October 31, 2019, 3:48 pm
Hello there Hoop-Ballers! This is normally the part where I would say “welcome back to another installation of Deep League Digging – my weekly column scouring the darkest reaches of the fantasy NBA landscape in search of…” you know it goes if you have been reading for a while.
That is what I would normally say, IF, I didn’t have something totally different up my sleeve this week, (and roughly every couple of weeks to come throughout the regular season).
I’m pumped to introduce some new, shiny, in-season and non-premium (lights flash; confetti explodes) dynasty content! In addition to a focus on Deep Leagues, I’ll be spending some time every couple of weeks to survey the fantasy landscape for dynasty tidbits – noting whose stock is up, whose stock is down, and where there is long-term value to be found. These will generally be lighter reads, with less in-depth statistical analysis than what can be found over on the premium side, but should supplement the content coming out on that end well.
So, without further ado, let’s talk about narrative. The prevailing public narrative plays a huge role in shaping how the general fantasy community perceives a player’s value. This is always true, but early season narrative swings are particularly abrupt, and can cause equally abrupt decisions among fantasy managers. In many instances, early season swings in value brought on by a slow start or a prevailing public narrative can open up some very profitable sell-high and buy-low opportunities.
This is doubly true in dynasty leagues, where market value is so heavily based on “potential” and “upside,” which are necessarily narrative and situation-driven concepts.
Here are some players that caught my attention as significant movers in the dynasty marketplace due to buzz around them – positive or negative.
Zion Williamson – There were whispers during draft season about Zion’s ability to stay healthy given the combination of his Mack Truck frame and freakish athleticism, which turned to chatters after missing a majority of Summer League, that are now full-on screams into the fantasy void.
If you are one of those that drafted Zion in the first round of a dynasty startup (which you probably had to in most competitive leagues), just take a deep breath and don’t do anything drastic. The sunk cost fallacy has led many a fantasy manager off a cliff, but a high pick used on Zion is far from a sunk cost at this point. He has the potential to be an early-round fantasy mainstay for years to come, and you are not likely to get commensurate value trading him now with the narrative spun against his long-term success.
If you are truly concerned, wait until he is healthy and starts putting up early-round numbers and try to flip him for a locked in top-15 dynasty piece. However, I’m not overly worried about his long-term viability and would gladly hold tight if I had Zion, and would even be happy to buy-low on some Zion shares if others in your league are freaking out.
Ja Morant – Morant was already set up for a big season, but exploded early against the Nets with a highlight-stuffed 30-point/nine-assist game on 59 percent shooting. As could have been expected, the turnovers are out of control, but the rest of his game appears to be certified fantasy gold. Keep in mind that he is currently shooting 50 percent on 14 shot attempts per game, which is almost certain to regress.
Morant has exceeded just about every one of my expectations for a rookie point guard so far, but there isn’t really a dynasty buy-low or sell-high play here – just sit back and enjoy if you have him. It appears that Morant is built for success in the modern NBA, and should continue to be a fixture in the top-50 for years to come.
Tyler Herro – Herro became an instant fantasy darling after an explosive Summer League which largely carried into the preseason. So far, he has impressed this season with numbers of 16.3 points on 45.8 percent shooting with 1.8 threes, 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.8 steals in 32.5 minutes per game. These numbers came largely without Jimmy Butler, but encouragingly, Herro still played 29 minutes off the bench in Butler’s first game of the season with the Heat and played a large role.
Herro seemed to be a guy that was getting significantly over-hyped based off a limited sample size of Summer League play, but he has consistently delivered at the NBA level so it is hard to refute that he may be the real deal. At this point, feel free to let Herro go if you get an offer you can’t refuse, but he has so consistently outperformed expectations that I’d be inclined to hold and see what he can do.
Matisse Thybulle – It is absolutely shocking that a guy who put up historic defensive numbers in college unmatched by other plus-defenders in similar schemes is actually just a really good defensive stat collector. I’m being sarcastic, but there was a legitimate narrative floating around that Thybulle’s epic defensive production at Washington was simply a product of Washington’s zone defensive system and not an indication of superior skill.
With shooting splits of 23.8 percent (Yikes…he’s not a good shooter, but he’s not THAT bad) from the field on 5.3 attempts per game and 75 percent at the line on 2.0 attempts, Thybulle is not going to be for everyone. However, the real meat of his fantasy value is evident in his season averages of 1.0 threes, 3.0 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. That sort of steady money counter production has serious value, even if it is not reflected in his overall ranking (192 in 9-cat). He’s not getting a ton of minutes, but the minutes are meaningful, and many people tend to overvalue big scoring lines and double-doubles, so if he fits your team build you might be able to acquire Thybulle for a relatively affordable price.
Jaxson Hayes – It didn’t seem like Hayes was going to have much of a role this season – if any – but injuries to Zion Williamson and Derrick Favors have may accelerate his timeline. With Favors starting slow and banged up early in the season, Hayes outplayed Jahlil Okafor and earned 23.6 minutes in his NBA debut, posting 19 points on 81.8 percent shooting with three boards, one steal and a block.
His offensive profile at this point consists mostly of rim running, so a high shooting efficiency is to be expected, though 80 percent is a bit excessive and it will probably settle down closer to the 55-60 range. He is not a lock for minutes by any stretch, but if he can continue to outplay Okafor, a backup role even with a healthy Favors is not out of the question. If he ends up out of the rotation at any point this year, consider throwing out a buy-low offer, but he looks ahead of schedule from the small sample size that we have.
Luka Doncic – Is very good, and will continue to be very good for a long time. The percentages were due for some improvement, and while I’m not sure he can keep up this level of efficiency, it is encouraging to see him knock down shots consistently from both the floor and the line as that was really the only bugaboo in his fantasy stat set (outside of turnovers).
Deandre Ayton – While Luka Doncic is enjoying an ascendant season improving upon his already gaudy numbers from last season, Ayton cannot say the same after he got popped with a 25 game suspension after testing positive for a diuretic. Throughout his short career, he has consistently been overshadowed by…let’s say… flashier players from his draft class like Luka Doncic, Trae Young and even Jaren Jackson Jr, and while there are legitimate critiques of his play at times, the narratives that he is already a bust have gotten totally out of control.
We’ll leave aside critiques of his on-court play and focus only on the fantasy production for now. In 30.7 minutes per game last season, Ayton finished as the 33rd ranked player in 9-cat formats, averaging 16.3 points on 58.5 percent shooting with 10.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks. Sure, you’d like to see a bit better block production from a big man, but all-in-all a great year for a rookie. From a one-game sample size this year, it appeared that Ayton may have been poised to take his rim-protection to another level after he came scorching out of the gates with an 18-point (64 percent efficiency), 11-rebound and four-block performance.
Of course, we know not to draw any concrete conclusions from a one-game sample size, but even if the defensive stat production never comes fully around it still seems like the dynasty buzz around a 21-year-old top-30 player is surprisingly muted. Given his relatively low fantasy profile and steady production, the time is right to buy-low on Ayton. If you are trying to win-now, the 25-game suspension hurts, but it should make trading for him a bit easier.
Devonte’ Graham – I discussed Graham last week in my watch list article, but safe to say he is not floating around on many waiver wires at this point, and if he is, stop reading this right now and go add him.
The shooting seems due for regression considering his college shooting numbers were pretty poor, and he struggled mightily from the floor last season. However, the minutes are there, even playing next to Terry Rozier at times, and the situation in Charlotte is perfect for a breakout.
Despite this only being his second year in the league, Graham is on the older side. entering the 2020 offseason as a 25-year-old. His value now is also about as high as it may ever be, so as much as it pains me to say as I’ve been on the Graham express for years, if you can sell him now for a locked-in top-50 dynasty asset, I wouldn’t hesitate to make that deal.
Jevon Carter – What we’ve seen from Jevon Carter in his first few games with the Suns demonstrates exactly why I was pretty high on him coming out of West Virginia last season. He probably will never be a lead guard in the NBA, and consequently will probably never crack the fantasy top-50, but he just does all of the little things right on both ends of the floor that should make him a rotation player for years to come.
His numbers from early this year have been inflated with Ricky Rubio missing time and some uncharacteristically hot shooting, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish as a top-150 player this season with upside to move higher. He is thriving in Phoenix, and the coaching staff seems to understand how to put him in situations that emphasize his strengths.
OG Anunoby – THIS is the Anunoby that we were expecting to start peaking out last season, however a variety of injury and off-court struggles seemingly held him back from taking another step forward – so congratulations if you held on through the struggles or picked him up past pick 100 in a dynasty startup draft this offseason. He looks ready to take on a larger role on the Kawhi-less Raptors, and I genuinely believe the it is a breakout that we are seeing, but we do need to keep expectations in check.
He is currently inside the top-30 in 9-cat formats and averaging 1.6 threes, 1.6 steals and 1.8 blocks per game. He absolutely can be a triple-one per night guy, but I’d be shocked if he continues at this pace of averaging over 1.5 of each. He is also shooting 55 percent from the field, which will likely settle down closer to the 48-50 percent range. He is a super fun player, and if you held him this long you are entitled to enjoy the production, but if someone buys that OG is a locked in top-25 guy, selling him at that price is hard to pass up.
Bam Adebayo – We’ve seen this one coming for a long time. Give Bam some runway and he will almost certainly take off. This is about the level of production that should be expected from him, and he probably has some room to improve even in terms of efficiency from the floor and the line. He is a roto dream, chipping in just about everywhere except threes, and is probably locked in as at least a top-30 dynasty asset for years to come. No sell-high play here, just enjoy it.
Veteran Movers and Shakers
Otto Porter – (personal bias alert – I have many Otto Porter shares in dynasty leagues) Porter’s dynasty value may be approaching the lowest point that it has ever been. Normally, I’d be all over this type of situation trying to buy up as many Porter shares for as cheap as possible, but I’m not sure the roller coaster ride is worth it at this point. In 9-cat leagues, many still value him as a top-40 player, and surely remember his huge finish last season in Chicago as a testament to that valuation.
I’m not sure you could actually buy-low enough on him in most leagues at this point to make it worth the risk (nagging injury or general Bulls ineptitude lowering his ceiling for the next two years). You probably have to hold tight and hope he turns the ship around if you still believe, or wait for a hot string of games and to try and flip him.
Brandon Ingram – The recipe for an Ingram breakout has been apparent for some time. Take more threes (he shoots them efficiently, just is reluctant), work on translating length into defensive stat production, develop as a secondary facilitator from the wing and hit free throws. He’s checked off just about all of those boxes so far with the Pelicans, and is posting 27.3 points per game on 50 percent shooting (going 73 percent at the line) with 9.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.3 blocks in 34 minutes per game. While he has clearly taken a step forward, there a few words of caution to consider.
It is important to note that most of this production has come without Zion Williamson or Jrue Holiday on the floor – two of the Pelicans’ highest-usage players. Beyond the abundance of shots suddenly available with those two out (Ingram is taking 21 a game), Ingram is playing the vast majority of his time at the four with Williamson out. This is opening up additional rebounding and shot blocking opportunities that may not be available as he moves back to the wing when Favors and Williamson are healthy. Finally, Ingram is surprisingly efficiency 3-point shooter, but he will not continue hitting 50 percent of his shots from deep, so expect a dip in his scoring, 3-point production and efficiency as a result.
If you can sell Ingram for a locked in top-30ish player, I would not hesitate as there is almost a zero percent chance that he sticks as a top-10 player once the Pelicans are healthy. However, if you can’t get an early-to-early-mid round player in return for Ingram, you might as well just hold to see if he can keep up a top-50 pace this year in what appears to be the start of a breakout campaign.
Nikola Jokic – I won’t spend much time on Jokic, but the prevailing narrative on #NBATwitter and in the media is that he showed up to start the season fat, out of shape and unmotivated. His play at times early in the season backs some of those claims up, and his numbers to start the year are good, but not commensurate with a first round pick in fantasy drafts. However, what is important to remember is that he has played himself into form every year.
Go back and look at his splits last season, or the season before, and you will see that it always takes him a little while to ramp up into form, and then he posts huge numbers down the stretch. Jokic will be fine, and is still a top-5 dynasty asset, so if you can somehow manage to buy-low in exchange for a player in the top-15-20ish range then you had better hire a good lawyer, because that is highway robbery.