Under-the-Radar Fantasy Basketball Gems

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2013

Under-the-Radar Fantasy Basketball Gems

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    Now that we have an adequate sample size to work with, it's time to evaluate which players have been quietly getting the job done for fantasy basketball owners and surpassing expectations. 

    From players who have embraced the "next man up" philosophy and filled in for injured superstars to those who have simply found their groove over the first quarter of the 2013-14 campaign, there are a number of difference-makers who are still available on the waiver wire.  

    Whether it's Jordan Crawford with the Boston Celtics or Taj Gibson showing up in a big way for the Chicago Bulls, here are a few hidden gems owners should target in the coming days. 

Kosta Koufos

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    If the injury bug has bitten your squad much the way it has the Memphis Grizzlies, then you should strongly consider adding Kosta Koufos. 

    Currently owned in less than 55 percent of ESPN leagues, Koufos has been a reliable presence at center for fantasy owners since Marc Gasol went down with a Grade 2 MCL sprain. 

    On the season, Koufos is averaging a shade over seven points and seven boards a game, but his production has ticked up in December, so it's no surprise that he was added in 37.4 percent of ESPN leagues this week. 

    Through the first week of December, Koufos is averaging 13.7 points and 12.3 boards, and numbers in that range are absolutely sustainable as long as he continues to log more than 30 minutes a game. 

Jordan Crawford

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    No matter how much enjoyment we get out of poking fun at Jordan Crawford, there's no denying that he's vastly exceeded expectations in his temporary role as starting point guard of the Boston Celtics. 

    The bad news for point guard-needy owners: If you haven't scooped up Crawford by now, don't bother looking on the waiver wire. He's currently owned in 100 percent of leagues, and for good reason.

    Over his last 10 games, Crawford is averaging better than 15 points and six assists—numbers that are consistent with season averages of 13.9 points and 5.4 assists—while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from deep. 

    As if those numbers weren't a big-enough surprise, Crawford's also shooting a career-best 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, making just over one three per contest. 

    With Rajon Rondo still weeks away from a return, Crawford figures to keep pouring in the points through the New Year. 

Taj Gibson

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    It's been a fairly recent development, but Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson has been posting numbers that have had fantasy owners salivating over the last week. 

    Dating back to Nov. 27, Gibson has recorded 18 points or more in five straight games, shooting better than 45 percent from the field on all five occasions. In fact, the only game in which Gibson shot less than 50 percent from the floor was this past Saturday against the Detroit Pistons, when he poured in 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 17-point loss. 

    Still owned in fewer than half of ESPN leagues, Gibson can provide nice value for owners looking for a little bit of pop in their lineups. 

    And not only has Gibson established himself as a nightly double-double threat of late, but he's blocked 2.3 shots a game over December's first week.  

Channing Frye

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    Phoenix Suns forward Channing Frye has been doing a little bit of everything so far this season, which is particularly encouraging when you consider that he missed the entirety of the 2012-13 season after being diagnosed with an enlarged heart. 

    In 20 games this season, Frye has shot the ball at a relatively efficient clip, converting on 46.5 percent of his attempts from the field and just under 40 percent (39.3, to be exact) of his looks from beyond the arc. 

    In addition to producing 10.4 points per game, Frye has pulled down 5.3 rebounds and recorded nearly a block per contest. 

    And over his last 10 games, those numbers have been even stronger, with Frye averaging 12.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals while shooting 54.9 percent from the field. 

    With Frye having canned three or more triples in seven games so far this season, he's worth a look for owners who lack perimeter scorers.  

Andrew Bynum

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    Entering the 2013-14 season, few were of the belief that Andrew Bynum would be able to make a profound impact for the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

    Alas, here we are, five weeks into a new campaign, and Bynum is proving doubters wrong—to a degree. 

    Although Bynum has a long way to go to double-double averages (he's currently averaging 9.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks), the injury-plagued big man has shown why he was once considered the most polished offensive center in the game. 

    At 44.5, Bynum's shooting percentage continues to underwhelm, but that shouldn't underscore the fact that he's averaging 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in the month of December.

    What's even more encouraging for owners who took a shot on Bynum is that his usage is currently at an all-time high of 25.3, according to Basketball-Reference, which is nearly two percentage points better than his previous career-best with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011-12. 

    Considering he's only playing 18.9 minutes a night, Bynum's production has been pleasantly surprising to this point in the season.