- Brian McKitish, Fantasy Basketball
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Boy, we are an impatient bunch, aren't we? In preparation for this column, I typically peruse the most added/dropped list (a great tool by the way) to get a better idea of what is going on in the fantasy world. For the most part, what I see on the list comes as no surprise, but every once in a while I'm flat-out stunned.
Case in point: Devin Harris has been dropped in 17.3 percent of ESPN leagues during the past week. Huh? OK, I understand that he had a few rough games (including consecutive 4-point efforts earlier in the week), but hasn't the point guard proven that he's talented enough to go through a mini-slump and still be owned in fantasy leagues? Here's a guy who averaged 16.3 points, 5.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game through the month of November, and he's now available in almost 20 percent of ESPN leagues.
If you're wondering why he's been a little off his game, it's probably because opposing defenders are starting to back off Harris on the perimeter in an effort to limit his ability to get into the lane. Harris has struggled to adapt, but fear not, this is merely an adjustment period for the lightning-quick point guard. Soon enough, he'll start knocking down some midrange jumpers, thus forcing opponents to play him a little tighter on the perimeter. I have little doubt that he'll bounce back, and those owners who dropped him will want to rush back out to the wire and scoop him back up before it's too late.
Kenyon Martin, PF, Nuggets (31.9 percent owned): I was able to catch some of the Denver-Miami game last Sunday and came away impressed with Martin's explosiveness in a 20-point, 8-rebound, 2-steal, 1-block performance. His effort prompted me to mention him at the end of last week's column, and Martin has continued to produce with 14.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 2.0 blocks per game during his past five. Sounds a little like the K-Mart of old, doesn't it? Here's the thing, Martin actually looks like the K-Mart of old for the first time since undergoing multiple knee surgeries. Martin was widely known for throwing down vicious jams and playing tenacious D back in his heyday, and that's exactly what he's doing right now. In fact, Martin's explosive dunks even prompted Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post to joke "forget a bone bruise in Kenyon Martin's knee, Nuggets fans should worry about a bone bruise in his hands." Of course, there's no guarantee that his knees will be able to hold up during the course of a full season, but anyone who remembers the old K-Mart knows that he'd be well worth the investment as long as he can keep himself healthy. One thing is for sure: he looks as healthy as he has in years right now.
Francisco Garcia, SG/SF, Kings (18.4 percent owned): Making his third appearance in this space this season, Garcia has had quite the up-and-down year thus far. His erratic play, however, is mostly due to a lack of consistent minutes rather than anything else. Kevin Martin's groin injury will again open the door for Garcia to put up quality fantasy numbers for at least the next 4-6 weeks. Most owners ran out to grab John Salmons as soon as they learned of Martin's injury (and he's definitely the best add here, though he's probably gone at this point), but don't forget about Garcia, who will be the first man off the bench for Reggie Theus' Kings. Garcia has proven to be a very capable fantasy player when he's seeing minutes, averaging 18.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.6 blocks and 0.7 3-pointers in games in which he's seen 30 minutes or more this season.
Darko Milicic, PF/C, Grizzlies (32.3 percent owned): Darko is far from an unknown in the fantasy game, which makes it all the more surprising to see him available in nearly 70 percent of ESPN leagues. Darko hasn't had a great season thus far, but he was pretty solid averaging 10.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.9 blocks in eight games to start the season before missing his next seven contests with a sprained ankle. He's had a little trouble getting back into the flow offensively since his return last week, but he's still blocking shots, and should be able to return to scoring around 10-12 points per game once he gets back up to game speed. It is important to note that the Grizzlies seem to want Darko to succeed, as they've benched the red-hot Juan Carlos Navarro to make room for the big man in the frontcourt. It is clear that Darko is going to log around 30 minutes per game this season, so there's no reason he can't average 10 points, 8 boards and 2 blocks per game going forward.
If You're Hardcore
There's no doubt that Larry Hughes has been more than disappointing since coming over to the Cavaliers, but he can still be a solid player in deeper leagues provided that he's actually on the court. Hughes can still create steals at a high rate (1.7 per game), and he returned to action after an 11-game absence with a nice 22-point, 2-steal performance Saturday night in Charlotte. Just make sure you're aware that he could go down with another injury at any time.
Maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves are finally figuring out that they need to play their young rising stars. Both Craig Smith and Corey Brewer are starting to earn more minutes as the 3-15 Wolves seem to be slowly working their youngsters into the starting lineup. Smith looks to be the safer gamble of the two, going off for 18.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in 31.5 minutes over his past two games while Brewer will offer more upside due to his versatility. The rookie has put up 6.0 points, 14.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.0 steals in 37.5 minutes in the Wolves' past two contests.
Kurt Thomas is still gobbling up rebounds in Seattle, but then again, so is Nick Collison. Collison returned from a broken nose Wednesday with a dominant 18-point, 17-rebound effort, then followed it up with a 12-point, 8-rebound performance Friday against the Bucks. This is all business as usual for Collison, who will go off from time to time, but usually settles into his normal 10-point, 8-rebound self in the long run.
I'd really like to stay away from all Seattle point guards, but it's hard to ignore Earl Watson when he's averaging 10.6 points and 7.6 assists per game over his past five. Watson makes for a nice short-term addition, but his stats will likely suffer once Luke Ridnour and Delonte West are back at full strength. Ridnour returned to action Sunday night, but will likely take at least a week for him to get back into the flow of things, so Watson should be useful for at least a few more games.
A lot of folks have been asking about both Dorell Wright and Daequan Cook in Miami. Both have some upside, but neither is refined enough to offer much consistency in fantasy leagues. I guess in deeper formats, Wright is worth a flier, as long as you are aware that he's a high-risk/high-reward gamble.
Rasual Butler and Julian Wright will see more time in New Orleans due to injuries to both Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson. I don't think either will have too much value, but if you're forced into grabbing one, Butler is the guy you want. He has more experience and proved that he could be a decent fill-in last year.
Don't write off Anderson Varejao just because he's been missing in action for the first month of the season. He has the potential to be a big-time rebounder, and although it will likely take him some time to get back into game shape, he's definitely one to keep an eye on during the next few weeks to see where he fits in the rotation.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.
Brian McKitish discusses the hottest free agents in fantasy hoops, including the revitalized Kenyon Martin.