It always seems strange that the star player and big market effects in the NBA carry over to fantasy basketball. In fantasy basketball, owners can choose from any of the nearly 500 active players in the league and get bombarded by stats at every turn to inform their decisions. And yet, in an output-to-ownership comparison, players in small markets and on teams without stars still seem to be at a disadvantage in fantasy leagues. However, this is one disadvantage that you can easily turn into an advantage for yourself if you are willing to give some of your attention to these teams.
The lack of national attention that Chris Bosh received on the Raptors was one of the many reasons why he left Toronto, but just because a star leaves doesn't mean there aren't still viable fantasy options on a team that rarely plays nationally televised games.
Amir Johnson, PF: One of the best examples of the effect that playing for a bad NBA team has on fantasy ownership. Here is a Raptor who is owned in a solid two-thirds of fantasy leagues, but is ranked in the top 50 (of all players) this season. There is really no way that a guy who is playing like a third to fourth round fantasy draft pick should not be owned in less than 99 percent of leagues. While he started the season slowly, over the past month Johnson has averaged 13 points, 8 rebounds and a block per game while shooting more than 80 percent from the free throw line. If he is available in your league, stop reading this and immediately go add him to your team.
DeMar DeRozan, SG: While DeRozan hasn't been as effective as Johnson, he's been Toronto's starting shooting guard all season and has shown the ability to score 25-plus points a game on a semi-regular basis. While inconsistency has kept the 21-year old from really breaking out this season, DeRozan has still been a top-125 player this season and is worthy of a roster spot in most competitive leagues.
With their record setting 24-game losing streak, the Cavs are pretty much the definition of a bad team, so any half-decent fantasy player in Cleveland is probably flying under most radars. There certainly has been no shortage of opportunities for fresh faces since injuries have reduced the Cavaliers roster to a veritable "Who's Who" of guys you've never heard of.
Ramon Sessions, PG: Despite being close to a top 100 player over the past month while averaging 14 points and 6 assists a game, Sessions is owned in less than half of all fantasy basketball leagues. With Mo Williams out indefinitely, Sessions will continue to get heavy minutes in the Cavaliers backcourt, possibly for the rest of the season.
Anthony Parker, SG: Parker is a top 75 fantasy player over the last week, thanks to a 17-point game against Indiana that he followed up with a 18-point game against Memphis. He's always been able to score and hit threes when he's gotten the minutes, and considering the Cavs' other options at shooting guard, he seems like a lock for playing time at least up through the trade deadline.
Manny Harris, SG: Parker's return from injury has pushed the undrafted rookie back to the bench, but a brief run in the Cavs' starting lineup showed that Harris can score, rebound and has three-point range. He's definitely worth keeping an eye on in case Parker gets traded, or the Cavs decide to give their young guys more playing time to gain experience.
Christian Eyenga, SF: Over the past two weeks, Eyenga has averaged 1.3 steals, 1.5 blocks and nearly a three per game while starting at small forward for the Cavs, which puts him among the top 100 fantasy players over that span. With Cleveland very short on options at the small forward position, they'll probably ride out the season with Eyenga unless he hits a major wall.
Carlos Delfino, SG/SF: Delfino's ownership is low in part because he missed almost all of November, December and January with side effects related to a concussion. But he should be owned in more than 30-40 percent of leagues because he has a good chance of remaining the starting shooting guard for the Bucks going forward, and he's going to continue to make a ton of threes and get steals as long as he can stay healthy.
Ersan Ilyasova, PF: Under the radar not just because he's up in Milwaukee, but also because his name is hard to spell and pronounce, Ilyasova is capable of putting of big time numbers, especially when Andrew Bogut misses games (which has happened every month so far this season). The other reason Ilyasova has yet to get his ownership percentage above 35-40 percent is that his performances have been like the wave pool at a resort in Wisconsin Dells: crashing all around and ready to drown you one game, only to be meek and placid the next. This makes him useful in rotisserie leagues though, since the sum of games over the course of the entire season is what ultimately counts.
The Pacers have been a mess this year, but at least they decided to part ways with Jim O'Brien. It's tough to support anyone who doesn't want to find a way to make Roy Hibbert work.
Mike Dunleavy, SG: He started off the season a little slow and many fantasy owners probably wrote him off with memories of his disastrous 2009-10 season. But new Pacers' coach Frank Vogel has handed the starting shooting guard spot entirely over to Dunleavy (sorry Brandon Rush). As a result, Dunleavy has been a top 75 fantasy player over the last month, which means his efficient scoring and three-point shooting should be used in more than 60 percent of fantasy leagues.
Elton Brand, PF: Players on the 76ers not named Andre Iguodala seem to get ignored in fantasy leagues fairly regularly, and while Brand's game may not be flashy, the man who was drafted in the later rounds this season has worked up to a top 30 position for the year. Brand is owned in 93 percent of leagues, so this isn't a free agent pick-up recommendation, but rather something to think about if you're in a keeper league, or when you're looking at drafting for next season. If you have the option to keep Brand, his low profile status has given you a high performing keeper pick at a low cost to your team. If you're not in a keeper league, then keep Brand in mind as a sleeper for next season since a slip past the fourth or fifth round will make him a good value pick.