We’re already at the halfway mark of the NBA season, which means we’re entering the stretch run of the fantasy basketball campaign. We’re 12 weeks in, which is the 60 percent mark for most standard leagues. There are eight weeks left before most fantasy playoffs begin and now is the perfect time to start getting aggressive with your moves.
If you’re high in the standings, don’t feel any shame in picking on the little guys. Struggling owners might be more willing to make a deal with you as their chances of getting into the playoffs start seeming smaller and smaller. On the other hand, if you’re on the outside of the fantasy playoff picture, now is the time to go for broke. Stop waiting on a struggling star and move him for someone who is producing now and can give you the edge. Cut bait with your mid-level injured guys if you need wins now or at least try to move them to a team that can take the hit.
Take some calculated risks. If you see someone on your wire you might like, try swinging a two-for-one deal rather than just dropping one of your players. That way you upgrade at a position while still getting the guy you want. Try this move especially with injury-plagued owners or someone who wants to bolster his or her depth.
Also, throw out lowball offers any time a player you’ve had your eye on puts up a bad game or two. You never know where another owners patience level is until you try. In the same vein, do your best to sell guys who put together mini-stretches of elite production, but who have a history of falling back down to Earth. As always, buying low and selling high is how fantasy championships are won.
Assess your situation and adjust accordingly. It won’t be long before the playoffs are upon us and for now you still have time to control your destiny. We’re not quite close enough to the end of the season for everyone to be eyeing the finish line, so take advantage of the complacency of others. Making that key move now could be the difference between being on the outside looking in or vice versa.
This past week was thankfully pretty light on the major injury news, so scrambling for replacements isn’t as big a part of the game this time around as it has been in recent installments. There are some decent buy and sell candidates out there right now, so make sure you consider all your angles. Let’s get down to it.
Add Ramon Sessions
The one notable injury this week came when Kemba Walker sprained his ankle on Saturday night. With Walker set to miss a chunk of time, Ramon Sessions becomes a must add in all leagues, big and small.
In Sessions’ two seasons as a Bobcat, he has yet to start a game, but has provided solid numbers as a backup. So far this season, he’s averaging 10.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 0.6 steals in only 22.1 minutes per game. Those numbers are nothing flashy, to be sure, but when extrapolated over the starter minutes he’s about to receive, Sessions becomes an obvious pickup.
His per-36 numbers of 16.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.0 steal are certainly more friendly. For further proof, Sessions started at point guard for the Lakers for 23 games in 2011-12 and put up per-game averages of 13.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.8 threes. Go grab him.
Buy Chris Bosh
When people talk about the Miami Heat, the names LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will always come up before Chris Bosh. Similarly, when people talk about elite fantasy big men, there are usually about a dozen names that come up before CB. This is exactly why you should be trying to get him on your squad.
There are few fantasy players that are more underrated and less talked about than Bosh. He tends to go in the early- to mid-rounds of fantasy drafts, but has been first- to early-round value the last two seasons as a third banana. A big part of the misconception of his value has to do with the fact that he doesn’t absolutely kill it in any one category.
When people think effective bigs, they want to see at least one or some combination of 20-plus points, 10-plus rebounds, or 1.5-plus blocks, in the mould of Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, etc. Those guys are clearly the star 1A or 1B of their teams and tend to hog the attention and fantasy praise.
Meanwhile, Bosh puts up comparable value without all the glitz and glamor. On the season, he’s averaging an understated 16.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.1 blocks, 0.7 threes, and only 1.5 turnovers, while shooting an insanely efficient .529 from the field, .361 from deep, and .803 from the line. There is hardly a better and more consistent 9-category line out there than that. He’s currently 17th on our NBA Player Rankings with a nERD of 7.9, placing him subtly in elite company.
Bosh’s play has been even further elevated over the last week, where he’s put up averages of 25.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.7 blocks, and 2.0 threes, while shooting .585 from the field and .800 from the line in three games (good enough for first-round value). If you’re in a league where he’s not viewed as a top-tier fantasy talent, do whatever you can to get him.
Sell Pau Gasol / Add Ryan Kelly
If you want an example of a player to trade for Chris Bosh, look no further than Pau Gasol. Pau has been riding a roller coaster all season as a Laker, dealing with a litany of injuries to his teammates, uncountable trade rumors that have him leaving town, and a seemingly strained relationship with his coach.
Pau has somehow managed to play through the distractions and put up decent numbers in the process. He’s putting up mid-round value on the season, posting averages of 16.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.3 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game, while shooting .458 from the field and .741 from the line. Over the last four games, in particular, Gasol has come alive with averages of 22.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.3 steals, and 1.0 block, while shooting .529 from the field and .720 from the line. Sell high, right now.
Gasol is a 13-year NBA veteran who has dealt with a variety of little injuries all season, most recently a strained toe that required an MRI last week. He’s only missed three games this year, but is coming off a season when he battled knee tendonitis the whole way through and only played in a little over half of his team’s games. There are many factors suggesting a regression and owners would be best served exploring deals while he’s playing well. Between the injury-risk, the mileage on his legs, the eventual return of his injured teammates, and a potential trade to a destination where his usage rate would drop (currently at 26.2, his highest since 2006), there is little reason to keep him if you can find a willing trade partner.
Also in the Lakers frontcourt, rookie Ryan Kelly is a player worth adding and trying on for size in standard leagues. He has played well over his last three and even made the start over Jordan Hill in Sunday’s contest against the Raptors. He’s averaging 15.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks, and 1.3 threes over those three games, while shooting .538 from the field, .400 from deep, and 1.000 from the line. He might continue to pick up steam if he sticks in the starting lineup, so an add now might help you get the jump on the competition.
Add / Buy Wilson Chandler
Wilson Chandler has been having an underrated fantasy season and has really caught fire lately. He’s been a late-round value on the year and an early-round value over the last couple weeks.
Chandler recently missed a couple games due to a hip problem, but has been excellent in his four games back. Since his return, he has put up solid averages of 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.0 block, a blistering 3.3 three-pointers, and only 0.8 turnovers per game. His shooting has been suspect, only hitting .387 of his 15.5 attempts from the field per game over that stretch, but that should creep closer to his career .447 mark before too long.
Quincy Miller didn’t really run away with the starting job in Chandler’s absence, so look for Chandler to keep starting and putting up numbers in this fast-paced Nuggets offense (fifth highest pace in the league). He has increased his scoring average and threes made per game every month since the start of the season. He’s trending up and should be owned in more than 70 percent of leagues. He’s also worth buying if he’s already owned and you’re looking for a boost in scoring or threes.
Add Mario Chalmers
If you’re someone who likes to keep a streaming spot at the end of your fantasy bench, but you’re looking for some more stability, I’d recommend Mario Chalmers as a waiver wire guy who is consistent enough to pick up longterm.
Chalmers is coming off an Achilles injury that kept him out of the lineup for four games, so there’s a chance that he was dropped by an impatient owner in your league. He’s currently available on roughly half the waiver wires out there, despite putting up sneakily consistent mid- to late-round value on the year.
This season, he’s averaging 9.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists (a career high), 1.9 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 1.2 three-pointers per game. These numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, mostly because of the single-digit scoring output, but I implore owners to start looking past scoring averages and to stop ignoring Chalmers’ peripherals.
His 1.9 steals per game currently rank him sixth in the league and his 3.4 steal percentage is the fourth best out there. In the vast majority of leagues, a win in the steals category is worth just as much as a win in the points category and it’s not like we would leave the league’s sixth best scorer unowned, regardless of his other numbers (for argument’s sake, that’s LaMarcus Aldridge). Chalmers is elite in steals and can fill it up with assists and threes in any given game. He should be far more widely owned than he currently is and you should pick him up if you’re in a competitive league in which people are sleeping on his value.
Buy Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert’s worth is no secret, as he’s currently second in the league in blocks per game (2.6), second in block percentage (6.5), and first in defensive rating (92.7). The frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year is also chipping in 12.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 0.5 steals per game. That places him firmly as a mid-round value (right around where his ADP predicted to start the season) and at 20th on our NBA Player Rankings with a nERD of 7.8.
What can be frustrating for owners, other than the fact that a 7’2” beast only averages 7.8 rebounds per game, is that he shoots a surprisingly low .461 from the field, despite towering over defenders and taking 73 percent of his shots from within nine feet of the basket. Over his last eight games, in particular, he’s gone ice cold, shooting .351 from the field without shooting higher than .500 in one single game over that span.
Last season, Hibbert had an incredibly slow start to the year and his offensive ability was seriously brought into question. He silenced critics by upping his numbers in the second half, scoring 15.7 points on .508 shooting after the all-star break, compared to 10.0 points on .414 shooting before.
With this current cold stretch bringing up similar questions, prospective owners should consider throwing out some offers now with the chance of a similar response in the second half of the year. The Pacers are on a first-seed-or-bust mission and they will need Hibbert to step up as much as possible to achieve that goal. A turnaround might be right around the corner and you might not get a better buy-low opportunity for the defensive stalwart.
Add D.J. Augustin
D.J. Augustin has found a home in Chicago and is producing at a level worthy of being picked up in standard leagues. Many people were ready to write him off after unsuccessful stints in Indiana and Toronto over the last two seasons, but he is thriving in a reserve role for the Bulls, backing up starter Kirk Hinrich.
In Augustin’s 19 games as a Bull, he has averaged a respectable 11.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.7 three-pointers in a healthy 28.9 minutes per game. He has only started three of those games, but has still managed to get it done regardless of whether he starts the game on the floor or on the bench. He’s posting mid-round value for that period, which screams for ownership in more than the 25 percent of leagues he’s currently picked up in.
Over his last five games in particular, D.J. has been hot, posting averages of 16.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.4 steals, and 2.2 threes per game, while shooting .435 from the field, .423 from deep, and hitting all 16 of his attempts from the line (good enough for early-round value). With Derrick Rose gone for the year, Marquis Teague traded to the Nets, and Hinrich susceptible to injury, Augustin should be owned now with the potential of being a must-own player if Hinrich ever goes down and misses a chunk of games. If you're currently choosing between Augustin and Hinrich, D.J. even gets the value edge in his reserve role, as they play roughly the same minutes, regardless of who starts. Pick him up.
Buy Nikola Pekovic
Wolves center Nikola Pekovic is quietly having a great fantasy season, despite being overshadowed by his frontcourt partner, Kevin Love. If he’s being undervalued by his owner, Pek makes for a great trade target for people in need of a reliable big man.
Pek has solid season averages of 18.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.6 blocks per game, to go with .533 shooting from the field and .742 from the line. The free throw percentage is nice for a big and his 1.6 turnovers per game certainly won’t hurt you either. The low block numbers from the center position can be a bit of a bummer, but his points, rebounds, and field goal percentage are elite and somewhat make up for the defensive deficiencies.
He’s clearly trending upwards at the moment as well, as evidenced by fantastic January numbers. In nine games since the calendar rolled over to 2014, Pek has posted early-round value to the tune of 20.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.0 block per game, along with torrid shooting numbers of .563 from the field and .818 from the line.
The Big Montenegrin struggled with health issues that kept him off the court for stretches last year, but he’s been indestructible so far this season, having played in every game. If you are already squared away in the block department, but want to add some consistency in other big-man categories, set your sights on Pekovic.
Sell J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith’s season is really starting to seem like a lost cause and it’s getting to the point that owners might be best served trying to unload him whenever an opportunity presents itself. Right now might be as good a time as any.
J.R. was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year last season, as he provided an excellent spark off the Knicks bench. One of the best stories of the year was how Coach Mike Woodson had taken Smith under his wing and helped develop his maturity and poise to the point where his basketball performance far overshadowed his extra-curricular shenanigans. He put up numbers that had him in all-star conversations and that clearly established him as New York’s second option on offense behind Carmelo Anthony. Those days now seem like a distant memory.
Stories about Smith this year are no longer of the redemption variety. Instead, we’ve been hearing about things like secret offseason knee surgery, violations of the league’s substance abuse policy, controversy over the signing and waiving of his brother by the Knicks, a self-imposed freeze out (in a game in which he intentionally took only one shot, presumably to send some kind of message), trade rumors, and most recently about him untying other players’ shoelaces in the middle of games. In the midst of the shoelace story, Smith was slapped with a couple DNP-CDs by Woodson, seemingly suggesting that even the man with the most patience for Smith’s behavior had given up on him.
On the season, his play has suffered just as badly as his reputation. His scoring average has plummeted from 18.1 points per game last year to 11.8 this year, mostly as a result of awful shooting numbers. He has dipped from shooting .422 from the field, .356 from deep, and .762 from the line last year, to an unbelievably mediocre split of .368, .344, and .608 this year. He’s been borderline droppable all season, particularly during the recent benchings.
The only problem is, between those DNPs, he has put up what is arguably his best four-game stretch of the season. During that time, his averages of 15.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 threes, .510 shooting from the field and .400 from deep have made him look relevant again. I say he’s no longer worth the headache and you should be looking to move him to anyone who believes he’s turning it around. The potential for random falling outs with his coach or a trade to a team where his role would be reduced is too great. Get out while the getting’s good.
Add Al-Farouq Aminu
Last week, I told you to monitor members of the Pelicans’ frontcourt, as Ryan Anderson was set to miss a large portion of the season with a herniated disc in his back. Since then, Jason Smith has also gone down, suffering knee damage that will require surgery this week. He’ll be out indefinitely as a result, which leaves Al-Farouq Aminu as the highest upside add in the extremely depleted Pelicans frontline.
I’ve recommended Aminu before (Volume 6) with the caveat that he has a tendency to toy with fantasy owners, slipping in and out of relevance throughout the season. His limited offensive game can be frustrating, but he puts up fairly good rebounding and defensive stats and should be given all the minutes he can handle over the next little while.
In his last four games, Aminu has posted averages of 10.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.5 blocks, with shooting percentages of .417 from the field and .846 from the line. That’s nothing worth running to the waiver wire to fight over, but the potential for a double-double will be there every night and his averages of 1.2 steals and 0.7 blocks on the season are far more enticing than what those four games suggest. He could be in for his most productive portion of the season and is worth a flier for now if you need a fill-in.
Add Mike Scott
The situation in Atlanta’s frontcourt in the wake of Al Horford’s season-ending pectoral injury is beginning to rival the confusion that comes from trying to chase production on teams like the Bucks. It’s hard to know where the best value is going to come from in any given game and the best you can do is stream whoever’s rolling. In Volume 10, that was Pero Antic. Antic is still the starter, but the one currently putting up the fantasy value is Mike Scott.
Over the last two weeks, Scott has posted mid-round value in five games, averaging 14.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.6 steals, and 1.0 three-pointer, while shooting .583 from the floor, .333 from deep, and 1.000 from the line in a mere 20.9 minutes per game. There is definitely no guarantee that he’ll remain the one to own out of him, Antic, Elton Brand, and Gustavo Ayon, but the best you can do for now is ride the hot hand.
Hold / Add John Henson
John Henson was having a breakout year before going down with a high ankle sprain in late December and missing seven games. He was taking advantage of a time when Larry Sanders was sidelined and no one on the Bucks was posting consistent numbers. Prior to the injury, Henson was posting early- to mid-round value, averaging 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.3 blocks, and 1.5 turnovers while shooting .527 from the floor and .622 from the line.
While Henson was out, both Sanders and forward Ersan Ilyasova got healthy and reclaimed the starter minutes in the Bucks frontcourt. Most figured that would spell doom for Henson’s value, especially since Bucks coach Larry Drew seems unable to figure out a rotation that highlights his best players.
In four games since returning from injury, however, Henson has resumed his breakout campaign from the bench, putting up averages of 11.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.5 steals, 2.0 blocks, 1.3 turnovers, and .526 shooting from the field in only 24.2 minutes per game. It looks as though he’ll continue to be a high-upside play in a reserve role and there’s always the possibility that he starts again someday if Sanders or Ily go down or Larry Drew feels like making yet another shift (neither Sanders nor Ily have exactly run away with their respective starting jobs). He’s worth holding for now or adding if he was dropped while he was injured.