A Dozen Dimes: Volume 14
Well there you have it. The football season is over (congrats to my wife's favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks), baseball season is still a couple months away, and the hockey season is about to go on hiatus for the Olympics. We basketball fanatics recognize that this is the time of year when more and more casual fans pop in on the NBA to get their sports fix during the long winter months and we welcome you if you’re part of that collective.
Maybe you’ve been too focused on football to take good care of your fantasy basketball roster. You had such a good draft, made some key moves in the first week, then kind of forgot about it.
Wondering why that early-round Kobe Bryant pick hasn’t worked out for you? Well, he came back from his Achilles injury only to fracture his left tibial plateau. He’s not even due to be re-evaluated for another few weeks.
Were you one of the many that grew enamoured with Vitor Faverani in week one and then accidentally stopped paying attention and kept him rostered all this time (yeah, sorry about that)? Drop him, for crying out loud!
Ok, now that you’re all caught up, here are some key roster recovery moves that you can make right now and still have a shot at your league’s playoffs.
Note: Of course there are many of you that have been on top of your roster moves all season, so those last few paragraphs don’t really apply to you. Once you’re done patting yourself on the back, please enjoy these fantasy hoops tips for the upcoming week anyway, you savvy fake GM, you.
Buy Andrew Bogut
Just in case you haven’t noticed, Andrew Bogut is a first-round value over the last month. In 15 January games, in only 27.1 minutes per contest, he managed to post averages of 8.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 2.5 blocks, and 1.5 turnovers per game, while shooting a ridiculous .695 from the field and an equally astonishing (for different reasons) .143 from the line.
His value flies under the radar due to the low scoring output and the terrible free-throw percentage. If you can take the hit in points, the rebounds, blocks, and field-goal percentage are all elite and among the January league leaders. As for the free-throw percentage, he only attempted seven shots from the charity stripe over that 15-game stretch. Seven! Sure, he only managed to hit one of those, but that isn’t exactly going to kill you when you consider just how low the occurrence rate is.
Back in Volume 4, I professed my love for the big Aussie, but preached sell because he’s broken our hearts too many times before with injuries. Just as a refresher, he’s averaged only 55 games played per season over his eight-year career, including a mere 40 games played combined over his last two seasons.
Don’t look now, but Bogut has stayed healthy this whole season. He’s only missed one game and that was way back in November. Mark Jackson is managing his minutes masterfully and we’re starting to see the Bogut that was once selected first overall by the Milwaukee Bucks with the hopes that he would become their franchise center.
He’s a big part of the reason why the Warriors can claim the league’s fourth-best defense this season and he looks primed for his best campaign in a while. If you can handle the injury risk, his early-round value on the season looks to be legit and worth shopping for.
Add Evan Fournier
The injury news for the Denver Nuggets simply won’t stop piling up. Danilo Gallinari and Nate Robinson are both done for the year with torn ACLs, JaVale McGee has been out since early November with a stress fracture in his left tibia and remains out indefinitely, Andre Miller is out indefinitely for not getting along with his coach, and Ty Lawson has missed the last couple games with a bad shoulder and is day-to-day.
By default, Evan Fournier has been tasked with a heavier load of minutes and is currently the only healthy point guard on his team. The second-year French guard has responded over his last two games, averaging 18.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.5 steals, and 3.0 threes. That’s the good. The bad, however, is the .366 shooting from the field and the 4.5 turnovers.
Regardless of the low points of that stat line, Fournier’s 38.5 minutes, 20.5 shots per, and usage rate of 27.2 over those games suggest that he’ll be leaned on heavily moving forward. Lawson is close to a return, but the level of depletion that the Nuggets bench is currently suffering through leaves room for Fournier to maintain value once he moves back to the bench. He should inherit the bulk of Nate Rob’s 19.7 minutes per game and has the upside to be a big factor whenever Lawson misses time. Pick him up and see how things shake out in Denver.
Add Randy Foye
Speaking of the injury-ravished Nuggets, this is a friendly reminder to go pick up Randy Foye if you are in one of the leagues where he criminally remains unowned (which is about half of them at the moment for some reason). I told you to go pick him up in Volume 11 and I generally hate to repeat myself in such close succession, but he has jumped from “ride the wave” to “must-own and must-start” status since that time and I can’t stay quiet.
Foye is an early-round value over the last month, posting January averages of 16.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks, 2.9 treys, and only 1.5 turnovers per game, while shooting an efficient .469 from the field, .406 from downtown, and .871 from the charity stripe. If you can find some reason to leave that kind of line unowned, I’d love to hear it.
If you want a sample size of what he’s capable of, he posted 33 points on 12 of 21 shooting last Wednesday, to go with 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 3 threes. The game after that on Friday, his shot wasn’t falling (4 of 13 from the field), so he contributed 16 assists instead.
Many people have been anticipating a drop-off, but it has yet to happen. He’s enjoying a breakout since late December and he should be universally owned and started until further notice.
Buy Bradley Beal
Since being drafted third overall by the Wizards in the 2012 NBA Draft, Bradley Beal has missed more than a quarter of his team’s games due to injury. He has played in 24-straight contests since returning from a fractured fibula, but has done so with a minutes limit of 30 per game.
Over that span, he has averaged 14.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.6 threes in 28.7 minutes per game. Coupling that with .413 shooting and 1.6 turnovers per game has yielded late-round value over that time. Decent, but not quite what owners were expecting when they picked him in the early- to mid-rounds of fantasy drafts this preseason.
Thankfully, an MRI this past week revealed sufficient enough healing in Beal’s leg to allow the Wizards to lift his minutes limit. In his first game without restrictions, he played 34 minutes, but put up a relative dud, tallying only 7 points on 3 of 12 shooting and not much else.
Right now might be your last chance to buy low on the promising second-year guard as you can rest assured that Saturday’s down performance won’t be indicative of what’s to come. Beal’s per-36 numbers this year are enticing at 18.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals, and 2.2 threes per game. His .411 shooting from the field on the year can be a bit of a downer, but his .413 from long range and .808 from the free-throw line certainly aren’t.
If an owner has grown frustrated with Beal’s dip in production, don’t hesitate to throw out a few lowball offers to try getting him on your squad. His health problems seem to be fading in the rearview mirror and he’s definitely someone to target if you believe the injury-prone tag that he has been slapped with in his very young career is overblown.
Add Taj Gibson
Fantasy players have known for a long time that Taj Gibson becomes a must add player whenever Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer miss time for the Bulls due to injury (I said as much in Volume 6). With both Noah and Boozer staying relatively healthy for the better part of this season to date (only missing a combined four games), those opportunities haven’t materialized with any kind of regularity.
One thing that most people haven’t noticed is that Gibson is still contributing at a level worth owning in standard leagues and is making a case for Sixth-Man of the Year. He has posted mid-round value over the last month and early-round over the last two weeks.
He has had double-digit scoring efforts in each of his last seven, averaging 15.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.9 blocks, and only 1.4 turnovers in 31.4 minutes per game over that span. He’s topped that off by shooting .506 from the floor and .781 from the line as well.
He’s only owned in roughly half the leagues out there, but should be be owned in more while he’s playing this well. Gibson’s value will skyrocket if another trade goes down in Chicago, whether it be to send Boozer elsewhere or to move Gibson to a place where he starts. Players playing this well off the bench with so much upside to boot are few and far between. Pick him up and start him comfortably.
Sell Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Lin has had a fairly solid season in Houston, even if things haven’t quite reached “Linsanity” levels. In 31.0 minutes per game this year, he has averaged 13.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.5 blocks, 1.1 threes, and 2.7 turnovers and shot .463 from the field, .331 from deep, and .800 from the line. Those numbers, while passable on the surface, are only good enough for borderline late-round value on the year.
What is capping Lin’s fantasy value, other than the high turnover rate, is the fact that he’s not Coach Kevin McHale’s preferred starter at point guard. Lin has started in 24 of his 39 games so far this season, but in all but one of those starts, one of either Patrick Beverley or James Harden has been out due to injury. In other words, whenever both Beverley and Harden suit up, there’s an excellent chance that Lin will come off the bench.
That means that Lin’s already disappointing returns could stand to be worse if Beverley and Harden manage to stay healthy for an extended period of time. In the meantime, Lin has enjoyed a mini-surge over his last three, putting up averages of 17.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.7 blocks, and 1.3 three-pointers, while shooting .487 from the field, .333 from deep, and hitting all nine of his free-throw attempts.
He started the first two of those three games for an injured Harden, but managed to keep the excellent play going by posting a triple-double in his first game back to the bench on Saturday. The performance of 15 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and 1 three-pointer turned a lot of heads and had some people wondering if Lin had earned more minutes and perhaps another shot at the starting role.
At the chance that things don’t unfold that way, now is probably an ideal sell-high moment. His name recognition from Linsanity is still enough to make him an attractive target for some people, especially when he’s coming off one of his best stretches as a Rocket. At the chance that he stays on the bench and his production remains inconsistent and unpredictable, you’d be best served trying to move him while you can.
Buy Kyle Korver
Kyle Korver has been one of fantasy basketball’s most underrated assets for the last two years. He finished last season with early-round value, despite being picked very late in most standard drafts, if at all. This year, his success from last season was clearly treated as a fluke and he was drafted yet again in the late rounds or not at all.
He’s making people pay for overlooking him again by posting early-round value on the year. When you look at his line of 12.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.3 blocks, 2.7 threes, and 1.4 turnovers, nothing really stands out beyond the three-point prowess. When you add in .486 shooting from the field, .469 from deep, and .922 from the line, however, the completeness of a fine 9-category line starts to take shape. He’s heating up even more over his last four, going for 15.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks, 3.0 threes, and only 1.3 turnovers per game, while shooting a flaming .621 from the field, .600 from downtown, and .929 from the line.
The main reason to own him, of course, is because his three-point shooting is elite and automatic. He has hit a three in 115 straight regular season games and has knocked down two or more treys in 31 of 42 games this season. When you consider that most fantasy leagues count a win in three-pointers made as much as a win in points, his three-point capabilities make him roughly as valuable in that category as say someone like James Harden is as a scorer (23.8 points per game this season).
It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but people focus a little too heavily on players that give you 20-plus points, 10-plus rebounds, etc. Those popcorn numbers are nice, but don’t overlook the elite three-point shooters, steal and block specialists, guys with low turnover rates, etc.
Korver’s main speciality is top-notch long-range shooting, but he really hits value by adding in a bit of everything on the counting side, shooting solid percentages, and committing a low number of turnovers. He’s exactly the type of glue guy that every fantasy team needs and his role just seems to be growing more and more with each additional Hawk that misses time due to injury. Go out and try to pry Korver away from an owner who might be geting frustrated with the intermittent low-scoring outputs and prepare to reap the benefits if you’re successful.
Add Tim Hardaway Jr.
Knicks rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. might never live up to the legend or killer crossover of his father, but he’s certainly making a case these days to be taken seriously as a weapon off New York’s bench and to be owned in standard fantasy hoops leagues.
Hardaway has scored in double-digits in his last five games, averaging 18.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 3.4 three-pointers, and only 0.8 turnovers in 31.4 minutes per game over that period. He’s also been shooting a highly efficient .557 from the field, .500 from deep, and .833 from the line during that time.
While it’s true that some of those numbers were accumulated in garbage time of blowout wins, it is clear that Tim Jr. has made a case for more minutes in the Knicks rotation. With a struggling Iman Shumpert still day-to-day with a shoulder injury, Hardaway could be lined up to continue his hot streak this week. He makes for a strong speculative add until the wheels come off (if they do).
Buy Monta Ellis
Monta Ellis is enjoying a great season in his first year on the Dallas Mavericks. He is proving to be a great complement to Dirk Nowitzki and Coach Rick Carlisle has him working within an offense and taking smarter shots than we’ve grown used to him taking over the last few seasons.
On the year, Ellis is averaging 19.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 0.7 threes per game. He has improved his entire shooting split from last year’s inefficient showing in Milwaukee, moving .416 from the field, .287 from deep, and .773 from the line up to .462, .302, and .795 respectively. That has resulted in a leap in true shooting percentage from .493 to a much more impressive .540.
He has actually improved his scoring average ever so slightly from 19.2 to 19.5 points per game, despite taking fewer shots per contest (from 17.5 down to 15.6). Ellis never managed to bring his three-point percentage over .300 during his season and a quarter in Milwaukee, but he (or his coach) seems to have noticed his limitations. His average of 4.0 attempts from long range per game last year has dropped to 2.2 this season.
Perhaps best of all, his free throw attempt rate has soared to new heights this year, as he averages .352 free throw attempts per field goal attempt, up from a .288 career average and .260 just last season. All told, he’s playing more aggressively and efficiently, which has helped his value as a fantasy player tremendously.
Despite all those positive trends, Ellis has had a down couple of weeks. His numbers have dropped across the board over his last five, including a 14.8 scoring average and a painful 4.4 turnovers per game (compared to 4.8 assists). This slump presents the perfect opportunity to buy low on an explosive guard that can help you out in a big way in scoring and assists. A return to form is likely just around the corner, so if he’s been on your radar at all this year, now is the time to pounce.
Sell Ersan Ilyasova
Last week, I told you to drop O.J. Mayo and that there would probably be more recommendations to move on from various Bucks in the coming weeks. Larry Drew’s rotations seem like they’re chosen at random and getting a read on who is actually good on this team has been darn near impossible. Taking all that into consideration, I think now is the perfect time to sell high on Ersan Ilyasova.
Way back in Volume 1, I detailed how Ilyasova is a notoriously slow starter and that he has had two straight seasons where he has rebounded from a terrible first month of the season and been incredible the rest of the way out. I’ve preached patience on him all year, but we’re likely past the point of no return. Just look at the disgusting drop-off from last season through 37 games (warning: not for the faint of heart):
He's dropped off in most major categories in roughly the same minutes per game. Those numbers put him well outside standard league value and probably make him a borderline play in deep leagues as well. Waiting on a turnaround is one thing, but this season just seems too much like a lost cause to be salvaged in the second half.
Yes, he’s been on a little surge over the last five games, posting mid-round value on averages of 15.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.6 three-pointers, and a mere 0.4 turnovers per game. Before you go and declare him risen from the dead, however, keep in mind that he’s still shooting .351 from the field over that span.
This could go one of two ways. The first possibility is that he’s falling into the pattern that we’ve come to expect of him over the last few years and he’s gearing up for a huge second half of the season. The second possibility is that he’s just teasing us with a flash of his big potential, but will soon fall back to the basement.
You can go ahead and take the risk if you believe this is the sign of a turnaround, but I would be using any opportunity I could find to sell high on Ily to anyone who would be willing to listen to an offer. Given the inconsistency of his role and performance this year, there’s not a very high chance that you would regret making him someone else’s problem.
Buy Paul George
Yes, I know it would be difficult to pry a first-round fantasy draft pick and MVP candidate away from an owner, but if you’re ever going to get the opportunity to do so, now’s the time. Paul George has been slumping lately and has been returning value well outside of standard leagues over the last week.
Over his last four contests, George has averaged a serviceable 16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 0.8 threes per game. It looks like just another week at the office, until you see the 3.5 turnovers per game and shooting splits of .293 from the field, .136 from downtown, and .630 from the line. Gross.
Obviously the All-Star wing is going to turn this around and start tearing things up again any game now. If you think his owner might be worried about this recent stretch being a trend (he struggled a bit at the beginning of January as well), you should do everything in your power to buy low on a guy whose ceiling is among the best in the whole NBA.
I don’t even need to bother spewing stats to show you what he’s capable of. Opportunities like this simply don’t present themselves very often, so move now before it’s too late.
Add Nick Calathes
In what will probably go down as one of my weirdest recommendations this year, I think you should pick up rookie Nick Calathes if you need a boost at point guard and your waiver wire has already been picked dry of well-known options.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve never heard of this guy before. He’s only averaged 13.4 minutes per game for the Grizzlies this year, contributing an inconsequential 3.6 points, 2.2 assists, and little else in the process. The two key factors that have led to him being a relevant fantasy option all of a sudden is that regular Grizzlies starter Mike Conley has a sprained ankle and won’t even be re-evaluated for another week and his backup Jerryd Bayless was shipped out of Memphis last month.
By default, Calathes will now get all the minutes he can handle for at least a week. In his first start on Saturday, he put up excellent numbers, going for 22 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 0 turnovers, while shooting 8 of 12 from the field, 4 of 5 from deep, and 2 of 3 from the line. You might not be able to expect numbers like that every night, but the Grizz essentially have no other viable options at point guard. He’s worth a shot for now to see if he can build on his last game. If he crashes and burns, don’t feel bad about moving on to the next hot free agent.