The All-Star break is always a good time for fantasy owners to take a deep breath and examine players who might help their teams without the pressure of the daily grind of games where players might have breakout performances. Especially in a season where a normal Thursday-night doubleheader has turned into five or six games, three days to reflect on what to do in the second half of the season should be a welcome break for fantasy managers.
Sometimes there's just not enough talent on a team to make things work. Washington, Charlotte and Cleveland are three places where that statement could not be more true. In response, all three teams have been shifting their rotations as the season progresses to try to find talent hidden somewhere on their respective rosters.
SG Jordan Crawford, Washington Wizards: The Wizards have actually played with Nick Young at shooting guard and Chris Singleton or Rashard Lewis at small forward for most of the year, but recently they've been bringing Crawford off the bench for more time. It hasn't really helped improve the Wizards record, but they've stuck with him so far and that should be enough to give fantasy owners reason to pick up Crawford. If his minutes continue at around 27 per game, owners can expect output along the line of 14 points, three rebounds, three assists and one three per game.
F/C Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte Hornets: He's raw, but with guys like Boris Diaw, Tyrus Thomas and Byron Mullens up front, the Bobcats don't have a lot of choices other than to play Serge Ibaka-lite. Biyombo has climbed up the Give Me The Rock Player Rater from the 200s to the Top 150, meaning he should be in owned in standard leagues (12 teams x 13 players per team). Granted, he's not right for every team; Biyombo is a solid source of blocks and rebounds at the exclusion of other counting categories (points, threes, assists, steals). Like a prototypical big man, Biyombo has a high field goal percentage and a correspondingly low free throw percentage. But with Ibaka taken in the third round of drafts this year, the fact that Biyombo is owned in less than a quarter of leagues could be called a crime against fantasy basketball or a fantastic opportunity.
PF Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers: With Anderson Varejao out for another 2-3 weeks, Thompson may seem like a short-term pick-up since the Cavs front line is pretty thin (they are currently starting Semih Erden at center). By that time, though, the Cavs may have been able to deal Antawn Jamison's expiring contract to a team that could use the cap relief. A ceiling of 10 points and 6 rebounds for a few weeks with only the a slight chance at a longer run is probably not enough to tempt managers who are at the top of their leagues, but for owners trying to pick up a few extra wins to get into the playoffs it might be enough.
While Thompson may have value before any trade takes place (and then less if a trade doesn't happen), the next three guys have a much higher potential for fantasy impact, but only if a trade actually does happen.
PG Ramon Sessions, Cleveland Cavaliers: There is talk -- perhaps guesswork by the media, perhaps more than that -- that the Lakers will engage in serious talks with Cleveland after the All-Star break. While Sessions has shown he is more than capable of manning the position, Cleveland clearly has their point guard of the future in Kyrie Irving. All that means is that he's more valuable to the Cavs as a trade asset than as a backup point guard. If he does end up with the Lakers, Sessions is capable of delivering 10 points and 6-8 assists and is sure to be one of the hottest pick-ups of the year as soon as the trade news is announced. With numbers like those, Sessions would jump from a fringe player in standard leagues to a possible Top 50 player, ending up somewhere around Jose Calderon.
SF/PF Michael Beasley, Minnesota Timberwolves: Beasley's name has come up as another possible trade target for the Lakers. He'd probably come a lot cheaper than Sessions and would still be an upgrade over the way Metta World Peace is playing (and Matt Barnes for that matter). Turn World Peace's 25 minutes per game over to Beasley and it certainly won't be any worse than five points, three rebounds, two assists, and 33 percent from the field. Even with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum taking a combined 50 shots per game, Beasley is enough of an improvement on the Lakers' other small forwards that he could provide an added punch to their offense. He might not get the 12 points he's averaging for the season with the Wolves, but he should make at least one three per game along with five rebounds.
SG/SF Stephen Jackson, Milwaukee Bucks: Jackson is allegedly injured, but given the status of Jackson's relationship with coach Scott Skiles, it might just be a way for Skiles to keep him off the floor without a DNP-CD. Based on Dwight Howard's preferences, Jackson is a trade target for either Orlando, if they want to try to appease Howard in hopes of getting him to re-sign, or New Jersey, who could use the combo of Deron Williams and Stephen Jackson to create the same kind of buddy-buddy atmosphere that worked in Miami. It's a risk for Orlando, as obtaining Jackson is no guarantee that Howard would resign, and they'd be stuck paying Jackson $10.5 million next season. It seems like a fairly small price for either team, though, if it gets Howard to sign. Jackson would be a step up at small forward for both teams, though from a fantasy perspective, he would be more productive in Orlando.