Fantasy Basketball category strategy: Chasing steals, rebounds, assists

The Indiana PacersLance Stephenson offers a chance to add an unusual stat profile for a shooting guard. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports

Sometimes, managers are simply looking to add the best waiver prospect available. Other times, however, they need help in certain categories that best fit their particular rosters. The article is for managers in that latter group

Whatever your category of need, we’ve got some players who can help. (Unless you need help in blocks, in which case, I did my best, but… man, those are some slim pickings).

Aside from a few names at the top, we’ll focus on players available in at least 50% of Yahoo leagues.

Points

Austin Rivers, Clippers

(Yahoo Ownership: 54%)

Let’s call be honest – the Clippers backcourt is not a meritocracy. Twitter has been full of anti-Rivers sentiment lately, but the coach’s son himself is going to get a significant amount of minutes, regardless of who else is healthy and available. The Clippers’ depth chart is getting decimated by injuries, but even when everyone is healthy Rivers will continue to see significant run.

For now, though, we don’t need to care about what happens to the Clippers if they ever get healthy, as they just lost their best player, Blake Griffin (knee), for a timeframe more likely to be measured in months than weeks. Without Griffin’s 18.6 field goal attempts and 5.1 assists per game, Rivers is going to have much more offensive responsibility, even if his minutes barely change. Rivers has played at least 32 minutes in 12 straight games, and he’s averaging 13.6 FGA and 3.9 assists in that span.

Rodney Hood also remains available in too many Yahoo leagues. He should be universally owned. If he is still available, he’s good enough that you should figure out a two-for-one trade to make room for acquiring him. When setting up that trade, remember, it’s OK if the two players you’re giving up have more combined value than the player you’re receiving, since you need to add the value of Hood to the incoming side of the trade.

Other suggestions: Rodney Hood, Jazz; Bojan Bogdanovic, Pacers 

Three-Pointers

Allen Crabbe, Nets

(Yahoo Ownership: 58%)

Crabbe (back) has missed the last two games, but this appears to be a short-term injury. Crabbe has been one of the primary beneficiaries of D’Angelo Russell’s (knee) absence. There is no official timeline on Russell, but after he underwent surgery on Nov. 17, it seems unlikely that he’d play for at least another month. In the first five games without Russell, Crabbe’s minutes were essentially unchanged, but he became a much bigger part of the Nets’ offense. He started taking a lot more shots, increasing his field goal attempts from 8.8 to 13.8 per game, and his three-point attempts from 5.5 to 7.8. His assists also increased from 1.2 to 2.2 per game, which isn’t a ton, but is still helpful. As long as Crabbe is active and Russell is sidelined, Crabbe is a fantasy starter in most settings.

When Crabbe is out, Joe Harris has been the proverbial next man up, gaining opportunities that Crabbe inherited from Russell. Harris is an option in deep leagues or as a streamer whenever Crabbe sits.

Other suggestions: Bojan Bogdanovic, Pacers; Austin Rivers, Clippers; Marco Belinelli, Hawks; Norman Powell, Raptors; Denzel Valentine, Bulls; Wayne Ellington, Heat

Rebounds

Lance Stephenson, Pacers

(Yahoo Ownership: 13%)

Maybe I’m just a dreamer, chasing after memories just out of reach. It was only four seasons ago that Stephenson led the NBA in triple-doubles, but that was an NBA lifetime ago. Stephenson had five triple-doubles in 2013-14, a figure that has been matched eleven times in the three seasons since, and one that Russell Westbrook has already passed in just the first month and a half of 2017-18.

Stephenson wasn’t even that great for fantasy in 2013-14 – he finished the year outside fantasy’s top 100 in 9-category settings, and outside the top-70 in 8-cat. Nonetheless, the allure of “Born Ready” is inescapable. After years journeying the fantasy and NBA wilderness, Stephenson is back home doing well in Indiana. He’s averaging 10.8 points and 7.9 rebounds in 23.6 minutes over his last eight games. He’s scored at least 13 points in three straight, and in four of his last six.

There’s no way to know if Stephenson can keep his current production levels going, as he’s teased us with a few great games in the past. But with Stephenson there is at least a chance of adding a long-term asset who provides an unusual stat profile for a shooting guard.

Other suggestions: Kenneth Faried, Nuggets; JaMychal Green, Grizzlies; Denzel Valentine, Bulls;  Tyson Chandler, Suns

Assists

Mario Chalmers, Grizzlies

(Yahoo Ownership: 21%)

Mike Conley (Achilles) is out indefinitely. He’s set to be re-evaluated this week, but the fact that he was not given a timetable to return means that he’s probably going to stay sidelined for at least a few more weeks. In Conley’s absence, Chalmers has stepped in as the starting point guard, increasing his nightly workload from 22.9 to 29.2 minutes per game. Chalmers has averaged 5.5 assists per game with Conley out, and has at least six assists in four of his last six games.

Milos Teodosic will likely provide more assists than anyone else currently available once he is healthy and active, especially after Blake Griffin’s injury sidelined the Clippers’ best distributor. Teodosic could be back as soon as this weekend, but there is no official timeline for return, so it could take a bit longer.

Other suggestions: Milos Teodosic, Clippers; Austin Rivers, Clippers; T.J. McConnell, 76ers; J.J. Barea, Mavericks

Steals

Larry Nance, Lakers

(Yahoo Ownership: 43%)

Nance missed 11 games with a broken thumb. While he was out, Kyle Kuzma transitioned from “summer league darling” to  “is he a better prospect than Brandon Ingram?”. There was concern, therefore, that Nance would return to a limited role, but at least in Game 1, that’s not how it played out. Nance played 30 minutes to Kuzma’s 20 on Monday against the Clippers. This is an ongoing battle, and Nance’s early advantage does not guarantee long-term success. But as long as Nance is getting minutes, he’s a profitable source of rebounds and steals. Through nine games, he’s averaging 2.5 steals per-36 minutes. That could be inflated by a small sample size, but he averaged 2.0 per-36 last season, so the inflation would be small, if it is there at all.

Other suggestions: Mario Chalmers, Grizzlies; Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings; Kyle Anderson, Spurs; Marco Belinelli, Hawks; Kris Dunn, Bulls

Blocks

Thon Maker, Bucks

(Yahoo Ownership: 7%)

Blocks are the hardest category to find on waivers right now. That’s the only reason Maker, who is a player I’d advise against adding in most contexts, is getting highlighted here. If you’re desperate for blocks, Maker might be your best option. Since the Greg Monroe trade opened up the Bucks’ depth chart, Maker is averaging 22.7 minutes and 1.4 blocks per game – up from 16.7 and 0.4, respectively. He doesn’t provide a ton of value elsewhere, but if you need blocks, there just aren’t many options to choose from.

Alex Len is listed as an “other suggestion” simply because blocks are, again, incredibly scarce on waiver wires. Even though Len was a DNP-CD in the Suns’ most recent game, at least when he’s active he’s relatively likely to get a block or two, which cannot be said about most players currently on the wire.

Despite Jordan Bell’s six-block game the day after Thanksgiving, I do not recommend adding him outside of dynasty leagues (where he’s probably already owned anyway). He’s not getting enough minutes to help, even in deep leagues, and that’s unlikely to change without an injury. There are too many single-digit minutes or DNP-CDs to bother.

Other suggestions: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings; Alex Len, Suns

Follow Alex on Twitter @Rikleen