Let’s breathe for a second, shall we? Take both yourself and your Fantasy basketball team off the ledge some of you perceive is the next step away, one which will send you into the land of the damned, where weeping over poor shooting and gnashing of teeth while your first round pick (we’re looking at you, DeMarcus Cousins owners) hits an early pitfall.
It’s Wednesday afternoon as I write this, marking just Day Eight of the season. The Nuggets are at .500. Isaiah Thomas is tenth in the league in scoring. Ricky Rubio is healthy. How long do you really think any of this will last? However, the past week in emails, texts and DMs to my Twitter account have been dominated with questions that have gone from “Was drafting Anthony Davis first overall a bad idea?” to “Should I trade James Harden before the Kardashian Kurse begins to tighten its grip on him?” before being capped off in a keeper league of mine where someone (and I am not lying) tossed me a trade offer in which I’d gladly dispose of DeMar DeRozan for…..OK, you may want to sit for this…..David West.
Hmm…let’s see. Should I give up a just hitting his prime swingman ranked among the Top 20 in scoring in exchange for a 35-year-old role-playing power forward averaging 3.5 points and 3.3 rebounds in just over 12 minutes per game? Oh, you say you’ll add Cody Zeller to sweeten the pot? Wow….what a day. What a lovely day! Why have I not hit the “Confirm Trade” button yet? What is wrong with me if I can’t see such a good deal in front of me? Next thing you’ll tell me is that they’ve reopened Krispy Kreme in Houston….oh, wait…
A coked-up Tony Montana at the climax of Scarface wouldn’t have made this deal, which should provide a baseline of just how high one would have to be to agree to this offer. Members of the West family would’ve laughed him out of the league. Trust me, I’ve seen my fair share of bad offers and willingly admit I’ve thrown my share out there, yet this one gets top ten consideration.
The point is this: quit panicking and allow your team to come into form. Let’s be clear, though, as this isn’t a ringing endorsement to freeze up and let Kent Bazemore go to your opponent while you’re still holding to hope that Noah Vonleh is going to suddenly see an uptick in minutes. Early season breakouts on the waiver wire should be pursued if you know they’ll provide a significant impact to your roster. It’s early, so release and let go of any foolish notions that you drafted a team that’s the equivalent of the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers (if your team is this bad, perhaps you should try another sport). Free yourself of fielding options for Davis, Harden or Klay Thompson. All three will justify their average draft value and put your franchise in position to compete.
Don’t deal for the sake of doing it. The best trades are sometimes the ones that are not made, so resist temptation because there’s been an early rash of trades in your league. Being called bored and conservative by fellow owners is a heck of a lot better than being referred to as the official lemming of your league because of your penchant for following everyone else.
So Just How PERfect is this?
Basketball has made inroads toward using advanced statistics which allow Fantasy players to get a better gauge of how effective a player can be. While stats such as Usage Percentage (USG%) and True Shooting Percentage (TS%) have become popular in recent years, Player Efficiency Rating (PER) has been perhaps the best measuring stick since John Hollinger created the system more than two decades ago. While the system does have its detractors, PER gained Holy Grail status once Hollinger went to ESPN, where it has since become a staple of new wave stats like WAR is to baseball and QBR has emerged in football.
A PER of 15 translates into your average player. Of the 388 players who have appeared on the court thus far, Grizzlies power forward JaMychal Green is the spot on, dead to rights poster man of average, as he is the only player currently sitting on exactly 15. While Celtics power forward Jordan Mickey turned his sole two minutes of action into a 76.8 PER, it’s the 50.1 PER that Stephen Curry has produced thus far that makes him far and away the best player in the Association in the early going. Whereas a PER of 35 means a season for the ages, Curry’s current total (let’s kid ourselves for a moment and say he does keep it up) would probably result in another Warriors title run and a bid for Saintdom.
To neatly tie this back to our previous subject, consider some of the early PER totals for the Fantasy hoops elite. Dwight Howard (15.4 PER) is treading the above-average waters, while the waves are currently dragging down Marc Gasol (14.5) and Kobe Bryant (14.3). Zach Randolph (12.9) and the aforementioned Thompson (12.7), along with Ty Lawson (11.2) are each in the no man’s land of what Hollinger describes as “in the rotation” and “scrounging for minutes.” By going deep down in the valley, one would see Derrick Rose (6.7) and Joakim Noah (6.6) and quickly understand why the Bulls now belong to Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic.
On the upper end of the spectrum, Derrick Favors (32.3) is beginning to tap further into his potential, which makes the Jazz a potential playoff threat. Rubio’s 28.7 PER is also at an MVP level and emphasizes how valuable he is to the future of the Timberwolves. Kenneth Faried’s 25.8 PER shows just how good he can be when not under the restrictions of the likes of Brian Shaw. Even in a part-time role, Rockets backup big man Clint Capela (24.4) teases us with just how good he could be if provided starter’s minutes.
Again, PER is not perfect, yet the stat is a good benchmark that Fantasy owners would be wise to use when either hunting for a free agent or making a trade. Our friends at basketball-reference.com is a bookmarking must when it comes to feasting on a buffet of advanced hoops numbers.
Clearing the Bench
*I’d clip and save Bulls rookie forward Bobby Portis for future acquisition. Portis made his regular season debut in garbage time of Tuesday’s loss to the Hornets, scoring ten points and adding a pair of rebounds in ten minutes. Take another look at Noah’s PER, combine that with coach Fred Hoiberg’s desire to be more up-tempo, and I’ll bet you’ll have a viable Fantasy producer by the All-Star Break.
*Regardless as to the reasons why he ended up in the hospital, let’s hope for a quick recovery of Heat swingman Gerald Green.
*The NBA’s D-League starts next Thursday, as it will offer Fantasy owners a great source of discovering waiver wire gold. The league works, folks, as 132 players on the Opening Night rosters had played in the D-League at some point.
*If you’re looking for a potential D-Leaguer to rise up, keep an eye on Oklahoma City Blue center Dakari Johnson. The property of the Thunder, the 7-0 Johnson couldn’t crack through the depth of size OKC had on the roster, but if something happens to Stephen Adams or Serge Ibaka, it won’t take long for Johnson to walk across the street and change uniforms. Westchester Knicks sniper Jimmer Fredette also has a chance to strike big; one can imagine how fast Fredette would become an MSG favorite if given the opportunity to be recalled.
*Props to my nephew, Kobe Gatson, for making the playoff roster of the La Marque Cougars (TX) football team. Going 7-3 while playing quarterback for the freshman team, along with the work that you put in during the summer, pays off. Looking forward to bigger things down the road both on and off the field.