With Lin gone, who's left to pick up?
I'm going to write about Jeremy Lin -- not to suggest that you should add him, but because that opportunity has already come and gone. People gauge a car's power by how quickly it can go from zero to 60, and in fantasy hoops, we should gauge a player's stock by how quickly he goes from zero to 95 percent owned. It took Lin about four days.
I know some feel like coverage of Lin is reaching Tebow-esque inundation levels, but he illustrates a point I regularly harp on in this column: If you think a player is worth adding, don't wait until he has just one more impressive outing, because by then it's often too late.
When putting this column together each week, I typically choose a group of players early in the week and monitor them throughout. I deliberately select too many players to include in the article, because I have to winnow down the list based on how they perform and their ownership percentage. If a player is owned in more than about one-third of leagues, I don't include them in this column. I don't think I've ever seen a player go from owned in zero leagues to owned in essentially all leagues as quickly as Lin. It goes to show that when you have an inkling that a player's worth a roster spot, you should go for it -- or else he could be putting up 23 points and 10 assists for somebody else.
Here are some widely available players whose performance has recently improved. If your team needs what they can provide, act now, before the window has closed.
Jason Thompson, PF, Sacramento Kings (19.7 percent owned): He posted a couple of clunkers earlier this week after putting up three consecutive double-doubles then bounced back Thursday with 10 points and 10 boards in 28 minutes. In 12 starts this season, Thompson is averaging 10 points, 8.1 rebounds, 0.6 blocks and 0.5 steals per game while shooting 53.3 percent from the floor. His usage has fallen off since he averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds for the season in 2009-10, but now that he's starting again, Thompson is a worthy add due to his ability to score efficiently (career .494 field goal percentage) and rebound.
Ersan Ilyasova, SF/PF, Milwaukee Bucks (16.3 percent owned): Drew Gooden is the one who's gone gangbusters since Andrew Bogut went down, but Ilyasova has also improved and become the Bucks' best rebounder. His 16.4 rebounds per 48 minutes ranks seventh in the league and tops among small forward-eligible players. During the past 15 days, Ilyasova is averaging nearly a double-double, with 9.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1 block per game. He also provides minor contributions in 3-pointers, steals and blocks, with averages of 0.5, 0.6 and 0.6 per game for the season, respectively. He sat out Wednesday's game with back spasms, but when he returns, he's the team's primary rebounder and is worth adding if you need boards.
Chase Budinger, SF, Houston Rockets (14.8 percent owned): He's been on and off rosters all season and entered the season with high expectations after averaging 14.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 3s and 0.7 steals in 24 games after the All-Star break last season. He's picked it up as of late, scoring at least 12 points in seven of his past nine contests, capitalizing on Kevin Martin's struggles. Martin has scored in single digits in four consecutive games, but despite his statistical woes, the Rockets have won four of their past five games, so Kevin McHale should continue riding his bench as long as it's working. Budinger's game is bereft of defensive stats, but he can score and drain 3s, so if that's what your fantasy team needs, ride him while he's hot.
Reggie Williams, SG/SF, Charlotte Bobcats (14.4 percent owned): Williams returned from offseason knee surgery at an ideal time, as he's stepped into a starting role and become a primary offensive option for the Bobcats with Gerald Henderson sidelined. He flashed his offensive skills in 24 games as a rookie for the Warriors in 2009-10, averaging 15.2 points and 1.4 3s per game. His role was diminished last season, but in nine starts he averaged 17.7 points and 2.4 3s per game. He's averaged 21 points, 5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2 3s in his past three games and should average more than 15 points and two 3s while Henderson is out, maintaining 3-point value all season.
Alonzo Gee, SG/SF, Cleveland Cavaliers (13.8 percent owned): His seven-point performance Wednesday snapped a streak of five consecutive double-digit scoring efforts, as Gee is shining as the primary offensive option off the bench for the Cavs. During the past 15 days, he's averaging 11.8 points and 0.9 3s per game and should be good for similar points and 3s going forward, but his steals are his most valuable category. He's averaging 1.8 swipes in the same span and 1.5 per game on the season in just 27 minutes per game. His 2.6 steals per 48 minutes ranks 14th in the league, and as long as he's getting minutes, he's worth owning in all formats simply due to his steals. Consider the points and 3s gravy.
Randy Foye, PG/SG, Los Angeles Clippers (11.8 percent owned): Foye benefits most from Chauncey Billups' season-ending injury, and he's proven in the past that he's capable of being a fine fantasy contributor when given the opportunity. Last February, he averaged 36.8 minutes per game due to injuries on the Clippers' roster and put up 17.1 points, 4.1 assists, 2.2 3s and 1.2 steals per game. He won't put up those type of numbers sharing the backcourt with Chris Paul, but his ability to score, drain 3s and get steals is legit. He averaged 16.3 points per game in 2008-09 starting in Minnesota and for his career has averaged 1.2 3s per game. He'll also notch around three assists per game and is worth adding in all formats due to his increased opportunity.
Michael Redd, SG, Phoenix Suns (1.9 percent owned): He started slow, but Redd has become an offensive option off the bench for the Suns, averaging 13.0 points and 1.8 3s in his past four games. The former 26.7 point-per-game scorer, who has averaged more than two 3s per game in four separate seasons, never relied on elite athleticism to do his damage, so he should continue to be able to find ways to score despite the toll injuries have taken on his body. He's a viable deep-league option if you need points and 3s, just don't expect much else.
Wilson Chandler, SG/SF, Zhejiang Lions (1.8 percent owned)/J.R. Smith, SG/SF, Zhejiang Golden Bulls (1.7 percent owned): Smith is averaging 35.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.6 steals per game in China, while Chandler is putting up 25.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks. They obviously won't carry those stats back to America, as the ease with which players can put up numbers there is illustrated by the fact that NBA castoffs such as Lester Hudson and Marcus Williams are averaging more than 30 points per game. Chandler reportedly wants to rejoin the Nuggets, and Smith is an unrestricted free agent who will be coveted by a bevy of teams. Both of their Chinese teams might make the playoffs, and if they do, the wait for these players will stretch to mid-to-late March. Because of his free agency and playing style, Smith's return is generating more buzz, but Chandler will likely have the most fantasy impact, as he finished 57th on last season's Player Rater with positive contributions in all categories but field goal percentage. Both players are worth owning if you have an available bench spot, but if you wait for them to return, it will be too late.
Steve Novak, PF, New York Knicks (0.9 percent owned): His minutes will diminish drastically once Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony are back in the Knicks' lineup, but 3s from the power forward spot are hard to find, and Novak shot well enough when given increased chances to maintain a role as sharpshooter off the bench even when STAT and Melo are back. He's a consideration only if you need to make up ground in 3s in a deep league, but by averaging 1.6 3s in 10.9 minutes per game, Novak has demonstrated the ability to be a one-category wonder off the bench.
Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver Nuggets (0.4 percent owned): Faried, who averaged 14.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game last season at Morehead State, has played well when given the opportunity this season. He started Thursday, with Timofey Mozgov and Danilo Gallinari both out of the lineup, and responded with 10 boards in 23 minutes. His per-minute stats have been fantastic (20.8 rebounds, 4.6 blocks per 48 minutes); all he needs to do is secure consistent PT to have value. With the injuries to the Nuggets' frontcourt, he's getting more chances. He'll be erratic, but the talent is there.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.