- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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In these waning days of the season, one way to maximize the production of your fantasy team is to be mindful of the priorities of actual NBA teams. Playoff contenders, especially those with aging vets such as the Spurs and Celtics, will likely rest their players more than usual, so borderline fantasy players on those teams' benches could see an uptick in value. Additionally, players on playoff teams with minor injuries will be handled gingerly in order to ensure they're at full strength when it counts, so don't be surprised if slightly dinged players sit more than they would if it were February.
On the flip side, lottery-bound teams are focused on the future and likely will give the players most firmly entrenched in their long-term plans as many minutes as possible. Pay keen attention to minute distribution in these final games, as it'll differ significantly from season averages, and opportunities to capitalize as a fantasy owner will surface.
Here are this week's widely available players who can help your team make one final push:
Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver Nuggets (34.8 percent owned): In order to truly appreciate and properly evaluate players, it's important to watch them play. When doing so, some players stand out from the rest for one reason or another. Faried is one of those players, as it looks like somebody's pressing the turbo button from NBA Jam at all times, as he scurries around more quickly than other bigs and jumps higher than essentially everybody on the court. This translates into his hustle stats, especially his rebounding, as his rate of 16.2 rebounds per 48 minutes ranks sixth in the league. During his past 10 contests, he's picked up his production, with 8.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals per game, numbers accrued almost sheerly upon athleticism and motor. His offensive game is a work in progress, his shot is ugly, and it'll take some time before Faried is an all-around player. But his style of play lends itself to collecting defensive stats, and he's cemented himself as a key cog in the Nuggets' rotation as a rookie. If you're looking for boards with some steals, blocks, efficient field goal percentage (57.9 for the season) and the occasional highlight dunk, Faried is your man.
Avery Bradley, PG/SG, Boston Celtics (30.6 percent owned): Bradley was about as highly touted as a high school prospect can be, ranking No. 1 in ESPNU's top 100 in 2009, before going one-and-done at Texas, where he averaged 11.6 points, 2.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 3-pointers per game in his lone season. His staunch defense and scoring ability have kept him in the starting lineup, where he started as a fill-in due to injuries, pushing Ray Allen to the sixth-man role. Bradley has thrived recently, with 19.0 points and 2.2 3s per game over his past five contests. In 25 starts this season, he's averaging 11.8 points, 0.9 steals and 0.7 3s while shooting 51.7 percent from the floor and 80.5 percent from the stripe. His double-digit scoring with excellent percentages is what stands out, as there isn't a single peripheral stat in which he dominates, but he quietly scores with fantastic efficiency. He's shooting 40 percent from behind the arc as well, and nearly has a percentage slash line of 50/40/80 in just his second season, an impressive feat. If you need efficient scoring with decent 3s and steals, Bradley is undoubtedly worth a roster spot.
Tiago Splitter, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs (8.2 percent owned): Splitter is one of the most efficient scorers in the league, ranking third in field goal percentage among those with at least 300 shot attempts behind Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan. He's scoring at a mad rate recently, with a mark of 66 percent for his past 10. As Tim Duncan is set to rest down the stretch, he should see increased playing time as the regular season comes to a close. He's having an excellent month, playing 17.5 minutes per game, the same mark as March, but shooting 66.7 percent compared to 57.7 percent in March. His 17 points and seven rebounds on Wednesday illustrate what he can do with increased minutes, and even though he's yet to establish the ability to put up all-around numbers with any sort of consistency, his field goal shooting makes him a viable option for teams in need of a boost in that category.
Jason Smith, PF, New Orleans Hornets (7.2 percent owned): His field goal percentage is by far his best category on the Player Rater, and Smith is scoring with superb efficiency as of late, with 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 0.6 blocks per game over his past 10 contests to go along with a .592 field goal percentage. He's benefited from injuries to the Hornets' roster and seems to score in double figures every other game. There isn't much flash to his game, and although he provides modest rebounds, steals and blocks, none of his other categories stand out as especially helpful. However, if you're looking for a player who will consistently make more than half his shots and average double-digit scoring, Smith has surfaced as a deep-league option.
Delonte West, PG/SG, Dallas Mavericks (6.5 percent owned): West is a critical component to the Mavs' success as a two-way player, and has heated up as of late after missing most of March with a finger injury. He's averaging 15.2 points, 2.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.6 3s per game in his past five, and has hit double-digit points in all but two April contests, playing 28.5 minutes per game this month. He has a well-rounded skill set, not wowing you in any category, but consistently demonstrating the ability to score as well as get assists, steals and 3s. Jason Kidd is another veteran who could see his minutes limited as the Mavs gear up for a playoff run, so look for West to be leaned upon heavily and put up solid all-around numbers, including excellent percentages. He's shooting 51.4 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the stripe in April, and while he won't blow you away in any one category, he provides nice glue stats for teams looking to add statistical stability off the waiver wire.
Markieff Morris, PF, Phoenix Suns (2.1 percent owned): The promising rookie is playing 21.6 minutes per game in April and upping his performance lately with double-digit scoring in five of his past seven games. His April averages of 9.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, 0.5 steals and 0.5 3s per game demonstrate his ability to contribute in a variety of categories. Down the road, Morris projects as a potential 1/1/1 guy in 3s, steals and blocks. Right now, he's worth a look only if you need a little bit of assistance in a lot of categories, as he won't provide significant help anywhere, but can have well-rounded stat lines in his limited minutes.
Sebastian Telfair, PG, Phoenix Suns (1.4 percent owned): Telfair was once viewed as a future All-Star, but he's settled as a solid role player and backup for Steve Nash in Phoenix, where he's playing well in around 20 minutes per game. He's averaging 8.3 points, 3.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.6 3s per game in April, and is worth owning in deeper leagues for those in search of assists. Once you get past the starting point guards, assists can be especially difficult to find off the waiver wire, and Telfair consistently gives 3-4 per night in his reserve role. The Suns are unlikely to bombard Nash with heavy minutes down the stretch, so look for Telfair to continue providing consistent numbers as a reliable backup. If you need dimes and all the obvious names are gone, Bassy is worth a look in deep formats.
Alan Anderson, SF, Toronto Raptors (0.1 percent owned): He hasn't played in the league since 2006-07, and has been all over the world playing in Israel, Russia, Italy and the D-League, but now he's surfaced as a nice scoring option for the Raptors. Originally signed to a 10-day contract, Anderson was signed by the Raptors for the rest of the season. It's paying dividends, as Anderson has six straight games with at least 12 points, and over his past five is averaging 13.6 points, 1.8 3s, 0.4 steals and 0.4 blocks per game. He's not an option in standard formats, but in deep leagues any player who's consistently scoring in double figures and provides 3s is worth a look. Anderson is just that, as he's reaping the benefits of Andrea Bargnani's injury.
Jordan Williams, PF, New Jersey Nets (0.1 percent owned): Just add him to the list of players with the surname "Williams" on the Nets, as Jordan has become a major part of the team's frontcourt late in the season. He demonstrated ability at Maryland, where he averaged 16.9 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 0.7 steals per game last season against stiff competition, and has performed well in his increased role, with averages of 7.4 points on 50.0 percent shooting, 6.2 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 1.0 steal per game over his past five contests. With nice averages of 0.9 blocks and 0.7 steals per game in April, Williams is a legitimate option for very deep leagues if you're in need of defensive stats, and with the Nets undoubtedly looking toward the future, he should see consistent run the rest of the way.
Josh Whitling offers up last-ditch waiver-wire options for the final days of the fantasy season.