As we enter February, it's critical for fantasy owners to be extra savvy in the manipulation of the waiver wire.
Don't scoff at the names. Now that we're officially past the midway point, we're going to focus on opportunity and production. You may laugh at the sources where those can be found, but if you overlook the candidates to help your roster, odds are they'll windup helping another owner in your league—and it could be the one who ends up beating you, ending your season prematurely.
We're chasing championships, and we don't care how we get there. Riding the waiver wire is an acceptable practice in these parts to get to the final destination.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $250,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Monday's NBA games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts at 7pm ET on Monday. Here's the FanDuel link.
Wayne Ellington, SG Los Angeles Lakers: 3-Pointers
To write that it’s been a tough season for Mr. Ellington would be a gross understatement. After being ignored through much of the offseason, despite shooting 42.4 percent from distance with Dallas last season, the Lakers decided to bring in the UNC product for a look in training camp. The sole reason Ellington stuck in Los Angeles was because of paper-thin depth on the wing. As if he didn’t have enough to deal with on a professional level, Ellington had to deal with the unspeakable personal sadness that came with the unexpected loss of his father in mid-November.
Ellington is now getting a longer-than-life leash with Kobe Bryant (shoulder) done for the season. Here are the guys he has to battle with for minutes on the wing: Nick Young, Jordan Clarkson, Wesley Johnson. That’s it. That’s the entire list. Ellington has played at least 36 minutes in three straight games, and there’s nothing to suggest that number is going to change at any point in the near future as there is simply no real competition on this pathetic roster. Coming into Sunday’s blowout loss, Ellington had clocked in with double-digits in five straight games, draining eight three-pointers during that span.
Ellington is shooting better than 38 percent from distance this season, and he’s now racked up double-digit shot attempts in five straight games. Over that same stretch, Ellington hasn’t seen fewer than 25 minutes of action. And during that same time, the outside sniper has attempted 24 three-point attempts. Get the picture?
With a green light to fire and a clear path to minutes as the new starting shooting guard, Ellington should be owned in all leagues.
Trey Burke, PG Utah Jazz: 3-Pointers
In last week’s column (link), I talked about how I was prepared to turn the page to the Dante Exum era in Utah. That proved premature, didn’t it? While Exum has struggled to replicate the initial success he had as a starter, the move to the bench has actually been a blessing for Trey Burke’s fantasy value because it’s changed his role. No longer tasked with running the offense and setting up the other starters around him, Burke is free to come in as a sixth-man gunner and fire at will.
Over his last five contests since moving to a bench role, Burke has hit on 15-of-42 attempts from behind the 3-point line. While that number could still improve a tick (35.7 percent), it’s clear that Burke has the clearance from the coaching staff to continue to shoot the ball. Over his last three games, Burke is 9-of-27 from behind the 3-point line while shooting at least 15 times in each individual contest. The most promising number over Burke’s last three games has to be his minutes played since he’s over 30 in each one, and if that trend continues, Burke will wind up being owned in more leagues than he was before as the starter.
To be clear, this is a player for owners who are punting field goal percentage and in need of an attainable source of three-pointers, so don't think he's going to be a cure-all for your team. He's not.
Kent Bazemore, SG/SF Atlanta Hawks: Steals
Remember the Kent Bazemore experience with the Los Angeles Lakers last season? That’s not about to happen again, but it was fun to remember the movement for a moment, wasn’t it?
Despite #Bazemoreing no longer being an active hashtag on Twitter, Bazemore is about to see a significant shift in his role. With Thabo Sefolosha (calf) out for at least the next month and a half, Bazemore is going to have to fill a specific role for a red-hot Atlanta Hawks team. With 30-plus minutes in each of his last two games, there is room for Bazemore to make a real impact. Although he’s averaging just 7.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and a steal over those two contests, Bazemore is a) going to available on the waiver wire and b) has the potential to contribute more. Remember: We’re searching for bargain-bin help here, and Bazemore is a certain candidate for that list.
The Hawks are a team that don’t have to feed a horse. I’m not going to sit here and attempt to sell the idea of Bazemore becoming an offensive threat—that’s not happening—but he’s not just going to go and stand in the corner, either. With DeMarre Carroll (Achilles) also hurting, Bazemore makes sense as a speculative add.
Lance Stephenson, G Charlotte Hornets: Assists
Without Kemba Walker (knee) available, Lance Stephenson is going to have to handle the ball more out of necessity. Not so coincidentally, Born Ready has dished out at least nine assists in two of his last four contests, including a career-high 13 in his last one. Oh, and those two games also marked the best games Stephenson has had in the assists category since he arrived in Charlotte during free agency this summer.
Perhaps it’s about time to start looking at Stephenson through a different lens. Despite playing off the ball, Stephenson found his groove with the Indiana Pacers when he had the ball in his hands more often. An under-appreciated and underrated creator for others, Stephenson is also clearly more engaged in the game when he’s utilized on the ball. With Charlotte scraping for a postseason spot and without Walker for at least the next month, this rocky marriage has a chance to work if Stephenson and the Hornets both buy into this new role.
Stephenson is still struggling with his shot, but it’s encouraging to see him getting involved in other aspects of the game. If he continues to get 25-plus minutes in each game going forward as he has in three of his last four, and there’s little reason to limit him given the current circumstances, Lance could be in position to prance while resurrecting some of his value in the process.