Working the Wire: Deep-league help
Fantasy hoops enthusiasts are often divided about the ideal size of a fantasy league. Some prefer standard, 10-team formats so rosters can be stacked with actual NBA starters. Others prefer 12 or more teams, which requires a different level of waiver-wire scouring in order to fill out a competitive roster. In these deeper leagues, owners are often looking for any player who's getting enough run to be relevant, and the typical add/drop recommendations provided by fantasy analysts don't reach deep enough for their needs.
When putting this column together each week, I attempt to appeal to leagues of all sizes, typically including players owned in anywhere from 0.1 to 30 percent of leagues. This week, however, I'm going to appeal solely to the deep-leaguers, focusing on players owned in fewer than 1 percent of leagues. Most aren't roster-worthy in standard formats, but if you're in a league where players like Isaiah Thomas and Ersan Ilyasova are long gone off the waiver wire, this deep-league love should appeal to you.
Let's take a look at some deep-league options who are available in nearly every format:
Chandler Parsons, SF, Houston Rockets (0.8 percent owned): Parsons came out of nowhere as a second-round pick from Florida, starting 27 games at small forward and providing a well-rounded game for the Rockets and fantasy owners. He doesn't score much, but he's providing positive contributions in every aggregate category on the Player Rater and is ranked 18th among forwards with 1.2 steals per game. Throw in 0.7 3-pointers and 0.5 blocks and you have the makings of a sneaky, multicategorical fantasy gem whose game continues to improve. Over his past five games, he's averaging 12 points, 1.4 3s and 0.8 steals while shooting 49 percent from the floor in 33.2 minutes per game. Ignore his anonymity and focus on his balanced production and healthy steals total, making him worth a roster spot in deeper formats.
Shane Battier, SF, Miami Heat (0.7 percent owned): Battier perennially posts seemingly underwhelming stats then finishes higher on the Player Rater than you'd expect. Like last season, when he finished 85th despite playing just 24.2 minutes per game. Playing in Miami has hurt his value, as a chance for significant playing time is blocked by LeBron James and Chris Bosh. But he's still putting up a nice combination of 0.9 3s, 0.6 blocks and 0.9 steals per game in just 22.3 minutes. His value increases in turnover leagues, where he's higher in all three aforementioned categories than in turnovers (0.5 per game), and it's safe to ignore his horrendous free throw percentage, as he's attempted just 19 shots from the stripe all season. He's averaging 1.0 3s and steals with 0.6 blocks this month while shooting 47.3 percent from the floor after shooting 36.7 percent in January, so he is clearly growing more acclimated to his role in Miami. Battier provides ideal fantasy glue by contributing in 3s, steals and blocks with low turnovers.
Los Angeles Lakers
Troy Murphy, PF/C, Los Angeles Lakers (0.7 percent owned): He's posting unimpressive overall stats, but if you need 3s, Murphy will give you about one per game from the power forward/center spot, a position at which you don't typically find such production. This provides the ability to make up ground in the category outside of your guard slots, and with 1.1 3s per game over his past seven contests, he's heating up a bit from behind the arc. The days of 11.8 rebounds and 2.2 3s per game are ancient history, but he's played at least 20 minutes in all but three February contests and is becoming a bigger part of the Lakers' rotation, so there's reason for optimism in deep formats. He's a one-trick pony, but in leagues where Matt Bonner and Steve Novak are unavailable, Murphy provides modest 3-point contributions from an atypical roster spot, which is worth noting in deep leagues where every 3-pointer counts.
Jason Maxiell, PF/C, Detroit Pistons (0.2 percent owned): Maxiell is a talented player who has always posted solid per-minute numbers but has never been able to secure starter's minutes. For his career, he's averaged 4.1 rebounds, 0.7 blocks and 0.4 steals per game. This month, he is averaging 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 0.6 steals. He posts the occasional double-digit rebounding effort and typically one or two blocks per game in his limited minutes. He is primarily worth considering if you're in need of blocks and the typical contributors are unavailable on the waiver wire.
Chris Wilcox, PF, Boston Celtics (0.1 percent owned): Wilcox is athletic and has opportunity in the Celtics' mediocre frontcourt, with most of his value coming in his ability to score with efficiency. He's day-to-day with a right adductor strain, but before going down, he was averaging 11.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 0.8 steals in 26.8 minutes in the five games leading up to his injury. He doesn't shoot a ton, but his 61.7 percent mark from the floor ranks fourth among players with at least 3.5 attempts per game, behind Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and Tiago Splitter. For his career, he's shot 53.4 percent from the floor, and with defenses focusing on the Celtics' other weapons, he should consistently be able to score 7-10 points per game while shooting better than 60 percent from the floor now that he's averaging 20.4 minutes per game in February compared to 11.7 in January. Field goal percentage is one of the most difficult categories in which to make up ground, so if you're looking for a player to bolster your team's production in the category, Wilcox is a viable deep-league option.
A.J. Price, PG, Indiana Pacers (0.0 percent owned): Price has asserted himself with George Hill sidelined, proving to be worthy of backup point guard minutes behind Darren Collison. In his past five games, he is averaging 9.2 points, 3.4 assists, 1.6 3s and 0.8 steals in 20.4 minutes per game and has always been a nice per-minute player in 3-pointers, with a career average of 0.9 3s per game in just 15.2 minutes. During his senior year at Connecticut, he averaged 14.7 points, 4.7 assists and a whopping 2.3 3s per game, so he boasts a nice skill set and could put up standard-league worthy stats if Collison went down to injury. Coach Frank Vogel has indicated that Price could keep the backup job even when Hill returns, and if you are scraping for 3s and assists, Price has played well of late, ranking 78th on the Player Rater over the past 15 days.
Larry Sanders, PF/C, Milwaukee Bucks (0.0 percent owned): Sanders has been a per-minute blocks monster since entering the league, and his 4.4 blocks per 48 minutes rank fifth in the league among players averaging at least 10 minutes per game. The fact he blocked three shots in six minutes on Feb. 15 demonstrates the fact that he accrues swats in bunches when on the floor, and his 2.0 blocks per game over the past 15 days ranks ninth among all players. For his career, he's averaged 1.2 blocks and 0.4 steals per game in just 14.1 minutes and would be a factor in all leagues if he were seeing more playing time. For now, he's worth considering only if you're desperate for blocks in deep leagues, which is a position many find themselves in when competing in formats with 12 or more teams.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Reggie Jackson, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder (0.0 percent owned): Backup point guards have value in deep formats, as the finite number of players who contribute in assists causes owners to reach into the second string in search of dimes. Jackson is more of a speculative add than anything, as it would take a Russell Westbrook injury for him to be worth considering in 12-team leagues, but his per-minute stats have been nice for a rookie since Eric Maynor went down. If you stretch his contribution out over 30 minutes, he'd average 9.4 points, 0.8 3s, 4.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game, so if you have an open roster spot in a very deep formats, Jackson has high upside if catastrophe strikes the Thunder. His wingspan is ridiculous and the raw tools are impressive, so if Jackson ever gets an increased opportunity, he'd be an immediate contributor, especially in steals.
Brandan Wright, PF, Dallas Mavericks (0.0 percent owned): Wright has been an utter disappointment since entering the league with high expectations heaped upon him, but he's found a niche in Dallas and is averaging 1.7 blocks per game this month while shooting 55.4 percent from the floor. He swats shots at a considerable rate, as his 4.3 blocks per 48 minutes ranks sixth in the league among players averaging at least 13 minutes per game. The efficient scoring isn't an aberration, as he's a career 53.9 percent shooter from the floor. There's still some upside there, and his minutes appear to be on the rise as he's notched at least 20 in four of the Mavs' past five contests. If he can consistently see these type of minutes, he could hover around two blocks per game, so monitor his playing time as any player with those type of block totals is worth a spot in deep formats.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.