Fantasy Surprise of the Week Raja Bell: Is He Worth a Pickup?

Raja Bell has found his long-range shot in the New Year.
Raja Bell has found his long-range shot in the New Year.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Justin HasanContributor IIIJanuary 17, 2011

Over the past week, Raja Bell has been one of the top ranked players in fantasy basketball, averaging 16.5 points, 3.5 assists, three three-pointers, and two steals. Not to shabby for a player owned in just six percent of Yahoo leagues.

Is this a case of a hot hand from beyond the arc or has Raja Bell become fantasy-relevant?

Players whose main strength is perimeter defense are normally not fantasy-relevant. This is because their ability to limit the effectiveness of the opposing team's best player cannot be easily assessed in an individual stat line.

Thabo Sefolosha may be one of the best examples of one of the top perimeter defenders without any fantasy value. Despite starting every game this season and playing almost 30 minutes per game, Sefolosha is averaging just 5.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game this season.

Similarly, Raja Bell's defense has always gotten him minutes, but he has not provided much fantasy value since 2007, where he averaged at least 14.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.5 threes for two straight seasons with the Phoenix Suns.

After an injury-plagued 2009-10 season, Bell signed with the Utah Jazz and became their starting shooting guard. Playing alongside star point guard Deron Williams and coached by the longest-tenured head coach in American professional sports—Jerry Sloan, seemed to be the ideal fit for the veteran.

From a fantasy perspective, Raja Bell starting off slow, shooting just 39 percent from the field and averaging just 0.7 three-pointers per game.  But it seems like Bell (who had played for Utah from 2003 - 2005) has found his comfort zone, shooting 50 percent and averaging 1.7 threes over the seven games played in the New Year.

The Utah Jazz have a very generous schedule remaining in January where six of the nine games are against teams with sub-500 winning percentages. February and March also present very favorable matchups as the majority of teams are weak defensively.

Because of the easy upcoming schedule for Utah and Bell finally finding his range, he is worth a pickup if you are need of help in the three-point category. Unfortunately, with C.J. Miles coming off the bench and continually getting over 20 minutes per game, Bell will provide limited assists, steals and rebounds. Consistent production in the steals and assists categories would make Bell fantasy-relevant.

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