This weekly column will hopefully be able to provide you with that gem of an addition from the waiver wire, as well as who you should be targeting on the trading block, who you should be trading from your team while you can get the most value out of them, and who you should be starting on a week-to-week basis. We’ll also be looking at the fantasy stat line of the week as well as notable, fantasy injury news.
What a week for the NBA. The Lakers continue to look like the worst “best team”, the Sacramento Kings may be heading to Seattle, and Carmelo Anthony took it to the streets in his will to fight Kevin Garnett. Smatterings of big men have begun to come on as sure things or semi-sure things this week, while we also saw a handful of devastating (for their respective franchises) injuries. Here’s to the upcoming, lighter schedule of a week.
The Waiver Wire
This section will depend entirely on what size league you play in, but most of these guys should be available in your leagues right now.
Amir Johnson – 26% Owned
17 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.0 spg and 2.0 bpg. Andrea who? The Toronto Raptors have finally let Amir Johnson, and his “I’m being paid like a starter” contract loose, and boy has it paid off. Ever since Andrea Bargnani, and to a lesser extent, Jonas Valanciunas went down with injury, Johnson has been given free rein to run the front court, and do what he does best; defend well, play pick-and-roll with Jose Calderon, and grab garbage buckets. Coach Casey is rewarding him justly, as Johnson’s minutes begin to climb up into the 30-35 region. With a favourable schedule approaching, and no one threatening his role, he is an extremely safe pickup.
Tiago Splitter – 17% Owned
Can it be? Is Tiago Splitter finally getting minutes out in San Antonio? Gregg Popovich finally seems ready to trust Splitter with a bigger role now that the Brazilian has improved his free throw line touch, and you should too. While Splitter still picks up a ton of fouls, he’s shooting above 50% from the floor, almost 75% from the line and has been rebounding and blocking shots with regularity. If you’re in need of a bench center, and Amir Johnson is no longer on the wire, snatch up Splitter.
Andray Blatche – 30% Owned
As if Kris Humphries job wasn’t in enough jeopardy, Andray Blatche has risen to the occasion with added playing time. Even with Reggie Evans gobbling up every available rebound on the floor, Blatche has still found a way to average 9.5 rebounds per game over his last four. Blatche performed well earlier in the year when Brook Lopez went down with injury, and now that Lopez is beginning to struggle, Blatche has been there to pick up the slack. If you’re in the 70% of GM’s who don’t own Blatche right now, you might want to get on it, as I expect continued big things from the Most Improved Player candidate.
Buy Low / Sell High
There is little more that is important in fantasy basketball than maximizing your roster. The best way to maximize your roster is to have a critical eye when evaluating the talent you have, as well as the talent that is available on teams throughout your league. Within this section of the column, we’re going to be highlighting three guys who you should be targeting to trade for, and three guys you should be looking to move while their value is at its peak.
Eric Gordon – 15.7 ppg, 4.2 apg, 1.7 rpg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg
Surprise, surprise, the guy who has played in 15 games in the last two years is off to a slow start. Did anyone expect any different? Gordon is going to find his rhythm, as well as his shot. If there is an owner panicking in your league that they just picked up a dud, send an offer their way and steal this guy from under their nose.
DeMar DeRozan – 17.8 ppg, 1.9 apg, 4.6 rpg, 1.2 spg, 0.4 bpg
Did DeRozan’s stock really drop that much in the past three games? His minutes are right around his season average, he’s still shooting the ball a ton, and he’s scoring at a fairly decent clip. What happened? The answer, as always, is “you live by the jumper, you die by the jumper”. DeRozan has gotten to the line only nine times in the past three games, and while the whistle is part of the reason for this, it’s also his reliance on the jump shot. I don’t believe this trend will continue, as Coach Casey won’t stand for it for much longer. Feel free to pluck DeRozan from the GM that currently holds him in your league.
Kawhi Leonard – 8.9 ppg, 1.3 apg, 5.0 rpg, 1.9 spg, 0.3 bpg
This buy low is not for the faint of heart. Leonard has been playing some “less than inspiring” basketball over the last ten games, and his stock has dropped accordingly. While much of that can be attributed to his return from injury, the Spurs system is another large contributor. If you can look back to the end of last season, and the playoff run that the Spurs made, you’ll see that he is definitely a guy to own as the season pushes on. Don’t be discouraged by the current numbers, but don’t reach too high with your offer, as Leonard can be attained for pennies on the dollar.
Mike Conley – 13.3 ppg, 6.2 apg, 2.7 rpg, 2.4 spg, 0.2 bpg
It’s a bit of a dry week for sell high candidates in the NBA. Mike Conley serves as our lone “sell high” guy this week, and even he is a bit of a stretch to be included in this category, but hear me out. Conley is not an elite point guard but has a borderline-elite, to elite point guard’s reputation. He has also been putting up some “solid” numbers the past week and seems like he might be able to net you a player that plays above his numbers. This sell high will take some massaging, and you should definitely prey on the GM you know best in the league.
Best and Worst Schedules
Here’s a list of upcoming games for each team during the week of Monday December 31st, to Sunday January 6th.
4 Games: ATL, BOS, CHA, CHI, DAL, DEN, HOU, LAC, MEM, OKC, ORL, SAC, TOR, WAS
3 Games: BKN, CLE, GSW, IND, LAL, MIA, MIL, MIN, NOH, POR, SAS
2 Games: DET, PHI, PHX, UTA
1 Game: NYK
Dwight Howard / Pau Gasol
The two Laker big men could play on Sunday, as D12 is a game-time call, while Pau hasn’t been cleared but is being called “doubtful”. I’d say that the Lakers really need these guys back so they can start winning again, but, well, you know.
Glen “Big Baby” Davis
Davis has begun shooting drills, which is a strong indication that he’s ramping up for a return. Davis’ shoulder is expected to keep him out until late January, so if he was dropped in your league, now might be the time to stash the big fella.
Fantasy Line of the Week
Mr. Mean Streak, Kevin Durant gets the nod in this edition of the Fantasy Line of the Week for his dismantling of the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. Any time you can score 42 points and should above 60% (!!!) from the field, you know you’re doing something right.
Kevin Durant @LAL – Jan 11th: 42 pts, 8 rbs, 5 ast, 1 blk, 0 stl, .640 FG%, .750 FT%
Best of luck in your upcoming fantasy week everybody, and if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to leave a comment and I will definitely see if I can help guide you.