It is Nov. 26 and most players have played about 15 games. What has grabbed my attention so far? (For reference, I am using the ranking of players produced by basketballmonster.com while using basketball-reference.com as my statistical look-up tool)
NUMBER ONE – PAU GASOL
Pau Gasol’s efforts are helping the Lakers to the second-best record in the NBA. If you used a mid- to late-first-round-pick to acquire Gasol, you’ve been rewarded with Fantasy’s top producing player.
So, how is he doing? If the season ended today, he would average career highs in shot attempts (15.7), field-goal percentage (55.3%), free-throw percentage (81.6%), points (22.1), rebounds (12), assists (4.1), and steals (.7) while committing a career-low 1.7 turnovers per game. Wow! He’s also playing 38.3 minutes per game (second highest total of his career) and averages 1.9 blocks per game.
I wouldn’t put him in my next section (SELL HIGH) but you couldn’t be faulted for exploring your options. Gasol is playing as the number one overall player and was selected in the first round of drafts this year. In other words, you are getting what you paid for… and slightly more. There are three reasons why I would expect a marginal decline, if you were looking for justification for a trade attempt. First, Andrew Bynum has yet to see action this year. If Bynum comes back and plays (even at the margin) it could result in the decrease (again, at the margin) in minutes, shot attempts, points, and rebounds for Gasol. Second, the defending-champion Lakers are coasting right now. Phil Jackson, their coach, wouldn’t be faulted for resting his top players as the season winds down if the Lakers have such a great record heading into the final few months. Again, this is a weak argument, as Gasol played in 37.5, 37.3, and 37.6 minutes per game in the final three months last year, respectively. Third, while I haven’t read anything negative about his health, he has a track record of missing games on an annual basis.
SELL HIGH – WILSON CHANDLER
Currently averaging 2.1 blocks-per-game, Chandler is a great trade candidate. Blocks are a tough category and one that, it seems, is often sought-after in trades. When you add in the fact that he is eligible at guard, there should be no shortage of teams looking to acquire him. Playing in a large-market (New York) there is probably a good chance that you have a Knick fan in your league. On a per-36 minute basis, his 2.4 blocks per game is almost as high as his previous three years combined.
Why trade him? In a Mike D’Antoni system, there is the possibility that his value could be maintained. With the newfound emphasis on defense in New York, it is certainly a possibility. However, there are three reasons why I think Chandler might “fall back to earth” as the year progresses. The first is Danillo Gallinari. I think that Gallinari’s field-goal percentage will rise (currently at 38.9%) and when it does, I think he’ll stay on the court for longer than 32.6 minutes a game (last year, as a starter, he played in 34.6 a game). The second is Player X. Player X is any player that the Knicks acquire before the trade deadline. Living in New Jersey, I am subjected to these rumors on a daily basis. With point guard (Raymond Felton) and power forward (Amar’e) set, rumors usually involve a Small Forward or a defensive-minded Center. Both types of players have the potential to hurt Chandler’s value. The third reason for an expected decline in blocks would be a simple regression to his average.
BUY LOW – DWYANE WADE
Wade’s value has, arguably, never been lower. I attribute this value to three causes. First, Wade missed the pre-season with an injury. Second, he is being incorporated into one of the biggest “experiments” the NBA has seen in a while with the additions of reigning two-time MVP LeBron James and All-Star Chris Bosh. Finally, not only is he trying to find his rhythm and place in a new team, he is also being subjected to intense pressure, scrutiny, and attention as he’s probably never seen before in his life.
Where can he improve? I expect improvement to come from his shooting percentages, primarily. His 43.8% field-goal percentage would be a career-low, as would his 71.5% free-throw percentage. The factors cited above are key ingredients in his poor shooting numbers. At 21.1 points per game, I wouldn’t expect much improvement except for the residuals coming from an increase in his shooting percentages. Wade also has room for improvement in the steals category. Currently, he is averaging a career-low 1.2 per game.
That’s all? Wade’s numbers in threes made and blocks seem normal. His assists are down to a career-low 3.7 per game, which is due to the addition of LeBron James, and I wouldn’t expect a big jump there. For proof, check out his AST% number; at 19.6% this would represent a career-low and compares unfavorably to the past four years where he was in the high 30s to low 40s. With a drop in assists, however, we see that his turnovers are down do a career-low 3.1 per game.
So… how do you get him? I would try to convince the owner that with LeBron James and Chris Bosh on board, Wade is probably seeing his best production. With Mike Miller in the wings (due back from injury in late December) there is a chance that his usage declines further. I wouldn’t bet on it, however, as I expect a bounce-back. I don’t expect him to return value of a first rounder (where he was drafted) but something in the third round or so is reasonable.
SHOWING OFF / EMBARRASSED
In this year’s Bonanza Keeper League I picked up OJ Mayo in the second round (the equivalent of round seven after considering keepers). Currently sporting the 145th best per-game-value among active players, Mayo looks like a terrible draft choice. I was hoping for a young three-point-shooting guard who would improve in his age-23 season.
So far, that improvement hasn’t happened. In fact, it has been the opposite. Mayo’s shooting percentages, points, threes, rebounds, assists, steals, and turnovers would all be career-lows. His blocks are nice at 0.6 but that doesn’t quite make up for the downfall in the other eight categories. In the last two gams, Mayo hasn’t even started (his first two non-starts of his career).
If I had more confidence in him, he would have been this edition’s BUY LOW candidate… but for some reason I am more concerned than usual.
2010 “What SKIP is Seeing” Recap:
NUMBER ONE: Chris Paul (Nov. 16); Pau Gasol (Nov. 26)
SELL HIGH: Joakim Noah (Nov. 16 – ranked 8th); Wilson Chandler (Nov. 26 – ranked 38)
BUY LOW: Brook Lopez (Nov. 16 – ranked 96); Dwyane Wade (Nov. 26 – ranked 103)
My NBA predictions:
NBA Champion (Boston Celtics)
MVP (Kevin Durant)
Rookie of the Year (John Wall)
Defensive Player of the Year (Josh Smith)
I have been participating in fantasy sports since the good old days (paper, pencil, box scores in newspapers, etc.). Basketball and baseball are my favorites though I've dabbled (without success) in football and hockey. You name it, I've done it (standard/custom, serpentine/auction, live/computer/message board, public/private/winners, etc.).
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