Fantasy Basketball 2015-16: A Dozen Dimes, Volume 5
Rookies are almost always overvalued and overdrafted in fantasy basketball, and that's often an easy thing to exploit when buying and selling. In fact, it has produced plenty of recommendations for this column over the last few years.
That's not really the case this time around, though.
This season, more than most in recent memory, the rookie class has come out the gates looking solid and ready, both from a real-life and fantasy perspective. Several first-year players are putting up big numbers and fantasy-relevant lines on a nightly basis, and their roles seem safe enough and their ceilings high enough that buying into those hot starts is looking like a smarter move than selling them. This week's edition of A Dozen Dimes, for example, has three recommendations to buy or add rookies.
The times, they are a-changin'.
Buy Kristaps Porzingis
Kristaps Porzingis is the real deal and you should treat him as such in fantasy. Through 18 games of his rookie season, Porzingis is the 46th-ranked player in nine-category leagues on the strength of 13.7 points, 0.8 threes, 9.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.9 blocks, and 1.8 turnovers in only 27.9 minutes per game, and with a shooting split of 42.5% from the field and 82.3% from the line. He's a true nine-category threat, with a stat line that looks Draymond Green-ish, outside of the assists.
There might still be owners out there that think these kinds of numbers from Porzingis are unsustainable or who simply don't trust rookies over the long-term, so you should be aggressively trying to buy him wherever you can. He's a top-50 player with early-round upside going forward, so don't be afraid to trade for him as such.
Drop Robin Lopez
While Porzingis has been a pleasant surprise for the Knicks, Robin Lopez has been a disappointment. After three straight seasons of posting early- to mid-round value, RoLo is barely clinging onto standard-league relevance in his first year in New York, currently ranking as the 185th player in nine-category leagues. He's started all 18 games he's played so far this season, but his averages of 7.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.3 steals, 1.1 blocks, 1.9 turnovers, 43.7% shooting from the field, and 88.5% shooting from the line just aren't cutting it in only 24.5 minutes per night (including fewer than 15 minutes played in each of the last two contests). He likely won't stay this low all season after signing a four-year, $54 million contract this past summer, but it'd be hard to fault you if you dropped him for a hot free agent at this point.
Add C.J. Miles
C.J. Miles is en fuego right now, despite posting a bit of a dud against the Lakers on Sunday night. Over his last six games, Miles has averaged 19.5 points, 4.2 threes, 2.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.2 blocks, and 0.7 assists in 29.5 minutes per contest, while shooting 48.1% from the field and 82.4% from the line. That makes him the 21st-ranked player over that span, which is clearly must-own territory. In fact, Miles has now cracked the top-50 in nine-category value on a per-game basis for the season, so his 57% ownership rate on Yahoo should skyrocket soon enough. Don't miss the boat.
Add Jerryd Bayless
Jerryd Bayless started over Michael Carter-Williams for the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday and has been putting up 74th-ranked value in nine-category leagues on the season as a whole in a healthy 31.6 minutes per contest. In other words, he should be owned in far more than the 34% of Yahoo leagues that he currently is, especially with the promotion.
In 17 games this season, Bayless is averaging 12.1 points, 2.3 threes, 3.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.2 blocks, and 1.9 turnovers per contest, while shooting 42.8% from the field and 75.8% from the line. MCW might eventually make his way back into the starting five, but Bayless' minutes seem safe regardless of whether he starts or not, so he should be universally owned until further notice.
Add Meyers Leonard
Meyers Leonard dislocated his shoulder on November 11th but has returned to the Trail Blazers' lineup ahead of schedule and played against the Lakers on Saturday night. He didn't start that game and only played a little under 22 minutes, but his starting role on the team is secure, and his upside going forward makes him worth a speculative add right now.
Leonard has struggled with injuries this season, but there was a three-game window into what he has to offer fantasy owners before his shoulder injury, in which he averaged 14.0 points, 1.7 threes, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.0 turnover in 31.7 minutes per game, while shooting 56.7% from the field. If he can stay healthy, his points, threes, rebounds, high percentages, and low turnovers give him solid mid-round upside that should be owned in all standard leagues.
Buy Victor Oladipo
Scott Skiles has a history of frustrating fantasy owners with the way he tinkers with his rotations. The latest chapter in that story is his recent benching of Victor Oladipo, arguably the Magic's best all-around player. Admittedly, Oladipo did struggle in his first few games back from a concussion that kept him out for two games, but the move still seems puzzling and unnecessary.
Even if he sticks to the bench for a while, though, he's been fantastic in his first three games in a reserve role. Over that span, he's averaging a healthy 26.9 minutes per game and putting up 30th-ranked value on the strength of his 20.0 points, 1.0 triple, 6.0 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.3 blocks, and 1.0 turnover per contest, with a shooting split of 43.6% from the field and 82.1% from the line. He'll be just fine and has early-round upside regardless of whether he starts or not, so he's a buy-low candidate if his owner is concerned about his recent demotion.
Add Clint Capela
Clint Capela has made seven starts for the Rockets over his 17 games played, mostly filling in for an injured Dwight Howard, but he has now started two consecutive games in place of a healthy Terrence Jones. While Jones has shown that he can be a solid fantasy asset and is probably a decent enough buy-low option right now with what could only be a temporary demotion, the main takeaway is that this is a situation that makes Capela a must-own player until further notice.
Capela has been great over his last four games, averaging 13.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks, and 1.3 turnovers per contest, while shooting 62.2% from the field and 46.7% from the charity stripe. His newly expanded role isn't necessarily set in stone going forward, but his rebounds, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, and low turnovers have made him a top-100 asset in only 18.9 minutes per game on the season, so he should definitely be owned while he's hot and getting big minutes and might even be worth holding onto if Jones ever displaces him.
Buy Karl-Anthony Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns started his rookie season hot, averaging 16.0 points, 0.1 threes, 10.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.4 blocks, and 2.3 turnovers in 29.5 minutes per contest over his first 13, while shooting 52.2% from the floor and 90.7% from the line. That was good enough for 17th-ranked value in nine-category leagues over that span, making KAT look like the steal of fantasy drafts in the early going. Over the last four games, however, Wolves coach Sam Mitchell has gone away from his rookie in crunch time, and the result has been a dip in Towns' numbers and subsequently his fantasy value.
Over that four-game span, Towns has only been the 93rd-ranked player in nine-category leagues, based on averages of 9.0 points, 0.5 threes, 6.0 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.5 blocks, 1.5 turnovers, and 54.8% shooting from the field in only 22.2 minutes per contest. His talent will shine through eventually, though, and the seven-minute drop in playing time likely won't last all that long, so now is a good buy-low opportunity for the young big with the seemingly limitless fantasy ceiling.
Add Gorgui Dieng
This column might need a dedicated "Where I stand on Gorgui Dieng this week" section. In Volume 2, I told you to hold/buy him because his per-minute production would overcome Sam Mitchell's under-utilizing him, but then I gave up in Volume 3 and told you to drop him because it seemed like Mitchell was never going to come around and give him the necessary minutes to be a standard-league asset. Well, with Karl-Anthony Towns' recent dip in minutes has come an increase in Dieng's role, so I'm officially back in on him again for as long as his minutes are in the mid-20s.
The reality is that Dieng will hold standard-league value as long as he's getting playing time, so you're simply at the will of Sam Mitchell when it comes to whether or not he should be owned. A perfect example of why fantasy pundits remain enamoured with Dieng, despite the roller coaster ride this season has been, is the 20th-ranked value he's posted over his last four games. He has played over 24 minutes in each of those contests (after topping that threshold only one other time this season prior to this stretch), while averaging 11.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks, and 1.5 turnovers in 26.4 minutes per game, and shooting 60.9% from the field and 94.1% from the line. Pick him up and just keep hoping for consistent minutes.
Sell Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki has been very solid to start this season, averaging 17.1 points, 1.7 triples, 7.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 0.9 turnovers in 29.7 minutes per contest, while shooting 52.3% from the field and 91.1% from the line. That's good enough for 17th-ranked value on the season, which has been a solid get for anyone who picked him in the middle to late rounds where he was falling in most drafts this year.
The truth is, however, that this is pretty much Dirk's ceiling in his age-37 season. It will be hard for him to keep up playing 30-plus minutes per night as the year rolls on, and his field goal percentage (52.3%), three-point percentage (50.0%), and free throw percentage (91.1%) all represent career-highs that will almost certainly fall victim to some sort of regression. He's still amazing at his advanced age, but you'll never get a better chance to sell him for something more reliable of equal value than right now.
Add Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has been starting for the Brooklyn Nets for a few weeks now, but he's really come on over the last 10 days or so. Despite putting up a relative dud on Sunday, RHJ has solid averages over his last five games. His 8.2 points, 0.2 threes, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.6 steals, 0.6 blocks, 1.2 turnovers, 43.3% shooting from the field, and 87.5% from the line combine to make him the 40th-ranked player in nine-category leagues over that span. His needle is clearly pointing up, especially since it won't be long before the 4-13 Nets have little else to play for outside of developing their youngsters. He won't give you much in terms of scoring and general rookie inconsistencies might make for some rough nights, but he is a must-add player right now in standard leagues and should be owned until he cools off.
Add T.J. Warren
T.J. Warren has been rolling over his last four games, averaging 19.3 points, 0.5 threes, 5.3 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.8 steals, 1.0 block, and 1.0 turnover in 29.6 minutes per contest, while shooting 59.6% from the field and 87.5% from the line. He's definitely worth an add while he's this hot and posting 24th-ranked value in nine-category leagues like that. The fact that he's outplayed and averaged more minutes per game than P.J. Tucker over this recent stretch might even open the door for Warren shifting into the Suns' starting lineup before too long. If that were to happen, there's a good chance that he would hold solid rest-of-season value, so don't hesitate to pick him up now and see where this goes if you've got room on your roster.