6 Fantasy Basketball Players to Buy and Sell for Week 1
I know what you're thinking.: How the heck am I supposed to buy or sell my fantasy basketball assets when there hasn't even been a single minute of meaningful hoops played yet this year?
The NBA regular season gets underway tonight, but there's nothing wrong with getting ahead of the competition and making moves based on skewed expectations. With all the sleeper, breakout, and bust content out there every year, it should be clear that players don't always get drafted where they should. While some people are focused on where a player was selected or his ranking on the platform you use, the savvy fantasy player uses the unjustified rankings to his/her advantage.
This column will be a bit more reactionary going forward, but for the first edition, we're here to provide a last call on buying in on or selling out of situations that have not yet gained the perspective that a few games played will offer. Now, let's get to it.
Jimmy Butler, SG/SF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Jimmy Butler's average draft position (ADP) of 20.3 suggests that people are shying away from him from a fantasy perspective. It makes sense, given that there is so much uncertainty surrounding his future in Minnesota, but worries of his situation worsening are a bit overblown.
Butler has been the 10th-ranked player in nine-category leagues for two years running, despite playing in two vastly different situations in Chicago and Minnesota. In fact, he's been safely in the top-15 for 4 consecutive years, including an 8th-ranked finish in 2014-15.
It's hard to imagine Butler getting traded to a place that will diminish his opportunity to score 20 points a night while chipping in threes, rebounds, assists, and steals -- and his shooting efficiency and low turnovers aren't going anywhere heading into his age-29 season.
He's got first-round upside at a second-round price tag. If you can pick him up in exchange for a second-rounder with a lower ceiling, you should go for it.
Kevin Love, PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers
Kevin Love has hovered between ranking 26th and 39th in nine-category leagues for all 4 years he's been in Cleveland, so his 26.3 ADP would make plenty of sense if this season was set to be just like any other. The thing is, the Cavs are heading into their second post-LeBron era in 2018-19, so Love's role is destined to change as he moves up the pecking order.
And last time Love was the unquestioned first option on a team, he was the sixth-ranked player in all of fantasy hoops. At 30 years of age, he might not be ready to get all the way back to his age-25 form, but first-round value is certainly not out of the question for the walking 20-and-10 machine.
If you can acquire him for a third-rounder at a comparable ADP, jump all over it.
Deandre Ayton, C, Phoenix Suns
Anthony Davis was ranked 46th on Yahoo in his rookie season in 2012-13, but went on to rank 25th overall in nine-category leagues. Karl-Anthony Towns was ranked 60th in his first year in 2015-16 and went on to finish 12th. This year, rookie big man Deandre Ayton is ranked 63rd, and it's hard not to feel like he's about to continue the trend of top-billed rookie big men destroying fantasy expectations.
Ayton flashed his potential in a big way during the preseason, putting up 18.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 2.0 blocks, and 2.2 turnovers in only 26.9 minutes per contest, while shooting 60.3% from the field and 77.8% from the free throw line. The Phoenix Suns look ready to throw this year's first overall pick into the fire from the get-go, and that could lead to massive fantasy returns for his owners.
If you're in a league where he's being treated as a mid-round asset, see if you can buy him at that value. If he gets the minutes and usage, Ayton has the kind of skill set that could very easily result in early-round -- perhaps even first-round -- value.
Blake Griffin, PF/C, Detroit Pistons
Blake Griffin is a household name. He's a five-time All-Star, four-time All-NBAer, and he's been an early-round fantasy hoops asset four of the last five years. That's probably why he's got an ADP of 35.0 this season, despite not really earning it last year with a 61st-ranked finish in nine-category leagues.
The idea seems to be that people think he'll be more used to his situation in Detroit in his first full year with the team, but we're not buying it. After the All-Star break last year, Griffin was the 114th-ranked player in nine-category leagues, averaging a little less than what we're used to from him in just about every area of his fantasy line.
He'll still get you roughly 20 points per game and great assists for the position, but his rebounds, steals, blocks, and field goal percentage have all been in a steady decline for years. As his mid- to late-round floor continues its downward trajectory, you should be trying to sell him on his name and previous success.
Lou Williams, PG/SG, Los Angeles Clippers
Lou Williams had the best fantasy season of his career in 2017-18, coming in 44th in nine-category leagues in his first year with the Los Angeles Clippers. He deservedly won Sixth Man of the Year for his efforts off the bench, but it might be hard to have a repeat performance this year.
The Clippers had to deal with a lot of roster shuffling with the Blake Griffin trade, as well as injuries to a lot of the heavy hitters in their rotation. This year, pretty much everyone is starting the year healthy, and Lou Will is part of a very crowded backcourt with the likes of Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Milos Teodosic, and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
He'll continue to provide value in spurts, no doubt, but he might not live up to his 54.7 ADP. There are other mid-round assets with far higher ceilings than a bench guard in a stocked rotation, so see what you can get for him before the season starts and it's too late.
Julius Randle, PF/C, New Orleans Pelicans
Julius Randle puts up decent point (16.1) and rebound (8.0) averages, while shooting a great percentage from the field (55.8%), but his fantasy value is not nearly as high as people seem to think it is, since there's not much else to latch onto in his line outside of those three categories.
In three full NBA seasons, Randle has ranked 166th, 131st, and 138th in nine-category leagues while playing on a mediocre Los Angeles Lakers team. It's easy to see his switch to the New Orleans Pelicans and assume that he's going to fill the void left by DeMarcus Cousins next to Anthony Davis, but Randle has shown no signs of being up to the task, especially from a fantasy perspective.
Simply put, he's being drafted way too high at his 54.0 ADP. He may have been the 86th-ranked player in nine-category leagues after the All-Star break last year, but with that as the best extended sample we have of him in three years, he doesn't really seem worth a pick in the top-75. If you did end up with him, see if you can swap Randle for a more proven player with a comparable ADP.