- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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Context. Establishing a clear one is imperative when making any judgment call. For example, if you're attempting to formulate an opinion about "The Wire" and its place in the pantheon of great television shows based solely upon the pilot episode, you don't have appropriate enough context to make that judgment. But once you're a few seasons in, have had a chance to witness the tapestry of characters weaved by the writers, watch Omar make hoppers scatter and Lester work the wire (had to do it), you can make an educated decision.
This need for context applies to roster decisions in fantasy hoops. If you're attempting to decide whether to add a player, it's impossible to evaluate without appropriate context of the needs of your team and landscape of your specific fantasy league. Especially this close to the finish, where needs are even more magnified and the fantasy playoffs are approaching in many leagues, you can no longer go with the method of simply adding the best available player on the waiver wire.
That being said, evaluate your needs and address them in a targeted fashion. In roto leagues, this doesn't merely mean pinpointing which category you're ranked lowest and adding the player who has provided the most in that category over the past month. It means look at the standings, identify which areas you have the best chance to improve in and which you can't afford to sacrifice, as well as which positions you need to fill and where you can afford to start new roster additions. In head-to-head, analyze your upcoming schedule and past weeks and craft a strategy that is very specific to your team and opponents. Only if you do this type of upper-level roster analysis will you have the proper context to evaluate the validity of potential free agent acquisitions.
Here are some widely available players contributing in 3s, rebounds and steals who may help your team, depending on the context:
Dorell Wright, SF, Philadelphia 76ers (10.4 percent owned): One of the more frustrating players in both fantasy and actual basketball, Wright has seen his numbers decline steadily since his wondrous 2010-11 season in which he averaged 16.1 points, 2.4 3-pointers, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks per game for the Golden State Warriors. But he's showing glimpses of that potential once again, averaging 13.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 3s, 1.3 steals and 0.4 blocks per game in eight March contests with at least three 3s in eight of his past 12 contests. One thing is clear about Wright: He's a willing gunner who averages 7.5 3-point attempts per 40 minutes, the same frequency as prolific 3-point shooters such as Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick. He'll put up some clunkers and doesn't provide the defensive peripherals he once did, but he is locked in right now, averaging the most minutes, points, rebounds, field goal percentage and 3s per game of any month this season. He's benefited from Nick Young's absence, but Young returned Wednesday and played just six minutes compared to Wright's 22, so Doug Collins seems to be riding the hot hand. Wright also has increased value in turnover leagues, since he rarely attempts to create for himself despite the fact he possesses some athleticism, he averages just 0.9 turnovers per game and is ranked 56th on the 15-day player rater if you include turnovers.
Jodie Meeks, SG, Los Angeles Lakers (1.1 percent owned): I thought Meeks would thrive in Mike D'Antoni's system. Although it took most of the season for the coach to figure out how to use him, Meeks has improved as of late, averaging 11.0 points and 2.4 3s in 28.4 minutes per game over his past five contests. He should see increased run and looks after Kobe Bryant badly sprained his ankle Wednesday and is out indefinitely. Meeks' aggregate stats have dipped this year, but he's boasting a better PER, true shooting percentage and usage rate while cutting his attempts between 16 and 23 feet from 1.9 per-40 minutes to 0.8 per-40 minutes when compared to last season. Of the 51 players averaging at least 1.6 3s per game, Meeks and Shane Battier are the only two owned in fewer than 2 percent of ESPN leagues. Perhaps the most promising aspect of his splits is the fact he was already playing a season-high 27.0 minutes per game this month even before Kobe's injury. He's a consistent 3-point threat, with at least one trey in 10 of his past 11 contests, and now that he's getting more run and Kobe is sidelined, Meeks could easily average over two 3s per game going forward.
Andrew Bogut, C, Golden State Warriors (46.5 percent owned): He's struggled to find his offensive game in the six games since returning from a back injury, averaging just 4.0 points per game. But Bogut has posted sterling defensive statistics in that span, averaging 9.5 boards, 1.7 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. Despite another disappointing season dampened by injuries, Bogut's total rebound rate, assist rate, PER and true shooting are better than last season, so even though he's not dependable to be on the floor a week from now, he's been effective when playing. And he's playing right now. With Festus Ezeli and Andris Biedrins his primary competition for minutes, Bogut should get all the run his achy body can handle as the Warriors attempt to hold onto their playoff bid. Bogut is reportedly not on a minutes restriction even in back-to-back games, illustrated by his season-high 32 minutes played Wednesday. He's the most talented and potentially-impactful widely-available player out there, especially in boards and blocks, and should be owned in every format as long as he's on the court.
Ed Davis, PF/C, Memphis Grizzlies (7.8 percent owned): Davis was a legitimate starter in 12-team formats before the trade to Memphis limited his value, as he averaged 13.9 points on 54.7 percent shooting with 8.1 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 0.4 steals per game in 14 January contests. After the trade, he averaged just 4.1 points and 1.8 rebounds in 9.6 minutes per game for the Grizzlies in February, but is averaging 22.4 minutes per game in March with Darrell Arthur sidelined and Zach Randolph having missed several games. Davis is averaging 10.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.0 steals per game in his past five contests, and he even put up 14 points and nine boards in 25 minutes Tuesday in the game in which Randolph returned, a positive indication about his role with the squad going forward. He did play just 14 minutes compared to Randolph's 40 Wednesday, but it was during a critical game against the Los Angeles Clippers, and Davis was still the only bench big to see the floor. If he can get consistent run as the primary big off the bench, Davis can provide helpful production with effective scoring, rebounding, and a handful of steals and blocks. He was widely dropped after the trade to Memphis but is worth adding again now that he's cracked Lionel Hollins' rotation.
C.J. Miles, SG/SF, Cleveland Cavaliers (11.4 percent owned): Miles is typically viewed as just a scorer, and he's had some impressive flashes doing so this season. In December, Miles averaged 14.9 points per game, and he's scoring well lately, with double-digit points in 11 of his past 12 contests. But where he's upped his game most in recent weeks in the steals department: his career mark of 0.7 steals in 19.5 minutes per game is solid, but nothing special, but he's averaging 1.8 steals per game this month. Miles also has three 3-steal games in his past eight contests and seems to be maturing as an all-around player. His PER of 14.97 is a career-high, and despite a dip in minutes from last season, his total rebounding rate, true shooting percentage and usage rate have all increased. Now that Kyrie Irving is sidelined, he's often the primary scoring option when on the court, and should see a bump in minutes since the Cavs will need his offense. Based upon how he's been accruing steals, Miles is surfacing as an option for more than just points, and with a legitimate second category, he is roster-worthy in all formats if you want both.
Francisco Garcia, SG/SF, Houston Rockets (0.1 percent owned): I've always had a soft spot for Garcia in a fantasy sense. Perhaps it's the fact he once averaged over one steal, one block and one 3-pointer per game, a nearly-impossible task for a guard-eligible player. Or maybe it's because he's only averaged 30 minutes per game once in his career, so he constantly leaves me feeling unsatisfied, yet tantalized at the same time. Garcia has once again become fantasy relevant despite his minor role on the Rockets, averaging 1.5 3s, 1.8 steals and 0.5 blocks in just 16.5 minutes per game over his past four contests. The best asset of his game is the ability to contribute in a unique combination of categories, especially as a guard, and right now he's racking up steals -- his 5.01 steals per 48 minutes this month is best of any player averaging at least 15 minutes per game. He won't provide many traditional stats, but if you're set in points, rebounds and assists and need a glue player to help in other categories in deep formats, Garcia has produced whenever he's getting minutes.
Josh Whitling recommends players off the waiver wire for those seeking help in 3-pointers, rebounds and steals.