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Waiver Wire: Time to make a title run

Fantasy Writer
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With the Fantasy playoffs beginning either this week or next for most leagues, we're just about done analyzing the waiver wires. At this point in the season, you should feel pretty comfortable in the roster you have put together, and there will likely not be many tweaks you can make that will significantly impact your bottom line.

The biggest impact over the last few weeks of the season will likely be how teams deal with injuries and rest, as teams either jockey for postseason positioning or play out the string on a trip to the lottery. So far, we have seen injuries change plenty of player's Fantasy outlook, with just one recent example being the continuing health issues with Cleveland's star point guard, Kyrie Irving.

Irving has cemented himself as a sure-fire top-10 Fantasy guard in all Fantasy formats, but he has been remarkably injury-prone in his two NBA seasons, a trend that also extends to his brief college career at Duke. Irving will miss three to four weeks with a shoulder injury, pretty much ending his Fantasy season and leaving many owners scrambling to find a replacement option. Many have naturally turned to Irving's backup, Shaun Livingston, who was the third-most added player in CBSSports.com Fantasy Basketball leagues over the last week.

Livingston had his own once promising career nearly ended thanks to injuries, but he has managed to make his way back into the league as a serviceable backup. Despite his comeback story, it is not clear how much upside he has as a Fantasy replacement for Irving down the stretch. Livingston looked good in his first start after Irving went down, putting up 12 points and six assists against the Wizards Tuesday, but there is plenty of reason to doubt whether he can be a useful option moving forward.

Livingston has now started eight games for the Cavs and has some pretty lackluster numbers, even while playing a not insignificant number of minutes. Livingston is averaging 29.4 minutes per game in his starts, and is averaging just 9.1 points and 3.1 assists per game. Those are decent numbers, but nothing that suggest Fantasy owners have any reason to run out and grab him.

Irving's injury is going to change the shape of more than a few Fantasy playoff runs, but probably not because Livingston is available on the waiver wires for the taking. Livingston is more of a game manager than anything at this point; expect the Cavs to rely heavily on rookie Dion Waiters down the stretch. Waiters has a far better chance of changing he course of the final four weeks of your Fantasy season than Livingston, though he is almost certainly not available at this point.

Most Added Guards

Marco Belinelli, Bulls The Bulls have basically had three reliable Fantasy options on the roster this season, with a motley crew of role players making sporadic contributions to fill out the rest of the roster. Belinelli has been a member of the latter group, with his utility fluctuating greatly throughout the season. His scoring averages for each month of the season are as follows: 5.2, 14.1, 8.0, 10.1. He seems to be peaking yet again in March so far, as the Bulls have been forced to rely on him heavily with Richard Hamilton dealing with injuries yet again. In five games so far, Belinelli is averaging 16.2 points and 4.6 assists per game in 40.4 minutes. The Bulls kind of remain in a holding pattern this season with Derrick Rose still trying to decide when he can return from his knee surgery, so Belinelli's Fantasy value could conceivably go a number of ways. Fantasy owners who are still considering adding him will need to keep an eye on Hamilton's availability; Belinelli averaged 15.1 points per game as a starter, and just 7.9 off the bench. (32 percent owned; +21 percent)

Eric Maynor, Trail Blazers: As a member of the Thunder, Maynor enjoyed an outsized reputation as a contributor to a budding juggernaut, but whatever impact he made failed to show up in the box score with any regularity. He was always a passable backup point guard, but rarely made much noise in Fantasy circles. Things have changed a bit in Portland, as he 25-year-old finally looks healthy and has been playing a larger role since a deadline-day trade. The Blazers already feel comfortable enough with Maynor around to throw him in dual point guard lineups next to Rookie of the Year favorite Damian Lillard; more than half of Maynor's minutes have come next to Lillard, and he is averaging 16.7 points per-36 minutes in that time. Now that Maynor is not relegated solely to a reserve role, he is starting to look more attractive for Fantasy owners. Having said that, he remains confined to the lower rungs of the Fantasy ladder. (20 percent owned; +17 percent)

Avery Bradley, Celtics: Bradley has stepped up in Rajon Rondo's absence, however his impact does not show up in a big way for Fantasy owners. Over the 19 game since Rondo went down with a knee injury, Bradley is averaging 10.8 points per game, as compared to 8.1 per game prior to the injury. Unfortunately, despite being the starting point guard, Bradley's Fantasy appeal remains limited; he is averaging 19.6 Fantasy points per game in that stretch, a number that would rank just 65th among all guards for the season. Bradley's improvements have made him more than useful in deeper formats, but it appears as if his upside remains limited. The Celtics have opted not to have Bradley do much of their playmaking, leaving him instead to operate off the ball while focusing on defense. Despite being the starter, Bradley is unlikely to force his way onto the roster in much more than half of Fantasy leagues. (49 percent owned; +7 percent)

19.6

Most Added Forwards

Ed Davis, Grizzlies: It should not come as much of a surprise that Davis has once again thrived when minutes have come his way. Despite being extremely limited offensively, Davis averaged a double-double per 36 minutes in his first two seasons, prior to breaking out with the Raptors this season. After being traded to Memphis, he found himself buried behind a pair of All-Star big men, only playing due to an injury to Zach Randolph. Having a third big with Davis' ability is a huge boon for the Grizzlies down the stretch, but his place on the depth chart also ensures that his Fantasy value will remain tied to the health of those ahead of him. Randolph returned to the lineup Thursday from an ankle injury, so expect Davis to revert once again to a reserve role. Davis averaged 4.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in 13 appearances off the bench prior to Randolph's injury, so he could lose whatever Fantasy value he has left pretty quickly now that Randolph is healthy. (40 percent owned; +14 percent)

Trevor Ariza, Wizards: Ariza is enjoying a strong run of scoring recently, averaging 14.0 points per game over the last five games and 13.9 over the last 10, which has led Fantasy owners to scoop him up. Ariza has been fueled by a hot shooting run that is almost certainly not going to last, as the career 32.1 percent three-point shooter is nailing his attempts at a 43.5 percent clip. Point guard John Wall's ability to find his teammates high percentage looks has been covered in this column this season, but even he isn't the type of wizard that can magically turn Ariza into an elite long-range gunner. Slightly more of Ariza's attempts have been from the coveted corner areas than normal during this run, but that has not been enough to explain his increased value. Fantasy owners should not trust Ariza's improvement long term. (55 percent owned; +13 percent)

Dorell Wright, 76ers: As with most of the players on the list at this point, Wright's recent improvement has been the result of an injury ahead of him in the depth chart. Wright lost his spot in the rotation earlier in the season to Nick Young, who has been dealing with an ankle injury. In seven games since Young went down, Wright is averaging 13.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, reaching double figures in scoring in all but one game. The team has not given much of an indication as to when Young will be able to return, but Wright's Fantasy value will obviously depend on that. Coach Doug Collins does not seem particularly comfortable relying on Wright for big minutes if he does not have to, so he could return to irrelevancy as soon as Young is healthy enough to knock him back out of the rotation. (32 percent owned; +8 percent)

Most Added Centers

Jermaine O'Neal, Suns: O'Neal continued his forward trajectory over the last week, despite sitting out four games in a row due to a family issues. It helped that Marcin Gortat suffered what could end up being a season-ending injury during his time, as O'Neal is now he only thing resembling an NBA-caliber center on the roster. O'Neal probably is not capable of playing more than 25 or so minutes per night, but the Suns will be sure to try to get everything they can out of him, with their other options being Luis Scola and Hamed Haddadi. O'Neal averaged 11.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in he month of February while backing up Gortat, and I think he could improve on those numbers across the board as the team's primary center. (51 percent owned; +9 percent)

Byron Mullens, Bobcats: Mullens lost his starting job to Josh McRoberts. I guess I have to write more about why Mullens' Fantasy value is currently in freefall, but that sums things up about as well as any 150-word write up could. Mullens' season-long obsession with low-efficiency jump shots, along with a lingering minor knee injury, has finally cost him his place in coach Mike Dunlap's rotation, as he is averaging just 13.1 minutes per game in seven March games. The Bobcats have a miserable offense, and Mullens is far too big a part of it. The team ranks just 28th in the league in three-point attempts, and they have Mullens attempting 17.8 percent of them, despite shooting just 31.4 percent on those shots. Mullens has been given plenty of opportunities to prove his worth, but has done precious little to improve his performance as the season has gone on. Mullens has fewer points than field-goal attempts this season, a sure-fire sign that his season has been nothing short of a disaster. When Mullens was getting the opportunity, he put up decent Fantasy numbers out of the center position, but he is probably not worth hanging if you have any real championship aspirations down the stretch. (88 percent owned; -12 percent)

Miscellanea: A number of high-end Fantasy options remain out, but with the possibility that they may return to the floor still open. Here are my best guesses on what type of impact they may have. ... Derrick Rose: His has been one of the league's extended soap operas, as the Bulls and Rose often do not seem to be on the same page. The issue with Rose has been and continues to be that he has been cleared to play medically, but remains unwilling to return until he feels confident in his physical ability. He could return before you read this, but he also may not play until next season, and there is simply no way of knowing. ... Kyrie Irving: Probably could return this season, given the 3-4 week timetable, but you have to wonder whether the Cavs would risk it, given his injury history. I wouldn't bank my season on it. ... Danny Granger: Granger never looked healthy even in the five games he played, and the Pacers have no reason to push him until the playoffs. Don't expect much… Kevin Love: The rest of the injured Timberwolves appear close to returning, but we do not know when Love's target date is. Stay tuned, however, as he is expected to visit his surgeon Wednesday, with the possibility that he may get some good news. He looks likely to return before the end of the month, and could carry you through the championship round. ... Glen Davis: Davis' name still feels out of place among the rest of these titans, but he was enjoying a fine season, averaging 15.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game as a center. Unfortunately, it seems like he may not have enough time to recover from his broken foot in order to help you. ... Andrew Bynum: I don't know, neither do you, neither do the Sixers, and neither does Andrew. Not worth speculating on anymore, but don't count on seeing him. ... Pau Gasol: Took part in shoot around Tuesday, seems no more than a few weeks away. I'm not sure how he will fit in with the Lakers, but Gasol's talent is no secret. He could absolutely swing a Fantasy championship round, and is worth hanging on to or adding if available.

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