Fantasy Basketball

Fantasy Basketball 2013: Value Buy Candidates

Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Who are the bargain bin players you can snag for daily leagues, or that hot spark who you can stream in and out of your team without getting emotionally attached to them?

Khris Middleton

The 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks are the NBA team equivalent of a Miley Cyrus music video. They’re a catastrophe.

A messy, difficult to watch collection of thrown together misfit pieces that look like something dreamt up by the lovechild of Charlie Sheen and Lady Gaga.

Much like that metaphor, nothing fits or relates or goes together particularly well, but damned if you can’t look at it and say ‘it sort of could work on paper’. Sure, Larry Drew has a rotation as consistent as a Family Guy plot from episode to episode, but he’s not entirely to blame for the best camouflaged tank this side of the Philadelphia 76ers.

They’re a team bereft of quality veteran players at key positions; Brandon Knight is best known for being Kyrie Irving DeAndre Jordan’s whipping boy; OJ Mayo would be better suited selling spread to sandwich joints, and Larry Sanders would be the perfect ‘Real World NBA’ person to follow.

About the only thing weird about Khris Middleton is the spelling of his first name. We don’t care about that here at the fantasy fix, we care about stats and opportunity going forward, and with the injuries the Bucks have endured this season, Middleton is going to get plenty of both.

His eligibility varies depending which site you’re playing fantasy NBA with – he could be just SF or he could be SF and PF, and if you’re really lucky he might even end up gaining SG eligibility at some point as well and gaining that always useful threener status of SG, SF and PF.

Middleton played in just 27 games last season for the Pistons, and through just 20 games this season for the Bucks, he has already surpassed his stats in every category. In his 13 starts for the Bucks, he’s averaged 12.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1.6 threes per night. He’s been even better in his last four games – which included a career night of 29 points and 7 rebounds against the Wizards – as he’s put up 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and a massive 3 threes (12-19 for 63!) per night on 51/86 shooting splits.

Those numbers really aren’t that far off Klay Thompson or Ryan Anderson, so while you shouldn’t add him expecting it to be that every night, you can at least bank on 13-15 points and 5-6 rebounds with a lot of threes as long as he’s starting. He’s a better option than other swingmen such as Martell Webster or team-mate Caron Butler going forward.

Zaza Pachulia is the latest Buck to be shot by the injury bullet, so while Jon Henson has clearly stepped up and Ersan Ilyasova continues to mess with our emotions, Middleton is reaping the benefits of extra time. The aforementioned Butler is no spring chicken, nor is he in the long term plans of the Bucks and the Tough Juice is running low after such a long injury riddled career.

Pick up Middleton now and see what he does, the NBA has shown if you can get 30 minutes on a consistent basis you’ll generally do ok statistics wise.

Unless you’re Bruce Bowen, Michael Curry or one of the Collins twins.

Isaiah Thomas

If you’re like me and you’ve been sitting there scratching your melon, waiting and waiting for Mike Malone to start Thomas, the wait is finally over after the Kings dealt Thomas’ roadblock Greivis Vasquez (among other things) to the Raptors for gunslinger Rudy Gay.

I’m a big fan of Thomas’ fantasy friendly game, his free throw attempts and conversion rate (5.6 attempts per game at 86% shooting) is akin to an elite scoring guards such as Kevin Martin or Damian Lillard and he makes enough threes and steals to be a top 50 fantasy player.

He did have a small lull in terms of minutes and value just 10 days ago, as he was held to back-to-back single digit scoring nights against the Lakers and the Clippers, but this month he’s been outstanding. Through the first five games of December Thomas is putting up 21.4 points, 8 assists, a ridiculous 3 steals and 2.2 threes per night, while shooting a serviceable 45.5% from the field and a golden 89.7% from the line on nearly 6 attempts a night.

The most important stat here for gauging Thomas’ value going forward, is that his only competition for minutes at PG is…ummmm…Jimmer Fredette and Ray McCallum?

Marcus Thornton wouldn’t pass the parcel at a kid’s birthday party, so he’s not going to be leapfrogging Ben McLemore anytime soon, which leaves Thomas as the benefactor of this seven player deal. Expect Thomas’ scoring to stay steady or possibly drop slightly with the minutes increase, but his assists and threes should rise as he gets use to playing with the first unit.

His first start this season was massive, with a 24 point 12 assist fantasy gem against the Mavericks – with rock solid 4-6 shooting from deep and 6-6 at the line – so lock him in as a 32-35 minute second tier fantasy PG on the same level as the Jennings and Parker types.

Jon Leuer

Ok I’m going to go out on a line and try to break the all time pun record for a fantasy NBA article because the lure is too tempting to not tackle and we’re always trawling for the next deep fantasy sleeper.

If Leuer is dangling out there in the FA market or you’re looking to catch the next decent player to fill the scoring void for the Grizzlies, you could do a lot worse than snagging Jon Leuer. He’s not a sexy name, nor is he a particularly familiar one – but he’s in his third season and he’s already shown in both his rookie season and this year, that he’s able to contribute and fillet up if need be.

The loss of Marc Gasol and a somewhat injury prone Tony Allen has left the coaching staff looking to lesser names to step up to keep the ship afloat (that one’s a stretch), as this isn’t a league where teams let you off the hook just because of unfortunate injuries.

Players such as Ed Davis and Quincy Pondexter were primed for larger roles – but now Davis has an ankle concern, and Pondexter too has been sidelined – although his is a much sadder tale than Davis or Gasol as he’s likely done for the entire season.

Just a week ago he played 30 minutes against the vastly underrated Phoenix Suns and put up 23 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks, shooting 10-13 from the field (1-2 from deep) in a Grizzlies home win. That sort of scale of performance shouldn’t be expected each night, but he’s likely found himself as the first big off the bench for the Grizzlies, who still have an eye on the playoffs despite a rough start – this team isn’t going to tank, that’s for sure.

Leuer’s fantasy value will be based sole-ly on how well he likely meshes with sixth man Jerryd Bayless, as they’ll be relied upon for heavy minutes in both the second unit and alongside the starters. Bayless can score, no doubt, but he’s undersized at SG and he’s not particularly adept at creating for teammates and he can’t play too many minutes next to Mike Conley as he’s simply too small.

In 21 career games where he has played at least 18 minutes – a more than realistic number to expect going forward – Leuer has averaged 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds a night, with healthy shooting splits of 56/71. Those aren’t bad numbers if you’re needing a SF or PF to round out your roster in most leagues, and he might even have the odd three thrown in for good measure. Vindication is such a sweet feeling, so when Leuer threw up 16 points and 12 rebounds last night in a win against Orlando, you know I was jumping with glee!

Worse case scenario, you’re looking a net gain for a player who’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg, and you can throw him back into the player pool if he doesn’t work out.

Ok last one – pick him up just for the ­halibut.


Follow Sam on Twitter @macetastic and feel free to ask any NBA related questions, whether fantasy or reality.

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  1. Bennett Wyllie
    December 10, 2013 at 7:47 am — Reply

    Just wanted you to know I read your article… I’d hate to put that much energy into all those puns and never know if anyone took the time to appreciate them (Not saying I “appreciated” them, but…)

    Leuer is the only guy mentioned that is available in my league. My biggest needs are FG% and decreasing TO, I am in the upper half in every other stat. Would you drop him for any of these guys?

    Marvin Williams
    Steve Blake
    Ersan Ilyasova
    Harrison Barnes
    Jonas Valanciunas
    Enes Kanter

    Thanks for the input!

  2. December 11, 2013 at 1:30 am — Reply

    Hey mate – cheers for the feedback. Not sure where that pun run came from, just got on a roll and was in too deep!

    Nope…wouldn’t drop any of those guys for Leuer…Blake and Marvin I think are destined to slow down now – who else is available in FA?

    Agree with Zack’s piece – I also like Gibson – but I’d assume he’s gone as well? Good help in fg% and TO


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