Friday, March 16, 2012
The one-category helpers
By Josh Whitling
Special to ESPN.com
At earlier points in the season, it's easier to target the best available player on waivers when performing an add/drop. This is because you want to boost your overall team value, and it's easy to convince yourself that your team's categorical deficits aren't as bad as they seem and will even out once your underperforming players start meeting the lofty expectations you've placed on them. But now that the trade deadline is passed and we're about two-thirds through the season, it's critical to address your specific needs through the waiver wire and not just add whoever has been playing well.
Making "targeted" add/drop decisions is the only way to make up ground in a category. So don't just sort free agents by Player Rater ranking. Instead, pay close attention to exactly what each potential addition to your roster would provide and make a decision accordingly. This week, I'll focus on players who will bolster your stats in a specific category. Some provide help in more than just that category, others are purely one-dimensional, but all of them are widely available and will help you in the designated area.
Zaza Pachulia, C, Hawks (20.6 percent owned): I've previously highlighted Pachulia as a target if you need steals, and that remains the case, as he consistently ranks among the top centers in steals per game. But he's currently rebounding at an epic pace -- well, epic for Pachulia anyway. His 9.6 rebounds per game in March is one of his highest marks for a month in his eight-year career, and a big reason is because he's on the court a ton, averaging 32.5 minutes per game this month. It's still unclear whether Al Horford will return before season's end, but for now Zaza has the center spot in Atlanta on lockdown. With double-digit rebounds in eight of his past 10 contests, he's grabbing boards at a rate that warrants ownership on any team in need of rebounds.
Jason Thompson, PF, Kings (2.1 percent owned): Thompson is a streaky player who has had his ups and downs this season, but it looks as if he's at the beginning of one of his hot streaks. He has averaged 8.6 rebounds per game in his past five contests and has snared at least eight boards in five of his past six. He benefits when DeMarcus Cousins gets in foul trouble, which happens frequently, and even though he's not flashy, Thompson should be a steady source of seven or eight rebounds per night for the foreseeable future.
Luke Babbitt, SF, Blazers (0.1 percent owned): Here's a name suited only for the deepest of formats, but the second-year small forward could benefit from the Blazers eschewing Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby. He has proven to be an excellent rebounder in his limited playing time, averaging 16 rebounds per 48 minutes for the season and 17.2 rebounds per 48 in March. In his final season at Nevada, he averaged 8.9 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 1 steal and shot 50 percent from the floor. The team likes him and is clearly looking toward the future after cleaning house of key veterans, as well as coach Nate McMillan, so don't be surprised if Babbitt sees a significant uptick in playing time and regularly posts 5-6 boards per night.
|Atlanta's Zaza Pachulia has had double-figure rebounds in eight of his past 10 games.|
Jerryd Bayless, PG/SG, Raptors (21.4 percent owned): One of the unsung winners of the trade-deadline action is Bayless, who sees his stock jump considerably with Leandro Barbosa out of the picture in Toronto. He was already playing well in place of the sidelinedJose Calderon, with 13.8 points, 5.8 assists and 1.4 3-pointers per game in his past five games. With Barbosa gone, he should continue to see steady minutes even upon Calderon's return. He's averaging 22.9 minutes with 3.7 assists and 1.3 3s per game this season but should hover around 30 minutes per game in the streamlined Toronto backcourt, which should push his assists to around five per game and allow him to flirt with two 3s per game. He was already being added in many leagues, but with news of the Barbosa trade, Bayless becomes a no-brainer.
Baron Davis, PG, Knicks (14.8 percent owned): Many fantasy owners selected Davis in the final rounds of their draft in hopes of stashing him until he crashed onto the scene to lead their teams to fantasy glory, but the emergence of Jeremy Lin shattered that fantasy. However, Davis is emerging as a capable backup and is racking up assists at a spectacular pace; his 15.7 assists per 48 minutes is second in the league behind Steve Nash. "Boom Dizzle" (love that nickname!) is averaging 6.1 dimes per game over his past 10 games and is playing 19.7 minutes per game in March, a number that should increase as his conditioning improves. His ability to score and nail 3s has tailed off considerably, but he's consistently giving fantasy owners 5-6 assists per night, which is valuable given the scarcity of assists on the waiver wire.
J.J. Barea, PG, Timberwolves (5.9 percent owned): Barea notched eight assists in his first game without Ricky Rubio and should undoubtedly see an uptick in dimes and playing time with the dazzling rookie sidelined for the rest of the season. Luke Ridnour has grown accustomed to playing off the ball more, and Barea should take a nice chunk of the ballhandling duties in the new-look Timberwolves backcourt. He's averaging 3.6 assists in 20 minutes per game this season and should be able to hover in the five-per-game range with increased run and responsibility. He's coming off an ankle injury, so his playing time should steadily increase, and if he can stay healthy, he's a viable option for assists with a few 3-pointers thrown in as well.
|Jerryd Bayless, right, has been scoring more of late, but it's his assists totals that can help fantasy owners most.|
Matt Bonner, PF/C, Spurs (1.1 percent owned): Seemingly nothing can stop Bonner from averaging around two 3s per game in San Antonio. He's averaging two in March, averaged 2.1 in February and is at 1.9 per game for the season. Bonner is a situational add, making a great addition to an already-good team in turnover formats that needs 3-point assistance. This is because he can get you treys from the center position, a nice way to make up ground since those 3s are coming from an atypical slot. Plus, his turnovers are nearly nonexistent (0.2 per game on the season). He's not everybody's cup of tea and he really doesn't help you anywhere else, but if you have specific 3-point needs, Bonner is a nice player to plug into your starting lineup.
Daniel Gibson, PG/SG, Cavaliers (0.7 percent owned): With Ramon Sessions sent to the Lakers, Gibson should see more backup time at both guard spots in Cleveland. He's already at 1.6 3s per game for the season, with 1.8 per game over his past five, and if there's one thing he's been able to do with some consistency throughout his career, it's drain long-range shots. Now that his minutes should increase from 26.5 to around 30 per game, Gibson could easily average two 3s per game with about one steal. He's not a well-rounded player, but his opportunity to produce has improved since the trade deadline, as he should provide a steady long-range spark off the bench for the Cavs and see more looks than when he was splitting time with Sessions.
Nate Robinson, PG/SG, Warriors (26.5 percent owned): Robinson is another player whose stock has risen due to trades, as the absence of Monta Ellis in the Bay Area opens up serious playing time for the diminutive guard. His steals have been especially helpful of late, with 1.5 per game in March and 1.1 per game for the season in just 21.9 minutes per game. Only 22 players with more than 20 minutes per game have accrued more steals-per-minute than Robinson, and with the rumor that the team might shut down Stephen Curry for the rest of the season, Robinson has a prime opportunity to flex his statistical muscle. He'll consistently provide 3s, assists and steals and could see more than 30 minutes per game given the Warriors' roster composition. That makes him worth owning in all formats.
Metta World Peace, SF, Lakers (3.8 percent owned): The artist formerly known as Ron Artest is playing big minutes for the Lakers of late, with 32.9 minutes per game this month. That has provided him the opportunity to do what he does best on a more consistent basis. He's averaging 1.5 steals per game this month, with at least one steal in every March game but one. He also is averaging 1.3 3s per game this month, and with the type of minutes he's seeing recently, he should continue to produce in those categories. His percentages are terrible, but he doesn't take many shots, so it isn't especially harmful. If he continues seeing 30-plus minutes per game, World Peace should be around 1.5 steals with around 1.0 3s per game for the rest of the season.
|Nate Robinson, left, has been on a steals binge.|