Two months into the 2015-16 NBA season, it’s becoming progressively more difficult to find quality fantasy basketball free-agent pickups. Just like in the NFL, though, injuries and rotation changes always manage to replenish the waiver wire with at least a few top-tier targets.
What’s difficult to ascertain is the long-term value of players affected by such sudden changes. While a reserve player may thrive in a few spot starts, they’re unlikely to retain significant fantasy appeal if and when they return to the bench. That means owners must be willing to cycle through an end-of-the-roster spot or two, as few free-agent pickups will wind up having major rest-of-season value.
If you’re in need of short-term help, though, there’s no shortage of options available. Here’s a look at five such potential pickups, all of who are owned in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Jeremy Lin, PG/SG, Charlotte Hornets (38.8% owned)
After a multi-year hiatus, Linsanity has returned to the NBA, as Jeremy Lin has been playing extremely well for the Charlotte Hornets’ bench unit alongside Jeremy Lamb, another staple of this column. The undrafted Harvard product was thrust into the starting lineup Thursday in place of Nicolas Batum (illness) and racked up a season-high 35 points, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a whopping 47 minutes.
Though that game artificially inflated his recent stats, he’s still gone off for double-digit point totals in five of his past seven games, averaging 15.1 points, 3.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 treys, 1.1 blocks and 0.4 steals in 31.1 minutes per game over that stretch. He’s received at least 26 minutes in six of his past seven, making him a legitimate pickup in leagues of all sizes so long as his playing time stays that high.
Clint Capela, PF/C, Houston Rockets (33.0% owned)
For weeks, I’ve been reluctant to name Clint Capela as a free-agent target, as the Houston Rockets’ frontcourt rotation has been a fluctuating mess. The 21-year-old has started 12 of his past 14 games, but his playing time has been the definition of inconsistent, jumping from 13 minutes one night to 28 the next.
Over that span, however, Capela has averaged 9.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.1 blocks and 0.9 assists in just 23.0 minutes per game, which teases the massive fantasy impact he could have with a consistent role. Considering the trade rumors swirling around Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones, Capela is worth a speculative pickup in case Houston does shake up its frontcourt and moves one of those guys.
Raymond Felton, PG, Dallas Mavericks (31.6% owned)
Anyone who claims they expected Raymond Felton to make a significant fantasy impact this season is lying through their teeth. Against all odds, however, the journeyman combo guard is doing just that, as he’s averaged 11.7 points, 5.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.4 triples and 1.2 steals in 34.1 minutes a night since moving into the Dallas Mavericks’ starting lineup nine games ago.
Felton’s time as a starter could soon come to an end, however, as Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle recently referred to Chandler Parsons’s bench role as “certainly not a forever thing.” If and when Felton does return to the reserve unit, his playing time (and fantasy value) will assuredly decline, but he’s worth picking up until that happens.
Bismack Biyombo, C, Toronto Raptors (29.9% owned)
If your team needs a short-term infusion of rebounds and blocks, look no further than Bismack Biyombo, who’s been a force of nature in both categories as of late. Over his past seven games, the Congolese center averaged 8.1 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in just 31.6 minutes a night, including an eye-popping 18-rebound, seven-block outing against the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday.
Biyombo isn’t going to maintain this type of dominant fantasy value from this point forward; in fact, with Jonas Valanciunas likely due back within the next few weeks, the former No. 7 overall pick will soon become considerably less valuable. If you’re desperate for help in either blocks or rebounds until Valanciunas returns, however, Biyombo should help you make up ground in those categories for the time being.
Matt Barnes, SF/PF, Memphis Grizzlies (25.2% owned)
The Memphis Grizzlies are undergoing an identity crisis at the moment, and Matt Barnes appears to be the primary beneficiary fantasy-wise. After starting just three of his first 24 games with Memphis, he’s started in each of the Grizzlies’ past five games, averaging 13.2 points on 50.0 percent shooting, 7.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 2.2 triples, 1.8 assists and 1.4 blocks in 32.6 minutes per night.
There’s no guarantee Barnes’s starting role lasts, but so long as it does, he’s a must-own in leagues of all sizes. It’s rare to find this type of multi-category production on the waiver wire at this point in the season, making him the top free-agent pickup of the week if he’s still available in your league.
Mentioned in previous weeks:
Darren Collison, PG/SG, Sacramento Kings (47.5% owned)
Jon Leuer, PF, Phoenix Suns (40.7% owned)
Omri Casspi, SF, Sacramento Kings (37.5% owned)
Patrick Beverley, PG, Houston Rockets (27.9% owned)
O.J. Mayo, SG, Milwaukee Bucks (26.3% owned)
Jameer Nelson, PG, Denver Nuggets (15.3% owned)
Gerald Green, SG/SF, Miami Heat (14.1% owned)
Joffrey Lauvergne, PF/C, Denver Nuggets (12.6% owned)
Courtney Lee, SG, Memphis Grizzlies (10.0% owned)
Kendall Marshall, PG, Philadelphia 76ers (5.7% owned)
All Player Rater data and ownership percentages via ESPN.com and are current through Saturday, Dec. 19.