Commentary

Robinson, Leonard among top pickups

Updated: January 13, 2012, 3:16 PM ET
By Josh Whitling | Special to ESPN.com

Now that most teams have played at least 10 games, there's a decent sample size from which to judge players who are receiving regular minutes. I hesitate to cut slow starters in the first week or two of the season, especially those who were unquestionably worth drafting before the season began. But now that rotations are solidifying, it may be time to cut bait on players who clearly don't have fantasy value.

Let me clarify, though. There are slow starters, like Dorell Wright, who has been mired in a major slump but is still getting enough minutes to contribute when his shot returns. I recommend holding onto these for another week or two, unless the replacement is so tantalizing that you can't help yourself. None of the players I'm listing, who are all owned in fewer than 28 percent of ESPN leagues, are worth dropping for a player like Wright. Other players I'd include in this category with Wright include Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris, Michael Beasley and Elton Brand.

But players like Lamar Odom, who isn't just in a shooting slump, but just doesn't seem to be a significant enough part of their team's game plan, are now worth dropping. This category includes players such as Toney Douglas, John Salmons, George Hill and Landry Fields. Let's take a look at some widely available replacement options:

[+] EnlargeNate Robinson
Kyle Terada/US PresswireNate Robinson, currently on his fourth NBA team, has become fantasy-relevant again thanks to Stephen Curry's injury.

Nate Robinson, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors (27.6 percent owned): The diminutive Robinson has been swooped up in about a quarter of leagues in the past few days, and that number is sure to go up, so act now if your team needs some scoring punch. He's scored in double digits in three of his four contests with the Warriors, including a 24-point, 5-assist, 4-steal, 2 3-pointer effort in Wednesday's win over the Miami Heat. Part of his success is attributable to Stephen Curry being sidelined, although with the tenuousness of Curry's knee situation, adding Robinson is a worthy risk due to his proven ability to put up fantasy numbers. He helps most in points, 3s and free throws, with secondary contributions in steals and assists. He likely won't continue to average 32.5 minutes per game when Curry returns, but Robinson could have a similar season to 2009-2010 with the New York Knicks, when he averaged 13.2 points and 1.7 3s in 24.4 minutes off the bench. With scoring being at such a premium this season, Robinson's ability to do so with some consistency is valuable, making him worth adding in all formats.

Vladimir Radmanovic, SF, Atlanta Hawks (10.5 percent owned): He'd already been starting the past few games due to Marvin Williams' injury, and now that Al Horford is out for 3-4 months, Radmanovic should see a large bump in minutes, which is what has been missing most from his fantasy game over the past couple of seasons. He's always demonstrated the ability to knock down a bevy of 3s when given the opportunity, and puts up a decent combination of steals and blocks (0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks per game for his career in 23 minutes). With increased run, Radmanovic should flirt with two 3s, a steal and half a block. He doesn't give you much in the traditional categories of points, rebounds and assists, but his peripherals are solid, especially if your team needs 3-point assistance.

Delonte West, PG/SG, Dallas Mavericks (10.5 percent owned): I've always been a fan of West's balanced fantasy game, and he's seen increased opportunities recently with Jason Kidd sidelined. Many people in Dallas, however, will tell you he's been the team's second-best player for stretches this season, and even when Kidd returns, West has solidified a significant role in the rotation. He's averaging 1.9 steals and 3.7 assists, and is shooting 95.8 percent from the stripe on 2.2 attempts per game in just 22.5 minutes per contest on the season. There's reason to believe his 3-point total will increase, as he's a career 37.1 percent shooter from downtown, and is hitting just 23.1 percent of his attempts this season. Same goes for his blocks, as he's averaged 0.4 blocks per game in his career, not a huge number overall, but impressive for a guard.

Marreese Speights, PF/C, Memphis Grizzlies (7.6 percent owned): Speights was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers when Zach Randolph went down, and he's already seeing an opportunity to contribute, starting in the team's past two games. He's had some flashes of respectability -- 17 points, seven rebounds on Sunday off the bench, nine rebounds as a starter on Thursday -- but has yet to put it all together. Still, he's shown in stints in the past that he is a decent scorer and rebounder, and the most important part of his potential value is the fact he's got a prime opportunity, starting with Randolph sidelined. He should be able to put up an efficient 12 points and seven boards with close to a steal and a block per game, numbers he maintained for stretches in 2009 and should be able to match now that he's got the starting gig.

Rudy Fernandez, SG, Denver Nuggets (3.5 percent owned): He has notched double-digit points in four of his past five contests, and after a slow start from long range in December, is shooting 36.4 percent from downtown this month. His value lies in three categories: 3s, steals and assists. When all is said and done, he should give you close to two 3s with a steal, and if he maintains the 3.6 assists per game, that's hard to find from a non-point guard. Fernandez isn't an all-around fantasy player, and lacks in points, rebounds and shooting percentage, but if you need what he provides, he can help fantasy teams.

[+] EnlargeKawhi Leonard
D. Clarke Evans/Getty ImagesKawhi Leonard, the 15th pick in the 2011 draft, is picking up the slack with Manu Ginobili injured.

Kawhi Leonard, PF, San Antonio Spurs (3.5 percent owned): I love this guy's potential as an NBA player, and with Manu Ginobili sidelined, he's snagged a starting role in San Antonio and run with it. He's averaging 14.3 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and a block per game in the past three contests, with at least 32 minutes played in each. He started and played 37 minutes on Wednesday, and looking at his college stats of 15.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 0.6 blocks and 0.7 3s per game, he's got the tools to be a multi-category monster as his game matures. Grab him now, especially in keeper formats, where he should have long-term value.

Josh Howard, SG/SF, Utah Jazz (3.4 percent owned): Howard was once one of my favorite fantasy players, as he was a legit seven-category contributor in his heyday. Now he's providing scoring off the bench for the Jazz, averaging 11.4 points in 23.4 minutes per game. He does much of his damage from the stripe, where he's shooting 88.9 percent on 4.5 attempts per game. As I mentioned, points are at a premium, so if you need some scoring in a deeper league, with steals and free throws as well, Howard has surfaced as an option with some upside if he can snag the starting role.

Chandler Parsons, SF, Houston Rockets (2.9 percent owned): This second-round draft choice has emerged from obscurity and snagged the Rockets' starting small forward role, seeing at least 30 minutes per game in each of his past three contests. He can seemingly provide modest contributions in several categories -- eight boards in one game, three steals in two games, three 3s in another -- so even though there's not a category that blows you away, there's some nice fantasy potential here. Last season at Florida, he averaged 11.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.2 3s, 0.9 steals and 0.4 blocks per game, numbers that have "glue player" written all over them.

Omer Asik, C, Chicago Bulls (1.5 percent owned): Asik's per-minute defensive numbers are drool inducing -- 6.3 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 0.7 steals per game in 18.6 minutes -- but right now he's only worth adding in deeper leagues if you need blocks. There's only 30 players averaging 1.2 or more swats per game, and Asik is one of them. If another Joakim Noah injury occurs this year, Asik has the tools to be among the league leaders in blocks, with solid rebounding and steals as well.

Anthony Randolph, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves (0.7 percent owned): Randolph reminds me of Tyrus Thomas: He's got incredible per-minute stats, but just can't seem to figure out how to consistently put it all together for 30 minutes per game. For his career, he's averaged 5.2 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 0.7 steals per game in just 17.9 minutes. He's starting to see more run in Minnesota, as he played a season-high 29 minutes on Tuesday and scored 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting with a steal and a block. If he can even average 20 minutes per game, Randolph will be a fantasy helper in blocks and steals, so if you're looking for a high-upside add, Randolph is a wild card who has the tools to average 10 boards, two blocks and a steal per game. He almost surely won't do that, but simply the fact that he has the ability to makes him worth a flier in deeper formats.

Josh Whitling is fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

Josh Whitling

Fantasy Basketball
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

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