Fantasy basketball specialists who can save your drafts

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Sometimes, you just need a guy.

Everyone’s got one. A specialist. The guy you call when you have something that needs fixing. The guy who puts your household back in balance.

In the Cregan household, our guy is Tyler.

Pipe that’s sweating? Dog door hanging by a thread? Christmas lights required for high-wire festooning? For the Current Mrs. Cregan, Tyler is just a text away.

(Of course, the fact that Tyler is a 24-year-old strapping 6-foot-2 Gen Z Superman who looks like he was forged via advanced genetic cross-stitching of John Mayer, Gardner Minshew and a hacky sack doesn’t hurt. But enough about my wife’s fantasy life. Let’s talk about yours.)

So you’re in the middle of a draft. Assembling your fake franchise.

Your statistical portfolio is taking shape. You’re feeling bullish. But something’s just a little out of whack. Maybe your steals could use a little boost. Or your free throw percentage is bordering on near-puntable.

Sometimes, you just need a guy. A specialist. Someone to come in and spackle over a category or two. A guy who can fix one or two analytic divots without creating any new ones. A guy who can restore balance.

It’s good to keep a list of them before you embark on your draft or when you’re ready to pull off a post-draft trade.

Let me be your guy. Here’s a little list to keep in your back pocket.

Points

Buddy Hield, SG, Sacramento Kings

Chasing points is a slippery slope. It’s the eternal go-to move for fantasy newbies. I prefer to ignore points altogether. If I’m doing my job right, the points just tend to arrive.

But if you’re in the middle rounds, and you could use some a little scoring punch … Hield is an excellent solution. Hield will add 20-plus points per game to your output. But he’ll also pitch in two other categories: 3s and free throw percentage.

Meanwhile, Hield doesn’t hurt you anywhere. The steals (about one per game) are replacement level. The field goal percentage (44.7% in 2018-19) runs a little low, but Hield’s true shooting percentage is solid, thanks to a high 3-point clip (42.7 3FG% in 2018-19).

Other points specialists: DeMar DeRozan, CJ McCollum, Lou Williams, Brandon Ingram, Collin Sexton, Bogdan Bogdanovic

Blocks

Myles Turner, C, Indiana Pacers

Building blocks at a balanced cadence is tough. It’s a stat that tends to be distributed with a high degree of bipolarity. The good news: Employing one specialist can really lock down the category.

Turner established himself as an elite shot-alterer last season. His blocks per game jumped to a career high 2.7. And that was despite being locked in a semi-timeshare with Domantas Sabonis.

Better yet, Turner has some added secret sauce.

Why was last season’s field goal percentage (48.7%) so decidedly average for a big? Answer: Turner was killing it from deep. He pushed his 3-point percentage to a career-best 38.8%. If Turner can get his 3-point attempts above 3.0 per game, he’ll threaten 1.5 3s a night.

The added 3s should result in more minutes … which will lead to more blocks. Synergy!

Other blocks specialists: Mitchell Robinson, Jarrett Allen, JaVale McGee

Steals

Robert Covington, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

Covington is more than a mere specialist. He’s a statistical Swiss army knife. Does a little of everything. And a lot of two things: steals and 3s.

Covington is a top-three steals guy. A top-five 3s guy. But Covington is also one of the most underrated players in Fantasyland. Available in 11th rounds everywhere. Why? Covington was barely ambulatory in 2018-19. Logged only 35 games. But he’s healthy, hale and penciled in as Minnesota’s starting 4.

Pardon my roto drool, but Covington getting 30-plus MPG as a stretch-4 is gonna be dinner. Towns will carve all kinds of inside-outside space for Covington on offense. Beyond the 3s and steals (and decent blocks) … look out for the rebounds. Covington could push 8.0 RPG manning the post with KAT.

Other steals specialists: Ricky Rubio, PJ Tucker, Marcus Smart, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Assists

Jeff Teague, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

In some drafts this season, I’ve tried a new tack with assists. I’ve rostered non-PGs who get me out-of-position assists early. Then leaned toward point guards late.

I can do this because Teague’s ADP is 104.8.

I can go about my business. Greedily stock upside across other positions. All while knowing Teague’s 7.5 dimes will be there in the late 10th round.

Until last season, Teague was as reliable as they come. You rostered Teague and inked in 15 points, a 3, 1.5 steals and 7-plus assists. Nothing flashy, but in a scarce category like assists, Teague was a nice guy to have around.

Like Covington, Teague was hurt last season. He played only 42 games. It’s driven down his ADP. But Teague is healthy now and starting. Better yet, Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones are gone. And while I like Shabazz Napier, Teague’s role as unquestioned starter is locked in.

And if you’re still worried about Teague missing time, remember the two magic words: contract year.

Other assists specialists: Tomas Satoransky, Elfrid Payton, Joe Ingles, Derrick White, Ish Smith

Rebounds

Hassan Whiteside, C, Portland Trail Blazers

In olden times, blocks and boards tended to go together. You could lock down both categories in tandem with a healthy diet of double-double bigs in the later rounds. But as many bigs have looked to expand their shooting range, rebounds have become less reliable. Distribution within the category is weighted differently.

Nowadays, rebounding distribution is starting to look more like blocks. You have a few star Super-producers (Drummond, Embiid, Towns, Gobert) who dominate the category. If you miss out on them? To rule rebounds? You’re going to have to get a little creative.

But you know who puts you right in the conversation with Drummond, Embiid, Towns and Gobert? Whiteside.

He’s not going to get you insane blocks. He might salt your imaginary locker room with some questionable chemistry. But he’s in line for big minutes, 12.0 boards and 2.0 blocks.

Now, the Nurkic question. What happens when Nurkic returns? The answer: No one knows. Going by his quotes, GM Neil Olshey certainly doesn’t know. But a reasonable baseline expectation would be for Nurkic to return around All-Star weekend, then gradually work his way back into the starting lineup. But there’s every chance Whiteside starts playing like it’s 2016, Portland surges, and Nurkic comes off the bench until March.

Either way? In roto leagues, Whiteside will have already given your team a healthy boost on the glass.

Other rebound specialists: Domantas Sabonis, Steven Adams, Bam Adebayo

3-pointers

Eric Gordon, SG, Houston Rockets

There’s been a lot of preseason palaver on the Harden-Westbrook pairing. A lot of who’s-gonna-play-with-whom and who-does-what chatter. Gordon could start at SF. He could come off the bench. Lost in the shuffle: Eric Gordon is going to get 30 MPG in a Mike D’Antoni offense. Gordon is going to can 3.0 3s per game.

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