Welcome to Category Strategy, previewing week four of the fantasy basketball season. As always, players that can help in specific roto categories, as well as players who are receiving significant playing time, will be highlighted here, but a lot of this information can also be used when evaluating players in points leagues.
Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a specific category, there's no guarantee for production in other areas.
We say it all the time, but minutes really are the most important stat in fantasy basketball, and there are a lot of guys who are getting a ton of run that remain under-owned. If any of these five players are unowned in your league, chances are, they’re the best options for production across the board.
Luke Ridnour, PG, Timberwolves - After averaging 39 minutes per game last week, Ridnour should be a top waiver wire target if he is still unowned in one of your leagues. He is available in 54 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and despite struggling with his shot, he still averaged 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 2.7 steals, and 1.3 three-pointers per game last week. Part of Ridnour’s production and run can be attributed to Ricky Rubio being out and JJ Barea being banged up, but the Timberwolves are still giving Alexey Shved and Malcolm Lee significant playing time, so there are minutes to be had for Ridnour once Rubio is able to run the show again.
Harrison Barnes, SF, Warriors - Barnes is another guy who won’t be available much longer in standard leagues after averaging 37.5 minutes per game last week. He looked timid and struggled to be a big-time contributor in the Warriors’ first few games, but Barnes was effective in his expanded role last week, averaging 18.5 points and 11.0 boards per game. Look for his rebounding numbers to drop a bit, but his three-point attempts of 2.0 per game this season should see a spike. The run that the rookie small forward saw this past week should be enough for him to be owned in more than 58 percent of Yahoo! leagues, which is currently the case.
Alonzo Gee, SF, Cavaliers - Last week, I pumped up Gee for his ability to help with steals. This week, I want to highlight the fact that he averaged 35.0 minutes per game last week and is owned in just 16 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He is averaging 2.0 steals per game this season and is a solid pickup, especially since he’s getting big minutes with C.J. Miles falling out of favor with coach Byron Scott.
Metta World Peace, SF, Lakers - As I mentioned last week, World Peace should be owned in more leagues (currently unowned in 56 percent of Yahoo! leagues) because of his ability to help in the defensive categories, as well as three-point shooting, especially now that Mike D’Antoni’s offense is being implemented. If that weren’t enough, it should be noted that he averaged 35.0 minutes per game last week, making him a great guy to target heading into week four.
Chandler Parsons, SF, Rockets - He was highlighted in this section last week and is still available in 56 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Parsons was second in the NBA in average playing time last week, at just over 42 minutes per game. While that number is slightly inflated by an overtime bout with the Trail Blazers, it still highlights the overriding message, which is, Parsons should be owned in far more than 50 percent of leagues.
Alexey Shved, G, Timberwolves - Shved averaged 17.0 points per game last week, and his field-goal attempts per game have been on a steady increase since the start of the season. We’re not sure how the Timberwolves plan to use Shved once Ricky Rubio returns, but for now, he’s a very cheap source of scoring, three-point shooting, and assists. He’s owned in just 22 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Kirk Hinrich, PG, Bulls - Hinrich is available in almost 70 percent of leagues, which is appropriate, since he’s a one-stat player. However, if you are in dire need of dimes, he’s the best option on the waiver wire. In his two games last week after sitting one out with a hip injury, Hinrich had 17 total assists, while attempting just eight field goals. His offensive numbers won’t always be that one-dimensional, but it is a good illustration of Hinrich’s role in the Bulls’ offense.
Marcus Morris, PF, Rockets - The Rockets have been using Marcus Morris as a stretch four this season, and last week, he was 9-of-15 from downtown in three games. He’s not going to shoot 60 percent from behind the arc all season, but he’s starting to get more playing time. Morris’ role in the offense is to hit threes so that the lane opens up for James Harden and Jeremy Lin. He is currently owned in just five percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Dante Cunningham, PF, Timberwolves - He is starting to become a bigger part of the Timberwolves’ rotation (almost 30.0 minutes per game last week), and he is once again having a very efficient season on offense, shooting 54.1 percent from the field while attempting a career-high 8.2 shots per game. Last year, he shot 51.6 percent for the Grizzlies, so we’re buying into Cunningham’s ability to raise your team’s field-goal percentage in the short term, but once Kevin Love comes back, it’s going to be tough for Cunningham to see enough minutes to be relevant in standard leagues.