Eric Gordon isn’t happy in the Big Easy, but he was an awesome wire grab.
After taking a one-week hiatus from our NBA coverage, we are back with our choices for the Fantasy basketball waiver wire picks of the season. If you were wise enough to heed our advice and pluck some of these dudes off the wire when we recommended them (and they were available in at least half of all Fantasy leagues), chances are, you did quite well for yourself this season. So while you bask in the dramatic win the Golden State Warriors achieved Friday night to grab the series lead over the Denver Nuggets, it’s time to unveil the 2013-13 Wire Troll All-Star Team.
Date in parentheses is first column of the season in which we recommended each player.
Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings (February 9): Early in the season, Aaron Brooks was winning this position battle and then the Kings finally figured out their best chance was having Thomas run the offense. For some reason, Sacramento seemed to really have a tough time wrapping its head around the idea that Thomas was a core piece of the team’s future. Then again, there’s a reason the Kings have floundered to seven straight losing seasons. Thomas got off to a sluggish start this season, but averaged over 17 points with 5.4 dimes and 2.1 treys per game after the break. In his second season, he got more touches, and while he didn’t shoot quite as well as his rookie effort, his gains in other areas were enough to ensure it was a season of modest development. Thomas’ size (5′9″) is always going to make some people doubt his defensive ability (and hence his future as a starter), but this kid can contribute offensively in a big way. Assuming he’s given 30-to-35 minutes per game, he’s poised to break through next season.
Honourable mention: Nate Robinson, Chicago Bulls (November 24): With Derrick Rose never making it back and Kirk Hinrich struggling with injuries, it was Robinson who was the sole consistent presence in the Bulls’ backcourt and he enjoyed his best season since he was Knick — especially with his work from downtown.
Eric Gordon, New Orleans Hornets (December 8): Once again, Gordon’s knees affected his ability to stay in the lineup, but he managed to play in 42 games this season after missing all but nine in his first season in The Big Easy. The team was very easy on the fragile star as he was held out of back-to-backs until very late in the season. Obviously the injuries are catching up to him as his play has deteriorated in back-to-back seasons, but as a scoop off the wire, Gordon is still a gem. Playing almost exclusively as a starter, he averaged 17 PPG and while he didn’t score as many points on freebies as we’re accustomed to seeing, he was better from beyond the arc. It’s highly doubtful that Gordon will make the transition from a Hornet to a Pelican given all the trade rumours and the team’s reticence to commit to him, but we don’t think he’d have a problem leaving the team considering he hasn’t been shy about his distaste for Nawlins in the past. In fact, a fresh start might be just what Gordon needs to revitalize his career. Well, good knees wouldn’t hurt, either.
Honourable mention: Kawhi Leonard, SF/SG, San Antonio Spurs (December 22): Injuries cost Leonard a good chunk of his sophomore season, but when he was healthy, he took his balanced game to a new level, sinking more buckets and hoisting up more treys.
Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic (March 2): Getting dealt from Milwaukee to Orlando changed everything for Harris. After barely having a rotation spot for the Bucks he became nearly a full-time starter for the Magic, getting more than three times as much playing time. His shooting from downtown wasn’t as sharp, but he averaged over 17 points with 8.5 boards, 2.1 assists, 1.4 blocks and nearly a steal per game in the Magic Kingdom. Harris just keeps rising in the rankings and by the end of the season this 20-year-old was a top 60 player. Orlando tanked its season, but sure started the rebuilding process in fine fashion with the J.J. Redick trade. You think the Bucks might be having a littler seller’s remorse here as they struggle to find consistent frontcourt scoring in their series against Miami?
Honourable mention: Gerald Henderson, SG/SF, Charlotte Bobcats (February 9): Henderson just keeps getting better and he’s now become a key cog in the Bobcat building program. He enjoyed a solid campaign, especially once he overcame an early-season injury, and he started flashing a better outside touch.
Nikola Vucevic, PF/C, Orlando Magic (November 10): Vucevic missed some time in March with a concussion, but otherwise was freaking brilliant and arguably the waiver wire choice of the season — especially given how early he was identified as someone to grab. Was he the most improved player in the NBA this season? You be the judge: After making just 15 starts as a rookie for the Sixers, Vucevic became a full-time starter this season and shot way better (51.9 per cent vs. 45), improved from the line (68.3 per cent compared to 52.9), massively improved his rebounding (11.9 from 4.8), upped his blocks (from 0.7 to 1.0) and more than doubled his scoring (from 5.5 to 13.1). His sophomore season was way better than anyone could have anticipated. There’s talk Orlando would listen to offers for him, but why would it part with this budding big man unless it got an ever bigger star in return?
Honourable mention: Tristan Thompson, PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers (November 3): The fourth overall pick from 2011 just missed averaging a double-double in his second season. He became a full-time starter, stayed completely healthy and did a better job of getting to the charity stripe. It will be interesting to see if Thompson can continue to develop under a new coach after the Cavs axed Byron Scott.
Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers (December 8): We recommended Hawes a couple of times before owners finally clued in that he was a must-own asset. Certainly, the fact that Andrew Bynum missed the entire season opened the door for Hawes, but give him credit for taking advantage as he enjoyed a career season, really turning it on after the break (12.5 points, 8.5 boards, 1.5 blocks, 3.0 assists per game). After dealing with an Achilles’ issue last season, he stayed healthy, got to start more often and enjoyed his best season from the line. Hawes is signed through next season and while his role may be diminished depending on Bynum’s health, he proved he can excel when handled correctly.
J.J. Hickson, PF/C, Portland Trail Blazers (November 3): Despite playing as an undersized five (with superstar LaMarcus Aldridge manning the four in Portland), Hickson had a career season, staying healthy, becoming a full-time starter and really shining on the glass. The UFA is unlikely to return to the Blazers, but he’s proved he’s a must-own Fantasy centre this season.