- Tom Carpenter, Fantasy and Insider
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Last week, we set our Fastbreak lineups for the final two weeks leading up to the All-Star break, which means we currently are in a one-week hiatus. I'll be back next Friday with lineup suggestions for the first week of Segment 2, but in the meantime, let's talk about some players I see as quality buy-low candidates in points leagues. Most of the players I list carry plenty of upside in any format, but most of these guys should be particularly helpful in points leagues due to quality percentages.
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks: I like Horford going forward for two reasons. First, he's just a terrific points-league big man. Sure, he only blocks about one shot per game, but he is shooting 53.6 from the floor this season and is averaging a solid 13.3 attempts per game. That brings me to the second reason I like his upside for the remainder of the season: If Josh Smith is traded, it likely won't be for a prolific scorer, which means Horford likely would end up attempting even more shots per game. Horford doesn't get much love on the Player Rater (59th based on averages), but that's because he doesn't contribute hustle stats and his free throw percentage is way off this season. But in points leagues, the guy is a beast with even more upside in the second half of the season.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat: There are inherent risks in adding Wade to your roster -- he is aging and prone to injury. However, if you need to take a risk to win your league, Wade makes for an excellent guy to target. He is only 35th on the Player Rater based on averages, but we know that when he is hot, he has top-10 upside. I think we will see him post a couple of weeks' worth of stats during the stretch run where he is up in that echelon. The Heat have been babying him early this season to get him wound up for their late-season run to the playoffs, but they've already been increasing his workload on offense, as his field goal attempts per game have risen each month this season. And at 50-plus percent from the field, Wade still carries tremendous points-league upside.
Amar'e Stoudemire, New York Knicks: STAT has never been much of a rebounder, dimer or hustle-stat producer, which means nearly all of his fantasy value comes via his percentages. But those carry little weight when he doesn't take enough of them, which is an obvious concern for a guy who is coming off the bench. However, we have seen a healthy uptick in shot attempts from both the field and the free-throw line recently. In fact, he has averaged 11.3 field goal attempts and 5.5 free throw attempts in the four games he has played this month, and the impact of those percentages has been huge, because he has hit 64.4 percent from the field and 86.4 percent from the stripe. Because you can get him cheap due to his health concerns and bench role, he makes for an excellent roll-the-dice option in points leagues going forward, even in his reserve role.
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets: Any shot you may have had to buy low on the Manimal likely went out the window Thursday, when he torched the Chicago Bulls for 21 points (9-10 FG), 12 boards and 2 steals. Still, his upside in points leagues makes him worth a good investment anyway. Not only is he a daily double-double threat who chips in hustle stats, but he is averaging a sparkling 55.8 percent from the floor on the season. He has also improved his free throw percentage to over 70 percent the past month-plus and has knocked down more than 60 percent of his field goals over that stretch. Expect a big finish from Faried.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets: After Davis' body gave out on him early this season, the Hornets cut back his minutes significantly. Specifically, after averaging nearly 34 mpg in December, the big fella averaged just 25 mpg in January. But they can't keep this kid under wraps all season, so don't forget that he averaged 14.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.2 spg and 1.8 bpg in December. That sort of clear upside, combined with a field goal percentage that should push well into the fifties, makes him an excellent buy-low candidate.
Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons: These big men haven't lived up to the high expectations some of us had for them this season; Monroe struggled with his shot in December (44.9 percent from the field), and coach Lawrence Frank has been babying his prized rookie. However, Monroe found his shot last month (52.7 percent from the field), and I've said in various forums for weeks that I expect Drummond to start soon after the All-Star break. There is an added bonus, though, with the arrival of Jose Calderon. He is one of the premiere pick-and-roll PGs in the Association, and that should help both Monroe and Drummond finish the season on a strong note.
Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks: Ilyasova's production picked up after Scotty Skiles left town, but he has remained inconsistent, which should keep his trade value limited. However, he finished last season on a very strong stride, and I think there is a reasonable chance that he does so once again this season. Don't forget the excellent points-league production we saw from him after the break last season: 16.1 ppg. 9.1 rpg, 1.1 3-ppg, 0.8 bpg, 55.2 field goal percentage (11 attempts) and 79.6 field goal percentage (3.5 attempts).
Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors: Well, he is actually playing again, so, technically, his fantasy value has risen ever so slightly. Nonetheless, this season has been an epic disaster for Bargs due to his horrible production combined with major injury issues. I like him as a buy-low candidate anyway, because it's hard to imagine things getting worse for him in fantasy terms, regardless of whether he is traded. The caveat to that statement is that you need to acquire him at his current semi-useless value from an owner who just wants to get rid of the headache he has provided all season long. You do not want to pay for what he did in previous years when he was actually healthy.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors: We can't get too excited about DeRozan in fantasy terms, especially in roto leagues, because he does so little besides score; basically no 3s, combined with light rebounds, assists and steals. However, he appears set as a starter who chucks up a lot of shots (15.0 per game this season), and that is enough in its own right to warrant using him to round out your starting lineup. He also is averaging 83.2 percent from the line with 4.9 attempts per game this season. If he can boost his field goal percentage up from 43.5 percent toward 45-46 percent -- it's possible, as he averaged better than 46 percent his first two seasons -- he could have an even bigger points-league impact.
Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings: It took coach Keith Smart half of a season to finally realize what most of us knew going into the season: Aaron Brooks isn't that good. Now, Smart finally seems to be committed to using Thomas and Jimmer Fredette at the point, pushing Brooks out of the rotation. It's one step closer to turning Thomas loose. All you need to do is look at his second-half splits from last season to know that his upside remains excellent for the second half of this campaign. In fact, he's owned in just 41.1 percent of ESPN leagues. You can probably just go pick him up off waivers as a high-upside roster stash.
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs: Like Thomas, Leonard can be added in many leagues (owned in just 62.7 percent of ESPN leagues), but he also makes for a quality toss-in on a bigger trade deal. His game-to-game production has been inconsistent this season, mostly because coach Gregg Popovich likes to mix and match his rotation and touches based on whom they play each night. Still, we are talking about a guard who has hit 48.9 percent of his shots from the field this season. Plus, he chips in impressive rebounding for a guard (5.5 rpg), excellent steals (1.8 spg) and some 3s (1.3 3-ppg). Even in his uncertain role right now, he will help all points-league teams. He has genuine breakout potential if things click.