Fantasy Basketball: A Dozen Dimes, Week 4
Welcome back to our weekly transactions article, where we dish out 12 dimes of advice fantasy hoops advice, including the top adds, drops, buys, and sells for this upcoming week and beyond.
These are generally listed in relative order of importance. If you're looking for even more advice, check the "related news" section to cycle through other recent editions of this column. We try not to repeat ourselves too much from one week to the next, so you might find more ideas you like from previous weeks that are still valid.
All fantasy rankings are courtesy of BasketballMonster.com.
Okay, let's get down to it.
Buy Jimmy Butler
His numbers are simply down across the board:
There's no significant dip in minutes to account for the decline in his numbers, but his usage rate does all the talking there. After averaging a career high 26.3% usage last year, he's all the way down to 19.7% this year, which is his lowest since 2013-14. His 12.1 shots per game also stands as his lowest mark of the last four seasons, down from a career-high 16.5 last year.
Maybe this is a product of Butler now having to share the ball with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Jeff Teague, but he was still putting up numbers in Chicago back when he had to share the rock with guys like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Pau Gasol (closer to their primes, obviously), and he can surely do so again. Heck, he was the eighth-ranked player in nine-category leagues in 2014-15 with a modest usage of 21.6%, so it's not like he can't do a lot with a little.
He's only eight games into playing in a new city with mostly new teammates, so we'd give him a bit more time before saying an in-his-prime 28-year-old was due for this big of a drop-off. If his owner in your league is getting impatient, buy low on Butler's first-round ceiling.
Sell Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond has been an absolute beast to start the 2017-18 season, averaging 14.0 points, 14.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.1 steals, 1.1 blocks, and 2.3 turnovers per contest, while shooting 54.5% from the field.
The assists are notably up, but the rest seems to fit pretty much what we've come to expect from the big man. Oh wait, did we forget to mention that the career 38.9% shooter from the free throw line is somehow shooting 75.0% on freebies through his first 10 games this season?
Turns out that Drummond is a top-tier asset when his free throws drop, since he's currently ranked 13th in nine-category leagues (after topping out at 82nd over the last three years with vaguely similar numbers outside of the charity stripe). Maybe he's finally figured it all out?
Meh, probably not.
Have we ever seen a player go from shooting 38.6% from the line one year and then jump to 75.0% the next? That's a nearly 40% jump in accuracy! Change your mechanics all you want, there's a much better chance that regression hits and his percentage plummets as the season goes on.
Drummond will likely never have more value than he does right now, so selling high is your best bet before he goes back to clanking freebies on at least a semi-regular basis. Even if does end up a better free throw shooter by season's end, it's highly unlikely that he'll continue to be this much better.
Add Donovan Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell has been on a tear over his last five games, averaging 20.0 points, 3.0 triples, 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 2.4 turnovers in 27.2 minutes per contest, while shooting 46.2% from the field and 92.9% from the line. He's scored 20-plus points in three of those five with 15 total threes over that span.
That's made him the 30th-ranked player during that period, so try not to let the 133rd overall ranking fool you.
He's been coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz, so there will probably be an occasional dud mixed in going forward, but there's no reason not to own him while he's this blazing hot. He's available in over 50% of Yahoo leagues and 85% on ESPN, so run out and scoop him up if he's still sitting on your wire.
Buy Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap has been a top-50 player in nine-category leagues for seven consecutive seasons, including five in which he ranked within the top-25. When he's on, he's one of the rare nine-category threats in fantasy hoops, giving his owners solid scoring, threes, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and free throw percentage, to go with passable field goal percentage and turnovers.
This season, however, Millsap is off to a bumpy start. He's currently ranked 132nd, which is his worst showing since his sophomore season back in 2008. Yes, Millsap is going on 33 years of age and is bound to start a decline, but it's hard to believe that it would happen this fast.
His per-36 numbers are actually pretty well in line with what we've seen from him the last several years, just down ever so slightly. What's hurting his value the most is that he's only averaging 29.9 minutes per game with the Denver Nuggets, as opposed to the 34.0 he was getting with the Atlanta Hawks last year. Well, that and the 43.7% shooting from the field and 71.1% from the line, down from the 46.3% and 75.3% he hit during his four All-Star seasons in Atlanta.
The dip in minutes is a bit of a concern at first glance, but it's important to note that the four games in which Millsap failed to reach 30 minutes this season were all blowouts. If the minutes climb back up and his percentages regress to their norms, Millsap will be right back to being a top-50 asset. Buy low while the window is still open a crack.
Add/Buy Lauri Markkanen
We've somehow gotten to Week 4 of this column without even mentioning Lauri Markkanen. In an attempt to atone for that sin, let's give the rookie some love.
Through the first eight games of his career, Markkanen is averaging 16.3 points, 2.8 three-pointers, 9.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.6 turnovers in 32.9 minutes per game, while shooting 43.1% from the field and 80.0% from the free throw line. That's got the first-year Finnish forward ranked 60th in nine-category leagues, which currently makes him the highest-ranking rookie in fantasy hoops.
The reason Markkanen hasn't shown up as an add here yet is mostly due to the fact that we expected both Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis to eventually come back from Mirotic's broken face and muddy up the rotation. Markkanen has simply played too well to let either of those dudes replace him, though, so we're fully ready to buy in.
He's somehow still available in 20% of Yahoo leagues and 35% on ESPN, so run to grab him if you're lucky enough to be in a league where he's still on a waiver wire. If he's already owned, see if you can convince his owner that Portis, Mirotic, and the rookie wall will eventually threaten to take cookies out of Markkanen's cookie jar.
Add/Buy Kyle Kuzma
Kyle Kuzma, like Lauri Markkanen, is someone who probably deserved some praise in this column before now, but his coming off the bench and splitting time with Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle always stood in the way of the rookie having a clear and obvious path to value going forward. Even so, he's played the best of the trio of power forwards, and now with Nance sidelined for the next month-plus, it's officially Kuzma time.
He's currently ranked 68th in nine-category leagues on the season as a whole, but over his last week (four games), he's been simply must-start material with a 28th ranking overall.
Over that four-game span (two starts), Kuzma has averaged 18.0 points, 1.8 triples, 8.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 1.0 turnover per contest, while shooting 64.4% from the field and 87.5% from the line. The lack of defensive numbers is a bit of a concern, but otherwise, it seems like this year's 27th overall pick is well on his way to living up to the hype he garnered during Summer League and the preseason.
He's currently owned in 74% of Yahoo leagues and 70% on ESPN, so he's not available as an add in many places, but run to do so if that's the case in your league. Otherwise, go ahead and buy high on him, since Randle isn't doing enough to displace him and Kuzma's playing more than well enough to keep the starting gig when Nance eventually comes back.
Sell Evan Fournier
Ten games into the regular season and Evan Fournier is the 18th-ranked player in nine-category leagues. Hands up if you predicted that.
Hands down, you liar.
Fournier ranked in the top-70 two seasons ago, but that was literally the only time he's ever cracked the top-100 during his five-year career. He's averaging career highs in basically everything, most notably his 20.3 points, 2.7 triples, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.2 steals per contest, and you're laughing if you grabbed him at or around his 82.3 average draft position (ADP) this year.
But don't rest on your laurels. This is a sell-high case if there ever was one.
Fournier is shooting an absolutely blistering 50.7% from the field, 47.4% from deep, and 96.3% from the free throw line, all up from 43.9%, 35.6%, and 80.5%, respectively, last year. If you believe in the 6.8%, 11.8%, 15.8% jumps in accuracy, more power to you, but you'd be better off selling before regression hits him hard. Even if he measures out as an improved shooter over the whole season, the chances that Fournier is suddenly a true 50-40-90 shooter are probably pretty slim.
Hold Domantas Sabonis
Domantas Sabonis has been having a great fantasy season on the Indiana Pacers, averaging 13.5 points, 0.1 threes, 10.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 2.3 turnovers in 27.0 minutes per contest, while shooting 62.8% from the field and 68.4% from the free throw line. The lack of defensive stats has kept his overall ranking in nine-category leagues down to 114th, but the double-double with a high field goal percentage has been nice for his owners.
Sabonis' early-season success always felt like it came with an expiration date (as mentioned last week), however, as he was filling in for the concussed Myles Turner in the starting lineup. With Turner now back in the fold and Sabonis back to the bench, dropping Sabonis seems like an obvious move.
Not so fast.
Sabonis has still gotten 26.5 minutes over the two games since Turner's return. He might not displace starting power forward Thaddeus Young in the starting lineup right away (or ever), but he's at least earned himself more playing time. If coach Nate McMillian decides to give Sabonis a healthy helping of backup minutes at both power forward and center, he very well could still get enough time to still give owners a double-double with some other goodies.
There's always a chance that he's an even more obvious drop a week from now, but we'd at least hold a little longer until we see how this thing plays out.
Add Norman Powell
Norman Powell had a relatively slow start to the season, but he's been bringing it over the last week.
Over that four-game span, Powell has been the 63rd-ranked player in nine-category leagues with averages of 14.0 points, 1.5 threes, 2.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.0 block, and 1.3 turnovers in 28.8 minutes per contest, and a shooting split of 52.5% from the field and 72.7% from the line.
The third-year wing has a real chance at a fantasy breakout this year with a secure role as a starter for the Toronto Raptors, so if this past week is the indication of more scoring and goodies to come, you'll want to pounce on him with his ultra-low ownership percentages of 20% on Yahoo and 5% on ESPN.
Drop Jae Crowder
When Jae Crowder was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas deal, his fantasy outlook was bound to take a hit. Crowder ranked as a top-50 asset in nine-category leagues in each of the last two seasons, but the thought was that he would have a harder time getting minutes and opportunities in a frontcourt rotation that also included LeBron James and Kevin Love. Even so, Crowder had an ADP of 90.3 during fantasy drafts this year, according to FantasyPros.com.
But even with a somewhat discounted ADP only barely within the top-100, Crowder has been a bust this year.
He's been in and out of the starting lineup for the struggling Cavaliers and his minutes are down from 32.4 last year with the Boston Celtics to 26.2 this season. When the minutes have been there in the past, Crowder has given owners a bit of everything in nine-category leagues, but this year, there's nothing to get excited about in his averages of 8.2 points, 1.0 three, 3.7 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks, and 0.9 turnovers, nor his shooting split of 39.7% from the field and 78.3% from the free throw line.
He's still owned in 70% of both Yahoo and ESPN leagues, and that must be tough with all the hot free agents floating around out there. He's currently ranked 201st in nine-category leagues and has a lot of ground to make up before he'll deserve that level of ownership again.
Add Taj Gibson
Taj Gibson is not the sexiest name in fantasy hoops -- as he's 32-years-old and the only time he's placed within the top-100 in nine-category leagues was when he ranked 99th in 2015-16 -- but he's now getting a career high in minutes under head coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota and fantasy production is coming right along with it.
Through 10 games this season, Gibson is the 69th-ranked player in nine-category leagues, but the real reason to add him is because of his emergence over his last five. Over that span, he's averaged 10.8 points, 0.2 threes, 8.8 boards, 1.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.6 blocks, and 1.2 turnovers in a healthy 32.3 minutes per contest, while shooting a sterling 61.0% from the field and a perfect 3-for-3 from the charity stripe.
That line makes him the 29th-ranked player over that period, yet he's still unowned in 45% of Yahoo leagues and 75% on ESPN. We all figured Gorgui Dieng would eventually eat into his minutes, but that doesn't look like it's happening anytime soon. We stick by the plan of dropping Dieng from two weeks ago and now fully endorse a Gibson add.
Add John Henson
Greg Monroe will miss the next two weeks with calf soreness, so John Henson will step into a bigger role for the Milwaukee Bucks. He hasn't quite seized that opportunity when it's been there for him in the past, but owners in need of a short-term fix in rebounds and blocks should take notice.
The 5.3 points and 37.5% free throw percentage has kept his nine-category ranking down to 143rd over his four Monroe-less games, but the 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.8 blocks, 2.0 turnovers, and 45.0% shooting mark from the field have the makings of a nice fantasy line.
Henson moved into Milwaukee's starting lineup for the team's last two contests and grabbed double-digit rebounds in each of them. He's available in a whopping 85% of Yahoo leagues and 95% on ESPN, so even in leagues where wires are mostly picked clean, there's a good chance he's available for some cheap big-man stats until Monroe's return.