Fantasy Basketball: A Dozen Dimes, Volume 10
Welcome to 2015, fantasy hoopsters! Hopefully you haven't neglected your team too much this season while playing fantasy football and getting ready for the holidays. Now that all that's over and you're ready to pump some more time into your fantasy basketball team, we're here to help you recover.
First and foremost...
Sell Carmelo Anthony
If you're a Carmelo Anthony owner, you've probably already grown tired of his sore knee, intermittent games missed, and shutdown talk and have done everything in your power to move him for something of value. On the other hand, if you're still sitting around waiting for him to return on his first-round average draft position, you're running out of time to make a move. The Knicks are 5-31, and it's definitely in their best interest to protect their $124 million investment by shutting him down and getting this knee issue sorted out once and for all. His coach, Derek Fisher, has even hinted that such a move might be coming even though Melo is still traveling with the team. The time has likely passed to get an asset with early-round value for Melo, but you should be doing everything in your power to get a player you at least believe will be playing during your fantasy playoffs. Try anything and everything because it's about to be too late.
Add/Buy J.R. Smith
With Melo's season hanging in the balance, J.R. Smith is a likely candidate to take on a good portion of the scoring load for the Knicks from here on out. Yes, Smith's season so far has been downright awful, as he's only posting 234th-ranked value in nine-category leagues through 24 games played, averaging just 10.9 points, 1.3 threes, 2.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 0.8 steals per game, while shooting a lowly 40.2% from the field and 69.2% from the line. Even so, in the last two games without Melo, Smith has averaged a much more enticing 18.5 points, 4.0 threes, 5.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.5 steals, with a shooting split of 38.9% from the floor and a 1-for-2 mark from the line. The shooting won't be pretty, but someone has to rack up numbers in New York, and it might as well be Smith. Don't forget that he's been a top-100 fantasy asset in nine-category leagues for five of the last six seasons, despite his shooting struggles, so there's definite upside to be found with an add.
Sell Brandon Jennings
Since the Josh Smith trade, Brandon Jennings has basically become Stephen Curry, averaging 21.6 points, 3.4 triples, 3.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.4 steals per contest over his last five, while shooting a blistering 55.8% from the floor and 83.3% from the charity stripe in the process. The Pistons are a maybe not-so-surprising 5-0 since the deal and Jennings looks like a new player altogether, posting first-round value over that span. You might feel like celebrating if you're a Jennings owner that has had to put up with his awful shooting slumps all season, but don't lose sight of who Jennings really is: a streaky player who has shot 39.1% from the floor over his six year career who is just enjoying a boost in a small, five-game sample. You may never get a better opportunity than this to sell high on him, so float out some offers before his next slump hits.
Buy LeBron James
LeBron James is currently posting his lowest scoring average since his rookie season (25.2), and apart from a bump in assists per game (7.6), most of his other numbers are down lower than they've been in years. Combine that with Cleveland's struggles and James' recently being shut down a couple weeks to heal knee and back soreness, and you've got the best buy-low window you've probably ever seen for the King in fantasy. Don't let the 15th-ranked value in nine-category leagues fool you. LeBron is still LeBron and has that first-overall upside that he's displayed his whole career (he's finished as a top-6 fantasy asset in each of the last seven seasons). The Cavs will need a motivated LeBron to make some noise later this season and into the playoffs, and you can bet this short, mid-season rest period will be just what the doctor ordered for his fantasy value. Buy him now, if you think you can.
Sell Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry has been a fantasy stud this season, posting first-round value on the strength of 20.6 points, 1.8 threes, 4.7 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 1.6 steals per game, while shooting 44.9% from the field and 81.3% from the line. That kind of performance has certainly exceeded the expectations that came with his late-second-round average draft position this year, but he's likely to come down to Earth just a bit with the return of All-Star DeMar DeRozan coming this Thursday. The pre/post-injury splits for Lowry are pretty telling, so now is your best chance to move Lowry for someone that's more likely to sustain first-round upside for the rest of the season. Think in the John Wall range.
Add Jusuf Nurkic
Nuggets Rookie Jusuf Nurkic has been tearing it up over this past week, averaging 12.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 1.3 steals, 3.3 blocks, and only 1.0 turnover per game over his last three, while shooting 50.0% from the field and 75.0% from the line. Most importantly, he's outplayed starting center Timofey Mozgov while playing an identical 24.7 minutes per game over that stretch. This small sample size might end up being nothing more than an anomaly, but if the Nuggets ever agree to trade Mozgov or throw up the white flag in the hyper-competitive Western Conference and switch to developing their youngsters, Nurkic has the kind of upside in rebounds and blocks to make him a solid speculative add until we see how this thing plays out.
Add Evan Turner
Evan Turner has started at point guard the last three games for the Boston Celtics and has put up averages of 16.0 points, 2.0 threes, 4.0 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.3 steals per contest, while shooting 48.7% from the floor and 66.7% from the line. His value has been capped by the 4.3 turnovers per game, but as long as he holds the starting spot, he has shown in the past (in Philly) that he can put up gaudy fantasy numbers in the right situation. Coach Brad Stevens has experimented with starting Marcus Smart and Jameer Nelson at the point as well since the Rajon Rondo trade, but the job looks to be Turner's for the time being. His upside isn't all that high when you consider the shooting splits and turnover rate, but he's worth an add for now until this stat-stuffing streak dies off.
Sell Andrew Wiggins
Rookies don't make the best fantasy assets, simply because they historically display such a high degree of inconsistency in year one. Andrew Wiggins has been no different, posting only 220th-ranked value in nine-category leagues, despite patches of very strong play. One such patch has occurred over the last two weeks, in which the Rookie of the Year candidate averaged 21.2 points, 1.2 triples, 4.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.8 blocks, and only 1.7 turnovers per game through six, while shooting 51.0% from the floor and 68.8% from the line. Even with the low free throw percentage, that's good enough for 42nd-ranked value over that span in nine-category leagues. That's a fantastic peak, but more valleys are coming, especially when Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, and Nikola Pekovic all eventually return from injury and steal some of his touches. This is probably one of the highest points you'll see for Wiggins' value if you're looking to sell.
Add Zaza Pachulia
Zaza Pachulia has started the last six games for the Milwaukee Bucks in place of Larry Sanders, who is away from the team for some mysterious personal reason. Over that period, Zaza has been an effective early-round value with averages of 12.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.7 turnovers per game, while shooting 54.5% from the field and 89.5% from the line. Pachulia has a history of posting serviceable fantasy value in the short-term whenever he's given minutes, so he'll be a solid add until Sanders reappears.
Add Dion Waiters
Dion Waiters has not had a fantasy season worth talking about to this point, averaging 10.5 points, 0.7 threes, 1.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.3 steals through 33 games, while shooting only 40.4% from the field and 78.3% from the charity stripe. That's only good enough for 208th-ranked value in nine-category leagues on the season and he's been even worse over the last four games that the Cavaliers have played without LeBron James, posting 233rd-ranked value in the King's absence. You're probably not reading this and running to your waiver wire to grab Waiters, but be aware that Kyrie Irving hurt his back on Friday and re-aggravated it yesterday. He's already been ruled out for tonight against Philadelphia, and the Cavaliers are a depleted team in need of a spark. Look for Waiters to fill a bit of that void in the short-term, while guys like Matthew Dellavedova and Shawn Marion also make for interesting temporary adds until we see who starts helping Kevin Love carry the load in Cleveland.
Sell Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez has looked just fine fantasy-wise over his last four games, posting 33rd-ranked value in nine-category leagues on the strength of 18.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and only 1.0 turnover per game, while shooting the lights out with a split of 62.0% from the field and 83.3% from the line. There was one start mixed in there, but he only averaged 22.0 minutes per game over that span and Nets coach Lionel Hollins has not minced words about preferring a combination of Kevin Garnett and Mason Plumlee in his starting frontcourt over Lopez when all are healthy. Lopez's ceiling is very high as a fantasy asset, and he could take off if he ever reclaims his starting job, but this little hot stretch might be just what you need to get out from under his injury concerns and uncertain role.
Drop Lance Stephenson
Just do it. What are you waiting for? Lance Stephenson, at his absolute best, was only the 110th-ranked player in nine-category leagues last year. Considering that was easily his best pro season, people appear to be chasing that as his ceiling and are stuck dealing with his 254th-ranked value this year and 10 straight games missed due to a pelvic strain that doesn't appear to be healing while they wait. He has been mired in trade rumors and stories of locker room rifts all season and doesn't look likely to come out of all this with standard-league value this year. If you're part of the reason that he still has a 74% ownership rate in Yahoo leagues, I'm sure you'll feel better if you just let him go for a hot free agent. I know it hurts to drop someone you probably spent a middle-round pick on, but sometimes you just have to cut your losses. It's time.