January 10, 2011

Last week, we made some New Year's fantasy basketball resolutions. One of those was to wait for a player to produce three solid games before picking him up (barring an injury or some other roster shakeup that provides immediate opportunity to a player). With an eye on the three-game rule, here are a few guys who have played well recently and our opinion on whether they are worth picking up as free agents in fantasy leagues.

DeAndre Jordan, C, Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers have gelled of late, winning six of their last 10 (hey, it's the Clippers), and Jordan is a big part of the reason why. Since Chris Kaman's injury, Jordan has said that things have slowed down for him and he can see the court better. Nothing makes that clearer than the three-game stretch he put together with games of 7, 6 and 6 blocked shots. The Clippers still have no timetable for Kaman's return and every day it grows more likely that Jordan will be the team's starting center the rest of the season.

Francisco Garcia, SF, Sacramento Kings: Garcia spent most of November and December buried on the Kings' bench. But he has recently moved back into the starting lineup and kicked 2011 off with five solid outings in a row. In past years, Garcia has been one of the few fantasy players capable of putting up 1 three, 1 steal, and 1 block per game, so it's no surprise that since taking over as a starter, he has averaged 2.1 threes, 1 steal, and 1.3 blocks per game. There is always the possibility that the Kings' lineup is shuffled yet again and Garcia returns to the bench, but for now he makes a great under the radar pickup in roto leagues. Take a look at where he can fit on your roster before someone else does.

George Hill, G, San Antonio Spurs: Hill has been effective this season in the old Manu Ginobili role as the first guard off the Spurs' bench. While he hasn't been quite as consistent as he was last season as a starter, Hill has put up solid lines as a reserve and actually had his first solid three-game stretch in November. His production from late December through January has been above his season averages and he's shooting a fantasy-friendly 47 percent from the field this season.

Keyon Dooling, PG, Milwaukee Bucks: Compare Hill's game log to that of Dooling, whose minutes began to go up even before Brandon Jennings was injured. In 10 starts filling in for the injured Jennings, Dooling has yet to put together what can be considered three solid games in a row. A couple times in December he followed up two solid games with a stinker, such as his 0-point, 2-assist performance against the Magic on Jan. 5.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, SF, Milwaukee Bucks: CDR started off the season injured and it has taken injuries to both Brandon Jennings and Carlos Delfino for him to work up to the playing time needed to produce behind an inconsistent Corey Maggette. In the Bucks' last two games CDR has gotten a lot of minutes and played well, but one of those games went to overtime and the other was a game in which the Bucks blew out the Nets by 23 points. With Delfino expected back in a week or two, CDR will return to getting inconsistent minutes off the bench behind Delfino and Maggette.

Luke Harangody, PF, Boston Celtics: The Celtics are struggling with injuries to nearly all of their big men, so rookie Harangody has been thrust into a major role with the team in recent games. In his first game with over 20 minutes of playing time, Harangody looked good, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, but he followed that up with 0 points and 2 rebounds against the Bulls, looking lost, confused, and unsure for all of his 13 minutes. That's exactly why it is a good idea to step back and wait three good games before grabbing a guy off waivers.

Omri Casspi, SF, Sacramento Kings: Paul Westphal's revolving-door starting lineup has made it difficult for any King to put up three good games in a row, especially Casspi, who went from opening day starter to not playing at all. Now, two months into the season, Casspi finally seems to be settling in to a 25-30 minutes a game bench role. At the beginning of this month he put up a couple of double-doubles in a row off the bench and had a productive three-game stretch in which he was rebounding and hitting threes. Casspi is a nice swingman-type pickup in deep leagues and someone keep an eye on in standard leagues.

Manny Harris, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers: With their second and third options at guard out with injuries, the Cavs have come up with a bunch of guys you might never have heard of before. But with Anthony Parker and Daniel Gibson out for several more games, Manny Harris, Christian Eyenga and Alonzo Gee will have a chance to show that they can play consistently at the NBA level. In the five games he's started this year for the Cavs, Harris has averaged 12.8 points, 5 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.4 threes per 30 minutes. If he can keep it up, those type of numbers play in any fantasy league.

Tyler Hansbrough, PF, Indiana Pacers: Jim O'Brien has been experimenting with the Pacers rotation in January in hopes of jump-starting a team that is fading fast. His most recent change placed Hansbrough in the starting lineup with former starter Josh McRoberts not getting off the bench for two straight games. Hansbrough is an intriguing fantasy play. In his first start he put up 23 points and 12 rebounds in 36 minutes. However, the Pacers continue to lose games and this is probably not the last move for O'Brien, who has also cut the playing time of one of his best players (Roy Hibbert) instead of trying to figure out how to best utilize him. Given the extenuating circumstances, wait on adding Hansbrough until the Pacers' rotation has clearly been settled.

J.J. Hickson, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers: In many ways, Hickson is the poster child for the three-game rule. The 22-year old has struggled with consistency all season and has been unable to put together a solid stretch of three games since early November. He's clashed coach Byron Scott and been benched for missing practice. But with Anderson Varejao now out for the season with a torn ankle tendon, the Cavs have few options at center other than Hickson and the injury-prone Leon Powe. Against the Suns on Sunday night, Hickson blew up for 23 points and 17 rebounds in 35 minutes, which is a clear reminder of how good he can be when he's on the same page as the rest of his team. Recent history is not on Hickson's side, but he is worth a speculative pickup if he's available in your league to see if he take advantage of this opportunity.

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