The Lakers have been one of the biggest surprises of the season, turning into the kind of fast-paced, system-drive offense that Mike D'Antoni has long been known for. The implications for Fantasy have been fascinating, with a different offensive star emerging on a seemingly weekly basis -- no one player ranks in the top 30 in field-goal attempts this season, and eight different players are attempting at least 7.5 field goals per game.
As a result of their team-first offense, the Lakers have been waiver-wire gold this season. At different points throughout the first six weeks, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Jordan Hill have all been among the most-added players in the league for Fantasy purposes.
Having said all that, things could be changing dramatically in the coming weeks. We'll see how the return of Kobe Bryant impacts the rest of the roster. Nick Young has been on fire for a few weeks now, averaging 16.1 points per game over the last 10. However, Fantasy owners have been wary of buying into Young (38-percent owned) or any of the Lakers' other wing options, as Kobe's return looms over everything the team does right now.
The Lakers could go any way from this point on. If Kobe is himself, he's going to use up a huge proportion of the team's possessions, leaving much of the rest of the roster a Fantasy ruin. If he isn't quite back, he might take on more of a playmaking role, as he showed in his rusty debut, where he was probably forcing his passes a bit much. For now, the rest of the roster remains in limbo, and I wouldn't suggest moving on any Lakers on the waiver wire right now.
Al-Farouq Aminu, F, Pelicans: Anthony Davis is the latest stud to be hit by the injury bug, and Aminu looks to be the winner. At least, he did for the first two games, when he averaged 15.0 points and 15.0 rebounds. Friday's seven-point, 10-rebound game against the Thunder might be a better indication of what Aminu is capable of, as he remains an extremely limited offensive player. Rebounds should be one thing he can consistently deliver for you, but at this point in his career, we know Aminu isn't worth much more than that. Given how low his ownership had been, Aminu's big jump makes sense, but I think he's probably going to end up stalling at around 50-percent ownership.(44 percent owned; +30 percent)
Taj Gibson, F, Bulls: After a couple of disappointing seasons, Gibson finally seems to be breaking out as an offensive player. Gibson has a pretty consistent track record as a decent shooter who can be counted on to make between 48.5 and 49.5 percent of his field-goal attempts, and that has held true this season as well; he sits at 49.2 percent. His recent explosion, then seems entirely out of character, as he is averaging 21.4 points per game over the last five on 60.8 percent shooting from the field. His shooting is sure to regress from this current level, but there are signs that he might be here to stay as a Fantasy-relevant player, as he is attempting one free throw for every three field-goal attempts during his hot streak, which is in line with his best seasons. Gibson has been a surprising beneficiary of point guard Derrick Rose's absence, and Fantasy owners are reaping the rewards. While I don't expect 20-plus points per game from here on out, Gibson might be able to settle in to the mid-teens in scoring, making him well worth a claim. (65 percent owned; +29 percent)
Timofey Mozgov, C, Nuggets: Fantasy owners are always going to be looking for the next big thing at the center position, which explains why Mozgov's ownership jumped recently. He had a huge two-game stretch that saw him top 30 minutes in each game while totaling 33 points and 35 rebounds. Unfortunately, his minute totals for the next three games show why this might not be the savior Fantasy owners are looking for; 17, 19 and 18. The Nuggets' frontcourt has been consistently inconsistent this season, as Brian Shaw seems unwilling to rely on any one player for too long. That makes sense given the limited skill set of each player, but it also makes it very difficult to rely on any for Fantasy purposes. Mozgov is a low-end player, and now one I would want to rely on a consistent basis. He'll be back on waivers soon. (38 percent owned; +25 percent)
Khris Middleton, F, Bucks: Middleton has playing a much bigger role in recent weeks, with Caron Butler sidelined by a knee injury. Butler was taking on a bigger chunk of the team's offense than expected this season, taking 12 shots per game, but wasn't proving to be particularly successful anyways. This is a team that probably needs to build toward a youth movement, despite their efforts to remain competitive in the offseason. Middleton, just 22, could keep playing solid minutes just as a result of that, let alone his extremely solid play. He doesn't do much beyond score, but is averaging 13.0 points and 2.1 assists per game over the last 10. Right now, Middleton doesn't look like much more than a low-end starting Fantasy option. (35 percent owned; +18 percent)
Jeff Taylor, F, Bobcats: Taylor looked to be on the rise after Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's injury, but he went down with one of his own that cost him at least Monday's game. Fortunately, Taylor's is likely just a day-to-day issue (read more about Kidd-Gilchrist's below), so he should be back in the lineup shortly. I'm a fan of Taylor's game, though he hasn't been particularly good so far this season, shooting just 39.2 percent from the field and 25.9 percent on 3-pointers. I think he will almost certainly find his shot, and is probably going to get plenty of chances to do so as the Bobcat's small forward. He scored 20 points on 16 field-goal attempts in his first start Friday, and I bet his ownership will rightly start to rise once he gets healthy. (17 percent owned; +14 percent)
J.J. Redick, Clippers: You couldn't be disappointed with Redick's play in his first month with the Clippers, as he averaged 15.8 points and 2.1 assists per game in his first 17 contests. Unfortunately, a wrist and elbow injury is going to knock him out for two months, just another big blow in this injury-filled season. When it is someone like Marc Gasol going down for an extended period of time, you hang on to them. With Redick, I'm not so sure he is the type of player worth stashing for six to eight weeks while he heals, especially since this seems like the type of injury that could put a hitch in his shooting motion. Unless I have a designated injury slot, I think I'm cutting Redick loose based on his timeline. (60 percent owned; -16 percent)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F, Bobcats: I guess news travels slow, because there really isn't any reason for Kidd-Gilchrist to still be owned in this many leagues. Though he carries the pedigree of a former No. 2 pick, his production has never warranted much attention as a Fantasy option in two seasons. He'll only be out four to six weeks, but even that short of a time is too long to wait for MKG's inevitable nine points and five rebounds per night. Even if I had an open injury slot, I'm not sure Kidd-Gilchrist is worth it; the way this season has gone, you'll need it soon enough. (52 percent owned; -16 percent)
Jordan Hill, F, Lakers: Two weeks ago, Hill was riding high with seven consecutive double-digit scoring games. He added four double-doubles in that span, but hasn't recorded one in five games since. He is actually a pretty good example of why the Lakers have been so frustrating for Fantasy purposes, and why I'd be wary of trusting anyone right now. This team is more than willing to ride whichever player that happens to be hot, and Hill isn't exactly scorching right now, shooting 36.4 percent over his last five games. Hill, like any number of Lakers, will have his uses. But he'll also spend much of the season bouncing from roster to roster on the waiver wires. You can do better. (69 percent owned; -14 percent)
Flavors of Next Week
-- by Joe Polito (@JoePo89)
Do you feel that? Trade winds are a blowin'. Though it's only a slight breeze so far, in-season swaps keep things interesting for Fantasy, sometimes proving the change of scenery players need to become Fantasy relevant.
The Kings have been the busiest franchise when it comes to player movement, already having traded for Derrick Williams and Rudy Gay to start the year. But their latest move will likely affect the other side of the deal when it comes to Fantasy. In the short term, it should mean slight upticks across the board for the other Raptors. Looking ahead though, this is in all likelihood just the first of many moves prepping Toronto to rebuild through free agency and the 2014 super draft.
One thing is for certain: The Raptors now have almost 19 field goal attempts per game to pass around to their other starters. Sunday night Amir Johnson went ahead and laid claim to 17 of those en route to a career-best 32-point, 10-rebound outing against the Lakers. Safe to say he'll be enjoying these newly afforded opportunities in Gay's absence. Having gone 14 of 17 from the field, Johnson clearly knows how to make the most of his chances.
At 82 percent owned, Johnson has already seen an 11-percent increase since last week, so if for whatever reason he's out there still go ahead and scoop him up because he'll likely be in the 90-percent range come next week. Johnson was being drafted in the first 90 players in CBSsports.com leagues, so a lot was expected from him coming into the season. He's been ball hogged out of relevance and even benched for Tyler Hansborough, but I'm speculating that this trade will provide Johnson the space he needs to reach must-own status. He's far from a sure thing, but I'd be willing to part ways with any member of the Suns, aside from their starting backcourt, to gamble on the possibility of a new role for Johnson -- one that involves more shots and heavier minutes.
Greivis Vasquez, G, Raptors (78 percent): With the addition of Vasquez, Toronto now has five point guards on the roster. Not the best news for a PG who just left a backcourt platoon, but I'm willing to bet the Raptors aren't done dealing just yet. Shipping out Rudy Gay was a cap-clearing move, ridding themselves of Gay's contract in exchange for some expiring deals, such as Vasquez's.
Seems like Raptors' starting PG Kyle Lowry will be next to go in a trade, and if that's the case, Vasquez will be much closer to playing the same role he did for the Hornets last year, when he led the league in total assists. This pickup won't pay off until the other shoe drops, but when it does, Vasquez has the assist potential that makes dropping score-only guys like Rodney Stuckey, Dion Waiters and Gerald Henderson a worthwhile move. Those guys are a dime a dozen, whereas assists are too rare and valuable to leave out on the waiver wire. Even if they don't trade Lowry, the slim possibility exists of another platoon gig, with Vasquez being tall enough to guard opposing twos. Pick him up just to see what happens.
Jonas Valanciunas, C, Raptors (81 percent): By now you've realized the theme here. We referred to the Rudy Gay/DeMar DeRozan combo as the Fantasy black hole for a reason -- they rendered their teammates irrelevant. Now half the black hole is gone, meaning more of a role in the offense for a breakout-candidate center who simply hasn't gotten the touches he needs to even approach his potential. Johnson hogged the spotlight Sunday night, but we can chalk that up to a celebratory casting off of the Rudy Gay shackles. The numbers will distribute more evenly in the long run.
Valanciunas has been disappointing to start the year, but if his surroundings continue to change, it will likely benefit his production. The addition of Vasquez means the most to Valanciunas' value because it's hard for a plodding big man to get the ball without a traditional point guard. All it will take is a couple more entry passes per game and the occasional pick and roll to get the 6-foot-11 Lithuanian closer to double-doubles on a consistent basis.
Terrence Ross, G, Raptors (9 percent): Here's where it gets real juicy. There's a strong possibility both Lowry and DeRozan are next to go. DeRozan's value is peaking with his shooting numbers up and his passing at least adequate for a scorer. But even as we wait on that to happen, the Gay move alone thrusts Ross into a larger role. He didn't start, but still logged 28 minutes in the Raps' first post-Gay outing.
Just like Valanciunas, Ross hasn't gotten the looks he needs to continue developing in his second year. When you look at his slam-dunk champion athleticism combined with his capable skill set and youth, it's easy to see that Ross has the most upside on the whole Toronto roster. Consider him a deep-league lottery ticket for now, but if savvy general manager Masai Ujiri continues to sell off the pillars of this middling franchise, a path will be paved for Ross. He's exciting enough to sell tickets, and green enough to produce on a lottery-bound team. Sounds like a good time to me.