The first month of the NBA season is in the books and teams are closing in on the 20-game mark. That’s the number that most coaches and analysts throw around when they talk about really knowing what a player or team is bringing to the table any given year.
At this point, it should be a little easier to tell the difference between a player that has had one or two hot games versus a player that is developing and has the potential to sustain value. Rotations are becoming more consistent and we can tell which players have the best chance of being reliable as the year wears on.
Well, for the most part...
If you’ve tried to grab onto players tearing it up during a particular week on the Celtics, Lakers, Bucks, or Suns only to have them go ice cold right after you roster them, you’re not alone.
Remember when Vitor Faverani was a must-own player that everyone was running to pick up? Or when Markieff Morris was considered the best player in the entire Western Conference (one that contains Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kevin Love, Anthony Davis, and countless others) for an entire week? How about that time when (Player X) from the Lakers or (Player Y) from the Bucks seemed like he could be the waiver-wire pickup of the year one moment, only to be painful to own two games later?
Seriously, go look at the depth charts of either of those four teams. It seems like every player on each roster was considered fantasy relevant for at least a couple games at some point already this season.
What the Celtics, Lakers, Bucks, and Suns have in common is that they’re all pretty bad teams with rosters that are filled with relatively average players. Any player on those teams can blow up any given game and disappear the next. After all, someone has to rack up counting stats. The inability of these players to do so consistently is why most of them started fantasy seasons undrafted and off our radars.
Riding a streaking player can lead to fantasy success, but you have to temper expectations. Don’t be afraid to drop one of these guys when things cool down and someone else emerges. From here on out, you can assume that any player that I recommend as an add from those squads comes with the caveat that they could disappear the following week.
In the meantime, get ‘em while they’re hot!
Add Channing Frye
Ok, now that I’ve effectively drowned you in excessive preamble, let me get to my point.
You should add Channing Frye. He’s currently available in over 60% of Yahoo leagues, for some reason.
Yes, yes, I know. Another PF/C from the Phoenix Suns. I pumped 400-plus words into that intro to justify adding Frye, after having already sung the praises of Miles Plumlee (Volume 1) and Markieff Morris (Volume 2) in previous installments. I admit, these players all sap from each other’s minutes and production and seem to trade off good performances. I still consider ‘Kieff and Plumlee to be holds (despite a recent period of cooling off), but Frye is currently the best one to own out of the three.
He has been incredible lately, producing first-round value over the last two weeks. In his last six games, he has averaged 17.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.0 block, and 3.3 threes. He has posted an offensive rating of 118.6 for that period and is shooting a fantastic .588 from the field, .500 from deep, and .714 from the line. He has started all 17 games for the Suns this season and is really hitting his stride. He’s a stretch big that is capable of providing value across all categories without hurting you too much in any area.
Frye missed the entire 2012-13 season due to an enlarged heart and was faced with possibly never playing in the NBA again. His return to the game is an inspirational story and it’s hard not to root for him to turn these last few productive weeks into a career year at the age of 30.
Add him and start him while he’s on fire and we’ll hope that he keeps it up. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted on if Marcus Morris, Alex Len, or Emeka Okafor manage to push their way into this conversation and make it even more complicated.
Buy Victor Oladipo
Victor Oladipo was everyone’s favorite to win Rookie of the Year coming into this season. The hype rolled along all summer for the second overall pick while he showcased his potential as an impactful two-way player at Orlando Summer League. Talk of developing the young SG into a PG only heightened excitement, as it would add to his already-impressive set of tools.
Oladipo simply strolled out the gate to start the season instead of exploding through it as many expected. He was temporarily forgotten as Philly’s Michael Carter-Williams stole all the attention with huge performances for a Sixers team that was winning games it had no business winning.
While the rookie spotlight was temporarily off Oladipo, he put up relatively good numbers in a reserve role for the Magic. His 11.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks showed promise, but his 4.0 turnovers per game and shooting numbers of .389 from the floor and .667 from the line dragged him down to late-round value.
He entered the starting lineup six games ago and has excelled with increased minutes. During that period, he has shot a much-improved .471 from the field and .857 from the line. His averages are even better at 15.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.2 steals, 1.3 blocks, and 1.0 three over that time.
He is still averaging 4.0 turnovers per game as a starter, but that could be considered an improvement if you consider his jump from 25.5 to 34.2 minutes per game. If he continues to shoot well and can find a way to limit turnovers even more, his value will skyrocket as the season progresses. He got his first career start at PG for the injured Jameer Nelson on Friday night and managed to turn the ball over only twice in 32 minutes of action. A buy-low opportunity is still there, but it won’t be for long.
Add Derrick Williams
Derrick Williams was traded to the Sacramento Kings this past week for Luc Mbah a Moute, thus ending his run with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The former second overall pick finished his three seasons with the Wolves with averages of 10.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 0.7 threes, with .420 shooting from the field and .708 from the line.
Suffice to say, he never really lived up to the expectations that come with being such a high lottery pick in the draft. He didn’t really fit in the rotation with the Wolves this year, as he averaged a meager 14.7 minutes per game in 11 contests, among several DNP-CDs. He averaged 4.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, and basically nothing else in that time and shot .352 from the field. The competition for minutes was set to get even harder with the return of Chase Budinger looming, so the Wolves decided to get out while the getting was good.
The Kings, on the other hand, traded for Williams with the intention of playing him big minutes at the SF. With little depth at that position, Williams has been thrown into the starting spot right away and will be given every chance to succeed.
He had a decent debut, putting up 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists on 6 of 13 shooting from the field in 32 minutes of action. His second game on Sunday wasn’t that impressive, but none of the Kings’ starters got it going in that one and it probably won’t be much of an indicator of future success or failure.
In the 56 games he started for an injury-riddled Wolves squad last year, Williams played relatively well with some productive stretches. His 13.4 points and 6.2 rebounds were nice, but his lack of peripherals (0.8 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.5 blocks, 0.8 threes) made him nothing more than a plug-and-play option when he was hot.
He’s worth an add and stash for now, just to see if his new situation and increased role in Sacramento will yield better productivity. The Kings are very excited about their new acquisition and are talking him up as a big part of their plans moving forward. One mustn’t forget that we’re only two years removed from the 2011 draft, when very few people had a problem with him being chosen over productive fantasy players like Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Vucevic, and Klay Thompson, just to name a few. He’s worth a flier to see how this situation unfolds.
Sell Evan Turner
Evan Turner, like Derrick Williams, is a second overall pick that has had his name and the word “bust” used in the same sentence more than once. In 242 career games, Turner has put up averages of 10.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. Those are decent numbers, but he has done little else, averaging a lackluster 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks, and 0.4 threes per game.
He has started this year hot, posting averages of 21.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.1 steals through 18 games. Some are calling it a breakout, while others are looking a little closer and waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The increase in numbers is, in large part, due to the fact that the Sixers don’t have many offensive options outside of Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, and Michael Carter-Williams. Evans’ usage rate is up to 26.5 (compared to a career mark of 20.4), which has also led to 3.6 turnovers per game (up from his career average of 2.2). His peripherals are still mediocre, as he’s averaging just 0.7 threes per game and has yet to block a shot all year.
His low peripherals and high turnovers drag his value down, as all he really gives you is points, rebounds, and assists. As for whether or not he can keep up this scoring clip, his shooting percentages hint at the likelihood of a regression. He is shooting .470 from the field and .848 from the line, as compared to career numbers of .432 and .760.
A chance of even further regression comes from the possibility of a trade, as many rumors have popped up about moves involving Turner in the past few weeks. Any destination would represent a step back for his fantasy value, as this Sixers team is one of the few in the league that would consider Turner and his career PER of 12.3 as a viable first option.
A move would likely mean a decreased role, fewer touches, and consequently less impressive popcorn stats. Throw out some offers and see if anyone is in the market for some fool’s gold.
Add Dion Waiters
The Cleveland Cavaliers have started the year with a thud. The team currently sits at 5-12, Kyrie Irving has struggled at times, Andrew Bynum looks like a shell of his former self, and coach Mike Brown’s rotations have been nothing close to consistent.
In the last few weeks, second-year guard Dion Waiters has been relegated to the bench, mysteriously disappeared from the team for a few practices and games with an undisclosed "illness", and has been buried in trade rumors (one has him going to Philly for Evan Turner, for example). To make matters worse, he has been complaining that he doesn’t like the way Irving and Tristan Thompson play “buddy ball” on the court and freeze him out.
Wait, why should you add him?
Well, despite coming off the bench the last six games, he has managed to score double-digit points in each. In his last three games in particular, he has been fantastic, posting averages of 21.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.7 steals, and 2.3 threes per game. He’s got a hot shooting hand, going .524 from the field and .467 from deep over that time.
Whether this is an example of the squeaky wheel getting greased or simply Waiters playing with a chip on his shoulder through trade rumors and general dissatisfaction is tough to say. Perhaps the Cavs are feeding him the ball in order to showcase him for a trade.
Regardless of the reason, Waiters is playing well and deserves to be owned at a higher rate than the 60% he currently is in Yahoo leagues. Some of the rumored trade destinations include Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York. He’s worth owning for his production now and the potential increase in production he could see if traded to a team like the Sixers.
Buy Kevin Martin
I’ve been resisting the Kevin Martin bandwagon this whole season. I’ve been ready to call him a sell high candidate each time I write this column and I’ve seen several pundits say the same thing in their columns and on Twitter.
Well, enough is enough. I give in. Buy, buy, buy.
The problem is, we’ve all been thinking about the Kevin Martin that played 27.7 minutes per game off the bench for the Thunder last year or the one that only managed to play in 40 games for Kevin McHale and the Rockets the year before. For an indication of whether or not his current numbers are sustainable, perhaps it would be best to compare this season to his last healthy season as a starter for Rick Adelman on the Rockets in 2010-11.
Essentially, given starters minutes and playing in Rick Adelman’s familiar system, Kevin Martin is proving he can still be the same player he was three years ago. He’s a great fit for the Wolves, playing off Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. He has an impressive nERD of 11.3, putting him at number eight on our NBA Player Rankings. If an owner is expecting a regression, swoop in and grab him.
Add Glen Davis
Glen Davis was having a breakout year as a starter in Orlando last season before breaking his left foot. He was averaging career highs in points (15.1), rebounds (7.2), and assists (2.1), while adding 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks and shooting .448 from the field and .718 from the stripe.
He never managed to return from the January injury last season and missed the first 11 games this year as well. The Magic had added another even younger breakout PF in Tobias Harris while Davis was away and “Big Baby” was expected to come off the bench this year instead of going back into the starter role he held last season.
Harris has been dealing with a high-ankle sprain that has kept him out of all but 16 minutes in one game this season. He is currently getting a second opinion on his injury and a timetable has yet to become clear. In the meantime, Davis is starting for the Magic and playing well.
In the five games since his return, Davis has been putting up respectable numbers while shaking off rust and getting back into game shape. He’s averaging 12.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.8 steals while shooting .500 from the field and .750 from the line. He has put in at least 32 minutes in each of his three starts to date and is trending upward. He’s worth an add at least until Harris returns healthy and challenges him for minutes.
Add Rodney Stuckey
Rodney Stuckey, has been red hot for the last 10 games off the bench for the Pistons, acting as their sixth man. During that period, he has averaged 19.6 points per match and has not scored fewer than 16 in any given game. He has shot an impressive .521 from the field, .357 from deep, and .830 from the line during that time, while averaging a starter-like 30.4 minutes per game.
Stuckey never quite found his rhythm last season, bouncing back and forth from the starting lineup to the bench and going through extended cold streaks (he only managed to shoot .406 from the field and .302 from deep on the year).
He seems to have embraced his bench role this year, leading his team in scoring at 16.9 per contest, despite never starting a game. Coach Maurice Cheeks has started five different guards at the PG and SG positions, but seems to like the scoring Stuckey provides for his second unit too much to make a change with him.
His peripheral stats (2.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.3 blocks, 0.6 threes) won’t win any championships or earn him a long-term roster spot on fantasy squads, but any team in need of points can confidently add Stuckey for a boost.
Sell Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer is a guy you should be trying to sell high on every time he strings together a few good games. Yes, the popcorn stats of points (15.7) and rebounds (8.9) tend to be there at an impressive rate and he shoots the ball well from the field (.493) and from the line (.810).
The problem with Boozer, however, is that he’s not a great defender, so coach Tom Thibodeau tends to go away from him in crunch time of games. He averages 30.2 minutes per game as a starter, which by Thibs’ run-’em-into-the-ground standards is relatively low, considering Boozer is one of their best offensive weapons.
His peripheral stats leave a lot to be desired, as he’s averaging 1.9 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.5 blocks on the year. On top of that, he turns the ball over 2.5 times per game.
He started the year off hot, averaging 18.0 points and 8.3 rebounds over his first six games. Since then, he has been inconsistent. For example, last Monday he put up a monster 26 points, 16 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block on 12 for 23 shooting from the field against his old team, the Utah Jazz. He followed that up by going for 6 points, 7 rebounds, no steals, and no blocks, on 3 of 11 shooting two days later.
Some people believe that he will be even more heavily relied upon with Derrick Rose recently declared out for yet another season. Considering this year’s numbers and last year’s numbers are nearly identical, I would say we know exactly what we’re getting from Boozer at age 32. Next time he goes for a 20-10, I would try to move him for someone who gives you better all-around production.
Buy Luol Deng
Speaking of all-around production, I suggest you buy Luol Deng if you still can. He is one of the Bulls whose stats will likely see an increase with Rose done for the year.
Prior to Rose going down, Deng was already putting up solid numbers in line with his last two all-star seasons, averaging 15.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.5 threes, on .403 shooting from the field. In the three games that Deng has played since Rose has gone down, he’s averaging a blazing 26.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 0.7 steals, and only 1.7 turnovers, while shooting an improved .545 from the field.
His assist percentage has increased from 15.9 before Rose went down to 27.9 since. His usage rate has also gone up from 21.8 to 26.8. These numbers indicate that Deng should be more responsible for ball handling and distributing duties going forward. The Bulls have fewer offensive weapons than they did last year without Rose and Deng looks like he’ll be responsible for shouldering even more of the load.
Deng is a great two-way player and a personal favorite of coach Thibodeau, as evidenced by the fact that he’s led the league in minutes per game over the last two seasons. He’s already producing mid-round value (ranked 60th on our NBA Fantasy Basketball Rankings), but now has early-round upside playing ample minutes as a lockdown defender and first option on offense. Buy!
Add Nate Robinson
Nate Robinson is not a player that you should be running out to add, but he is worth a roster spot while he’s tearing it up. He’s the third PG in Denver’s rotation behind Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, but he’s still putting up big numbers lately and earning time on the court.
In his last six games, Nate is putting up impressive numbers in limited minutes. He’s averaging 15.3 points, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steal, and 2.5 threes over that period in only 21.3 minutes per game. He’s also shooting .492 from the field, .500 from deep, and .929 from the line in that period.
Lawson is dealing with bone spurs in his right ankle and Miller is dealing with being 37 years old. If either PG is forced to miss time or play fewer minutes, Robinson has the chance to put up big numbers.
Last year, Nate averaged 13.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.7 threes per game, playing 25.4 minutes per game in all 82 games for the Bulls. He has always been good at doing a lot with a little. He’s a hot add right now and could creep up into must-add status if Lawson or Miller ever have to miss time.
Add Aaron Brooks / Francisco Garcia
Aaron Brooks and Francisco Garcia started the year as fantasy afterthoughts, backing up a guard rotation of James Harden, Patrick Beverley, and Jeremy Lin. A myriad of injuries to the starting trio has opened up floor time for Brooks and Garcia at various points during the season, most notably now with Lin expected to miss two weeks with a sprained right knee.
Both guards are mired in uneven game-to-game production, but could be temporarily useful for people looking to gamble on upside and who need help right now. Over the last four games, both have put up early- to mid-round value:
They’re both liable to alternate good performances and duds on any given night and can’t be trusted for the long-term. If you’re looking for upside in points, threes, and steals in deep leagues, however, you could do worse than Brooks or Garcia, depending on your positional needs.