Fantasy Basketball: Selling High/Buying Low
Believe it or not, most teams in the NBA are approaching the quarter pole of the 2014-2015 season. While there are still some players in the league that need to show me a bit more before I 100 percent buy into them, there are some big name players who may have already peaked from a Fantasy standpoint. These players will be difficult to part with, as they are likely a big reason why you are sitting pretty through the first month of the season, but Fantasy Basketball is a game about improving your roster and moving these studs is a good way to do just that.
Offense drives Fantasy value. Like it or not, most standard leagues are decided by offensive-minded players. Is the versatility of someone like Kawhi Leonard or Nicolas Batum nice? Sure, but the most valuable assets every season are offensive power houses that are responsible for carrying their respective teams. Don’t believe me? Here are the Top 10 Fantasy players of last season (based on ESPN’s Player Rater) and their rank (minimum of 55 games played) in USG%*.
Kevin Durant (1)
Steph Curry (5)
LeBron James (4)
Kevin Love (8)
James Harden (11)
Carmelo Anthony (3)
Anthony Davis (50)
Dirk Nowitzki (27)
Serge Ibaka (136)
Paul George (15)
As you can see (and would probably expect), the players who are used the most tend to be the most valuable in Fantasy leagues. Two elite specialists (Davis and Ibaka) are the only real exceptions, but few players can impact a single category (blocks) at the level that those two do. But in the early going this year, we’ve got a quartet of players that are bucking this trend, as they rank as elite Fantasy producers without ranking among the Top 30 in USG% (minimum 66 percent of their team’s games played).
[caption id="attachment_86242" align="alignright" width="300"] Chris Paul is a great player in Fantasy and reality, but are the Clippers using him in a way to maximize his Fantasy upside? Photo: Verse Photography[/caption]
James Harden (3)
Anthony Davis (30)
Steph Curry (8)
Chris Paul (64)
Damian Lillard (35)
Brandon Knight (26)
Pau Gasol (37)
Kyle Lowry (22)
Tyson Chandler (215)
Gordon Hayward (39)
I’m giving Pau Gasol a pass, as he is dealing with a new team that has had various injuries affect their consistency up to this point. Anthony Davis reappears on this list, but he has proven the ability to consistently dominate the blocks category, not to mention his USG% is actually a shade higher than last season. The other four names are players I’m willing to sell high on. It’s not that I don’t believe in Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Tyson Chandler, or Gordon Hayward, but can they remain elite options without a high USG%? I say no, and with nearly 25 percent of the season in the rearview mirror, it is difficult to see their teams’ offense changing in a major way (barring an injury). These are all very talented players, but I’m skeptical about projecting continued high-level success, as they simply aren’t involved enough for my liking. This list applies to all formats, as the players with the greatest USG% tend to be the most consistent (day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month).
It is also worth noting that nine of Fantasy Basketball’s Top 10 last season also ranked among the Top 15 in points per game, something that can’t currently be said of the suggested sell-high candidates. Again, this is not a license to sell CP3 to the highest bidder, but rather a recommendation to take an offer if you receive market value for his current production.
Maybe you don’t have any of these players to trade, but you are looking to make a move and improve. No worries, I’ve got you covered with four more players that currently rank low on the Player Rater but are being used at a high enough rate in USG% for you to feel confident about a spike in Fantasy production this winter.
Blake Griffin (52nd ranked player on the Player Rater, 6th in USG%)
Al Jefferson (66th/19th)
Brandon Jennings (72nd/22nd)
Isaiah Thomas (80th/12th)
These players have been the focus of their respective offenses, an offensive philosophy that hints at Fantasy greatness sooner rather than later. Don’t be left in the dust; make an effort to acquire the services of these players before their Fantasy production catches up to their high USG%.
*USG% is an equation that looks to estimate the percentage of plays in which a player is “used” when on the floor. For Fantasy purposes (in all sports), value is driven by volume. With a heavy workload, a bad “real” player can be a reasonable Fantasy asset and a good player can be great.
The equation: ((FGA + 0.44 * FTA + Turnovers) * (Team Minutes Players / 5)) / (Minutes Played * (Team FGA = 0.44 * Team FTA + Team Turnovers))
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