This week I'll start with three pressing questions that I find interesting and that are possibly going a little under the radar. Hopefully, you'll think the same.
1. Will Stan Van Gundy free Ryan Anderson?
With Brandon Bass going down Monday with what looked like a bad ankle sprain, more playing time could be in store for Anderson. Out of curiosity, I compared his January averages to other NBA players using the "per 48 minutes" stat. I used January as opposed to his season stats because they are a better indication of his talent than earlier in the season. His points-per-48-minutes mark is 28.5, tied for 17th among NBA regulars. His per-48-minute mark for rebounds, 12.5, is tied for 30th. Lastly, his per-48-minutes number for three-pointers made, 3.85, is fourth in the league. Are per-48-minutes stats a perfect measurement to determine a player's value? Yes and no. Like any stat, it has its flaws. No one actually plays 48 minutes, and a player who averages 10 minutes per game with eight points and four rebounds will look like a superstar. A player's stats are likely to decrease with some sort of correlation to their fatigue as the game goes on. However, it is an interesting way to prorate what a player could do with extended playing time. Anderson could be in line for that extended playing time if Bass remains out. It might even be a tad conservative to call him a top-40 player if he gets about 35 minutes a night while Bass is sidelined.
2. Is Devin Harris turning into a real point guard?
Let's look at his assist average the last three months from November through January – 6.3, 6.9 and 9.9. The January number sticks out like a sore thumb, obviously. For the month he posted double-digit assists six times in 16 games after posting only three double-digit games in the previous 33 contests. His scoring average has taken a hit over the same three months - 17.5, 15.9 and 12.1. This seems to be working for the Nets as a team, though. The pursuit of Carmelo Anthony was a distraction as the six-game losing streak in early January indicates. When owner Mikhail Prokhorov announced Jan. 19 the Nets were done with Anthony, the team finished the month going 5-3. Harris' newfound unselfishness likely played a big role in the team's recent success. Don't be afraid to float an offer to his owner if you need assists; make sure you point out the lack of scoring in the process.
3. Has DeMarcus Cousins taken the proverbial next step?
The big man from Kentucky has averaged 20.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and three blocks/steals over his last three games. He looks more assertive on offense and has possibly gotten over any attitude/character problems. If he continues to get 32 minutes a game and produce, at a minimum he'll at least get a mention for ROY. Of course, we all know by now who that's going to.
Be forewarned before continuing. Due to the extenuating circumstances that is the NBA, I've got a lot of repeat offenders in this week's column from previous ones. Remember that just because a player loses his fantasy value at some point (think J.J. Hickson), it doesn't mean it won't return at some point.
Each week we'll look at players who have received increased minutes. An uptick in minutes doesn't always translate into improved fantasy stats but at the very least offers some players to put on the radar.
Paul George, G, IND – With the departure of coach Jim O'Brien, Larry Bird has called for more playing time for the younger players on the Pacers roster. It looks as if George is going to get regular playing time going forward with the Pacers likely out of contention for a playoff spot. Let me go back and recycle a little about George off what this column said two weeks ago:
"Only 20, the Fresno State product has improved his play in practice to earn more minutes. At 6-foot-9, he's ridiculously athletic and has a sweet stroke for the outside. He's the type of player who has the upside to contribute in every category across the board within a few years."
Too often I find myself becoming victim of falling in love with guys who have size and athleticism, yet they disappoint (think Tyrus Thomas, Anthony Randolph). I think George falls in this category but with one difference. He can shoot outside of 10 feet and not just the 15-foot jumper but from beyond the arc too. I don't think it's too outlandish to compare him and put his ceiling in the range of teammate Danny Granger. That won't happen overnight, but he's someone to keep an eye on.
Omri Casspi, F, SAC – I swear that in addition to the "Minutes," "Categories" and "Eligibility" sections I'm going to add "Sacramento Waiver Add" for this weekly column. Heading into Tuesday night, Casspi averaged 37.5 minutes over his last six games with Francisco Garcia sidelined with an injury. During that time he's averaged 11.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.5 three-pointer made. You never know when Paul Westphal will change his mind, but it appears Casspi is the man until Garcia returns.
Timofey Mozgov, C, NYK – It's not everyday you can find a box score with a player who logs 40 minutes after not playing that much time the previous two months. Mozgov fits that bill coming up big for the Knicks on Sunday against the Pistons. For being 7-1, Mozgov has incredible athleticism, which is what drew the Knicks to ink him to a three-year deal. The Russian national team center likely will get an extended audition after his last performance. If you are desperate for big-man help, take a chance on him.
Jason Smith, F, NO – Smith appears to be the biggest beneficiary of Emeka Okafor's injured oblique. He had the most court time Tuesday since a Nov. 5 outing against the Heat. The 20 points from Tuesday's affair jump out, but this game was the exception and not the rule. Still, he'll have more court time with Chris Paul, so anything is possible. Take a wait-and-see approach here to determine if the 7-footer has any value while Okafor is out.
Each week we'll look at certain players who can help your fantasy team in the nine categories most leagues use. Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a certain category, there's no guarantee they will contribute in other areas.
Manny Harris, G, CLE – When you lose 21 consecutive games, you have to try anything. Well, before loss 19 the Cavaliers decided to give Harris another shot at a starting role. He's responded with back-to-back 20-point efforts that included 11 rebounds and four made three-pointers. I talked about Corperryale about three weeks back, stating he had a nice outside touch coupled with enough size (6-5) to rebound from the two spot. It looks like he'll continue to receive solid run while Daniel Gibson is out and should log more than 30 minutes a night. If you miss out on him keep him in mind for next season as he won't turn 22 until September. Take a flier now if you need shooting guard help.
Ramon Sessions, G, CLE – Sessions is the second Cavalier to make this week's column and is another illustration of finding fantasy value on a bad team. In large part he's put up stats due to increased playing time with Daniel Gibson and Mo Williams banged up. While I wouldn't consider him a true point guard but more of a hybrid point/shooting guard, he's been racking up the assists. The last three games he's averaged 8.3 assists and 11 points. Assists are typically one of the harder categories in a player to find on the waiver wire, so you know what to do if you're lacking dimes.
Always check your league's eligibility rules to make sure a player qualifies.
LeBron James, MIA – Now eligible at power forward