This weekly column is geared toward anyone playing in a head-to-head format, and especially those of you in weekly lineup leagues. It is a great idea to keep up with which players are scheduled to play four games during the upcoming week (12/29 - 1/4), as fantasy basketball managers can use this information to gain an advantage in games played over an opponent. Simply put, the more games played, the more potential there is for production.
Based on their respective four-game schedules, the following four players should be viewed as “sleepers” for next week. Advising fantasy owners to play the likes of LeBron James or Anthony Davis is a waste of time and effort; hopefully it is common knowledge that studs of that nature should be in lineups regardless of how many games they are slated to play.
Position Eligibility & Ownership Rate Based On Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball Leagues.
Top Four-Game Sleepers (12/29 – 1/4)
Tristan Thompson (CLE, PF/C) - 49% Owned
Thompson has been a starter in years past for the Cavaliers, but the additions of LeBron James and Kevin Love have pushed him to the bench this season. That is, until Anderson Varejao got hurt...again. Varejao suffered a torn Achilles tendon, and had surgery to repair it on Friday. He will be out for the rest of the season.
As a result, Thompson’s stock is soaring. He has entered the starting lineup in place of Varejao at center. He played 40 minutes in Cleveland’s last game, which is notable but probably will not be the norm. However, he should continue to see 30+ minutes a game easily as he really has no competition for playing time in the Cavaliers rotation right now.
Tristan’s game at times leaves a lot to be desired. He has career averages of 10.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game, while shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 63.1 percent from the line. As you can see, Thompson can score a little with a good shooting percentage and is a pretty good rebounder, but he does not offer much upside in any other category outside of the occasional steal or block. His free throw shooting is terrible, and his passing is non-existent. He has a little more appeal in 9-cat leagues due to his low turnover rate.
With Cleveland’s Big Three around, there will not be many plays run for Thompson. He will need to be active on the offensive glass to put up some numbers, but that is something he can do well. The Cavs frontcourt defense is pretty awful now without Varejao, so they really need Thompson to be more active on that side of the ball.
Next week the Cavs will have matchups at Atlanta, Milwaukee, at Charlotte, and Dallas. Despite his shortcomings, Thompson is still a recommended add for this week and beyond. Varejao is not coming back, so unless the Cavs make a trade, Thompson will get a lot of playing time. He is a nightly double-double threat, and should chip in a few defensive stats along the way. If you are in the market for big man stats, Thompson should be a solid addition to your fake basketball team.
Alex Len (PHO, C) - 17% Owned
Len has really started to come on lately. He went off for 10 points, 11 rebounds, and a whopping five blocked shots in his last game. The most impressive thing is that Len did all this damage in just 23 minutes!
His outstanding play has earned him more time on the court, at the expense of Miles Plumlee. Len was a lottery pick (#5 overall) of the Suns just two years ago, and is the superior talent. He suffered through an injury plagued rookie season, but is healthy now and beginning to play at a high level.
Len has recently overtaken Plumlee in the starting lineup for Phoenix. This has provided a nice boost for his production, as he has had at least seven rebounds in each of his last four games. Even though Plumlee’s minutes are trending downward, he will still have a spot in the rotation.
Foul trouble has been another issue that Len has struggled with. This is to be expected of a young player who is still adjusting the NBA game. However, until he can get it under control, Len is unlikely to play more than the 20-25 minutes a game he has been receiving. Fortunately, he has proven capable of putting up numbers in limited action.
The upcoming schedule for the Suns features games at New Orleans, at Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, and Toronto. Len is only scratching the surface of his upside, and should continue to get better as the season progresses. He makes for an excellent add not only this week, but for the remainder of the season as well.
George Hill (IND, PG/SG) - 76% Owned
Hill finally made his season debut at home against New Orleans on December 23rd. He had been sidelined with a series of knee and quad injuries dating back to the preseason. Fantasy owners should be salivating now that he is back.
Indiana has eased Hill back into action so far, slowly increasing his minutes with each game. Even in limited action, the results have been pretty good. Through his first two games, Hill is averaging 14.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals, and 2.5 three-pointers. He is shooting 50.0 percent from the field (including 45.5 percent from downtown) and 75.0 percent from the line.
Those are solid totals for anybody, but Hill has done this in limited action and coming off the bench with the second unit. On Saturday, he made his return to the starting lineup and responded with 12 points, six rebounds, five assists, and two three-pointers on 5-9 shooting. He is going to destroy his career averages.
The Pacers are a hot mess right now. Their biggest problem is staying healthy, but they also are having trouble finding consistent scoring. Hill is a veteran presence and the offense will run through him. He has posted a high 24.1 usage rate so far, and this number could rise even further as he gets more minutes. This means that more production is on the way.
Next week Hill squares off against Chicago, Miami, at Milwaukee, and at LA Lakers. He is an outstanding play from this point forward. If he is still floating around on your waiver wire, stop what you are doing and go pick him up. Otherwise, send a trade offer to the owner that has him before he really blows up.
Jarrett Jack (BKN, PG/SG) - 29% Owned
Jack has been on fire ever since Deron Williams went down with a calf injury. In his last three games prior to Saturday, he has averaged 19.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 2.0 steals on an amazing 53.7 percent shooting. He seems to do this everytime he gets an opportunity.
What is even more impressive is the fact that Williams made his return on Friday at Boston, although he was eased back into action. You would think that his return would be bad news for Jack, but in fact the opposite has been true. Jack has remained in the starting lineup, with Williams coming off the bench. His minutes have not taken a hit at all, remaining in the mid to high 30s range.
There have been numerous trade rumors surrounding Williams, so there is a good chance that Jack remains a useful commodity for the rest of the season. Even if Williams sticks around, Jack has surely carved out more playing time with his strong showing. On Saturday, Jack played the most minutes, took the most shots, and was the highest scorer on the team.
The Nets have a favorable schedule next week, including matchups with Sacramento, at Chicago, at Orlando, and at Miami. None of these teams are particularly adept at defending opposing point guards. Jack makes for a fine play next week as there are not many teams with a four-game schedule. Owners would be wise to hang on to him for the time being to see how the situation plays out.