When determining player value and constructing your team via drafts and trades, I can't stress enough the importance of well-rounded stat producers. The more guys you have on your team who are capable of adding quality stats in seven, eight or even nine categories, the better your chances of being in the hunt this late in the season. That's why you have to love guys like Kevin Durant and LeBron James, because they're churning out digits across the board. You have to have that big foundation of stats provided by the top half of your roster in order to compete.
However, at this point of the season, you need to be looking closely at each statistical category to see if you can make up ground through the waiver wire. This is true for rotisserie leagues and head-to-head leagues that use categories and have daily transactions. In both cases, you can make a push in one or two categories by rotating guys off of waivers and into your lineup. Unfortunately, if you are in a battle with another team or two in percentages or scoring, it's going to be a little tough to make up ground via the wire. That's because scoring and percentages are most affected by those who take a lot of shots or free throws, players you won't see on the waiver wire.
Other categories can be filled out by NBA role players and benchwarmers in limited minutes with limited touches, though. So while it's important to have a foundation built on top-end players with well-rounded stats, at this point of the season, it's time to pay homage to the guys who might only help you in one or two categories. Here's an overview of guys you might consider if you're in a late-season battle for steals or rebounds.
Earl Watson, Indiana Pacers: Lil' Earl is just 6-foot-1, 185 pounds and is creeping into his 30s, but he's still getting it done as a point guard for the Pacers. The average fan wouldn't even notice him, because he's not even averaging eight points per game this season. But any fantasy owner in a tight battle for assists and steals should know that Watson is averaging 5.8 dimes and 1.8 swipes in 11 games this month. On top of that, even though he doesn't take a lot of shots or free throws, he's hit 47.7 percent of his field goal attempts and 82.6 percent of his free throw attempts during that stretch. And to top it off, he's averaging just under one triple.
C.J. Watson, Golden State Warriors: You know the scoop on coach Don Nelson and how he toys with fantasy owners by making a previously unheard-of player a star for a week only to see that player's statistical production evaporate the next week without rhyme or reason. Well, Watson not only had to deal with that in recent weeks, but he also took a hit from the return of Monta Ellis. That means he's not going to score 20 points a game, but it doesn't mean his fantasy value is gone. Watson has had six games this month with at least three steals, and in four of those contests he had at least four swipes. And he touches the rock enough most games to dish out between three and five assists.
Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls: He's a forgotten man in Fantasyland these days, but with a career average of 1.3 steals, you know he can help you there when he gets the chance for decent minutes. He's averaged 1.6 steals per game since the All-Star break and 1.9 steals in 10 games this month. Because he's averaged only 11.0 points per game this month, he might be on waivers in shallow leagues. But plenty of teams can use those steals and the 5.5 dimes and 1.2 treys he's averaged in March.
C.J. Miles, Utah Jazz: Miles has made some noise as a scorer the past few games, dropping 23 points on the Boston Celtics on Monday and 36 points in the previous two games. It's unlikely he'll keep that scoring up, but it is safe to assume he'll continue to steal balls at a steady pace. Miles has at least one steal in all but one game this month and is averaging 1.9 swipes during that stretch. He hasn't been big on steals before (0.6 career average), but we can ride him while he's hot now.
Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers: The rookie is averaging 2.1 steals in his past eight games. He's also been scoring well, dishing dimes and knocking down the occasional 3 this month. Even in a relative dud of a game Monday, in which he was 3-of-10 for seven points, he played a whopping 45 minutes and had seven assists and three steals.
Udonis Haslem, Miami Heat: Haslem skipped last night's game due to a sprained ankle, and it's not clear if he'll be ready to go for the Heat's next game against the Bulls on Thursday. If he's healthy enough to compete, though, he should continue to hit the glass well. The veteran has averaged 10.2 boards in 10 March games, and three times in the past four games in which he took part Haslem has pulled down at least a dozen rebounds. He's a true one-category wonder, but if that's the category you need, go get him.
Jason Maxiell, Detroit Pistons: With Ben Wallace sidelined by injury, Maxiell has been a monster on the glass for the Pistons. He's averaged a double-double (10.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg) this month. He's also been blocking close to one shot per game and hitting 53.3 percent of his 8.4 field goal attempts in March. Anyone in need of boards should add Maxiell to their roster immediately.
Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah, Bulls: While Noah was out of action for most of the past two months, Gibson was a solid contributor on the glass, averaging around eight boards per game. Noah has seen limited action in his first two games back in action, so Gibson has been able to continue hitting the glass (12 boards last night and seven boards in Noah's first game back). It's anyone's guess when Noah will be ready for full-time minutes, but when he gets there, it should spell the end of Gibson's fantasy value. Noah had been sitting on waivers in a number of my leagues, but I've since swiped him up. I recommend you do the same if you need boards and can wait a week or two for a return on your investment. Don't forget that Noah averaged about 12 rebounds per game before being felled by injury.
Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers: If flopping and flailing like a fish out of water were a stat, Varejao would be king. As it is right now, rebounds are a stat, and he's pretty darned good at pulling them down, too. He's averaging 8.4 boards this month, which is pretty normal for him. Varejao's also tossing in 10.4 points and hitting 68 percent of his 6.8 field goal attempts during that stretch.
Anthony Tolliver, Warriors: Not only is the D-Leaguer pulling down boards at a crazy rate (23 in his past two games), he's doing everything else, from scoring (recent games of 25 and 30 points) to blocking shots (six in his past four games) to stealing balls (2.0 average in his past four games) and knocking down treys (12 in his past five games). We all know that Coach Nellie could pull the proverbial rug out from under Tolliver at any moment, but it doesn't matter what stats you need: Tolliver should not be on your waiver wire at this point.
James Singleton, Washington Wizards; Robin Lopez, Phoenix Suns; Tyson Chandler, Charlotte Bobcats; Kendrick Perkins, Boston Celtics; Josh Boone, New Jersey Nets: These are all guys who can help you hit the glass but who are too unreliable to lean on in the long term. Instead, you'll want to consider using these guys when they face a weak frontcourt they can exploit. Or if you are in a head-to-head league with no limits on how many transactions you can make, even if they get you only four or five boards, every little bit can help.
Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.