Accruing talent for your fantasy hoops squad is a threefold process: draft, trades and free agent acquisitions. A combination of guile (waiting on that player you covet to drop in the draft; buying low, selling high with trades) and good fortune (grabbing Ricky Rubio in the 13th round) is necessary in each.
Hopefully you spent ample time preparing for and had a successful draft, as it is the foundation for an owner with hopes of finishing “in the money.”
Don’t hold your breath negotiating with another owner to acquire players via trade—yesterday, someone proposed I accept (get ready…) Jrue Holiday for Dwight Howard! “Seriously?” was the one word needed to decline with unmitigated disbelief.
Collecting players off the free agent wire is the best chance of improving your team post draft. Some free agent pickups are but walking into luck (such as having the first pick in the supplemental draft, where Ryan Anderson awaits). Most pickups take a bit more thought, some leagues more than others.
Our 8-CAT league is a free agent free-for-all, with each team receiving $150 of make-pretend money for the season to bid on available players, seven nights a week. This necessitates daily monitoring of injuries and player performance. Some owners barely make a free agent move all season, while others add and drop players like a day trader on Wall Street.
I prefer the system of our 9-CAT league: each team has 12 free agent pickups per season; free agents are picked up in priority order, meaning you make a pick, you go to the bottom of the list; moves are once a week, after Sunday’s games; you pick up a player, you must play that player the entire week that follows.
The deeper your league, the less likely you are to snag free help. The chances of hitting it big with a free agent (say, a player worthy of a fourth round pick) may happen a few times per season. Think Kyle Lowry during the second half of 2010-11. Pick up a few quality free agents to supplement your draft and you are in good shape. Ignore free agents and you disregard the potential to improve your team.
A key to acquiring free agent talent to being prepared to take advantage when opportunity presents itself–it could be due to injury or simply a change in coaching philosophy. Our 9-CAT league has nine teams, each of whom drafts 17 players. Free agents are slim pickings. The only player I have picked up this season worth a sniff is Evan Turner. Our 8-CAT league has nine teams, but only 15 players each, or 135 players total. So far, I’ve lucked out collecting Andre Miller and Landry Fields.
Here’s a list of 7 players to keep an eye on in standard 8-CAT leagues (with free throws made). Each of these players is owned in less than 30% of CBS Leagues, meaning they are most likely sitting on your league’s waiver wire:
Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves (30% owned)
Analysis: In leagues that mandate utilizing player positions, a center eligible player is a valuable commodity. Over the past two weeks Pekovic has come off the bench to produce averages of 12.3 points on 61.2 FG% and 7.4 rebounds. This is in 22.7 minutes per game. During last night’s game, Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman finally (finally!) benched starting center Darko Milicic and began the second half with Pekovic. If this move becomes permanent, estimate adding another twenty-five percent to Pekovic’s point and rebound figures. If it’s not too late, grab Pekovic immediately.
Nate Robinson, Golden State Warriors (21% owned)
Analysis: Robinson is a 5’7 bundle of offensive explosives just waiting for an opportunity to detonate. As a backup, Robinson is averaging 10.1 points, 0.9 3-point shots-made, 2.3 free throws-made, 4.8 assists and 1 steal. Should either Stephen Curry or Monta Ellis be forced out due to injury (the former has battled ankle injuries the past two seasons), Robinson is immediately plugged into a starting guard slot and his statistics could increase by more than one-third.
Jordan Farmar, New Jersey Nets (14% owned)
Analysis: With Deron Williams manning the point in New Jersey, there’s zero chance Farmar starts at the “one”. Given the Nets may lose Williams as an impending free agent at season’s end, team management could decide to deal him prior to this season’s trade deadline if Dwight Howard is sent to a place where he plans to stay. In such a case, Farmar should become the starter at the point. In the 18 games Farmar started last season for the Nets he averaged 13.7 points, 1.5 3-point shots-made, a whopping 9.1 assists and 1 steal.
Goran Dragic, Houston Rockets (11% owned)
Analysis: I own Kyle Lowry in both our 8-CAT and 9-CAT leagues. In the latter, I also own Dragic as insurance in case Lowry goes down. How good is Dragic when given the chance to run a team? The sample size is small, but in two games this season he started for Lowry, Dragic averaged 15.0 points on 55.0 FG%, 1.5 3-point shots-made, an amazing 9.5 assists and 1.5 steals. A slightly larger sample size is from last season, in which Dragic started five games and averaged 13.4 points, 1.6 3-point shots-made, a surprising 7.8 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.4 steals and even 0.6 blocked-shots.
Randy Foye, Los Angeles Clippers (5% owned)
Analysis: I recall “renting” Foye last season when injuries forced him into the Clippers’ starting lineup. While starting 24 games Foye averaged 16.1 points, 1.9 3-point shots-made, 3.5 free throws-made, 4.0 assists and 1.3 steals. Considering the Clippers may be the league’s deepest team at guard—Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams are each ahead of Foye on the depth chart—there would need to be at least two players injured before Foye could have significant fantasy value. But he also could get traded.
Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings (5% owned)
Analysis: In a two game stretch earlier this season Thomas earned extra playing time as Marcus Thornton was out and Tyreke Evans was struggling to get himself into playing shape. The diminutive Thomas had 20 points on 6 for-12 shooting, 3 3-point shots-made, 5 free throws-made and 6 assists in one game, and 13 points and 5 assists in the other game. Should Evans go down, take a flyer on Thomas.
Jamaal Tinsley, Utah Jazz (5% owned)
Analysis: Welcome back to the N.B.A., Mr. Tinsley. Thursday night, in only his third start since 2007-08, all Tinsley did was dish out 13 assists. Granted, it’s been five seasons since Tinsley started with any consistency, but the Jazz’s starter at the point is the enigmatic Devin Harris whose tenure is on life support. In 36 games starting for the Pacers in that 2007-08 season, Tinsley averaged 12.5 points, 1.1 3-point shots-made, 3.9 rebounds, 8.6 assists and 1.8 steals. Lightning in a bottle, anyone?
Marc Kravitz, based in Philadelphia, provides Quality Assurance Mystery Shopper services to Restaurants throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. He is a Mixed Martial Arts fanatic and Fantasy Basketball junkie. In Fantasy Hoops, “Krewtime” has finished “in the money” in 85% of the leagues he has participated in. Follow Marc’s fantasy advice on Twitter @Marc_Kravitz