Playing Time = Upside
Fantasy owners are, or at least should be, constantly on the lookout for players with elusive 'upside', particularly guys whose value is only limited by a lack of playing time. The following is a list of players with solid per-36-minute fantasy value during the 2012-13 season, but who only average between 15-30 minutes per game. I'm only listing players' nine-cat values, because otherwise this column would get unwieldy, so use it as a reference for your specific formats. Each player's name in this section is followed by a summary of their nine-cat rank per 36 minutes, and their current playing time.
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Hedo Turkoglu (No. 5, 16.7 minutes) stands out atop the rankings, but he played in only one game so the sample is virtually meaningless.
Jason Kidd (No. 13, 28.3) has been an under-the-radar source of elite fantasy value for years and years, and he's not disappointing this season. I drafted him in a few leagues this year and invariably received scoffs on the message board, but if you can look past his muted scoring he's simply filling up the stat sheet.
Eric Bledsoe (No. 17, 18.6) has been phenomenal off L.A.'s bench this year and he's even been worth owning in 10-team leagues, despite his limited minutes. If Vinny Del Negro ever turns him loose, patient fantasy owners could find themselves with a bona fide stud.
Lou Williams (No. 25, 25.3) seems stuck in his 25-minute role off the Hawks' bench, unfortunately, but he's heating up from the field and has been worth owning in 12-team formats for the past few weeks. There are a few more high-ranking bench players in a similar situation, such as Kevin Martin (No. 29, 29.5), Manu Ginobili (No. 39, 25.0) and Jamal Crawford (No. 50, 29.6).
Jermaine O'Neal (No. 37, 17.6) seems physically incapable of playing more than 20 minutes on a nightly basis, so there's not much upside here.
Andray Blatche (No. 43, 21.4) has been a pleasant surprise this season, returning above-average value at minimal cost for both the Nets and fantasy owners. The return of Brook Lopez, however, ensures that he won't log more than 25 minutes per game off the bench.
Kyle Korver (No. 52, 28.3) is draining 2.6 threes per game this season and has a steady role as a starter for the Hawks -- even without 35 minutes per game, he's worth owning.
Ed Davis (No. 54, 17.2) should already be gone from all waiver wires in light of Andrea Bargnani's torn elbow ligament, and Davis' subsequent huge game on Wednesday. He was quiet on Friday, but don't let that dissuade you.
DeMarre Carroll (No. 55, 17.8) is a surprise this high on the list, but his fantasy appeal is buoyed by solid steals (1.0) and blocks (0.7) in very limited action.
Brandan Wright (No. 58, 17.8) swats enough shots, and shoots at a high enough percentage, that he'd well worth owning in an expanded role. He's not likely to have one while Chris Kaman is healthy, however, and Dirk Nowitzki's return will further reduce his potential for playing time.
Larry Sanders (No. 59, 23.7) is no surprise on this list, thanks mostly to his shot blocking, and his playing time is on the rise now that he's firmly in Scott Skiles' good graces and starting rotation.
Matt Barnes (No. 62, 25.2) and Corey Brewer (No. 69, 23.3) are in strikingly similar situations, both athletic swingmen who provide nice all-around numbers in 20-25 minutes off the bench. The eventual return of Chauncey Billups and Grant Hills cuts into Barnes' long-term prognosis, while Brewer could be threatened by Wilson Chandler if he ever returns from his hip injury.
C.J. Watson (No. 67, 18.2) is a sneaky presence on this list, and owners should pounce on him if Deron Williams ever goes down with an injury.
Tiago Splitter (No. 80, 19.4) seemingly always goes off when Tim Duncan is rested by the Spurs, but good luck figuring out when the odd DNP-CD will occur. With Duncan playing at an All-Star level and showing no signs of fatigue, there's probably too much risk to bother with Splitter in most formats.
Jose Calderon (No. 88, 27.8) makes for a very nice pre-trade-deadline stash. The Raptors aren't going anywhere this year and may opt to get some value for the veteran rather than keep him while they drift toward an early summer. A starting gig on virtually any team would make Calderon a must-start fantasy option.
Dorell Wright (No. 91, 20.1) is mired in a shooting slump, making just 33 percent of his FGs this season, yet his overall contributions still make him a potential 10-team option if his role were to expand.
Beno Udrih (No. 93, 18.7) would be well worth a pickup if either Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis get injured.
Amir Johnson (No. 109, 20.4) has enough upside for rebounds and blocks that he's worth watching closely now that Andrea Bargnani is out indefinitely.
Marcus Morris (No. 121, 20.0) is a borderline option and could have value if Patrick Patterson continues to slide out of favor with Kevin McHale, but that doesn't seem very likely -- Morris had two points in 17 minutes on Friday.
J.J. Barea (No. 127, 22.1) finished Friday's game with 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and one steal in 23 minutes, a near-perfect articulation of his current value. Unfortunately, his upside is buried beneath solid play of Alexey Shved and the impending return of both Brandon Roy and Ricky Rubio.