The Week 19 mark is when an early season gamble can start to pay off in dividends. If you made the right call by picking up or holding onto a player that just wasn’t clicking in the first half of the season, but that’s on a tear lately, you’ve turned around the expectations of your league without any of your opponents knowing what hit them. Marvelous.
If you haven’t done so already, or if you’ve been hit by a major injury, it’s time to swoop up one of our five unexpected players on a major late season surge. Due to their early season struggles, they’re names that people aren’t scrambling to own but that have been posting mid to first round numbers for two weeks now. In other words, they’re major bargains and can help you climb the standings in a blur.
Kenneth Faried (82% Yahoo; 100% ESPN) – Faried has been playing like a man possessed for about 15 straight games now. In his past five alone, he’s averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds on close to 70 percent shooting. On top of his strong scoring and rebounding numbers, he’s been passing the ball more and can contribute enormously in the steals and blocks department on any given day. For most of the year, analysts have commented on how Faried seemed to be regressing in his third year in Denver. He certainly agreed himself as he recently stated that he’s now playing at the level most expected from him all season.
With sky-high field goal percentages, an improved rate from the charity stripe, and all the other reasons listed above, Faried might be the hottest unexpected commodity right now. ESPN has taken notice but Yahoo leagues still have some catching up to do.
Matt Barnes (43% Yahoo; 71.2% ESPN) - Barnes has been a huge reason for the Clips’ nine-game win streak. According to ESPN, it’s because he’s been a top-40 fantasy contributor for the past two weeks now.
What makes Barnes so intriguing is his ability to contribute across the board. He can snag boards, block, pass the rock, steal at a nice rate, shoot the long ball, score in droves—everything. Though his production will drop off some with a healthy Jamal Crawford in the mix, he’s been putting up 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.3 steals in the month of March. Get him.
Jodie Meeks (61% Yahoo; 96.2% ESPN) – If his 42-point outing wasn’t enough to wake up fantasy owners, then those people just don’t have a part in our waking life.
Since his return from injury, Meeks has scored in double-digits in all but one of his 11 games. To boot, he’s scored 16 or more points in nine of those matches. He’s abysmal at rebounding, passing, and blocking the ball—which might explain some of the lack of love—but he’s an elite threes-and-steals man. On top of averaging 20.6 points for the month of March, he’s pilfering the ball 1.6 times a game and hitting the deep mark 2.2 times.
Middleton had seen a similar level of success a few months back but then had his minutes chopped in half just as he was on the rise. Of the five players we’ve listed, he’s owned at the lowest mark, so he should be available in a good proportion of waiver wires still.
In the last 10 games, he’s gone for 15.8 points, 3.0 rebounds (he actually still has room for improvement here as he’s averaging almost 4.0 rebounds for the year), 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals, and a juicy 2.1 three-pointers. In the last five he’s been even better, going for 16.6 points, 4.4 rebounds (there are those rebounds), 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals, and an even juicier 2.4 three-pointers.
Tobias Harris (77% Yahoo; 100% ESPN) - Harris missed a big chunk of the season but we at XN knew that he would eventually hit his stride. His production has dipped a tad since the Magic decided to relegate him to the bench but he continues to be a nice contributor in points, rebounds, field goal percentages, free throw percentages, and steals. Harris can also make the occasional three and block.
The lineup tinkering in Orlando also hasn’t helped all that much as the Magic have lost four in a row and seven of their last ten. So, there’s the added bonus that TH will return to the starting lineup where he has better across most categories.
In his last 1o games, Harris is averaging 18.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 0.6 blocks, on 52.3 percent shooting.