Working the Wire
By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Hoops Editor
With the NCAA Tournament starting this week, it seems appropriate to kick off this week's column with a quote from a legend in the college hoops ranks, Mr. Rick Pitino.
"Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans. Kevin McHale is not walking through that door, and Robert Parish is not walking through that door."
Now, Rick Pitino was addressing what he felt were overly negative Boston fans at the time not fantasy basketball owners. But the point is a good one for fantasy GMs to consider. By this point of the season, it's incredibly unlikely that you'll land a superstar or even a solid top-of-rotation player on the waiver wire. It's time to set your sights a bit lower.
As an aside those Boston fans seem a whole lot less negative these days, don't they? A 50-win team will do that.
Back to the topic at hand: where can you set those sights?
There are two main sources of waiver wire talent in March and April:
If you want to find value on the waiver wire this time of year, be sure to watch injury reports very closely. Make sure you're the guy to get in the claim on a Ronny Turiaf when you read that Pau Gasol has a bum ankle.
As teams fall out of the playoff picture, they may decide to give younger guys an extended look to see how they fit on next year's roster. (Cynics call this tanking for better position in the lottery.) The signs are unmistakable. Take a look at some recent Knick box scores. Suddenly guys like Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph are playing 20-25 minutes while Wilson Chandler and Mardy Collins get extended run, and Renaldo Balkman is pulled out of the mothballs.
Injury replacments are usually better options than guys who are part of a youth movement; end of bench guys on bad teams are usually either there for a reason or part of the reason the team was bad in the first place.
After that, you've got "player returning from long-term injury," but most of those guys the Gilbert Arenas/Elton Brand/Shawn Livingston types are probably taken, and aren't particularly good bets to step in and contribute.
This Week's Picks:
The first set of picks is intended for players in shallow leagues. The recommendations will be players who are available in 40-70 percent of all Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues on NBA.com. The second group is for deep leagues more speculative picks, more "sleepers" guys who are available in more than 70 percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues. Feedback and questions are always welcome.
Earl Watson SEA [PG]: Too many fantasy players must be looking at Watson's pedestrian season stats but for the month of March he's averaging better than 13 points and seven assists per game.
Ryan Gomes MIN [SF,PF]: Gomes landed on a lot of fantasy teams with a streak of excellent play in January, but cooled off and landed back on the wire in around 80 percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues. It appears that Gomes has caught his second wind of late he's scored 16 or better in five straight games, and is contributing 6.6 boards and 1.4 steals per game in that same stretch.
Jamario Moon TOR [SF]: Moon is emerging as the best shot-blocking wing this side of Josh Smith Monday's game was his first in nearly a month without at least one swat. His scoring is spotty, but he can help you in key categories, and he's on the wire in around 70 percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.
Bonzi Wells NO [SG]: Wells played his best game as a Hornet in Monday's win over the Bulls, with 19 points (6-of-13 shooting), four rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in 27 minutes. Meanwhile, starter Mo Peterson scored just four points in 24 minutes. It wouldn't be that surprising if Wells made a late push for the starting job or even emerged as a fantasy-worthy sixth man and he's owned in just over two percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.
Daequan Cook MIA [PG]: Last week we called Cook a second-tier option, assuming that Ricky Davis would pick up the bulk of Dwyane Wade's scoring. We didn't know at the time that just about every other player on Miami's roster would get hurt, too. Cook was in the D-League not long ago but right now, he looks like one of the best/most stable options on the Heat. He's posting a solid 11-points/5-assists per game over his last five, but is just 1.5 percent owned.
Marko Jaric MIN [PG,SG,SF]: Jaric stepped into Minnesota's starting lineup when Sebastian Telfair sprained his ankle and has produced pretty well he scored 19 points against Portland on Saturday and dropped 10 dimes on Monday. He's zero percent owned.
Francisco Garcia SAC [SF]: Once the Kings got healthy and Garcia was forced to split backup time with John Salmons, his fantasy value (and Salmons') took a nose dive. But Salmons is hurting, which means Garcia's role should increase to the point where he'll become a factor again. He's owned in under 12 percent of Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner leagues.
Anthony Johnson - SAC [PG]: Beno Udrih probably Working the Wire's player of the year suffered a strained lower back and will likely miss a few games. Johnson is expected to step into Udrih's starting spot, and in Sacramento's offense, should put up decent numbers.
Paul Millsap UTA [PF]: Both Carlos Boozer (neck) and Mehmet Okur (flu) were limited in Monday's game. If either/both of them are sidelined or even slowed by injury/illness, Millsap gets a big short-term boost.
Article first appeared on 3/18/08