Magic: Buy or Sell
Last week someone offered me Dwight Howard and Kevin Martin for Pau Gasol and Jason Terry in a rotisserie league. This was in a keeper league in which I will lose Gasol after this season, and I could keep Howard for the next three years. Plus, I knew Andrew Bynum would be returning soon and possibly cutting into Gasol's minutes and production. I was seriously considering the deal, so I e-mailed my co-owner to get his opinion. He responded with one line:
"How do you win with Howard?"
And just like that, the trade was dead. Howard's anchor-like effect on free throw percentage was just too strong for us to willingly take it on, despite all of the other benefits that he brings to the table. You can still win with Howard if all things go right for you (the guy offering us Howard was actually in first place), but having him as a foundation piece in roto leagues just makes it overly difficult to build a championship squad.
On the other hand, not all leagues are cumulative rotisserie leagues. In head-to-head leagues where you can afford to punt a category, Howard was expected to be gold entering the year. One quarter of the way through, has he been? What about his Magic teammates, how have they been doing? And what should we expect from the various Magic players moving forward?
Dwight Howard: Buy
I know I just got done talking about how hard it is to win in rotisserie with Howard, but if you're in a head-to-head league or in a roto one where you feel like you can survive his free-throw anchor, now is actually a good time to go after him. While he has scored at a career-high pace through 25 games, he is currently averaging a six-year low in rebounds and a three-year low in blocked shots. Howard also started (relatively) slowly in those categories last year, averaging 11.7 boards and 1.8 blocks in November before upping those to 13.4 boards and 3.0 blocks over the last five months of the season while keeping his scoring and percentages steady.
Vince Carter: Hold/tentative buy
Carter is currently ranked 97th by average in the Y! player rater, which would make sense for his relatively pedestrian draft slot. But Carter is actually playing much better early this season than he did early last year, when he shot only 39.7% from the field before the All-Star Break. This season he is shooting a solid 47% from the field, but on a career-low 12.1 shot attempts per game. In fact, Carter's usage across the board is down. As the year plays out I expect him either to raise his numbers slightly in Orlando, or else possibly be traded as part of a team shake-up. Either scenario likely helps his fantasy value from here.
Jameer Nelson: Hold
Nelson's season thus far has split the difference between his break-out 2008-09 All-Star campaign and last year's injury-riddled lesser one. Nelson is currently averaging a career-high 7.3 assists, which could make him a more valuable player if he can get his scoring and shooting numbers up to where they were in '09. Even if he can't, though, he is still an effective point guard that doesn't really hurt you anywhere.
Rashard Lewis: Sell (if you can)
At this point, Lewis is almost solely a 3-point role player. He doesn't contribute well in any other category, and his move from power forward to small forward hasn't done anything to change his numbers. If you can still sell anyone on his name, by all means make the move.
Brandon Bass: Buy cheaply
Bass has shown signs since moving into the starting lineup, with one double-double and another 18 point/8-rebound effort in his first two games. I like him as a dirty work, Udonis Haslem type for as long as he holds onto the starting gig.
Around the League
•Fast Breaking Heat: The Heat have been fast-breaking their opponents out of the building lately, which has played a huge part in their recent success. NBA TV did a great job breaking down the LeBron James/Dwyane Wade 2-on-1 break that's become a staple of the team, as essentially James and Wade are releasing on both missed and made baskets and setting up defenders in the impossible position of trying to stop the two best fast-break finishers in the NBA at the same time. This strategy has not only led to Heat wins, but has also enough opportunities for Wade, James and Chris Bosh to all get their fantasy numbers and finally start justifying their high draft positions.
•Bynum is back: Andrew Bynum made his season debut for the Lakers Tuesday night, playing 17 minutes off the bench as he attempts to work himself into game rhythm. Bynum doesn't expect to be fully healthy for a month and is expected to stay in the 20-minute-per-game range in the short term and slowly build up his time. Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol owners should keep an eye on the situation. In Bynum's absence Gasol proved himself a top-10 roto producer, and Odom was also a top-40 player. If Bynum shoulders his way into their minutes down the line, it could hurt the value of all involved.
•Curry and Wall back on the shelf: Two of the most electric and potentially impactful young point guards out there can't seem to stay healthy this year. Stephen Curry keeps re-spraining his ankle, while Wall has missed time due to a variety of ailments (currently knee tendonitis). Neither is expected to miss much time, but for Curry especially it's worrying. Unless he sits out long enough to get truly healed, this could continue to be a recurring issue. Wall's slight size and aggressive game worry me a bit, but thus far none of his injuries have had long-term ramifications.
•Nets trade precursor to Melo? The Nets just traded Terrence Williams, one of the most talented young players they had on their team, in a deal where they received to first round draft picks. Now, it could be argued that Williams was in the New Jersey doghouse after his demotion to the D-League, but still, many are speculating that this move was a precursor to a trade for Carmelo Anthony. I can't do analysis based on rumors, but I will say that such a Melo deal would drastically change the fantasy outlook of everyone on both the Nets and the Nuggets except, perhaps, for Melo. The potential for a young sleeper to emerge in such a situation is high, such as what happened with Andray Blatche in Washington last year, so stay tuned.
•Irresistable force meets immovable object... kind of: Amare Stoudemire has scored 30 or more points in nine straight games, the longest such streak in Knicks history. Kevin Garnett leads the NBA in defensive rating and has tended to blank opponents who previously had hot games against him (Stoudemire scored 27 against the Celtics in their first meeting of the year). Plus, there's always a bit of bad blood between Garnett and Stoudemire, probably sparked by Stephon Marbury years ago. Everything is set up for an epic matchup – except that Stoudemire is currently starting at center, meaning he and Garnett won't begin the game on each other. Nevertheless, history suggests this matchup could provide fireworks on Wednesday night.
•Billups out, Lawson always shines: Ty Lawson started on Tuesday for the injured Chauncey Billups, who is expected to be out for about another week. Lawson responded with a characteristic good game (16 points, six assists) as he always does well when he starts. He's definitely worth a short-term add if available.
•Bogut's migraines: Andrew Bogut is a game-time decision on Wednesday night due to a migraine headache. Bogut missed a game last year and another in this preseason due to migraines, so this seems like a recurring problem and one worth keeping an eye on. One game per year is one thing, but we've seen with Percy Harvin in football this season that severe headaches that get progressively worse can be as bad as any other nagging injury.
•Noah's hand: The Bulls are concerned that Joakim Noah may have ligament damage in his right hand. He's expected to play on Wednesday, but will be reevaluated on Thursday with a worst-case scenario of a two-month absence. Nothing serious has been confirmed yet, but it could be worth speculating on Taj Gibson just who would be a hot pick-up if Noah goes down.
•Baron booed by boss: In "you-can't-make-this-up" news, Mark Spears reports that Clippers guard Baron Davis has been regularly heckledby Clippers team owner Donald Sterling. I blogged about the humorous aspects of this, but the fantasy bottom line is Davis has always played to his motivation level and adding a hate relationship with his boss to the injury issues and poor team record that were already risk factors for him – let's just say that if Baron ever has a hot stretch I will be trying to trade him immediately.
•Jodie Meeks (17% owned): I tweeted and blogged about Meeks after watching him blow up against the Celtics from long range last week. In the two games since he's cooled down a bit, but is still starting and averaging 15 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 3.0 three-pointers in 32 minutes per game as a starter.
•Jerryd Bayless (21 percent owned): Two weeks ago in this space I suggested adding Bayless because of his great per-minute numbers. This week he has gotten the opportunity to play with Jose Calderon injured, and he has responded by scoring 48 points with 16 assists and eight boards in his two starts, numbers that illustrate his upside. Raptors Coach Jay Triano has said Calderon will have to re-earn his starting job when he comes back, so Bayless could end up being this year's Jarrett Jack.
•DeJuan Blair (31% owned): Quiet member of the Spurs, not discussed much. But he's a nightly double-double threat, shoots well from the floor, and has recently been a thief to the tune of 2.2 steals per game over the last two weeks.
•Reggie Williams (43% owned): Williams is a natural scorer, and is worth a pick-up in deeper leagues while Stephen Curry is out. Curry has been in and out all season with his sprained ankle, so it could be worth holding onto Williams even after Curry returns.
•Omri Casspi (19% owned): Casspi has become a forgotten man in Sacramento after a solid rookie year, but in recent weeks he has been picking up his game despite continuing to come off the bench. He has averaged 12 points, 5.3 boards, 1.8 treys, 1.3 steals and shot great percentages from both the field and line over his last six games. He could be worth an add just for those numbers, but he still has reasonable upside if he ever gets back to playing starter's minutes.
•Martell Webster (7% owned) and Jonny Flynn (25% owned): Both made their season debuts on Tuesday night for the Timberwolves. Webster was more impressive with 17 points, but in the long term Flynn is the one more likely to have more value. Webster could be worth taking a flyer on as a shooter/3-point role player in deep leagues, but Flynn has starting point guard upside, which is always of value on the free agent wire
Keeping up with the Professor
If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio every Friday afternoon at 12:30 PM EST on Rotowire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 147, Sirius 211.