Tamer and Trevor look at three players who are still widely available in fantasy leagues to see if they can help your team.
Tamer: The aspect of fantasy basketball, as well as other fantasy sports, that gets the most attention is the draft, and rightfully so. The draft builds the foundation and core of every fantasy basketball team and is the main reason for success or failure in a particular season. Once the fantasy basketball season begins, trades become the focus as many teams look to improve the deficiencies on their squad that become apparent as the season moves along. The one aspect of fantasy basketball that often gets overlooked is working the waiver wire. It's not as glamorous as the draft or as fun as trading during the season, but it's an important way to improve your team. In many ways, it can be more effective than going the trade route because you can improve your team without giving up key players in return. On this week's edition of MLFG, we are going to take a look at three players that as of Jan. 18 were less then 50-percent owned in Yahoo! fantasy basketball leagues. Whether they are a Mother Lode or Fool's Gold player will be determined based on two factors: Are they worth picking up and can they help a fantasy team for the rest of this season? Trevor, judging by the lack of success of your fantasy team this year, this week's theme should be of particular interest to you as you look to make a run in the second half of the season.
Trevor: Ouch! You are absolutely correct, Tamer, that the waiver wire often gets overlooked. While most quality leagues won't have a ton of talent sitting on the wire sometimes you can find the perfect "glue guy" to complement your squad. If you react quickly to a breaking trade, injury, or suspension you might even wind up with a stud player to add to your team. So, let's take a look at a few guys who have the potential to make a difference for your squad.
After a successful college career with Pittsburgh, Blair was an afterthought in the NBA draft. The Spurs, however, were fortunate to grab him early in the second round and the rookie has proved to be a steal so far this season. As of Monday, he was only 26-percent owned in Yahoo! fantasy basketball leagues. The question is, should you add him to your roster?
Through 40 games: 17.6 MPG, 7.2 PTS, 56.3 FG%, 52 FT%, 6.3 REB, 0.7 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.5 BLK
Tamer: Even though he was very effective in college, 25 teams passed on Blair in the NBA draft before he was finally snatched up by the Spurs (37th overall). He was overlooked mainly because of his lack of size for a big man (he is only 6-foot-7) and durability concerns due to surgeries he had on both knees in high school. Blair, however, has looked like a solid NBA player in the first 3½ and has also become a fantasy contributor since the beginning of December.
Since the Spurs' Dec.3 game against the Celtics, Blair is averaging 19.4 minutes, 8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 0.6 steals, and 0.7 blocks while shooting 55 percent from the field and 53.5 percent from the free throw line. Blair became a starter for the Spurs on Dec. 21, but not until last week did the basketball world start taking notice. On Jan. 13 against the Thunder, albeit with Tim Duncan resting in the second half of a back-to-back, Blair put up a ridiculous 28-point, 21-rebound effort in only 31 minutes. In the three games since that night, Blair has started to come into his own, averaging 29.3 minutes, 9 points and 12.3 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from the line. With Blair now getting comfortable in his starting role and also consistently getting 30 minutes per game, he is definitely a player that should be acquired off of the waiver wire. He has shown that if he is given significant minutes, he can be a huge rebounding force as well as a nice contributor in points and FG percentage. I would also expect him to average close to two steals and blocks combined per game. Another factor to consider is that Duncan will be resting more in back-to-back games. The Spurs have six back-to-backs left this season, so you can expect big numbers from Blair, especially when Duncan doesn't play. The free-throw percentage is a concern, and I don't see it getting any better; but he should be a fantasy force, given that he can contribute nicely in five categories. I am giving this second-round gem a Mother Lode.
Trevor: So far Blair has looked like a real steal from this draft class. He has the potential to be a beast on the boards and a good compliment to Duncan. But can Blair help your fantasy team this year? Well, at this point I'm inclined to say no. I know, I know, Blair is starting for San Antonio now and has a few absolutely monstrous games under his belt, but his lack of blocks and overall low scoring averages make it tough to give him the stamp of approval just yet. If all you're seeking is rebounds, then by all means, Blair is a great option. But aside from that, he just doesn't have the game to be a fantasy option just yet. Assuming his knees stay healthy, he is definitely someone that I will have on the radar for next year; but for right now Blair has to get a Fool's Gold from me.
Through 21 games: 23.4 MPG, 13 PTS, 47.4 FG%, 71.4 FT%, 38 3PT, 3.2 AST, 2.3 REB, 0.8 STL, 0.2 BLK
After being in Mike D'Antoni's doghouse for 14 games in December, Robinson is once again back in the Knicks' rotation. At the start of this week, he was only 49-percent owned in Yahoo! fantasy basketball leagues. Is Krypto-Nate a must-add or are the 51 percent of owners who are looking elsewhere right to pass on the diminutive point guard?
Tamer: As a Knicks fan, I know Robinson all too well. On the one hand, he is able to take over a game like few can in the NBA. His 41-point performance on New Year's Day against the Hawks was as good as anything LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant has done this season. On the flip side, Robinson has games where he turns the ball over, makes stupid mistakes and drives D'Antoni insane. This is exactly why he is not a player that can help your team the rest of the season. Once D'Antoni sees the bad Nate in a particular game, his minutes become limited and his fantasy productivity plummets. January is a perfect example of Nate's inconsistency: In the four games he has played more then 25 minutes per game this month, he is averaging 26.8 points, 4 assists, 3.3 threes, and 1.5 steals on 61.1 percent from the field and 60 percent from the line. In the other five games of less than 25 minutes per game this month, he's averaging 7.2 points, 2.8 assists, 1.2 threes, and 0.6 steals on 31.7 percent from the field and 100 percent from the line. It's hard to add a player when you have no idea what he'll give you from one game to the next. Another problem is that Nate is capable of ending up in D'Antoni's doghouse again, possibly for the rest of the season.
D'Antoni doesn't like him, and Nate is not part of the Knicks' long-term plans, so there is no reason why D'Antoni doesn't stick him at the end of the bench again if he does something stupid. You are much better off picking up a less volatile player off the waiver wire. Robinson gets a Fool's Gold from me.
Trevor: The waiver wire is all about finding the diamond in the rough, and right now that's exactly what Robinson is. Yes, there are a lot of things that have to go right in order for him to have value, but if they do you could have a very good player on your hands. In fact, it's even better than that, because you'll have a very good player who is in a contract year. Nate probably isn't the best choice for a team looking to come together, but in D'Antoni's offense the potential is there for him to really go on a tear. With Chris Duhon currently slumping and the Knicks potentially looking to trade Robinson, it seems to be in their best interest to showcase the crowd-pleasing dunkmaster. Right now, his numbers and minutes are all over the place, but he is putting together some big performances here and there. Grab him now because if his minutes become steady at around 25-30 per game, he'll be worth the risk. Robinson gets a Mother Lode from me.
Through 40 games: 30 MPG, 11.3 PTS, 42.7 FG%, 84.2 FT%, 58 3PT, 2.8 REB, 1.4 AST, 0.7 BLK, 0.4 STL
In his first season as a Clipper, Butler got off to a slow start. Butler, however, has turned it around since the beginning of December with significant increases in points and threes per game, as well as better shooting percentages. On Martin Luther King Day, he was only 36-percent owned in Yahoo! fantasy basketball leagues. Is he a worthy addition to your team?
Tamer: Since the Clippers' Dec. 2 game against the Rockets, Butler is averaging 12.4 points and 1.7 threes while shooting 46.7 percent from the field and 89.5 percent from the line. Even with these nice totals, it's debatable whether he is a worthy roster addition considering that he helps very little in blocks, steals, assists, and rebounds (he is averaging 3.9 assists/rebounds combined and 1.2 steals/blocks combined per game in December and January). The case to add Butler gets weaker when you consider that his strong production in four categories since Dec. 1 are well above his career averages. In his seven-plus year NBA career, Butler is averaging 8.5 points and 1.2 threes per game, while shooting only 40.6 percent from the field and 74.5 percent from the line. He has also never averaged more than 11 points or shot better then 85 percent from the free throw line. He has shot better then 47 percent from the field once in his second season, but that was on only 5.6 field goal attempts per game (he is averaging 9.3 field goal attempts this season). His current threes production is the only category I can see holding steady since he has averaged 1.7 threes per game in two of his last three seasons. Based on these numbers, I expect that Butler, over the last three months of the season, will provide solid production in threes exclusively with average production in points and free throw percentage. You can definitely find another player on the waiver wire that fills out the stat sheet better than Butler. He gets a Fool's Gold from me.
Trevor: I have a confession to make. I sat down to write this fully planning on picking Butler as a Mother Lode player, intending to play up the Clippers' possible playoff push, the value of veterans late in the season ... yada yada yada. But I can't do it. I just can't. I look at Butler's stats, I watch the games, and I just can't honestly recommend picking this guy up. I've been playing fantasy basketball for longer than I care to admit, and one of things that I've noticed is that once in awhile a guy comes along who is a category-breaker. By that I mean someone who is so good at one category, they are worth owning even if they do nothing else. Look at Ronnie Brewer or last season's Chris Andersen. Butler has the potential to be a category-breaker in threes, but he just doesn't hit enough to make it worth owning him. It's actually kind of similar to what I said about Blair and rebounds. If Butler had another category he could contribute in, like steals or blocks, he would get my vote. For now though I just can't do it. He's a good fit for the Clippers, but leave him off your fantasy team. Butler gets a Fool's Gold from me.
*All stats updated as of 1/19/10