- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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The waiver-wire honeymoon period that occurs each year at the start of the season has expired, and no longer are players like Paul George, Jeff Teague and Spencer Hawes available in most leagues. Most of the players highlighted in last week's Working the Wire have been swooped up in a majority of leagues. Now that the players that should clearly be on a roster in all formats are largely unavailable, it's time to dig a bit deeper.
If players such as Mario Chalmers, J.J. Redick, Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Lou Williams, Ben Gordon, MarShon Brooks, Gerald Henderson, Brandon Bass, Jonas Jerebko, Carl Landry and others who have played well are still available in your league, add them. But those guys are gone for most of us, so let's take a look at some players who are available in most formats and worth a look, depending on your team needs:
Iman Shumpert, PG, New York Knicks (16.1 percent owned): He's already rumored to be starting for the Knicks on Friday after posting 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2 3-pointers and a steal per game in his two contests thus far. Knicks fans love him for his energy and potential, and he has an opportunity to secure a sizable role in the Knicks' rotation. He'll have plenty of bumps as a rookie point guard, and the fact that he shot 39.6 percent from the floor in college makes me pessimistic about his contribution there. But he can score, get some 3s and, if his college stats are any indication, steal the ball like a madman (2.7 steals per game last season at Georgia Tech). Steals are the category I see him contributing in most this season, although as a 6-foot-5 point guard with upside and opportunity, Shumpert is worth adding in most formats and should provide some scoring, 3s and steals.
Tracy McGrady, SG/PG, Atlanta Hawks (10 percent owned): Once a perennial fantasy first-rounder, McGrady has become a veteran role player who steadies the Hawks' backcourt off the bench. He's scored in double figures in five of seven contests and is averaging a respectable 10.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and 0.7 3s per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor. Many forget he had some value for stints last season with the Pistons, such as in February when he averaged 12.9 points, 4.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game and manned the starting point guard spot in Detroit. The days of 32.1 points per game are a distant memory, but McGrady is still a serviceable player in deeper formats, providing some scoring, assists and rebounds with a handful of steals, blocks and 3s thrown in.
Chase Budinger, SF, Houston Rockets (6.8 percent owned): Budinger finds himself among the most-dropped players in ESPN leagues, but after his slow start, he's scored in double digits in three of his past four contests, with 2.3 3s and a steal per game in that span. It often happens where a marginally draftable player such as Budinger is dropped early in the season if he doesn't start off hot, only to be picked up by another team and have the value most assumed he would. Budinger averaged 14.4 points, 1.5 3s, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.7 steals in 24 games after the All-Star break last season. As the Rockets' starting small forward, he should be able to come close to those type of numbers. He's a solid fantasy player in most formats who provides decent production in several categories.
Markieff Morris, PF, Phoenix Suns (3 percent owned): Morris likely didn't reach his statistical potential in college playing for such a stacked Kansas team, but we saw a glimpse of what he can do, as he averaged 13.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 0.8 steals and 0.6 3s per game with 58.9 percent shooting from the floor in just 24.4 minutes last season. He's already had some impressive outings with the Suns, including a 16-point, nine-rebound night in which he dropped a 3-pointer, something he's capable of doing from the power forward spot. As a rookie coming off the bench, he's not going to be a consistent fantasy producer, but if you can afford to stash him, Morris has future fantasy stud written all over him. The potential to contribute in points, rebounds, 3s, steals and blocks with good field goal percentage is a rare find in fantasy, and Morris has the tools. It'll be rough this season, but his future is bright, and if you have a roster spot, few players have Morris' potential.
Daniel Gibson, PG/SG, Cleveland Cavaliers (3 percent owned): Gibson seems to have a period each season where he's productive, but he also gets injured consistently, having never played a full season in his five years in the league. In his past three games, he's averaging 10.3 points, 2.3 3s and 1.3 steals per game in 26 minutes. His value almost exclusively lies in his ability to knock down 3s, but he can do so consistently, averaging 1.5 per game for his career. When he's healthy and getting run, he can average two 3s per game, which makes him worth owning in deeper formats.
Gary Neal, PG/SG, San Antonio Spurs (2.6 percent owned): Richard Jefferson (54.6 percent owned) will shoulder the bulk of the scoring slack left in the wake of Manu Ginobili's broken finger, but Neal should be able to come in and immediately have significant value in the 3-point department. He got the start at shooting guard Thursday night and showed what he can do from long range, going 4-for-7 in 20 minutes. Like Gibson, he doesn't provide much else, but he did average 1.6 3s per game in just 21.1 minutes as a rookie last season. Look for him to drain around two per game with Manu out, with some nice scoring nights thrown in sporadically and negligible contributions elsewhere.
D.J. White, PF, Charlotte Bobcats (2.8 percent owned): It's difficult to tell what will happen with White's minutes when Tyrus Thomas returns, but I wouldn't be so quick to assume that they'll disappear. Paul Silas already said Thomas must earn his starting spot, and despite the fact that Thomas is an enormous talent, his track record of actually being a good basketball player is horrendous. I love players who post promising per-minute stats like Thomas, but those will translate into helpful aggregate production only if the player can be on the court for 30 or so minutes per night. Thomas has never proven to be able to do that or stay healthy for a considerable stretch. White's numbers don't wow, but he's incredibly helpful in field goal percentage (53.5 career).
He doesn't get tons of steals or blocks but gets a little of both (0.5 per game in each stat for his career in just 15 minutes). In his past three contests, he's averaging 13.7 points and 6.3 rebounds, and until Thomas comes back and proves he deserves court time, White is worth owning in deep leagues primarily for his efficient scoring.
Byron Mullens, C, Bobcats (0.4 percent owned): OK, so we're getting deep here. Mullens was one of the top recruits in the country out of high school and played just one year as sixth man at Ohio State before jumping to the big show. He's done nothing since entering the league but is just 22 and really hasn't gotten any sort of opportunity. As a legit 7-footer, he has some potential and has scored 16 and 14 points in his past two games. Charlotte's frontcourt is unimpressive, and Mullens is the only legit center other than DeSagana Diop, who saw zero minutes in the Bobcats' latest contest. Temper your expectations and keep in mind he's worth a look only in leagues of 14 or more teams, but Mullens could average an efficient 10 points with five boards and a block off the bench.
Sam Young, SG/SF, Memphis Grizzlies (0.3 percent owned): With Zach Randolph sidelined, Young's role has increased, and he's averaging 12.7 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals per game in 21.7 minutes per game in his past three contests. Young was forced into a larger role when Rudy Gay went down last season, and he had some nice stretches, such as in February when he averaged 13.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and just 0.8 turnovers per game. He's unspectacular but can score and get swipes. With an increased role, he is another guy who has become an option in deep formats.
Josh Whitling is fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Josh Whitling offers up some of the best players still available in many leagues now that the early-season waiver-wire rush has calmed down.