Under the Radar
By Kevin Payne
RotoWire Staff Writer
Week in and week out, this column looks at players who can be good pickups as they wait on the waiver wire to help your fantasy team. Most of these players have seen an increase in production or stats due to injury, a trade or a coaching change. Some of the players highlighted have benefited from the illness of teammates or just share the name of a Peanuts character. This week more than most is geared toward those in daily transaction leagues, though there are a couple of good long-term plays as well. Happy Holidays.
Here are players who have seen an increase in playing time the last few games.
Mike James, G, WAS - One of two players the Wizards received in the Dec. 10 trade has become a starter in the nation's capital. With a best-case scenario of a late-January return on the horizon for Gilbert Arenas, James now has the starting gig for Washington. James is the definition of a journeyman; a guy who started playing in Europe and has bounced around the NBA making Washington his eighth team. Over his last three games, James has averaged 36.3 minutes. He has totaled 16.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.3 three-pointers made and 1.7 steals. New coach Ed Tapscott said James will remain the starter for the next few games, so expect similar production.
Andres Nocioni F, CHI - With Drew Gooden nursing an ankle injury, Nocioni has seen more court time. Over his last three games for the Bulls, "Chapu" has seen 36.6 minutes per game. During those three games he's hit for 17.6 points, six rebounds, three assists and 2.6 three-pointers made. As long as his teammates are battling injuries, expect Andres to continue these numbers for Chicago.
Brandon Rush, G, IND - Rush has seen an increase in minutes due to the viral infection that Marquis Daniels has. Rush has averaged 44.3 minutes over his last four games (yes, one went into overtime) and responded with averages of 14.3 points, 7.25 rebounds and 2.5 three-pointers made. Look for him to log the majority of minutes at shooting guard until Daniels is fully healthy.
Here are players who can help your fantasy team in specific categories.
Marreese Speights, C, PHI - The shoulder injury to Elton Brand has opened the door for Speights. The former Florida Gator has made the most of his playing time, averaging 14.3 points, grabbing five rebounds and rejecting 2.25 shots per game over his last four. Speights is also the anti-Shaq, shooting more than 80 percent from the free-throw line for the season. With Brand out for another three weeks, look for Speights to continue to shore up the big-man role for the Sixers.
Shane Battier, F, HOU - The former Duke Blue Devil is known throughout the league for his tenacious defense. This chalks up points for the blocks and steals categories of your league. Battier contributes fair numbers across the board as far as points, rebounds and assists are concerned, but he can be counted on for least two blocks/steals per night. He's also hit two three-pointers in each of his last four games.
Linas Kleiza, F, DEN - Maybe it's the holiday special I saw the other night, maybe it's the fact I picked him as a sleeper, or maybe it's Carmelo Anthony's elbow injury. Anyway, Kleiza becomes a sneaky pick, especially in daily leagues for the next week or two. In his last two games, he's scored 37 points, eight rebounds and seven three-pointers made. Anthony's bone spur problems don't sound like something that will go away overnight, and Kleiza will continue to score for the Nuggets. Ask the Utah Jazz, whom he lit up for a career-high 41, on 13-21 shooting, last January.
Jeff Foster, C, IND - Scoring? No. Rebounding? Yes. Foster has always been a great rebounder if nothing else, and has averaged 11.4 over his last five games. This has partially been due to the illness that has stricken Troy Murphy, but Foster can always be counted on to clean the glass for Pacers. Pick him up if you need help in this category only.
The following are players who have obtained new positional eligibility over the last week.