Welcome back from your 2013 NBA All-Star weekend inebriation where some are doing better than others. In this edition of TFJO, we’re doing it “And The Answer Is” style, as I assembled a group of fantasy basketball experts and asked them life-changing questions. OK, maybe not life-changing, but at the very least important to all of us fantasy hoops heads. So, who we got?
Patrick Madden — Fantasy Basketball Coaches
Chris Morgan — Rotowire
Josh Whitling — ESPN
Chris Towers — CBS Sports
Brian Flood — formerly CBS Sports, but now a comedian
Eric McClung — KFFL
Frankie Lloyd — Baller Mind Frame
1) Who is the best non-drafted fantasy basketball player thus far?
Madden: Either Larry Sanders or Nikola Vucevic. Since Sanders missed four games heading into the break, I’ll go with Vucevic, who has been one of the few bright spots for the Orlando Magic post-Dwight Howard. The second year center was on few radar screens going into the season despite being penciled in as the team’s starting center and has surprised even his biggest fans by averaging 12.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting over 50 percent from the floor. With Glen Davis out for the foreseeable future with a fractured foot, Vucevic is poised to have a huge second half of the season.
Morgan: Larry Sanders. When the season began, Sanders was merely the guy with the same name as the lead character from a beloved HBO comedy. Now, he’s a key piece of the Milwaukee Bucks’ rotation, and a defensive beast. While Sanders only averages 8.5 points, and his free throw shooting is poor, he’s grabbing 8.5 rebounds and, most importantly, he’s blocking a staggering 3.2 shots per game. For a guy that was available on pretty much every waiver wire when the season began, Sanders has generated a nice amount of fantasy value. Now, if only the Bucks could draft a player named Hank Kingsley.
Whitling: Honorable mention goes to Nikola Vucevic and J.J. Redick, both with an ESPN average draft position of 140+, but Chandler Parsons takes the crown with an average draft position of 149th and player rater ranking of 36. He’s built upon a surprising rookie season by improving his free throw shooting from 55.1 to 74.5 percent, while upping his contributions in points, rebounds, assists, and threes. I’m a sucker for across-the-board contributors, and Parsons doesn’t have a negative impact in any statistical area. His underlying statistics scream improvement as well, as his true shooting percentage, usage rate, player efficiency rating, accuracy and attempts at the rim have all gone up. Plus, the percentage of attempts he’s taking on two-point jumpers has decreased, meaning he’s doing the bulk of his damage at the rim or from beyond the arc, which I love in a fantasy player. This means he gives you treys without hurting your field goal percentage and of the 35 players averaging at least 1.8 triples per game, Parsons, Jose Calderon and Kevin Durant are the only three shooting over 47 percent from the floor. Parsons has yielded the biggest reward among players not drafted in most leagues.
Towers: It’s has to be Larry Sanders, right? He was undrafted on average in CBS leagues, but has been a borderline top-100 overall player in standard scoring formats. He is still only playing 25.4 minutes per game because of foul trouble, but his 5.1 fouls-per-36 minutes rate is actually a pretty big decrease over last season, when he posted 7.4 per-36. He has made the biggest jump from undrafted to must-own this season. Sanders is averaging roughly nine points and boards per game, while leading the league in blocks per game. Hard to argue with that at the center position from a guy that was freely available two weeks into the season.
Flood: J.R. Smith was an afterthought on Draft Day. He was probably drafted in deeper leagues, but late. The Knicks’ sixth man has drained 88 three-pointers in 50 games, while averaging 16.2 points, 2.8 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals. He’s also extremely fun to watch and arguably the “coolest” player in the NBA, if you’re into that sort of thing. Smith is a streaky player that is due for a few tremendous runs over the final months of the season. Plus, the New York Knicks’ fantasy playoff schedule is terrific.
McClung: Chandler Parsons was only selected in 20 percent of Yahoo! drafts and is now a top 30 to 40 player, depending on your scoring format. He’s shooting a nice percentage and dropping over 14 points a game, but the value has come by stuffing the entire stat sheet. Parsons is also getting five boards, two threes and a steal per night. Aside from LeBron James and Josh Smith, Parsons is the only forward averaging more than 3.5 assists. These kinds of all-around contributors really keep the fantasy lifeblood flowing and the addition of Parsons off waivers could prove to be a championship winning move for many.
Lloyd: Without a doubt in my mind it has to be Chandler Parsons. Just as last year, he became a hot waiver wire pick-up within the first week as I predicted prior to the season — “With McHale’s trust and the SF spot all his own now that Chase Budinger is with the Minnesota Timberwolves, look for Parsons to build on his rookie season. Chandler is going undrafted (a mistake) in most standard leagues, but expect him to be a hot waiver wire pick up early on in the season just as last year.” What’s most impressive about Parsons is that he’s worked his way as the Houston Rockets’ second offensive option behind James Harden.