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Fantasy basketball: Players who are under owned

These are the guys you should be getting on your squad. Also, do you know how old Will Barton is?

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

It’s nice to see Will Barton get some love. His ownership rate is now above 70%, which makes sense since he’s been the 36th most valuable player on ESPN basic over the last 30 days, right in between Devin Booker (injured now) and Andre Drummond (who leads in the NBA in rebounding by almost a whole board per game; he averaged 14 points and 15 rebounds over the past month, along with 4.5 assists). Will Barton’s numbers on the year are 16 points per game (tied with Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, both of whom are owned more than Will Barton), 47 FG%, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal, with 2.2 3PM (three-pointers made). He’s been the 49th best player according to ESPN’s player rater for the entire season. BUT! He’s only recently gone over the 70% owned threshold.

Why?

Honestly, I could give you a bunch of different theories, but get real, it’s because he plays for the Denver Nuggets. His teammate Gary Harris, a favorite of mine, is also seriously under owned (66% despite being a top 50 player on the season). It’s also because Will Barton is such a greybeard, and fantasy owners don’t want to pick up or trade for Old Men. Except, wait a minute, WILL BARTON IS 26 YEARS OLD. Let’s see here: Will “You Don’t Really Know Who I Am, Be Honest, You Had To Look Up My Player Card And Then Look At My Career Stats To See What Teams I’ve Played For” Barton is playing the most minutes of his career, he has the best shooting percentage of his career, he’s averaging the most shots per game of his career, he has the best 3PT% of his career while attempting the most three pointers of his career, AND he’s averaging the most rebounds + assists of his career. How, exactly, is this not a coming out year for Will Barton? He’s entering his prime, he’s having a career year, and he has the Denver Nuggets as the 5th seed in the Western Conference. He and Gary Harris basically take the same number of shots, but Will Barton is leading the team in scoring, so we’ll give him his due here. If the Nuggets hang on and get to the playoffs this year, it will be based on their guards’ shooting. Going ultra small with Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton is dangerous defensively, but I think it actually kinda works. When the Joker returns from his injured ankle, I’d love to see the Nuggets use that lineup of him with all three wings more often. Again, defensively it’s not great, but a perimeter barrage with a big man holding down the center who can pass is basically the recipe that Houston is using. The Western conference seeding might come down to who’s shooting more threes, in which case every team will want their shooters popping treys as often as they can. Enter Denver’s wings.

Are there some other top players who are under owned? Let’s look at the past 30 days to see if we can find some useful players to acquire, either via waivers or trades. All of these players are owned in less than 70% of leagues.

Rodney Hood (27% ownership)

We don’t know when Hood will come back from his ankle injury but he was scoring when he played, and Utah desperately needs his offense (they’re 23rd in scoring and have lost 3 games in a row). Before he got injured Hood was 47th in points per game on the year (17.7 PPG), ahead of Eric Bledsoe, his Jazz teammate Donovan Mitchell, and Mike Conley. If you have a DL spot available, I’d pick up Hood immediately. He’s 25, he’s a 6’8” guard, his season stats this year are all better than his career averages, and the Jazz have something a logjam in their backcourt so there’s a good chance that either Hood gets traded or Hood gets the minutes from someone else the Jazz trade away. He’s worth a stash, at the very least.

Gary Harris and Tim Hardaway, Jr. (both 66% owned)

Their lines over the past month have been similar: 15ish shots a game, 18 points, around 3 assists and rebounds, with a steal per game, too. Hardaway is out with an injury, but Gary Harris should be owned more. He’s been as valuable as Andrew Wiggins over the past 30 days, and Wiggins is owned in 97% of leagues.

Old Man JJ Redick (54.4% ownership)

He has been GREAT over the last month! He’s averaging 17 points on 13 shots per game, with 2.5 3PM, 2.5 rebounds, and 3.5 dimes, and he’s been as valuable as Kristaps Porzingis and Clint Capela in my league (more/different stats than basic ESPN), and he’s been top 50 on ESPN’s player rater, more valuable than DeMar DeChozan AND Paul George. OMR is taking more shots than he ever has before, and he’s banging down more triples than he ever has before; he may be headed for the best stats season of his career. If he keeps this up and Philly makes the playoffs, will Old Man Redick get some love for the Most Improved Player award? If you can get Redick on the cheap due to his age, I’d go for it. Only 20 players have averaged at least 2.5 treys per game this season, and OMR is one of them.

Speaking of 3PM, here are the players who sink at least 2.5 threes per game on the season but who are NOT owned in at least 70% of leagues:

  • Allen Crabbe (10% ownership)
  • Kyle Korver (10%)
  • Justin Holiday (43%, but a Bull, so, y’know)
  • JJ Redick (54%)
  • Wesley Matthews (36%; he should be owned more, but fantasy players just hate his inconsistency; if you can handle a hit to your ratios, then Matthews is an excellent addition)
  • Joe Ingles (40%)
  • Rodney Hood (27%)
  • Ryan Anderson (35%)

Okay, and now here are the names of the other guys who are on that list of 2.5 3PM per game: James Harden, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Bob Covington, Kyle Lowry, Paul George, Eric Gordon, Tobias Harris, Damian Lillard, Victor Oladipo, Trevor Ariza, CJ McCollum, and Devin Booker. Now, you tell me: do you think that’s a list of good/valuable players? If you do, then why don’t you have the other guys, like OMR, on your team?

Austin Rivers, who is still my starting PG, has been more valuable than the following players over the past 30 days on ESPN’s player rater: Reggie Jackson, Goran Dragic, Ricky Rubio, and Malcolm Brogdon. I wouldn’t say that Haunted Rivers is better at playing Orange-in-the-Hole than those other guys, but volume volume volume! Rivers is getting minutes and shots because there aren’t a whole lotta bodies left on the Clippers. If Cincinnatus Gallinari can be healthy for day(s) at a time, and Milos Teodosic returns from his injury, then Austin might be shooting less. But, until that happens, his dad, Coach Doc Rivers, will continue to let his son, the starting point guard, do whatever the hell he wants.

Over the past 30 days here are the two players who have straddled the zero, or, as we call them round these parts, “Void Riders”: Pascal Siakam has been worth 0.01 on the ESPN player rater, and Ian Mahinmi has been worth -0.01. Mahinmi, who is one of the funniest practical jokes the Washington Wizards have ever pulled on their fans, is considered day-to-day with another injury. Much like his fellow Void Rider, Ian is not there. If you look for him, you will not find him. Those who straddle the zero are never found: they weren’t there to begin with. In other words, stay the fudge away from these two. They ain’t worth it; they’re zeroes. (Unless, you think that all that DC was missing in last year’s playoffs was some Mahinmi? If you do think that, then please stop watching basketball immediately. You’re clearly just hurting yourself.)

Marvin Williams (15% ownership)

Uncle Marvin is still out there, waiting for you to call him. He’s 118th on the ESPN player rater for the year (not impressive until you can consider that Ryan Anderson is 117 and Kelly Oubre, Jr., is 119, both of whom are owned in more leagues than Uncle Marvin Williams). Over the last 30 he’s been 108th (better than Marcin Gortat, 78% owned), and over the last 15 days he’s been better than Clint Capela (93% owned). Again, Uncle Marv is not here to make your life interesting. He’s here to maybe loan you a few bucks, tell you not to worry, make a couple of jokes at your mom’s or dad’s expense, and then disappear until the next holiday. He’s averaged 11 points and 5 rebounds over the last few weeks, which is basically Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I know MKG is no great get, but get real, both those guys can help you in points and boards, especially if you’re streaming.

Taj Gibson

He is still owned in less than 70% of leagues, so there’s still a chance you can go pick him up. He’s been the 17th best players in my league over the past 30 days. I have no idea how long Thibs can continue to run his players into the ground (they keep losing in the 4th quarter of games, MAYBE THEY’RE TIRED???), but Ancient Taj is younger than you think (he’s only 32, not 4 billion), so maybe he can keep this up all season? If he does, he’s another player who may compete for Most Improved. MIP could actually be the most interesting award race of the entire year.

Courtney Lee is still out here, yall! He’s a top 50 player in my league (not so much in ESPN basic) and he’s still owned in less than 50% of leagues. He does a bit of everything, so if you have room on your roster, I’d grab him.

Professor Spencer Dinwiddie (57% ownership)

He does not accept late papers and who does not give out extra credit, has averaged 15 points and 8 assists over the last 30 days. You know who averaged 15 and 8 for the season last year? Jeff Teague. Teague is owned in 92% of leagues. Professor Dinwiddie does not appreciate tardiness, yall! Grab him before you can’t! D’Angelo Russell’s return is NOT imminent and even if it was, do you really think that Brooklyn would stop playing Spence? DAR may be a shooting guard, anyway, but one thing is fersher: Brooklyn is about finding and developing assets. Dinwiddie is one of those assets. He may not be a Net for life, but he’s taking this opportunity to showcase his skills and people are noticing.

The New Orleans Pelicans are 6th in the NBA in pace on the year. Huh. New Orleans is playing really strangely right now, but it’s working: Rondo is acting like a passing big (especially when AD isn’t on the court) and everyone else is shooting, even the actual bigs like Boogie Cousins and Anthony Davis. I...don’t know how long that can last, but over his last 5 games he’s averaged double digit assists and points. If the twin towers of Boogie and the Brow have completely inverted the traditional scheme of “bigs inside,” then maybe you can have no offense PGs go small inside? Boogie and the Brow pull bigger defenders to the outside (since they can both shoot threes), leaving plenty of room for someone like Rondo to step into the space in the paint and either get an easy bucket or start whipping the ball to the perimeter. It’s exactly like what Jokic and Drummond do, but Rondo is a point guard, so it’s hella weird. But, que sera, yknow? Maybe it works well enough to get into the playoffs, at which point who gives an eff what your style looks like. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson changed the game of basketball forever with their elite long distance shooting; could Boogie and AD change the game again with their elite Big Man shooting?

That made me wonder: what’s the worst three-point shooting team we could (realistically) assemble? Rondo at PG, MKG at SF, Drummond or Okafor at C? Gordon Hayward hasn’t made a three all season (sorry, couldn’t resist). Ben Simmons can’t shoot threes yet, and Tony Allen can’t shoot threes if his family’s life depended on it. But, Tony’s a bit of a greybush, as is Rajon, so how about someone like Andrew Wiggins, who apparently won’t shoot threes because...uhhh...maybe he can’t? Lonzo, Wiggins, Kid Christ, the Chosen One, and the Drum: is that a feasible, worst outside-shooting team? They’re young, they can’t shoot from outside, but are they maybe a playoff team? They’d look weird AF, but that isn’t always a bad thing.