Jerryd Bayless is one of the most popular adds in ESPN.com leagues. This is certainly understandable, given that Bayless has spent this week first filling in for an injured Mike Conley, then simply filling in for the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies after the departure of Rudy Gay.
As fantasy owners, Bayless is one of those players we'd like to see in a bigger role. Now in his fifth NBA season and with his fourth team, the 24-year-old has only 39 career starts to his credit. But in those games, Bayless is averaging 16.4 points, 5.4 assists, 1.2 3-pointers and 84 percent foul shooting (on a healthy 4.6 attempts per game).
Coming off back-to-back 20-point performances, Bayless has provided a nice boost this week. And yes, in our perfect world, Bayless would be a starter somewhere. However, going forward, I believe the most available, fantasy-viable Grizzlies player is Tayshaun Prince.
Prince, once he's cleared to play with his new team, is expected to assume the starting small forward spot that had been Gay's. Obviously the Grizzlies didn't acquire Prince thinking he would replicate Gay's stats, but he should be able to provide a limited but useful function offensively. The Grizzlies are the NBA's worst team when it comes to making 3s, averaging a meager 4.7 treys per game. Although Prince has been nothing special from distance -- or really, in any fantasy category -- in his Detroit Pistons career, he is shooting a career-high 43.4 percent from downtown this season.
As I recently said, 3s are out there. This is another example. Prince is available in more than 80 percent of ESPN.com leagues, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him approach 1.5 3s per game with the Grizzlies.
Week 15 at a Glance
"R" matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, their opponents' numbers in those categories, and their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played. The column to the right lists the team's total number of games scheduled ("G") as well as home games ("H") and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that team's weekly schedule ("R").
Groundhog Day is this weekend. I guess that's appropriate because I feel as if I'm reliving last season's post-lockout NBA schedule when I see that the Indiana Pacers will play three consecutive nights (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) in Week 15. The Feb. 4 matchup with the Chicago Bulls was rescheduled after their late December meeting was snowed out.
Under these circumstances, Lance Stephenson strikes me as a very intriguing fill-in prospect. Since Pacers coach Lawrence Frank encouraged him to be more aggressive, Stephenson has responded with outings of 20 points and eight rebounds against the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 28, and 12 points and 11 boards against the Pistons on Jan. 30. Yes, Stephenson figures to sacrifice his starting spot once Danny Granger returns, but that likely won't happen in Week 15. Stephenson is available in almost all ESPN.com leagues. I think he's a nice, temporary fit for any league of at least 12 teams -- particularly those leagues that allow daily lineup changes.
On the Bulls' side, the added game isn't much of an imposition. They now have three games in Week 15 instead of two. In fact, every NBA team has at least three games in the week ahead.
Players to Watch
Michael Beasley, SF/PF, Phoenix Suns (@MEM, @NO, @OKC, OKC): Is one of the season's biggest disappointments turning it around? Over the past five games, Beasley is averaging 18.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Most encouragingly, he played 34 minutes off the bench in a 27-point showing against the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 30. Minutes will be the key with Beasley. Although he was productive over the previous four games, he played only 20-23 minutes per game. It's still tough to take Beasley seriously in most formats unless he's seeing at least 30 minutes a night. On the other hand, the opportunity is there. The Suns are pretty anemic offensively, so they definitely could use Beasley's offense. And new head coach Lindsey Hunter (and, most likely, the organization as a whole) apparently wants Beasley to play. This is a tough set of games -- Grizzlies opponents rank last in scoring, and Oklahoma City Thunder opponents rank 28th in shooting -- but there is quantity.
Tayshaun Prince, SF, Memphis Grizzlies (PHX, @ATL, GS, MIN): Prince should be good for a few treys with this schedule. Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks opponents rank eighth and 10th, respectively, in 3-pointers made. However, Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves opponents both rank in the bottom third in this category.
Nate Robinson, PG/SG, Chicago Bulls (@IND, @DEN, @UTA): Robinson's emergence with the Bulls seems similar to Beasley's situation in Phoenix. The Bulls are struggling offensively, and Robinson has always been able to produce points in bunches. The schedule is never really a concern with Robinson -- who, by the way, is shooting an unreal 56.9 percent (33-for-58) over his past four games -- but for the record, these opponents span the statistical spectrum. Nuggets opponents rank second in 3s, but Pacers opponents rank dead last.
Nick Young, SG, Philadelphia 76ers (ORL, IND, CHA): Fantasy owners are starting to notice Young, but at 90 percent availability, he's one of the more undervalued players in ESPN.com leagues at the moment. Jason Richardson's knee doesn't seem to be improving, so Young should remain in the Sixers' lineup for the foreseeable future. Over his past four outings, Young is averaging 17.8 points and 2.5 3s, although he's shooting a lackluster 43.1 percent (25 for 58). As I said, the Pacers are really tough on 3-point defense; but, as I've said for most of the season, the Charlotte Bobcats really, really, really aren't. Bobcats opponents continue to lead the league in 3s by a wide margin. The wild card with this schedule could be the Orlando Magic. Magic opponents rank only 20th in 3s for the season, but they've made 37 treys in their past three games.
Tyler Zeller, PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers (CHA, ORL, DEN): Another area in which Bobcats opponents excel is shot-blocking. With 7.7 rejections per game, they are, again, first by far. Meanwhile, Nuggets opponents rank third in blocks. Long story short, this looks like a decent time to slip Zeller into your lineup. I say "decent" rather than "great" because Zeller's field goal percentage is miserable, especially for a big. Since replacing Anderson Varejao in the starting lineup, he has shot just 38.6 percent from the field. Still, given the potential for blocks, Zeller seems like a risk worth taking for Week 15.
Opponent Performance, Past 10 games
All statistics are for teams' past 10 games played and are defensive numbers. PPGA: Points per game allowed. FG%A: Field goal percentage allowed. 3PT%A: Three-point percentage allowed. RPG diff.: Rebounds per game differential. SPGA: Steals per game allowed. BPGA: Blocks per game allowed.