- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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On the outskirts of fantasy relevance dwells a group of players who are continually added and dropped throughout the season based upon their intermittently palatable production. Most of these players have already been identified in this column at some point this season. And though I typically hesitate to repeatedly feature players because I don't want to be redundant when analyzing their fantasy faculties, these guys are worth a second (or third, or fourth) look.
This week I'm going to highlight several players once again worth considering, as it's important to remain current with statistical trends and have a keen focus on who is most worthy of that final roster spot as you assemble team depth and balance.
Robin Lopez, C, New Orleans Hornets (34.7 percent owned): Lopez was widely dropped after a disappointing January in which he averaged just 9.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 24.1 minutes per game. But he still ranks 55th on the Player Rater for the season and has turned it up in his past five games, averaging 14.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while scoring in double digits in five straight after failing to do so in each of the five previous contests. His efficiency has skyrocketed this year to a 20.27 Player Efficiency Rating (PER), good for 28th in the league, which is buoyed by his 72.9 percent shooting on 4.1 attempts at the rim, both career highs. Anytime a player's spike in field goal percentage is largely due to moving his game closer to the basket, it's encouraging. There's some crowding in the Hornets' frontcourt with Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith sopping up minutes, but Lopez continues to be productive, especially for teams in need of blocks and field goal percentage. If he was dropped in your league, swoop him up. Despite the seemingly unexciting numbers, he should be a top-20 center going forward.
Derrick Favors, PF/C, Utah Jazz (32.9 percent owned): Favors already posts worthwhile fantasy stats, averaging 6.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 0.9 steals in just 21.8 minutes per game. But with trade rumors constantly swirling around Utah's quartet of capable bigs, his value will almost certainly increase after the Feb. 21 trade deadline. Regardless of your league size or roster makeup, he's universally worth owning due to his nearly unmatched potential to be a lottery ticket after the deadline. Despite playing the same amount as last season, he's posting career bests in points, steals, blocks, free throw percentage and PER. Furthermore, Favors ranks in the top 30 overall in boards and blocks per-48 minutes, and is the eighth-ranked power forward in steals per-48 minutes. Aside from quantifiable assessments, however, the amalgam of size and athleticism he possesses is simply staggering. He's ready to bust out. When he does, you'll be giddy if it's on your team, as he'll almost surely average a double-double with over a steal and a block per game with starter's minutes.
Byron Mullens, C, Charlotte Bobcats (24.2 percent owned): He's back after missing 19 games with an injured ankle and has immediately returned to his recently-found level of fantasy relevance, averaging 13.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 3s, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game in two contests since returning. Mullens fills atypical categories from the center position, and his combination of rebounds and 3s is nearly-unmatched. Of the 39 players averaging at least 7.5 rebounds per game, Mullens is one of five with at least 1.4 3s per game, and only Paul George has more. His field goal percentage is problematic due to his propensity to shoot jumpers, but if you need a unique blend of 3-point shooting with rebounds, steals, and blocks, Mullens is worth a roster spot in every format.
Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks (20.5 percent owned): He just topped off his best scoring month since last March, averaging 11.7 points, 2.1 3s, 0.6 blocks and 0.5 steals per game in January, and he has been doing it with consistency, notching double digits in 11 of the past 12 contests. Dunleavy's 60.8 true shooting percentage is a career high as he has been lights out from downtown, averaging 1.9 3s per game this season on 44.8 percent shooting from behind the arc. His 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.5 blocks per game provide just enough ancillary production to make him more than just a 3-point specialist. There's not huge upside here, but not much downside either, as Dunleavy is a dependable source of points and 3s.
Martell Webster, SF, Washington Wizards (15.4 percent owned): I like Webster for reasons irrelevant to fantasy hoops. He's from my home state. You can type his last name with one hand. However, I've historically disliked him in a fantasy sense due to his inability to contribute in any category other than 3-pointers, and for his career 41.7 percent mark from the floor. Well, he's coming off his best statistical month since April 2011, averaging 12.2 points, 1.8 3s and 0.8 steals per game in January. It's easy to forget he's just 26 and still developing as a basketball player, evidenced by his 13.21 PER, 60.3 true shooting percentage and 1.9 attempts at the rim, all career-highs. He's scored at least 13 points in eight of his past 10 contests, and is averaging 15.4 points and 3.6 3s per game in his past five. He also played 42 minutes Wednesday night, his second highest total this season. Webster is a member of both of the Wizards' best 5-man units in plus/minus according to 82games.com, and has jelled with John Wall, indications that his solid playing time will continue.
Kyle Singler, SG/SF, Detroit Pistons (8.3 percent owned): The trade that jettisoned Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye for Jose Calderon opened opportunities for Singler, and he responded with a career-high 20 points on Friday and is now playing his natural position of small forward. My favorite part about Singler's game is that 64.4 percent of his shots come either at the rim or from behind the arc, a recipe for fantasy success. My second-favorite part is the 0.5 blocks, 0.7 steals and 0.9 3s per game in 28 minutes, indication he can make up for his low assist and rebound numbers with nice combination of steals, blocks and 3s. Singler has seemingly earned Lawrence Frank's trust on the defensive end, given his 32 minutes per game in his past five contests, a span in which he's averaging 1.2 3s, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.
Caron Butler, SF, Los Angeles Clippers (8.1 percent owned): With the Clippers' bench, you have to ride the hot hand, as Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Butler are all capable fantasy contributors when on their game. Butler has been the best of the bunch recently, averaging 14.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 3s and 1.0 steals per game over the past five contests. As his game has drifted to the perimeter, his steal rate, rebounding rate and PER have all trended downward, but he's averaging a career-high 1.5 3s on a career-low 1.0 turnover per game. As I said, ride the hot hand here; don't expect him to continue averaging 15-plus points per game, but while he is he's worthy of a temporary roster spot for teams in need of 3s.
Moe Harkless, SF, Orlando Magic (0.9 percent owned): Thanks to the fellas at The Basketball Jones, I'll forever associate him with 808's and Heartbreaks ("How Could You Be Moe Harkless?"). In one year at St. John's, Harkless averaged 15.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.4 blocks and 0.5 3s per game, drool-inducing fantasy statistics. With Glen Davis out for the rest of the season, Harkless' minutes and production have skyrocketed, as he's averaging 10.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.0 blocks in 38.5 minutes per game in his past four contests. With his statistical skill set, impressive numbers should fall into place if he's getting starter's minutes. He especially has value with his steal/blocks combination (0.7 steals and 0.8 blocks per game in just 18.3 minutes leads me to believe he could be over one per game in each category with increased PT) and rebounding from the small forward position. His 9.7 rebounds per-48 minutes ranks 11th among small forwards, and as the Magic evaluate what they have going forward, he should see plenty of run and get opportunities to flash his propensity to contribute in multiple categories.
2hMichael C. Wright