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Wired: Hot Pickups for Week 23

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Matt Stroup breaks down a late-season run from Jonas Valanciunas along with some other trends in this …

This past week was loaded with bad news and Wednesday was the worst part of it. Only one movie comes to mind as a comparison: The Empire Strikes Back. Goran Dragic got his hand cut off by Lindsey Hunter, Ty Lawson was frozen in carbonite and Brandon Jennings was dismantled in Chewbacca’s backpack with his head on backwards.

Hopefully, your team was able to survive in head-to-head playoffs and your opponent has worse luck than you did. There were a few other injuries that took place over the weekend, but none of them were of the magnitude of Ty Lawson. This could mean a few reliable players might be dicey plays due to their injuries and if they have three games, it might be enough to pick up someone with four games.

Now that we’re down the homestretch, the schedule is more important than ever -- especially in daily leagues with matchup acquisitions. It’s all about getting more games than your opponent, so today or tomorrow, you might want to try and figure out when you’re going to use your moves. Obviously, things probably won’t go as planned, but it’s still a good idea and you can say “I love it when a plan comes together” should it actually work out. As you see, there are 18 teams with four games, 12 teams with three games, and no outliers:

Three games - Nets, Nuggets, Warriors, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Heat, Hornets, Thunder, 76ers, Suns, Kings

Four games- Hawks, Celtics, Bobcats, Bulls, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Pistons, Rockets, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Bucks, Knicks, Magic, Blazers, Spurs, Raptors, Jazz, Wizards

In the following week, Week 24 (beginning April 9th) there are 10 teams with four games, 16 teams with three games, and four teams with just two games -- the Hawks, Pistons, Magic and Jazz. Presumably all head-to-head leagues will be over before the final meaningless half-week of the season (but just in case, every team plays twice with the exception of the Lakers and Hornets, who each play once). The Wednesday finale has every team playing, which should be a lot of fun to cover in the blurbs.

Back-to-back sets

As eluded to earlier, players that are on back-to-back sets are valuable in acquisition-limit leagues. If you can pick up a guy that’s on a back-to-back on Tuesday-Wednesday, then cut him for a different player that’s on one Thursday-Friday, you’re going to get four games with only two moves.

Monday-Tuesday

There were no Monday-Tuesday back-to-backs last week and there won’t be another for the rest of the season.

Tuesday-Wednesday

Knicks and Wizards- Kenyon Martin, Garrett Temple and Trevor Ariza come to mind here.

Wednesday-Thursday

Spurs, Nuggets and Nets- Andre Miller, Corey Brewer, JaVale McGee and Wilson Chandler are guys to think about. The Nets tempo is too slow and the Spurs are too hard to predict when it comes to waiver wire. Although, Tiago Splitter will probably be very good since Tim Duncan might sit out in one of those games. We’ll also have to see how Gary Neal fares on Sunday and Monday sans Manu Ginobili.

Thursday-Friday

Thunder, Mavericks and Bulls- Brandan Wright is coming on, but the Bulls are a mess with so many players up in the air due to injuries.

Friday-Saturday

Heat, Hawks, Bucks, Raptors, Sixers and Pacers- There are lots of games and you should have a good idea which categories you’ll be battling for. If you can predict where you’ll need help, try to address it with a pickup here.

Saturday-Sunday

Wizards and Pistons- The Pistons are pretty bad, but they’re going to be very helpful to end your week.

Three off days in a row

Pacers (Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday), Clippers (Thursday, Friday, Saturday)- Having three days off in a row stinks and middle-of-the-road guys like Matt Barnes and Lance Stephenson may be worth dropping just before their mini vacation.

You can follow me on Twitter for some favorable matchups and other useful stats @MikeSGallagher.

Let’s get to the pickups:


Guards

Kyrie Irving (4)- The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Kyrie Irving could return to the lineup “sooner rather than later” on Saturday and today the News-Herald said he has a “slight chance” to play Sunday. He’s working hard in practice and he seems like a very good bet to return at some point this week. If you’re in a weekly league or a league with no acquisition limits, you absolutely have to pick him up. Other leagues will depend on your risk management. I wouldn’t expect him to kill it right off the bat, but he should have his game set to stun.


Update: Kyrie is playing Sunday. Go get him.

Martell Webster (4)- His abdominal injury was expected to keep him down for a handful of games, but he returned on Saturday and logged an eye-catching 39 minutes and scored 19 points. He is locked in to his role of hitting about two triples per game, scoring in the mid-teens and is ranked 11th in the league for free throw percentage. He’s a must-own player for leagues that count treys.

Beno Udrih (4)- He can’t shoot worth a lick right now and made just 29.4 percent of his attempts in his last four games. On the other hand, Beno’s value surged on Saturday night with a massive line of 20 points, seven boards, eight assists one steal and two 3-pointers. He has four games this week and needs to be owned.

Evan Turner (3)- I’m probably going to regret putting him in here. Although, Turner hasn’t been burning his owners these days. In his last three games, the Buckeye shot 54.8 percent from the field while averaging 19.7 points, 9.0 boards, 3.7 assists and 1.3 triples. Yes, it’s a small sample size and he only shot above 50 percent just once in his 10 games prior to this output, but he’s taking much better shots and it’s not just luck. He only gets three games this week, so his value lies more in next week’s four-gamer.

Jodie Meeks (3)- He’s been launching triples a ton and in his last four games, he’s made seven of his 25 attempts. In the three contests without Metta World Peace, Meeks played 37.3 minutes per game and added 1.7 steals, too. The Lakers don’t have a great schedule the rest of the way, but Meeks should be in double-digit scoring with a combined 3.5 triples and steals per game.

Devin Harris (4)- He returned from his foot injury on Saturday and was impressive with a line of 17 points, four boards, six assists, one steal and two 3-pointers, matching his jersey number with 34 minutes in the win. This guy was expected to be a big-time performer with the Lou Williams ACL tear back in January, but injuries have kept him in check. Harris has all sorts of upside with his proficiency in points, assists, steals and threes, so he’s well worth a look with four games. There’s always the risk of another injury, though.

E’Twaun Moore (4)- Moore let down a lot of people on Saturday. He scored just four points in 17 minutes. The Magic went with a bigger lineup, putting Tobias Harris at small forward and Moe Harkless at shooting guard on Saturday against the Hawks. Their offense was stagnant and Jacque Vaughn might not go that route again. Moore has skills on offense and I wouldn’t cut bait, especially with four games this week.

Garrett Temple (4)- There’s a good chance that Bradley Beal could miss more time and Temple has been the main understudy at shooting guard. He’s logged a whopping 36.6 minutes per game and his 1.7 steals and 1.2 triples in that have helped him accumulate mid-round value in standard leagues in that span. His production might take a hit now that Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster are both back on the court, but he should be owned in deep leagues for his four-game schedule.

Damien Wilkins (3)- It’s a surprise to see a guy that was out of the rotation for the 2012 portion of this season come on and score 15.7 points per game in his last six games. He’s kind of a DeMar DeRozan guy because he doesn’t really fill up the stat sheet outside of points, so he’s not really someone I would want to count on with a three-game week.

Gary Neal (4)- Manu Ginobili going down opened things up for Neal and the Towson product took 10 shots, making three of them for eight points on Friday. He’s only really for people that need threes and anyone considering him should take a wait-and-see approach to see how he fares tonight vs. Miami.

Forwards

Brandon Bass- (4) Kevin Garnett is out again on Sunday and his return is not yet in sight. Bass has been great in the last four games without KG in two particular areas: blocks and field goal percentage. The LSU product blocked 2.3 shots and shot 63.6 percent from the field in that span. He also had a 22-point outburst on Wednesday and there’s really no competition behind him. Bass is also shockingly ranked 12th in the league in free throw shooting with a sterling 86.2 percent.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (4)- He was bad in February. We’re talking really, really bad. The rookie shot 31.0 percent in that month, but things are looking up for him lately. In his last two games, MKG made 68.1 percent of his 22 shots and scored 17.5 points in 32.5 minutes. The sample size isn’t exactly something that will make you stop what you’re doing to pick him up, but he did shoot 49 percent in the month of March. His blocks are starting to come on as well and he’s worth a look with his four games.

Josh McRoberts (4)- Byron Mullens is down with a sore left ankle and missed the last two games. This is the same ankle that cost him five weeks of the season back in December and January. McBob played 41 minutes against the Sixers on Saturday and scored 15 points. His upside has dropped a little since he’s made just one 3-pointer in the past 30 days and he’s not much of a shot blocker.

Markieff Morris (3)- He turned some heads against Pacers on Saturday night with a line of 18 points, four boards, two assists, one block and two steals in 32 minutes. If not for foul trouble on Thursday, Morris would have played at least 32 minutes in each of his last four games. Lindsey Hunter has played the part of George Patton and the Suns are in tank mode, which means they’re going to want to get a long look at Morris. He only has three games this week, which suggests he won’t be in weekly lineups with so many teams having four games.

Shawn Marion (4)- Rick Carlisle likes him and what’s not to like? He plays great perimeter defense and can stretch the floor with his effectively ugly jumper. In his last five, Marion averaged 9.6 points, 7.0 boards, 0.8 blocks and 1.6 steals on 54.1 percent shooting. The Mavericks have won four of their last five -- all against playoff teams -- and Marion returning to the lineup for those games is a big reason why.

Trevor Ariza (4)- He returned from the flu on Saturday and received 25 minutes. His line wasn’t a good one with five points, seven boards, two assists, one steal and one 3-pointer, but he was playing well before his illness cost him three games and can fill up steals and treys. Garrett Temple playing well could suggest this is a timeshare, so anyone that cut Ariza shouldn’t have the same expectations as they did prior to his illness.

Greg Smith (4)- The Rockets are considering starting him and he does have an 18-point, 19-board game on his resume thanks to Wednesday’s monster performance vs. Indiana. Smith isn’t much of a shot blocker and isn’t effective from the free throw line, so his upside isn’t something worth hitching your wagon to unless you need boards and points. He does have four games this week to help owners that are in a mega bind.

Centers

Nikola Vucevic (4)- He returned on Saturday from a concussion, played 39 minutes and has a four-game week. No analysis required here, folks.

Jonas Valanciunas (4)- It took a while, but JV is finally hitting his stride. He’s scored in double figures for seven straight games and shot an outstanding 73.7 percent from the field. Valanciunas is coming off a 13-board, four-block game and he’s played in at least 30 minutes in each of his last five games too. The four-game week makes him a very strong pickup in all leagues.

Andre Drummond (4) He returned in emphatic fashion on Friday against the Raptors. Drummond shot 8-of-10 from the field for 17 points with two blocks and two steals in just 19 minutes. Of course, he did shoot 1-of-4 from the line. The steals are nothing new for Drummond and his 1.0 per game in just 19.7 MPG is very impressive. Most signs point to the Pistons letting him loose and should be owned by every owner that an take a hit in FT%.

Brandan Wright (4)- This Brandan Wright write-up right now is going to be interesting, right? Heterographs aside, he logged his first double-double of the season in Saturday’s big comeback win with 13 points and 10 boards in just 23 minutes. B-Dub is getting more playing time with 25.8 minutes per game over his last five, too. The Mavericks have an outstanding schedule this week with four plus matchups (LAL, DEN, SAC and POR) and three of those four teams like to attack the basket, so the Mavs will need Wright. He’s a sneaky play this week.

Meyers Leonard (4)- LaMarcus Aldridge missed Saturday’s game with a sprained ankle and didn’t travel with the team to Utah for Monday’s tilt. Although, Terry Stotts said he could join the team for the game. LMA should be viewed as closer to doubtful than probable, which makes Leonard an interesting pickup.

Greg Stiemsma (4)- Nikola Pekovic was a late scratch with a sprained left ankle. The good news for Pek is that at least it isn’t to the right foot that was surgically repaired last offseason and has caused him problems. The Wolves leaned heavily on Stiemsma on Saturday, playing a career-high 40 minutes. He also gets to host his old team when Boston comes to town on Monday. This is more of a daily league add here.

Jermaine O’Neal (3)- He returned from a calf injury on Saturday and played just 18 minutes. JO can’t stay healthy and with the youth movement going on in the Valley of the Sun, expecting more than 26 minutes per game is a bit lofty. The three games also don’t help his case. What is he even doing in this column?

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