- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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With the trade deadline hours away and the inevitable fallout that results in shifted value among players, the fantasy basketball landscape is primed to be shaken up for the next week or so. But when the dust settles and we're entrenched in the final couple months of the season, game-changing talent on the waiver wire is sparse. That's why now is the prime time to pounce on injured players who might be several weeks away from returning. But once they do, they will have more impact than the players who are available at that time.
Several big names are among the ranks of currently injured fantasy-worthy players, including Andrew Bynum (67.9 percent owned) and Derrick Rose (86.6 percent owned), both of whom are worth owning in all formats at this point unless you really use all your bench spots and they're filled with undroppable players. If that is the case, I would recommend trading your depth for quality in the starting lineup and filling out your bench with waiver-wire options over the next couple of weeks while value is still readily available.
Here are some available players worth adding, including several currently injured options who will have a substantive late-season impact.
Thaddeus Young, SF/PF, Philadelphia 76ers (71.4 percent owned): Young has stepped up his fantasy game this season, improving in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and field goal percentage, primarily due to a jump in minutes from 27.9 to 35.5 per game. He's been out since Feb. 4 with a hamstring injury. He is on the brink of returning and can be an anchor in field goal percentage, which is consistently high due to the fact he averages 6.0 attempts per game at the rim and converts 70.5 percent of those shots. Of the 50 players averaging at least 12.9 field goal attempts per game, Young is one of five players shooting better than 52 percent from the floor. He doesn't shoot 3-pointers, but the Sixers are best with him on the court, illustrated by his plus-5.9 rating, highest of anybody on the team and an indication he'll continue seeing big minutes upon his return.
Chauncey Billups, PG/SG, Los Angeles Clippers (59.7 percent owned): The Clippers are deep, and Chauncey is 36 years old and coming off an injured Achilles. That's a notoriously difficult injury from which to rebound, so don't expect him to have the type of impact he did when he was a top-30 fantasy player every season. But he'll nail 3s right off the bat, accrue some assists and steals, and he rarely misses a free throw. The loss in quickness he's seen due to aging and injury will likely force him to spot up more, which could bode well for his 3-point totals. Billups has transformed from fantasy cornerstone to an effective, low-damage guard who provides in a handful of categories and will have the occasional "Mr. Big Shot" night. Despite his limited playing time, he is worth owning in many formats if you need 3s.
Gordon Hayward, SG/SF, Utah Jazz (58.8 percent owned): He scored 17 points Tuesday in his first game back from his shoulder injury, and if his talent level and performance last season are any indication, Hayward is in line for a second half that warrants him being universally owned. After a disappointing first half which was marred by a decline in minutes and the shoulder injury that forced him to miss 10 games before the break, he's got all the tools to be a second-half fantasy darling with his ability to provide points, 3s, steals and assists, along with excellent blocks for a guard-eligible player. I also think he's a better shooter than his 42.8 percent from the floor suggests, as he's strangely shooting just 26.7 percent between 3-10 feet, a mark I see improving in the second half. His points and 3s are up despite playing fewer minutes than last season, and he's a low-turnover player, which adds value in 9-category leagues. Last season, he averaged 14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.1 3s, 0.8 steals and 0.5 blocks per game after the All-Star break, including 16.1 points, 3.5 assists, 1.8 3s and 0.9 steals per game in 13 April contests. Hayward has the fantasy skill set to be a top-50 player; it'll all come down to how coach Tyrone Corbin uses him, but if he plays even a little more than he did in the first half, he should have considerable impact down the stretch.
Jason Thompson, PF/C, Sacramento Kings (33.4 percent owned): Thompson is heating up after a disappointing January in which he averaged just 9.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in 24.3 minutes per game, a stint that coincided with the best production of Thomas Robinson's young career.
In February, however, Thompson is averaging 13.6 points on 54.8 percent shooting with 6.9 boards, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks in 32.3 minutes per game. He's scored in double figures in six straight
after failing to do so in the five games prior to that and is averaging 16.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in that span. Thompson isn't a supremely talented player and his advanced statistics haven't progressed this season, but he's the type who'll put up numbers if given minutes due to the fact he finishes well around the rim, has some range on his jumper, rebounds effectively and plays competent defense. Pay attention to how the addition of Patrick Patterson affects his playing time, but based on recent production,Thompson has posted stout statistics. As long as his minutes aren't cut significantly due to the trade, he's a helpful fantasy option.
Gerald Henderson, SG/SF, Charlotte Bobcats (31.9 percent owned): With Ben Gordon on the outs and Henderson much more in the Mike Dunlap mold, he's been scoring with consistency, hitting double digits in nine straight contests and averaging 15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game in February. Although he lacks dazzling secondary statistics to complement his solid scoring ability, he does provide 1.0 steals, 0.5 3s and 0.4 blocks per game, and turns it over just 1.4 times per game, which boosts his values if you count them. The other promising aspect of his game is that some critical underlying statistics -- points, steals, blocks and 3-pointers per 48 minutes, true shooting percentage, Player Efficiency Rating -- have all increased in each of the past three seasons. He'll never be a fantasy superstar, but he's worth owning due to his ability to score consistently. Among the 83 healthy players averaging 13.0 or more points per game for the season, Henderson and doghouse-dweller Jordan Crawford are the only players owned in fewer than a third of ESPN leagues.
Mo Williams, PG/SG, Utah Jazz (25.4 percent owned): It's easy to forget how brilliantly Williams was playing before he broke his thumb, as he was averaging 12.0 points, 6.9 assists, 1.5 3-pointers and 0.8 steals while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor and 88.9 percent from the stripe in 11 December contests. Those are start-worthy numbers for any fantasy team, so even though it's unclear when he'll return -- sometime in March is the report -- he's worth stashing for a late-season boost. Nobody's stepped up their point guard game in his absence to the point where Williams' minutes will be reduced significantly, so I'd expect considerable contributions from Williams down the stretch. Strike now if he's available in your league, because if you wait for him to return, it'll be too late.
Al Harrington, PF, Orlando Magic (4.2 percent owned): He's missed the entire season, but with Glen Davis out for the season, the Magic are desperate for some scoring from the forward position, so Al should get buckets immediately upon his return. He averaged 14.2 points, 6.1 rebounds,
1.6 3s and 0.9 steals per game coming off the bench for the Nuggets last season, and is an effective option if you're looking for some 3s and steals from the power forward position going forward. He should be back any day, and his return has been under the radar, so if you're looking for an impactful option, Harrington is available in most leagues.
Terrence Williams, SG/SF, Boston Celtics (0.1 percent owned): Could the stars align between a team in need and a talented player who has never found his niche? Williams bounced around the league before heading to China, where he was averaging 17.9 points, 4.1 assists, 3.4 rebounds,
1.8 3s., 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks in 27 minutes per game in 29 games before signing a 10-day contract with Boston. His athleticism and talent level are bananas, and given his ability to handle the ball, distribute and hit the boards effectively for a guard, he theoretically replaces some of what the team is missing in Rajon Rondo's absence. Problem is, if dealing with theoretical situations involving Williams, he'd theoretically be an All-Star by now given his raw tools. Still, there's high upside and opportunity here, so he's worth a flyer based solely on that if you have a roster spot to spend on potential.