It’s several more weeks before fantasy basketball playoffs begin, but now is the time to start making that push for the postseason. Below are some waiver wire suggestions to help you get some leverage.
Nate Robinson, PG/SG, Chicago Bulls (28% owned in Yahoo! leagues)
Robinson had a solid four-game stretch in the last week, averaging 20.0 points on 56.9 percent shooting from the floor (14.5 FGA) and 100.0 percent from the free throw line (1.5 FTA), 2.0 three-pointers, 3.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals in 25 minutes of play. Until Derrick Rose finally returns to play, Robinson should be good for similar type stretches. However, current streakiness aside, the Bulls guard had a solid month of January going on (16 games) — 12.3 points, 48.1 FG% (10.0 FGA), 85.0 FT% (1.3 FTA), 1.6 treys, 2.6 boards, 3.6 dimes and 1.3 steals in 22 minutes. Feel good picking him up in every type of league.
Kosta Koufos, PF/C, Denver Nuggets (26%)
Koufos would be a solid add in standard leagues if you need some big man stats. He is coming off a solid month of January (15 games), where he basically duplicated what he did in December, showing that he has found a groove. In the past two months, Koufos is averaging 9.3 points on 62.8 percent shooting from the floor, 7.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 25 minutes. While the numbers aren’t mind-blowing, they’re steady. If you need that in your fantasy life, Koufos is a nice option.
Nick Young, SG/SF, Philadelphia 76ers (25%)
Young has to be hoping that Jason Richardson never plays again, because in J-Rich’s absence Young has been doing very well. In the past week (three games, all as a starter), Young averaged 17.0 points on a somewhat ugly 40.5 percent from the floor (14.0 FGA) and 81.8 percent from the free throw line (3.7 FTA), 2.7 triples (47.1 3FG%), 3.3 boards, a trio of dimes and 1.3 steals in 37 minutes. When Richardson does come back, Young will still be a safe bet for producing points and triples as he’s been on an upward trend (9.0 points and 1.0 threes starting in October, then 9.7/1.1, 11.1/1.4 and 12.5 points and 1.7 threes in January) from month-to-month. Grab him as a quick fix in standard leagues and as a regular in deep leagues.
Jerryd Bayless, PG/SG, Memphis Grizzlies (17%)
Bayless has been a player I’ve particularly followed since the documentary, “Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot.” Bayless seems like he’s vastly talented, but there’s just something missing. That something? Playing time. He’s never had much luck in that regard, but he always seems to do good things when he does play. In the past week, he’s gotten the time and averaged 17.3 points, 53.8 FG% (13.0 FGA), 90.9 FT% (2.8 FTA), 0.8 treys, 4.3 boards, 7.0 assists and 1.3 steals in 37 minutes. A lot of the PT was because of a Mike Conley injury, but he’s back. However, Bayless has played well enough to deserve more burn. With Rudy Gay’s points out of the mix, Bayless could be used for more scoring punch. I’d add him, speculatively, in a standard league to see how the Grizz rotation plays out.
Aaron Gray, C, Toronto Raptors (3%)
Gray AKA a taller and goofier Cililan Murphy has benefitted from the recent trade of Ed Davis that has Rudy Gay heading up to the T-Dot. In the two games he’s started in the past week, Gray averaged 15.0 points on 65.0 percent shooting from the field (10.0 FGA) and 100.0 percent from the stripe (2.0 FTA) and 10.5 boards in 34 minutes of play. Gray should have some value over the next two weeks with rookie Jonas Valanciunas on the mend and should be added in deep leagues. If he keeps getting the burn, he could play himself into standard league consideration for a quick hit of boards where he has a career per 36 average of 11.2 rebounds.
P.J. Tucker, SG/SF/PF, Phoenix Suns (2%)
Tucker had pretty decent numbers the past week (three games) — 9.7 points, 47.6 FG% (7.0 FGA), 81.8 FT% (3.7 FTA), 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 34 minutes. Very nice across-the-board production that can be had for cheap. He’s getting opportunities as he started all 14 of his games in January, averaging 6.6 points, 4.4 boards and 1.9 dimes in 30 minutes of play. He’s not quite standard league material, but taking a chance on him in deep leagues is something to consider.
And The Answer Is: Chris Towers
Chris Towers writes about fantasy basketball for CBS Sports and can be followed on Twitter, where his followers count is way too low. However, don’t feel too bad for him because he chills on the beaches of Miami thinking of a different type of fantasy when not working.
TBJ: How important are player projections and which players are meeting them and which aren’t?
Towers: If you care at all about your reputation in this industry, you have to count player projections as among the most important parts of the job. They are also probably the most difficult part, and the part that is most likely to make you look like a major fool. This was my first year doing projections for CBSSports.com (I was hired just before the lockout-shortened season began), and it was a hugely time-consuming project. I probably have 20-plus Excel spreadsheets saved on my computer at home representing the various drafts I did. And I was tinkering with them up until that first Wizards-Cavs game, as I would always look around and see something that just looked a little bit off. The projections are so important because that is what your customer is basing his draft on — in our Draft room tool, the rankings are based on projections for the upcoming season, after all.
I’m proud of how I did with some of the younger players’ projections — I had Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis rightly pegged as the top rookies in the class, though I did undersell Lillard’s immediate impact pretty badly. I nailed his shooting percentages from across the board within .02 percent, but I had him attempting just 11.0 shots per game — he is currently putting up 15.2, accounting for a difference of 4.3 points per game. To provide some balance, I also projected that Royce White would appear in 70 games and that Austin Rivers would not be the worst offensive player in basketball. So I won’t pat myself on the back too hard, there.
Overall, I think I missed on a lot of the same guys everyone else did. Roy Hibbert was probably my biggest miss among healthy players, though I also badly overshot both Tyreke Evans and Michael Beasley, who I really expected a bounceback season from. I also expected Derrick Williams to do better than he has, but I continue to hold out hope because I like his game a lot. Maybe I’m just destined to love disappointing former top-five picks. I also did not see Steve Nash falling off this hard, or Serge Ibaka, Paul George and Jrue Holiday taking the big leaps forward that they did.
To say that projecting player performance before the year is an inexact science is a major understatement. Even the guys at BasketballProspectus.com, who are infinitely smarter than I will ever be, can only reach a certain degree of accuracy with their sophisticated SCHOENE projection system. So much goes into which players breakout and which don’t beyond their talent level, and it is impossible to account for those factors. If all that matters is talent, Michael Beasley and Andrea Bargnani would not be nearly as hated as they are.
Number of Team Games in Week 15 (2/4-2/10)
Four Games: BKN, CHA, DEN, DET, GSW, HOU, IND, LAC, LAL, MEM, MIA, MIN, NYK, OKC, ORL, PHO, POR, UTA
Three Games: ATL, BOS, CHI, CLE, DAL, MIL, NOR, PHI, SAC, SAS, TOR, WAS
Dennis Velasco is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and can be followed on Twitter (@dv140). Feel free tweet him with your fantasy hoops questions.