I've always believed that one of the most underreported aspects of fantasy basketball ownership is the impact of multi-positional players, those select few who qualify at more than one lineup spot.
I try to roster as many multi-positional players as I can. The most obvious benefit is adding built-in depth to your lineup, giving you the ability to shift on the fly if injury and/or ineffectiveness should strike.
But the best reason to look for these players is to add statistical depth. To add the select few players that can bring over production over from a more traditionally statistically rich position to a less fertile lineup spot.
Figuring out which multi-positional players can have the greatest impact starts with looking at which lineup spots are in the biggest need of added production and which lineup spots have the shallowest pool in terms of available talent. So here's how I rank those classes of multi-position players. (Younger multi-position players tend to pop up on the fantasy radar late in the season, due to a simple fact; a lot of younger players haven't defined their position to the point where ESPN.com can classify them at a single spot.)
4. Small Forward/Power Forward
The flattest position in fantasy this season -- really, every season -- is power forward. As a group, power forwards offer an abundance of fantasy's easiest-to-procure stat: rebounds. The best aspect of the SF/PF slot is the ability to plug in the statistical diversity that small forwards offer into the blandest position in the lineup, power forward.
Here are some SF/PFs that might still be available in your league:
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Milwaukee Bucks: Mbah a Moute's minutes have been trending upwards over the past month or so (30.1 mpg over his past 10 games). Not a scorer by any means, Mbah a Moute's hidden strength lies in his ability to generate steals.
Damion James, New Jersey Nets: James is out with a concussion for the next week, but he's a better stretch-run option than Travis Outlaw, who seems to have permanently played his way out of Avery Johnson's good graces. James has shown he can offer diverse, across-the-board production, with emphasis in the defensive categories.
3. Shooting Guard/Small Forward
The multi-positional slot with the most available players, SG/SFs also offers the widest array of available production. It's sort of a positional crossroads in fantasy basketball, and you can find help in a variety of categories at the swingman spot.
My favorite aspect of SG/SF is that it gives owners the ability to plug in a small forward in at shooting guard. Since shooting guards tend to be the most one-dimensional players in fantasy, you should look for any opportunity you can to decrease your lineup's reliance on pure SGs.
Some possibly available SG/SFs:
Francisco Garcia, Sacramento Kings: Garcia is locked into something of a timeshare with Omri Casspi, but he has produced since returning from a calf injury. He's averaging almost 13 points a game with a couple of 3s despite barely playing 20 minutes per game. Garcia could be a real difference maker for fantasy teams gearing up for the playoffs.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers: George has the one, best quality you should be looking for in an endgame pick or waiver-wire grab: He's a lottery pick. Lottery picks will tend to get a lot of late season action as teams open up their rotations. George is averaging 23.1 minutes per game over his past 10 contests, and has responded with a strong showing in the defensive categories. George's role could definitely grow over the next couple of weeks, and steals-hungry owners in deeper leagues should keep an eye on him.
2. Power Forward/Center
When I first started writing about fantasy basketball, the PF/C spot was always considered to be a premium multi-positional spot due to the center qualification. But recent upward trends in offensive production, coupled with ESPN.com's more forgiving views toward who qualifies as a center and who doesn't, has sent the once mighty PF/C tumbling down to No. 2.
Elite center production is still at a premium; my own basic strategy always involves cornering the center market with as many PF/Cs as my roster will allow. Aside from giving me a leg up in the trade market, having a ton of PF/Cs has another effect; the ability to plug in the more block-friendly numbers of your average NBA center in the PF slot, or even the F slot if I'm really in need of a boost in that area.
Some available PF/Cs:
Nenad Krstic, Boston Celtics: Many of you are probably too young to remember that Krstic was once upon a time a real option at center in fantasy. I'm talking three or four seasons ago, but Krstic, given the minutes, has shown he can be a serviceable fantasy big man. Still only 27, he's always had an underrated ability to shoot the ball, as evidenced with his 20-point outburst Wednesday night versus the Los Angeles Clippers. He's not the greatest rebounder, but can chip in with the occasional steal or block.
Chuck Hayes, Houston Rockets: I've been rooting for Hayes all season to stay on the fantasy radar. Toiling in a crowded frontcourt rotation, Hayes seemed to shine in short bursts, hoarding hustle numbers while occasionally dazzling with a double-double. After the trade deadline, Hayes suddenly found himself in line for more minutes, and he has responded with nearly 10 boards per game over his past 10 games. The key for Hayes is his scoring output. If he can start clawing his way towards a steady 8 ppg, he could emerge as a solid bench player in medium-sized leagues.
Matt Bonner, San Antonio Spurs: Bonner is the new Pat Garrity; a big man you can stick in at center in deeper leagues to boost your 3-point production. He's strictly a specialist, so expect one to two 3-pointers a game and absolutely, positively nothing else.
1. Point Guard/Shooting Guard
Over the past couple of seasons, this has become the most precious positional classification in fantasy for two reasons.
One is the concentration of assists among a select few players. As assists have gone up, the premium on point guards has risen accordingly. This season, the distribution of assists has become almost historically top-heavy. If you don't have a superproducer in assists (Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul), you're already looking at an uphill battle in this department.
One way to combat not having one of these PGs is to spread some assists up and down the rest of your lineup. The best way to do this is to have one of the few elite PG/SGs available on ESPN.com.
The other reason to stock your team with a PG/SG? It's another way to minimize the one-dimensional impact of pure SGs. A top-flight PG/SG (Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry) will give you all the things you want out of a SG, plus the assists. It's a simple but effective strategy, and important to keep in mind when hitting the waiver wire.
Even though it's late in the year, there are still a few emerging players with the PG/SG classification:
Randy Foye, Los Angeles Clippers: Foye had flashed plenty of reasons to pick him up last month while Eric Gordon was on the shelf. Gordon returned, and owners dropped Foye in droves. Then, as we know, Gordon was injured again and could possibly end up as a shutdown candidate. Either way Foye should be getting his 30 minutes per game for the near future.
Historically, the key for Foye has been his outside shot. When it's falling, it feeds the rest of his production. But as Wednesday night's 12-assist game versus the Celtics showed, Foye is getting more proficient at producing in other areas even when he's not scoring.
Toney Douglas, New York Knicks: Many of you have already caught onto Douglas, who has emerged as a nice short-term fill in due to Chauncey Billups' most recent injury. Douglas is strictly a stopgap, but could stick as the starter through this weekend.
Kirk Hinrich, Atlanta Hawks: Once one of fantasy's more valuable PG/SGs, Hinrich fell on hard times in recent years when moved to the "grizzled vet" role, playing mentor first to Derrick Rose and then John Wall. But freed from the Wizards and landing in a starting spot on a playoff team (with a very underrated offensive system) have already paid big dividends for those few owners who have already picked Hinrich up. He is still only 30 and could be primed for bounceback season next season (if there is a next season) in Atlanta.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com and a filmmaker. His film "Devolved" was released last week.