Over the past couple weeks weâ€™ve seen the likes of C.J. Watson, Mo Williams, and Nate Robinson fill-in for injured starters and deliver exceptional fantasy production. Their performances werenâ€™t particularly surprising as all three of them have been good per-minute producers throughout the majority of their careers. Itâ€™s just a matter of when they will they get the minutes.
Capitalizing on these replacements is not easy as reserves tend to be inconsistent performers, but seemingly every team has a talent buried in the rotation that is primed for production if given the opportunity.
On Monday we learned that Luol Deng may have suffered ligament damage in his wrist. The official word isnâ€™t expected until later, but it stands to reason that Ronnie Brewer â€“ his replacement in Mondayâ€™s 110-95 win over the Nets â€“ will be seeing starterâ€™s minutes for the foreseeable future.
The 26-year-old has never been a fantasy dynamo, but he did start 223 of his first 266 NBA games (all with the Jazz). He has drawn 11 starts already this season (mostly in place of Richard Hamilton), and despite averaging over 28 minutes, heâ€™s produced just 8.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.4 three-pointers in those starts.
Expecting much more production from Brewer â€“ even with starterâ€™s minutes â€“ is a desperate move. Heâ€™s a fine deep-league addition and could even come through as a steals specialist in more standard leagues, but heâ€™s not going to change the prospects of your fantasy team overnight.
But there are some under-utilized players that could do just that. Each of the following players is already having a solid season, but playing time continues to stand in the way of evolving from a nice contributor to a solid starting option. However, in many of these cases, an injury to the player ahead of them on the depth chart stands to happen at some point this season.
Jordan Farmar, New Jersey Nets â€“ Perhaps it was the confidence he gained from his offseason play with Maccabi Tel Aviv, but Farmar finally looks like he has blossomed into the consistent playmaker that was always in his pedigree. Only one problem â€“ Deron Williams is ahead of him on the depth chart. Despite just 19.0 minutes per game, Farmar boasts a very impressive 21.4 PER. If we extrapolate his numbers to 36 minutes per game, heâ€™s delivering 18.1 points, 6.0 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 2.5 three-pointers and 1.3 steals per game. Heâ€™s shooting .477/.457/.903 on the season.
Rodrigue Beaubois, Dallas Mavericks â€“ Roddy is averaging just 14 minutes per game and heâ€™s not shooting particularly well (just 38.5%), but heâ€™s a lightning rod whoâ€™s making things happen for the Mavericks. The team is +15 when heâ€™s on the court and just +0.6 when heâ€™s on the bench. In contrast, the soon-to-be-39 Jason Kidd has the Mavs at (-9.8) when heâ€™s been on the court. His team is +14.5 when heâ€™s been on the bench. You get the picture. Per 36 minutes, Kiddâ€™s backup is averaging 15.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 3.1 steals, 1.6 three-pointers, and 1.3 blocks.
Jerryd Bayless, Toronto Raptors â€“ Before an ankle injury sidelined him for a month, Bayless was threatening to take Jose Calderonâ€™s starting job. But the Spaniard showed well in his backupâ€™s absence and Bayless may not see more than 20 minutes per game anytime soon. But Calderonâ€™s injury history is lengthy, and Baylessâ€™ talent is vast. In 14 starts last season, he averaged 18.1 points, 6.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.2 three-pointers, and one steal while shooting 46.7% from the field and 81% from the line.
Goran Dragic, Houston Rockets â€“ Once heralded as Steve Nashâ€™s successor, Dragic has been little more than a very steady backup over his four-year career. With Kyle Lowry playing at a breakneck pace, Dragic is picking up less than 20 minutes per night. However, his 16.0 PER suggests heâ€™s continued to handle the role very well. Heâ€™ll never provide much defense, but should Lowry go down, Dragic could deliver 15 points, 6.5 assists, and 1.5 three-pointers on a nightly basis.
Ian Mahinmi â€“ Anyone who has been watching the Mavericks this season will tell you Mahinmi plays like a winner. Although heâ€™s currently backing up Brendan Haywood, he may not need an injury to take over the starting job. Heâ€™s among the more athletic big men in the game and itâ€™s not impossible to see him logging more than 30 minutes a night, although foul trouble is a looming issue. Currently averaging just over 20 minutes per game, heâ€™s already more productive than Haywood. Per 36 minutes, the numbers look very solid: 14.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and 1.0 steals. Heâ€™s also an outstanding finisher as evidenced by his 64.3 FG% this season.
Tiago Splitter â€“ With Tim Duncan taking the second part of a back-to-back off this past Saturday, Splitter was on the floor for 32 minutes and finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists while hitting 11-of-13 shots. And we shouldnâ€™t be surprised. The European-seasoned vet (although he is still just 27) plays a smart brand of basketball and is fairly efficient as evidenced by his 17.8 PER. But he could be even better without the logjam of Duncan, DeJuan Blair, and Matt Bonner. Per 36 minutes, Splitter is delivering 15.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks on an outstanding 62.0 FG%.
Bismack Biyombo â€“ Tyrus Thomas has played dead most of the season and despite Paul Silasâ€™ recent backing of the former fourth overall pick, itâ€™s impossible to ignore the immense potential of Biyombo. The 19-year-old native of Congo is logging more consistent minutes of late and heâ€™s certainly not wasting them. Per 36 minutes, the rookie is producing 9.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks on 53.5% shooting. Given that the Bobcats currently hold the 28thbest defensive rating, itâ€™s time to turn Bismack loose.
Nikola Vucevic â€“ The Sixers have incredible depth and versatility, so it may be somewhat difficult to picture this rookie out of USC playing 30 minutes a game even as the full-time starter. But with Spencer Hawes already on his third nagging injury of the season, itâ€™s not absurd to see the much underrated Vucevic get significant run at some point. Per 36 minutes heâ€™s averaging 12.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, and 1.1 steals. His combination of tenacity on the glass and a reliable perimeter jump shot makes him a talent worth watching for years to come.
THE EXTRA PASSÂ
The Grizzlies and Pistons are the only two teams with five-game schedules next week. The teams figure to have some one-week additions available on waivers. Keep an eye out for Marreese Speights, Tony Allen, O.J. Mayo, Jonas Jerebko, and possibly even Austin Daye. Tayshaun Prince is likely gone off waivers after catching fire for five games, but the veteran delivered a 9-3-2 line last night. That seems more like it.
Brandon Jennings has been on fire, as well, over the past weeks, heâ€™s been a top 10 player. But heâ€™s also shooting over 48%, which paints him as a far more efficient scorer than history suggests. Someone in your league will overpay for him. Assuming you own him, find that person. Itâ€™s not easy parting with someone as talented and entertaining as Jennings, but itâ€™s a good move if you can bring back a top talent in return.
Hawks are 7-1 since losing Al Horford. The Grizzlies are 8-3 without Zach Randolph.