November 1, 2018, 3:46 pm
Hey Hoop Ballers! Welcome back to another edition of Deep League Digging – my weekly column scouring the darkest reaches of the fantasy NBA landscape in search of diamonds in the rough for deep league managers.
It is hard to believe that two weeks of the NBA seasons are already in the rearview mirror, but here we are. Hopefully you have been able to capitalize on over-reaction season and land a few meticulously targeted waiver wire claims. If you were too slow on the draw to grab that waiver wire gem, fear not, there are still plenty of managers itching deal under-performing assets for a shot at the next breakout player. With that in mind, let’s see where there is opportunity to take advantage of early season volatility and flip some hot-hand players for an under-performing season-long prospect.
In general, I’ll be focusing on players that are available in at least 90 percent of leagues. However, since we are trying to play the market a bit in this piece, the kind overlords here at Hoop-Ball are letting me out of my cave to peek at where there may be buy-low and sell-high opportunities on players around the 50 percent ownership range.
Marcus Morris, F, Celtics (50% owned) – Unlike every other player covered in the “sell high” portion of this article, Morris actually has a solid role in the rotation and isn’t seeing a huge influx of minutes due to injury. Gordon Hayward remains on a minutes limit, so Morris is one of the more likely candidates to cede a few minutes to Hayward as his minutes gradually ramp up, but it is hard to see a scenario where his playing time is drastically reduced from what we are seeing now. The primary reason to consider selling Morris now is his inflated percentages. He is currently shooting nearly 50 percent from the field on 10 attempts per game, a far cry from his career 43 percent mark. Morris is also currently converting close to 86 percent of his attempts at the line – also surprising considering he has only one season in his career above the 80 percent mark (80.5 percent last year). He should settle in as a back-end roster-worthy player in 16-team leagues, but consider throwing out an offer for a locked in top-100 player given his current 9-cant ranking of 83.
Justin Holiday, G/F, Bulls (47% owned) – Justin Holiday has never met a shot that he didn’t like, but given enough minutes he has proven to be a viable top-150 player if you don’t mind offering up your field goal percentage each week as a ritual sacrifice. So far this season, Holiday has looked less like a fringe top-150 player and more like a fringe top-50 player, averaging 11.6 points per game on 42 percent shooting with 2.8 threes, 3.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals. A few points to note: 1) his shooting will likely fall below the 40 percent mark at any given moment considering his career 39 percent conversion rate; 2) his 1.6 steals per game will almost certainly see regression as well; 3) he will see fewer minutes when Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine and Lauri Markkanen are healthy. If someone in your league is buying the Holiday name and valuing him as a locked in top-50 player moving forward, don’t think twice about pulling the trigger.
Bryn Forbes, G, Spurs (23% owned) – There is no doubt that Bryn Forbes has stepped up in a big way for the Spurs filling in for Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. He is currently sitting inside the top-150 in 30 minutes per game on some solid scoring and 3-point production, but the eventual return of Derrick White complicates his path to season-long production. White should still miss at least another month of action, so Forbes should keep top-150 upside for that period, but the home run play here would be flipping him for a season-long top-150 player before White’s impact on his value becomes apparent.
Damyean Dotson, G/F, Knicks (22% owned) – Dotson was featured last week as a potential candidate to keep up his hot start on the hope that he may be playing himself into a larger role. Even though I placed my bet down on him maintaining season-long value in deep leagues, continuing at the current top-100 pace is probably not in the cards. When Kevin Knox, and to a lesser extent Courtney Lee, are healthy they both may take a few minutes away from Dotson making him more of a top-150 play at best than a top-100 one, but test the waters to see if someone in your league believes otherwise.
Josh Okogie, G, Wolves (10% owned) – The rookie guard is currently averaging 29 minutes per game so far this season, a fact that – if taken at face value – is absolutely stunning on a Thibodeau-coached Wolves squad. However, dig a bit deeper and you will see that the Wolves have yet to play a game where both Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins played significant minutes due to rest and injury, respectively. Okogie has looked great, but when Butler and Wiggins are both available to play big minutes, Okogie could have a hard time seeing the floor. He could be considered a hold candidate as the buzz around a trade for Jimmy Butler continues to build, but managers should consider at least floating out an offer or two to see if they can net a top-150 type player with a clear path to minutes in return.
Cedi Osman, Cavaliers (53% owned) – Osman was hyped up all over the place this offseason as a potential breakout candidate following the departure of one LeBron James. That fact alone could make it pretty tough to get Osman on the cheap, but following a less than stellar start, it is worth floating a buy-low offer for Osman if the Cedi manager in your league is sitting at 0-2 or 1-1 and starting to panic. He is currently sitting outside of the top-200 on the season in 9-cat formats on high-volume 38 percent shooting from the field, 70 percent efficiency at the line and an epic 3.6 turnovers per game. Osman may not end the season as a positive contributor in any of those categories, but we can expect his efficiency to improve as he gets his legs under him and gets more comfortable in a starting role. The counting stats are impressive (13.1 points, 2.0 threes, 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.0 steals), which will almost certainly make it harder for you to land Osman on the cheap, but some managers put more stock in rankings than others, so it is at least worth testing the market.
Fred VanVleet, G, Raptors (49% owned) – It is wise to be wary of trading for injured players, however, this situation with VanVleet and his mystery toe injury feels more like the Raptors being careful with one of the unquestioned leaders of the #BenchMob than it does the setup for a long-term absence. VanVleet is currently sitting outside of the top-250 on the year, primarily due to a rough start at the charity stripe in his four pre-injury games. That should correct itself as he gets healthy, making him more likely to finish the season as a top-150 player than a fringe top-250 guy. We still don’t know exactly when he will be back in action, and it could likely take some time for him to ramp back up to full strength, so the buy-low window could reasonably stay open for a bit longer.
Delon Wright, G, Raptors (3% owned) – If you’ve been a loyal Deep League Digging reader from the very beginning, you will know that I just can’t quit Delon Wright. He is the yin to my yang, the peanut butter to my jelly, the Wright to my wrong (yes, that was all a set up for that underwhelming pun). He is also off to a pretty brutal start – sitting outside of the top-300, shooting 28 percent from the field in only 11 minutes per game. A lot of that has to due to with the fact that he started the season nursing a groin injury, missing the Raptors’ first four games of the season. Similar to VanVleet, the Raptors are likely just being careful with Wright and easing him back into action. He is currently sitting at around 3 percent ownership, so he is probably on the wire in a number of 16-team leagues, but in deeper formats, managers should consider trading an over-performing flame-out candidate for the oft-overlooked top-150 production that Wright can bring in a 20 minute per night role.
Zach Collins, C, Blazers (52% owned) – Collins has been a revelation so far this season, posting top-50 value in only 22 minutes per game with solid production across the board and big-time block numbers. He could profile as a sell high candidate given the immense challenge of maintaining top-50 value in only around 20 minutes per game, but at this point, managers that took a flier on Collins after his six-block performance on opening night should be content to hold him and see what develops as the season progresses. We play fantasy hoops because it is fun, and Collins is undeniably a fun guy to have on your team.
Kawhi laughing? This is different. ? pic.twitter.com/gXUrqz8Aqw
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 24, 2018
Of course, if you can get surefire top-50 player in return for Collins, I’d be inclined to make that deal, but barring the opportunity to completely fleece someone in your league, managers can hold tight on Collins and the potential of top-150 production with top-100 upside if Jusuf Nurkic is injured or under-performs.
Elie Okobo, G, Suns – Okobo enjoyed a full-blown coming out party on Sunday when he dropped 18 points on 56 percent shooting with three triples, five rebounds and eight assists. An ankle injury to starting point guard Isaiah Canaan paved the way for Okobo to play big minutes, but the struggling Suns could look to feature Okobo in a much larger role moving forward as their season already begins to circle the drain following six consecutive losses. There is no guarantee that the Suns will opt to continue playing Okobo big minutes, and there will almost certainly be inconsistent play from the rookie guard. However, he has flashed the kind of upside that is worth holding in all deep leagues unless it becomes apparent that he has fallen out of the rotation when Canaan and Booker are healthy again.
P.J. Tucker, F, Rockets – While we’re on the subject of surprising performances, P.J. Tucker has stood out on an otherwise underwhelming Rockets squad to this point. The hamstring injuries to James Ennis and James Harden have helped him see elevated minutes, and it is all but a guarantee that he will not continue to average 2.3 steals per game, but Tucker should continue to be a regular part of the rotation due to his defensive impact. Tucker’s name doesn’t carry much fantasy flash with it, making the prospects of selling high unlikely, so managers should be content to ride out his consistent top-150 production and enjoy the steady stream of threes, rebounds and steals.
Noah Vonleh, F, Knicks – Vonleh’s first big performance came as soon as he cracked the starting lineup this this season (seven points, one triple, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in 22 minutes). Since then, he has continued to put up big numbers, highlighted by a treat of an outing on Halloween (14 points, one triple, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals, three blocks). We have to remember that production is coming while Kevin Knox, Courtney Lee and Kristaps Porzingis are injured, but it appears that Vonleh supplanting Lance Thomas as the Knicks’ starting power forward is a move that may stick. As with all of the players discussed here, we can expect some potential regression from Vonleh, but he is a strong enough per-minute producer to warrant holding in all deep leagues even if he sees a reduced 20-25 minute per night role when Knox is healthy.
Trey Lyles, F, Nuggets – Lyles had a dreadful start to the season but has turned it around lately with some solid performances in around 20 minutes per game off the bench. The injury to Will Barton opened up some opportunity for Nuggets’ reserve players, and it appeared early on that Juan Hernangomez may be the primary beneficiary. However, Hernangomez has since fallen out of the rotation as Lyles has solidified himself as a primary scoring option off the bench with Malik Beasley showing some signs of life as well. His upside is limited as long as Paul Millsap remains healthy, but he is worth holding onto in 18-team leagues and deeper as he should continue to see around 20 minutes per night even when the Nuggets are back at full strength.