Every season, there are players who border on the cusp of roster-worthiness. They bounce on and off rosters or always seem almost worth adding but never make it into a regular starting lineup. They are often added and dropped multiple times throughout the season without finding a true permanent home. How melancholy. This week we feature several players who have been involved in the waiver-wire discussion all season but have recently made a case for longer-term roster-worthiness. All are widely available and have been playing well enough recently to warrant being picked up based upon production and upside. Let's take a look:
Marcus Thornton, SG, New Orleans Hornets (32.0 percent owned): Thornton's career is like that show about heroes. Great first season but now he pretty much stinks and people have mostly stopped watching him. It's surprising that a player who averaged 20.3 points, 2.0 3-pointers and 1.0 steals per game after the All-Star break last season as a rookie is sputtering to the tune of 7.4 points and 0.7 3s as a sophomore. But the addition of Marco Belinelli to the roster and the fact Thornton is shooting 40.4 percent from the floor has killed his value. His prospects are looking up recently, however, as he's played more than 21 minutes in five straight contests after doing so just once all month beforehand. In that span, he's averaging 12.8 points, 1.6 3s and 0.8 steals in 23.2 minutes per contest, and perhaps more importantly has played equal or more minutes than Belinelli in all five games. He peaked in the second half last season and clearly has the talent to contribute. The upside is there, and with his improved play as of late, he is a worthy gamble if your team needs 3s.
Ramon Sessions, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers (24.7 percent owned): The main rub with Sessions' value throughout his career is the fact he's always been in a time share and never played more than 27.5 minutes per game. Well, with Mo Williams sidelined with a hip injury, he's getting nearly 30 minutes per game this month and averaging 14.0 points, 5.7 assists and 0.8 steals. He doesn't shoot 3s, which is frustrating from a point guard, but he has been getting to the line at a high rate, boasting both accuracy and efficiency with 4.3 makes on 5.0 attempts per game this month (86.2 percent). There is no clear timetable for Williams' return, so expect this type of production to continue for the foreseeable future. Despite the lack of 3s, Sessions has become a consistent contributor in points, assists and percentages and is putting up numbers worth starting if those categories match your team needs.
Carlos Delfino, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks (21.6 percent owned): He's missed most of the season with a concussion, but Delfino returned four games ago and is immediately in the mix for the Bucks, averaging 29.5 minutes with 1.8 3s per game. He's in a time share with Corey Maggette, so expect some off nights, but Delfino can light it up from downtown and is worth an immediate look if your roster is in need of 3-point assistance. He's also solid in steals, with 1.2 per game this season and 1.1 per game last season. He should be able to put up comparable numbers to his breakout year last season, and be in the range of 10-12 points, 1.7-2.0 3s and 1.0-1.2 steals per game from here out, assuming the concussion is behind him. Any player with the potential to average two 3s per game is worth rostering in basically every format, so if Delfino is still available in your league I'd pounce quickly, as he was largely forgotten while sidelined but won't be soon.
Marcin Gortat, C, Phoenix Suns (8.7 percent owned): Gortat was always promising in Orlando backing up Dwight Howard, and now he's a bit of a tease since being traded to Phoenix, coming off the bench and getting inconsistent minutes as Robin Lopez's backup. But one thing has become clear: Gortat is better than Lopez, and the playing time distribution might reflect this more and more as he grows more comfortable in his role with the team. Gortat's 13.9 rebounds per 48 minutes rank 16th in the league and is ahead of guys like Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Al Horford, and his 2.32 blocks per 48 bests Brook Lopez and both Wilson and Tyson Chandler. He's been excellent recently, averaging 9.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in his past five contests, and from Jan. 19-22 had three straight games of at least 12 rebounds. Coming off the bench will continue to hamper his value but not enough to make him worth ignoring. His scoring has also picked up as of late, as he's notched double-digits in four of his past five contests, and overall he's looking like a solid second center, regularly getting more minutes with superior production compared to Lopez.
Chuck Hayes, PF/C, Houston Rockets (8.6 percent owned): Hayes is a bit of an anomaly, but that doesn't mean he lacks the ability to contribute from a fantasy sense. In his past five contests he's averaged 10.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks, and this month he's at 8.4 boards, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks. But those aren't the only areas where he's helpful, as Hayes is also contributing 3.6 assists per game this month. That ranks second among all center-eligible players behind Al Horford and is enough to make an impact upon your rankings in such a scarce category, especially from the center position. He doesn't score, so if your team needs points he won't help you there, but he's become a relatively regular helper in blocks, steals, boards and assists. And he's averaging 32.0 minutes in the past five games, so despite the fact Jordan Hill and Patrick Patterson are vying for his playing time, he's getting the bulk of the minutes and producing. Hayes provides a rare combination of statistics, and while he doesn't possess enormous upside, he is playing well enough to add to your roster if what he provides is what you need.
Mario Chalmers, PG, Miami Heat (8.2 percent owned): He was just named the Heat's starting point guard over Carlos Arroyo, which should greatly help the value of a player who has already demonstrated the ability to put up assists, 3s and steals in his career. He's averaging 1.9 3s and 1.3 steals per game this month, and in his past five he's at 10.2 points, 3.4 assists, 2.2 3s and 1.4 steals. The fact he's starting now hasn't even been reflected in his averages yet, and he's already putting up big 3s and steals numbers. Expect that to increase, with 2.0 3s and 1.5 steals per game a realistic expectation from Chalmers as a starter.
Rudy Fernandez, SG, Portland Trail Blazers (6.6 percent owned): He continues to benefit from Brandon Roy's absence, averaging 25.4 minutes per game this month. He's hit double figures in scoring in five of his past six games, with 1.8 3s and 2.5 steals per game in that span. He's known mostly for his deadly long-range shooting, although he's a deft thief as well, as his 2.35 steals per 48 minutes ranks 22nd best in the league. The prospects for Roy aren't good, and Fernandez has found his groove recently, so he's roster-worthy in any format if you're in need of 3s and steals.
Randy Foye, PG/SG, Los Angeles Clippers (1.2 percent owned): Foye immediately finds himself in a statistically lucrative situation: With Eric Gordon out 3-4 weeks, he's the short-term starting shooting guard for the Clippers. He's had value in the past and possesses a skill set that translates well to fantasy when things are clicking, evidenced by his averages of 16.3 points, 4.3 assists, 1.6 3s, 1.0 steals and 0.4 blocks per game two seasons ago in Minnesota. In two starts since Gordon's injury, Foye has averaged 17.5 points, 2.5 assists, 2.0 3s and 0.5 steals, numbers worth immediately inserting in most lineups. Gordon's absence leaves a gaping hole in the Clippers' offense, as his 24.1 points per game ranked eighth in the league. This means Foye will play the role of scoring guard more than he has in the past, so I wouldn't expect big assist numbers, but he should be a steady source of points, 3s and steals for the next month with Gordon sidelined.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.