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Category Strategy: A Plan for Pau Gasol

James Anderson

James Anderson

James Anderson is a University of Minnesota graduate, with allegiances to the Packers, Brewers, Bucks (sigh) and Gophers (double sigh). He is an editor and scribe at Rotowire.com, primarily focused on basketball and baseball. In 2013 he was a FSWA finalist for Fantasy Basketball writer of the year.

HOW TO PROCEED WITH PAU

Pau Gasol has missed the past few games, ailing from tendinitis in both knees and a bruised ego. He could return for Sunday's game, but injuries, and even playing time, aren't the only causes for concern with Gasol.

Ever since the start of last season when Andrew Bynum was able to secure big minutes at center, Gasol has been playing out of position for the Lakers, and his numbers have steadily declined as a result. He was still able to have a top-30 fantasy season last year because of how steep the drop-off in talent on that Lakers team was after Kobe Bryant, Bynum, and Gasol. This year, however, Metta World Peace is in the best shape he's been in since his days in Indiana; Antawn Jamison is thriving in coach Mike D'Antoni's system; and Jordan Hill's hustle and rebounding have forced the coaches to give him playing time at the four and the five. With more talent on the roster, especially in the frontcourt, there have been fewer opportunities for Gasol to succeed. There's little doubt in my mind that Gasol still has plenty of All-Star level basketball left in the tank - if he's playing center and is a focal point of an offense. It's just hard to see him getting that opportunity with the Lakers under their current roster and system.

There are two ways Gasol could still retain the fantasy value his owners thought they were getting when they drafted him in the late-second or early-third round of drafts this year:

A) Steve Nash, according to reports, signed with the Lakers under the terms that they would not trade Gasol during Nash's tenure. There is a glimmer of hope that Nash, who won two MVPs while playing for D'Antoni in Phoenix, can reinvigorate Gasol through the pick-n-roll and find a way to maximize the potential of all the pieces in L.A.

B) The Lakers renege (either with or without Nash's approval) on their promise not to trade Gasol and they ship him off for a forward to help stretch the floor like Ryan Anderson or Danilo Gallinari. Gasol then starts playing big minutes at center as the go-to option on his new team and becomes the player he was several years ago.

Neither one of these scenarios will happen overnight, but I think it's likely that one of them does happen by the All-Star break. Nash is expected to return before the end of December, and if scenario A doesn't play out, general manager Mitch Kupchak and D'Antoni will be able to approach Nash and Bryant and point to the team's subpar record, and Gasol's inability to fit into the offense, and convince the two future hall of famers that if they want to win a ring this year, they should sign-off on trading the Spaniard.

For these reasons, I'm in favor of sending out trade offers for Gasol over the next two weeks. Just make sure to start with relatively cheap offers, because he has probably fallen out of favor with his owners at this point in the season.


CATEGORY STRATEGY

Each week this article highlights players who are widely available in standard leagues that can help in specific roto categories. However, the information is still highly relevant to players in points leagues and deeper leagues. Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a specific category, there's no guarantee for production in other areas.

MINUTES

Andray Blatche, PF, Nets - Blatche has been the number one added player on many sites over the past few days after taking full advantage of Brook Lopez's foot injury, which allowed him to enter the starting lineup. In four games as a starter, Blatche is averaging 18.8 points on 54 percent shooting with 10.8 boards and 2.0 steals in 30.8 minutes per game. These are stellar numbers, to be sure, but it's not clear that he will still be worth the roster spot in standard leagues when Lopez returns, which could be some time this week. A couple things are working against Baltche here. The Nets are 1-3 with him in the starting lineup and Kris Humphries and Reggie Evans are unlikely to see their minutes cut in half. He should still be valuable this week in standard leagues, but once Lopez is close to 100 percent healthy, look for Blatche's fantasy value to take a major hit.

Marco Belinelli, SG, Bulls - Belinelli is averaging 20.3 points and 2.7 three-pointers over his last three games, but more importantly, he's averaging 41.7 minutes per game over that stretch. With Richard Hamilton expected to be back from his foot injury in a week or two, Belinelli has some nice short-term fantasy value in most formats, as long as he's seeing this kind of run.

POINTS

Corey Brewer, SF, Nuggets - Brewer is owned in 15 percent of Yahoo! leagues and just 1.5 percent of ESPN leagues, yet he's averaged 19.3 points over his last three contests. He's also averaging 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 1.3 three-pointers while seeing 24.7 minutes per game over that span. It's not likely that he'll be startable in standard leagues when he's seeing less than 25 minutes per game, but he's a great option in deep leagues right now.

REBOUNDS

Lavoy Allen, PF, 76ers - Doug Collins thinks Lavoy Allen should be starting at center, which is really all that matters. Over his last five games, the widely available Allen is averaging 8.6 boards in almost 30 minutes per game, which is good enough to make him interesting in deeper leagues if you're lacking in boards.

ASSISTS

Chris Duhon, PG, Lakers - This is a short-term add for deep leaguers who are mentally tough enough to deal with other owners in their league making fun of them to their face. Duhon is not a good basketball player. He is good at the travel dance (look it up on YouTube), but he is a third-string NBA point guard. Unfortunately for the Lakers, right now that means he is the starter, with Steve Nash still out indefinitely with a leg injury and Steve Blake out even longer with a torn abdominal muscle. In three games as a starter, Duhon has averaged 6.7 assists per game, which is better than what Kirk Hinrich or Jarrett Jack can offer on the waiver wire.

STEALS

Tony Allen, SG, Grizzlies - After missing time with a groin injury, Allen has returned to the starting lineup for the Grizzlies and has averaged 2.0 steals per game in his first two games back. He is available in 32 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and even though he won't be seeing much more than 25 minutes per game, he is still a great source of steals in deeper roto leagues.

BLOCKS

Bismack Biyombo, PF, Bobcats - Biyombo has seen an uptick in minutes recently (30.7 mpg over his last three games, compared to 22.3 mpg for the season), and even though he's still a pretty poor offensive player, he is averaging 2.3 blocks and 9.3 boards over his last three games. As long as he's seeing significant minutes, he'll be a great contributor in those two categories, and he's available in 84 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

THREE-POINTERS

Jodie Meeks, SG, Lakers - Meeks has averaged 2.8 three-pointers per game over his last five tilts and even has a 21-point game and 17-point game mixed in there, making him a legitimate add in deep leagues as one of the few players on the Lakers roster who fills D'Antoni's need for three-point specialists.

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