When news of Kyrie Irving's broken left index finger came out, Fantasy owners rushed to pick up his projected backup, Daniel Gibson. Gibson was owned in just 3 percent of all CBSSports.com leagues last week, a number that spiked to 22 percent before game-time Wednesday, making him the fifth-most added player in all formats.
It came as some surprise, then, that the Cavaliers turned to Jeremy Pargo to start Wednesday's game against the 76ers, the first without Irving. Gibson was dealing with a sore elbow and sat out the game, which gave Pargo the opportunity to run the offense. He took full advantage of that, scoring 28 points on just 19 shots to lead Cleveland to surprising win over Philadelphia.
That game leaves the owners who snatched Gibson in a strange position, as he is still the most accomplished and likely option to lead the Cavs' offense with Irving gone. However, Pargo has the hot hand right now, and may have earned a multi-game tryout; the Cavaliers treated the late season emergences of Donald Sloan and Lester Hudson a year ago in the same way.
Gibson has been a double-digit scorer in this league before, so Fantasy owners have to think he will eventually end up being the Cavalier's primary option at point guard. They may just have to wait until Pargo's star burns out; considering the 26-year-old has just 50 games of NBA experience to his name that might not take long. Pargo's emergence definitely puts a damper on Gibson's prospects, so Fantasy owners will not want to run out and grab him en masse until it becomes clear the Cavaliers intend to start him.
Most Added Guards
Alexey Shved, Timberwolves (55 percent owned; +37 percent): I wrote about Shved in my last Start/Sit column, calling him a worthy start for the current scoring format. Fantasy owners seem to agree, as the rookie from Russia is the most-added player in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues. With the way injuries have obliterated the Timberwolves this season, the fact that they are 22nd in the league in offensive rating should not come as much of a surprise. Shved has helped them steady the ship, and it looks like he will have to run the offense for extended periods of time, while shifting between both guard spots. If Shved can improve his three-point shooting moving forward, his ceiling this season can be even higher, and he will be able to hang on to a major role even when the rest of the Wolves get healthy. A year ago, Shved shot 43.8 percent from three-point range in 43 games for CSKA Moscow. If he can even split the difference between that and the 24.3 percent he is currently shooting, Shved could increase his scoring and create even more room to operate on the pick and roll. For now, 10.4 points and 4.2 assists per game off the waiver wires is a nice reward for owners who have scooped the 24-year-old up.
Kyle Korver, Hawks (38 percent owned; +29 percent): It is no surprise that Korver can shoot the three ball well. That has been his calling card since he entered the league 10 seasons ago, and is has held steady no matter what role he has filled. So Korver's resurgence as a Fantasy option right now is tied entirely to an increased role as a starter for the Hawks. After starting 10 out of 426 possible games over the last six seasons, Korver has been the starter for the Hawks in each game he has appeared in this year. As a result, he is scoring 10.2 points per game, his best total since 2006-07 with Philadelphia. Korver is not doing anything different for Fantasy owners to take notice; he is just getting more of an opportunity to be the player he has always been.
Jason Richardson, 76ers (75 percent owned; +17 percent): Richardson is no longer the dynamic, athletic scorer of years past, however his first few weeks in Philadelphia are showing that he is better than the shell we saw over a year-plus in Orlando. Richardson has been successful, despite barely shooting more often than he did in Orlando and doing little in the way of play-making, for himself or others. The former dunk contest winner is attempting fewer than three shots in the restricted area per game this season and he is shooting just 42.0 percent on those attempts, while his 9.0 percent assist rate is his lowest since leaving Phoenix. Despite those factors, Richardson has seen his Fantasy relevance increase, thanks to an increase in steals to 1.7 per game, while shooting a career-best 44.2 percent from three-point range. He might struggle to continue hitting threes at this rate, but the 76ers do a good job of spreading the floor and giving shooters space, so he could remain an asset.
Most Added Forwards
Harrison Barnes, Warriors (83 percent owned; +30 percent): Barnes is really starting to round into form, with a pair of double-doubles over the course of his last four games heading into Wednesday's action. He is averaging 11.5 point and 4.7 rebounds per game, while posting a solid triple-slash shooting line of 48.5/38.5/70.4. When you dig into his numbers a bit, you see why he is enjoying such success; Barnes simply avoids doing things he is not good at. Barnes is attempting just 40.6 percent of his shots between three feet of the rim and the three-point line, generally considered the least-efficient parts of the floor. He is shooting just 31.7 percent on those attempts, but is making up for that by shooting the three-point shot and getting to the rim at high rates. According to the stat-tracking site MySynergySports.com, 60.4 percent of Barnes' attempts have been either in transition, as a spot-up shooter or in the post. These are all shots designed to get him clean looks on jump shots or in the area immediately surrounding the rim. Barnes landed in a good spot on a Warriors team that can use him as a secondary offensive option, and they are putting him into spots where he can succeed. His performance might not be a fluke.
Metta World Peace, Lakers (68 percent owned; +27 percent): Like a B-horror movie villain, World Peace's Fantasy value just will not die. A year ago, he ranked 70th among all forward-eligible players in Fantasy scoring, contributing a paltry 16.0 Fantasy points per game in 64 contests. He had a broken shot, was an unwilling passer and had an anemic rebounding rate for one of the physically strongest players in the league. Undeterred by years of being an offensive black hole, the Lakers continue to feature World Peace in the offense, and so far he has held up his end of the bargain. He ranks 38th in Fantasy scoring among forwards, at 22.5 per game, while upping his rebounding and three-point shooting to respectable levels; in fact, only Nicolas Batum has made more threes than World Peace this season among forwards. I have been and remain outspoken in my skepticism of World Peace's ability to sustain this kind of offensive resurgence, but the evidence is starting to mount that he is back to respectability, at the very least.
Jason Maxiell, Pistons (32 percent owned; +17 percent): At the age of 29, with eight years of NBA experience under his belt, we know what Jason Maxiell is. He is averaging a career-best 9.8 points per game on a career-high 7.4 shot attempts per game, mostly because he is seeing more of the floor than ever. As a full-time starter, Maxiell is averaging 26.4 minutes per game; his per-36 minutes production remains well within the margins of what he has done in the past. Maxiell can sustain something close to this level of production if he continues to receive 25-plus minutes per night, but Fantasy owners should temper expectations; younger, more talented options loom in the background for a Pistons team that will likely turn an eye towards the future sooner rather than later.
Most Added Centers
Nikola Vucevic, Magic (79 percent owned; +11 percent): The Magic remain committed to their big men in this rebuilding season, with Vucevic and Glen Davis attempting 26.2 field goals per game between them. The results are not always pretty, as the team has the second-least-efficient offense in the league through 10 games, but it is leading to some surprising valuable Fantasy performances for the duo. Vucevic, in particular, is surprisingly being used as more of a centerpiece than we expected; the second-year big man is fourth on the team in minutes played and shot attempts. He has a double-double in five of 10 games, and has reached double figures in scoring in seven contests. There is little reason to think the Magic will turn away from his development in a season that they have to know is already lost.
Byron Mullens, Bobcats (89 percent owned; +8 percent): Mullens is putting up one of the strangest lines in the league through the first month of the season, as he ranks 20th in the league in rebounds per game and 16th in three-pointers attempted per game. His shooting percentages from the field and three-point range are laughably bad for the volume he is shooting, but the Bobcats seem committed to using him as a floor-stretching big. He is starting to reach the point where he is owned in nearly every league, and the production has been hard to argue with, even if it is difficult to understand. Mullens has emerged as a kind of poor-man's Ryan Anderson, and his center eligibility makes him well-worth owning.
Others notes: Other highly added players: Jason Thompson, Jordan Crawford, Marcus Morris, John Henson, Markieff Morris … Some sell-high candidates: Jamal Crawford, Metta World Peace, Kyle Korver, Anderson Varejao, A.J. Price, Larry Sanders, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chandler Parsons, Andrei Kirilenko, Glen Davis, Shannon Brown… Buy-low candidates: Tyreke Evans, Jodie Meeks, Klay Thompson, Ersan Ilyasova, Ty Lawson, Marcin Gortat.