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Fantasy Focus: Pickups For The Stretch

With fantasy playoffs coming up, Basketball Insiders breaks down players to consider picking up for the stretch run.

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It’s a critical time in the world of fantasy basketball as owners are rolling toward the playoffs in their respective leagues. With 20 or so games remaining in the regular season, there is still time to make some strategic waiver wire moves to not only ensure the best seeding possible, but to assure your team is playoff-ready.

While devoted owners have stayed on top of player injuries, moves and minutes all season long, there may be some players available on your wire that have been overlooked or discounted. This is a perfect time to analyze such players and decide if they warrant consideration to boost your roster. Basketball Insiders is here to help you make such decisions.

As always, when we talk fantasy basketball here, it is based on nine-category fantasy scoring leagues that account for points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, field goal percentage and free throw percentage. (Note – all stats reflect games played through 3/6/15)

Here is our list of fantasy pickups for the stretch run:

WILL BARTON – Denver Nuggets
On the NBA’s trade deadline day, February 19th, the Denver Nuggets sent Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson and a protected 2016 draft pick. Though this trade involved five players, Afflalo was the primary name continually discussed with regard to the transaction.

Barton, a 6’6 shooting guard, was drafted with Portland’s 40th pick in the 2012 draft. He made little noise during his three seasons there – in a total of 144 games – averaging 3.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.4 steals and 0.2 three-pointers in 11.0 minutes of playing time. In his span of just eight games in Denver, Barton is logging 13.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.1 three-pointers in 27.4 minutes. Barton is thrilled with the opportunity to finally prove himself, and he should continue to get chances to do just that with the Nuggets. The recent coaching change (Brian Shaw was replaced with assistant-turned-interim coach Melvin Hunt) hasn’t affected how Barton’s being used on the court. For fantasy owners, his ability to contribute in multiple categories is valuable. His shooting percentages aren’t bad either at 47.5 percent in field goals, 37.5 percent in three-pointers and 76.7 percent in free throws. Surprisingly, Barton is owned in only 10 percent of Yahoo leagues.

CODY ZELLER – Charlotte Hornets
Cody Zeller started the season in a reserve role and was inserted into the starting lineup at the end of November. He did have a recent game off the bench, but that was due to a matchup situation. His numbers have been up and down, but he’s on a decided upswing of late. A glance at Zeller’s points per game over the last five games – all double-digits in 23.4 average minutes – reveals a real trend: 11, 16, 10, 13, 12. He hasn’t been on this kind of scoring streak all season. Keeping with the past five-game numbers, he averaged 7.4 in rebounds and 56.6 percent in field goal shooting and connected on 16-of-17 free throws. A big man who has success at the foul line is always a very nice addition. He throws in an assist here and there (1.6) and doesn’t turn the ball over much (1.0).

Also, it’s important to note that Zeller’s production and minutes have been solid even with the return of teammate Bismack Biyombo four games ago. It was suspected Zeller’s minutes would decrease with Biyombo’s return, but that has not been the case. Remember the 7’0 center was Charlotte’s fourth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, so the fact they are now giving him room to develop is great news for owners. Like Barton, Yahoo shows only 10 percent ownership of Zeller.

ISAIAH CANAAN – Philadelphia 76ers
Yahoo reports Isaiah Canaan, now in his second year, is owned by only 28 percent of its leagues. Perhaps not all owners are unaware that Canaan is Philadelphia’s starting point guard (following the shocking Michael Carter-Williams trade to the Milwaukee Bucks), and that he is doing quite well. In just eight games with the Sixers, Canaan is averaging 13.8 points, 3.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 88.9 percent in free throws and an unbelievable 3.3 three-pointers in 28.9 minutes per game. Compare that to his 6.2 points in 14.8 minutes with Houston before the trade. Owners would hope to see higher assists and steals (just 0.5), but his numbers figure to improve while he gets better acclimated to his new team.

DENNIS SCHRODER – Atlanta Hawks
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the team with the best record in the NBA (Hawks, 49-12) must have some pretty good players on its roster. One such player is backup point guard Dennis Schroder; not quite a household name, Schroder can definitely help a fantasy owner down the stretch. A review of his season stats in total doesn’t yield numbers that impress too much (8.9 points, 3.9 assists and 2.0 rebounds in 18.7 minutes), but look what he’s done since the All-Star Break: 12.4 points, 6.6 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 24.2 minutes. Schroder, a EuroBasket stand-out for his home nation of Germany, has scored in double digits in five of the past six games, all of which were wins.

The Hawks are discovering that a Jeff Teague/Schroder backcourt pairing has distinct advantages. Owned in just nine percent of Yahoo leagues, you might find out that owning Schroder gives you an advantage as well.

JORDAN CLARKSON – Los Angeles Lakers
The only rookie (46th pick in 2014) on our list, Jordan Clarkson is beginning to get noticed around the league, so make a move (owned 31 percent in Yahoo leagues) if you can. Over the season, he’s averaged 9.3 points 2.3 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 20.5 minutes, which is fine for his first year. However, upon closer inspection, the now-starting 6’5 point guard’s numbers have nearly doubled since mid-February. In the past eight games, he’s recorded 15.6 points, 4.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 29.6 minutes.

Coach Byron Scott, in his typical straight-forward manner, both praises his shoot-first ways and knocks his ability in ever becoming a “true” point guard. Clearly, he likes what he sees though. Clarkson is setting some records – in his last outing, he scored 25 points which was the second-highest total by a Lakers’ rookie in nearly 10 years. In addition, with his accompanying six assists, he became the youngest Laker to achieve both since 2001. And who was that in 2001? Kobe Bryant.

QUICK HITS:

TONY SNELL – Chicago Bulls
With coach Tom Thibodeau trusting Tony Snell in increased minutes after the start of the year, he came in and answered the call with good scoring and three-pointers. When Jimmy Butler (the Bulls’ leading scorer) was recently ruled out for three to six weeks and with Derrick Rose out, it was assumed Snell would step in and exceed his recent solid run. It hasn’t happened yet; he’s getting minutes though, so keep aware.

KENNETH FARIED – Denver Nuggets
Yes, another Nuggets player makes our list. Some owners gave up on Faried with the less-than-desirable season he’s having, but the coaching change seems to have given him new life. He’s probably not available in your league, but make sure of that.

TIM HARDWAY JR. – New York Knicks
Sure, the Knicks have the worst record in the league (12-48), but those who play fantasy basketball could not care less. Individual player statistics are all that matter. He’s inconsistent, but when he’s hot, it’s a great thing.

PAUL GEORGE – Indiana Pacers
If you have any room on your roster, consider adding Paul George. No firm return date has been released, but we know George is close.

We hope these glimpses into possible pickups for your stretch run in fantasy play is useful. Now is the time to get your roster in order to win your league!

Susan Bible covers the Oklahoma City Thunder for Basketball Insiders and writes about all NBA teams. She is a Senior Newslines Editor and contributes to fantasy basketball coverage.

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