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Category Strategy: Reserve Bledsoe

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.

Let's compare the stats of two uber-athletic point guards over the past three games:

Player A: 63 points, 18 assists, 11 rebounds, nine steals, two blocks, one three-pointer, 49.0 FG%, 73.7 FT%

Player B: 51 points, 18 assists, 11 rebounds, eight steals, five blocks, three three-pointers, 43.9 FG%, 80.0 FT%

Player A was a consensus top-five draft pick in most fantasy leagues, while Player B went undrafted in the vast majority of leagues. Both players went to extremely high-profile basketball programs, Player A on the West Coast, Player B on the East Coast. Both players play the game at an incredible pace and routinely perform the unthinkable for a player of their stature. Player A will play in the All-Star game, while Player B's teammate will start at point guard in the All-Star game.

At this point you know that Player A is Russell Westbrook and Player B is Eric Bledsoe. Now, why compare these two players now that Chris Paul has returned to the Clippers' starting lineup, demoting Bledsoe back to the bench? There are several reasons.

For starters, it puts into perspective just how solid Bledsoe is from a fantasy perspective, in case Paul gets hurt again, which is quite possible. Remember, over that three-game span, one of those games was Paul's return against the Heat, so Bledsoe's totals would've been even more favorable compared to Westbrook's had that been another game he started.

Secondly, I love watching and writing about Westbrook and Bledsoe, so I'll use any excuse I can to do so. Sue me.

But most importantly, it demonstrates just how important it is to be aggressive on the waiver wire. A common fantasy saying is to draft skills, not roles. Meaning that if you think Player A is better than Player B, take Player A, even if his role is less defined, as his talents will probably dictate that he eventually gets the opportunity to thrive. I would apply this to Bledsoe, because in a few leagues, I picked him up off waivers and stashed him on my bench, prior to Paul's injury, occasionally starting him on weeks when he had four games, because of his ability to fill the defensive stats. Bledsoe couldn't be counted on at that time to contribute as much as someone like Jarrett Jack or Andre Miller, but I knew that if he ever saw a bump in minutes due to an injury to one of his teammates, he'd be fantasy gold, and I wouldn't have been starting the person in that bench slot anyways. Even if you didn't have Bledsoe stashed, but were able to pick him up as soon as Paul got injured, he could have single handedly been the difference between your team winning and losing over the past two weeks. We weren't sure how much time Paul was going to miss, but this is why it's important to be aggressive. Bledsoe's skills dictated that if he was starting for the Clippers, he should be starting for a fantasy team, even if only for a week.

Now, there's nobody out there with quite as much upside in a reserve role as Bledsoe, but JaVale McGee, Bradley Beal, Derrick Favors and Taj Gibson in standard leagues, and Wilson Chandler and Enes Kanter in deeper leagues, all stand out to me as guys who would absolutely thrive from a fantasy perspective, if they were to see a bump in playing time because of an injury or trade. They might not be startable right now, especially in standard leagues, but if you've got someone on your bench who you're probably never going to start, why not pick one of these guys up and stash them?

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 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.

POINTS

Patrick Patterson, PF, Rockets - If you've missed on Jerryd Bayless, Byron Mullens, Nate Robinson, etc... then Patterson might be the next best option. Over his last five games, he's averaging 15.4 points, while seeing 28.8 minutes per game. He's shooting 63 percent over that span, so he won't be this good for the rest of the season, but as long as he's getting shots and seeing close to 30 minutes per night, he'll continue to have value as a scorer.

REBOUNDS

LaVoy Allen, PF, Sixers - It's hard to ignore the fact that Allen grabbed 22 boards Saturday. Granted, it was against the woeful Bobcats, and he had failed to grab double-digit boards in almost two months, but the effort ought to at least earn him more opportunities until Andrew Bynum is able to return. Reggie Evans is always an option here, but he's the epitome of a one-stat player. Samuel Dalembert and Taj Gibson might both look like appealing options, but with both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah both healthy, and Larry Sanders almost ready to return, their brief run of being standard-league assets is coming to an end. Earl Clark is the best option here, but he's owned in most competitive leagues.

ASSISTS

Andre Miller, PG, Nuggets - Miller is averaging 6.4 assists over his last five contests and is often available on the waiver wire because of his limited upside. However, if you're looking for guaranteed production, he's a great option. One of the reasons Miller is able to steadily produce in this category, while seeing just 25 minutes per game, is his efficiency on lob passes. With the possible exception of Chris Paul, nobody in the league throws a better ally-oop than Miller, and teammates JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried and Andre Iguodala are premier finishers above the rim.

STEALS

Mario Chalmers, PG, Heat - Chalmers is similar to Miller in that he's often available because you know what you're going to get from him, and it's not very exciting. That said, he's averaging two steals over his last four contests and is owned in 41 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Also, if people start dropping Bledsoe once his numbers start to drop with Paul back in the fold, he still offers a ton of value for his defensive abilities in limited minutes.

BLOCKS

Anthony Davis, PF, Hornets - You'll have to deal for Davis, but I can't think of a much better buy-low option right now. He's posted back-to-back eight-point games with eight total rebounds in those two contests, so you might be able to get him on the cheap. I'm a believer in Davis and think he'll be able to finish the year strong. His minutes have been somewhat limited of late, but after seeing less than 25 minutes per game in January, he's averaging almost 27 minutes so far in February, and once he starts regularly seeing 30 mpg (which I believe he will), then he'll become a double-double threat on most nights with two-plus blocks per game.

THREE-POINTERS

Wayne Ellington, SG, Cavaliers - If you missed on Danny Green, Ellington might be your next best option. He is averaging 2.4 treys in February and is hitting at a 46.2 percent clip, while being owned in just one percent of Yahoo! leagues.

FIELD-GOAL PERCENTAGE

Jason Thompson, PF, Kings - Over his last two contests, Thompson is 18-of-29 from the field (62 percent). He won't continue to get almost 15 shots per night, but even if he has just 10 attempts, his efficiency is still valuable. Andrew Nicholson, Taj Gibson, Shawn Marion and Robin Lopez are also great options here.

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