Greivis Vasquez, PG, Toronto – The first place Raptors will need to overcome serious adversity. DeMar DeRozan, the team’s leading scorer (19.4 points per game) has been diagnosed with a torn left adductor muscle and is out indefinitely. Initial reports suggest DeRozan will miss about a month. In steps Greivis Vasquez to replace DeRozan in the starting lineup. This is a unique situation for Vasquez considering the last time he was consistently starting was with the 2012-13 New Orleans Hornets as the team’s true point guard (PG). Now, even though his natural position is PG, he will be asked to start next to Kyle Lowry. The two started next to each other (along with Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas) on Sunday and finished as two of the team’s three leading scorers. Vasquez was able to register five assists (Lowry had nine) which is an encouraging sign. If he can continue to dish the ball out at a decent pace playing next to Lowry, he will hold significant value throughout the course of DeRozan’s absence. It should be noted that his assists (AST) currently sit at a career low per-36 minutes (5.3) while his points (PTS) are a career high per-36 (17.0). This all makes sense considering the team’s construction and Vasquez’s new role and should be expected to continue moving forward. He’s worth adding as a high-end PG3 in all formats.
Kevin Durant, SF/PF, Oklahoma City – All it took was six measly weeks for Kevin Durant to return to the floor following a fracture of his mutant-sized foot. The best player in the world, at least prior to the early season terror of Anthony Davis, returns to restore the Thunder’s one-two punch. Since the injury occurred, I had been advising readers to draft Durant mid-first round, buy low, etc. The time to acquire Durant has probably ended since it has been determined he will suit up on Tuesday night. In the short term, he may play in the low-to-mid 30s in terms of minutes to ease him back to full speed. By next week, he will have returned to being a top two player in the Fantasy game. Congratulations if you held onto him because you’re about to hit the jackpot. You now own a top two player for the remainder of the season, and more importantly, for the Fantasy playoffs. Sit back, relax and enjoy the 30-plus points per game (PPG) with a full stat line accompanying it.
Tyler Zeller, C, Boston – For the second straight game, Tyler Zeller will draw the start on Tuesday night. Presumably, he will once again take the place of a struggling Kelly Olynyk. Although his seven points and 10 rebounds don’t seem that disappointing, Zeller registered a -15 plus/minus in 23 minutes on Sunday while Olynyk played 25 minutes with a negative three. Still, the team drew a difficult Spurs matchup and Zeller put up a single game offensive rating of 141. Offensive rating is an estimate of points produced per 100 possessions so 141 is in the “absolutely freaking ridiculous” tier (in a good way). Zeller’s minutes have been down this season but he has been playing his best ball according to some advanced metrics. Despite a career low usage rate (USG) of 14.8, his .208 win shares per 48 minutes (WS/48) are above and beyond the highest he has ever registered. So even in limited minutes, he has been excellent (mostly due to an inflated field goal percentage). With more minutes will come a lower efficiency and I think Olynyk eventually wins this spot out. Zeller simply cannot continue to shoot 66 percent over the course of a full season; he is not Andre Drummond. He is a nice short-term and daily fantasy option but he’s a player to throw into a package in a deeper league to acquire the best player in a deal. Do not overanalyze the short-term fix going on despite Zeller’s numbers because Boston needs to continue to evaluate Olynyk to determine if he’s the center of the future.
Stock Holding Steady
J.J. Redick, SG, Los Angeles Clippers – Redick’s three point percentage currently sits at 37.8 percent which is 1.2 percentage points below his career average. Redick hadn’t had one of those lights out shooting games since Nov. 8 but showed he is the same old guy yet again on Monday. Redick shot seven for 11 from the field including four for five from downtown. His 23 points were his highest since that Nov. 8 game where he put up 30. Jamal Crawford continues to come off the bench while Redick draws the starts which definitely helps Redick overall. Last season, Redick scored over three points more (15.3) per game in the starting lineup than when he came off the bench (12.0). He has started every game this season yet has only scored 13.1 PPG. For shooters, the more of a rhythm they get into, the better off they are. It’s a long season and he’s still exactly the player you thought you were getting when you drafted him. Do not give up on him just yet because he’s averaging 15.3 PPG over his last four games and that’s where he should stay.
Reggie Jackson/Anthony Morrow/Jeremy Lamb, G, Oklahoma City – The returns of both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook within a week spell trouble for the values of the other Oklahoma City guards. This season alone, here are each of the guards’ usage rates with Westbrook on and off the court.
Russell Westbrook – 38 percent
Reggie Jackson – 10.7 percent
Anthony Morrow – 12.2 percent
Jeremy Lamb – Has yet to play with Westbrook
Russell Westbrook – N/A
Reggie Jackson – 28.3 percent
Anthony Morrow – 19.1 percent
Jeremy Lamb – 18.4 percent
Westbrook sucks up the opportunities from all the other guards and will now be playing big minutes. Jackson had a nice season last year coming off the bench (13.1 PPG overall) but he was much better as a starter (when Westbrook was out). Westbrook back makes Morrow and Lamb absolutely dispensable and Jackson as nothing more than worthy of a rotational start. 13 PPG and four APG are around the range of what is to be expected.
Lance Stephenson, SG/SF, Charlotte – What happened to Sir Lance-a-lot? His field goal percentage had been on the rise every season since joining the league in 2010. This season, it has just absolutely plummeted (36.7 percent) to around his rookie numbers. He is shooting just 26 percent on jump shots this year. That number had crept up to around 36 percent last year en route to his career high 49.1 percent FG. Clearly it has taken time for Stephenson to get acquainted in Charlotte and it makes a lot of sense. Indiana didn’t have a true ball handler (George Hill was the point guard and Paul George handled the ball nearly as much) whereas Charlotte does have a guard (Kemba Walker) dominating the ball. Stephenson doesn’t get as many opportunities to create his own shot which has hurt his overall game. He is still giving Fantasy owners plenty of rebounds and assists but his value has been shot going from a positive to big negative in percentage. The good news is he can only go up from here but do not expect it to ascend incredibly rapidly. Kemba will continue to dominate the ball and Lance will have to get used to it. When he eventually does, look for him to at least make his overall FG percentage respectable and get it up over the 40 percent plateau. He’s a decent buy low candidate for those in need of a unique combination of categories.
Stats are accurate as of Tuesday, December 2, before games have been played.