Fantasy Basketball 2015-16: A Dozen Dimes, Volume 3
Over 10% of the NBA season is in the books now and "small sample sizes" are gradually being upgraded to "medium". The players you weren't supposed to panic over? Maybe you can start panicking, at least a little bit. And those guys who were bound to regress? Well, if they haven't yet, maybe you should be putting more consideration into adding them.
As always, we're here to help you navigate those tricky decisions when it comes to buying low, selling high, adding hot free agents, and dropping guys who won't do you any good.
Let's get right down to it.
Add Will Barton
Will Barton has been flirting with early-round value in nine-category leagues since the start of the season, but it's been hard to buy into him because of a fluctuating role. Over 10 games, he's started only one contest for the Denver Nuggets, played 20 minutes or fewer three times, and has topped 30 minutes on only three occasions. On a night to night basis, it's been hard to know how coach Mike Malone plans on deploying him, but the numbers are starting to become too tantalizing to get wrapped up in his role.
Barton is currently the 32nd-ranked player in nine-category leagues on the strength of 14.3 points, 1.3 triples, 4.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.5 blocks, and a mere 0.8 turnovers per game, with a shooting split of 47.7% from the field and 90.3% from the line. He's doing that in only 26.2 minutes per game, and that number could certainly increase with his impressive play (to wit, he's averaged 33.7 minutes over his last two contests). With Wilson Chandler officially ruled out for the rest of the 2015-16 season following hip surgery, people in the 45% of Yahoo leagues where Barton remains unowned should be running out of excuses for leaving him sitting on waiver wires.
Add Zaza Pachulia
Zaza Pachulia is not your typical fantasy center. He doesn't get you a lot of blocks (0.5 per game), and he does not hit shots from the field at a high percentage (44.1%). He does, however, give you a pretty reliable double-double, (10.7 points, 10.0 rebounds), a smattering of assists (1.7), low turnovers (1.4), and a decent free throw percentage for a big man (79.7%). If you're in need of the rebounds, in particular, he's a great add in the 48% of Yahoo leagues where he's still available. As long as he's starting at center for the Dallas Mavericks, you can expect something close to these numbers on a nightly basis.
Add Dwight Powell
While we're talking about Mavericks bigs, Dwight Powell has had an impressive start to his sophomore campaign. As the first big off Rick Carlisle's bench, Powell has put up top-100 value in nine-category leagues in only 21.7 minutes per night, averaging 10.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.7 blocks, and a negligible 0.6 turnovers, while shooting 55.6% from the field and 63.3% from the charity stripe. He's worth owning for as long as he can keep putting up those numbers, and if an injury to a starter ever affords him more minutes, he could very well become a must-own fantasy asset.
Drop Gorgui Dieng
Only one week removed from suggesting that Gorgui Dieng is a hold/buy player in standard fantasy leagues, I'm changing my tune (hey, it happens). The kind of per-minute performer that finished as a top-50 asset in nine-category leagues last year seemed like a good candidate to bounce back from a slow start if ever given the opportunity to do so, but it has become abundantly clear that interim coach Sam Mitchell won't be affording Dieng a chance anytime soon.
Gorgui's only averaging 18.3 minutes per game, and that simply won't cut it. He's been playing very few minutes next to Karl-Anthony Towns, and even the game that Kevin Garnett missed with a DNP-Old only resulted in 18 minutes for Dieng. In fact, he never even topped 20 minutes once in the five games the Wolves played last week. Throw in the impressive play of Nemanja Bjelica, and it doesn't look like Dieng has much of a chance of holding standard-league value in Minnesota's frontcourt this season. Continue to keep an eye on his minutes, but for now he can safely be cut loose for a hot free agent.
Sell Rajon Rondo
I identified Rajon Rondo as a sell candidate in Volume 1 of this column, and I stand behind it, despite his scorching hot play of late. Yes, he's gone absolutely bonkers over his last five games, averaging 13.2 points, 0.8 three-pointers, 9.2 rebounds, 14.0 assists, and 2.8 steals per contest, but he's also turned the ball over 5.6 times per game, while shooting 40.0% from the field and 33.3% from the charity stripe.
The popcorn stats are nice and all, but they came during a time in which he had to play 45.5 minutes per game out of necessity as the Kings' only healthy point guard. He's simply too inefficient in his percentages and turnovers for his owners not to at least be exploring potential deals while the dealing's good. Darren Collison is set to return from his five-game absence on Wednesday, and the two were in a relative timeshare before Collison's hamstring injury. In fact, Collison was outpacing Rondo in minutes per game 30.6 to 27.1 over the team's first six games. Rondo may have earned himself more minutes, but Collison was the 44th-ranked player in nine-category leagues last season and isn't likely to concede that many touches going forward.
Add Jeremy Lamb
Jeremy Lamb is kind of like Will Barton, in that he's been putting up fantasy value that should inspire universal ownership, but it's hard to trust him as a bench player with only 9 or 10 hot games under his belt. Still, Lamb's sample size is getting bigger, and he's still the 59th-ranked player in nine-category leagues after nine games because of his averages of 13.3 points, 1.7 threes, 4.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.7 blocks, and only 0.9 turnovers, with a 55.4% shooting mark from the field. We've been waiting for the other shoe to drop, but he should simply be owned in more than 30% of Yahoo leagues until it does. He's questionable for Tuesday night because of a shoulder injury, but if he ends up being good to go, he's someone you should start feeling more comfortable about (until he's not).
Drop Marcus Thornton
It's hard to tell you to drop Marcus Thornton mere days after writing this, but here we are. Thornton was off to a scorching hot start to the season after six games (all starts), averaging 17.3 points, 3.0 triples, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.2 blocks, and only 1.0 turnover, while shooting 47.8% from the field. That made him the 10th-ranked player in nine-category leagues over that stretch, but he has come crashing back down to earth over his last two games coming off the bench. In those games, he has averaged 3.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals, and nothing else in just 18.0 minutes per game, while shooting 17.6% from the field. Go ahead and drop him, but keep an eye out for if Terrence Jones or anyone else misses enough time to give Thornton another opportunity to start and put up fantasy-friendly numbers again.
Add Cory Joseph
Cory Joseph has been very effective over his last four games, averaging 13.0 points, 1.0 three, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.5 turnovers per contest, while shooting 64.7% from the field and a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line. That's good enough to make him the 68th-ranked player over that span and someone you should consider adding if your fantasy squad is in need of a point guard. He's sharing the floor with Kyle Lowry a ton, and his minutes are trending up. Add in the fact that Terrence Ross is out indefinitely with a ligament injury in his left thumb, and CoJo should manage to maintain the healthy 27.4 minutes per game he's averaged in T-Ross' absence for the foreseeable future.
Buy Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel has struggled a bit to start his sophomore season, shooting only 39.6% from the field and 64.0% from the free throw line, while turning the ball over 3.3 times per contest. His 11.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.4 blocks are still helping fantasy owners, but the dip in efficiency has him coming in as only the 145th-ranked player in nine-category leagues through his first eight games of the season.
Don't panic, though. His shooting percentage should normalize soon (he shot 46.2% from the floor in his rookie year), and his turnovers should get back down around the 1.9 mark he averaged last season as well. He may concede touches to Jahlil Okafor this season, but a guy who was the 14th-ranked player in nine-category leagues after the All-Star Break last season and who has the potential to average two steals and two blocks per contest like Noel does should be on your buy-low radar. Test his potentially frustrated owners while he's finding his groove and working his way through the sore wrists that cost him two games last week.
Sell Mo Williams
Mo Williams might still maintain standard-league value once Kyrie Irving returns, but you should start trying to sell him now while he's posting mid-round value and Kyrie's still without a timetable. Once Irving has a return date, Mo's fantasy value will be a ticking time bomb that no one will want to spend too highly on, but for now the mystery surrounding the word "indefinite" has the potential to give him some appeal. Through 10 games, Williams is averaging a respectable 15.6 points, 1.8 threes, 3.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.1 blocks, 2.2 turnovers, 47.9% shooting from the field, and 92.3% from the free throw line. Any owner desperate for a point guard could use that 53rd-ranked value in nine-category leagues and might be willing to spend a bit if they think Kyrie is still a ways away.
Drop David Lee
David Lee began the season as a starter in Boston but lost the gig after three games and hasn't done much to win it back since. Through nine games, Lee is averaging just 6.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 1.3 turnovers in 17.0 minutes per game, while shooting 45.8% from the field and 81.8% from the line. That 228th-ranked value just won't cut it in standard leagues, so it's time to let go if you're partially responsible for his still being owned in 48% of Yahoo leagues. Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson have locked down the starting frontcourt spots for now, and the ceiling of youngsters Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller will keep Lee from being any kind of priority for Brad Stevens as the season progresses.
Add Dennis Schroder
Dennis Schroder is a bit too inconsistent for "must-own" status, but he's worth a short-term add for as long as Jeff Teague is sidelined with a bum ankle. On the season, Schroder is averaging 11.9 points, 1.2 threes, 2.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.8 turnovers, 43.4% shooting from the field, and 81.0% from the line (128th-ranked in nine-category leagues), which is still worth ownership in standard formats even when Teague is healthy. This is just to say that he's available in almost 70% of Yahoo leagues and makes for a good plug-and-play option if he's available in yours and Teague continues to show up on the injury report.