With the fantasy trade deadline most likely a thing of the past in your league, the waiver wire is your only option for new blood. Here are three guys who could be good waiver wire additions.
Taj Gibson, F, Bulls (Through 60 games: 25.4 MPG, 8.6 PTS, 49.4 FG%, 62.1 FT%, 7.1 REB, 1.2 BLK, 0.8 AST, 0.6 STL)
The rookie out of USC was not highly regarded coming out of college, which explains why he fell all the way to the Bulls at the 26th pick on draft day. Gibson, however, has found has niche in Chicago and is starting to garner some fantasy attention with his minutes and role increasing largely due to the trade of Tyrus Thomas two weeks ago. Can Gibson, who is only owned by 37 percen of owners in Yahoo! leagues as of March 1, be a catalyst to a fantasy championship for your squad?
Tamer: Gibson's overall numbers don't exactly jump off the page but his production since Thomas was traded has been very good. In the seven games since Thomas was sent packing, Gibson is averaging 29.4 minutes, 12.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while shooting 60.9 percent from the field. His minutes aren't dramatically higher but they are more consistent then they were before Thomas was traded, which I think has helped Gibson get into a nice rhythm with his overall game. To back up this point, Gibson has not logged fewer then 25 minutes in the aforementioned seven games, but in Gibson's first 53 games of the season he played less then 20 minutes 16 times.
To be fair, the increase and consistency of Gibson's minutes, along with his improved production, can also be attributed to Joakim Noah's recent plantar fasciitis injury. Noah has been in and out of the lineup with the injury for the last month and this has definitely helped Gibson come into his own. Plantar fasciitis is an injury that tends to linger and easily act up, which means that Noah could struggle to get on the court for the rest of the season. As of now Noah is definitely out for the next three weeks. No Thomas and about 50 percent of the real Noah should mean that Gibson will be close to the numbers he has put up over his last seven games.
Another factor in Gibson's favor is that the Bulls have one of the best fantasy playoff schedules going four, four, three and four from Weeks 21 through 24 (most fantasy leagues' playoff schedules align with these four weeks). Gibson is definitely worth picking up and should contribute nicely in points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage for the rest of the season. He gets a Mother Lode from me.
Trevor: Gibson is something of an enigma, but over the course of the season he has been gaining favor in the eyes of the coaches. As Tamer mentioned, once Thomas was shipped out, Gibson started getting the minutes to really showcase his skills. Now, with Noah sidelined due to plantar fasciitis, Gibson is suddenly becoming a blip on the fantasy radar. I've always been a fan of guys who can put up hustle stats, and Gibson can definitely do that. He is going to rebound, block shots, and shoot a high percentage from the field. In addition, I suspect that his steals numbers are going to start getting better over the next few weeks as he gets more and more comfortable with his role. While a fully healthy Noah would certainly hurt Gibson's value, for right now I have to agree with Tamer and give him a Mother Lode.
George Hill, PG, Spurs (Through 58 games: 28 MPG, 11.7 PTS, 47.1 FG%, 78.7 FT%, 54 3PT, 2.4 REB, 2.4 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.4 BLK)
The second-year player has seen an increased role with the Spurs over the last month, which has made him a popular waiver wire pickup. Even with his recent surge he is still available in 62 percent of Yahoo! leagues as of March 1. Can Hill be considered a sure thing at this point or is he just riding a hot streak?
Tamer: Hill has quietly sneaked up on fantasy owners, which is appropriate since he is on a team that is full of players who never get or ask for attention (I am convinced that 50 years from now most people will forget about the Spurs winning four championships in nine seasons). Hill's coming-out party was the month of February when he averaged 35.7 minutes, 15.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 threes while shooting 46.3 percent from the floor and 79.2 percent from the line. The problem I have with Hill is that in order for him to be a viable fantasy contributor he needs to get 35 minutes a night. If you look at his production through the end of January, when he was averaging less than 30 minutes a night, he really only provided decent points and threes totals and a solid if unspectacular free-throw percentage. His field-goal percentage was OK and he didn't offer much in terms of blocks, assists or rebounds. Oddly enough, his steals per game were higher during this three-month stretch.
When he gets 35 minutes a night his point and three totals are above average and his rebound and assist production becomes more of an asset. He also throws in a few blocks and his percentages don't really suffer, either. In addition, I would expect the odd steals trend to reverse at some point since there is no logical reason he would average more steals with fewer minutes. Fortunately for Hill's fantasy value I think he will continue to get at least 35 minutes a night because of the team he is on. Gregg Popovich is looking to reduce his veterans' minutes down the stretch, namely forTim Duncan and Tony Parker. This should allow the 23-year-old Hill to get plenty of minutes, especially when the Spurs lock up a playoff spot in late March or early April.
Another factor in Hill's favor is the Spurs' schedule. San Antonio has 16 games in fantasy playoff Weeks 21 through 24 including five back-to-backs.
Besides the obvious increase in Hill's totals with these 16 games in four weeks, he should also get close to 40 minutes per game in either the first or second game of the five back to back's since Popovich plans to take it easy on his veterans, especially Duncan, in these back to back situations. Hill should continue to get big minutes, which means he gets another Mother Lode from me.
Trevor: For years the Spurs have been known as the team that turns it up in the second half of the season, then hits the playoffs running on all cylinders. Those days, however, are over. Age is finally catching up to them, and as of today the Spurs find themselves barely clinging to seventh place in the Western Conference. The Spurs used to have the luxury of resting their stars, hoping to prolong the careers of Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Parker by carefully monitoring their minutes. With their current standing, though, I'm just not sure that's going to happen this time around.
Hill is an interesting player, and I really like his potential. But San Antonio needs wins, and in order to get those they are going to have to push Parker, in particular. Tamer already mentioned Hill needs at least 35 minutes a night to be fantasy relevant, and I just don't think that's a luxury San Antonio has this time around. Hill gets a Fool's Gold from me.
Marcus Thornton, G, Hornets (Through 52 games: 22.3 MPG, 12.3 PTS, 44.4 FG%, 79.2 FT%, 78 3PT, 2.6 REB, 1.0 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.1 BLK)
The second-round pick out of LSU is making a late bid to be this year's Mario Chalmers with his tremendous play over the last month. Can Thornton, who was only owned by 49 percent in Yahoo! leagues as of Monday, continue to pile up the points and threes or is the clock about to strike midnight for the rookie guard.
Tamer: Thornton's strong play started when Devin Brown was traded to the Bulls in late April. His minutes increased dramatically and so did his production in the points and threes categories. The knee injury that Chris Paul suffered a few games later only solidified Thornton's status as a key player in the Hornets rotation for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, I see Thornton's fantasy fortunes changing once Paul returns to the Hornets lineup in about 10 days.
Thornton has been a major contributor over his last 15 games in points (19.3 per game) and threes (2.3 per game). This is all he has really provided fantasy owners, however, even with his increased playing time (31.5 minutes per game) in these 15 games. His field-goal percentage is OK, his free-throw percentage is good but his attempts are low and the production in the other categories is minimal.
Once Paul returns Thornton should see his minutes drop into the low 20s, which will mean that even the production he offers in points and threes will be limited. I believe he will see reduced minutes because Darren Collison should still get about 30 minutes a night even if it means playing with Paul at times. Collison has been even more effective than Thornton in Paul's absence, and the Hornets will want to keep Collison's value high if for no other reason then to use him as a possible trade piece in the offseason. Enjoy Thornton's impressive two category production for the next few games but be prepared to cut him loose when CP3 gets back into the mix. He gets a Fool's Gold from me.
Trevor: The tear that Thornton has gone on in the absence of Paul has been shocking. If teams had realized he was capable of being such a prolific scorer there is no way that he would have slipped into the second round. Of course, the return of CP3 is getting closer every day, and I'm not sure that Thornton will be able to find enough minutes to keep up his stellar play. This is one that I'm really torn on, because New Orleans seems to have struck gold with Collison and Thornton. Both will most likely lose minutes when Paul returns, and one would have to think that Collison would get priority over Thornton when it comes to getting the leftover guard minutes. On the other hand, Thornton could be the Hornets long-term solution at the two-guard spot, where the aging Morris Petersen is currently the default starter. In the end I think the temptation to see if Thornton can play major minutes alongside Paul will be too great to pass up. His minutes will drop and he may cool off a little, but if you need threes and points I think that Thornton will continue to be a solid source of both for the remainder of the season, and have to give him a Mother Lode.
*All Stats up to date as of 3/2/10