- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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The relationship between fantasy owners' final roster spot and the waiver wire often resembles a carousel during the typical fantasy hoops season. Players on the bubble of fantasy relevance are added and dropped several times throughout the season, depending upon circumstances on both their teams as well as the fantasy teams of their potential owners. That being said, many of the players highlighted in this week's column have been recommended for pickup before but were short-term adds. Now, they're proving worthy of that final roster spot once again, and down the stretch utilization of games played and that final roster spot makes all the difference in your standings.
Additionally, there are several players who at one point in the season were owned in nearly all leagues but were widely dropped because of injury or poor play. These players break my rule of highlighting those owned in less than one-third of leagues, but I feel it's worth spotlighting them for those leagues in which they are available. Let's take a look at some of the top players to target on the waiver wire this week:
Devin Harris, PG, Utah Jazz (70.3 percent owned): After starting as perhaps the biggest bust of the season, with an average draft position of 66 and single-digit scoring with epic drop-offs in field goal attempts, free throw attempts and percentage and 3-pointers, Harris is worth owning again. He's averaging 14.2 points, 5.2 assists, 1.4 3-pointers and 1.6 steals per game in his past five, and although he'll need to explode for the second half to make it up to fantasy owners who spent a mid-round pick on him, he's ranked 15th on the Player Rater over the past 15 days and deserves a spot on all fantasy rosters.
Gerald Henderson, SG/SF, Charlotte Bobcats (37.2 percent owned): Despite his lack of impressive peripherals, it's difficult to find 15 points per game on the waiver wire, and that's what Henderson is capable of providing on a consistent basis. He missed nine games with a bum hammy and was widely dropped, but returned to the Bobcats' lineup Wednesday and promptly hoisted 13 shot attempts and will provide much needed offense for the floundering Bobcats. His lack of 3s limits his value, although the fact he doesn't hurt your field goal percentage (46.4 percent from the floor), as well as the 0.9 steals per game he offers, make him worth owning in any league if you need scoring.
Andray Blatche, PF/C, Washington Wizards (32.6 percent owned): Blatche's mercurial nature is maddening to fantasy owners who see his stats from last April -- 23.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 1.3 blocks, 50.3 percent from the floor -- and expect so much more than he consistently provides. He's set to return from a calf injury that's kept him sidelined since Jan. 28, and even though he's frustrating to own he's worth it when healthy because of his high ceiling. The distribution of playing time in Washington is as erratic as the personalities of many of its players, and Blatche has the tools to step in and immediately average 18 points and nine rebounds for the rest of the season if things are clicking. Don't expect him to do that, but he'll put up roster-worthy numbers, has eligibility at power forward and center and has too much upside to be unowned when healthy.
Brandon Bass, PF/C, Boston Celtics (31.2 percent owned): Bass is the classic example of a player on the bubble who is worthy of owning when he's healthy but difficult to hang onto if he's going to miss time. He was dropped in most formats when he missed six games in mid-February with a knee injury, then he came back to a gift-wrapped gig in the starting lineup with Jermaine O'Neal sidelined indefinitely with a wrist injury. With Bass it's all about percentages, and with career marks of 49.6 percent from the floor and 82.0 percent from the stripe, he's the rare 50/80 percent player who helps significantly in both categories. He doesn't provide much, other than double-digit scoring and percentages, but his 0.7 blocks and 0.4 steals per game are just enough that he's not a complete sinkhole in the defensive categories. He's averaging career highs across the board, and now that he's back and starting he is worthy of a spot on any team that needs help in percentages.
Gustavo Ayon, PF, New Orleans Hornets (10.2 percent owned): Ayon is good for defensive stats only but averaged 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.3 steals in 25.6 minutes per game in February and appears entrenched as the starting power forward in New Orleans. In Europe last season, he averaged 6.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game in 23.0 minutes, so his ability to contribute in three categories is legit, and he has nowhere to go but up. He was dropped in many leagues after a string of four consecutive single-digit scoring efforts, but he remained solid in the defensive categories during that stint, and that's what you own him for. Feel free to spend a roster spot on Ayon if you're set in offensive stats but need help in boards, steals and blocks.
Nikola Vucevic, PF/C, Philadelphia 76ers (5.7 percent owned): Spencer Hawes is out for at least another two weeks, so Vucevic will continue to see decent minutes off the bench. He boasts legitimate back-to-the-basket ability and averaged a respectable 7.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 0.5 steals while shooting 53.3 percent from the floor in 18.8 minutes per game in February. Last season at USC, he averaged 17.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 0.5 steals and even 0.9 3s per game then averaged 16.8 points per game in Europe. He flashed some of that ability on Feb. 22, with 18 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes, and the Sixers are committed to developing him after spending the 16th overall pick on him. If you need decent boards, blocks and field goal percentage, he's worth a deep-league spot at least while Hawes is out.
Brendan Haywood, C, Dallas Mavericks (3.4 percent owned): Haywood's got a window to establish some value with Dirk Nowitzki questionable for Friday's game with a tweaked back and Lamar Odom away from the team for the next few games. He has played well recently, too, averaging 9.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 0.8 steals per game in his past five. He's worth considering only if you're desperate for a center, but he's scored in double figures in consecutive games, the first time he's done so since 2010.
Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks (2.7 percent owned): He's definitely not flashy, but Dunleavy scores with consistency, notching double digits in eight of his past 12 games with February averages of 11.1 points and 1.3 3s per game. He doesn't kill your shooting percentage with a 44.7 percent clip, but he shoots better than 80 percent from the stripe and averages just 1.0 turnover per game, so even though he doesn't provide steals or blocks he gives you consistent double-digit scoring without hurting you anywhere. He's coming off a 28-point, five 3-pointer effort on Tuesday and is a cheap source of scoring who does nothing to instill excitement in fantasy owners but provides help in a category that is scarce on the waiver wire.
Brandon Rush, SG/SF, Golden State Warriors (2.4 percent owned): Rush's value is markedly higher in turnover formats, as he quietly averaged 1.2 3s, 0.7 blocks and 0.8 steals per game with just 0.3 turnovers in February. Given the fact that Dorell Wright has been all over the place this season and seen his minutes fluctuate accordingly, Rush provides some stability and will continue seeing significant minutes for the Warriors. Players who average more 3s, steals and blocks than turnovers are rare, so if you need a bump in a few statistical areas but can't stomach any added turnovers, Rush provides just that. Don't expect consistent scoring, but if you need some peripheral stats and a player who doesn't hurt you anywhere (48.5 percent from the floor, 77.3 percent from the stripe, 0.9 turnovers per game), Rush is nice glue at the guard position in turnover leagues.
Daniel Green, SG, San Antonio Spurs (1.5 percent owned): On the surface, Green is more appealing with Manu Ginobili sidelined. However, in the four games that Ginobili played between injuries, Green played at least 21 minutes in each and has scored in double figures in three of the four contests, so he should retain his value even when Ginobili comes back. He's experienced the typical ups and downs that occur when a player sees big playing time for the first time in his career, but he's been performing well lately, averaging 10.8 points, 1.6 3s and 1.2 steals per game in his past five. My favorite aspect of Green's game is his 0.7 blocks per game, which is backed by his 1.3 blocks per game as a senior at UNC and the fact he's establishing a reputation as a stout defender. It's difficult to get blocks from the guard position, so if you're engaged in a tight swats race, Green provides them from an atypical position and shouldn't see his numbers affected much upon Ginobili's impending return.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Josh Whitling discusses players who had been dropped earlier this season, only to regain value and increase ownership in recent weeks.