Welcome to Category Strategy, previewing week three of the fantasy basketball season. We have moved this column from Wednesdays to Sundays, in an effort to better assist you with transactions for your upcoming weekly matchups. As always, players that can help in specific Roto categories, as well as players who are receiving significant playing time, will be highlighted here, but a lot of this information can also be used when evaluating players in points leagues.
Before getting to the Category Strategy, I want to highlight a couple point guards who stand out as fantastic buy-low options.
Steve Nash is expected to miss at least another week, but by the time he returns, it appears likely that either Phil Jackson or Mike D'Antoni will be his new coach. Jackson is the favorite here, and there have been some who have said that the triangle offense would not suit Nash, but I don't see that being the case. Derek Fisher always seemed to end up taking more shots than any Lakers fan would have liked in that system. It would be optimal, however, to have Nash shooting the open threes that Fisher always seemed to get. Jackson has also coached against Nash throughout his entire prime in the Pacific Division, so he knows exactly how to utilize the veteran point guard. Of course, if D'Antoni gets the job, Nash's value will soar to even greater heights. The Princeton offense wasn't working for the Lakers, but it was especially troublesome for Nash, who needs the ball in his hands. With a new offensive system, Nash should be at least as good as we expected heading into this season, and now would be a perfect time to target him in a trade for 70-to-80 cents on the dollar.
Russell Westbrook is off to a very rough start based on where you would have drafted him. This is primarily because his steals are way down (0.5 per game compared to his career average of 1.5 per game), and his field-goal percentage of 36.4 percent has hurt him in scoring and three-pointers. What may be unnoticed by some is that he is averaging 7.7 assists per game, compared to the 5.5 he averaged last season. Once his shooting percentages normalize (43 percent shooter for his career) and he begins to rack up the steals we've become accustomed to, Westbrook will start producing like a top-five fantasy pick. If you can trade Kobe Bryant or James Harden for Westbrook straight up, it would be worth looking into, or if you could structure a two-for-one around Jrue Holiday or Damian Lillard, that would also be a great way to sell high and buy low.
Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a specific category, there's no guarantee for production in other areas.
Chandler Parsons, SF, Rockets - Coming into Sunday's action, Parsons is 16th in the NBA, averaging 38 minutes per game, yet he is owned in less than 35 percent of both Yahoo! and ESPN leagues. He has been a steady source of points (10.2), rebounds (6.2), assists (3.8), and steals (1.0) per game this season, but his 1.7 three-pointers per game average is where he excels. Don't look too much into his 38.3 percent shooting from the field, it's early in the season, and as a rookie, Parsons shot 45.2 percent from the field. If he is available in your league, he should be targeted, simply because of how much run the Rockets are giving him.
Vince Carter, SG, Mavericks - Carter probably shouldn't be receiving the opportunity to average 14.3 points per game, but that's what's happening in Dallas, and he remains unowned in 65 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 88 percent of ESPN leagues. His scoring is due primarily to the fact that he's also been raining three-pointers so far, averaging 2.3 makes in just 24.7 minutes per game. Carter hasn't been useless on defense either, averaging 1.3 steals per night. If you're looking for a boost in scoring, Carter is a nice option, and the Mavericks have four games this week.
A.J. Price, PG, Wizards - If you're in need of assists, Price is a fantastic play in the short term. John Wall is expected back in three weeks, but until then, we would expect Price to continue to see around 33 minutes per game running the point. His 8.0 assists per game is a little inflated by the 14 dimes he dropped Saturday, but he was averaging 6.5 assists going into that game, which is still about as good as one could hope for on the waiver wire. He is also averaging 2.0 three-pointers per game and 4.0 boards, which is above average among point guards, but we would expect him to continue to shoot a poor percentage (33.3 percent from the field through five games). He is owned in 16 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 20.7 percent of ESPN leagues.
Brendan Haywood, C, Bobcats - Haywood is available in 99 percent of leagues, and is currently averaging 8.5 rebounds in 28.3 minutes per game. He is really the only true center on Charlotte's roster, unless you want to count DeSagana Diop (which for fantasy purposes, we won't), as Byron Mullens and Bismack Biyombo profile more as power forwards. The veteran big man doesn't offer much else, other than a very solid field-goal percentage (55.6 percent), but in deep leagues, he is a great option for cheap boards.
Metta World Peace, SF, Lakers - World Peace is something of an afterthought on this Lakers team, but his 1.8 steals per game are legit and so is his 34.7 minutes per game, now that he's playing some shooting guard in addition to starting at the three. He will hurt your team in field-goal percentage (35 percent), but he'll also be a solid source of rebounds (5.2) and three-pointers (1.5) per game. World Peace is available in 73 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 81 percent of ESPN leagues. Trevor Ariza and Alonzo Gee are also great options for steals, but Ariza is owned in over 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues, while Gee is owned in more than half of ESPN leagues.
Taj Gibson, PF, Bulls - Assuming you missed out on grabbing Larry Sanders (2.6 blocks per game), Gibson is the next best option for waiver-wire blocks, averaging 2.2 per game. Gibson averaged 1.3 blocks per game in each of his first three seasons in the league, but with Omer Asik gone, this could be a legitimate spike. Joakim Noah already appears to be headed for a career year with Asik gone, and the same could be said for Gibson. The one thing that has us a little wary is that coach Tom Thibodeau is only giving Gibson 21 minutes per game so far this season. He is owned in 16 percent of Yahoo! leagues and seven percent of ESPN leagues. If you're in a deep league and feel like rolling the dice a little more with someone who could possibly contribute in more than just blocks, Orlando's rookie, Moe Harkless, has averaged 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals in 21.5 minutes per game in his two contests. He is available in 98 percent of leagues and could continue to see legitimate minutes on that team, with the potential to be an across-the-board contributor.
Randy Foye, SG, Jazz - Foye has been the Jazz's primary scoring threat off the bench this season, and has stretched the floor for their imposing frontcourt, averaging 2.3 three-pointers per game. He doesn't contribute much in non-scoring categories, and he is on pace to shoot below 40 percent from the field for the third-straight season, but there should be no doubting that he will continue to have the green light to hoist from downtown. He's owned in just 7.6 percent of ESPN leagues and 35 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and the Jazz have four games on the slate this week.
FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE
Brandan Wright, PF, Mavericks - Wright might not finish the season shooting 66.7 percent from the field, but we fully expect him to remain above 60 percent, which is tremendous. A career 57 percent shooter, Wright is coming off a 2011-12 campaign where he shot 61.8 percent from the field, and this season he is averaging career highs in shots (7.3) and minutes (23), meaning his efficient shooting can finally start to really pay off for fantasy owners. He is owned in just 13 percent of Yahoo! leagues and eight percent of ESPN leagues, and the Mavericks have four games this week.