March is here and that means two things: March Madness and fantasy basketball playoffs. Matt and Brad discuss four players who may be able to help you during the stretch run.
Brad: Well, Matt, it's getting down to the nitty gritty. Most owners know where they excel and where there is room for improvement. Although the free agent list has probably been scraped to the bottom of the barrel, there remain a handful of impact players that remain unowned in a majority of leagues. With fewer than 20 games remaining, now is the time to focus on your team's weak spots without compromising any other stats. By taking a look at some of last week's trends, we can see some players emerging as their teams make a push for the playoffs. Can these players do the same for your fantasy team? Matt and I will give you the 411 on four players who have stepped it up in early March, and whether they can keep it up throughout the rest of the season. Lucky for you, most of them are probably available on your league's waiver wire. Matt, what is your strategy this late in the season?
Matt: My strategy at this point is prayer. I pray that my studs don't get hurt! Seriously though, my strategy is to maximize games played, and look for the hot hands, even if it's for a game or two. I look to see in which categories I can still make up ground, and focus on players who excel at that stat.
Fortunately, in a couple leagues, I am the team being chased, and in those leagues, it's the same concept: picking up players who will help me maintain my lead. In single-season leagues, the free agent wire most likely looks like an All-Star roster with Amar'e Stoudemire (PF/C, PHO), Elton Brand (PF/C, PHI), Al Jefferson (PF/C, MIN) and Michael Redd (SG/SF, MIL) among others sitting at the top of the list, so you need to dig a little deeper to find players who can help your squad. Since the name of this column is Mother Lode or Fool's Gold, what better way to kick things off this week, than to profile a Nugget?
2008-09 stats: 6.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks (stats as of March 11)
Andersen provides the Nuggets with an athletic post presence which leads to solid defensive stats. Similar to Joakim Noah (PF/C, CHI), he brings some serious energy off the bench while trying to temper his off-court troubles. He doesn't play excessive minutes, but can the Dirty Bird help your fantasy team?
Brad: Andersen is owned in only 34 percent of Yahoo! leagues, despite the fact that he has accumulated a season ranking of 109, a "last month" ranking of 81, and "last week" ranking of 66. The recent success comes from an extra three minutes of playing time post All-Star Break.
While it may not seem like much, a high energy, above-the-rim player like Andersen can rack up stats in a hurry. In February, the Dirty Bird averaged 7.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and a ridiculous 3.3 blocks. In five March games, the rebounds have increased to 7.2, while the blocks are down to 2.4 and points to 4.0. Andersen hasn't topped five points since Feb. 27 and has played less than 20 minutes in three of the past five games. For being a 6-foot-10, 230-pound big man, Andersen isn't a talented offensive presence, and his rebounding isn't that impressive for someone his size. If you're desperate for blocks, you can't go wrong, but this Fool's Gold won't give you much more of anything.
Matt: Andersen doesn't get a lot of ink for what he does on the court, but the simple fact is this: the man can block shots. In fact, in the past 30 days he has blocked more shots than any other NBA player -- more than Yao Ming (C, HOU), and more than Dwight Howard (C, ORL).
Furthermore, you won't find Ming or Howard on your free agent wire, so if you need blocks, what should you do? Tap Andersen. He has 15 more blocks in the past 30 days than the next player most likely to be found on your free agent wire. His name? DeAndre Jordan (C, LAC). I will agree that Andersen is not much help in most categories, but with the season winding down, you need to make moves. And if Andersen's 2.3 blocks per game will help you win, or hold off an opponent, then he is not just right for your team, he is the Mother Lode!
2008-09 stats: 7.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals (stats as of March 11)
Mbah a Moute has only played organized basketball for eight years, but his learning curve has been remarkable considering he is only 22 and playing significant minutes for a Bucks team fighting for a playoff spot. Mbah a Moute is considered a "raw" player, but his versatility is undeniable. Legally a Prince in his native Cameroon, can this 6-foot-8 forward prove to be fantasy royalty?
Brad: Mbah a Moute has been a tease for most of the year due to inconsistent playing time and an undefined role in Milwaukee. Many fantasy experts expected Joe Alexander (SF, MIL) to be the most valuable Bucks rookie this season, but the more inexperienced Mbah a Moute has adjusted to the NBA faster than expected. February was Mbah a Moute's worst month in terms of scoring (5.0 points per game), but the transition to March has proven advantageous as he's averaging 30 minutes, 12.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in four games.
Injuries and poor play have led to Mbah a Moute's increased playing time, and the lanky, long-armed ex-UCLA Bruin has responded. In fact, Mbah a Moute has been the 16th-best player this past week. His shooting percentages are acceptable and the only stat he won't contribute is assists. For complete, all-around production, grab this Mother's Lode, who is only owned in 13 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Matt: I happened to be in Milwaukee on business Tuesday night and had a chance to see Mbah a Moute up close. What I saw was this: not much. He was invisible most of the game, not really having much of an impact. Although he did get torched by Larry Hughes (PG/SG/SF, NYK), who dropped 39 on the Bucks. Mbah a Moute was the 16th-best player the past week, but that was due to his unbelievable stretch in which he shot 76.9 percent from the field. Yes, you read that correctly, he shot almost 77 percent from the field. That is what we call an anomaly. If you didn't have him on your team last week, there's no reason to pick him up, as there's no chance of him duplicating that effort anytime soon. In fact, on Tuesday night he was 0-for-1 from the field and finished with two points. It happened to Cinderella, so it can happen to a prince. The clock has struck midnight, and he's no longer fantasy-relevant. Just another chunk of Fool's Gold.
2008-09 stats: 8.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 0.8 steals (stats as of March 11)
For most of the season, Hayes has not been worth a spot on your fantasy team. With an ownership hovering around three percent in Yahoo! leagues, most fantasy owners agree. But a recent hot streak pushed Hayes into the Top 60 for the past seven days. Will Hayes continue to impress, or will he be a fantasy mess?
Matt: Hayes is on his third team in six years for a reason. He's a role player. Nothing more, nothing less. Well, maybe a little less. Don't be sucked in with that No. 58 ranking in Yahoo! for the past week. That was one of those Yahoo! statistical anomalies that gives three-point shooters better ranking than they deserve. Hayes had nine 3-pointers last week, and only seven players hit more threes than Hayes during that stretch.
I suppose that if you need threes, Hayes is an option, but there are much more appealing options if all you are looking for is threes. How about Daequan Cook (PG/SG, MIA) or Steve Novak (SF/PF, LAC)? Both of them hit at least 10 more threes than Hayes did over the past 30 days. Hayes won't give you much else, and what he does give you can be found in greater quantities elsewhere. Stay away from this Net, he is Fool's Gold!
Brad: Matt, I think you are being a little harsh on our boy Jarvis. He isn't just making an occasional three; he's drilling them at a clip of 2.2 made 3-pointers per game in five March games. Not only that, but he's playing close to 30 minutes per game, which has seen his average rise to 8.6 points per game.
Is he an explosive scorer? Absolutely not. Can he hit a three here and there while scoring 10 points and grabbing five boards? Absolutely. Toss in solid shooting percentages and 1.0 steal per game and you have a much more complete player than Matt may want to give him credit for. With Devin Harris (PG, NJN) and Vince Carter (SG/SF, NJN) leading the charge, Hayes will get ample opportunities to shoot over five threes a game. He may be a role player, but that still doesn't mean this Mother's Lode can't help you during your stretch run. Matt can blame his ranking on a computer; I'll say it's due to a mediocre player having a nice little hot streak to end the year.
2008-09 stats: 12.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.2 3PTM (stats as of March 11)
Outlaw has been with the Trail Blazers since he was drafted in 2003, and while his minutes have increased annually, he has never taken that expected jump from role player to star. Will a recent surge in production be the catalyst that finally allows Outlaw to reach his potential, or will fantasy owners be disappointed again?
Matt: I've been a big fan of Outlaw's since he was drafted, but I grew tired of waiting for greatness. It certainly seemed like Portland wasn't ever going to give him consistent minutes, and his immense talent was going to be wasted. But despite not starting a game since Nov. 1, Outlaw has been getting consistent minutes. In fact, since Jan. 1, he has only logged less than 23 minutes once in a game. He has scored double-digits in eight of his past nine games, and during that stretch has seven threes, six steals and 13 blocks.
Outlaw has quietly become the third option on offense for the Blazers, and has provided fantasy owners with 45.5 percent shooting from the field, including 39.1 percent from beyond the arc. I would like to see Outlaw generate more rebounds and assists than the 4.2 and 1.0 he averages, respectively, but when you put all of his stats together, they provide good solid production. Don't be afraid of this Outlaw, he's the Mother Lode!
Brad: What I like most about Outlaw is that his scoring average has increased on a monthly basis. After scoring 10.5 points in November, Outlaw has upped that to 15.4 in March. He's a talented scorer, no doubt about that. He's actually played less, though, in March than he did in February.
Matt, you mentioned that he hasn't started since Nov. 1. What you meant to say was that Outlaw started the first three games of the season, which was around the time the Blazers decided that he was not suited to be a 35-minutes-a-night player. It still doesn't mean he can't help out your fantasy team, though. While not excelling at anything, he can contribute about 1.0 threes and 4.0 rebounds a game. That's about where it ends though, and as Matt and I have been preaching throughout, this is the time of the year when you need specialists to help you make up statistical ground. Outlaw is a nice player, but not one that you can count on during crunch time. Make like the Blazers and send this Fool's Gold to the bench.
When Matt and Brad aren't haggling over fantasy basketball trades, they are busy scouting the next wave of NBA talent by taking in some college hoops. Need help with your lineup or a trade offer? Shoot Matt an e-mail at Wirkiowski@RotoExperts.com or Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org.