Fantasy Basketball 2013: Ranking NBA's Hottest Pickups After the First 2 Weeks

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 14, 2013

Fantasy Basketball 2013: Ranking NBA's Hottest Pickups After the First 2 Weeks

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    The NBA is a superstar-driven league. It's been that way for decades.

    Surely no impactful fantasy producers slip through the cracks, right?

    If that's really your stance as an NBA fantasy owner, chances are your season is already finished. In the middle of November.

    Truth is, fantasy titles are often won and lost on the waiver wire. Big guns might carry your team through stretches, but every team in your league should have some heavy artillery. If that's not the case, then start shopping for a new league. Unless of course there's money on the line, then by all means do everything in your power to keep the league alive as long as possible.

    For the rest of us, though, our associations with similarly sharpened basketball minds give us fantastic conversation, but also a never-ending commitment to identifying fantasy trends.

    Roles can shrink or expand over time. Injuries may open some doors, while shooting slumps close others. Stat categories bare these fluctuations.

    So how can you ever stay on top of all this madness? It's pretty simple actually—just pay attention and keep reading.

     

    *Unless otherwise specified, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

    **To be considered for this list, a player must be available in at least 70 percent of ESPN.com fantasy basketball leagues. If you missed the boat on Michael Carter-Williams, Lance Stephenson or Markieff Morris, those ships have long ago set sail.

8. John Henson, PF, Milwaukee Bucks

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    Notable Per-Game Statistics: 11.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 26.4 MPG, 19.8 PER

    Percent Owned in ESPN.com Leagues: 20.8

     

    John Henson is talented, but he'll only be good as the Milwaukee Bucks allow him to be.

    The 2012 lottery pick has struggled to find consistent minutes in a crowded Milwaukee frontcourt. But injuries to starters Ersan Ilyasova (ankle) and Larry Sanders (thumb) have cleared some of the roadblocks standing in Henson's way.

    Whether in a featured or supporting role, though, Henson deserves a lengthy fantasy look.

    Provided you have scoring help from somewhere else on your roster, the 22-year-old can be a cheap source of shot-blocking (2.3 per 36 minutes) and efficient shooting (60.0 field-goal percentage). His rebounding is down in 2013-14, but last season's effort (12.9 per 36 minutes) suggests he can build that category over time.

    Again, though, that depends on what kind of leash he'll be given. As long as Ilyasova and Sanders are out of the equation, Henson should be owned in far more than 20.8 percent of leagues.

7. Caron Butler, SG, Milwaukee Bucks

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    Notable Per-Game Statistics: 13.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 31.4 MPG, 10.3 PER

    Percent Owned in ESPN.com Leagues: 27.9

     

    Apparently, my list might be a little deceptive. Despite what you've seen so far, filling your roster with Milwaukee Bucks is not the key to a fantasy title.

    That being said, the veteran 33-year-old Caron Butler looks comfortable back in his home state. He's hitting the glass harder than he ever has (career-high 6.9 boards per 36 minutes) and his 23.9 usage rate is the fourth-highest of his career.

    To put that in simpler terms, Butler has a major role in this offense and a great opportunity to build his stat sheet.

    If your team isn't a decent shooting team, you may want to hold off on this pickup for now. His 36.0 field-goal percentage is bad enough to bury you in that category and possibly spoil your matchup.

    But if you can withstand his shooting woes, which judging by his career 43.7 percent mark should only improve, he can be a valuable pickup for his rebounding work and three-point shooting (37.5 percent, 2.1 triples per game).

    Proceed with caution here. According to Bucks.com's Jim Paschke, Butler is scheduled to have an MRI on his injured left shoulder. If those results look good, then so too does Butler's fantasy future.

6. Corey Brewer, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Notable Per-Game Statistics: 14.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 33.0 MPG, 14.5 PER

    Percent Owned in ESPN.com Leagues: 31.3

     

    So, maybe his dunk face could use some work. But with Kevin Love continually calling his number on fly routes, Corey Brewer will get plenty of practice on it.

    There may not be another player who made a better offseason decision than Brewer. By heading back to the place his NBA career started, he's found new life as an NBA streaker.

    Trust me, it's a lot better than it sounds.

    Brewer has traded empty stat lines for efficient box scores on the strength of his speed and Love's court vision. The primary option on Love's full-court outlet passes, Brewer (a career 41.8 percent shooter from the field) has seen his field-goal success skyrocket (50.0).

    Minnesota's uptempo system fully maximizes Brewer's strength (speed) and minimizes his weakness (half-court creativity). He won't do the typical perimeter damage of those sharing his position, but he's not a liability in the category either (1.2 threes per game, 35.5 percent shooting).

    He's far from being an across-the-board contributor, but he'll help teams looking to improve their field-goal shooting and thievery.

5. Gerald Green, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns

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    Notable Per-Game Statistics: 13.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.4 3PM, 26.3 MPG, 16.5 PER

    Percent Owned in ESPN.com Leagues: 24.9

     

    Remember when we all knew Gerald Green simply for his creativity with cupcakes? Well, his birthday parties might have lost some entertainment value, but his fantasy resume has cleaned up quite nicely with the Phoenix Suns.

    The well-traveled 27-year-old—he's played for seven NBA teams and spent two seasons overseas—could make a return trip to All-Star Weekend, but not for the event that you're thinking. While still a ferocious finisher at the rim, he's making a compelling case to crack the three-point contest field (44.2 percent from downtown).

    Like Brewer, Green found the right franchise this summer. He may never be a reliable half-court player, but he's a scoring threat in coach Jeff Hornacek's fast-paced offense.

    The Suns (5-3) are already shattering preseason projections, but Green's been too good to be overlooked by his teammates. Only guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic have been more involved in this offense than Green (22.0 usage rate).

    If you can afford to bypass assists and defensive categories, Green can bring your club offensive help on the perimeter. The fact that you can pour through his highlight reel while checking his stat sheet is an added bonus.

4. Dion Waiters, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    David Sherman/Getty Images

    Notable Per-Game Statistics: 13.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 28.4 MPG, 13.4 PER

    Percent Owned in ESPN.com Leagues: 50.9

     

    I think we can safely scrap those Dwyane Wade comparisons for Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters at this point. I get that Waiters boasts some explosive athleticism, but Wade was an All-Star by his second season. Waiters isn't even in that discussion.

    Of course, there are a lot of worse fates to be had than not being the next Wade.

    The offseason arrival of Jarrett Jack hasn't (yet) limited Waiters' involvement. Despite being a ball-dominant guard in the same backcourt as a pair of ball-dominant guards, the former Syracuse star has maintained his involvement (25.1 usage rate).

    Waiters has seen a hit in his field-goal percentage (39.8), but he's made some serious strides with his perimeter game (41.4 three-point percentage) and defensive output.

    Common sense says there are only so many shots to be had alongside a scorer like Kyrie Irving. Luckily, Waiters is getting first dibs on the leftovers (13.1 shots per game).

    If either Andrew Bynum (15.0 minutes per game) or No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett (12.5 field-goal percentage) can expand their roles, Waiters has plenty to gain from decreasing defensive attention.

    Waiters is good enough now for a spot on your roster. And his future only looks brighter from here.

3. Andrea Bargnani, PF, New York Knicks

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Notable Per-Game Statistics: 13.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.9 BPG, 25.0 MPG, 17.8 PER

    Percent Owned in ESPN.com Leagues: 61.4

     

    Look, in the real world, Andrea Bargnani is like a worst-case scenario personified. When New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler went down with a fracture in his right leg, that worst-case scenario became a harsh reality for the Empire State.

    In the fantasy realm, though, Bargnani's a potential gold mine under any fantasy format.

    He's topped double figures in four of his last five games, a stretch that includes a pair of 20-plus-point performances. He's even averaging 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks over his last three games, although that stretch also includes a one-rebound, zero-block dud against the San Antonio Spurs.

    But let's be honest, if you're considering Bargnani, you're not searching for rebounds and blocks. If you are, you made a wrong turn somewhere along the way.

    He's a shooter (.481/.375/.900 slash) and a scorer. Nothing more, and nothing less.

    In other words, chances are you have a roster spot that Bargnani can sufficiently fill. Tempered expectations are always a must when it comes to the former No. 1 pick, but public perception has pushed his market value down to a very reasonable rate.

2. Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, SF, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Notable Per-Game Statistics: 11.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 29.3 MPG, 15.8 PER

    Percent Owned in ESPN.com Leagues: 69.9

     

    File Charlotte Bobcats wing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist under that same overlooked label.

    Forget about the fact that he was made the No. 2 pick 2012. Ignore the players Charlotte could have had in that slot (Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond).

    Take MKG at face value, and you're left with a player who should be owned in all but the shallowest leagues.

    He's probably never going to become a great shooter. Bobcats shooting coach Mark Price knows what he's doing, but he's not a miracle worker.

    Absent that elusive three-point stroke, though, the 20-year-old has just about everything you could be looking for.

    He's added almost 10 points to his field-goal percentage (55.4). He can strengthen your team in both blocks and steals (0.8 per game). His scoring and rebounding marks might not have the wow factor, but consider them found money with all of the other categories he's helping you fill.

    You better act now if you feel like buying his stock. He's being added to leagues left and right, and that's not going to stop any time soon.

1. Jordan Hill, PF, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Notable Per-Game Statistics: 8.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 18.5 MPG, 25.8 PER

    Percent Owned in ESPN.com Leagues: 9.3

     

    Not the name you expected to see in the top slot? Not the numbers deserving of this prominent perch?

    Well, allow me to introduce you to Jordan Hill, the Los Angeles Lakers starting power forward.

    I make that distinction to say that while Hill may not deserve this No. 1 spot, Hill the starter certainly does.

    Freed from Mike D'Antoni's doghouse, Hill's interior game has itched a long-held scratch in Lakers Nation. In two games as a starter, he's averaging 19.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.

    Putting too much stock in a minuscule sample size? Not necessarily. This is essentially the same production he's given throughout his career (13.8 points, 11.2 boards and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes), only now it's stretched out over a larger scale.

    D'Antoni may have wanted Hill to add a perimeter shot, but he's a great fit for this team as is. The Lakers shoot without conscience, and he just so happens to be a relentless worker on the offensive glass (career 4.7 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes).

    Rim protection, clean shooting and potentially ridiculous rebounding rates are all the reasons you need to put Hill on your roster right now. Still want something to sway you to Hill's camp? How about the fact that D'Antoni called Hill "really good—if not our best player," via B/R's own Kevin Ding?

    The days of living in the doghouse are over for Hill. His time on the waiver wire should be, too.