November 2, 2017, 2:39 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 owners.
It is hard to believe that two weeks of the NBA seasons are already in the rear-view mirror, but here we are. Hopefully you have been able to capitalize on overreaction 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 owners itching deal under-performing assets for someone with a hot hand.
It may not feel like it, but we are still dealing in unreliably small sample sizes. There isn’t a single player out there that we even have 10 games worth of data on, and that can be a great thing for aggressive owners.
I touched on it last week, but the deep league marketplace can be especially volatile this early in the season, and injuries to star players around the league have only made the waters murkier. There are already players that weren’t even likely to get regular rotation minutes prior to the season that have now turned in one or two massive performances to the tune of a top-100 ranking.
With that in mind, let’s see where there is opportunity to take advantage of early season volatility, and where you can flip that hot hand player for an under-performing season-long fantasy stalwart.
As always, I’ll be focusing on players that are less than 5 percent owned, since that is roughly the level of player available in leagues with 16-teams or more. However, since we are trying to play the market a bit in this piece, the kind overlords 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.
Editor’s Note: You can get the Hoop Ball Premium Membership for FREE (normally $29.99) by signing up as a new user with DraftKings. Check this page to see how the promotion works.
With all of that out of the way, let’s see where there may be some value to be found.
Kelly Oubre (47% Owned): Through seven games this season, Oubre is comfortably putting up top-100 value. When a young player is outperforming their ADP by such a significant margin early on, people are often quick to elevate them to breakout status. It is his third year in the league, and the third year breakout phenomenon is real for many players, but we need to remember that this production all came while Markieff Morris was out. I don’t doubt that Oubre will take a step forward this year, but we shouldn’t expect this level of production going forward when his playing time is due to take a hit with the return of Morris. See if you can flip him for a top-100 asset before his new role in the rotation begins to normalize his ranking.
Marco Belinelli (42% Owned): Scorching hot might be an understatement for the start that Belinelli has enjoyed. He is currently shooting 45 percent from the field, which is not outlandish at face value, but when you see his 49 percent efficiency from beyond the arc the picture becomes clearer. That hot streak from deep has been good enough to put him in the top-75 in 9-cat rankings. Take a closer look at his stats and you will see that he is right around his career average in every category except points, threes and field goal percentage. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Even if he manages to improve slightly on his career average 38 percent mark from deep, he simply doesn’t do enough in any other categories to hold this type of value. We also have to take into account that these inflated numbers were coming while Dennis Schroder was out of the lineup. With Schroder now healthy, there aren’t as many shots to go around, and the impending return of DeAndre’ Bembry can only impact his value further. See if you can sell him for a more stable season-long asset before his shooting starts to regress back to the mean. If no one bites, enjoy the ride while he stays hot and don’t be afraid to move on if a safer bet to turn in top-150 value hits the wire.
Terry Rozier (23% Owned): Rozier got a lot of run to start the season as injuries to Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart pushed him into a much larger role. He played well over that span, putting up standard league value, but with Smart back in the rotation, it is only a matter of time before he becomes relegated to deep league only status again. The sell high window may have already closed for Rozier since he has only managed to provide back end 16-team value over the past week, but his season-long ranking is still in the top-100. If someone in your league is a slave to the rankings, you may still be able to salvage some upside in a trade. Even with the return of Smart, Rozier will still have a consistent spot in the Celtics’ rotation, making him a must-own player outside of 16-team leagues if no one takes the bait. Even in 16-team leagues, he should still provide back end value as a source of steals and out of position rebounds.
Toronto Raptors Reserve Big Men
Rather than go through them all one-by-one, I’ll touch on why all of the reserve frontcourt players in Toronto potential sell high candidates. Lucas Nogueira (21% owned), Jakob Poeltl (20% owned) and Pascal Siakam (5% owned) have all seen their rankings shoot through the roof early this season in the absence of Jonas Valanciunas.
Nogueira is currently sitting inside the top-30 in only 81 total minutes of action this season. His performance on October 30 (17/9/2 with 2 steals and 5 blocks) is the major outlier here that has him ranked so high. That performance came while he was filling in for the injured Valanciunas, so now that he is healthy, Nogueira will return to bench duty. Selling high on a bench player that is currently ranked in the top-30 is one of the more obvious sell high moments out there, so if you can get a top-50 guy for Nogueira, you officially win fantasy basketball – forever.
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I left it at that though, as there are some more interesting factors in play regarding the big man rotation on the Raptors. Jakob Poeltl has also played well enough in the absence of Valanciunas (and Nogueira for two games) to earn a spot inside the top-100. Prior to the season, it appeared certain that Poeltl would be the third string center behind Nogueira. However, his tremendous play while filling in for the Brazilian has to make you wonder exactly how locked in Toronto’s center rotation is. Both are deserving of backup minutes, but there are only so many to go around. Unless one of them is able to clearly set themselves apart, we may be looking at a value killing timeshare that may take the shape of a hot hand approach, or be based more on opponent matchups. Nogueira has the higher ceiling this year from a fantasy perspective, but I’m not sure he is able to provide consistent value with Poeltl in the picture and Valanciunas healthy. Owners should consider selling both Poeltl and Nogueira for a premium before the results of this potential timeshare become apparent.
Siakam’s strong play lately only adds another wrinkle to this already tangled tapestry. He will likely get the bulk of his minutes at the four, so the return of Serge Ibaka and the strong play of rookie OG Anunoby are the most likely impediments to minutes for him. However, the Raptors could look to get Poeltl some extra run at the expense of Siakam depending on the matchup on the other side of the floor, so it is a huge stretch to see him maintaining the top-120 pace that he is on currently. If you can sell him at his current value for a top-150 asset, you will have done well for your team.
Al Jefferson (3% Owned) It is no secret that Jefferson’s best years are behind him, but he has turned in enough steady value in the absence of Myles Turner to be ranked just outside the top-150. We have to give him some credit here, as he is putting these numbers up in only 15 minutes per game even with Turner sidelined. He appears to be more active on the defensive side of the floor, averaging over a block per game for the first time since the 2014-2015 season. It may sound like I’m ramping up to make the case for a late career renaissance from Jefferson, but I just don’t see it. Even if he has improved on last year, there is still the eventual return of Turner looming, and young-gun Domantas Sabonis is going to be given every possible opportunity to continue developing following his spectacular start to the season. Jefferson makes an especially interesting sell high candidate given his numerous years as a top-50 fantasy asset. If someone in your league believes he can return to that form, you could be able to land a nice return as they chase their delusions.
Caris LeVert (27% Owned): LeVert may be a tough player to buy low on given the hype that has surrounded him in fantasy circles since he entered the league last year. He should have an opportunity this year to actually deliver on some of the hype following the injury to Jeremy Lin, but has been underwhelming so far. He is currently sitting just inside the top-250 in 9-cat leagues due to atrocious percentages. He is currently shooting 36 percent from the field on 11 attempts and 64 percent at the line. Those numbers are pretty baffling when compared to his 45 percent efficiency last year and 72 percent conversion rate at the charity stripe. The good news is, LeVert is averaging an assist and half more per game this season, while also improving his defensive stats. The minutes will be there and his shooting should hopefully bounce back closer to the 45 percent number from last year, so float out a low-ball offer and see if you can get someone to bite.
JaMychal Green (9% Owned): This is a high-risk, high-reward play here. I don’t love trading for guys that are injured – especially big men with ankle injuries. It is impossible to guess their production upon return, but there is a lot of upside here if Green comes back at full strength. He might have already been dropped in your league, but if he hasn’t been, odds are you will be able to acquire him far cheaper now than two weeks ago. If he returns without any significant limitations, he should feast on all of the minutes that he can handle, but the value here all depends on what you are asked for in return. I wouldn’t give up a sure top-150 asset, but if you don’t mind taking a gamble, Green has top-100 upside given the frontcourt situation in Memphis..
Mario Chalmers (1% Owned): I may have to call this article “Blast from the Past,” since I am now devoting serious thought and energy into the fantasy situations of Al Jefferson and Mario Chalmers. Joking aside, from a basketball fan perspective, it is great to see Chalmers back on the court following a serious Achilles injury back in March of 2016. After his first eight games this season, he is currently ranked 236 in 9-cat formats, but I think that he has a good shot at ending comfortably inside the top-200 this year. He should get at least 20 minutes per game as Mike Conley’s backup, which may be enough to put him on the radar in 16-team leagues, and must-own in anything larger. If we take a look at stats so far, he is shooting a dastardly 29 percent from the field on eight attempts per game. He has never been known as a great shooter, but his shooting should see some positive regression closer to his career average at around 40 percent. In 16-team leagues, he is someone to keep on your watch list. In 20-team or 30-team leagues, owners should consider testing the waters with a low-ball offer.