Due to the NBA lockout, by this time last year the season hadn’t even started yet, but by now most of your Fantasy Basketball leagues should be around the eight week point.
Whether you’re a seasoned vet or a fantasy novice, the early season rust should be starting to wear off and now is the time to start making moves!
In competitive leagues many of the prized free agents may have been snatched up, but there is still always room to make speculative adds, stashes and maybe hop on players that another owner wasn’t willing to ride out a cold streak with.
Here is a look at some of those type of players and as always, the players I feature are owned in less than 60 percent of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues, respectively.
Alexey Shved (SG/PG-Timberwolves): The rookie Russian import hit stateside without much fanfare, but had since etched a niche in Minnesota’s rotation. Given playing time while the team was waiting for Ricky Rubio’s return from knee surgery, he has outshined guards J.J. Barea and Malcom Lee, and at times, Luke Ridnour as well.
Over his last seven games he has averaged 12.8 PPG while playing over 28 minutes in all but two of them. His per game averages of 2.3 3-pointers, 1.6 steals and 4.6 assists during that stretch is a good example of how he can help you in many categories. He was inserted into the starting lineup this weekend with Rubio’s return and should stay there even when Rubio’s minutes are back to normal. In his second game starting he played a career high 44 minutes and scored 18 points. Coach Rick Adelman likes his athleticism and youth and Minnesota has a glut of guards, meaning someone like Barea or Ridnour could be a likely trade candidate, which would make his value skyrocket even more. Get him while you can. (9.5% owned in ESPN, 18% Yahoo!)
Jarrett Jack (PG/SG-Warriors): The Golden State Warriors have to be one of the biggest surprises of the season. After winning 11 of their last 15 games, the Bad Boys from the Bay are now a robust 16-8. Much of their early season success can be accredited in part to the well-rounded play lately of veteran guard Jarrett Jack.
When given minutes, the Georgia Tech product has proven he can fill up the stat sheet. Playing a career-high in minutes with New Orleans last year, he put up 15.6 points, 6.3 assists, 3.9 boards and almost three free-throws made per game (at 87%). While it took coach Mark Jackson a few weeks to integrate him fully into the rotation, he has since seen starter’s minutes even as a sub. He has averaged 30 min/per over the past seven games while averaging 12.1 points, 5.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds.
Never known for his defensive prowess or his 3-point shooting, he has used the attention put on Stephen Curry and David Lee to reel in stats in both categories. Career averages of 0.8 steals and 0.7 3’s are nothing to brag about, especially for a guard, but he has hit on 1.4 treys and had 1.3 swipes per game over the past seven. Now is the time to take him off the waiver wire before another owner is getting the last laugh with this “Jack” of all trades. (45% owned in ESPN, 35% Yahoo!)
Bradley Beal (SG-Wizards): Many NBA experts questioned Washington’s use of the third overall pick to draft the University of Florida freshman. While the raw talent was there, having only played in one college season there wasn’t a lot to go on. His numbers weren’t eye-popping and his shooting efficiencies weren’t amazing, plus he had analysts comparing him on a daily basis to all-time 3-point king Ray Allen. That’s a tough act to follow for any basketball player, let alone a first year player.
While he’s years away from “Ray Ray status”, he has made great strides in his first couple months in The Association. In November he scored 11.2 PPG and shot a paltry 34 percent from the field to go along with 1.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game. While he didn’t excel in those areas, he had his 3-point and free-throw shooting going, which would be a good sign of things to come. He was making 1.4 long balls a night to go along with very accurate free throw shooting for a 19-year old (85%). While those aren’t great all-around numbers, they’re not awful for a still very raw player being thrown to the wolves. That was November…then came December.
In the beginning of the month Wizards’ starting point guard A.J. Price fractured his finger and Beal was teamed with Jordan Crawford in a much faster and offensively-friendly starting backcourt. In seven December games he has averaged 14.7 PPG on a much-improved 39 percent shooting, which is significant because he is actually attempting 0.5 more 3-pointers a game. He’s averaging 1.7 more assists per contest and turning the ball over even less than in November which sheds a light on his passing skills.
Beal’s rebounds have improved by 0.8 and he is now over a steal per game in the month. While franchise player John Wall’s return dates have been all over the place (some say next week, some say February), Price had been given a 4-6 week timetable on Dec. 8. Coach Randy Wittman prefers to play Crawford off the bench for his scoring punch, so even when either of those aforementioned injured players return, Beal should remain in the starting lineup. The Wizards are going nowhere fast and have no reason not to give Beal a long look, so you should, too. (51% owned in ESPN, 58% Yahoo!)
You can find me on Twitter: @SethDaSportsMan