November 18, 2009

To stay ahead of the curve in fantasyland, digging on the waiver wire is a prerequisite. Unfortunately, you're going to have to dig a few holes to unearth the rare gems and if at first you don't succeed, try, try again That's the beauty -- nay, necessity -- of keeping a "soft or "rotating" roster spot, especially during the first month of the season.

But you've chosen a smarter path to success; you're inside the Fantasy Lab. Too cocky? Not if the Lab can back it up. And the Lab is going to back it up ... and dump it. Looking at players owned in fewer than 33 percent of Yahoo! leagues -- that means these guys are ranked outside your standard 144-player pool -- here are some suggested players to gamble on or add to your Watch List, depending on your current needs.

J.J. Hickson, SF/PF/C, Cleveland

Hickson is probably one of the hottest pickups in all of basketball right now and there are quite a few reasons why, starting with the monster alley oop cram on a feed from LeBron that had the announcers dubbing him "The Prince of Fresh Air." A new starter for the last five games in place of Anderson Varejao, Hickson has the benefit of LeBron's playmaking, which probably helped him go 9-9 from the field on Tuesday night on his way to 21 points and 9 boards. Cavs' management has been high on Hickson since last year when they drafted him 19th overall from N.C. State, but he's young and they wanted to find a way for him to be more comfortable on the floor, so they started him. Now he might never leave the starting five. Factor in his availability at three positions and the deteriorating health of both Zydrunas and Shaquille (no last names necessary, right?), and you have a fine-looking find.

Dahntay Jones, SG/SF, Indiana

The silent "H" in his name must be for the silent hustle he's working on right now. Dude is scheming, without fantasyland really knowing, to push Brandon Rush to the bench when Troy Murphy returns to action, probably for their next game. A career nobody for his six seasons in the NBA, both Larry Bird and Jim O'Brien saw something they really liked in Jones, namely defense, during the Nuggets' playoff run last year. They snatched him up quickly in the free-agent market -- no small feat this past summer -- and have let him run wild this year. After coming off the bench for three Indiana losses, Murphy went down, Jones entered the starting five and the Packers proceeded to reel off four straight Ws. During this stretch, Jones is averaging 37 mpg, 18 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.5 bpg, 0.5 spg. Between the amount of minutes he's played recently, the defense and the victories, Jones has earned a lot of his coach's trust, something that is usually rewarded with more playing time.

Thabo Sefolosha, SG/SF, Oklahoma City

Thabo is next on this list because he is similar to the aforementioned Jones in many ways: Both are wingman defensive specialists who found life on a new team because they hustle and their coach appreciates it. But this Swiss import, much like his home country's famous Army knives, has a bunch of useful tools. Scoring isn't his forte as his 6.2 ppg will attest, but he's very close to averaging the coveted "triple-single." With 0.8 threes, 0.8 blocks (great from the SG spot!) and a category-swaying 1.7 steals per game, he's nearly achieving the infamous milestone. Add in 5.4 rpg and Thabo makes for an excellent Big Ball Strategy guard.

Jason Williams, PG, Orlando

Guess who's back? Back again. Shady's back. Tell a friend. At first it was more of a novelty than anything that the man many rationally insensitive fans called White Chocolate was back in the NBA. Oh, you didn't even notice? Which, that he was back or that he had retired a year ago? The Lab doesn't blame you. But then boom, Jameer Nelson quietly tears his meniscus, needs surgery, and is now out 4-6 weeks as of Tuesday afternoon. While Williams wasn't particularly good in his final year in Miami, remember that he was dealing with injuries that seriously hampered his performance. Now healthy, Williams is playing very efficiently in limited minutes, about 18 per night. But he's averaging 4.0 apg, 5.4 ppg, 0.9 3pg and 0.4 spg. As the expected starter now, you can nearly double those minutes and those stats. Surely you could use more assists and threes, something Dwight Howard makes very easy to achieve.

Ersan Ilyasova, SF/PF, Milwaukee

So who is this masked man? Besides being the best thing to come out of Turkey since Hedo Turkoglu? He slices and dices defenses like Julienne fries! He's just 6 percent owned! This Turk is a bargain! Get him while he's hot, hot, hot! Originally drafted by the Bucks back in 2006, Ilyasova showed promise playing in 66 NBA games as a raw 19-year-old. He then went overseas for some seasoning and has returned stateside with a much stronger frame and understanding of the game. Though a backup whose minutes have fluctuated, Ilyasova began to emerge a few games ago with a 13-rebound effort before breaking out against Dallas in his last game. In 32 minutes, he drained 4 triples on his way to 19 points, 12 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals. He's drained 43.5 percent of his threes this year and is at 87.5 percent from the stripe. With Hakim Warrick beginning to slump and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute devoid of offensive talent, Ilyasova might find his way into the starting five soon. Even if he doesn't, he can have some value off the bench, especially with Milwaukee's fairly easy schedule the rest of the month. Plus, he gets to play with Brandon Jennings or Luke Ridnour, both strong passing PGs who know how to take advantage of his height and range in the pick and pop.

Jared Dudley, SF/PF, Phoenix

Despite not looking anything like a star basketball player, Dudley was studly as the BMOC at Boston College. He toiled away for what was likely a frustrating season-and-a-half with Larry Brown and the Charlotte Bobcats before he was rescued by the Phoenix Suns in a mid-season deal last year. Soon thereafter he endured a coaching change and a monumental shift in the team's playing style. Now that the team's style is defined and Dudley knows his role, he's turned into a consistent player at worst and downright exciting game-changer at best. Shane Battier makes for a great player comparison in terms of what they bring to the table both in real life and fantasy. In 22 mpg, Dudley is averaging 9.1 ppg, 1.5 3pg, 4.1 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.2 spg and 0.3 bpg -- pretty versatile numbers from an SF/PF. Both Amar'e and ChanningFrye haven't been the healthiest humans over the last few years, so there is a distinct possibility that Dudley could be in for an extended run as a starter at some point. You'll want to be on this gravy train when it leaves the station.

Vladimir Radmanovic, SF/PF, Golden State

Frankly, the Lab isn't a fan of the man known around these parts as Vlad Rad. A lack of focus on anything but hoisting up tons of ill-fated three-balls has led Radmanovic to a third team in a year. Despite his 6-10 frame, he only grabs rebounds by accident. The next shot he blocks? That'll double his total for the year. Defense would be an afterthought for him, if he actually had logical basketball thoughts. All of these reasons help explain why he's a perfect fit for the mad genius known as Don Nelson. In his first game under Nellie, he starts and plays 34 minutes and manages to jack up six long-range bombs. He only connected on one, but this shows you where he's headed now that he's Nellie's shiny new toy. At the fast pace Golden State plays, at least he'll be able to grab more than his usual share of lucky caroms that happen to land in his hands. As long as Vlad remains in Nelson's good graces, he'll have value as a 3-point shooting PF.

And now for a dip in the giant vat that is the 1 percent owned player pool. Thanks to some crazy league parameters, dumb luck and blood relatives, there are actually quite a few players who are owned in "one" percent of Yahoo's definitely-rounding-up, decimal-less fantasy leagues. The following guy could see that number skyrocket to two, three, maybe even five times his current ownership in the next week or so. From there, the sky is the limit.

Rodrigue Beaubois, PG, Dallas

Actually, the Lab has heard more than one Dallas official reference that exact cliché "the sky is the limit" when discussing the rookie Beaubois. A late first-round pick originally hailing from the island nation of Guadeloupe, Beaubois is an incredibly speedy shooting guard trapped in a point guard's body. Think Leandro Barbosa, but an inch shorter and a step quicker. Really. Thought to be a project, Dallas was treating him like some kind of windup toy; they'd crank him up for a few minutes at a time and he'd run around like crazy, getting into the lane at will and racking up points. Now that Josh Howard is out indefinitely, Roddy has seen three straight starts as Dallas is clearly grooming him by positioning him with the first unit. He plays the unimportant minutes now at the beginning of the game and third quarter, saving the crunch-time minutes for Jason Terry. Still, in his four starts, he's playing just 18 mpg but is scoring 11.0 ppg on 64.3 percent shooting with 1.3 trifectas, 1.8 dimes, 0.8 steals and 0.5 swats. There is a heaping amount of potential here and it is starting to be realized sooner than anyone expected...

Matt Satten is a fantasy basketball expert (re-draft and keeper leagues) based in Philly with 10 years of professional writing experience. He currently writes for the basketball blog Email him with questions at

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