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NBA's closing weeks offer waiver finds for playoff teams, also-rans

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At this point in the fantasy basketball season, there are two types of owners: those who are competing for a championship, and those who are waiting for next year (or preparing for fantasy baseball season). This article looks at a few players to target for both types of owners.

Believe it or not, there are still a few players out there on the waiver wire who could fill in for a team competing in the fantasy basketball playoffs. These guys have, for the most part, built their rep slowly as the season has progressed, and as managers have lost interest or been eliminated from playoff contention, they've left these guys waiting around to contribute.

Jordan Farmar, PG, New Jersey Nets: Deron Williams is scheduled to miss at least three games with a strained right wrist, giving Farmar the start at point guard for the Nets this upcoming week. Any time this season when Williams or Devin Harris (before the trade deadline) has missed a game, Farmar has seized the opportunity to put the ball in the net (pun intended) and dish out assists. In his eight games as a starter this season, Farmar has put up the following line: 15.0 points, 8.8 assists, 1.6 threes, and 1.3 steals. This includes a 17-assist performance while filling in for Williams against the Wizards on Sunday night. Snatch up Farmar if he's available for the upcoming week and possibly the rest of the season if Williams is shut down for the year.

Jodie Meeks, SG, Philadelphia 76ers: Meeks has started every game for the 76ers since December, and while it took him a couple of months to find his place, the 76ers' faith in him is being rewarded now, and his performance is rewarding fantasy owners who are still active in their leagues. So far in March, Meeks is averaging 14.5 points per game with 2.8 threes (while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 92.9 percent from the line), along with 3.9 assists to only 0.6 turnovers. If it was early in the season, he'd probably be owned in 80 percent of leagues, but attrition of fantasy owners in many leagues means he's still available in approximately 70 percent of leagues.

Jordan Crawford, SG, Washington Wizards: Nick Young is still a bit banged up with a sore knee, and every game he misses gives Crawford another opportunity to light things up. In the games in which he gets big minutes, Crawford has proven he can deliver double-digit scoring games with a decent number of rebounds and assists from the guard position.

Tony Allen, SG/SF, Memphis Grizzlies: Allen seemed ready to break out before he was injured and missed four games in January. Since then he's been fighting back and finally found his stroke again around mid-February. Since it took him a while to build up to full speed, he's still available in 75 percent of leagues despite starting at shooting guard for the Grizzlies. Allen will be a good contributor in points, rebounds, and especially steals for the rest of the season.

Shawne Williams, PF, New York Knicks: He's only started three games in the past month, but Williams has done well for himself off the bench. Despite the fact that Williams is only 6-foot-9 he has the athletic ability to play center in Mike D'Antoni's up-and-down offense. New York's system is also very three-pointer friendly, and Williams' average of 2.1 threes from the front line are clear evidence of that.

Having lived in Chicago a while, I know that waiting for next year is a noble tradition (at least for Cubs fans), but if you're not in the playoffs for your league, that doesn't mean you actually have to just wait for next year. Take a look at these guys now and watch their situations going into next season for an early fantasy advantage. They also may be worth a look if you play in a keeper league. It might be enough to get you into the bracket next year.

Trevor Booker, PF, Washington Wizards: Booker is filing in right now for Andray Blatche and Rashard Lewis, and he's showing what he can do given 30-plus minutes per game. In March he's averaged 27 minutes and put up 11 points and 8 rebounds with 1.3 blocks. There's a reason that Blatche starts ahead of Booker when not injured, though, so if Blatche comes back healthy next year, Booker won't see the kind of time he's getting now. Lewis also has two years left on his massive contract, but I have to think that Washington would like to get that one off their books.

Tyler Hansbrough, PF, Indiana Pacers: If you haven't checked to see if Hansbrough is available, he's still out there in more than a third of leagues despite averaging almost 20 points and 8 rebounds in March. While it sometimes looks like everything he does is an accident, he's proven that he can be a consistent double-double threat, and the Pacers have demonstrated confidence with the young power forward. Hansbrough has shown that he's ready to compete against the toughest competition in the league; in a recent game he took 19 shots and scored 29 points in 35 minutes against the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls. If he can do that against one of the best teams in the league, he'll be good to go next year against the best and the worst alike.

Paul George, SG/SF, Indiana Pacers: The rookie out of Fresno State hasn't been quite consistent enough on a game-to-game basis to be worth picking up unless you play in a deep league. But the 6-8 guard/forward has a dynamic game that could translate to Danny Granger-level success down the road. George is a great athlete who has already shown the ability to score, rebound and be a thief on defense at the NBA level. He also plays with high level of confidence, as witnessed by a trait he already shares with Granger: his willingness to jack up threes. George has taken 2.4 threes a game this season while shooting only 27 percent from behind the arc.