Fantasy Basketball: A Dozen Dimes, Volume 3

Sample sizes are growing by the day, but that doesn't mean you can't still find ways to exploit some of the more abnormal starts.

We're at the point in the NBA season now where most teams have played 10 games or so, and our small sample sizes are becoming medium-sized. We probably need another 10 games before we can determine which early-season abnormalities are actually going to be trends and which were mere aberrations, but means are being regressed to and we can see the overall picture a little better now than we could a week ago.

While that means a good number of the prime buy-low and sell-high windows that have popped up at the beginning of a season are now slowly shutting, there are still some glaring ones that you can take advantage of if you jump on them now.

Let's get right down to it.

Buy Al Horford

Al Horford hasn't been himself yet this year, but he will be. It's bad luck that he has had two pectoral tears in his career, but there's no reason to think he can't return to full form, as he was able to exactly that the last time this happened to him. He's averaging career lows in minutes (29.4) and rebounds (6.7) through nine games, while putting up his lowest field goal percentage (51.4%) since his first year in the league and his lowest scoring average (13.7) since his second. Even with those drops, he currently ranks 37th in nine-category leagues.

For some context, through the first nine games of his last return from the same injury in 2012-13, he was the 88th-ranked player, but finished the year ranked 15th with 74 games played at 37.2 minutes per contest. In fact, Horford has been consistently a top-20 player in his last three full seasons played, including the one coming back from a pectoral tear. The great scoring, rebounding, blocks, and field goal percentage should have him back up there in no time as his minutes increase and he gets into better game shape. Buy him while you still can.

Sell Jabari Parker / Andrew Wiggins

I have always been and always will be low on rookies. They get hyped up all summer for what they'll be in a few years and people tend to draft them like they'll be that player right away. In reality, rookies generally struggle getting used to NBA competition and the grind of an 82-game schedule. They might still get decent counting stats during this adjustment period, but the efficiency categories (both percentages and turnovers) tend to be among the worst rates of their careers. All the best players in fantasy hoops today notably had rough rookie campaigns or at least ones that never even sniffed at the value of their average draft position (ADP). Yes, you might get a 20-point-per-game scorer or someone who can pull down a handful of rebounds, but very rarely will you get someone put up mid- to early-round value right away due to the efficiency drains.

All that to say that I think you should be shopping Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins while their names still carry value if you ended up drafting them expecting more. Through 10 games, Parker is the 208th-ranked player in nine-category leagues for his 10.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 1.7 turnovers per game, to go along with 42.2% shooting from the field and 57.9% from the line. Wiggins, meanwhile, is the 236th-ranked player through nine for his 10.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 2.0 turnovers per contest, as well as his 46.3% shooting from the floor and 61.5% from the charity stripe. Neither player is hitting that many threes, dishing out many assists, or getting many blocks.

Yes, they'll get better, but not likely as much as you want them to be. At least not this season.

Buy Nicolas Batum

Nicolas Batum has missed the Trail Blazers' last three games due to a knee contusion and is questionable for tonight as well, despite going through a full practice on Sunday. The Blazers are just being cautious, so it's a great opportunity for you to take advantage of a frustrated owner and jump on a player in Batum that was already underperforming and was a great buy-low candidate to begin with before the injury.

He's only averaging 9.0 points per game through seven contests and that single-digit scoring output has a tendency to scare people off, particularly for a player that tends to go in the second round. The field goal percentage (36.7%) is also at a career low, but that should come closer to his career average (45.2%) before long. As for the rest of the line, his usual swiss-army-knife production of rebounds (7.7), assists (5.7), steals (1.0), blocks (0.9), and three-pointers (1.4) is still very much in tact, as is his stellar free throw rate (currently at 90.0%). The scoring and field goal percentage will be back up in no time and he'll be back to being a lock for top 20-30 value (as he has been for three years running). Get those offers in before it's too late.

Add Kelly Olynyk / Jared Sullinger

If you're in a competitive league, there's no chance that Kelly Olynyk is still sitting on your waiver wire, but this is just a reminder for those of you that happen to be in one of the 31% of Yahoo leagues where he's still somehow available that he should be universally owned. Same goes for his Celtic frontcourt-mate, Jared Sullinger (a more reasonable 18% availability).

Olynyk is currently the 25th-ranked player in nine-category leagues for his 14.4 points, 1.4 threes, 6.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 0.6 blocks, and 1.9 turnovers per game, to go with 60.8% shooting from the field and 77.8% from the line. Sully's just behind him at 37th, sitting on averages of 15.0 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.9 blocks, and mere 0.9 turnovers per contest, while shooting 48.6% from the floor and 83.3% from the line. Both Boston bigs are breaking out and should be owned across the board, even if a bit of regression hits. Lucky for you if you got either of them past the 100 mark of your draft, where their ADPs indicate they were going.

Add Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes has started over Andre Iguodala in all 10 of Golden State's games this season. He was inconsistent and lacking standard-league value through the first five games, but he has turned it up since. In his last five, Barnes is putting up solid mid-round value on the strength of 15.4 points, 1.8 three-pointers, 5.2 rebounds, and only 0.8 turnovers per game, to go with a red-hot shooting split of 58.3% from the field, 52.9% from deep, and 75.0% from the line. He's only 39% owned in Yahoo leagues and the starter's minutes and upside should make him a decent pickup to try out going forward, at least until David Lee returns and eats up some of his possessions.

Sell Zach Randolph

Zach Randolph has had an excellent start to the season for the 9-1 Memphis Grizzlies, posting averages of 16.7 points and 11.6 rebounds and coming in as the 58th-ranked player in nine-category leagues. The problem with ZBo as a fantasy player is that those two numbers constitute basically all of his value. He doesn't give you the same kind of high field goal percentage (46.4%) and block numbers (0.1) that you want from a big man and the decent free throw percentage (77.6%) doesn't really make up for that. Randolph has only cracked the top-100 in nine-category leagues once in the last three years (96th in 2012-13) and probably won't keep up his current mid-round pace. Sell him now to someone desperate for rebounds and try to get a more well-rounded player in that value range.

Buy Kenneth Faried

A great guy to grab if you're looking for a big to buy low on is Kenneth Faried. After a solid summer at the FIBA World Cup, the Manimal has struggled a bit out of the gate playing for the dumpster fire that is the Denver Nuggets. He's only getting 27.1 minutes per game, with averages of 12.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 0.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks per contest to go with it. The 50.6% shooting from the field is down from his 55.2% career average, while his 107th-ranked value is even a bit higher than it should be because of his 73.3% free throw percentage (which might dip back to his career 64.3% level before long).

His owner might be panicking after picking him in the 40-50 range, so float out an offer. He had a slow start to last season as well, before rattling off top-50 value over the last two months of the season when he was given his full complement of starter's minutes (31.2 over the last 31 games). The breakout is still coming, just wait for Denver to get its issues sorted out. Management gave Faried four years and $50 million at the beginning of October, so it's obvious that they see him as the solution to their problems. It won't be long before their coach (whether or not it remains Brian Shaw) is forced to comply with that plan.

Add Evan Fournier

Evan Fournier had a decent start to the season, filling in for an injured Victor Oladipo in Orlando's starting lineup for the first nine games. Over that period, Fournier was the 85th-ranked player in nine-category leagues for his averages of 18.2 points, 2.1 threes, 2.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 0.9 steals per game and a shooting split of 51.4% from the field and 70.5% from the line. Oladipo came off the bench in his first game back, but when he was re-inserted into the starting five on Saturday, it was in place of Elfrid Payton instead of Fournier. Given that Fournier has still managed to start and average 37.0 minutes per contest since Oladipo's return, chances are good that he maintains standard-league value. Keep deploying him as you were if you held on and pick him up if he's still available or was dropped.

Drop Elfrid Payton

Speaking of Elfrid Payton, go ahead and drop him. I went into my issues with rostering rookies in the Parker/Wiggins section above, but you should sell those two as their names carry value beyond their numbers. Guys like Payton, meanwhile, simply don't need to be owned while they figure things out. In 10 starts, he averaged only 6.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.2 steals, while shooting 32.9% from the floor and 50.0% from the line (and he's missed both three-point attempts on the year). In his first game off the bench, he played 16 minutes and shot 1 for 6 from the field and 1 for 2 from the line for 3 points, to go with 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 steals. Like the other rookies, he'll be good someday, just not soon enough to justify owning him now. Despite that, he's still rostered in half the Yahoo leagues out there. If you still own him and your league isn't particularly deep, you should contribute to that number dropping.

Add Shawne Williams

Shawne Williams is somehow the 33rd-ranked player in nine-category leagues through his first 10 games for the Heat, which is pretty impossible to leave on waiver wires, even if he is playing with borrowed time in a starting position that is supposed to belong to Josh McRoberts. McBob has been in and out of the lineup with a toe issue, but will eventually take the job back. In the meantime, Williams is posting 12.0 points, 2.6 three-pointers, and 5.2 rebounds per contest and shooting a blistering hot 53.2% shooting from the floor and 52.0% from long range. Those marks are likely to regress to his 41.0% and 34.6% career marks anyway and the counting stats will fade him out of standard-league value once he moves to the bench, but pick him up in the meantime and ride the hot hand until it inevitably cools off.

Add Ben McLemore

Ben McLemore had a pretty mediocre rookie season, shooting 37.6% from the floor and 32.0% from deep, while only averaging 8.8 points in 26.7 minutes per game for the Kings. That was good enough to be the 272nd-ranked player in nine-category leagues last season, making him nothing more than waiver wire fodder for all but the deepest of leagues. This season his scoring average is only up to 9.8, but everything is trending in the right direction for the sophomore over the last two weeks or so. He has started all 10 games for the surprising Kings this year and over his last six he has put up averages of 13.8 points, 2.3 treys, 4.0 rebounds, and only 1.2 turnovers in 34.9 minutes per game, while shooting 50.9% from the floor, 43.8% from deep, and 84.6% from the line. That's 72nd-ranked value in nine-category leagues and well worth owning until he cools off (if he ever does).

Drop Ersan Ilyasova

I've been plugging Ersan Ilyasova as a slow starter that eventually heats up for two years now, but I'm officially done with him in fantasy hoops. His rough patches are becoming far too frequent and a move from the starting lineup to the bench on Sunday in favor of Giannis Antetokounmpo all but sealed it. Through 10 games, Ily is averaging a mere 5.7 points, 0.3 three-pointers, 2.9 rebounds, and nothing else of note, while shooting 41.4% from the field and 75.0% from the charity stripe. He's playing only 17.1 minutes per game and his two consecutive seasons of top-50 value in 2011-12 and 2012-13 seem like a distant memory. He finished last season as the 159th-ranked player in nine-category leagues and he's off to a 263rd-ranked start so far in this campaign. You'll almost certainly have better luck playing the wire than holding out for a renaissance.