Buy Low and Sell High: Miniature Edition
The following is a very brief list of over-achieving and under-achieving players in nine-cat fantasy formats, as measured by 2012-13 per-game value. Bookmark BasketballMonster.com if you haven't already -- it's the source of this information and an invaluable tool for fantasy owners. Also note that these are roto rankings, which can only serve as a guide for head-to-head values, which will fluctuate depending upon your competition, league depth, strategies, etc.
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No. 5: Tim Duncan has been brilliant in a surprising 31 minutes per game this season, posting 18.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. He may not cool off, but Gregg Popovich is bound to limit his activity as the regular season winds down, so think about selling high before the wonky rotations obscure his value.
No. 6: Serge Ibaka's slow start to the season is a hazy memory, and owners are loving his career-high 14.5 points on 59 percent FGs and 87 percent FTs. Some steals would be nice, as he's chipping in just 0.3 per game, but who can argue with mid-first round value?
No. 7: Chris Bosh is another stealthy first-round big man, and I view him as more of an under-valued fantasy asset than a sell-high option. He puts up steady but somewhat boring numbers and is typically overshadowed by LBJ and/or D-Wade, so he no longer commands elite value in the fantasy trade market. Take advantage.
No. 9: Joakim Noah is giving Chicago everything he has in every game, and his furious energy has translated into gaudy averages of 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.2 blocks. His bout with plantar fasciitis a few years ago still lingers in some owners' minds, coloring their view of Noah, and his unremarkable points totals usually keep him out of the headlines. His owners will obviously be aware of his recent surge, but I still think there's value to be had. I'd take Noah over Josh Smith in every league right now, for instance, but I'd bet most Noah owners would still part with him thanks in large part to Smoove's 'brand name.'
No. 11: Anthony Davis has played in only six games this season, and his owners are probably fed up with his injuries. The Hornets are resting him until he's 100 percent and I see no reason the young stud couldn't play the rest of the year without incident, giving him tremendous upside. There's a great chance you can pry him away from his owner at a steep discount.
No. 84: Josh Smith got off to a very rough start, so his overall numbers are still depressed, but there's no getting around his 50.8 percent FT shooting and his 3.0 turnovers per game. If you cut out those categories he's the No. 18 player (in the resulting seven-cat format), still uninspiring for his fantasy owners. Joe Johnson's absence gives opposing teams one less ball to juggle defensively, Al Horford was out with torn pectoral muscles while Smoove was dominating for most of last season, and generally speaking I'm in favor of trading Smith now, on the strength of his historical fantasy freakiness, rather than waiting for him to turn it up offensively.
No. 55: Al Horford is shooting an uncharacteristic 51.1 percent from the FT line, which is artificially depressing his value -- he's a career 75 percent shooter from the charity stripe. His numbers elsewhere range from solid (3.3 assists, 1.1 blocks) to career-best (16.4 points, 9.9 rebounds). He's an All-Star talent coming off a major injury, who I think will play his best ball after the All-Star break.
No. 56: Metta World Peace can seem like a novelty act if you're flipping across ESPN, but if you watch the Lakers he looks like a rejuvenated veteran swingman who can still play smart, physical defense while fitting into a given offensive system. His ability to knock down 3-pointers continues to buoy his value in L.A., where he's more likely to be found court-spacing than creating any offense of his own volition. Even if we knock him down two rounds just to be safe, he'd still be outproducing the likes of DeMar DeRozan, Arron Afflalo, Manu Ginobili and Danilo Gallinari.
No. 86: Pau Gasol's knees are a major concern, as it seems years of postseason play with the Lakers and international play with Spain have caught up to him in a hurry. The only silver lining is the report that Steve Nash signed with the Lakers on the condition that Pau Gasol would not be traded. I'm not vouching for that information (it seems too iron-clad and somewhat outlandish) but I don't doubt the sentiment behind it, that Nash really wants to play with Gasol. Personally, if I owned Gasol I'd be trying to trade him left and right. His value is tanking, sure, but he's listed as day-to-day and there's always an optimist in the group, so it can't hurt to unleash some favorable offers. In addition to Pau's balky knees and his age, I'm scared away by Mike D'Antoni's obvious readiness to turn elsewhere as needed (Atawn Jamison) and the Lakers' abundance of offensive options. Upon his return, Gasol will be the seasonal equivalent of ChapStick at the bottom of an overstuffed Christmas stocking -- functional but disappointing, and destined to fall through a hole in your pocket.