NBA FANTASY HOOPS
We’re less than 2 weeks into the NBA season, and already there are several players who are not living up to expectations. You planned carefully for your draft, you projected their production for this season, you watched closely during preseason to ensure they were getting the minutes and usage you anticipated, and you drafted accordingly. So what has gone wrong? I hear you asking yourself the following questions.
- Why did my first round match up make me think I’m going to have a long season?
- Was I wrong about my guy?
- Should I trade him now while I can?
I’m here to tell you to STOP. Take a deep breath. Relax. It’s only been 4 or 5 games. Unless you reached for Reggie Jackson only to find out Westbrook would be out less than a week rather than the 4-6 weeks you were expecting, then nothing has changed.
However, that doesn’t mean you cannot take advantage of others’ panic at this time. Here are a few players you may be able to buy low on if you don’t own them (stop panicking and hold them if you do), and also some you should try to sell high if you own.
Buy Low (or Hold)
Ersan Ilyasova: Ilyasova has been hampered by an ankle issue sustained during training camp. As a result, he missed a lot of preseason action and has not yet found his groove this season. If you can find an impatient manager, then explore a trade as there is no reason to believe he won’t continue to provide at least the same value as the past 2 years (13, 8 and a 3ptm per). His role was actually expected to grow with Monta Ellis out of town.
Serge Ibaka: The terrible FG% can be explained somewhat by Russell Westbrook’s absence, with more defensive focus on Ibaka and less easy chances created by his all-star PG, but the lack of blocks is astonishing (Just 2 through the first 3 games). As I write this, Ibaka has just completed his best game of the new season, going 8-10 from the field for 17 points vs. Dallas with 3 blocks and 13 rebounds. Ibaka will revert back to the mean (2nd round value) very quickly, so the window to buy-low is rapidly closing.
David West: The window is also closing on David West who too had a rough start, shooting a putrid .360 FG% through the first 3 games. He struggled to rebound in the preseason, and carried this over too, grabbing only 15 rebounds in those same 3 games. However over the Pacers last 2 games, West has shot 13-26 (.500 FG%) and grabbed 21 rebounds. He has also blocked 10 shots through the first 5 games. While he won’t continue to block shots at this rate, he will continue to find his touch, and rebound aggressively. West fell to me in the 6th round on draft day in a 12 man, 10 cat roto league, and I pounced. You should too.
JaVale McGee: The JaVale McGee conundrum continues. I wrote about him in my fantasy preview piece (http://downtownball.net/2013/10/201314-fantasy-preview/). I still believe he can average 30+ minutes this year. Do you?
Thaddeus Young: Young’s current per game averages are a little misleading and are skewed by one big game (29pts, 8 rebounds vs Washington). Take that one out, and he’s averaging a paltry 9 points and 5 rebounds on .355 FG%. Meanwhile, his buddies Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and rookie Michael Carter-Williams are running wild putting up career numbers so far. If Young has one more bad game then pounce. Make strong offers that still value him as a 5th round talent (which he is), while pointing out said poor start to your trading counterpart. He will re-pay you in the long run.
Derrick Rose: This would be a tough sell, as most likely whoever drafted him in your league spent a late 1st or early 2nd round pick on him. After a standout preseason, Rose has started very slowly (15ppg, 3.75apg, 3rpg, 1.25 3pm, 5.25 topg, 0 steals, 0 blocks, .313 FG%, .250 3P%). The scoring and shooting can be forgiven after over a year away from the game, but the 0.714 A/T ratio as compared to a career 2.34 A/T ratio mark and the absence of steals is the real opportunity for you here. You take a PG early for the assists and steals, along with some scoring in most cases. If you’re not getting those, you need to find them elsewhere. So offer up your Kyle Lowrys or Tony Parkers along with a small sweetener who is hot (e.g. Miles Plumlee, Trevor Ariza or Kyle Korver if you can give up the 3s) and grab yourself an elite PG who will no doubt round into form sooner rather than later, and help you contend for a fantasy title. Your trade partner will be relieved to sure up their dimes and steals, and be rid of the uncertainty. Win-win, right?
Larry Sanders: As I mentioned recently (http://downtownball.net/2013/10/time-season/), Sanders struggled in the preseason with fouls and FG%. So far in the games that count, it’s minutes he’s been struggling to attain. Larry Drew has been rolling with Zaza Pachulia who he’s familiar with from his Atlanta days, and Sanders has drawn the short straw. A thumb injury will not help, but there is a real opportunity here to grab a bargain. Sanders went anywhere from late 2nd to early 4th round in most drafts, and after averaging 2.7pts, 3.7rebs and .250 FG% through his first 3 games, owners are panicking big time. Someone like DeAndre Jordan is a great guy to offer up here. He is providing the exact production owners were hoping for from Sanders (10.8ppg, a whopping 12.8rpg, and 2.2bpg), and will not sustain that level of play. If you can work a one for one swap, do it. If not, then throw in a sweetener to grab Sanders. The Bucks didn’t just sign him to a 4 year, $44m extension to watch Zaza play.
Al Jefferson: Another tough sell given he’s only played 1 game so far. If you can find an owner wanting to rid themselves of his ankle issues and you have a Nowitzki, Millsap, Bosh, Brook Lopez who you’re willing to part with, make the switch. Jefferson is still good for 19, 9, 2 and a block per on a bad Bobcats team.
Rudy Gay: Remember when it was reported that Rudy Gay had off-season eye surgery to correct his vision issues, and that, along with a full training camp with the Raptors, was expected to improve his FG% this season? Well it ain’t happened folks. After a solid preseason (.483 FG%, .400 3P% over 7 games), Gay is shooting a woeful .337 FG% and .286 3P% through the first 5 games. The good news is he is still producing 16.8ppg, nearly a 3pm per game, 1.2spg and a delightful 8.6rpg (bonus alert) so can still contribute to your squad while he’s ironing out his accuracy.
Nikola Pekovic: More shooting woes to report here as Pekovic (career .530 FG%) is putting the ball in the hoop at an alarming .389 FG% clip through the first 5 games. Maybe he’s struggling to get used to playing with Kevin Love again, or maybe it’s just an anomaly (my guess) that will vanish as quickly as it materialised. His rebounding and minutes are still where you’d expect, so try and buy low before he becomes Pek-tacular again.
George Hill: So his hip injury came a little earlier this year than it did last year. No need to panic. He should be back this weekend. Besides, Hill is still a very solid combo guard who put up career numbers across the board last season. He had a stinker to open the season, and then showed what he can do in the second game with 19pts, 4 3s and 4 dimes. Expect him to at least match his numbers from last year which made him a 4th to 5th round value kind of guy.
Bradley Beal: After leading all SGs in preseason scoring, I certainly hyped Bradley Beal recently (http://downtownball.net/2013/10/time-season/). He has also started off shooting poorly (.329 FG% through 4 games), but the minutes and volume of shots is there. He’s also contributing 4apg, 1 spg, and nearly 4rpg, plus he’s nailed 11 3s already. So if his owner in your league can be convinced that he reached for him based on the hype, take advantage of that. The talent is undeniable.
Before we dive into these players and their hot starts, a few words of advice when trying to off-load these over-achievers. Make sure your trade offers are ALWAYS accompanied with some comments. Detail the specific reasons or categories why this player could help your trade partner, and why you can afford to give them up. In return, outline what categories you need to improve in so it seems like a win-win scenario. Make fair offers so they are not immediately discarded. Finally, make sure those comments are read. That means email, text, call separately. Don’t just rely on the trade functionality from your league site. You have to work to sell a player. It is not meant to be easy. It may take several attempts or counter offers as well as some targeted convincing from you. The same is true when trying to buy low. Negotiation is an art form, and if you do it well, it can make all the difference to your squad’s chances.
Carlos Boozer: Before his stinker vs. the Pacers this week, Boozer was averaging 22.3ppg, 8rpg, 2.3apg, while shooting .659 FG% and has not missed a FT attempt in 13 tries so far. In short, he was red hot. His career scoring mark is 17ppg, and while the boards and dimes are sustainable, his FG% will revert back to around his .530 career mark soon enough (already back to .588 after that Pacers game). So take the opportunity to throw him out there in some offers to teams struggling to score or for FG% while you can.
Spencer Hawes / Michael Carter-Williams: This Sixers duo is the epitome of over-achievement so far. I really like Hawes and own him in one h2h league, but he is averaging nearly 6ppg and 4rpg more than his career bests in only an extra 2 mins per. He is also shooting nearly 11% higher from the field than his career average and .500 3P%! I know there is little competition for minutes, and he is entering his prime at age 25, but just cannot see those numbers being sustainable over the season. Trade up for a David West type if you can.
MCW is a little trickier as he has no NBA track record from which to judge. Obviously his start has been amazing, but he IS still a rookie with a history of poor FG% and 3P% in College, Summer League and Preseason. In my [Tank-a-palooza] column, I predicted averages of 13.2ppg, 6.7apg, 1.4spg, 3.4rpg and .353FG%. I still think that’s around about where he’ll end up, although his scoring may be a little higher. Don’t forget the rookie wall which he will likely hit playing all those minutes, and take advantage of the hype sooner rather than later.
Lance Stephenson: As you’ll learn, I’m a huge Pacers fan. I also traded for Lance recently in a dynasty league, so you may question why I have him on this list. The answer is because you have to leave emotion out when analysing a player’s value. And so, my analysis tells me Lance is playing out of his frickin’ mind right now (yes that’s the technical term). Through the first 5 games he has nearly doubled his scoring average from last year, while improving his assist and rebound averages by nearly 60% each, AND hitting 2 more 3s per game more than he did last year. Danny Granger is out, so Stephenson’s minutes are up (he trails only Paul George in minutes in Indy), and this all leads me to the easy conclusion that these numbers will have to come down. In financial markets they call it a bubble stock …. SELL, SELL, SELL.
DeAndre Jordan: As mentioned above when detailing Larry Sanders’ struggles, Jordan is over-producing right now. In fact, the only metric he is not exceeding his career averages in is FG%. I do feel he is improved from last year, and will take on a bigger role than he ever has before, but he is not going to average a double-double when he’s never averaged double digits in either points or rebounds before. He could be a hold based on his career trajectory pointing up, however his value this year will never be higher than it is right now.
Wesley Matthews: Another one off to a hot start, World Wide Wes is shooting .511 FG% / .5003P% so far (vs. career .444 / .396 marks), scoring 17.3ppg (career 13.4) and grabbing a crazy 6.3rpg (career 2.9). I detailed in a recent column (http://downtownball.net/2013/10/time-season/) how I thought he’d suffer from the presence of Mo Williams with Lillard playing more of a combo/shooting guard role at times, and I stand by that. Even if I turn out to be wrong and Matthews sustains his career numbers, this is a great sell high opportunity.
Klay Thompson: Opposing coaches are going to start bringing a fire extinguisher when they face Thompson if he keeps this up. Son of Mychal is shooting a ridiculous .579 FG% and .559 3P% through the first 5 games. Both marks are 14% higher than his career averages. He is currently averaging 24ppg (good for 9th in the NBA), and has topped 30 points twice already. In the words of Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam, he is “Hot! Damn Hot! Real Hot!” Klay was primed for improvement after his break out performances in the playoffs last year, but this is excessive. Harrison Barnes is now back, so his minutes and shot attempts will come down some, although if Curry’s ankle bruise turns out to be at all serious, Klay could keep this going a while longer. Start working the phones, and see what you can get for him before he cools off.
Eric Bledsoe: I received a bit of criticism for calling Eric Bledsoe over-hyped in my season preview column (http://downtownball.net/2013/10/201314-fantasy-preview/). Some are telling me that if anything, he was under-hyped. I can see why people are saying that, as he has been better than advertised so far, and is clearly carrying the Suns. I pegged him for 16, 5 and 4 dimes this season, and I’m happy to say I got the rebounds right so far! Bledsoe is averaging 21, 5 and 7 through 5 games, and shooting .500 FG%. He has looked great aside from his turnovers so far and with Dragic out with an ankle sprain, Bledsoe’s usage is even stronger currently. So hold him for now. Just recognise that his value is sky-high at the moment. The hype machine is in full force, and even if you split the difference between my projection and his current numbers, you can make a nice little value profit, assuming you didn’t reach too high for him on draft day.
Finally, some other less notable players you may want to try to sell after fast starts;
Zaza Pachulia: Benefiting from Larry Sanders’ struggles and Larry Drew’s familiarity with him, but is still nothing but a back-up center.
Trevor Ariza: Crazy opening game, but his next 3 are about where he’ll end up. Martell Webster is also emerging, and Otto Porter will need minutes eventually too.
C.J. Miles: Shooting over .500 FG% so far (career .420) while not playing any more minutes. Only a matter of time before rookies Bennett and Karasev eat into any SF minutes Miles is getting, plus don’t forget Dion Waiters who has started slowly.
Arron Afflalo: Shooting nearly 10% higher than his career mark from 3 point range through 5 games, and grabbing rebounds at almost double his career average too. Afflalo will be in trade rumours all season, and is just biding his time until Victor Oladipo takes his spot. Afflalo is a very handy player to own, but is a nice trade chip right now.
Remember, trading is all about finding mutual value. I never approach a trade from the perspective of trying to “win” it. It is about finding something you are willing to give up, to get something back of value. The more value you can give, the more you can expect to receive. So don’t rush to judgement or panic. Take your time, and find the deal that is going to improve your chances of winning your league. That’s what it’s all about, right?
Follow me on twitter @tomhersz and send me any trade advice questions you may have.