New Year's Resolution
Happy New Year! Every year around this time, everyone wants to hit the gym or go on a diet. Resolutions abound, as folks everywhere declare that THIS is the time when they change their lives.
Well, I say that it's the perfect time to re-make your fantasy team as well. Football season is over, so no more fantasy football to distract you. Basketball league hierarchies are starting to take shape, but they're not yet set in stone, so there's still time to get into the mix. Plus, the season is about a third of the way over now, so everyone has played enough for player values to have changed from draft day, and trades are easier to pull off.
Back before I wrote about basketball for a living (you know, when I actually had some time to put towards playing the game), I used to be the king of trades. And one of my favorite trade tools to use was the "last 30 days" stats that Yahoo! provides, because this could either reveal a trend early or be used to deceive a potential trade partner. I infected the rest of my league with that habit to the point that after awhile, most trade negotiations looked only at the last 30 days instead of season-long stats. "What do you care what someone did three months ago?" I'd ask, "The more important thing is how they are playing now, right?"
Well, right and wrong. It is good to know what a player has been doing lately, but like everything else you ALWAYS have to keep it in context which means not just forgetting preseason expectations, early season play, injury, or unsustainable hot streaks when making evaluations. There is definitely fool's gold in last month stats, just as much as there is hidden gold. The trick is to tell the difference. To that end, I've looked at the top-25 players over the last month as well as the last-month production of the top-25 O-rated players in Yahoo! to look for under and overachievers. Let's go through some of them and see if we can figure out whose trend is real and whose is fake.
Last month gate crashers:
• Kevin Love (O-Rank #41, last month #4): Love is definitely real at this point, but you didn't need the last 30 day rankings to tell you that. Love is also No. 3 by total for the full season. His rebounding rate is ridiculous and consistent, he shoots reasonably from the field and well from the line, he hits the three, scores well, and even gets assists. He's legit.
• LaMarcus Aldridge (O-rank #51, last month #6): Aldridge is very quietly having a career-year, as he has stepped seamlessly in for his injured teammates to become Portland's go-to scorer (Brandon Roy) as well as a strong rebounder (Greg Oden). Aldridge has averaged about 25 and 10 over his last 10 games, and with the health outlook of the Blazers I think he'll continue to be pressed to produce at that level. Add good percentages and strong defensive stats, and I think he is very possibly an elite producer whose name and overall rank maybe haven't caught up with his potential.
• Wilson Chandler (O-Rank #140, last month #7): I covered Chandler in a recent article about the Knicks, but I still don't think his name/value have caught up to his fantasy production. He's what I've always termed a "Garbage Man", good at a lot of different categories without being dominant. Essentially a new-generation Shawn Marion, another Garbage Man who was in the fantasy elite. Chandler's not really the seventh best player in the game, but he's extremely valuable and can likely be had at a discount.
• Dorell Wright (O-rank #143, last month #8): Wright is on this list because he's averaged 3.0 treys and almost two full steals over the last month, two categories that Yahoo! ranks very highly. Wright is a valuable player in fantasy, perhaps even more valuable than his name recognition, but he's a textbook case of someone that I would try to sell based on his last-month rank. He's nowhere near the top-10 in real fantasy value, and his two-steal pace likely isn't sustainable. Plus, he might lose some shots once Steph Curry is completely back up to speed. I wouldn't give Wright away, but ideally I'd pair him with an underachieving big name and try to go after a real impact player.
• Paul Pierce (O-Rank #35, last month #10): Pierce has been solid all season, but his recent numbers have been inflated by a slew of Celtics injuries (most notably Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett). When everyone is healthy, Pierce's numbers slide back down a bit, so now is a good time to sell high.
• Wesley Matthews (O-Rank # 252, last month #17): Matthews makes an interesting buy OR sell candidate. With Roy's knee situation completely unreliable, Matthews has been the wing that has inherited most of his numbers. Thus, his O-rank is helplessly too low and his last month rank not completely erroneous. On the other hand, he's never been called upon to be the man for so long of a period, and he's started to show signs of slippage (14 or fewer points on less than 30% FG in four of last five games) so now could be a good time to unload him.
• Luke Ridnour (O-Rank #131, last month #20): Ridnour seems to be on borrowed time that he's in no hurry to give back. He was expected to give way to incumbent Jonny Flynn once Flynn regained his health, and for a time it seemed headed that way, but Flynn sprained his ankle, and Ridnour has had some of his best games recently. Long-term he's still a sell, and if you could get a great price for him now is the time to let him go, but he has already surprised me by holding onto the job for this long, and maybe you don't have to be quite as desperate to move him as I'd have thought just a week or two ago.
• Kevin Martin (O-Rank #46, last month #21): I think Martin is legit as a producer, but there are questions based on his circumstance. Martin used to flirt with top-10 value in Sacramento when healthy, but he was often injured. Then, last year in Houston he split shots with Aaron Brooks which lowered his value. Martin has thrived next to Kyle Lowry with Brooks injured, and Lowry has thus-far held onto the starting job in Houston, but Brooks could conceivably get it back. As long as Lowry is getting the majority of the minutes I think Martin is a top-20 player, but while Brooks aggravated his ankle on Monday, he could be back to full speed before too long.
• Ray Allen (O-rank #59, last month #25): Like Pierce, Allen has done well with his increased role due to Celtic injuries. He'll always be great for threes and solid for free throw percentage, but his overall production likely decreases in the near future if/when his teammates come back.
Last month stragglers:
• Stephen Curry (O-rank #7, last month #171): Curry's low production can be traced to his balky ankle, which he has rolled four different times already this year. While the threat of re-injury is real, Curry's potential is much higher than his production thus far. After being limited to 20-something minutes in his first games back, his minutes are creeping back up into the mid-30s, and his production will follow suit. He makes a good buy-low candidate if his owner in your league is frustrated.
• Danny Granger (O-rank #8, last month #64): Granger scares me because every year he gets hurt, which is why I had him much lower than No. 8 in my personal preseason rankings. He's been reasonably healthy this year but has been in a shooting slump of late. I tend to think that he'll eventually correct his shot if he stays healthy, but I would still look to move him if possible just based on his injury history.
• David Lee (O-rank 11, last month #112): Lee has had games or even short multi-game stretches of good numbers, but nothing like he put up last year in New York and not nearly as consistent. If you can find anyone still willing to give anywhere near elite-value for him, go for it. In fact, maybe even pair him with an over-achiever like Dorrell Wright to go after a real elite guy.
• Gerald Wallace( O-rank #13, last month #286): Wallace has missed a bunch of games recently due to injury, and he is currently expected to miss several more. When healthy he should produce well, but the Bobcats haven't re-captured the magic they had last season and in general I think Wallace won't be as good as that O-rank. It's difficult to trade an injured player, but if he gets healthy and has a few solid games I'd probably put him out on the block.
• Brook Lopez (O-rank #15, last month #78): Lopez has underachieved all season because of an inexplicable drop in field goal percentage and rebounds. To that end, his shooting over the last month has actually been a slight improvement, though his boards are still embarrassingly low for a center. I actually think Lopez is a reasonable buy-low candidate. I wouldn't give near his O-Rank in value for him, but I refuse to believe that a 7-foot player has completely forgotten how to rebound in one year so I look for at least a small bounce-back before the season ends.
• Dwight Howard (O-rank #16, last month #94): Howard will always rank low because of his awful free throw effect. As such, there's nothing to glean from his last month ranking. You still probably want to avoid Howard in roto leagues outside of special cases, and in head-to-head leagues you want to look more at his O-rank when valuing him because outside of his free throws (which you can punt head-to-head) he's his usual beast in other categories.
• Carmelo Anthony (O-rank #18, last month #204): Melo's bad month had injuries early and a personal tragedy late, all of which combined for few minutes and lots of distractions. I can't imagine anyone is selling him low, but if they are go after him since he should bounce back quickly.
• Rajon Rondo (O-rank #19, last month #194): Like others, Rondo's down month is all about injuries. He recently got back on the court and is playing himself back into shape, so expect a quick bounce-back. If he's on sale for cheaper than elite, definitely go after him.
• Steve Nash (O-rank #20, last month #51): I wouldn't worry about Nash's production in a vacuum, but his Suns are four games under .500, and rumor suggests he may not end the season in Phoenix. It's hard to run your team based off rumor, but Nash will be 37 years old next month and is still lacking a ring. A trade to a contender could affect his fantasy output, and if he's not traded, and the Suns fall out of contention, his minutes could start to drop. Either way, I think I'd trade Nash based on his name value right now if given the choice.
• Iguodala (O-rank #23, last month #131): Iguodala has been struggling with a sore Achilles tendon all season. He showed signs of life for awhile, but now is struggling again to get through the injury. This is an injury that can (and has) lingered, and could get worse quickly if pushed too far. Again, it's hard to trade an injured player but I would put him on the block as soon as feasible.
Around the League
• The Heatles on fire: LeBron James has publicly dubbed his team "the Heatles", and the window for getting John, Ringo or Paul for cheap is closing quickly if it isn't already slammed shut. Over the last 30 days by total, Wade (3) and LeBron (5) are both in the Yahoo top-5 with Bosh (19) in the top-20. Sounds almost exactly like what we expected coming into the year, as they seem to have all gotten the hang of playing with each other. I expect them to continue to mesh and get better from here on out.
• KG's calf: Last week in this space I said that Mark Cuban's heart skipped 100 beats when Dirk Nowitzki went down holding his knee. Within an hour of the article running every heart in New England experienced the same thing when Kevin Garnett limped off the court in obvious pain as the trainer appeared to work on the area surrounding his surgically repaired right knee. The initial report is positive, that Garnett's injury was actually to the calf muscle and that he's only expected to miss a couple of weeks. That said, the injury and initial time-prognosis still look and sound very similar to what happened when Garnett injured himself two seasons ago – so his owners can't really breathe that easily until he is back and going full throttle. At which point you might consider trading him, just in case.
• Kobe's hands: Kobe Bryant is now dealing with injured fingers on both hands. He says they're fine, and there's no plan for him to miss time, but he has shot under 38% from the field in three of his last six games and four of his last nine. It is at least worth keeping an eye on.
• Roy – Meniscus transplant?: Brandon Roy, currently out indefinitely with knee trouble, is expected to consult with a specialist in the next two weeks to discuss if there is any way to surgically correct the lack of a meniscus in his knee. One apparent possibility is a meniscus transplant surgery, which to my knowledge has been done before but never on someone that planned to continue playing professional basketball. This is all speculation at this point, but none of it sounds good for Roy getting back on the court anytime soon. Even his "good" right knee is sore now, apparently due to overcompensating for his injury. I am frankly flirting with dropping him, as his outlook sounds bleak to me.
• Caron Butler done: Butler is done for the year after undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured right patellar tendon. Besides the obvious that Butler should be dropped, his absence also opens up space for DeShawn Stevenson (18 points, four treys in last game) and Shawn Marion to get more minutes in the short term.
• Gallinari's knee: Danilo Gallinari is expected to miss 2-3 weeks with a knee injury. In the short term this makes Wilson Chandler even more valuable, as he inherits a good chunk of Gallinari's offensive responsibilities.
• DeMar DeRozan's rise: Last week at this time DeRozan would have been a candidate for "New Additions", but his recent hot play has him owned in 58% of leagues now. If you're in the 42% of leagues where he's available, you might want to check him out as he's scored at least 16 points in five straight games and double-digits in 11 straight, including back-to-back 37 and 27 point efforts last week. He's quietly becoming the go-to scorer the Raptors hoped he'd be, and on a young team that's building for the future he likely gets as many shots as he wants for as long as he's playing like this.
• Brandon Bass's knee: Bass is having trouble with his left knee that could require surgery, but in the meantime he's getting non-surgical treatment and playing through it. This is worth keeping an eye on, not only because Bass was proving himself a reasonable fantasy option as a starter, but also because if he goes down it could open up space for J.J. Redick or possibly Ryan Anderson to become fantasy relevant (see below).
• Don't jump up to get beat down: This isn't necessarily fantasy relevant, but Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen got in a fight on a team flight due to Mayo getting belligerent over money he owed Allen. Reportedly, Mayo got in Allen's face, Allen warned him to watch his mouth and tried to walk away, Mayo continued, and Allen nailed him with a punch that left Mayo's face swollen. Mayo then missed the next game with "bronchitis", that sources claim was actually related to the fight. Moral to the story: never jump in someone's face just to get beat down. Bad for your fantasy prospects.
• DeAndre Jordan (36% owned in Y! leagues): Jordan is averaging 6.5 blocks per game over the last week, and is still a nightly point/rebound double-double threat.
• Tracy McGrady (26% owned): McGrady followed up last week's solid efforts with more reasonable play, including a near triple-double earlier this week. He's not what he once was, but if his knee holds up McGrady is still a viable producer.
• J.J. Redick (22% owned) and Ryan Anderson (10% owned): As mentioned above, if Brandon Bass has to miss time due to his knee injury either Redick or Anderson could move into the starting lineup. Both Redick and Anderson were among the top-60 players by average over the last week according to Yahoo, and (especially Redick) with more consistent minutes could be viable producers.
• Ramon Sessions (22% owned): Sessions has played well of late while Mo Williams and Boobie Gibson have struggled with injury, averaging 18 points, 6.3 assists and 6.0 rebounds over the last week. Sessions produced a 19-point/12-assist double-double on Sunday against the Mavericks despite coming off the bench with Williams' return. His numbers likely drop in the short term, but remember that Sessions was a garbage-time wonder a few seasons ago in Milwaukee and could potentially be in line for a similar situation if the Cavs keep struggling this year.
• Chase Budinger (5% owned): Budinger recently made a change in his shooting form, and in his last four games he has knocked down 10 treys on his way to four straight double-digit scoring efforts. His upside is as a 3-point role player, but he has shown in the past he can play that role well.
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.