January 21, 2010

After tackling keeper league rankings for players 22 years old or younger last week, the Lab got a few questions from readers in deeper leagues (14- and 16-team leagues in these instances) asking for player recommendations. So this week, the focus is squarely on the players not sexy enough for the majority of people in those standard 12-team leagues.

Let's do some quick hits for those owned in less than a third (33 percent or under) of all Yahoo! leagues but owned in more than 5 percent of leagues. Then we'll swim over to the deep end of the free agent pool and dive deep to discover not diamonds in the rough but rather pearls in the oysters, if you will. You will? Well, you shouldn't have. But it's excellent that you did!

Now in descending ownership percentage order:

Zydrunas Ilgauskas, C, Cleveland, 32% owned

The Cavs' best bargaining chip in trade, there's a strong possibility he could end up a starter wherever he lands. Or the team can hold and wait for the inevitable Shaq injury.

Rasual Butler, SG/SF, LA Clippers, 29% owned

With Blake Griffin out of the picture and Al Thornton continuing to look like a bust, the team is putting it's faith in the veteran scorer as their starting SF. He's proving them right by routinely scoring in double-figures and hitting multiple threes.

DeJuan Blair, SF/PF/C, San Antonio, 28% owned

The wide-bodied rookie used this recent four-game road swing to settle in nicely to the starting center spot, where he's a Hoover personified, vacuuming in rebounding totals of 21, 16, 8 and 13.

Delonte West, PG/SG, Cleveland, 23% owned

While the minutes aren't where they need to be for him to be as effective as last year when he was starting, West's off-the-court issues seem behind him for now. But he wasn't worth owning until he finally remembered he was a shooting guard and started launching threes again.

Robin Lopez, F/C, Phoenix, 20% owned

The ownership level for Lopez is skyrocketing as you read this. Owned in fewer than 5 percent of leagues last week, Lopez is at 20 percent ownership now in Yahoo! and has climbed from 2 percent to 41 percent on Sportsline as of Tuesday evening. If you haven't heard the news, Brook's slightly less-talented twin is back from injury and is now the starting center in Phoenix. He had 19 points (80 FG%), 7 boards, 1 steal and 3 blocks in his first start. He also has 12 blocks in his last three games, if that kind of stuff interests you.

Francisco Garcia, SG/SF, Sacramento, 19% owned

Cisco is due back from wrist surgery in a week or so. His all-around game played well last year when the Kings were lacking talent and healthy bodies. The Lab wouldn't expect the same now that the purple people are getting huge contributions from Tyreke Evans and Omri Casspi. But it's a situation worth paying attention to, just to see how it shakes out.

Marreese Speights, PF/C, Philadelphia, 15% owned

For Speights, this season has played out like a single round of seesaw: first he was up, then he was down. Odds are he'll be back up again scoring at a high clip and rebounding well off the bench; the odds increase greatly when GM Ed Stefanski finally pulls the plug on this pitiful year, fires Eddie Jordan and starts dealing players for cap space.

Drew Gooden, PF/C, Dallas, 14% owned

If Erick Dampier breaks down -- that balky knee keeps giving him problems Gooden has already proven he can be a viable option in the middle. In his 10 starts this year, Gooden averages 10.9 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 0.9 spg and 1.3 bpg. That's standard league material right there.

Steve Blake, PG/SG, Portland, 12% owned

Back from a bout of pneumonia, Blake has played three healthy games and is averaging 13 ppg, 2.7 3pg, 4 rpg, 4.7 apg and 1.0 spg.

Carlos Delfino, PF/C, Milwaukee, 10% owned

Or maybe this should be Jerry Stackhouse instead. We will see since the veteran guard was just added to the Bucks roster and has yet to make his debut. Either way, Charlie Bell isn't looking like the answer, even though he's been starting in place of Michael Redd, who is done for the year. Delfino was inconsistent as a starter, but his time coming off the pine (since the last game in December) might have served him well; in his last two games he's had 28 points, 6 threes and 4 steals the first night and then came back with 11 points, 3 triples, 10 boards, 2 steals and 2 blocks the next night.

Taj Gibson, SF/PF, Chicago, 8% owned

Despite plantar fasciitis, Gibson continues to do yeoman's work for the Bulls. For reasons unbeknownst to fantasyland, Tyrus Thomas isn't getting PT despite his abundant talent. Almost certain to be dealt, Thomas' absence should create a larger role for Gibson.

Flip Murray, SG, Charlotte, 6% owned

The Bobcats have won eight of nine games this month and it's no coincidence that Murray has seized the come-out-gunning, sixth man role in that time. Not too many players owned in so few leagues can offer any help in points, yet the Philly native is averaging 13.6 ppg in January including 1.6 3pg and 88.9 FT% on 3.0 FTA.

Now the Fantasy Lab is going to examine five guys owned in fewer than five percent of all Yahoo! leagues. Hopefully these ownership numbers will skew much higher in the coming months.

Kris Humphries, SF/PF, New Jersey, 5% owned

The ownership level on Humphries is definitely on the rise after last week -- his first as a New Jersey Net. Is this the beginning of Humphries' breakthrough? Humphries bounced to the L from the University of Minnesota after his freshman year, a campaign that saw him lead the Big 10 in both scoring (21.7) and rebounding (10.1), the first frosh to ever accomplish that feat. The Jazz drafted him 14th overall but he was buried on Jerry Sloan's bench (obviously) and then again in Toronto under Sam Mitchell (in all fairness, these teams did have some pretty good PFs). Six years into his career, but not 25-years old yet, the Nets appear to have dealt for him because they actually want him to play meaningful minutes. Bizarre, right? Anyway, Humphries has delivered on the opportunity with each game better than the last. In these three contests, he's averaging 15.0 ppg on 51.7 FG%, 7.7 rpg, 0.7 spg and 1.0 bpg. His grasp on the sixth man role becomes tighter with every sunrise.

Ronny Turiaf, PF/C, Golden State, 5% owned

When we're delving this deep into the abyss of the free agent pool -- the 5 percent and below region -- the focus tends to shift pretty quickly to defensive-minded big men, usually backups. This is because size makes it easier to block shots and rebound, which in turn, takes the scarce center-eligible players and gives them legitimate value as category specialists on the end of your roster. If said big man becomes a starter via injury, improved play, strategy or the coach's whim, you might be holding found fantasy gold. Turiaf was a prime example of this last year and figures to be again this year. When incumbent starter Andris Biedrins missed time last year, Turiaf started and delivered an underrated all-around line of 8.1 ppg on 56 FG%, 6.0 rpg, 2.8 apg, 0.6 spg and 1.8 bpg. With the entire Warriors lineup out due to injury -- they have three D-Leaguers getting heavy use in their rotation -- Turiaf should see as many minutes as he can handle upon his return from a sprained right ankle. At the pace the Warriors play, you'll be overjoyed at all the blocks, boards and assists from the C spot. And no one plays with more emotion, not even KG.

JaVale McGee, PF/C, Wizards, 4% owned

With Flip Saunders less than enthused about Andray Blatche's recent vocal outburst in regards to getting more shot attempts, McGee actually saw some action and responded with 4 blocked shots in 13 minutes against Sac-town. McGee isn't someone to add right now because he's more raw than Eddie Murphy and the WWE on Monday night. Combined. However, the Wizards seem like the most logical sellers, and Antawn Jamison is the apple in every contending GM's eye. If he's dealt, it won't be for anything substantial and McGee should be in line for more minutes. With a 4.8 blocks per 36 minutes average this year, McGee could help you win blocks as a category specialist. Even in the mere 9 mpg he's seeing this season, McGee is swatting 1.2 shots per game -- random fact here -- which is 0.3 more blocks than Amar'e Stoudemire averages.

Jon Brockman, SF/PF, Sacramento, 1% owned

The Brockness Monster 'tis not a man, 'tis a remorseless rebounding machine! Brockman was a ferocious rebounder in college, and as the axiom goes, if you rebound well in college, you'll rebound well in the pros. That saying usually applies to those on the shorter side though, and at 6-7 and a hefty 255 pounds, it's not a surprise the senior from Washington fell to the second round. Regardless, the Kings need interior toughness and rebounding and Brockman has carved himself a nice role in recent weeks, highlighted by a career-high 14 rebounds on MLK day. If you need boards, he'll get them by the bushel if he gets any burn.

Serge Ibaka, C, Oklahoma City, 1% owned

A native of Brazzaville, Congo, the 20-year-old Ibaka is an intriguing prospect who has acclimated to the NBA game far quicker than anyone could have anticipated. A sinewy athlete blessed with great leaping ability and a wingspan that would make Jay Bilas squeal with delight, Ibaka has all of the tools to be a dominant shot-blocker and rebounder on the defensive end while scoring efficiently on put-backs and close range shots. Nenad Krstic has been mediocre at best; couple that with the coaching staff trusting Ibaka more now and it's easy to see why they are rewarding him with more playing time -- a trend that should continue throughout the year. Check out his per 35 minute stats over the last month, 11.4 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 0.6 spg and 1.4 bpg. And then consider the one game when he actually saw over 30 minutes -- against the Lakers no less: 11 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks. Isn't it nice to know that the projected stats are actually attainable, for one game at the very least?

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