Planning ahead for injuries
Now that we're about three-quarters of the way through this unpredictable season, team lineups have found relative stability and, for the most part, players aren't going to come out of nowhere and claim big minutes unless an injury occurs. A critical strategy when adding and dropping players is forward thinking when injuries do strike, and proactively rostering those players who will most likely benefit before they post that first big game and become a hot commodity. This is especially the case if the injured player happens to be on your roster, leaving you with a hole to fill.
The majority of these widely available options are reaping the benefits of injuries to members of the starting lineup. Let's take a look at some waiver-wire options that have surfaced for the stretch run:
J.J. Hickson, PF/C, Portland Trail Blazers (20.0 percent owned): A late-round pick in most fantasy drafts, Hickson's season was a disaster with Sacramento until he was waived and subsequently claimed by the Blazers. He fell into an ideal situation: The Blazers' frontcourt is thin after they shipped away Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby. And Hickson has scored in double digits in three of his past four contests, equaling the number of times he did so all season with the Kings. There's some talent here; last season he averaged 13.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 0.7 blocks and 0.6 steals and appeared as if his game was steadily improving and he might even be on the verge of a breakout. That didn't happen, but the underlying skill set is still there, and now that he seems to have secured 20-plus minutes per game in Portland, Hickson should provide some scoring and boards with solid but unspectacular steals and blocks. In his four games with the Blazers, he's averaging 12.8 points -- as opposed to 4.7 points with the Kings -- and despite the small sample size, it's clear his production is on the rise and he's fantasy-relevant once again.
C.J. Miles, SG/SF, Utah Jazz (6.6 percent owned): Miles has demonstrated the ability to score off the bench all season, but with a season-ending injury to Josh Howard and with Raja Bell currently dinged-up, he's starting at shooting guard for the Jazz and has scored in double figures in three of the past four contests. He's averaging 9.2 points, 0.8 3-pointers and 0.9 steals in just 20.6 minutes this season, and with the Jazz backcourt whittled down by injuries, he should see more time and be able to produce double-digit points consistently with some 3s and steals. In eight starts this season, he's averaging 1.1 3s and 1.5 steals and averaging one more shot attempt per game than when coming off the bench. So if he continues getting the nod, look for his numbers to improve.
Anthony Tolliver, PF/C, Minnesota Timberwolves (1.8 percent owned): Tolliver has had stints of productivity in the past: he averaged 10.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 0.6 3s last April, and two seasons ago he averaged 14.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.1 3s and 1.0 blocks in 24 starts. With Nikola Pekovic sidelined by an ankle injury, Tolliver has stepped in and averaged 12.4 points on 57.1 percent shooting from the floor with 1.0 3s and 1.0 blocks in his past five contests. He is valuable in a unique way because of his ability to provide both 3s and blocks. His glory might be short-lived, but while Pekovic is sidelined, he's definitely worth a spot on any team in need of some scoring and rebounding along with 3s and blocks.
Joel Anthony, C, Miami Heat (1.5 percent owned): Anthony isn't well rounded, but he provides blocks with some steals, and those numbers have risen in each month of the season. He averaged 1.1 blocks and 0.4 steals in January, 1.5 and 0.5 in February and now 1.8 and 0.9 in March. He won't provide scoring or boards, and he doesn't shoot enough for his high field goal percentage to have an impact. But for teams in need of defensive stats, those March numbers are useful. He's playing even better as of late, with 2.1 blocks per game over his past nine contests, so if you're looking for swats but guys like Bismack Biyombo and Ekpe Udoh are taken, the less-flashy but consistent Anthony is a viable option.
Shannon Brown, SG, Phoenix Suns (1.5 percent owned): Many have wondered by Brown isn't playing more after the Suns inked him to a free-agent contract this offseason. It looks as if the team finally got the memo. His 21.5 points per 48 minutes is ahead of unquestioned fantasy starters like Ty Lawson and Roy Hibbert, and after dropping 32 points with five 3s on Tuesday, people are taking note. He's grabbed the starting shooting guard job with Jared Dudley shifting up to small forward since Grant Hill is sidelined. If Brown continues scoring the way he has recently, the team will have no choice but to keep giving him increased playing time. He's scored in double figures in four of his past five contests, is averaging 11.2 points and 1.0 3s in March, and has dropped 14 3s in his past nine contests. In four starts this season, Brown is averaging a ridiculous 19.0 points and 2.5 3s, so even though it's unclear what his playing time will be for the rest of the season, he's worth a speculative add to any team that needs points; he could average more than 15 per game if given consistent opportunities.
Charles Jenkins, PG, Golden State Warriors (1.2 percent owned): Jenkins has been thrust into a significant role in Golden State with Stephen Curry sidelined and Monta Ellis out of the picture. He has flashed his ability to contribute over the past five games, averaging 11.0 points on 51.1 percent shooting from the floor with 3.8 assists per game. He and Nate Robinson will split point guard duties in Golden State for now; given Robinson's erratic nature, Jenkins should be in line for some solid contests that make him worth a flier in deeper formats. He averaged 22.6 points on 51.7 percent shooting, 4.8 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 2.0 3s last season at Hofstra. He recently flashed the ability to score on the next level, dropping 27 points with six assists last Sunday. He's also averaged a promising 0.4 steals in just 11.7 minutes per game, so although he's not attempting many 3s at this level right now (which helps him shoot 48.0 percent from the floor), he can score as well as get dimes and steals.
Gary Forbes, SG/SF, Toronto Raptors (1.0 percent owned): Forbes' basketball tale is one made for a feel-good Disney flick (I'm a company man). He went undrafted out of UMass and ground his way into the league, playing on several levels in a variety of exotic locales. After balling in such places as Venezuela, Italy and Greece, he dominated in the D-League. He eventually made the Nuggets last season, playing well enough to earn a contract with the Raptors this year. He's clearly motivated to work hard, and with Jerryd Bayless out for the season, Forbes has become an important part of the Raps' rotation, hitting double-digit points in four straight games. He's averaging 15.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 3s in that span, and has a skill set that includes the ability to score, board and knock down treys. He averaged 19.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.6 3s, 1.1 steals and 0.7 blocks his senior season in college, and is at 0.4 3s and 0.5 steals this season in just 13.1 minutes. Now that he's seeing more looks, he could average one per game in each, with nice scoring and rebounding. It may have taken injuries for Forbes to emerge as an option, but his inspirational rise from international journeyman to legitimate NBA player doesn't solely have box-office potential, but fantasy implications as well.
Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, New Orleans Hornets (0.3 percent owned): Aminu has been pretty terrible this season after being a critical cog in the Chris Paul/Eric Gordon trade, but is still a vital part of the Hornets' future in an ideal world, so he should continue getting a chance to show what he can do. With Trevor Ariza sidelined, he has increased opportunity, and some of his stats are promising, like the 0.7 blocks and 0.7 steals he's averaging this month. Aminu played 30 minutes Thursday despite foul trouble, and it's looking as if Ariza will sit the remainder of the team's road trip, meaning the earliest he'll return is April 4. That gives Aminu a few games to play big minutes. Even if he doesn't blow us away, he should put up a nice combination of steals and blocks from the small forward slot, and continue to see decent minutes for the rest of the season as the Hornets look to the future and evaluate their assets.