Young talents, productive subs offer best late NBA fantasy values
Matt Barnes has seen shooting improve, rebounding increase with Kobe Bryant out
Kenneth Faried's improvement is likely to make hima top sleeper in drafts
Sharp-shooter Kyle Korver could hit a lot of threes with Bulls' soft closing schedule
We're down to the last week of the season, and if you're still swapping players in and out to maximize games and trying to sneak in category wins in your head-to-head league, or gain an extra point to finish out your Roto league, then you might have guessed that the time for true breakout stars is over. What you're most likely going to want from the waiver wire is young players on bad teams and guys who are filling in for injured players. Luckily, with the hyper compact season this year, there are enough injuries to add another couple teams to the league. Of course, not all fill-in players are created equal, but there are a few who should grab your attention. They're available in the majority of leagues since a lot of owners have stopped paying attention, but if you're a cut throat fantasy owner, then every day and every game counts.
Matt Barnes (SG/SF), Los Angeles Lakers: With Kobe Bryant recovering from injury before the playoffs, Barnes has been given the opportunity to step up. He's only seen a slight increase in shot attempts, but he's making them at a much higher rate. He's also stepped up his three-point shooting and rebounding, so if you need those things (especially rebounding from the guard position), then take a look at Barnes. The Lakers have already clinched their playoff spot, so there's no really need for Kobe to come back in the next 3-4 games.
Metta World Peace (SF), Los Angeles Lakers: Another guy taking advantage of having Kobe out of the Lakers lineup is MWP. He's increased his scoring, rebounds, threes, steals, and even his field-goal percentage without really upping his turnovers. His free-throw shooting is still pretty bad, and while his attempts have increased, it's not bad enough to lose you that category unless your team is already only average in that category. And again, with Kobe resting, World Peace seems like a lock to continue his current pace for at least a few more games.
Marshon Brooks (SG) New Jersey Nets: Now we flip coasts, but we're still talking about a guy taking advantage of an injury to a teammate. Gerald Wallace is out with a hamstring injury, and the Nets have less reason to press him back into service than the Lakers do with Kobe. There are few guys on the Nets who could take advantage of the free minutes, but Brooks seems to be the one who is actually doing it. He was hot to start the season, then got injured and cooled off a bit, but now he's back playing 35-plus minutes per game and has the increase in stats that you always hope comes with that kind of bump. He's demonstrating the potential to be one of those 1/1/1 guys that everyone fell in love with back when Shawn Marion was a No. 1 draft pick. Brooks is a double-digit scorer with decent rebounding and assist numbers who can make a three, get a steal, and a block a shot every game. Of course, to get up any higher than Top 50, he'll need more than just the 1/1/1 combo, but for now, just pick him up off the wire and take the boost to those counting stats. Brooks might not run away with a category, but his field goal and free throw percentages are both pretty good and he's averaging just over two turnovers for the whole season.
Kenneth Faried (PF), Denver Nuggets: The highlight of Faried's career so far was his 27 and 17 against the Warriors, but it also doesn't hurt that he's averaging high teens in points and low double-digit rebounds over the last week. And he's managed that, plus more than one block and almost two steals, in only 27 minutes per game. It's kind of a shame the Nuggets gave up Nene to make room for Faried because Nene and Faried would have made for a very intimidating front line. At this point, Faried has played more games than Nene and they're both hanging right around the Top 100 on the Give Me The Rock Player Rater even though Faried played scarcely more than 20 minutes a game until two months into the season. Pick him up now and ride those stats, but beware next season when people start taking him early on in drafts. He's going to be on everyone's sleeper list, but when you're on everyone's list, I don't think you qualify as a sleeper. Guys like that tend to go too high because fantasy owners want to look like they're "in the know."
Kyle Korver (SF), Chicago Bulls: On the opposite end of those injury fill-in players, and in the middle of the country is Korver. Even with Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton back in the lineup for the Bulls, Korver has continued to hit threes with a tremendously high field-goal percentage, and he even manages to grab a few rebounds. Because of the way he plays, it doesn't necessarily take a lot of minutes for Korver to contribute, but he still gets 20-plus minutes per game, and with the Bulls finishing the season with games against Charlotte, Indiana and Cleveland, the chance for blowouts is very high. The Bulls also have another game against Miami, a team that Korver has lit up for 3.3 threes per game in their three meetings so far this season.
If you're still looking for more, try setting the Give Me The Rock Player Raterto One Week and then just go down the list to pick off guys who are available in your league.
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