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Thursday, March 21, 2013
Working the Wire: Late risers

By Josh Whitling
Special to ESPN.com

In a momentous scene from "He Got Game," Denzel Washington's character, Jake Shuttlesworth, schools his son Jesus about the importance of putting in work while your opponents sleep:

He says, "That's right. Come on, come on. Work, baby. You got to work harder than the next man, right? It's the will of the man; it ain't the skill of the man. He can't play you. He can't do nothing with you! We the only two people up. Me, you and Michael Jordan. That's the only people. Everybody else in the world is asleep."

Well, right now in many fantasy leagues, your opponents are sleeping. And being industrious with your roster moves and mining the wire for the players who fit your team best is the equivalent of being the only one up while everybody else in the world is asleep.

Here are some widely-available players your opponents might be sleeping on who are capable of providing a boost to fantasy teams trying to finish the season strong:

Livingston
Livingston

Shaun Livingston, PG/SG, Cleveland Cavaliers (13.6 percent owned): It's always bittersweet when a player as thrilling to watch as Kyrie Irving is shelved. But the silver lining is that there's a feel-good story in the fact Livingston's career has been resurrected by holding down the fort at point guard for the Cavs. In 12 starts this season, Livingston is averaging 10.3 points on 49.0 percent from the floor and 88.9 percent from the stripe with 3.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.3 blocks per game, and his assist rate of 35.43 ranks 13th in the league among those averaging at least 20 minutes per game. The biggest issue with his game is the lack of 3-pointers; if you need them from your point guard, don't bother with Livingston. The trade-off, however, is that his field goal percentage is fantastic (over the past 30 days he's the fifth most helpful point guard in field goal percentage on the Player Rater), and that coupled with efficient free throw shooting, low turnovers, the occasional block from the guard position and dual-position eligibility, he's got plenty of checkmarks in the "pro" column. The most reassuring aspect of Livingston's value is that his playing time is secure for the rest of the season, as the injury-plagued Cavs will give him plenty of run going forward.

Wright
Wright

Brandan Wright, PF/C, Dallas Mavericks (8.2 percent owned): Wright may never live up to the expectations many had for him when he was selected eighth overall in the 2007 draft, but he's surfaced as a legitimate rotation big man for the Mavs. Wright is sharing the center minutes with Chris Kaman, and complements the plodding Caveman nicely with his energy, athleticism and hustle. He's put together perhaps the best month of his career in March, averaging 11.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.7 blocks per game, while shooting a sparkling 61.0 percent from the floor. Perhaps the most assuring aspect of his March stat line is the 25.0 minutes per game, and as the final games of the season approach, field goal percentage is often one of the most-contested races in roto leagues. Wright ranks seventh in field goal percentage on the 15-day Player Rater, and is also capable of providing some rebounds, blocks and steals now that he's getting consistent run, making him one of the first players to add if you need field goal percentage down the stretch.

Lee
Lee

Courtney Lee, SG, Boston Celtics (4.3 percent owned): Jeff Green's 42-point eruption got all the attention in Boston this week, but Lee just put together one of his best stretches of the season statistically, averaging 12.0 points, 4.0 assists and 1.3 3s per game over three contests, and played 40 minutes against the Miami Heat on Monday. Even when judging his play qualitatively, he looks more and more comfortable on the court, beckoning back to the days when he shone for the Orlando Magic in the playoffs as a rookie. Above all, he will consistently rack up steals, as his 2.33 steals per 48 minutes rank 22nd in the league and he's a sure thing to give you over a steal per game going forward, something you can't say of most waiver wire players. Of the 60 players averaging at least 1.2 steals per game, he's the only one owned in fewer than 5 percent of leagues, so if you need a boost in swipes, Lee is a practical option.

McRoberts
McRoberts

Josh McRoberts, PF, Charlotte Bobcats (3.8 percent owned): McRoberts worked his way into the rotation in Charlotte, and now is starting at power forward with pleasant results, averaging 12.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks per game over his past five games with three double-doubles in that span. McRoberts is flashing the ability to provide across-the-board production as well as above-average assists for a power forward, so if you want a nice glue player to replace an injured or struggling starter, you can insert McRoberts into your lineup and shouldn't see a significant decline in any category. The move to Charlotte has been beneficial for his value, as his PER, total rebounding rate, usage rate and percentage of shots at the rim have all increased significantly since the relocation, and earned him increased run that has given him fantasy value.

Wilkens
Wilkens

Damien Wilkins, SG, Philadelphia 76ers (3.7 percent owned): I reserve a special corner of my heart for players like Wilkins, as he's a former member of the Seattle Supersonics, the team which owns my undying love. But he's been relatively anonymous over the past several seasons, as he hasn't averaged 20 minutes per game since his Seattle days, although he's starting at the 2 in Philly, and has scored at least 12 points in six of the past eight contests. With Jason Richardson out for the season and Nick Young out of the rotation, Wilkins is averaging 11.0 points on 53.3 percent shooting with 0.8 3s, 1.0 blocks and 0.6 steals in March. At 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, Wilkins possesses nice size for a shooting guard, which helps him accrue blocks at an above-average rate for the position, as he's one of just five shooting guards in the league averaging at least 1.0 blocks per-48 minutes. Now that he's starting, Wilkins has emerged as a steady deep-league option who won't blow you away in any specific category but provides just enough in multiple categories to warrant a deep-league roster spot.

Blake
Blake

Steve Blake, PG, Los Angeles Lakers (3.6 percent owned): The Lakers are better when he's in the lineup (their record is 16-21 without Blake and 20-12 with him), Mike D'Antoni has apparently coveted him for years, and now things are finally clicking for Blake. He missed most of December and January and it took time for him to assimilate to the new-look Lakers and round back into form. He's played at least 34 minutes in each of the Lakers' past four contests, and is averaging 11.4 points, 5.8 assists, 2.4 3s and 1.4 steals per game in his past five. Blake provides the three stats you depend upon from a point guard -- assists, steals and 3s -- and his shooting has improved with time, as his 56.1 true shooting percentage is the second highest in his career. His PER is the best it's been with the Lakers, as D'Antoni is figuring out how to utilize his unique skill set most effectively, and now that he's getting consistent run is worth owning in any format, especially if you don't need much scoring but could benefit from a boost in assists, steals and 3s.

Douglas
Douglas

Toney Douglas, PG/SG, Sacramento Kings (2.1 percent owned): Yep, he's on the Kings. Good chance you forgot about that, but he's playing well off the bench like he did for bursts in Houston, and appears to have solidified the backup point guard role. He's notched double digits in three straight games, including a 19-point, 7-assist, 3 3-pointer effort on Tuesday, and his career marks of 1.3 3s and 0.9 steals in just 20.6 minutes per game illustrate his fruitfulness in those categories when he's given minutes. His production has come out of nowhere, and he's available in most leagues, and possesses a special blend of skills that will allow him be a surprisingly effective addition to teams in deep formats now that he's a critical cog in the Kings' guard rotation.

Ross
Ross

Terrence Ross, SG, Toronto Raptors (0.2 percent owned): His athleticism was on display at the dunk contest, and those tools should eventually translate into nice hustle stats for the talented rookie. But right now, his primary contribution is in the 3-point department, as he's averaging 1.0 3s per game in just 16.7 minutes. He's seen increased run recently, averaging 18.9 minutes per game in March compared to 10.1 per game in February, and has played at least 24 minutes in each of his past four games. In that span, he's averaging 12.0 points on 51.4 percent shooting with 1.3 3s and 1.3 steals per game, and should be a suitable source of points, 3s and steals going forward as he sees increased playing time down the stretch. He's chock full of upside, and should provide consistent 3s with the occasional big night going forward now that he's getting more opportunities in Toronto.