Fratello’s Fantasy Pick

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty ImagesAs the 2013-2014 NBA season winds down, many teams are scrambling to make the postseason or to improve their playoff seeding. The 42-28 Memphis Grizzlies, currently slotted 7th in the uber-competitive Western Conference, are among a handful of teams who are battling on the bubble.

With just a dozen 48’s left to play, the Griz will rely on their starters and core unit now more than ever. So adding sixth-year C Marc Gasol to your fantasy squad down the backstretch is a savvy move.

The 29-year-old bigger little brother of LAL’s Pau Gasol was the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year. He scores, boards and blocks shots. And he gets almost 4 dimes a contest, impressive for a 7’1” big.

For the season, the Barcelona native is averaging 13.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 1.4 bpg. However, during the month of March Gasol has averaged 14.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg and 1.8 bpg. Throw in nearly 1 steal a night, and Gasol can fill up a stat sheet left to right.

The 2008 Spanish League MVP has season highs of 23 points (2X), 12 boards (2X), 9 assists, 4 blocks (6X) and 3 steals (6X). He shoots 80% from the charity stripe, which is rare for a legit 7-footer.

Gasol should have plenty in the tank after missing 23 games with a left knee issue earlier in the year. He’s a seasoned veteran with loads of playoff experience and can be counted on to put up solid numbers against any team or defensive scheme.

So for Fantasy GMs looking to finish out the schedule strong, Gasol is the right player in the right situation.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick

Utah Jazz v Denver NuggetsWhen the Utah Jazz selected 6’8” Gordon Hayward ninth overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, they were expecting a solid player with a high hoops IQ who could score, board and dish. But they probably didn’t anticipate that the 23-year-old would become their squad’s leader in his fourth pro season.

The Indiana native spent two years at Butler University under coach Brad Stevens. In his sophomore season Hayward was named the West Region’s MVP in the NCAA Tournament. He led the Bulldogs to the national championship game, where he missed a game-winning, buzzer-beating, half-court shot that bounced off the rim and backboard.

The Jazz, at 19-33, have endured a tough schedule in the brutal Western Conference. Hayward has competed in 47 of Utah’s 52 contests thus far and leads his team in scoring and floor time with 16.3 ppg and 36.3 mpg. He also averages 5.6 rpg, 5 apg and 1.4 spg. And Hayward has season highs of 13 rebounds, 12 assists, 4 blocks and 4 steals.

Hayward is a career 82% from the charity stripe, and his scoring numbers have improved in each of his seasons with the Jazz. Hayward scored a career-high 37 points in a win against the mighty OKC Thunder on January 7th. He added 11 boards, 7 dimes and 2 steals in the upset.

Utah is having a down year with little or no chance of making the playoffs. Hayward’s name has been brought up in trade rumors recently. If he is dealt to a new team, the change of environment could add to his production. If he remains in Salt Lake, he’ll be putting up chunky numbers to show Jazz executives that he’s a max-level player in this off-season.

Either way, Hayward would be a solid pick-up for any fantasy GM trying to bolster his roster with approximately 40% of the regular season remaining.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick

Golden State Warriors v Oklahoma City ThunderWhen 3X NBA All-Star Russell Westbrook put up a triple-double in a Christmas day thrashing of the Knicks at MSG, Oklahoma City fans surely thought their super-athletic ringleader was close to 100% after two off-season right knee surgeries.

However, just two days later it was announced that Westbrook had arthroscopic surgery on that same knee and would be sidelined until the All-Star break.

Into this lead-guard void stepped 6’3”, third-year PG Reggie Jackson.

The Boston College product had performed admirably in the 2013 Playoffs after Westbrook was injured. 23-year-old Jackson played in all 11 postseason contests and started 9 of them. In those 11 games, he averaged 13.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg and 3.6 apg while shooting 48% from the field and an impressive 90% from the line.

So far in the 2013-14 campaign, Jackson has played in all 43 games and started all 18 since Westbrook’s most recent surgery.

Forced into a very difficult role in the PG-heavy Western Conference, Jackson has made great strides, and his game has matured. “Mr. OKCtober” appears very comfortable at the helm, understanding there are nights when he needs to distribute the ball and nights when he needs to pick up the scoring slack.

In the month of January, Jackson has averaged 16.1 ppg, 4.6 apg, 3.7 rpg and 1.7 spg in 32.7 mpg. He has season highs of 27 points (2X), 8 dimes (2X), 7 boards (4X) and 6 steals.

OKC’s Reggie Jackson might not be the straw that stirs the Thunder’s drink like the former NY Yankee, but he is a valuable asset on a championship-driven squad. Jackson has earned Coach Scott Brooks’ confidence, and he will continue to build on the experience he’s gained and the assurance he’s developed. So even after Jackson is relegated back to the pine once Westbrook returns, look for this up-and-comer to continue to get 25-30 minutes of action a night.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles LakersThe storied, ring-heavy Los Angeles Lakers are not accustomed to losing. And they don’t plan on getting used to it. After 34 contests and a slew of key injuries, the 14-20 Lake Show has been searching for players to come in and add a spark to the struggling squad.

With guards Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake all on the shelf with various ailments, GM Mitch Kupchak and coach Mike D’Antoni have been on the lookout for backcourt help.

On December 20th, they signed second-year PG Kendall Marshall. The 6’4” southpaw has played in six games for LA thus far and started two.

This past Friday, in a win at home against Utah, the former Tar Heel went for 20 points, 15 dimes, 6 boards and only a single TO in 41 minutes. Marshall followed up this stat-filled performance on Sunday in a loss at Staples versus Denver with 9 points, 17 assists, 6 boards and 2 steals in 39 minutes of action.

The Virginia native was selected 13th overall in the 2012 Draft after spending just two seasons in Chapel Hill, where he set Carolina’s single-season assist record as well as the ACC’s single-season assist mark.

The 2012 Bob Cousy Award winner and 3rd Team All-American played alongside future NBA ballers Harrsion Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Reggie Bullock while in college.

In his bumpy rookie year with Phoenix, Marshall averaged only 3 points and 3 assists in 14.6 mpg. He spent significant time with the Suns’ D-League affiliate before being traded to and then released by the Wizards.

Up until this past week or so, Marshall’s adjustment to the pro game hindered his ability to stay on the court and produce any sort of Fantasy numbers. However, Fantasy GMs looking to add a 1-guard to their rosters should acquire Marshall sooner rather than later as his current situation with the Purple & Gold seems tailor-made for juicy stat lines.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe 18-9 Los Angeles Clippers are enjoying a 3-game winning streak after beating the Pelicans at home on Wednesday 95 – 108. A big part of the Clippers’  success this season, as well as the past few years, is 25-year-old, 6’11” center DeAndre Jordan, who had 14 points and 20 rebounds against New Orleans.

Now in his sixth professional season, the Houston native was selected in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Clips. Jordan came into the league possessing great athleticism, but needed to refine his game. To his credit, the young man has shown steady improvement each year at both ends of the floor. As a result of all his hard work, Jordan has turned himself into one of the upper-tier centers in the NBA.

Jordan is second on the team in minutes with 35 mpg, behind only Blake Griffin’s 36.4 mpg, and he’s played in and started all 27 Clipper contests so far this year.  In fact, over the past two seasons LAC’s high-energy spark plug hasn’t missed a single game, including the regular season and playoffs.

The one-time Texas A&M Aggie is averaging 9.9 ppg, 13 rpg, 1 spg and 2.2 bpg while shooting 65% from the field, a significant improvement over his career averages of 6.9 ppg, 7 rpg and 1.5 bpg. Jordan has season highs of 17 points (2X), 21 boards, 9 blocks and 3 steals (2X). In addition, for a player so focused on defense, it’s impressive that #6 has yet to foul out of a game this year.

Jordan would be a great holiday pickup for any fantasy GM. Throw in the fact that the Clippers play six games over the next ten days, and a DeAndre addition looks to be even more impactful than a team of amateur reindeer on a rickety rooftop. Even if your Fantasy team is loaded with bigs, Jordan is a player in the midst of a statistical breakthrough. So grab this holiday bargain before his price tag blows up!