Every team in the NBA is currently hovering around 10 games played. The season is undeniably young with a lot of room for evolution, but trends are starting to emerge nonetheless.
We enter every season with a set of expectations. We expect some players to break out and others to break down. After all the offseason player movement, we try to predict how players will perform on their new teams and how their new teammates will be affected by the changing rotation. We take guesses at how new coaches will run their teams and how it will impact their players’ development. We count the days until certain players come back from injury and pray that others don’t get hurt.
Then, usually after a handful of games, we abandon old ideas and swear we never thought them and try to jump on the bandwagon of new ones. Players rise and fall, others get hurt or disappear, and some guys we never saw coming become stars (sure, go ahead and pretend you had Markieff Morris as the Western Conference Player of the Week in the early going).
Sure, some predictions come true, but a love for predicting the (relatively) unpredictable is a harsh and fickle mistress. It’s easy to be stubborn and cling to old ideas that you hold dear while resisting the new ones.
Don’t be sentimental. Pat yourself on the back for the right calls, but otherwise, get up, dust yourselves off, and make adjustments. Don’t be afraid to drop someone in decline, regardless of their past. Take a flier on a rising star and then, if you feel so inclined, sell him high for a more proven player.
Now is the time of year when all the offseason theory becomes practice (yeah, we talkin’ ‘bout practice). It’s a prime time to make moves while others are still adjusting to the changes.
Get ahead of the game.
Buy Eric Bledsoe
Find a way to get Eric Bledsoe on your team. Now.
This is far from a “buy low” moment. Bledsoe will likely cost you a pretty penny at this point, but that doesn’t matter. Find a way to make it happen. He’s worth almost any penny, pretty or ugly.
Fantasy pundits have been drinking the Bledsoe kool-aid for some time now. The last couple of years, as a backup to Chris Paul on the Clippers, Bledsoe impressed off the bench and put up sparkly per-36 numbers (14.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.5 steals, 1.3 blocks).
He finished the season ranked 130th on basketballmonster.com’s player ranker, largely due to the fact that he only played 20.4 minutes off the pine. His per-36 numbers were good enough for 25th overall. “Free Bledsoe” campaigns ran rampant as we all dreamed of a situation where he could get starter minutes and truly shine.
Our wishes came true this offseason when he was traded to the lowly Phoenix Suns, a team that was intent on building around the player nicknamed “Mini-LeBron” for his all-around game and stunning athleticism. The Suns have very few players that would be considered impactful on an above-average team and Bledsoe was immediately identified as a rose among thorns.
He certainly hasn’t disappointed. After nine games, Bledsoe is averaging 20.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.8 steals, and 0.1 blocks. He’s also hitting 1.1 threes per game and shooting an incredibly efficient .500 from the field and .833 from the line.
The blocks stand out as having disappeared a little from his game, but that is likely a result of increased responsibility and a need to sustain production over longer minutes. Gone are the days of being the energy guy off the bench and running all over the place in fifth gear.
He’s the man in Phoenix and shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, my guess is that he’ll get the turnovers (3.9 per game) down a bit as he gets comfortable in his new role and at least a portion of the block numbers will come back. He’s currently ranked 10th on our NBA Player Rankings with a nERD (explained here) of 11.2.
Do whatever it takes to pry Bledsoe away from his current owner. I’d gladly trade an early-round player on the decline (think Deron Williams or Dwyane Wade) in order to get him. Bledsoe will put up early-round value the rest of the way and might still be gettable if an owner thinks he’s selling high.
Add Jordan Hill
Jordan Hill is currently only owned in 44% of Yahoo! leagues (likely to have increased by the time you read this). That means that 56% of leagues are asleep at the wheel. If you’re in one of those leagues, go pick him up immediately. I know that the Lakers don’t play for the next four days, but that shouldn’t discourage you.
Since joining the Lakers’ starting lineup, Hill has averaged 18.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 0.8 steals, and 1.8 blocks, while shooting .617 from the field. That includes a game against the Pistons on Sunday night, in which he posted career highs in points (24) and rebounds (17) and shot 11 of 16 from the field.
He’s as must add as they come right now. He shouldn’t be on a single waiver-wire by the Lakers next game on Friday.
Drop Steve Nash / Add Steve Blake
In Volume 1, I suggested you sell Steve Nash before he breaks down and it becomes necessary to drop him. Well, he’s currently in the middle of two weeks of rest to rehab nerve damage in his back. Not to mention, he was only shooting .261 from the floor in the six games he has managed to play so far this season. He looks like a shell of his former self and likely won’t regain his form this year as he plays through nagging injuries and retirement rumours. He’s safely droppable.
Luckily, Steve Blake has emerged as a viable option in Nash’s place as the Lakers starting PG. Blake has started every game this season, but has really started to stand out since taking over as the Lakers primary ball handler. In his last five games, Blake has averaged 11.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 11.0 assists, 1.8 steals, and 2.0 threes. He continued his hot streak with 9 points, 16 assists, and 4 steals in Sunday’s win against the Pistons.
The Lakers rotation is ever-evolving and might not look the same once Kobe comes back (he was back on the practice floor this weekend). Various players have emerged and shown signs of being addable, but both Jordan Hill and Steve Blake look like the safest bets to sustain value.
Add Jordan Crawford
Jordan Crawford took over as the Celtics' starting point guard seven games ago and looks locked into the position going forward. Coach Brad Stevens and Crawford’s teammates have praised the job he’s doing and the team simply doesn’t have a lot of depth at the position with Rajon Rondo still recovering from a partially-torn ACL.
As a starter, Crawford has averaged 12.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.9 threes, and a respectable 1.9 turnovers. Also working in Crawford’s favor is the fact that the Celtics are 4-3 with him running the offense, after starting 0-4 with him on the bench.
With no timetable set for Rondo’s return and no real reason for the Celtics to rush him back (and risk ruining their
tanking rebuilding efforts), Crawford should continue putting up decent numbers. He is susceptible to bad shot selection (to put it mildly) and has a tendency to be streaky, but he is certainly worth an add if you’re hurting at either guard position.
Drop JaVale McGee / Buy Kenneth Faried / Add J.J. Hickson
JaVale McGee has teased us with his promise for his entire NBA career. His raw talent is unquestionable. He has finished in the top seven in FG% and top eight in blocks per game the last three seasons. He rebounds the ball well and shows flashes of competence on the offensive end as well.
On the other hand, he does a variety of bonehead things on the court, gets in foul trouble, and is a constant fixture on "Shaqtin’ a Fool”.
McGee’s dichotomous nature has always made him both a pleasure and a headache to own. The constant question of whether to add or drop him has been answered for the foreseeable future at least, as he has suffered a stress fracture in his left tibia and is out indefinitely. You can safely drop him from your team if you’re still holding on.
McGee’s injury has freed up space in a crowded Nuggets frontcourt and has brought clarity to the roles of several big men.
Kenneth Faried has rediscovered his role as a double-double machine from last season. In the first five games of the season (when McGee was around), Faried was averaging a lackluster 7.6 points and 7.6 rebounds on .400 shooting from the field. In the last four games without McGee, Faried has gone for 15.0 points and 11.5 rebounds on .533 shooting. See if his owner is still caught up in the early-season duds and buy low.
J.J. Hickson was back and forth to the bench over the team’s first five games and played inconsistently in fluctuating minutes. He has gone for 11.5 points and 9.0 rebounds with a block and a steal per game over his last four contests and has shown flashes of the player that averaged a double-double last year and finished in the top seven in the league in rebounds per game and FG%. He’s certainly worth the add.
Timofey Mozgov is also worth mentioning and monitoring as the Nuggets’ first big off the bench. He is averaging a reasonable 13.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks over that four-game stretch as well, including a 23-point, 9-rebound, 4-block explosion against the Lakers on Wednesday. He is more prone to inconsistency than Faried and Hickson and is liable to disappear in any given game.
Hold/Buy Spencer Hawes
Spencer Hawes is currently 16th in the league on basketballmonster.com’s player ranker, averaging 15.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.6 blocks, 1.7 threes while shooting .504 from the line and .742 from the line. He came into the season ranked outside of most people’s top 100, but has shattered all expectations in the first 11 games of the season.
Many people are screaming that this is the ultimate sell-high moment, but I’m preaching patience. Yes, the .475 shooting from three is probably unsustainable (he’s a .331 shooter from distance for his career), but there’s no real reason to think the other numbers will drop. Most of his per-36 stats are on par with where they were last year, he’s simply benefiting from more minutes on a relatively shallow Sixers team.
Word out of Philly is that Nerlens Noel won’t play this season as he recovers from knee surgery, and none of the other bigs behind Hawes on the depth chart are likely to threaten him for minutes. Everything’s in place for him to have a breakout campaign. We have to remember that Hawes is only 25 years old and this is a perfectly reasonable time for him to hit his stride and become a fantasy-stud moving forward.
If anything, send out some offers if you don’t have him. See just how much his current owner expects a regression to come and thinks he’s selling high.
Add Terrence Jones
The drama between the Rockets and Omer Asik is getting pretty ugly, as Asik is not happy with his new role as a second-fiddle C behind Dwight Howard. Rockets coach Kevin McHale experimented with starting Asik and Howard together to start the season, but their skill sets are kind of redundant and lineups including both players have not been very successful.
Asik has been demanding a trade, and his refusal to cooperate with the team has led to his minutes plummeting. He hasn’t played in the team’s last two games and only got in for 4 minutes in the one before that. As I mentioned last week, you can safely move on from him for fantasy purposes.
Enter Terrence Jones.
Since entering the starting lineup in place of Asik, Jones has played well. He’s averaging 10.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, and 1.0 three over that three-game stretch and has earned starter’s minutes moving forward. Keep an eye on the situation if Asik manages to re-enter the rotation or if a trade brings in someone else to take Jones’ minutes. For now, he’s must-own while he’s playing this well.
Buy Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap went through a mini three-game slump last week. During those three games, Millsap averaged a lackluster 7.7 points and 5.0 rebounds on .333 shooting and was removed from the starting lineup on Friday night in favour of Gustavo Ayon.
Thankfully, the move to the bench was temporary and Millsap returned as a starter on Saturday and bounced back with 14 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block. Millsap is one of the Hawks' top players and was certainly not signed to a two-year, $19-million contract this offseason to come off the bench.
Millsap is criminally underrated in both real and fake hoops. He does a bit of everything, averaging 15.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.1 blocks, while shooting .530 from the field. He also adds the occasional three-pointer, which he’s attempting 1.4 times per game (up from 0.5 attempts last year) and hitting at a rate of .357.
The slump, the benching, and a career low clip of .596 from the free throw line (career .723 coming into this season) might have been enough to get to his owner. Millsap was a top-40 ranked player on basketballmonster.com for his last three seasons in Utah and currently sits at 37 this year, despite a few bad games. Buy low opportunities like this won’t come along very often, so see if you can pull off a deal.
Drop/Sell Kevin Garnett
It’s sad to say this, but Kevin Garnett is simply not a relevant fantasy player anymore. After moving to the Brooklyn Nets this offseason, Garnett’s role has changed from what it was in Boston. He’s not really called upon to score the ball, as he’s basically the Nets’ fifth option on offense. This has led to career lows in points (5.8), field goal attempts (8.8), and field goal percentage (.300).
He still gets rebounds at a decent rate, leading the league in defensive rebound percentage at 34.0. Unfortunately, he’s only playing 22.6 minutes, so he’s only pulling down 7.8 total rebounds per game. That’s a respectable number, by most standards, but he’s simply not contributing enough in other areas to be worth a roster spot.
Combine all that with the fact that Nets coach Jason Kidd has no plans to use Garnett on second games of back-to-backs all season, and there’s really no reason to own KG. You might be able to sell him on name recognition or offload him as part of a two-for-one deal, but don’t hold out too long . Drop him and move on to a hot free agent if you have to.
Add Tony Wroten
Adding Tony Wroten is more of a streaming or temporary play than a long-term option. His value is completely dependent on rookie sensation Michael Carter-Williams’ health and he shouldn’t be added at the expense of someone with rest-of-season value.
In the meantime, MCW is in a walking boot and Sixers coach Brett Brown ruled him out of their current three-game road trip a few days ago. That would mean their Wednesday game against the Raptors would be the earliest time that Wroten would renounce his starting job and even that’s no guarantee.
MCW is not working on any sort of fixed timetable, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how serious his foot injury is. Usually being ruled out several days in advance is a bad sign and could lead to some pesky game-time decisions when he’s due back.
For now, you can feel comfortable rolling Wroten out there. In three games starting in place of MCW, Wroten has averaged 19.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.0 steal (more or less replacing Carter-Williams’ production). The Sixers have very few options and anyone given the opportunity to get minutes is putting up impressive numbers that are worth owning, even if just for a while.
Hold Trevor Ariza / Add Martell Webster
Last week I told you to add Trevor Ariza, only to have him suffer a hamstring strain in Wednesday’s game versus San Antonio. The injury hasn’t been reported as too serious and Ariza will probably return to the lineup sometime this week. He was playing too well before the injury to let go of just yet, so I suggest waiting it out a little bit.
In the meantime, Martell Webster has filled in admirably at SF in Ariza’s absence. In the two games since Ariza went down, Webster is averaging 17.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 2.5 threes. He is worth a short-term add while Ariza is out.
Both players are prone to inconsistency and might not be rest-of-season options when all is said and done. Ride the hot hand, but don’t be afraid to abandon when they show signs of cooling off. The Wizards offence will run through John Wall and Bradley Beal and that’s not likely to change, no matter how hot Ariza or Webster get.
Hold/Buy Al Jefferson
Al Jefferson has been frustrating to own this season. He has been day-to-day with a nagging ankle injury since the preseason and has only managed to play 3 of the Bobcats’ 10 games.
Don’t let it get to you if you own him. When healthy, Big Al is a 20/10 threat that can add a steal and a block per game. He also shoots efficiently, going .494 from the field and .767 from the line in his last 3 years in Utah.
He’s basketballmonster.com’s 7th-ranked player over the last two seasons and will be the central part of Charlotte’s offense when he can get back onto the court. He signed a monster 3-year deal worth $41 million in the offseason and he will be putting up huge stat lines again soon to justify it.
Hold on if you have him or buy in if you don’t. He’s good bet to put up early-round value when he plays.