There are few things more frustrating to fantasy hoopsters than knowing how good a player could be statistically, while watching him wallow away in a timeshare or a bench role. Fortunately, in a completely random series of moves since the end of last season, a number of players who fit that description have been freed from those situations.
We can count Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, Jeff Green, Evan Turner and Eric Bledsoe among that group. Following the trade between the shipped Greivis Vasquez to the Toronto Raptors, we can now add Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas to that list, too.
Meanwhile, Omer Asik had the misfortune of having Dwight Howard sign with the Houston Rockets during the offseason, which immediately put him in that first group of players and killed his fantasy value. However, according to ESPN NBA Insider Marc Stein, the club is aiming to trade the big man between Dec. 15 and Dec. 19. As Stein noted, these dates aren't random; there is every likelihood that they will trade Asik.
Odds are that any team that acquires Asik -- the Philadelphia 76ers are among the teams rumored to be interested -- will start him and give him plenty of minutes. In 11 February games last season, when he was on the court for 31.9 minutes and took 9.1 shots per game, Asik averaged 12.0 PPG, 13.1 RPG and 1.1 BPG, while hitting 55 percent of his shots. Consider what he could do on a weak team with 34-35 minutes per game.
Asik is owned in only 38.5 percent of ESPN leagues. Now is the time to take a flier on the big fella, before the trade rumors really heat up and someone else grabs him. He could be a real difference-maker if he is freed from his current situation in Houston.
Here are some other players to consider adding off waivers in your league this week:
Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards (owned in 7.1 percent of ESPN leagues): Opportunity and talent are the keys to fantasy success. With Bradley Beal and Martell Webster hurting, the No. 3 overall pick has both. It may take a few weeks for him to get his legs under him after finally returning from his nagging hip ailment, but he is worth adding in most formats for his potential.
Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls (67.7 percent): His production has benefited from the absence of Luol Deng, but Gibson's been flat-out dominant, so ride him while he's hot. There may be long-term value here, too, if the Bulls end up dealing Deng away.
Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder (26.0 percent): OK, so things didn't break right for Jackson because Russell Westbrook returned from his knee surgeries ahead of schedule. That doesn't mean Jackson doesn't have fantasy skills, though. In five games this month, Jackson has averaged 14.6 points, 3.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.2 3s, 51.8 FG% and 100.0 FT%. I think he is settling into his sixth-man role now, and we should expect consistent production in this vein going forward.
Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets (64.0 percent): The second-year big had a couple of clunker games and his owners ran from him like he had the plague; ESPN ownership dropped 23.3 percent. You should take advantage of the shortsightedness of those owners and snag him. He's averaging 12.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 0.9 3-PPG and 52.1 FG% as a starter. Jones is harsh at the charity stripe (61.4 FT%), but at just 2.3 FTA per game, there's not much impact there. The starting PF job is his to lose, and he has the raw skills to keep a firm grip on it.
Nick Young, Los Angeles Lakers (45.3 percent): If Kobe Bryant actually gets up to full speed this season, Young may not get off enough shots to matter much in Fantasyland. In the meantime, though, the Mamba can be a terrific ball distributor, which means Young should see better scoring chances. He's already averaging 16.5 PPG, 1.6 3-PPG, 1.1 SPG and 46.4 FT% as a reserve this season and should maintain that pace in the short term with Kobe back.
Tony Wroten, Philadelphia 76ers (25.0 percent): It sounds as though Michael Carter-Williams should return from his knee infection soon, so ride Wroten while he is red hot. He'll be worth watching closely if the Sixers make any trade moves this month. He could see more minutes even if MCW is healthy, if their front office moves the right pieces around.
Alec Burks, Utah Jazz (22.2 percent): Consistency has been the big issue for Burks this season. However, he has strung together a half dozen quality outings and is worth an add to see if he can string together a few more.
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks (15.3 percent): In 13 starts, Middleton has averaged 12.4 points, 1.0 steals and 1.6 3-pointers; that includes Friday's 29-point outing. Caron Butler is supposed to miss at least another week, which means that Middleton should be a quality addition to teams in deep leagues.
Ben McLemore (37.9 percent): Worth an add in most leagues now that he seems to be settling in and has a defined starting role.
Derrick Williams (19.7 percent): I remain skeptical about Williams doing much for fantasy squads, but he will have the chance to prove me wrong (31 points, 3 3s and 5 steals Monday is a good start!) Fighting injuries in a deep league? Williams would be worth adding.
Marcus Thornton (0.4 percent): He appears destined for a sixth-man role that won't garner him enough regular shots to be consistent. I would just keep an eye on his progress in the new rotation for now.
Jason Thompson (0.3 percent): The same goes for Thompson, who will have limited impact as a reserve.
Jonas Valanciunas (73.0 percent): Once/if the big man settles in, Valanciunas should be an impact fantasy option. He should be given every chance to make a mark now that Gay is out of the mix. I've been a bit skeptical about his fantasy potential this season, but with the door wide open, it's time to add the center.
Greivis Vasquez (62.6 percent): He seems destined for a bench role in the Great White North behind Kyle Lowry, but it sounds as though the Raptors are open to trading Lowry. For that reason, Vasquez makes for a decent stash in deeper leagues.
Amir Johnson (62.2 percent): Last week I professed my disappointment with Johnson's production because I pegged him as a safe and reliable big man who could round out starting rosters. I'm not going to take credit for the turnaround, but he racked up his three best games of the season since then. With Gay gone, Johnson started Sunday and abused the Los Angeles Lakers for a career-high 32 points (14-17 FG). After the trade, I expect him to come through as I initially expected -- as a safe and reliable fantasy big.
Landry Fields (0.0 percent), Terrence Ross (0.2 percent), Steve Novak (0.2 percent): None of these players is all that good, which is why these guys are owned in a collective 0.4 percent of ESPN leagues. Still, the Raps don't have an obvious replacement for Gay at the three, so it's possible one of them could make some noise at that position. More likely, however, they rotate the trio (and others) and nix any reliable fantasy value for all of them.