Playing the Waiver Wire for Week 21
Which players are going to put your Fantasy team into the playoffs? Chris Towers and Joe Polito hash it out in their latest edition of Playing the Waiver Wire.
In a continuation of a season-long trend, Andrew Bynum is once again on the radar of Fantasy owners when he shouldn't be. Despite clear indications that he cannot be a consistent contributor, Fantasy owners have found themselves almost mindlessly drawn to Bynum, asif hypnotized, this season, suckered in by the promise he once showed. He finds himself on the most-added players list as No. 7, with his ownership jumping from 33 to 44 percent just in the last week, despite his appearance in just one game over the last two and a half months.
I understand how enticing it is to see a player with Bynum's track record sitting there on the waiver wire, untouched. This is a guy who was arguably the top Fantasy center in the league at one point, routinely tossing up 20-10s and looking like a dynamic, game-changing presence when healthy. At first glance, that looks a lot more attractive than Timofey Mozgov.
Bynum hasn't been that player in nearly two full years at this point, and there is no reason to think his current role as a backup center for the Pacers will change that. Yes, he looked decent in his team debut earlier this week, nearly dropping a double-double in just 16 minutes against the Celtics. He looked -- dare I say it -- spry at times while dominating an entirely overmatched Celtics frontline, and what makes him so attractive is how he could conceivably physically overpower just about any center in the league.
The problem with any discussion about Bynum overpowering anyone in 2014 is the conversation has to take place almost entirely in the world of hypotheticals. He has shown glimpses of still being a game-changer, but they come far too infrequently to rely on, and his overall production just doesn't point to him being that player anymore.
Of Bynum's 207 field-goal attempts this season, just 38.1 percent have come within five feet; that number was 64.7 percent in 2011-12, his breakout season. Bynum has attempted nearly one-third of his shots from beyond 10 feet, a sign that he is no longer capable of establishing himself down low with any consistency. This goes a long way in explaining how a seven-foot tall, 300-pound former All-Star can shoot just 42.5 percent from the field.
Bynum's desire to dominate has long been questioned, but that isn't even why you should avoid him. At just 26 year's old, Bynum looks pretty much finished as a dominant NBA force. Whether he has the will to do so is irrelevant, as his body simply isn't up for it. Even with two days off following his Pacers debut, Bynum had to take Friday off, because the team doesn't feel comfortable running him out on back-to-back nights.
So, the question for Fantasy owners rushing out to take even a flier on Bynum is, What are you hoping for? For whatever scattered flaws he may have -- poor rebounding numbers, low shooting percentages -- Roy Hibbert is completely entrenched as the starting center in Indiana, and there is no chance that is going to change. The Pacers are still jostling for position in the standings and Hibbert has almost no track record of serious injury costing him time, so there is little reason to think Hibbert will just be shut down to save him for the postseason. Bynum is going to be stuck in an inconsistent role, and it is hard to argue he deserves anything more than that based on this season.
With precious few weeks left in the season every move you make is magnified, so there is no room for wasted motion. Even dropping a marginal player at this point isn't worth it if the end result is a wasted roster spot, which is what Bynum will almost certainly be. You are better off using that roster spot to stream four-and five-start options on a weekly basis than chasing some kind of impossible dream involving Bynum carrying you to a championship.
Matt Barnes, F, Clippers: It would be easy to write off Barnes' hot play as the result of the absence of Jamal Crawford, and you can't say that isn't playing a part. With Crawford missing five of six games in the month of March, Barnes is averaging 16.7 points (29.1 Fantasy points) per game. However, this actually started a bit before Crawford went down with a strained calf, and is likely to continue on a lesser scale moving forward, with Crawford still a few games out. Barnes has become a high-volume gunner from three-point range for the Clippers, nailing 29 3-pointers in his last 10 games. Barnes is the kind of player who knows his strengths and weaknesses and avoids the latter. Playing with Chris Paul helps, because he is always going to get teammates the ball in the best place to succeed. Barnes is probably playing a bit over his head recently, as evidenced by a scorching hot 54.3 percent mark from the field. Still, he is averaging 20.4 Fantasy points per game since joining the starting lineup in late January, and should be a useful option down the stretch. Especially with the Clippers set to play four games in Week 22 and 23 each.(61 percent owned; +30 percent)
Jeff Adrien, F, Bucks: Some players wind up high on this list simply because they had nowhere else to go but up, and Adrien is a perfect example of this. Prior to a trade from Charlotte, Adrien was the definition of a non-entity in Fantasy, averaging just 7.0 Fantasy points in 25 games with the Bobcats. In 10 games since, he has taken on a much larger role, averaging 8.4 points and 7.9 rebounds in just 19.7 minutes per game. Those numbers aren't liable to blow anyone away, but they can put him into the discussion among lower-end Fantasy options in deeper formats, which is where he should stay over the season's final month. (21 percent owned; +19 percent)
Amar'e Stoudemire, F, Knicks: It has been a pleasure watching Stoudemire show brief flashes of his former All-Star potential recently. Unfortunately, as is always the case with Stoudemire, watching him succeed comes with an ever present reminder of just how much injuries have cost him. Stoudemire is averaging 27.0 minutes per game in the month of March, and has played 30-plus on three separate occasions. This increase in playing time has led natural to an increase in productivity, as he is averaging 17.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in the month. The other side of the sword, however, was shown Wednesday, when he had to sit out to rest after playing 58 minutes in the previous four days. The Knicks are going to give Stoudemire extra rest whenever he needs it, but it is certainly a troubling sign that he had to sit out Wednesday even with Tyson Chandler away from the team. Stoudemire leading the Knicks to a late playoff push would be a great story, and Fantasy owners looking for a high-upside flier would certainly like to see it. Unfortunately, it is a story that can easily lead to a heartbreaking ending. (60 percent owned; +17 percent)
Maurice Harkless, F, Magic: As he did last season, Harkless is starting to turn things around in the second half of the season. Harkless struggled with his overall game before the All-Star break, but has also seen his production increase concurrently with his playing time, which has been boosted by roster moves for the season year in a row. His numbers aren't mind-blowing since the All-Star break, but he has definitely vaulted himself into consideration as a Fantasy option by averaging 10.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.3 3-pointers per game. He won't blow you away in any one category, but the well-rounded 20-year-old is well worth an add in category-based leagues with 12 teams or more. (46 percent owned; +17 percent)
Alexis Ajinca, C, Pelicans: Two weeks ago, Ajinca was one of the most-added players in the league, after it appeared as if his role was going to continue growing with Anthony Davis suffering a shoulder injury. Fortunately for the Pelicans, they did not end up needing to rely on Ajinca much, which has caused Fantasy owners to scatter. Following a four-game stretch that saw him score in double figures three times, Ajinca has mostly disappeared, scoring 10 points total over his last five. Ajinca is a 25-year-old with no track record of success at the NBA level, so this was a pretty obvious outcome, despite his status as a starter in New Orleans. Ajinca can be safely ignored down the stretch, unless the Pelicans go into tank mode and find an excuse to shut Davis down. (12 percent owned; -14 percent)
Kent Bazemore, G, Lakers: One thousand words in, you almost thought we'd get away without mentioning the Lakers, didn't you. The unofficial subtitle for the Waiver-Wire column this season might as well be "Which Lakers role player is playing well this week," because every week has been a Lakers feature. This week only one Lakers' player is among the 10 most-added players, but there are plenty seeing their ownership move in the opposite direction. Bazemore headlines a list of four Lakers on the most-dropped list, with Kobe Bryant (out for the season) and Wesley Johnson right behind him. I have been a believer in Bazemore's chance of remaining productive with the Lakers, as his mix of athleticism and length would seem to work well in Mike D'Antoni's offense. He is averaging 11.6 points per game over the last five, but has seen his playing time come and go, especially when Jodie Meeks gets hot. What holds true for all Lakers not named Pau Gasol should also hold true for Bazemore; you don't want to grow attached to anyone. Their roles are too fluid to expect anyone on this roster to be a long-term help. (46 percent owned; -11 percent)
Flavors of Next Week
|1.||Kobe Bryant, Lakers||78|
|2.||Evan Turner, Pacers||90|
|3.||Shawn Marion, Mavericks||78|
|5.||Andrew Bynum, Pacers||43|
We're nearing the end of another Fantasy hoops season, meaning you're growing less and less concerned with a player's long-term outlook. Instead, you're focused on strong schedules, hot hands and opportunistic role players. That's why I'm eyeing the Bulls in advance of Week 21. They do have two slugfests, playing at home against Oklahoma City and on the road in Indiana, but their two games against the 76ers sandwiched in between gives Fantasy owners back-to-back chances for a knockout punch.
The double #PhillyBump is the double rainbow of Fantasy hoops – you must seize this moment to soak in its beauty. Chicago is on fire now that Joakim Noah's running the show, so if D.J. Augustin (83 percent) is floating out there in your league, or you've been waiting for the right week to add Mike Dunleavy (56 percent), now's the time. Deep leagues might even roll the dice on Kirk Hinrich (26 percent), who went for 19 points, four assists and two steals in Chicago's huge win over Houston.
Augustin is obviously highest on the list. He's averaging 20.8 points and 3.2 assists through six March games. The way the Bulls are running their offense through Noah in the high post plays perfectly into Augustin's work-around-screens-and-shoot style of play. And when he doesn't score as much, he'll pass out a few assists to hold you over.
|1.||Randy Foye, Nuggets||82|
|2.||Raymond Felton, Knicks||74|
|3.||P.J. Tucker, Suns||60|
|4.||Amar'e Stoudemire, Knicks||60|
|5.||Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers||91|
Dunleavy is next up. Would you believe that he has more Fantasy points over the last three weeks than his 90-plus percent-owned teammates Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson? It's true. Dunleavy rarely reaches double digits in any category, but his impact is widespread enough to make him one of the most consistent, although boring, options in Fantasy. He's been good lately because (1) he has a defined role. Tony Snell hasn't logged more than 20 minutes in nine games. And (2) Dunleavy is tough. He's played in 64 of his team's 65 games, and not even 10 stitches above his eye could keep him from scoring 21 against the Rockets Thursday night.
Lastly, there's Hinrich. He seems allergic to getting more than four assists, and usually doesn't shoot enough to make a difference, but in back-to-back games against the 76ers anything is possible. Grab him if you need to stream a guard in a 14-team league next week.
Jodie Meeks, G, Lakers, (77 percent): Meeks has been the steadiest option of the Lakers' carousel of Fantasy fliers. Similar to Gerald Green, he's shot and shot and shot his way up to a high ownership percentage. Also like Green, he's capable of a 40-point outburst. But unlike Green, there's no Eric Bledsoe-type player coming to get his minutes. Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant being ruled out for the year sealed up Meeks' value for good, so, for some of you, there's still a chance to reap the benefits of the D'antoni system. Meeks is the safe pick up as opposed to the riskier Jordan Farmar (44 percent), because assists will be between zero and three, whereas Farmar can both score and dish when conditions are perfect. So if you want a guard with limited upside but almost no downside, go with Meeks and his 24 Fantasy points per game over the last three weeks. He won't surprise you in a good or a bad way, making him the rare stress-free pickup.
Pero Antic, C, Hawks, (18 percent): Center is especially thin this time of year, so if you can grab a guy returning to the starting lineup, you do it. The bulk of Antic's Fantasy value comes from his three-point potential. He's hit 10 combined threes over his first five games back. So if you're hurting in threes and free-throw shooting in a categories league, Antic is a sneaky play at center. The Hawks play four times next week against large, slow-moving centers Jonas Valanciunas, Al Jefferson and Alexis Ajinca – meaning Antic's ability to stretch them out to the perimeter should come into play.
Drew Gooden / Kevin Seraphin, F/F, Wizards, (two/five percent): These are some long shots, but Washington plays the Lakers and the Nuggets in Week 21, so what the heck. Gooden has been signed for the remainder of the year, and Seraphin has recently returned to health. The good news is the Wizards are especially shallow up front, so one of these guys will get minutes. The bad news is Drew Gooden is an old, watered-down Taj Gibson, and Seraphin got a "Did Not Play – Coach's Decision" for his first game "back." Consider these two deep-league speculations if you've got your starting lineup in order. Picking one of them up would be nothing more than seeing an opportunity open up and having a plan in case one of them breaks through. Marcin Gortat's been great since Nene went down, but if team's start paying him extra attention one of these fringe forwards will benefit.
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