Waiver Wire: Trouble in Atlanta?
The loss of Lou Williams last week to a season-ending ligament tear in his knee has created a big hole Atlanta badly needs to fill if it wants to keep its waning playoff hopes alive. Williams wore many hats for the Hawks, working as a backup point guard, crunch-time playmaker or secondary scorer, depending on what the team needed at the time. He had emerged as a strong floor-spacer as well, tossing up five three-pointers per game and hitting 36.7 percent of them.
His absence for the remainder of the season will force a number of players to step up and Fantasy owners seem to be betting heavily that veteran wing Kyle Korver will fill in during Williams' absence. Korver has been the second-most added player in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues over the last week, jumping from 36 percent ownership to 54 percent.
Korver is a superior floor-spacer to Williams, but he lacks many of the other skills that made Williams such a useful option, both for Fantasy owners and the Hawks. Korver averages just 1.7 assists per game on the season, compared to Williams' 3.6, and will likely be asked to do far less play-making than Williams ever was. Korver's limitations as a ball-handler will make it unlikely that he can fill in totally for Williams, so the Hawks will have to shift some of Williams' responsibilities around.
Still, Korver is exceptional at the things he does well, and it would not be a surprise at all to see the Hawks rely on him more heavily for scoring moving forward. Korver has been starting for much of the season, but has seen an increase to 36.9 minutes per game in the three since Williams suffered his injury. That increase comes in spite of being moved out of the starting lineup as of the team's most recent game.
As a shooting specialist, Korver gets most of his touches off screens and in spot-up situations, and he is among the league's leaders in efficiency in both play types. According to MySynergySports.com, 67.7 percent of Korver's possessions ending in either a field-goal attempt, foul drawn or turnover come via spot-ups or coming off screens. His ability to race around screens puts a ton of pressure on defenses, as Eye On Basketball's Zach Harper covered here. His never-ending pursuit of open spots on the floor clears up plenty of room for him to get open looks. He ranks 17th in the NBA in points per possession on spot-ups and 13th off screens. His movement and shooting prowess helps grease the wheels for a Hawks offense that sometimes struggles to find room with its big lineups.
By necessity, Atlanta will try to approximate Williams' production from a number of different sources, and Korver should be just one. Expect the Hawks to lean on Korver's off-ball movement to create space in the offense even more, with Jeff Teague taking on more ball-handling duties. Korver could end up becoming a 30-plus minutes per game player and is worth snagging off the waiver wire -- especially in category-based Fantasy formats, where his three-point shooting will make an even bigger impact.
Most Added Guards
Devin Harris , Hawks: The other part of the "Replacing Lou Williams " equation is likely to be Harris, a veteran point guard who has been a major disappointment thus far in his time in Atlanta. Harris has been playing some better ball recently and looked to be taking a step forward in Williams' absence, scoring 30 points in 50 minutes over two games after Williams suffered the injury. Harris also suffered an injury of his own shortly after, however that is just a minor ankle injury that is expected to cost him only one or two games total. Harris has his best chance to step up in Williams' absence as the backup point guard, though he will need to improve his play in a big way in order to make an impact. Harris is posting a career-low assist rate of just 17.0 percent on the season. His career mark is 29.9 percent. Harris' assist rate has surely been hurt by the presence of Teague and Williams, so we will need to see whether he can step up with his larger role. Harris has little track record this season to fall back on, but Fantasy owners looking for an upside play can look his way, on the chance that he rediscovers his former All-Star form. (48 percent owned; +17 percent)
Shannon Brown , Suns: Brown has seen his Fantasy value fluctuate all season long, which is to be expected for a streaky jump shooter like him. 69.3 percent of Browns' field goal attempts qualify as jump shots according to Basketball-Reference.com, an unnecessarily high number for someone who shoots just 31.5 percent on those attempts. When the shot is falling, Brown can fill up the scoreboard, as he ranked third among Suns' regulars in field-goal attempts per 36 minutes. He has scored in double figures in four games in a row as of Tuesday, which has prompted resurgence in interest in him. Unfortunately, he had been held to just 6.2 points per game in the team's previous five games. Taking a flier on Brown is fine if you are trying to find a quick spark plug. Just don't expect him to earn a permanent spot in your plans. (43 percent owned; +14 percent)
Jarrett Jack , Warriors: Despite being the backup at point guard, Jack has seen his role continue to increase as the season has gone on. Jack averaged just 24.6 minutes per game in the month of November, a number that has crept to 31.1 in 10 January games. Despite the presence of a potential All Star in Stephen Curry , Jack has had no problems finding the floor, and he saw a slight boost in his floor time last week when Curry missed a few games. Jack's spike in ownership was likely due to concerns that Curry's surgically-repaired right ankle was flaring up and would cost him to miss significant time yet again. Unfortunately, Curry sat out just two games, during which Jack averaged 18.0 points and 6.0 assists. Jack is worth owning in most Fantasy formats, but it is not fair to expect his value to improve too much moving forward. (88 percent owned; +10 percent)
Most Added Forwards
Al-Farouq Aminu , Hornets: Aminu has been rebounding like a madman of late, averaging 10.3 per game over the last 10 contests. His offense, as always, has remained a work-in-progress, however he has shown some real signs of life of late. With Eric Gordon 's return from a knee injury, the Hornets have been playing at a much faster pace, a style that almost certainly helps a player like Aminu thrive. With Gordon on the floor, the Hornets sporting a Pace Factor of 93.9, which would rank seventh in the league. Without Gordon, they are at just 89.9, one of the most sluggish in the league. Aminu does his best work offensive in transition and on offensive rebounds, the only types of plays where he ranks among the 100-most efficient players in the league, according to Synergy. The Hornets have stepped on the accelerator offensively recently, and the result is that Aminu has racked up three straight double-digit scoring games, as of Tuesday. If he can continue to find easy points, Aminu might be worth grabbing in all Fantasy formats, however his track record indicates that patience will be key. (66 percent owned; +21 percent)
Earl Clark , Lakers: Clark had all of the makings of a flash-in-the-pan for the Lakers, ala Antawn Jamison and his short-lived flirtation with Fantasy relevance earlier in the season. However, coach Mike D'Antoni made it clear Monday that Clark was here to stay, at least as far as his spot in the team's starting lineup is concerned. Clark has found his calling as a stretch power forward in Mike D'Antoni's offensive system, and he is averaging 10.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game over the last nine, since becoming a larger fixture in the rotation. Clark's track record does not suggest that this is the type of production we can expect moving forward, however D'Antoni's offense looks to be turning Clark into a contributor. At the very least, it looks like he can be a useful provider of points and rebounds through sheer energy, given the 30-plus minutes he figures to see per game moving forward. (53 percent owned; +17 percent)
Elton Brand , Mavericks: Brand had been all but left for dead from a Fantasy perspective after the first two months of the season, as he averaged just 6.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game through the first 27 games of the season. Brand was more than a step slow on both ends of the court, and looked to be carrying every one of his 800-plus NBA games played with him each time down the court. Something happened at the start of the New Year, however, as Brand has begun to turn the clock back a bit. Over the last 11 games, Brand is averaging 10.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, despite playing just 23.7 minutes per game off the bench. He has been even better recently, reaching double-figures in scoring in five games in a row, as of Tuesday. Brand is a long way from the All-Star form he showed for so many years, but any signs of life are encouraging after the abysmal start. Brand has emerged as the better option next to Dirk Nowitzki , and it would not be a surprise to see his role continue to increase. I think he could be worth starting in the near future. (56 percent owned; +15 percent)
Most Added Centers
Tiago Splitter , Spurs: Splitter has continued his gradual improvement this season, taking on a larger role in the Spurs' offense with almost no drop in his efficiency. His play of late has been especially impressive, as Splitter has essentially become a full-time player for the first time in his career. Over the last 10 games, Splitter has played at least 26 minutes in all but one game, while averaging 28.9 per game. He has become a contributor on both sides of the floor, and is one of Gregg Popovich's most reliable big men. It looks like Splitter is blossoming into the player he has shown flashes of being in the past. Given how shallow the center position is, Splitter's dual eligibility makes him a worthy pick up, where available. (61 percent owned; +13 percent)
Andre Drummond , Pistons: As expected, it took a while for Drummond to get up to speed in the NBA, after an up-and-down freshman season at UCONN. Lately, however, the only thing standing in the way of Drummond being a true Fantasy force has been his coach's insistence on limiting his minutes. In the first 20 games of the season, Drummond averaged 6.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in just 17.6 minutes per game. He has taken consistent steps in his progress in the last 20 games, but has been rewarded at every step with just small increases in playing time. He is averaging 8.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in 22.0 minutes per game in that span, while shooting 64.1 percent from the field. Drummond's inability to sink free throws certainly hurts his chances of seeing significant crunch-time minutes, but the Pistons should probably be more concerned about future development than short-term victories. Drummond is so close to being a big-time Fantasy contributor -- he is averaging over 20 Fantasy points per game over the last month, ranking him in the top-30 among all centers. If he starts seeing 25-30 minutes per game in the second half of the season, he might end up developing into a top-15 center. Smart Fantasy owners will want to squeeze onto his bandwagon before he is taken in every league. (75 percent owned; +5 percent)