Fantasy Basketball: A Dozen Dimes, Volume 2
Two weeks down, and everyone's either hurt, overachieving, or underachieving (with a small handful of exceptions). That's always the case this time of the year - without fail. We spend the entire offseason trying to act like we know exactly how things will go, and then everything seems to change after the first handful of games.
Believe in the process, my friends, not the result.
It's way too early in the season to believe that the current value breakdown of what's happened so far in two short weeks of NBA action is anything close to what it will be at the end of the year. Savvy owners know to stay the course on their picks, while also using this opportunity to take advantage of those who overreact.
It's so simple it hurts, but we still have a hard time trading away our middling player who is off to a hot start for a stud that's been subpar for four to five games. Do it and don't look back, believe me. Brandon Knight is not a top-30 fantasy player, Paul Millsap is. You know this to be true.
Obviously some situations change, injuries give way to new breakouts, some guys get promoted or benched, others bounce back or come back down after an anomalistic season, so on and so forth. We're here to help you sift through the real deals and aberrations as best we can.
Let's figure this mess out, shall we?
Buy Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond had an absolute fantasy breakout last season, posting averages of 13.5 points, 13.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game, while shooting 62.3% from the floor. That was good enough for top-30 value in fantasy leagues, despite the fact that his 41.8% shooting from the line on 4.0 attempts per game represented one of the biggest drains on fantasy value of any category by any player in standard-league consideration. (If you punted it, Drummond moved into the top six.)
He's off to a slow start this year, playing almost five fewer minutes per contest and dropping off in practically all of his strongest areas. His averages of 10.8 points, 11.7 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 1.7 blocks, and a mere 45.3% shooting from the floor and 35.0% from the line through six contests is uninspiring outside the rebounds and blocks, but that's all bound to go up. The lowered playing time is mostly due to foul trouble, as he had five or more fouls in each of the first four games of the season. A promising sign moving forward is that he has only had 2 fouls called in each of the last two contests and posted his first huge rebounding effort on Sunday when he grabbed 18 against the Jazz.
At only 21 years of age, Drummond is arguably the most promising young big man in the league not named Anthony Davis. He may sit outside of standard-league value now, but he won't for long. Buy low now, while you still can.
Sell Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson was one of the most talked about players in the league this summer, as the Warriors insisted on keeping him instead of packaging him in a deal for Kevin Love. He got more press for his big contract extension recently (often questioning if he was worth that kind of money), but he responded to all his doubters by playing inspired ball over his first five games.
His averages of 23.8 points, 2.6 three-pointers, 2.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steal, and 0.8 blocks per game, along with 47.0% shooting from the field and 84.8% from the charity stripe combine to make him a first-round value through the season's first two weeks. His production has been great, and he'll surely continue to post early-round value this season, but if you can move him for a more well-rounded fantasy stud, do so immediately. Klay's value rests almost entirely in his three-point shooting and scoring, so any time he has an off-night in either, he brings practically nothing else to the table. Send out some offers, and see how much your league mates believe in his hot start.
Add Courtney Lee
Courtney Lee wins the award for being the least likely first-round value of the season-to-date. Through five games, Lee is averaging 15.2 points, 2.4 treys, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.2 steals (all career highs outside of the thefts), while shooting a blistering 55.3% from the floor, 66.7% from long range, and 92.3% from the free throw line. That is a shooting split that screams regression from the top of its lungs, but Lee absolutely must be owned in all leagues until the wheels fall off (and somehow he's still available in almost 50% of Yahoo leagues).
Lee has a history of playing big over small periods and then falling off the map entirely, but he seems to have a firm hold on a starting job in Memphis. He's started all five games that he's played this year and registered a healthy 32.2 minutes per contest in them. He used to battle with Tony Allen for shooting guard minutes, but now both guys start on the wings and Tayshaun Prince has rightfully moved to the bench as he continues his end-of-career decline. Vince Carter may have looked like he'd threaten Lee for starter minutes coming into the season, but the Grizz seem content using VC as a sixth man, the same way as he was deployed in Dallas.
All that to say that Lee won't be a first-round stud forever, but he might hold decent value for the rest of the season. Pick him up and see what happens.
Add Chris Copeland
Chris Copeland is not the most inspiring fantasy option, as his 38.5% shooting from the floor on 15.6 attempts per contest, 62.5% success rate from the line, low steals (0.3) and blocks (0.3), and high turnovers (2.9) all harpoon his fantasy value. If you can stomach those shortcomings, however, the 16.7 points, 2.6 three-pointers, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists through seven games all make him worth rostering, at least for now.
The Indiana Pacers have been absolutely decimated by injuries, with every single one of their projected starters now hurt and even some of their primary backups. That means Copeland's ridiculous 8.1 three-point attempts per contest should stay at or even exceed that level, even if he's only hitting 31.6% of them. It won't be pretty, but Cope's got the green light in Indy and his 27.5% usage to date just shows that the Pacers are willing to go through him. Give him a whirl if he's available.
Sell Tony Wroten
Stop trying to make Tony Wroten happen.
The man who held our absolute worst nERD last year at -9.9, wouldn't make the majority of NBA rotations outside of the Sixers because he's just so darn inefficient. Yes, he's putting up a gaudy 21.9 points, 1.7 treys, 4.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 2.7 steals per contest. Yes, his 44.1% shooting from the field and 37.9% from deep is better than last year's 42.7% and 21.3% respectively. He's still only hitting 63.8% of his free throws (which is horrendous for a guard) and turning the ball over a disgusting 4.6 times per contest. I don't know about you, but I don't want that anywhere near my team.
Throw in the fact that last year's rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams is on the comeback trail from injury, and soon you'll see him and Nerlens Noel eating a healthy chunk of Wroten's sky-high 33.3% usage rate. He's still returning mid-round value, despite the turnovers and free throws, so sell now if you possibly can. You'll simply never get an opportunity this good again and you might be forced to just flat out drop him before long anyway.
Buy Kawhi Leonard
Somehow, you can finish ranked 15th in nine-category leagues and win Finals MVP in the same year and most people will still manage to underrate you the following season. That's the story of Kawhi Leonard this year, as it's basically been his whole career to date.
Kawhi is a great fantasy asset, but the lack of one flashy, standout category in his line makes everyone look past him in drafts and undervalue him in trades. The reason Kawhi can rank so highly without any part of his line standing out is because the whole thing is good, put simply.
Last season's 12.8 points, 1.0 three-pointer, 6.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks, 1.2 turnovers, 52.2% shooting from the field, and 80.2% from the stripe represented what was close to the most well-rounded line in the league. The efficiency categories (turnovers and both percentages) and steals were subtly elite, while everything else ranged from solid to good. That was only the tip of the iceberg as well, considering he was the 7th-ranked player over the season's final two months, with all those numbers above being higher in the same 30 minutes (or so) per contest.
He's had a slow start to the season, due in large part to an ongoing bout with an eye infection. His usage rate so far is the highest of his career (18.8%) and should continue to go up as he rounds into form after missing some crucial time early in the season due to the illness. The 9.5 points, 1.5 steals, and 30.8% shooting from the field simply won't stay that low and everything else is in line or better. Pounce on him now if his owner regrets drafting him and remember not to be discouraged by his low minute totals. Kawhi always gets it done, one way or another.
Add Iman Shumpert
Iman Shumpert seems to have a fan in his new coach, Derek Fisher, as he is one of only three Knicks to start in all seven games so far this season. Known mostly for his perimeter defense, Shump has filled up the box score in a variety of ways this season, coming in as a mid-round value for his 13.7 points, 2.0 three-pointers, 3.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 0.9 steals per contest. The low turnovers (1.4) and serviceable shooting from the field (47.9%) and line (73.7%) certainly haven't hurt either.
Things could get a bit more complicated when Jose Calderon returns from injury, but for now Shump would appear to be in the lead over J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. for minutes on the wing (he's second on the whole team in minutes played, in fact, trailing only Carmelo Anthony) and could maintain mid- to late-round value for the rest of the season. Definitely pick him up if you've got a spot.
Drop J.R. Smith
Speaking of J.R. Smith, he looks pretty safe to drop at this point. Through six games, he's returning less than standard-league value by posting 7.7 points, 0.3 treys, 2.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.2 blocks, and 2.2 turnovers per contest, while shooting 44.4% from the field, 18.2% from deep, and 57.1% from line.
He's already served a suspension for doing something stupid (taking a shot at Glen Rice Jr.'s groin), and Shump seems to have earned the lion's share of wing minutes moving forward. Feel free to move on for a hot free agent.
Sell Jeff Green
Jeff Green is the king of inconsistency. He can look like an absolute star in one game, sometimes a few games at a time, then look completely lost for another stretch. He's started off the season on fire, posting top-20 value on the strength of 19.7 points, 2.5 three-pointers, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.8 blocks, and 1.7 turnovers, to go with 45.4% shooting from the field and 83.3% from the line.
Maybe this is finally the year when he can put it all together and be a reliable option, but the opportunity was just as good last year as it is this one. We're likely witnessing his ceiling here, so it's probably best to sell Uncle Jeff for someone else playing closer to his respective floor or mean.
Add Jeremy Lamb
Just like Perry Jones III was a hot pickup from the depleted Thunder last week, Jeremy Lamb is the guy to target this time around. Like the Pacers, the Thunder are missing a number of projected starters and even some of their backups, so guys like Lamb should temporarily hold some fantasy value while other guys heal up. Adding him is fine, as long as you're not dropping someone with better rest-of-season value, seeing as how his value comes with an expiry date of sorts.
Through two games since returning from his own injury, Lamb has posted 17.0 points, 1.5 three-pointers, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and shot 46.4% from the field and 71.4% from the stripe. Might as well get that into your lineup for the time being.
Add Mo Williams
Ricky Rubio suffered a brutal ankle injury on Friday and looks like he could miss seven to eight weeks because of it. That's a brutal blow to his fantasy owners, but it should bump up the value of Mo Williams.
Of course, it should be noted that Flip Saunders went with unproven rookie Zach LaVine as his starting point guard on Saturday instead of Williams, despite the fact that LaVine had only registered 13 minutes and racked up three DNP-CDs in the five games prior. Mo played just over 22 minutes off the bench in that one, registering only 2 points on 1-for-5 shooting, but rounded out his line with 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.
He's not going to set the world on fire, but Mo began the season with a few decent games and his steady veteran hand will probably be needed enough in the long run to give him a large helping of the point guard minutes going forward. He's worth a speculative add to see how it goes.
Drop Andre Iguodala
Andre Iguodala's days as a viable fantasy option appear to be done. He's come off the bench in all six of the Warriors games so far this season, despite the fact that Harrison Barnes hasn't exactly run away with the starting small forward job that used to belong to him. David Lee and Klay Thompson have both missed games so far this year and Warriors coach Steve Kerr has gone with Draymond Green and Leandro Barbosa in their places respectively, suggesting that Iggy is firmly entrenched in a reserve role no matter what going forward.
So far, that has equated to value way outside of standard-league consideration. The decent rebounds (3.3), assists (3.0), and steals (1.3) look somewhat enticing on the surface, as does the occasional three-pointer (0.7), but that's as far as things go. The 6.8 points, 0.2 blocks, 42.1% shooting from the field, and 50.0% from the line just don't cut it enough to justify holding onto him. He's still playing close to 30 minutes per game but simply isn't doing enough with that time fantasy-wise to be worth a roster spot.