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Friday, January 21, 2011
Working the Wire: Filling categories

By Josh Whitling
Special to ESPN.com

Those holes in your fantasy team's statistical contributions aren't going to fill themselves. When you are especially struggling in a specific area, it's important to make targeted roster additions. Sometimes that means eschewing the best player available for the best player for your needs. Just as going to the gym will help your overall appearance but not your acne, sometimes a well-rounded player isn't what you need, and above-average in one category will do. (Not saying you have acne or anything, just trying to illustrate a point.) Here are some players who contribute greatly in one area who will provide assistance if their area of expertise aligns with your weaknesses.

3-pointers

C.J. Miles, SF, Utah Jazz (4.5 percent owned): Miles is the unquestioned offensive punch off the Jazz's bench, and can put up 20-point outbursts on a somewhat regular basis. Of course, he could also put up the occasional five-point clunker. Due to the nature of his role, his scoring is pretty erratic. But for the past couple of months, he's been a reliable gunner off the bench, averaging 1.8 3s per game in December and 1.7 per game in January. He also provides the occasional block, averaging 0.9 per game for the season, and has averaged at least 11.4 points per game in each month thus far. This makes him a solid option if you're looking for 3s but don't want a completely one-dimensional player. Even if he remains a bench player, he's proven the ability to contribute from downtown in that role.

Bill Walker
Bill Walker just finished a stretch of six straight games in which he hit at least two 3-pointers.

Bill Walker, SG/SF, New York Knicks (0.3 percent owned): Walker got some increased playing time recently with Danilo Gallinari out, and his hot shooting seemed to get him back in the rotation. In January, he's averaging 19.0 minutes per game, with 9.5 points, 2.1 3s and 0.8 steals. That's compared to basically nonexistent stats in December, when he averaged just 4.2 minutes per game. He's got the ability to drain 3s in bunches when getting playing time, as evidenced by his numbers last April, when he averaged 15.3 points and 2.9 3s, shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 91.3 percent from the free throw line. He's averaging a 3-pointer per game in just 13.3 minutes, and as long as he's getting off the bench should be a contributor here. With any kind of consistent and significant minutes he's a huge threat, so pay close attention to Walker and view him as an immediate 3-point option if he's on the floor.

Rebounds

Kwame Brown, C, Charlotte Bobcats (3.4 percent owned): The former No. 1 overall pick has regained some relevance, with three games of 14 or more rebounds this month. His numbers spiked when Nazr Mohammed missed some time, although he's remained in the starting lineup since Mohammed returned, and is now in a time-share at center. His 13.7 rebounds per 48 minutes is more than Al Horford and Pau Gasol, and he snagged nine boards from the starting lineup on Thursday playing 23 minutes to Mohammed's 20. It's not like he's suddenly going to live up to the expectations Michael Jordan had for him nearly a decade ago, but his 8.6 rebounds per game this month is notable.

Kurt Thomas, PF/C, Chicago Bulls (1.8 percent owned): Thomas was pushed into increased action when Joakim Noah went out in mid-December, and the Bulls needed him even more recently when Carlos Boozer was temporarily shelved with a sprained ankle. He's stepped up to the task, averaging 10.0 rebounds per game in his past five contests, including an 18-rebound explosion on Jan. 14. Thomas is averaging 27.8 minutes this month and 8.1 rebounds with 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per game. Boozer should return within the week, although Noah still has another month or so until he's back, so Thomas' value on the boards will linger a little longer.

Jeff Foster, PF/C, Indiana Pacers (0.3 percent owned): As Roy Hibbert's season has gone into a tailspin, Foster has once again emerged as a fantasy threat on the boards, averaging 8.6 rebounds per game in January and 10.8 rebounds per game in his past five contests. He has two 15-rebound games this month, and is averaging 26.4 minutes per game over his past five. Hibbert's playing time has shrunk, as he's averaging just 20.7 minutes per game this month compared to 29.3 in November. Foster doesn't provide across-the-board stats, but is an excellent rebounder, and as long as he's getting increased playing time, the boards will follow.

Assists

Tracy McGrady, PG/SG, Detroit Pistons (17.0 percent owned): T-Mac is experiencing a strange resurgence in his career as the starting point guard for the Pistons. While he's no longer the high-output fantasy monster he was five years ago, he's been productive when on the court, especially in assists. He's averaging 5.0 assists per game this month, a number that could slowly increase if he remains healthy and holds onto his current role. He's also providing decent defensive stats, with 0.7 steals and 0.4 blocks per game in just 21 minutes. His blocks are legit, as he's averaged 0.9 per game for his career, and his current 0.98 blocks-per-48 minutes is the highest rate of any point guard-eligible player in the league.

Ty Lawson
Ty Lawson has been helpful off the bench and could get more minutes, depending on what the Nuggets do in the next few weeks.

Ty Lawson, PG, Denver Nuggets (10.3 percent owned): Lawson has consistently performed as one of the better backup point guards in the league this season, holding down the fort when Chauncey Billups is on the bench and averaging 8.0 assists per 48 minutes. Billups could still be included in a Carmelo Anthony trade, even if the New Jersey Nets are out of it, and it's hard to predict what the Nuggets' roster will look like after the trade deadline. Lawson would immediately average at least six assists per game if given starter's minutes, which might happen at some point this season. Even if it doesn't, Lawson plays enough off the bench to contribute as Billups' backup, averaging 4.0 assists per game, with 0.8 3s and 0.8 steals, numbers worth owning if you're in desperate need of dimes.

Blocks

Francisco Garcia, SG/SF, Sacramento Kings (9.9 percent owned): Despite missing the past couple of games with a calf injury, Garcia has been great since re-entering the starting lineup in late December, averaging 13.3 points, 1.8 3s, 0.9 steals and 1.3 blocks per game in 12 starts this season. It's hard to find blocks from a guard-eligible player, and Garcia does it consistently, along with providing 3s, steals and decent scoring. If he's still available in your league, snatch him up pronto, as he'll soon return from his bum calf and is producing in multiple categories while blocking more shots per game than any other guard-eligible player over the past 30 days not named Dwyane Wade.

Ed Davis, PF, Toronto Raptors (0.4 percent owned): The rookie is bound to be inconsistent this season, although he's played well in limited time and is increasingly earning more play for the Raptors. He's averaging 1.1 blocks per game this season in just 21.1 minutes per game, and 1.5 swats per game this month. His role should continue to increase as the season progresses as the Raptors begin looking toward the future, and even though he'll put up plenty of clunkers, the blocks are legit and Davis should be a decent source of them from here on out.

Steals

Greg Monroe, PF/C, Detroit Pistons (45.8 percent owned): One would assume the rookie big man's best categories would be rebounds or blocks, but his biggest impact category is steals, where he's averaging 1.1 per game in just 22.8 minutes. He's really turned it up as of late, averaging 2.4 steals per game over his past five contests and 2.2 per game this month. He ranks second in the league in steals over the past 30 days among center-eligible players, so is providing them at a high rate from a position that typically doesn't contribute heftily in this category. He's getting serious playing time for the Pistons, averaging 34.6 minutes per game this month. He'll be prone to inconsistency typical of a rookie, although he is demonstrating the ability to provide steals at a rate that rivals the best bigs in the league, rookie or not. Add his 9.1 rebounds per game this month and you've got a viable fantasy contributor who provides steals from an atypical position, a great way to make up ground in a category.

Derek Fisher, PG, Los Angeles Lakers (7.9 percent owned): Fisher's lack of assists makes him one of the few starting point guards in the league who isn't universally owned, although his 1.5 steals per game are legit. He's a savvy defender with sticky hands who has averaged at least 1.3 steals per game in each month of the season, making him a consistent contributor in this category. Steals are a fickle category, and Fisher's 1.5 per game make him worth owning if your roster is in need of them. Even though he doesn't provide the dimes or 3s you'd like from a point guard, his stats aren't entirely ignorable, and his consistent ability to provide steals makes him a worthy addition to certain rosters.

Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.