With the All-Star break finally upon us, we can begin turning our eyes toward the playoffs, which will begin in the next month and a half or so for most leagues. So every move you make at this point should be made with the express purpose of solidifying your playoff standing.
Some Fantasy players are already in a position to look ahead to the playoffs. These savvy -- or lucky -- owners have pretty much clinched their spot and have the luxury of not being forced into a team-changing decision right now.
If you are like me, however, you are still fighting, making each move critical. You cannot afford to drop a productive player for someone who turns out to be a flop. You're still in the phase of roster construction where even a player who will only help you for a week while filling in as an injury replacement could prove crucial. Chris Kaman could have swung a week, and your entire season, if you picked him up earlier this week.
If you've managed to avoid the injury bug and are in prime position for a championship, good for you. You don't really need our help, and you might not find much amid the knee-jerk moves that tend to dominate the waiver wire this time of year. You can ignore the Marvin Williams-coated flavors of the week and focus on long-term improvements. If someone like Jrue Holiday is available, go ahead and grab him.
For the rest of us still living week to week, the waiver wire remains your best chance to fortify your team for the stretch run. You just have to arm yourself with the information to make the right call.
Chris Kaman, C, Lakers: Oh look, another Laker at the top of the most-added players list. The Lakers have been a perfect storm for waiver wire fodder all season, with their combination of borderline talent and horrible injury luck. After being a total nonfactor for much of the season, Kaman has been thrust into a massive role recently, with Pau Gasol out with a groin injury. The Lakers were content to stumble into the All-Star break on Kaman's back, fiving up 61 combined field-goal attempts in three games entering Thursday's action. Kaman has been productive in those games, averaging 23.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, but this is pretty clearly a mirage. Even if you desperately need a short-term boost, Kaman might not be the guy to provide it, since he is almost certainly set to return to his previously limited role just as soon as Gasol is healthy. Kaman can put up empty stats, but I'd expect him to be among the most-dropped players in the league whenever Gasol gets back to action. (60 percent owned; +46 percent)
Marvin Williams, F, Jazz: When focusing on players I want to own long-term, I tend to shy away from random hot streaks. Any player can hit a bunch of jump shots over a stretch of four of five games, but outliers are by definition unlikely to continue. Enter Williams, a nine-year veteran who is enjoying one of his best stretches in recent years. He is averaging 16.3 points per game in the month of February, fueled by a torrid shooting stretch that has seen him connect on 52.1 percent of his shots from the field and 44.8 percent from three-point range. With a player like Williams, the majority of whatever Fantasy value he has is tied in his scoring, because he really doesn't do much else for you. Historically, he has been a much less efficient shooter than this, and he should regress to the mean soon enough. (53 percent owned; +28 percent)
Khris Middleton, F, Bucks: Middleton's Fantasy value has been a roller coaster all season. Like Williams, he is riding a hot streak, but unlike Williams, there is reason to think he might sustain something along this level of production. Middleton's value has fluctuated wildly all season, but he remains pretty consistent in his performance. The biggest variable has been his role. He has shot at least 45.0 percent from the field in three of four months so far, but has seen his scoring go from 8.2 points per game in January to 15.8 in February. With the Bucks safely on their way to the NBA's worst record, they might be happy to keep Middleton in a larger role to see if he can develop into a long-term piece for them. Middleton has plenty of bust potential, but I would rather own him in two weeks than either of the guys ahead of him on this list, based on upside alone. (68 percent owned; +19 percent)
Zaza Pachulia, C, Bucks: That thing I said about the Lakers and their volatile mix of bad injury luck and a roster devoid of talent applies even more to the Bucks. Over the last week, five of the eight most-added players in CBSSports.com leagues have come from these two rosters, a sign of their shared turmoil. Like Kaman, Pachulia has been thrust into a larger-than-expected role recently due to injuries, and like Kaman, he could return to irrelevance soon enough. In Pachulia's case, however, he could remain in a somewhat prominent role, with Larry Sanders out at least six weeks with a fractured orbital bone. Pachulia could remain a borderline passable Fantasy option as long as Sanders is out, but he is also the definition of a stopgap. Fantasy owners should have a liberal trigger finger if better options arise. (23 percent owned; +14 percent)
Nick Young, G, Lakers: Another Laker, though this time we are featuring one of the ones who got hurt, not one who benefitted from someone else's misfortune. Young had emerged as a surprisingly useful Fantasy option this season as the team's lead scorer, but a fractured left patella has him sidelined for the time being. At this point, it isn't known exactly when Young is expected to return, especially since timelines have been understandably fluid for the overworked Lakers training staff all season. Though Young was contributing more than expected, he was still averaging just 21.8 Fantasy points per game for the season. His production hardly requires you to stash him, especially since it is difficult to know exactly what kind of role he will have when he returns. The Lakers' outlook changes on a quarter-by-quarter basis. (66 percent owned; -11 percent)
Terrence Ross, G, Raptors: All of you guys who ran out and added Ross shouldn't be surprised by this. He can score, but was never going to be able to do enough of that to make up for the lack of production elsewhere in his game, and we pointed out as much. With Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan rightly dominating the ball on the perimeter, Ross simply isn't going to receive enough opportunities to be Fantasy-relevant. He is averaging just 12.4 Fantasy points per game in the month of February, and there really is little reason to hold on to him. (48 percent owned; -11 percent)
Flavors of Next Week
-- by Joe Polito (@JoePo89)
|1.||Avery Bradley, Celtics||57|
|2.||O.J. Mayo, Bucks||61|
|3.||Nick Young, Lakers||66|
|4.||Glen Davis, Magic||76|
|5.||Larry Sanders, Bucks||83|
The All-Star break -- a time to kick back and relax, right? Not so much.
For many Fantasy owners, the break represents a time to reassess rosters and decide to either stand pat, or go all-in for a playoff run. Time to either embrace risks if you're falling out of the playoff picture, or refrain from messing with success if you’re comfortable atop the standings.
For those in the former scenario, it makes sense to focus less on names and more on schedules. That's why I'm reluctantly high on Dion Waiters (73 percent). He gave us three straight great games, only to follow them up with a dud against Detroit. Waiters is in that Gerald Green 70 percent owned range, where he's good enough to want, but not consistent enough to keep. His upcoming schedule bodes well for Fantasy, (Philly, Orlando, Toronto, Washington) so scoop him up if someone in your league dropped him out of frustration.
Philadelphia and Utah are among the 10 teams giving up the most bench points on average, and Waiters accounts for almost 40 percent of the Cavs' points off the bench. Philadelphia and Washington give up the second and ninth most bench assists per game this year. Against the 76ers, Waiters has averaged 18.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists, and against Orlando 19.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. If he can go off in those two games, he'll be well on his way to a good week with two more games in the scoring period. Grab him while the schedule is in his favor and maybe even keep him if nothing better comes along.
|1.||Kevin Martin, Timberwolves||92|
|2.||Jameer Nelson, Magic||94|
|3.||Wesley Johnson, Lakers||51|
|4.||Brandon Bass, Celtics||62|
|5.||Miles Plumlee, Suns||80|
P.J. Tucker, F, Suns, (45 percent): The Suns harbor some peculiar players, perhaps none more perplexing than Tucker. He's two points away from 1,000 Fantasy points on the season, something that guys like Wilson Chandler, Amir Johnson, Glen Davis, John Henson and Andre Iguodala have not yet achieved. Obviously, that's because he's played in all 51 of the Suns' games, but why should we hold that against him? Staying healthy seems like the biggest challenge in the NBA right now, so why not roll the dice on an iron man at forward? The weirdest thing about Tucker is that a lot of times scoring is what keeps him from being a Fantasy contributor. This makes him a stronger play in Roto, because he's a top 10 small forward in rebounding at 6.3 per game, and shoots well from the free-throw line and beyond the arc when he gets the chance. Right now Tucker is on a hot streak even in standard leagues, averaging 25.25 Fantasy points per game over his last four. He's far from the best, but he's consistent and does a little bit of everything for Phoenix.
Patrick Patterson, F, Raptors, (28 percent): It's becoming impossible to ignore Patterson's palpable production over the last few weeks. He's gotten help from Amir Johnson's injury struggles, but a sub-30 percent ownership seems like an injustice for a guy who's been better than Kenneth Faried, Kyle Korver, Tobias Harris and Jonas Valanciunas over the last seven games -- and he's only needed 25.3 minutes per game to do it. Johnson has been dealing with an ankle injury for almost a month, so Patterson could be in line for heavier minutes, which his 15.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 made threes per game over the last week suggests he's earned. This is likely a short-term thing, but Pat Pat is hot, and the Raptors need him.
Kelly Olynyk, C, Celtics, (31 percent): If you want to speculate on a deadline deal, Olynyk represents one of your best bets. The Celtics are all but out of the playoff picture, and teams have been showing interest in veteran power forward Brandon Bass. If they can find a trade partner, which shouldn't be difficult considering Bass' solid play and the amount of playoff teams looking to bolster their benches, it will open up playing time for the eager Olynyk. He's logged back-to-back double-doubles heading into the break -- a good sign that Boston wants to see what it has in the soft-shooting big man to assess its needs for the draft. Olynyk doesn't need much time to score, but more minutes will go a long way in ensuring he gets the rebounds and blocks he needs to become a Fantasy starter. If you missed out on Kaman or you can't fathom adding Pachulia, then go ahead and grab Olynyk for the upside.