SleepersFebruary 22, 2009

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Sleeper Watch

By Phil Londen

Last week was a busy week in the NBA, marked by the passing of the trade deadline as well as the continuous cycle of injury and return from injury. With the effects of these events being played out on fantasy values, now is a great time to pick up guys like Steve Blake and Marquis Daniels for the final playoff push.

Steve Blake
Constantly underrated in both fantasy and real life, Steve Blake is a great point guard to grab off waivers. Blake’s 38 percent ownership in Yahoo! fantasy leagues can be explained by frustrated owners ditching Blake after a separated shoulder kept him sidelined for thirteen games. His average stats this season are very solid for a second or third point guard, especially in a roto league. In 41 games this season, Blake has averaged 11.2 points, 2.0 threes, 2.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.0 steals, on 43 percent shooting from the field and 82 percent shooting from the line. He does all of this with only 1.5 turnovers per game. As a point guard, the secret to his fantasy value comes from his assist-to-turnover ratio with Blake’s ratio of 3.145 among the league’s best.

Marquis Daniels
Marquis Daniels’ rise to fantasy prominence this season has been related to injuries to other Pacers. At the start of the season, Mike Dunleavy’s knee injury allowed Daniels to provide keen fantasy managers with some solid production. In 32 games as a starter this season, Daniels has averaged 15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.7 turnovers per game on 47 percent shooting from the field and 76 shooting from the line. With Granger and Dunleavy both injured, Daniels should be in line for heavy minutes and should be approaching universal ownership. However, he is rostered in only 38 percent of Yahoo! leagues. With four games this week (@NYK, MEM, @BOS, DEN), Daniels should be an easy add in virtually all formats.

Rasual Butler
If any waiver wire pickup is flying under the radar right now, it is certainly Rasual Butler. Butler has been playing phenomenal basketball over the past week and is only owned in a quarter of Yahoo! fantasy basketball leagues. In these 4 games, Butler is averaging a scorching 19.8 points, 3.5 threes, 5.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.5 blocks, on 51 percent shooting from the field and 67 percent shooting from the line. He has done his damage in 36 minutes per game with only 0.5 turnovers. Over this four game stretch, Butler ranked 16th in Basketball Monster’s per game player rankings. Next week, New Orleans has a very favorable schedule (@SAC, DET, MIL, @NJ), so make a move for the other Butler if you are looking for a well-rounded fantasy line.

Chris Wilcox and Larry Hughes
The New York Knicks were among the league’s most active teams this year at the trade deadline. In the process, Mike D’Antoni acquired a couple more weapons in his offensive arsenal in Chris Wilcox and Larry Hughes. D’Antoni has been interested in Wilcox for years and it will be interesting to see how David Lee, Al Harrington and Chris Wilcox co-exist down low. As an added bonus, Wilcox is power forward and center eligible and is only owned in about a quarter of Yahoo! leagues.

Throughout his career, Hughes has largely been known as a chucker and for being one of the poster boys for the contract year phenomenon. However, D’Antoni has a history of taking high volume, low efficiency players and turning them into fantasy gold. Not to be outdone by fellow acquisition Wilcox, Hughes has point guard, shooting guard, and small forward eligibility and is only owned in 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues. With the Knicks’ upcoming schedule being a favorable one (IND, ORL, PHI, @MIA), both Wilcox and Hughes are great speculative pickups if you have a roster spot to burn.

Keep an eye on: Dominic McGuire
One fantasy trend that is worth keeping an eye on is the development of Washington Wizards forward Dominic McGuire. Still early on in his career, McGuire is showing flashes of fantasy potential to be a multi-category contributor. McGuire could be given full rein to play due to the Wizards’ awful record this season. Recently, McGuire had the best game of his career with 11 points 14 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks on 62 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent shooting from the line with zero turnovers. Another telling sign of things to come have been his minutes recently. Over the past three games, McGuire has played about 36 minutes per game. With nothing left to play this season for except for ping pong balls and the development of their young talent, look for Dominic McGuire to be an intriguing fantasy option this season and in future years.

Keep an eye on: Monta Ellis’ ankle injury
In a developing story, it appears that Monta Ellis is experiencing pain in his surgically-repaired ankle and will be shut down for one to two weeks. Ellis’ now-infamous moped accident has proven to be a costly ride and has caused this to be a forgettable season for his owners. In redraft leagues, it is probably time to cut your losses and let Monta go as he has not proved to be healthy and ready to provide his signature high percentage shooting production from the guard positions. With the Warriors still under Don Nelson’s unpredictable control, it is hard to tell which players will benefit. All sorts of Warriors could benefit here including Kelenna Azubuike, Marco Belinelli, Anthony Randolph, Jamal Crawford, C.J. Watson and Anthony Morrow. With Nellie at the helm, you never really know what to expect and how long his favor will last.

With all the turnover in the league over the past week, make sure you are maximizing your team’s value by taking advantage of altered fantasy values. Changes to players’ values can occur for many reasons. Trades often redistribute fantasy values creating both winners and losers. If you find yourself owning a player who is adversely affected by a trade, pick up Chris Wilcox or Larry Hughes who both stand to benefit from being traded in the past week. If you lost a player to injury, turn to recently activated Steve Blake for point guard production or to injury-promoted Marquis Daniels for production on the wing. For deep leagues, monitor the situations of Dominic McGuire as well as the Golden Warriors. Or, if you are just looking to ride the hot hand, give Rasual Butler a chance to continue his hot streak. With only five weeks remaining before the fantasy playoffs, these next few roster decisions can make or break your entire season.

Phil Londen is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Phil in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of plonden.
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