Seeking single-category helpers
It's still early in the 2012-13 fantasy basketball season, but it's not that early. Teams have now played between 12 and 15 games, which means the season is almost a fifth of the way through. A few things have become clear in the early going, but a lot is still open for debate. Kevin Durant, after having his reign as best fantasy player in the land questioned by LeBron James last season, has put a rest to the debate already this time around. His worst category so far this season (according to the Player Rater) is assists, but the only non-guards ahead of him in that category (when sorted by averages) are LeBron James and Marc Gasol. Again: that's Durant's worst category. As for the rest of the players in the league, they come with plenty of caveats and qualifications.
Which guys should you target? It depends on what you need. Andrei Kirilenko and Stephen Curry, for example, have had roughly similar value so far this season on a per-game basis (they are currently ranked 23rd and 24th by this measure, respectively), but the ways in which each contributes to your fantasy team couldn't be more different.
What follows is a list of players you might want to think about targeting for help in each of the eight categories. These players have their warts, sure, but they are players you could put together reasonable trade offers to get, and if your fantasy squad needs help in their specialty, they could be exactly what you need.
(Ranking in the category based on per-game stats in parentheses)
Tyson Chandler, C, New York Knicks (1): Let's start with the negatives. His rebound rate has declined a bit from last season (which was already worse than the season before), and I'm a little concerned that he's playing just 30 minutes per game (down from 33 last season) with Amar'e Stoudemire's return to the lineup looming somewhere in the future. But Chandler set the non-Wilt Chamberlain record for field goal percentage in a season in 2011-12, and he's doing even better this time around (currently better than 70 percent). His overall current ranking (63) is just shy of where he was drafted in fantasy leagues (58.4), so if you put together a fair offer, he's probably out there for the taking. In spite of his relatively small number of attempts, there isn't another player out there who will help your team's overall field goal percentage more.
Richard Hamilton, SG, Chicago Bulls (8): You can probably just go ahead and pick him up off the waiver wire, because he's not even a top-100 player at the moment. However, Hamilton is looking a little like his old self, and given how much the Bulls need his scoring in their lineup, he's a player you might want to think about adding if you're carrying any dead weight on your roster and need help at the line. Forget the fact he's shooting 95 percent so far this season, and focus on the attempts. He's back up to three per game, more than double last season's putrid number, and that means his high percentage carries some real value. Yes, you might want to focus on guys like J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford here, but Hamilton's the easiest one to acquire, so if you're an Al Horford owner looking for a free throw lifeline, Hamilton might be your best bet.
Randy Foye, PG/SG, Utah Jazz (12): Foye, like Hamilton, is probably available in your league, but that doesn't mean he's not worth owning. He's currently in the top 10 in made 3-pointers, and has made at least two from long range in 11 of his 15 games so far this season. That's valuable, especially in the short-term in head-to-head formats. His production in other areas is pretty terrible, but his poor field goal percentage is easier to swallow because he attempts (and makes) so many 3s, and he's actually quite good from the line, too. In a week where he plays four times, he could easily get you 10 3s, and that could be the difference between winning and losing in a lot of fantasy leagues.
J.J. Hickson, PF/C, Portland Trail Blazers (8): Hickson is playing pretty decent minutes so far this season for the Blazers, allowing him to take advantage of the fact he's posting the third highest rebound rate in the league among players playing at least 25 minutes per game. It helps that his frontcourt mate, LaMarcus Aldridge, counts rebounding as one of his weaknesses, so the Trail Blazers need every board Hickson can muster. Hickson is a big man who doesn't get blocks or steals, which is unfortunate, but it also means that he might be undervalued by owners who don't need his rebounding so much. If you're desperate for boards, he's a guy you should absolutely target; if he can keep averaging 10 per game, he'll be in the top 10 at season's end.
Greivis Vasquez, PG, New Orleans Hornets (5): The quick fix at this spot is Kirk Hinrich; the Bulls point guard is going to keep putting up somewhere in the neighborhood of six assists per game at least until Derrick Rose returns to the lineup, and he's likely available in your league right now. The guy I'd be looking at trading for, though, is Vasquez. The Hornets' only other real point guard is the wholly unproven (but promising) Brian Roberts, so Vasquez is a good bet to keep seeing the 33 minutes per game he's been getting so far. Only Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo play more minutes with a higher assist rate, so the fact Vasquez shoots a low percentage from the floor and never gets steals is mitigated by the fact he can single-handedly anchor your team in assists. Offering up another player ranked somewhere in the 60-80 range overall would be fair, and could let you trade an area of surplus for one of need.
Alonzo Gee, SG/SF, Cleveland Cavaliers (21): Gee showed signs of this last season, averaging 1.3 steals per game in 29 minutes, but he's up to 1.7 this season, and those minutes are seemingly going up. When you add to the steals the fact he's slowly turning himself into a passable 3-point shooter (0.9 made per game) and a real weapon from the foul line (88 percent on 3.2 attempts per game), the fact he's still available in some leagues starts to look more and more surprising. He definitely turns it over more than he should, but his ability to contribute a little in points and assists while being a top-20 thief gives him some major value. Offering up a more well-known but less valuable player (Evan Turner, perhaps?) would probably be enough to net Gee in return, and I'd much rather have Gee in fantasy leagues.
Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana Pacers (1): Hibbert, as has been widely reported, has been most a disaster this season, save for one game where he had a triple-double in points, rebounds and blocks. Hibbert is just the ninth guy to pull this off since the turn of the century, so it's nothing to shove aside. Still, the fact he's shooting 39 percent from the floor and scoring fewer than 10 points per game takes some of the shine off the accomplishment. I just traded him in one of my leagues, so I'm certainly not advocating him as a buy-low candidate. Still, if you need blocks, Hibbert is your man: He would still be in the top-5 in the league in blocks per game if you threw out his 11-block performance. If the guy who owns him is desperate enough, someone like Nikola Pekovic or Andrea Bargnani could do the trick.
DeMar DeRozan, SG/SF, Toronto Raptors (20): No one gets you an emptier 18 points per game than DeRozan, so if you're desperate for scoring, this might be where you need to look. There's a good chance the person who owns him in your fantasy league already knows that he needs to try to trade DeRozan for help in other categories, so if scoring is the category you need, you might be in luck. I'm not holding out any hope for DeRozan to turn into a more well-rounded player, but it's clear that the Raptors will continue to rely on his scoring for the foreseeable future, especially now that they've locked him into a long-term contract. Given that he's currently well outside of the top 100 on the Player Rater, it shouldn't be too difficult to put together a fair trade offer.
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