure point guard than any of the Kings' other options right now. Don't be surprised to see Udrih earning more minutes over the next few weeks, and look for him to be a solid contributor in steals and 3-pointers.
Three rookies -- Corey Brewer, Jeff Green and Mike Conley -- might soon be getting the minutes we all hoped they would before the season began. You see, the Timberwolves, SuperSonics and Grizzlies are all off to horrendous starts, and a lineup shakeup could be approaching. None of the three rookies is earning enough minutes to warrant much fantasy attention, but all three have shown enough flashes of brilliance in their limited playing time to earn at least a look.
When Devin Brown went off for 20 points, 11 rebounds and 2 3-pointers Friday night, I couldn't help but think about last season, when he proved to be a solid injury fill-in for the New Orleans Hornets. Brown averaged 11.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.5 3-pointers per game in 49 starts for the Hornets last season, and with Larry Hughes hurting and Sasha Pavlovic struggling, there's definitely some room for Brown to make his case at shooting guard for the Cavs.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.
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