Fantasy Basketball: A Dozen Dimes, Volume 4
There weren't many major injuries to high-ranking players this week (with the exception of Kevin Martin's being out indefinitely with a broken wrist), so things were relatively status quo. Most players that started a little slower than we'd have liked are coming on, and some of the hotter starts that we didn't expect are cooling off. That said, there are still plenty of buy-lows, sell-highs, hot adds, and necessary drops in fantasy basketball this week. Let's get down to it.
Buy Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin was selected in the first couple rounds of most fantasy drafts this offseason with the expectation that he could continue his upward trajectory of fantasy value. He was the 24th-ranked player by the end of last season, largely due to a big boost in both scoring and free throw percentage (which has long capped his value). So far this season, his numbers are noticeably down across the board from last year, despite the fact that his minutes have remained the same and his usage rate has gone up.
He's currently ranked 132nd in nine-category leagues, and you can bet it won't stay that way for long. Put simply, 25-year-old guys with four All-Star and three All-NBA Second Team appearances don't typically get worse for no reason across the board in their fifth season. It's been a slightly rough patch, but he'll figure it out and is one of the few great buy low targets left as means are quickly regressed to across the league.
Add Mario Chalmers
Mario Chalmers has been an underrated fantasy asset the last few seasons, coming in right around the 100th-ranked mark in nine-category leagues three years running for his decent assists, steals, and three-pointers. He started this year riding the pine in favor of Norris Cole, but has started his last five games - first for an injured Dwyane Wade and now for a banged up Cole - and has been flat out amazing.
Who knows if he'll keep a starting job once those two guys come back healthy, but he's making his case by averaging 20.0 points, 1.2 treys, 2.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 1.3 steals over his last six contests (five starts), while shooting 57.6% from the floor and 86.0% from the line. His ownership is skyrocketing, so this is just a reminder to grab him if he's still available in your league and to ride him until this situation gets some more clarity or the wheels fall off.
Add Gorgui Dieng / Mo Williams / Corey Brewer
As is a yearly tradition, there are a ton of injuries in Minnesota right now. Ricky Rubio has a severely sprained ankle, Nikola Pekovic has wrist, ankle, and personal issues keeping him off the court, and now Kevin Martin has a broken wrist and is out indefinitely. Thaddeus Young has been out because of the death of his mother as well, but he practiced today and is due back Wednesday.
In the meantime, the replacements for Rubio, Pekovic, and Martin deserve standard-league ownership until they return. Mo Williams jumped into the starting lineup three games ago in Rubio's place and has put up averages of 13.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 9.7 assists per contest over that period. Gorgui Dieng has put up 9.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.8 blocks in his four starts for Pek, while shooting 48.1% from the floor and 71.4% from the line. Over Corey Brewer's last two starts in place of Martin, he has put up 11.0 points, 2.5 boards, 4.0 assists, and 2.0 steals per contest.
All three should be owned as long as the guys ahead of them on the depth chart are sidelined, while Dieng has a good chance to maintain standard-league value beyond that because he backs up the oft-inured Pekovic and is already a solid per-minute contributor. The priority scale for adding goes Dieng, Williams, and then Brewer, in case you're wondering.
Sell Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler's start to 2014-15 has been fantastic and he is an early favorite for Most Improved Player, posting first-round value on the strength of 20.4 points, 0.9 threes, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, and a mere 1.6 turnovers per game, while shooting 49.7% from the field and 79.5% from the line. The points, rebounds, assists, and field goal percentages all represent career highs and his impact on the Bulls can't be overstated.
That said, he's doing all that while Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol miss time, and a regression could surely happen if the Bulls ever get to full strength or if Jimmy gets worn down playing close to 40 minutes per game. That's not to say a regression is certain, but he's still a prime sell-high candidate just in case he can't sustain a season scoring average that's more that double his career mark (9.5) and a field goal percentage that's a full 10.0% better than what he shot last year (39.7%).
Buy/Add Jose Calderon
Jose Calderon missed the first 13 games of the season with a strained right calf but made his return on Saturday to little fanfare. He was quiet in his return, registering just 3 points on 1 for 6 shooting, to go with 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals in 21 minutes of action.
Now is your last chance to buy low on a guy that has finished as a middle-round value in each of the last four seasons for being a solid source of threes, assists, high percentages, and low turnovers. He's touted as a perfect fit for the triangle, so a big year could be in store for the Spaniard. Add if he was dropped in your league and buy if he wasn't.
Add Wilson Chandler / Drop Danilo Gallinari
Wilson Chandler has been balling over this past week, putting up second-round value in four games with averages of 17.5 points, 3.3 triples, 7.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.0 block, and only 1.5 turnovers per contest, while shooting 47.3% from the field.
There's a fear that he might someday cede time to Danilo Gallinari, but Gallo has yet to really impress in his return from knee surgery, scoring only 7.2 points in under 19 minutes per game, while shooting 31.6% from the floor. The position battle is one to watch moving forward, but for now Gallinari isn't really worth owning, while Chandler doesn't deserve to be on a single waiver wire.
Buy Al Jefferson
Al Jefferson has had a slow start to the season, with dips in scoring (21.0), rebounds (7.4), assists (1.7), steals (0.6), field goal percentage (49.4%), and free throw percentage (64.4%). Most of those drop-offs are minor (with the exception of rebounding), but his nine-category ranking is currently at 75th after being a first- or second-round selection in drafts this year.
Sure, Lance Stephenson is probably giving him the Roy Hibbert treatment and stealing some of the big guy's boards, but Big Al is bound to get back to ranking in the top 15 or so before long, as he has posted that kind of value consistently in each of the last four seasons. He's grabbed double-digit rebounds in each of his last two games, so your buy-low window might shut fast if you don't move now on last year's All-NBA Third Team honoree.
Sell Reggie Jackson
Reggie Jackson has posted solid mid-round value so far this season with averages of 20.1 points, 1.3 treys, 5.3 rebounds, 7.8 assists, and 0.9 steals per game. The shooting average is a little low (40.5%) and the turnovers high (3.2), but he's been the best Thunder player to own not named Serge Ibaka while Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have been sidelined.
KD might only be a week away now and Russ could return as soon as this Friday, so if you're a Jackson owner, you should be shopping him as hard as possible. He's likely to maintain standard-league value once the Thunder are whole again (as he did last year), but his role as a starter isn't even guaranteed. Scott Brooks likes Jackson as a floor general for the second unit and might opt for Anthony Morrow as the starting two guard as a floor-spacer. Just in case, you should see what you can get for Jackson before his value takes a sizeable hit.
Add Lou Williams
Lou Williams was a sneaky-good pickup by the Toronto Raptors this offseason and he could be the same for your fantasy team if you pounce on him now. He's still widely available, despite the fact that he just put up numbers that earned him Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors.
Over his last four games, Sweet Lou has averaged 21.0 points, 3.0 triples, 2.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.0 steals, and only 0.8 turnovers per game and shot 44.4% from the floor, 50.0% from long range, and 96.0% from the line. He might not stay that hot for the rest of the season, but a guy coming off a performance consisting of 36 points, 3 long balls, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals deserves your short-term attention at the very least.
Prior to last season, he posted standard-league value in four straight seasons in a sixth-man role for the Hawks and 76ers. There's no reason to think he can't do that again as a spark plug off the Raptors bench this year, so add him and see what happens.
Drop Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili is pretty much done as a fantasy player outside of deeper leagues. He's barely posting 156th-ranked value so far this season in nine-category leagues and over the last week he's been the 242nd-ranked player for averaging a measly 4.8 points on 35.3% shooting through four games.
He's always subject to random acts of "Popping" (being given a DNP-Old by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) and hasn't exactly been a beacon of health these past few years. You can safely let him loose for a hot free agent if you're part of the reason he's got a 69% ownership rate in Yahoo leagues.
Add Brandan Wright
Brandan Wright was the king of advanced analytics last season, and he's up to his old tricks again this year. He's currently the second-ranked player on our NBA Player Rankings with a nERD of 17.6, despite only playing in 18.9 minutes per game backing up Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki.
In that time, he's leading the league in field goal percentage at 78.5% (62 for 79 from the floor), to go with 10.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and a useful 1.5 blocks per game. He also shoots an efficient-for-a-big 76.7% from the charity stripe and is simply defying you not to add him with a current 44 rank in nine-category leagues. His numbers don't jump off the page, but he could end up being a solid glue guy at the end of your fantasy bench if you've got room. He's currently only owned in 40% of Yahoo leagues.
Add Timofey Mozgov
Timofey Mozgov has to fight with JaVale McGee and J.J. Hickson for minutes in Denver's frontcourt, but he's clearly running away with the job. He's averaged 33.0 minutes per game over his last four and posted early-round value on the strength of 12.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks, while shooting 65.5% from the field and 84.6% from the line. He's available in 45% of Yahoo leagues, a number that should be much smaller while he's playing this well.