Injuries always tend to cause the biggest ripples on the waiver wires, but it isn't just the biggest of names going down that causes the biggest splashes. Nobody would ever think to argue that Steve Blake or Jordan Farmar are in the same universe as a Chris Paul, but injuries to the modest Lakers duo has led directly to Kendall Marshall's ascension to the top of the most-added players list over the last week.
A week ago, Marshall was a Fantasy afterthought, owned in just 3 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. I cannot confirm, but my gut feeling tells me his 78 percent jump in ownership in seven days is probably the largest for any player at least since the heights of Jeremy Lin's Linsanity period in New York. Though Lin, a Harvard grad who went undrafted, had a much less overtly impressive pedigree than Marshall, there is one common denominator involved in their sudden rises to something resembling stardom: coach Mike D'Antoni.
D'Antoni's pick-and-roll heavy offense is notorious for leading to inflated numbers for point guards, and I would argue is the primary reason Fantasy owners should be optimistic about Marshall's chances. Marshall's performance in his first two starts can be attributed to a number of factors beyond D'Antoni, of course: poor opposing defenses in his first two starts, inflated assists numbers playing at Staples Center, where the Lakers average 20.4 percent more assists per game compared to the road. Even while acknowledging those factors, we can still look at D'Antoni's track record with point guards and have confidence that Marshall can sustain something like this kind of production.
Blake put up a career-high 36.7 percent assist rate as the Lakers' starting point guard prior to an elbow injury, a trend that runs consistent throughout D'Antoni's career. The following point guards have also posted career-best assist rates while starting for D'Antoni-led teams: Jordan Farmar, 2013-14 (37.5 percent); Jeremy Lin, 2011-12 (41.0 percent); Raymond Felton 2010-11 (37.3 percent); Chris Duhon posted the second-best mark of his career in 2008-09 at 27.9 percent.
Marshall remains something of an unknown commodity at the NBA level, but he came into the league with a reputation of being a clever passer and creator on the floor. His ability to score on his own might be overstated by a couple of hot-shooting games, but I am a believer in his playmaking skills, if nothing else. Marshall is now owned in 81 percent of CBSSports.com leagues and that number will probably continue creeping higher, given how valuable assists are for every Fantasy format. If he is available, Marshall should be considered a must-add.
Darren Collison, G, Clippers: Collison's rise up the ownership ranks is the result of a much more troublesome injury, as Chris Paul's shoulder is likely to keep him out at least a month. That should provide ample opportunity for Collison to reassert himself as a viable Fantasy option, at least until Paul returns. I noted his impressive numbers (15.9 points, 5.0 assists per-36 minutes with Paul on the bench this season) in a column earlier this week, and there are plenty for Fantasy owners to like here while Collison is starting. The Clippers don't have much to back him up, so Collison might get just about as many minutes as he can handle. He is available in just 15 percent of CBSSports.com leagues right now, and has the ability to slide in pretty easily as a No. 3 Fantasy guard, so there is little reason not to add him if you see him on the waiver wires. (13 percent owned; +72 percent)
Iman Shumpert, G, Knicks: Shumpert is not here because of an increased role due to injury, or anything tangible like that. No, his increase in ownership is due solely to a two-game stretch that saw him catch fire from three-point range, resulting in 53 points in a span of about 27 hours. Unfortunately, Shumpert is not, in fact, an 85-percent three-point shooter, so it should come as little surprise that he was not capable of sustaining that level of production over the next two games. The Knicks remain stubbornly invested in playing big lineups featuring Carmelo Anthony at small forward, while also bringing J.R. Smith off the bench to serve as a spark plug. As long as those statements remain true, Shumpert's most obvious paths to a consistent 30-plus minute role are blocked, limiting has Fantasy appeal. Shumpert is not a high-volume scorer in a limited role, and he doesn't create much for others either, so a part-time role dooms him to Fantasy irrelevance. I would expect a decent number of the owners who scooped Shumpert up over the last week to part ways with him shortly. (63 percent owned; +30 percent)
Kris Humphries, F, Celtics: Humphries has been in and out of the rotation for the Celtics this season, a role that makes sense. A rebuilding team has little need for a 28-year-old big man on an expiring contract, so playing time has been difficult to find. Still, when he plays, we know he can put up numbers, as he showed in averaging 11.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game over the last five. Frankly, the Celtics have better big men options to turn to long term, so consider this just a nice run for Humphries before he returns to irrelevance yet again. He is the definition of "waiver-wire fodder."(32 percent owned; +25 percent)
Gerald Green, G, Suns: Maybe Green is only going to be good every other year, or something. His inability to do, well, just about anything for the Pacers last year did not come as much of a surprise after he fell out of the league for a few years, though it was a disappointment based on how well he played in a late-season cameo with the Nets the year before. This season certainly counts as a major surprise, as Green has turned into one of the better high-volume three-point shooters in the league, and is averaging a career-high 13.4 points per game. With Eric Bledsoe dealing with a knee injury, Green has seen his role increase and is averaging 15.0 points per game over the last five. He doesn't provide much beyond his scoring, but Suns coach Jeff Hornacek has to be considered a wizard just for getting this much out of Green. If you are hurting for three-pointers in a category-based league, snagging Green off waivers makes a lot of sense right now.(55 percent owned; +19 percent)
Jordan Farmar, G, Lakers: For a while, it looked like Farmar was going to get the D'Antoni point guard bump, but the Lakers' injury woes probably caused him to return from a hamstring injury earlier than was needed. Farmar will now likely miss at least four more weeks and will likely not even return to a starting role once he's back. Even if Marshall isn't starting by that point, Steve Blake could be back. I see little reason to stash Farmar. (16 percent owned; -31 percent)
Khris Middleton, F, Bucks: A week ago, Middleton was the most-added player, though I noted Fantasy owners were hesitant to rely on him even as he was steadily putting up 15-point games. This last week showed why that reluctance to buy in on Middleton was the right way to look at things all along. Middleton has shown some solid scoring chops, but the Bucks' rotations have been entirely inconsistent this season, and he isn't so productive that he can make up for a lack of playing time. Coach Larry Drew is searching desperately for answers and he will probably end up turning to Middleton again down the road. However, he is clearly not someone worth hanging on to tightly, so go ahead and drop Middleton given his current role. 59 percent owned; -25 percent)
Flavors of next week
-- by Joe Polito (@JoePo89)
Chris gets to have all the fun up there writing about Chris Paul's replacement and the point guard who seems destined to break Scott Skiles' single-game record for assists. But if you lost the race to Darren Collison and Kendall Marshall, this is the section for you! (Hear that, Chris? You can't keep us down!) Because this is the section that told you about Marshall two weeks ago as a speculative add. And the thing about speculation is you have little to lose and so much to gain.
This week's cast of characters is far less interesting, but the guy I'm looking to add is Raymond Felton. He made his return from a groin strain Tuesday night and put together a solid 12-point, 6-assist performance in 31 minutes. The fact that Felton's been out since December 12 knocked his ownership down to 70 percent. There isn't a lot of upside to his game, but when you look at the Knicks' other options at point guard, there isn't much downside either.
It's also encouraging that most of Felton's production has come without his pick-and-roll partner Tyson Chandler on the floor -- including Tuesday's return game. Once Felton gets up to game speed and the Knicks (somehow) get healthy, you can expect Jose Calderon-like numbers from him going forward. I'd probably set the bar at George Hill (81 percent) as for who to drop for him, as well as most other point guards owned in fewer leagues than that.
J.J. Redick, G, Clippers, (59 percent): This one's a preemptive add for those of you with a roster spot to play with. The latest on the injured Clippers shooter is that he's "real close" to returning, according to his coach Doc Rivers. That means when Redick gets back in a week or so, he's going to have to do some heavier lifting in a backcourt sans Chris Paul. Redick was averaging 15.8 points and 1.9 made threes per game before fracturing his hand. His scoring should remain the same as the absence of both Paul's passing and scoring should even out. One area you might see an uptick is in the assist column. Redick averaged 4.4 per game while playing for Orlando last season, so if he's tasked with more ball-handling responsibilities, the assists will come naturally. He's a must-add for category players as his 92.7 percent free-throw shooting and volume three-point shooting are hard to come by. You won't get to use him right away, but he won't disappoint once he's back.
DeMarre Carroll/Pero Antic, F/F, Hawks, (44 percent/19 percent): The first guy is much more of a sure thing. With three straight games of at least 10 points and seven rebounds, Carroll is looking like a Martell Webster-like Fantasy option for three-pointers and rebounds. Grab him if you need a steady forward as an injury replacement if you're worried about Chandler Parsons or were banking on Ryan Anderson. Pero Antic is the speculative add on the Hawks. He made his first start Friday to the tune of 16 points and 7 rebounds. His numbers to follow haven't been anything special, but in those three games he started at center, Antic hit a combined nine three-pointers at a 56.3-percent clip, meaning he'll hold more value in Roto leagues. At 6-foot-11, he's certainly tall enough to grab a few rebounds, as his 7.8 average per 36 minutes suggests. But if for nothing else, pick up Antic because of his eligibility. You probably have more guards than you know what to do with, but a starting forward who should gain center eligibility sometime soon -- those don't just fall out of the sky very often. Think of Antic as Mirza Teletovic with more opportunities to play, or Jon Leuer without the Marc Gasol expiration date. He might be headed back to the bench, but pick him up just in case.
Ersan Ilyasova, F, Bucks, (71 percent): This one's fairly risky because the Bucks' rotation has been perhaps the most volatile in the league. Use Ilyasova's game log as an example. Here are his minute totals for the last eight games: 18, 49, 22, 20, 33, 18, 21 and 31. That last total led him to one of his best performances of the season, a 20-point, 6-rebound outing against the Warriors. It's not easy to put your faith in Larry Drew to get his best guys out there every night, so if you want a steadier option, go with Taj Gibson (71 percent), as he'll probably see a slight scoring boost due to Luol Deng's departure. But if you want to add a proven second half of the season player, grab Ilyasova and pray he gets enough minutes to be worth a roster spot. This is a similar frustration Fantasy owners experienced last season, when Ilyasova went from averaging 10 and 6 to 16 and 8 after the All-Star break. If you can hold out until he gets it going, he's been worth the wait the last two seasons. Otherwise, grab Gibson for help at the forward spot now.