With one full week of the season complete, and at the outset of a calendar year foretold in a certain John Cusack film to be the last in our planet's existence, it's understandable that we're all feeling a bit emotional about our fantasy basketball teams right now. Specifically, most of us are either convinced that our team is an unstoppable juggernaut, or saddened by the belief that we’ve drafted a hopeless collection of losers – with little room for rational assessment in between.
Granted, some of us probably deserve to be sporting obnoxious grins right about now, and others should have legitimate causes for concern. But either way, the goal of this bowl of Stew is to highlight some of the key topics swirling around the world of fantasy hoops, and hopefully bring some sanity to all of our demented viewpoints.
Is it time to purchase tickets for the Ricky Rubio bandwagon? Yes, basketball fans, it is. In addition to suddenly making the Wolves a rather compelling squad to watch, Rubio has already established intriguing fantasy value just four games into his NBA career, averaging 9.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 7.3 apg, 1.0 spg and – as a bonus – 1.0 threes (including 13.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 9.5 apg and 2.0 threes in his last two games prior to a Monday night matchup with San Antonio). Obviously he won’t continue shooting threes at 66.7 percent (4-for-6), but it’s very encouraging that Rubio can hit from NBA three-point range, and his ability to score is a huge boost to his undeniable wizardry as a passer. It’s fair to expect some inconsistency from the 21-year-old, but it’s not unreasonable to expect him to be a reliable – and at times, explosive – fantasy point guard all season long.
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Why does Danilo Gallinari suddenly look like a worse jump-shooter than Metta World Peace? Overall, Gallinari has shown a solid all-around floor game for the Nuggets (13.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.2 apg and 2.4 spg), but he’s been locked in a rotten shooting slump: 3-for-23 (13 percent) on threes through his first five games, and when he did actually bury a three on Sunday (a day he went 1-for-7 from downtown), Gallo threw his hands in the air in a partially sarcastic but also sincere celebration.
So what to do about this three-point drought? Personally, I would advise patience, as I think it’s simply a matter of tired legs. A number of Gallinari’s threes have been flat and short, but he’s way too proven a shooter to struggle much longer. Consider Gallinari – who plays against the Bucks Monday night – a solid buy-low if his owner in your league has lost patience with the rough shooting early on.
Since you mentioned Gallinari as a potential buy-low, can you suggest some others? Certainly. A few prominent names that come to mind are:
* Rudy Gay: averaging just 13.3 ppg and 0.3 threes on 35.4 percent from the floor, but the rest of his stats look good and the scoring should come around.
* Jrue Holiday: He’s averaging just 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists (to go with 15.5 points), but his minutes are steady at 35 per game and the rebounds and assists are virtually guaranteed to rise.
* David West: Prior to Monday night he had shot just 36.7 percent while averaging 12.3 ppg, but his 8.3 rpg, 0.8 spg and 1.0 bpg will look quite nice once he elevates his scoring into the 18-19 ppg range.
* Josh Smith: Has had some ugly games and is still taking too many jumpers (what else is new), but he’s underachieving – and should improve – in virtually every statistical category.
And who are you selling high on? One player who strikes me as a definite sell-high is Spencer Hawes. Yes, I know that he’s still only 23 and may have finally figured things out, but it’s still much more likely that this is the same sometimes dynamic but altogether inconsistent Hawes that we’ve seen the past several years. If another owner is ready to buy in, I would happily move Hawes in exchange for a more reliable option.
Another sell-high I would at least consider is Ryan Anderson. I admit that this one is easier said than done, because I actually have Anderson in my main league and am not currently trying to deal him. With that said, his scoring (20.4 ppg) and threes (4.2) can really only go down from here, and he doesn’t do a whole lot else in other counting stats (6.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.6 bpg). There’s nothing wrong with keeping him on your roster, because I do think he’s good for 15-plus ppg and a lot of threes, but don’t argue if another owner is willing to overpay.
What’s going on with Dorell Wright? As we all know, last season saw Wright break out with 16.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.8 bpg and 2.4 threes, numbers that made him the No. 19 overall player in Basketball Monster’s rankings for 9-category leagues. However, with Mark Jackson now coaching the Warriors, Wright has struggled badly, averaging just 8.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.5 spg and 0.3 bpg while going 3-for-17 on threes prior to a Monday afternoon matchup with Phoenix.
Unfortunately, for those anticipating a swift and dramatic turnaround in 2012, I regret to inform you that it’s probably not happening. A good friend of mine who has watched essentially every Warriors game for the past four years has pegged this year’s edition of Wright at about 11 points and six rebounds per game. And even though Wright should break out of this current funk and could beat that 11 and 6 projection, his top-20 stats from last year should be considered a thing of the past.
Who are some other players I’m not interested in buying low on? A few who come to mind:
* Devin Harris: He just doesn’t look like the same explosive player he used to be, and though that might be because he’s working himself into shape, it’s not worth the gamble given that he has averaged just 67 games played the past four years.
* Tim Duncan: I know he’ll improve on his wretched numbers (9.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 34.2 percent shooting entering Monday), but this is just not the season to have the headache of a 35-year-old on a steep decline, facing a reduced minute count and sitting out random games.
* Jason Richardson: I’m optimistic that his scoring average will increase from its current 9.8 ppg as of Monday, but his 10.4 FG attempts per game represent a career-low, and the days of J-Rich scoring 18 or even 15 ppg are most likely over.
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Any revisions from last week’s column? Yes, and I’m glad you asked. Last week, I attempted to guess which player drafted outside the first round has the best shot at returning top-10 value. My answer then was John Wall, and though I’m still encouraged by Wall’s potential this season (especially after a 19-7-8 line on Sunday), there’s another point guard who has an even better chance at the top-10: Kyle Lowry. Granted, I’m not saying Lowry is a lock for first-round value, but with averages of 13.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 11.5 apg, 2.5 spg and 1.0 threes so far, he has been the No. 5 overall player in 9-category leagues, according to Basketball Monster. That makes him the No. 1 overall fantasy PG at the moment (just ahead of Ty Lawson), and though he'll eventually be challenged and potentially surpassed by Derrick Rose and Chris Paul, it's not absurd to think that Lowry could contend with top-10 value all season long.