Fantasy Basketball: Elfrid Payton Finally Producing

With an extremely thin waiver wire this week, I’ve added a new section with guys who I have mentioned on this page previously, who are still quite relevant, and who are owned in less than 50% of leagues.

*All league ownerships are courtesy of ESPN.com

Elfrid Payton (Orl PG, 29.6% of leagues): Payton was selected 10th in this year’s draft out of Louisiana-Lafayette. The Magic were looking at a young, talented backcourt that also included Victor Oladipo (their 2013 first-round pick) and Evan Fournier. At the beginning of the year, Payton pretty much fell through the cracks as he struggled to gain a solid footing in the starting lineup. His best friend was the injury to Oladipo that allowed Payton to see starter minutes. Even then, Payton only put up double-digit points SIX times through the team’s first 35 games. The team had other scorers in its lineup (Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, and Tobias Harris), but even the assist numbers weren’t too consistent. However, in January, Payton has solidified himself in the Magic’s starting lineup while Fournier has moved to the bench. He still trails the team’s leading scorers, but he’s now up to averaging a little over 10 shots per game while also averaging 6.7 assists in the New Year. The Magic (15-29) aren’t exactly contenders, and have recently changed their style of play allowing for a quicker pace of play. Payton has taken advantage, scoring in double digits in each of the last four games.

Alex Len (Pho C, 16.9% of leagues): Similar to Payton, Len struggled to see starting time at the beginning of the year as he backed up Miles Plumlee. In his rookie campaign, Len struggled to even get on the court as he averaged 8.6 minutes per game and a miniscule 2.0 points. January has been generous to Len as he seen significant minutes at center, including starting all eight of the Suns’ games. He has had more than 8 rebounds in the previous six games. In comparison, Len only averaged 5.4 rebounds in December. Phoenix loves to run small lineups, especially with Isaiah Thomas coming off the bench, so the only other consistent competitor for rebounds will be Markieff Morris. Plumlee has only averaged 13.5 minutes in January, so head coach Jeff Hornacek is confident in Len’s abilities. At 7’1″, Len will be a big presence in the middle against any team and will be a good change of pace from the outside play of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.

Matt Barnes (LAC SF, 11.7% of leagues): At the end of the 2013-14 season, Barnes was putting up surprisingly good numbers considering the presence of stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. He was extremely consistent in March where he averaged 14.5 points and a respectable 5.2 rebounds, not to mention his presence on the arc. This year began as a different story as Barnes competed with Payton for slowest start (TWO double-digit games in the Clippers’ first 17 games). He was still playing a large number of minutes, but just struggling to find his rhythm. However, since the beginning of January, Barnes has begun to reemerge. In three games, he has shot eight or more three-pointers and is making almost half of them. He’s actually really making up for Jamal Crawford’s 27.9% three-point percentage in the last eight games. The rebound numbers will be here and there, but he’s back up to 10.0 points per game on the season and his stock should continue to rise along with the Clippers.

Guys I’ve mentioned previously who are still worth a pickup: Rudy Gobert (Uta C, 37.0% of leagues); Hassan Whiteside (Mia C, 43.4% of leagues); Donatas Motiejunas (Hou PF, 27.7% of leagues); Zaza Pachulia (Mil C, 11.3% of leagues); Eric Gordon (Nor SG, 36.1% of leagues)

Guys I would be ok dropping or trading: Nicolas Batum (trade)(Por SF, 81.2% of leagues); Jamal Crawford (trade)(LAC SG, 78.5% of leagues); Josh Smith (Hou SF/PF, 78.1% of leagues)