By Vidur Malik
The Golden State Warriors don’t usually make much noise on the national scene, and for the most part, that hasn’t changed this season.
Their main storylines going into this season were the transition to first-year coach Mark Jackson and their inability to land marquee free agents.
Even though the Warriors may not have signed Tyson Chandler, Chris Paul or DeAndre Jordan, a few of their new players could end up having a fantasy impact. Kwame Brown and Brandon Rush are two Warrior sleepers who are worth considering.
Brown may never shake off his status as a bust after being picked No. 1 overall in the 2001 draft, but he has the chance to be a key member of a Golden State team that is trying to establish a defensive identity. At 6-foot-11 and 270 lbs., he brings much needed size to the Warriors and can be a presence down low. He grabbed 10 rebounds in only 12 minutes in the Warriors’ 92-78 win over the Knicks on Wednesday, and his numbers should improve as he gets more comfortable with Jackson’s defense. Brown should also block a good amount of shots this season, so he can help your fantasy team in that category. Brown has bounced around several teams in his career, but if he can become the defensive anchor the Warriors need, he might have a home in the Bay Area.
While Brown has the potential to boost the Warriors’ frontcourt defense, Rush can do the same on the wing. Rush has become an all-around threat in his first three games with Golden State, averaging 12 points, four rebounds and two blocks per game. At 6-foot-6 and 225 lbs., he should be able to outmuscle smaller players on offense and play strong defense throughout the season. He also brings offensive production, so look for him to be a solid bench player you can promote to the starting lineup if need be.
If the Warriors do play stout defense this season, expect Brown and Rush to be major contributors. They may not have been the most sought after players in the offseason, but you can use that to your advantage and add them to your team while they fly under your opponents’ radars.
By Vidur Malik
As the playoff time begins, it’s important to solidify your backups in case your starters get some late-season rest. This will probably be the case for those of you who have Frank Gore on your team, as he hasn’t been at full-strength for a while.
Fortunately, his backup Kendall Hunter should provide some production, and you should consider picking him up. The Niners already locked up the NFC West and are now playing for playoff seeding, so even though their games are still meaningful, Gore doesn’t necessarily need to have big days these last few weeks. He’s been the team’s workhorse for several seasons now, but Hunter showed he is a capable runner himself this season.
Hunter’s stats aren’t impressive (82 carries for 322 yards and two touchdowns), but he has made the most of his chances during his rookie season, and when Gore was struggling early this year, there was even talk of Hunter cutting into Gore’s carries. Gore ultimately proved he could handle a starter’s workload, but Hunter has still gotten consistent reps and has caught 11 passes for 149 yards, demonstrating that he can use his quickness as a receiver as well.
Hunter has probably not made many headlines on the national scene, but you should capitalize on that and pick him up if he is available in your league. Chances are Gore will not receive 20 carries a game, and any reps he doesn’t get should go to Hunter. He’s solidified himself as the No. 2 running back in San Francisco, and his value should be at its peak now that the 49er starters could rest in preparation for the playoffs.
One of the most challenging aspects of the fantasy playoffs is figuring out which starters to bench. If Gore is on your team, read up on his updates and pick up Hunter as insurance. If Gore looks like he’ll play, you’ve still got one of the league’s best on your team. If he doesn’t play, you’ll put yourself in the best position to get points he would normally pick up by starting Hunter.
By Vidur Malik
After the 2009 season, we highly recommended Vikings receiver Percy Harvin for you to pick up in the 2010 fantasy draft.
He followed up his rookie season with another great year in 2010, and he has really emerged as one of the NFL’s most dangerous playmakers this season. Those of you that have him on your team have been reaping the rewards as of late. After not getting in the end zone through the air for the first 10 weeks of the season, Harvin has caught four touchdowns in the past three weeks, including two in the Vikings’ 35-32 loss to the Broncos on Sunday. Harvin had his best receiving stats of the year in that game, catching eight passes for 156 yards. He has clearly become a favorite target for rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. Harvin has caught at least six passes in the last four games, and has a touchdown in the last three. He’s at 59 catches for 710 yards and four touchdowns for the year, and going off of his recent production, he should end this season with career-high totals in all those categories.
Combine his receiving skills with his kick return abilities, and you’ve got yourself an elite scoring threat. He’s run back one kick return for a touchdown this season, and got his name in the record books with a 104-yard run in week 12, which is the longest non-scoring play in NFL history. He also has a rushing touchdown this season, so he can really impact a game in many ways.
There are quite a few playmakers in the NFL who can score at any time in one particular situation. Whether it’s a deep-threat receiver or a kick returner who can take it the distance at any time, these types of players are pretty common. The player who has all these qualities, however, is rare. Consider Harvin in that class. After three years of playmaking as a receiver and kick returner, it’s time to put Harvin in that elite group of guys who must be accounted for by both defenses and special teams. Darren Sproles is probably the only other player who fits this mold, but other than him, there really isn’t anyone else who can put up solid offensive numbers while also returning kicks with the best of them.
If you didn’t draft Harvin this season, make sure to get him next year and for many years to come. You won’t regret it.