- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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Two weeks ago, I highlighted players to target in rebounds, assists, 3-pointers, blocks and steals. Those categories are relatively simple to address via the waiver wire, because a player's positive impact is easily measurable, and there are specialists who help specifically in those categories but are largely unowned due to their lack of overall contribution.
This week it gets a bit hairier, as I'll look at options to improve your team's performance in two difficult-to-address categories: points and field goal percentage. Finding free-agent help in these categories is quite challenging. Waiver-wire points are rare because the majority of players scoring with regularity are already rostered. Same with percentages -- most players with a significantly beneficial combination of frequency and accuracy are long gone.
Disclaimer: You will not overhaul your team's performance in these categories through the waiver wire. If you want to do that, seek a trade, then surround your stars with positive contributors like those featured in this column.
As mentioned, cheap points are a scarce commodity -- there isn't a single healthy player averaging at least 13 points per game that's owned in fewer than half of ESPN leagues. Mid-level players aren't scoring specialists in the same way they can be 3-point or blocks specialists, so a primary strategy is pouncing on players who are capitalizing upon injury. Additionally, if you're in a league where Manu Ginobili (58.6 percent owned), Eric Gordon (59.8 percent), Gerald Henderson (65.8 percent), Zach Randolph (38.7 percent) or any other injured scorers were dropped, allowing them to take the roster spot of a player you never start is worthwhile. The type of production these players will provide upon returning is unmatchable through the waiver wire.
Let's take a look at some waiver options that can strengthen your team's scoring:
Jared Dudley, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns (37.0 percent owned): This hot preseason sleeper is being rapidly re-added after his slow start, as Dudley has regained his starting job in Phoenix, and has scored at least 15 points in his past three games. He averaged 16.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.7 3s in 15 starts last season, so we know he's capable of scoring, as well as helping in other fantasy categories. Now that he's got his starting spot back and is on a roll, add him immediately if he's still available.
Jordan Farmar, PG, New Jersey Nets (18.7 percent owned): Ignore the fact he's a backup and pay attention to the fact he's played at least 20 minutes in 11 straight contests, and scored in double figures in 12 of his past 17. With MarShon Brooks out indefinitely with a broken toe, Farmar will see more minutes and more shot opportunities. He's averaging 23.2 points per 48 minutes, a higher number than players like Chauncey Billups and Tyreke Evans, so he's effective when on the court. He's averaging 26.5 minutes per game in his past six contests, compared to 20.6 for the season, so look for his scoring average to increase as his minutes and opportunities do the same.
Jerryd Bayless, PG/SG, Toronto Raptors (13.5 percent owned): Bayless entered the season with high expectations heaped upon him, as many picked him to wrest the starting point guard spot from Jose Calderon after averaging 18.1 points, 6.7 assists, 1.2 3s and 1.0 steals per game in 14 starts last season. He was hindered early by an ankle injury and Calderon's strong play, but has come on strong as of late, notching at least 14 points in each of his past four contests. The Raptors need offensive help with Andrea Bargnani sidelined, and Bayless is one of their best scorers, so he should continue seeing increased minutes and putting up double digits on the regular.
Gordon Hayward, SG/SF, Utah Jazz (5.3 percent owned): He won't make your fantasy team look tougher, but Hayward has tons of fantasy potential with averages of 0.7 3s, 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks per game in 27.8 minutes. Those peripherals are enticing, but his scoring is becoming more consistent, as he's hit at least 12 points in each of his past four contests after failing to do so in five straight. His minutes are on the uptick, and he's much more aggressive recently, with at least 11 attempts from the floor in each of those four games. He'd taken 11 or more shots only twice all season before this point. If you need points, he'll have his ups and downs but has scoring ability, and the secondary benefits of 3s, steals and blocks are the cherry on top.
Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks (3.6 percent owned): He missed a couple weeks with a groin injury, but is back and regularly scoring in double figures. Of all players averaging at least 10.5 points per game, he's the only one owned in fewer than five percent of leagues. Snatch him up if you need cheap points.
C.J. Watson, PG, Chicago Bulls (0.9 percent owned): He's a dynamic scorer when seeing floor time, and with Rip Hamilton injured he's seeing increased run. He's one of three players averaging at least 10 points per game in fewer than 20 minutes (along with C.J. Miles and the recently-returned J.J. Barea, who are both options in this category as well), so for Watson it's all about opportunity. Right now he's got it, and has scored at least 11 points in six of his past nine contests, so if you're desperate for points ride him at least for the short term.
Field goal percentage
Again, the only way to make a drastic impact here is by trading away the anchors that are weighing down your percentages, and being shrewd when adding players by avoiding those with inefficient percentages. It's beneficial to target guards who help in field goal percentage, because this is typically where your damaging players are found. By inserting efficient guards in your lineup, you're getting positive contributions from a spot that often hurts your team percentage.
Here are some widely-available options to target if your field goal percentage needs bolstering:
Brandon Rush, SG/SF, Golden State Warriors (10.3 percent owned): Rush is one of four guard-eligible players averaging 6.5 shots per game and shooting better than 50 percent from the floor. He's a bit erratic and won't get you double figures on a nightly basis, but is scoring with efficiency and can help your team if you plug him in at the shooting guard slot, a position where most players are below-average contributors in field goal percentage. He scored a season-high 20 points on Tuesday and has shot at least 50 percent from the floor in eight of his past 11 contests.
Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves (3.4 percent owned): He's outplayed Darko Milicic and his playing time has shot up recently, as Pekovic notched 30 minutes off the bench Wednesday with 13 points and 12 boards. That marked his fourth game out of the past five with at least 13 points, and the big man from Montenegro can get it done from the floor. He shot 72.5 percent from the floor on 14.6 attempts per game in Greece in 2009-10, and has never shot lower than 51.7 percent from the floor on any professional level. He could be starting before long, and proved able in a recent stretch starting in place of an injured Milicic, averaging 11.7 points on 59.3 percent shooting with 8.7 rebounds in three contests. He's an efficient, legitimate option in all formats if you need help at center and want a boost in your team's field goal percentage.
Trevor Booker, PF, Washington Wizards (2.3 percent owned): With Andray Blatche out 3-5 weeks, Booker is a critical part of the Wizards' rotation, and he's proven to be efficient in his short NBA career, with a career 55.7 field goal percentage. He's shot at least 50 percent from the floor in each of his past nine games, and is averaging 12 points per game in his past three contests. The Wizards need his hustle and energy, and he has nowhere to go but up as he grows more comfortable playing significant minutes at the NBA level.
Shaun Livingston, PG, Milwaukee Bucks (0.1 percent owned): He's shooting 51.6 percent from the floor on 6.0 attempts per game, and playing more recently, starting over the mercurial Stephen Jackson. He doesn't shoot with enough regularity to have a huge impact on your overall percentage, but if you're in a tight race, guards who regularly hit more than half their shot attempts are uncommon. Being 6-foot-7 and attempting just one 3-pointer all season helps his case, and his regular 3-for-6 and 4-for-7 nights from the floor can help offset harmful players who regularly go 8-for-20.
Willie Green, SG, Atlanta Hawks (0.1 percent owned): Green sees limited minutes, but is shooting 50 percent on 6.1 attempts per game during the past 30 days. He's taking good long-range shots, shooting 44.2 percent from behind the arc this season, and is averaging 1.0 3s per game during the past month. Getting a 3-pointer per game from a guard who doesn't hurt your shooting percentage is helpful if you're mired in a tight field goal percentage battle, so even though his contribution is minimal, managing your field goal percentage is often about damage control. In that case, Green is a legitimate option in leagues with 14 or more teams.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Josh Whitling discusses players you can target on the waiver wire to help in scoring and field goal percentage.