When looking to improve your fantasy basketball team with a waiver wire pickup, don't ask “is this guy better than this guy?” Ask “does this guy improve the categories where I need the most help?” Here are a couple of players available in standard 12 team fantasy leagues who could provide a boost in key categories.
NBA Waiver Wire Pickups - Threes & Blocks
Threes - Terrence Ross
I know, you might want to pick up the guy who just scored 51 points. Just don’t pin too high of expectations on such a raw, young player after one great game. He followed up Saturday's ridiculous effort by shooting only 3/9 for 10 points on Monday, after all. He’s only 22 and the flipside to this youth is going to be inconsistency. He’s had plenty of duds this year, and will have plenty more.
The big caution here is that there are a few holes in Ross's fantasy game. Even after the big day, he’s still only sporting a .416 FG%, which is a big negative. His rebounding comes and goes – 9 on Saturday and 7 on Monday, but also only 9 boards in his previous 4 games combined. Assists (0.8/game) and blocks (0.3/game) have both been almost non-existent all year.
The other concern: in the three games prior to his Saturday explosion, Ross only averaged 20 minutes a game, meaning when he's off his game, the Raptors might not always let him work through things. That will highlight Ross’s ups and downs. When he’s shooting hot like on Saturday night, they’ll give him plenty of minutes and tons of shots. But if Ross starts off cold, he risks watching John Salmons hobble around in his place.
That is the downside with Ross, which I feel bad for spending so much time on. But the upside is obvious. Ross is capable of scoring 51 (!!!) points in a game, raining down threes, and contributing a decent tally of steals. And in the short term, while DeMar DeRozan is out with an ankle injury, Ross will be locked into 30+ minutes/game while the reserve wings are busy filling in for DeMar. Ross has a big chance to earn himself a longer leash going forward.
I like Terrence Ross's upside better than chasing after bad money with guys like OJ Mayo, Ersan Ilyasova or Jeremy Lin. However, I still like the upside of the all-around contributions of fellow youngster Giannis Antetokounmpo better as a long-term investment, as well as DeMarre Carroll, who provides similar positives to Ross, but with better efficiency in FG% and TOs.
Blocks - James Johnson
Johnson is a guy who keeps jumping on and off people’s radars, when he puts up the occasional big game before going quiet again. His problem is that he’s only averaged about 8 points a game, and points per game is usually the biggest number and the first stat people look at.
However, Johnson has contributed an amazing 1.7 blocks/game and 1.4 steals/game, which are huge positive contributions for each stat.
Take the blocks – a general rule of thumb I use is that each extra block helps as much as about 7 or 8 extra points per game. If you saw a guy on the waiver wire whose per game averages between December 28 and January 27 were .431 FG%, .786 FT%, 15.4 points, 4.8 rebounds. 3.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.9 blocks, you’d say “wow, it’s Paul Pierce” and you’d probably pick him up. But since Johnson put up those exact numbers except for averages of 8.4 in points and 1.9 in blocks, his value is not so obvious, and he’s still largely available as a free agent.
The best part is that he has been doing this on 23 minutes a game, and he’s only got the offensive black-hole Tayshaun Prince standing in between him and a starting role at SF where he could have Top 60 value.
I like Johnson nearly as much as I like Ross right now. If Johnson became a starter, I’d like him much more than Ross. I’d be willing to drop a similar set of players for him at this point. They do bring very different stats to the table, though, so remember: it’s more about what you need than who's better.