As in any marketplace, a few commodities are prized above all else in the Fantasy basketball world. Scarcity breeds demand, and tall people with basketball skills will always be scarce, making centers one of those highly sought-after commodities in both real and Fantasy basketball.
With good big men hard to find, Fantasy owners will always be on the lookout for quality options at the center position. A quick glance at the most-added list for the last week in CBSSports.com leagues sees three centers among the top-10 and one more at No. 11. Should Fantasy owners be expecting this collection to provide a return on investment?
The most-added center (and second overall) is Byron Mullens, recently freed from bench purgatory in Los Angeles to roam on the wide open Fantasy refuge that is Philadelphia. The 76ers average 2.5 possessions more per game than the next closest team, giving them more opportunities than anyone to rack up big scoring numbers. Mullens is by no means a good player, and he is not guaranteed to play a consistent role in Philadelphia.
Still, this team has little interest in winning games in the short term, and Mullens has a track record of being productive in the past on a tanking team, averaging 12.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game prior to the All-Star break for the Bobcats a year ago, so he might prove useful. At 30-percent owned, Mullens is probably worth a look given the clear path to big minutes in front of him -- if not for his own abilities, for the chance he gets decent run.
The path to sustained success for Enes Kanter (86 percent) is just as clear, though much less likely to come to fruition. Kanter just put together a four-game stretch that saw him average 20.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, numbers that would make him an obvious must-start Fantasy option as a center. Of course, that stretch coincided with Derrick Favors' absence due to a hip injury, which gets to the main issue with Kanter; he has obvious talent, but his role is limited as long as Favors is around. He is over-owned at 86 percent, but having him on your roster isn't a terrible idea given his upside, if you don't need immediate help.
Of the final two centers, Timofey Mozgov (37 percent) is more likely to provide more long-term value than Alexis Ajinca (12 percent). Prior to a two-game outburst that saw him rack up 33 points and 20 rebounds, Ajinca had scored in double figures just once in the month of February, despite averaging nearly minutes in the high teens. Despite Anthony Davis' shoulder injury, Ajinca is unlikely to prove useful, given his track record. Mozgov rarely puts up huge numbers, but was recently moved into the starting lineup and seems more likely to provide value on a game-to-game basis.
Anytime you are working the waiver-wire looking for help, you are going to have to pick from less-than-perfect options. Out of these four big men, Mullens might not be the sexiest pick, but he is the most likely to provide long-term value while being available in most leagues.
Kent Bazemore, G, Lakers: Bazemore had a pretty remarkable streak come to an end with his 14-point game against the Grizzlies Wednesday; for the first time since joining the Lakers, he did not record a career-high in scoring. All he managed to do was match his fourth-best scoring mark while pushing his averaging to 17.3 points per game since joining the team. The Waiver-Wire column has been littered with Lakers this season, as the combination of an onslaught of injuries and Mike D'Antoni's fertile offensive system has led to tons of fluctuation in the team's production. Right now, Bazemore is the Laker du jour, thriving by getting out onto the break and finding space to succeed off the ball. Prior to landing in Los Angeles, Bazemore was more well known for his bench celebrations than his play, which mostly consisted of one strong Summer League performance last year. Bazemore could be just another D'Antoni-fueled flash in the pan, but the upside he has already shown makes him well worth a speculative add. (36 percent owned; +35 percent)
Markieff Morris, F, Suns: In Bazemore and Morris we have the two different kinds of player that tends to be added on the waiver wire. Bazemore is the relative unknown thrust into a larger-than-expected role, while Morris is an established player enjoying a hot streak. Personally, I always want to prioritize the former type over the latter, because it is so much more likely to prove sustainable. Morris is a nice player, but he's certainly not going to be able to sustain the 54.8-percent mark from the field that is fueling his 19.0 points per game average over the last five. Morris has his uses as a Fantasy option, but you should not feel any different about him than you did two weeks ago, when he was just a borderline starter in most formats. (85 percent owned; +14 percent)
Lou Williams, G, Hawks: One possible exception to the framework laid out above is when a player is working his way back from a serious injury. As is the case with Williams, who has struggled to find his footing this season amid his return from reconstructive knee surgery. He is averaging 10.0 points and 3.7 assists per game for the season, but both numbers are up recently as he seems to be finding his way. Williams is also playing a few more minutes, but he also just seems more comfortable running an offense, something the team has been asking him to do a bit more recently. He is averaging 13.6 points and 4.4 assists per game over the last five, and could see his ownership climb to the 50-percent mark in the next few weeks. Williams has been a useful Fantasy option in the past, and could provide a boost down the stretch in deeper, category-based formats. (32 percent owned; +13 percent)
Kyle Singler, F, Pistons: Singler was already starting to see a larger role in the waning days of the Mo Cheeks era, as he played 30-plus minutes in each of his last coach's final five games. His role has only been cemented since John Loyer has taken over, however, as Singler is now averaging 36.0 minutes per game under Loyer. Singler will never be someone who fills in the box score, but he shoots the ball well and can be a decent category-based option, since he won't really hurt you anywhere. He is still more like 14-team fodder. (31 percent owned; +13 percent)
Chris Kaman, C, Lakers: Even while Kaman's ownership was soaring, I never felt comfortable endorsing him as an option off the wire. His value was entirely dependent on Pau Gasol being out and the Lakers being content to let him shoot as much as he wanted. Even as he was averaging 17.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game prior to Gasol's return, I said your best chance of Kaman providing long-term value was to package him in a trade, because he wasn't going to help you on his own. Kaman has scored in double figures just once in three games since Gasol returned, and was unable to play Wednesday against the Grizzlies due to back soreness. Kaman is brittle, and doesn't produce much even when healthy, unless he is spoon-fed touches. Despite how valuable centers are, there is little reason to expect him to provide any value as long as Gasol is active. (59 percent owned; -20 percent)
Glen Davis, F, Clippers: Somehow, Davis was cut and added to a playoff roster that seems unlikely to garnish him with consistent minutes, and yet he was only the fifth-most dropped player over the last week. Davis has been a very useful Fantasy option as recently as January, but he is also someone who needs a big role to be useful. In Los Angeles, where DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin average 36-plus minutes per game each, he simply won't get that here. The same goes for Danny Granger, who reportedly will sign with the Clippers Friday. Neither player does enough to be Fantasy relevant in a minimal role, and neither seems likely to get more than 15-20 minutes per game as a member of a contender like the Clippers. Both are still owned in a majority of CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues, but that should be true of neither by this time next week. (56 percent owned; -14 percent)
Flavors of Next Week
-- by Joe Polito (@JoePo89)
|1.||Reggie Jackson, Thunder||79|
|2.||Kobe Bryant, Lakers||92|
|3.||Glen Davis, Clippers||56|
|5.||Chris Kaman, Lakers||57|
I'm thinking of a player who's averaged 16.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per 36 minutes over his 12-year career. He used to play for the worst team in the NBA, but now he'll be running with one of the league's best. He's only owned in 24 percent of leagues, but he's gone over 30 points twice this season. That's right, it's Caron Butler -- reportedly the newest member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
There are plenty of reasons to pick up Butler as well as plenty of reasons to think he won't be worth anything for Fantasy. Pro: The Thunder has been trending toward small ball all year, and Butler would fit in nicely by allowing Kevin Durant to shift down to power forward. Con: Butler's scoring production has dropped steadily every year for the last five years. Pro: Butler is a much more capable offensive player than Thabo Sefolosha, who currently gets 27 minutes per game as a starter. Con: Butler will rely on rebounds to make up for what he lacks in scoring because he's probably not taking many shots away from Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant. Pro: Should he come off the bench, Butler is much more dependable than the very young Jeremy Lamb, who averages less than 10 points per game. Con: Butler's flashes of brilliance came while playing for the Bucks, whose lack of offensive options is evidenced by the fact that they've only won 11 of 57 games this season. Pro: On November 22, Butler went off for 38 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Con: It was against the 76ers, and the Bucks lost by eight.
So there's the evidence, people. Optimists will point to Butler's offensive reputation and the fact that he'll probably be getting wide-open looks on a very talented team. Doubters will harp on the fact that he hasn't averaged six rebounds in half a decade and won't score enough to matter for Fantasy. As for me, I'm going to hold back judgment until I see how he fits into OKC's plans. But one thing's for sure, I'm picking him up just in case.
Will Bynum, G, Pistons, (10 percent): When Brandon Jennings left Thursday's game early with a toe injury, Bynum stepped up to score 18 points, dish out nine assists and lead the Pistons to victory. Jennings is considered day-to-day, so in the meantime Bynum is well worth a roster spot. He has great pick-and-roll chemistry with Andre Drummond, including a knack for tossing up easy lobs at the rim for dunks. He's averaging 13.7 points and 5.0 assists per game in his three starts this season. Bynum's skill set actually fits perfectly with Detroit's paint-packing lineup, as he easily navigates dribbles into the lane to feed big guys and hit floaters. As soon as Jennings comes back, go ahead and drop him. But toe injuries can be tricky, so this one could pay off for more than just a few games.
Elton Brand, F, Hawks, (23 percent): Hawks are dropping like flies, and most of their injuries have come from the frontcourt. Already missing Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Pero Antic, the Hawks got even more bad news when Gustavo Ayon underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. So now Brand is the only thing close to a center on the active roster. His scoring and rebounding will always be mediocre, but his seven combined blocks and eight combined assists over the last two games have me somewhat interested in his new opportunity. He played 40-plus minutes twice in the last three games and should continue to get heavy playing time in Atlanta's depleted lineup. Assisting might be his best way to earn the love of Fantasy owners, as a big man who can pass is highly coveted in Fantasy. His opportunity for minutes won't get better than this so, now's the time to grab Brand if there ever was one.
|1.||Jeremy Lin, Rockets||86|
|2.||Kendall Marshall, Lakers||90|
|3.||Gerald Henderson, Bobcats||79|
|4.||Terrence Jones, Rockets||87|
|5.||Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors||88|
Tiago Splitter, F, Spurs, (35 percent): It's rare that such a good team is so frustrating for Fantasy, but the Spurs have gone the whole year offering not a single steady Fantasy option outside of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Even those two have been prone to extended absences. But the time is coming for Greg Popovich to find his playoff lineup and get them rolling in time for, perhaps, one last run at the championship. So let's try this one more time. Splitter is the latest Spur playing well. He recorded his best stat line of the season in 31 minutes Wednesday, going for 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists and one block against Detroit. When the San Antonio machine is running smooth, Splitter's double-double potential is a big part of it. He's been disappointing this season, but there's still time left to prove a steady 20-25 Fantasy points now that he's finally healthy. He's far from the sexiest pick, but his career 15.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per 36 minutes suggest he'll be good if he can stay in games.
Shelvin Mack, G, Hawks, (six percent): The Hawks have struggled with injuries all season, meaning they've asked young bench players to step up. Mike Scott has done well scoring the ball, but another one of their reserve players has quietly been producing in a variety of ways. Mack has looked like Paul Millsap Jr. the last two weeks, averaging 23.1 Fantasy points per game. I say "junior" in the sense that he's nowhere near as good as MiIlsap and also because he's only 6-foot-3. He's averaging 10.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game over the last two weeks in 27.8 minutes a game. Millsap is out with a knee injury, which forced the Hawks to shuffle their lineup and make Mack a short-term starter. He's a hungry, young player who's great with the ball in his hands. Expect him to produce while the Hawks are shorthanded.