We have officially arrived at a juncture of the season at which previously irrelevant players are suddenly emerging (or in some cases, re-emerging) with notable value, a juncture otherwise known as April in the NBA. Here’s a close look at some obscure late-season options you might find yourself considering:
Say hello to Kevin Seraphin. With Trevor Booker and Nene both currently advancing the fashion trend known as the walking boot, Seraphin posted 16 points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes on Sunday, giving him averages of 13.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 1.4 bpg in his last five games. With Booker and Nene both looking very fragile – and with four games both this week and next – Seraphin is looking like a strong play during the upcoming fortnight.
Please welcome back Byron Mullens. At the outset of the year, there were few (if any) players who were less on my radar than Mullens. But the 2009 first-round pick – still just 23 years old – has proven himself to have legitimate NBA jump-shooting ability, and a recent move to power forward looks like an excellent fit. In his first start at PF this year, Mullens posted 20 points, nine boards, two steals, two blocks and a trey in 40 minutes. With improving shot-blocking ability (1.2 bpg in 17 games in March) and an excellent schedule (4-5-4 the next three weeks, including a full slate of three games during the season’s final half week), Mullens is worth serious consideration across many formats.
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It’s time to take Charles Jenkins seriously – with one small caveat. Owned in just 13 percent of Yahoo leagues as of Monday morning, Jenkins got his fourth start in the last five games on Sunday night, posting 10 points, six assists and two steals in just 22 minutes before leaving due to a bruised knee. And therein lies the caveat: If healthy, Jenkins looks like Mark Jackson’s preferred choice as the starting PG (and has posted 16.8 ppg, 6.8 apg and 1.3 spg in his last four starts), but it’s at least of mild concern that he didn’t re-enter Sunday’s game even though the Warriors said he was available to return. I’m still all for adding Jenkins given Golden State’s upcoming schedule (4-4-5 beginning this week), but starting the rookie PG comes with at least a small amount of injury-related uncertainty this week.
Speaking of Warriors, a few words on Brandon Rush. The backup swingman reminded the people of Earth that he’s still wildly inconsistent by dropping a complete dud against the Lakers on Sunday (four points on 1-of-6 shooting in just 20 minutes, his fewest minutes since Feb. 22). However, assuming he wasn’t injured – and no word of an injury had surfaced as of Monday morning – Rush’s schedule and recent production (12.0 ppg, 2.0 bpg and 1.4 3s in his last five games) make him an intriguing source of 3s and blocks down the stretch.
Jason Smith has been playing well, but his fun may be ending soon. Smith has averaged 14.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 0.8 spg and 1.2 bpg in his last six games, but has been helped by absences from Chris Kaman (bronchitis), Gustavo Ayon (personal) and Carl Landry (ankle). Smith still started despite the returns of Kaman and Ayon on Sunday, but finished with a hollow 14 points, two rebounds and no blocks in 28 minutes. I wouldn’t object to adding Smith in hopes that he’s one of the last people standing in the New Orleans frontcourt a week or two from now, but he’s not an especially strong play with just three games this week.
The good news and bad news on Shannon Brown: The good news is that Brown is starting, and producing well in a couple of areas. The bad news is that despite his propensity for explosive dunks, Brown’s overall fantasy potential isn’t all that dynamic. Yes, Phoenix’s starting SF has averaged a strong 18.5 ppg and 2.0 treys in his last four, but has accompanied it with just 3.3 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.8 spg and 0.3 bpg during that stretch. It’s a statistical profile that all-too-closely resembles the production of Nick Young, which is nice if you need a boost in scoring and 3s, but needs to be weighed carefully with the rest of your roster, as Brown’s lack of versatility (especially in rebounds and assists) is a liability.
And if you’re desperate for 3s and steals with a somewhat decimated waiver wire, this is the last-best week to consider using Gerald Green. Why now? Because the Nets play four games this week before just three games in each of the two weeks that follow, and Green has posted 15.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.2 spg and 2.0 3s in his last four games. The backup swingman is coming off a somewhat disappointing line on Saturday (six points, seven rebounds, two steals, no 3s in 22 minutes), but should have plenty of motivation (and quite possibly some garbage time) to put up stats against the team that waived him in training camp, the Lakers, on Tuesday night.
Other Random Thoughts: I know Greg Stiemsma is good for defensive stats (1.3 spg, 2.6 bpg in his last nine games), but beware that the hit you’ll take in points and rebounds (4.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg in his last nine games) probably outweighs the benefits … J.J. Hickson’s 29 and 13 in LaMarcus Aldridge’s absence on Friday was a mirage, but he has still posted a solid 16.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 1.0 bpg in his last three games playing alongside Aldridge.