Fantasy Basketball 2015-16: A Dozen Dimes, Volume 4
Long-term injuries are a bummer.
Yes, they obviously affect the player's NBA team in a big and far more important way, but fantasy owners are left hanging their heads after a troubling injury report as well. The Toronto Raptors and Jonas Valanciunas owners got some very bad news yesterday, when it was reported that JV fractured the fourth metacarpal in his left (non-shooting) hand on Friday, has opted for rehab over surgery, and will miss roughly six weeks of action for it.
Injuries to usual fantasy starters usually result in one of two scenarios:
A) There is an obvious "next man up" -- someone who puts up great per-36 numbers in limited minutes -- that you rush to your waiver wire to pick up. Everyone knows the player is a per-minute beast and this is just the opportunity he needed to be a must-own fantasy asset.
B) There exists a jumble of players behind the injured party on the depth chart. They will share the load, but none of them are obvious fantasy beneficiaries, and you're really just throwing a dart by picking any of them up.
Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the situation in Toronto seems much more a case of the latter. Let's try to figure that out and then get to the usual add, drop, buy, and sell advice for this week.
Hold Jonas Valanciunas
Six weeks takes us into January, and that's a long time for fantasy owners to sit on Valanciunas. If you're in a league with a short bench and no injured reserve slot, this will be a tough pill to swallow, and you might have to cut the big guy loose. Do what you have to do, of course, but Jonas Valanciunas should be held wherever it's possible to do so.
He's not getting the minutes that fantasy owners would like (27.3 per contest), but he's still putting up top-100 value. If he ever gets the time on the floor that he deserves, his 12.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks (a career low and down from last year's 1.2) would have a chance to creep closer to his 15.1-point, 11.0-rebound, 1.5-block career per-36-minute rates. Toss in the solid 55.3% from the field and 77.7% from the line for his career, and he's always a threat to post early-round value. If JV's absence causes Toronto to slip down the standings or if they ever part ways with coach Dwane Casey, there's even a chance that Valanciunas returns to a more favorable situation for his value than when he left.
Add Patrick Patterson, Luis Scola, Bismack Biyombo
As mentioned in the intro, there's no clear fantasy beneficiary that comes from Valanciunas' unfortunate injury news. Patrick Patterson seemed like a logical choice at first, as he managed to put up sneaky top-100 value in six more minutes per game last year, but he's struggled mightily in 2015-16 and only played 14 minutes in the first post-JV contest last night, scoring two points and adding five rebounds. You can forget him and his 227th-ranked value in nine-category leagues for now.
Bismack Biyombo got the start in JV's place, played over 30 minutes, scored 6 points, and grabbed 14 boards. It's a little weird that he didn't record a single block (he's averaged 2.6 per 36 minutes over his career), but owners in need of boards and blocks can feel comfortable picking him up. Just don't expect much help anywhere else.
Luis Scola has started all 15 games for the Raptors this season, while quietly putting up 123rd-ranked value in nine-category leagues on the strength of 10.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and not much else, while shooting 47.9% from the field. He put up 20 points and 8 rebounds in 31 minutes last night and seems to be the best add of the committee, although his value will come almost exclusively from points and rebounds.
Add Zach LaVine
Zach LaVine has been playing a lot of point guard this season, both backing up Ricky Rubio and filling in for him as a starter in the games Tricky Ricky's missed due to injury. Over the last three games, however, LaVine has played more time at shooting guard next to Rubio, and his arrow is pointing up because of the consistent minutes that have come with that change. In fact, over LaVine's last eight games, he has averaged 17.8 points, 2.0 threes, 3.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.0 steal, and 2.4 turnovers in 27.5 minutes per contest, while shooting 47.7% from the field and 83.3% from the line. That's good for 62nd-ranked value over that span and that makes him worth owning for now, regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench.
Sell/Drop Ty Lawson
The Ty Lawson experiment is not going all that well in Houston. The team is reeling at 5-9, and Lawson was identified as part of the problem, losing his starting gig to what's left of Jason Terry three games ago. On the season, Lawson comes in as only the 268th-ranked player in nine-category leagues, despite averaging a healthy 32.2 minutes per night (the third-most on the team).
His averages of 7.7 points, 0.6 threes, 2.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks, and 2.5 turnovers per contest are well below replacement level, while the 31.6% shooting from the floor and 67.5% from the line for a point guard are just not cutting it. His three games off the bench have been even worse, as he's shot 20.0% from the floor, and averaged 3.3 points, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steal and practically nothing else. Sell him if there's any chance there's still an owner that believes in him, but it's safe to drop him at this point, with the chance that he slips out of Houston's rotation entirely.
Add Patrick Beverley
Speaking of Houston's point guard situation, Patrick Beverley is due back from a period in which he's missed seven of nine contests, including five straight. His return couldn't come soon enough, with Ty Lawson falling out of favor and Jason Terry being generally old and ineffective. Beverley should jump right into the starting point guard position on Wednesday night (or shortly thereafter) and have a shot at putting up the top-100 value that he's managed in each of the last two seasons. Owners in need of help in threes, assists, steals, free throw percentage, and/or low turnovers should stash him now and see what happens.
Add Nikola Jokic
Denver is becoming a bit of a weird place to find fantasy value, as everyone seems to be able to have effective stretches, but hardly anyone's rest-of-season value is clear-cut. The latest addition to the mess is at the center position with Nikola Jokic, who is playing well in place of the injured Joffrey Lauvergne, who was playing well in place of the injured Jusuf Nurkic. Regardless of where he sits on the depth chart in a perfect world, Jokic has been effective over his last three games, averaging 13.3 points, 0.3 threes, 9.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 1.7 steals, 1.3 blocks, and a mere 0.3 turnovers per game, while shooting 50.0% from the field and 86.7% from the line. He's not likely to keep up that early-round pace once the Nuggets get healthy, but he's absolutely worth riding now while he's hot and in the starting lineup.
Buy Chandler Parsons
Chandler Parsons played a season-high 24 minutes on Sunday, and he's finally getting back up to a range where his fantasy value should start to shine through again. On the season, he's only the 273rd-ranked player in nine-category leagues, with averages of 8.0 points, 0.8 threes, 2.9 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.1 blocks, and 1.1 turnovers in a mere 17.8 minutes per contest, while shooting 50.0% from the field. As his minutes continue to creep up and once he starts playing in both games of back-to-back sets, he should get back to the mid-round value he's posted for the last three seasons. His starting role and the accompanying minutes are safe on the Mavericks, so you're running out of time to get your buy-low offers in while the minutes limit is still in place.
Buy Marcin Gortat
Marcin Gortat is off to a slow start in 2015-16, coming in as only the 129th-ranked player in nine-category leagues, with averages of 11.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.9 blocks, and 2.1 turnovers in 27.5 minutes per game, and a shooting split of 48.8% from the field and 78.9% from the line. The big guy has been an early- to mid-round value for the last five seasons, so you just have to trust the process a little bit when it comes to his likelihood to return to form. His per-36 numbers are right on par with his last few seasons, but his field goal percentage is down to 48.8% from a career mark of 54.8% while the turnovers are up to 2.7 per 36 minutes, up from 1.6. Once those numbers stabilize, he'll have the chance to continue being a top-50 fantasy asset, as long as he manages a couple more minutes per game. He currently makes for a nice buy-low target.
Sell Michael Carter-Williams
Michael Carter-Williams has always had his fantasy value rely heavily on popcorn cumulative stats, while his efficiency numbers have been a hindrance to owners. This season, the 43.8% shooting from the field, 70.0% shooting from the line, and 3.1 turnovers per contest are still a drag, but now his other numbers are down as well. His 12.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.1 steals, and 29.9 minutes per game all represent career lows, and that's trouble for owners that were hoping for him to fill up the stat sheet like he used to in Philly.
NBA-competent point guards Jerryd Bayless and Greivis Vasquez are eating into MCW's minutes, and this doesn't look like a situation that will end in very positive value. He's currently ranked 182nd in nine-category leagues and hasn't cracked 27 minutes in his last three contests (they were three straight blowout losses, but it's still troubling). Selling him now on his name and the promise of high counting stats is probably a good idea at this point.
Add Ish Smith
Ish Smith has mostly had his hot start chalked up to a minute-limit and no back-to-backs for Jrue Holiday and the absence of an injured Tyreke Evans. Those things are true, but even when Jrue has played, Ish has continued to produce. To wit, he's currently the 80th-ranked player in nine-category leagues this season, and the 41st-ranked over his last four (in which Jrue played three).
Smith's averages over that four-game span are well worth your time at 16.3 points, 0.5 triples, 4.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.5 blocks, 2.0 turnovers, 50.0% shooting from the field, and 90.0% from the line. With Evans due back and Holiday's minutes increasing, this ride isn't expected to last for long, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to deny Smith's 7.9 assists per game (fifth in the NBA) and all-around solid production. He should be owned in more than 45% of Yahoo leagues right now.
Sell Eric Gordon
While we're talking about the Pelicans' guard and wing rotation, we might as well mention that this is a good time to sell Eric Gordon as well. If you drafted Gordon, you've been pleased with his top-50 value to start the season, but there are enough red flags to make you wary. First of all, he has only managed to get to that level once in his career (34th-ranked in 2010-11) and hasn't cracked the top-100 for three straight. He's also injury prone, playing 78, 62, 56, 9, 42, 64, and 61 games over his first seven seasons, so you might spend most of this season waiting for that shoe to drop inevitably. Throw in the impending return of Tyreke Evans and the ever-increasing minute-limit of Jrue Holiday, and Gordon's solid production seems to come with an expiration date. Sell now or forever hold your peace.
Sell Deron Williams
Deron Williams, much like Eric Gordon, is someone who has battled nagging injuries for the last few seasons and whose hot start is a little hard to trust. D-Will has rewarded owners who spent a late-round pick on him this year by posting 37th-ranked value through 13 games, on the strength of 14.3 points, 1.3 triples, 2.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.2 blocks, and 1.9 turnovers in a healthy 31.2 minutes per game, and with a shooting split of 43.8% from the field and 95.3% from the charity stripe. While the return home and early-season renaissance might make you feel like D-Will is back to his old ways, it really feels like an injury or a drop to his 100-plus-ranked value from last season in Brooklyn (when he shot worse and turned the ball over more) might be just around the corner. He could keep it up, but probably not at this level, so this feels like a good time to sell high.