Fantasy Basketball: A Dozen Dimes, Volume 8
NBA trade season started with a bang this past Thursday, when the Dallas Mavericks traded for Rajon Rondo. Then the Houston Rockets, who were also in pursuit of Rondo, countered with a depth-bolstering move to acquire Corey Brewer from the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a three-team trade.
Trades open and close all kinds of doors in fantasy hoops, as teams construct new rotations with their new pieces and sometimes have to rely on players previously buried in the rotation to log bigger minutes. There's still a lot left to be seen as to how this week's flurry of moves will affect the fantasy landscape in the longterm, but we've got you covered for the early returns and speculation on how the teams are planning on using their new toys.
Another wrench in the fantasy spokes happened this week when Jabari Parker went down with a season-ending ACL injury. As always, when a player who starts gets ruled out for the season, someone is about to absorb his minutes and touches and become more fantasy relevant. We'll help you out there as well.
Alright, enough jibber jabber, onto the moves!
Update: This column was written prior to the Pistons waiving Josh Smith. It'll be interesting to see if Detroit is done making moves, but the rapid fantasy reactions should be to sell Smith (his value could go down if he lands somewhere in a decreased roll and someone else in your league might buy into the opposite), buy Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe (they're now the unquestioned starting center and power forward in Detroit respectively and should get fed a ton and improve on their disappointing starts), and put every other Piston on your watch list to see who else eats Smith's minutes and possessions (Jodie Meeks, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Singler, and Jonas Jerebko spring to mind as beneficiaries in that order and could make for good speculative adds if you're looking to make one).
Sell Rajon Rondo
It was hard to be high on Rajon Rondo this season, even when he was with the lowly Celtics. Leading up to the trade, Rondo was the 130th-ranked player in nine-category leagues with a line of 8.2 points, 0.3 threes, 7.5 rebounds, 10.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.1 blocks, and 3.4 turnovers per contest, and a shooting split of 39.8% from the field and 33.3% from the line (not a typo). The near triple-double was nice and all, but the low scoring, high turnovers, and downright vomit-inducing efficiency made owning him a tough pill to swallow -- particularly at his mid-round average draft position (ADP).
Now, as a member of the Mavericks, Rondo could very well see his efficiency rates rise as he becomes a key cog in what has been the NBA's best offense to date. Even so, that's likely to be counteracted by the likelihood of his ceding rebounds to Tyson Chandler, assists to Monta Ellis, and scoring to, well, everyone else in the Mavs' starting lineup. He'll probably get more open shots in Dallas than he was getting in Boston, but it's not like he's going to magically become a better shooter with the change of zip codes.
If you're a Rondo owner, it might be the best time to try selling him off on his name or to someone who thinks his career will be revived in Dallas. In his first game in a Mavericks uniform, Rondo posted 6 points on 3 for 11 shooting to go with 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, and 4 turnovers. He could continue to flirt with triple-doubles, but you're likely never going to get the top-50 value you drafted him for this season. Move on if you can.
Add Marcus Smart
The big beneficiary in Boston from this trade is rookie Marcus Smart. One can't help but assume that Boston was willing to pull the trigger on moving Rondo, the last remaining member from the glory days of the 2008 championship team, because they're all in on Smart as their point guard of the future.
Smart wasn't exactly lighting the fantasy world on fire prior to the move, coming in as the 201st-ranked fantasy player in nine-category leagues with averages of 5.9 points, 1.0 three-pointer, 2.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 0.9 steals in 16.4 minutes per game over 10 contests, while shooting 33.3% from the floor. Even in his first NBA start on Sunday, Smart only posted 3 points on 1 for 4 shooting (a three-pointer), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal, and 2 turnovers in 28 minutes.
Despite all that and the inevitable growing pains that will come with a rookie taking the reigns of a team mid-season, Smart is worth picking up if you've got someone expendable on the end of your bench based on his upside and situation alone. Jameer Nelson isn't likely to take much time away from Smart at this juncture in their respective careers on a rebuilding Celtics squad, so don't worry too much about his presence. Make the move and remember to be patient at first.
Hold/Add Kelly Olynyk
Kelly Olynyk gave up his starting spot to Tyler Zeller 12 games ago and that led to flurry of panic and drops. Those who stayed patient with the goofy-haired Canadian have been rewarded with what has been top-60 value over that span, with averages of 12.5 points, 1.1 threes, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.2 blocks, and only 1.6 turnovers in 25.5 minutes per game, while shooting 51.8% from the field and 62.2% from the line. He may have moved to the bench, but his minutes have only seen a drop of 0.4 and his value has gone from 83rd-ranked in nine-category leagues to 64th since the change.
He may not get the starter tag back for a while (if at all), but Olynyk is definitely a fantasy guy worth owning regardless of if he starts games on the floor or riding the pine. If he was dropped in your league by a hasty owner, make sure you grab him. If you managed to hold through his rough stretch in mid-November and the move to the bench, just keep doing what you're doing. Even with the arrival of Brandan Wright from the Rondo trade, Olynyk (like Smart) is clearly a piece that the Celtics are intent on developing as the future of the franchise. Keep riding his versatile stat line with confidence.
For the record, Zeller is still worth owning as well, but I'd want Olynyk more out of the two for rest-of-season value.
Add Shabazz Muhammad / Drop Corey Brewer
The Shabazz Muhammad breakout is in full effect in Minnesota, so make sure you get a ticket if you still can. When Minnesota sent Corey Brewer to the Rockets, it became clear that they believed in Muhammad as their ying on the wing to Andrew Wiggins' yang.
Shabazz has scored in double-figures in nine straight contests and 20 or more in his last four. Over those four games, he has been the 37th-ranked player in nine-category leagues on the strength of 24.0 points, 0.8 threes, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.8 turnovers per game with a shooting split of 56.3% from the field and 68.4% from the line. Since joining the starting lineup two games ago, he's had a 24.7% usage rate and taken 16.5 shot attempts per contest, which certainly indicates that coach Flip Saunders plans on going through the youngster for the time being.
The eventual returns of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, and Nikola Pekovic could eventually turn current fantasy value in Minnesota on its head, but for now Shabazz is absolutely someone you should own and start until he cools off or gets displaced.
Oh yeah, and go ahead and drop Corey Brewer. He won't be worth owning as a backup in Houston.
Add Mo Williams
Zach LaVine has started nine straight games for the Wolves at point guard, but has only returned 236th-ranked value in nine-category leagues over that time, well outside standard-league value. Mo Williams made his return to the lineup for the Wolves three games ago, and last night's effort against the Indiana Pacers likely won him back the starting job.
Wiliams posted 24 points on 10 for 16 shooting (with 2 triples), while adding 2 rebounds, and 10 assists in the loss to the Pacers. LaVine still started, but he only played 16 minutes to Mo's 32 in a relatively close game, so it's fair to assume that Williams will get the bulk of the minutes going forward. If that ends up being the case, Mo would go back to being start-worthy on fantasy squads from here on out as he was prior to his back issue (at least until Ricky Rubio returns a few weeks from now).
Add Ersan Ilyasova
The unfortunate injury to rookie phenom Jabari Parker is a depressing turn of events for the surprising 14-14 Milwaukee Bucks, but their underrated depth might help keep them afloat. Khris Middleton was a speculative add at first, based on his success as a starter last year, but Jason Kidd has gone to Jared Dudley and rookie Johnny O'Bryant in place of Parker in the starting lineup over the last three games. Considering O'Bryant's only career games are the three since Jabari went down and he's only played a total of 28 minutes, it certainly seems like his starting the last two games is Kidd's way of keeping that spot warm for someone else. One can only assume that the someone else is Ersan Ilyasova.
Ilyasova has missed the Bucks' last nine games due to a broken nose and concussion he suffered back on December 2nd, but is due to be re-evaluated today and is apparently coming along well. Prior to the injury, Ily was enjoying a strong eight-game stretch where he was the 55th-ranked player in nine-category leagues, posting averages of 15.8 points, 1.5 triples, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals, and only 0.6 turnovers in a mere 21.4 minutes per game, while shooting 56.0% from the floor. With the starting power forward spot his for the taking, there's a good chance he could build on that stretch once he returns. He's worth an add-and-stash to see how things go.
Drop Omer Asik
Omer Asik is currently 65% owned in Yahoo leagues, yet comes in as only the 172nd-ranked player in nine-category formats. A large part of his ownership is because of the high upside in rebounds (10.6 per game), but also because people are chasing his 2012-13 season when he was the starting center for the Houston Rockets and averaging 10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 54.0% from the floor.
This season, he's holding down the starting center spot for the New Orleans Pelicans, but his points (7.5), blocks (1.0), and field goal percentage (51.2%) have all taken hits. His usage rate is also much lower than that season (now 13.7%, compared to 16.3% in 2012-13) and it's becoming increasingly clear that his fantasy value will lie solely in his being a rebound specialist. That's fine, if you're desperate for boards and can take the free throw percentage hit (career 54.8% shooter from the line), but everyone else can cut bait at this point. He'll continue to cede frontcourt touches and minutes to Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson and doesn't have the upside of whichever waiver wire guy du jour you're considering.
Buy Ryan Anderson
Speaking of the Pelicans' frontcourt, Ryan Anderson is starting to look like the fantasy player we've known and loved over these last few years after a shaky start to the season. Over his last six games, Anderson has played a healthy 32.6 minutes per contest off the bench (he's a much better fit with Anthony Davis than Asik seems to be) and has racked up 16th-ranked fantasy value in nine-category leagues on the strength of 19.8 points, 3.5 treys, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.2 blocks, and only 0.7 turnovers per contest, with a shooting split of 47.7% from the field and a perfect 16 for 16 mark from the charity stripe.
That kind of line is the upside he was displaying in 22 games last season before being ruled out for the year with herniated discs in his neck. If this stretch of games is an indication that Anderson is back to his old self, you should throw out a last-ditch effort trade offer while you still can. His owner might be focusing on the inconsistent returns from the start of the season and might be willing to part with him for a decent price. Anderson's early-round upside is worth at least seeing what that price might be.
Add C.J. Miles
In the ever-revolving carousel that is fantasy value on the depleted Pacers, C.J. Miles is currently your hot pickup in Indiana. He has been their top-rated fantasy player over the past week with averages of 20.3 points, 2.8 three-pointers, 3.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.3 blocks, and only 0.8 turnovers in 31.3 minutes per game off the bench over the last four, while shooting 44.8% from the floor and 71.4% from the line.
That 63rd-ranked value in nine-category leagues obviously shouldn't be on any waiver wires for the time being, especially if he reclaims his starting job from Solomon Hill. Grab him now if you need scoring and threes and see where he takes you. His mere 14% ownership in Yahoo leagues should make him fairly easy to snag.
Drop Jeremy Lin
When it was announced that Steve Nash would miss the rest of the 2014-15 season with old-man issues, it looked as though Jeremy Lin had a clear path to the kind of mid-round fantasy value he put up as the unquestioned starter in Houston back in 2012-13 (similarly to Omer Asik). That has certainly not been the case, especially since he lost his starting job to Ronnie Price seven games ago.
Since that time, Price hasn't exactly lit the world on fire with his 4.9 points, 2.6 assists, and 139th-ranked value, but he's blown Jeremy Lin out of the frickin' water by comparison. In those seven games, Lin has averaged a paltry 6.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.4 steals, and 2.0 turnovers per contest, while shooting 35.6% from the floor and 70.6% from the line in 21.5 minutes of action. The move to the bench is by no means permanent in Lakerland and he could be a starter with decent fantasy value again before the season is over. That said, if you're eyeing a hot free agent and holding tight to Lin, his mid-round ceiling (best case scenario) might not be worth holding onto through this painful period of low-end production. Feel free to move on.
Add Jarrett Jack
Deron Williams missed last night's game against Detroit with a calf strain and Jarrett Jack started in his place and threw up 15 points on 7 for 14 shooting, while adding 4 rebounds, 10 assists, and 2 steals. Jack's been a borderline standard-league play this year anyway, currently ranked 156th overall in nine-category leagues, so he's worth an add until D-Will returns.
Williams' injury is believed to be fairly minor, but he has a history of lingering leg-related injuries and extended periods of missed time. Jack makes for a decent pickup in the interim, just don't cut anything too valuable for him. As soon as D-Will returns, Jack's upside will go back to being relatively capped.
Add Kyle Oâ€™Quinn
Kyle O'Quinn started in place of Channing Frye last night against the Philadelphia 76ers and put up a full line with 8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and a whopping 4 blocks in 26 minutes. There's no telling if this was a permanent swap or just an attempt to get the veteran Frye some rest, but O'Quinn is certainly worth a speculative add until we find out.
Despite playing less than 20 minutes per game this season, O'Quinn is quietly putting up mid-round value on the strength of his 8.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game, with a stellar shooting split of 52.0% from the floor and 85.2% from the line. More minutes pumped into that fat line would give him early-round upside, so you can feel pretty confident in taking a chance on him to see how long this lineup shakeup lasts.