Entering Friday, each NBA team had played somewhere between 23 and 28 games. In other words, we are more than a quarter of the way through the season, and in some cases, basically a third of the way.
But for some prominent players who changed teams during the offseason, the early part of this year has essentially been a long, slow-simmering readjustment. And right now, it looks like a couple of those well-known names could finally be ready to take off. Here’s a look at some players on new teams who may be on the verge of a rise in value:
Season stats: 13.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.2 3s
When Iguodala was traded in the offseason, moving from Philly to a more up-tempo attack in Denver seemed like the ideal remedy for a scoring average that had been declining steadily in recent years (from a career-high 19.9 in 2007-08 to just 12.4 ppg last year). And Iguodala has indeed seen a slight boost in scoring over last year (13.7 ppg), but that has been accompanied by a notable dip in assists: an average of 4.2 through 27 games, his lowest average since 2005-06.
But lately, his assists – and his overall value – have been on the rise. Consider this breakdown:
Iguodala’s first 23 games: 13.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.3 3s on 42.1 percent shooting (and a No. 147 ranking on Basketball Monster’s 9-category leaderboard)
Iguodala’s last four games: 14.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 6.3 apg, 2.3 spg, 0.8 bpg, 0.8 3s on 57.5 percent shooting (No. 43 in Basketball Monster’s 9-category rankings during the streak)
And after a relatively quiet 13-5-4 on Thursday, there may still be a buy-low opportunity here. If that’s the case, I would aggressively pursue it. The elevated assists along with improved shooting and some dynamic recent all-around lines are great signs that Iguodala is finally getting more and more acclimated to Denver.
Season stats: 15.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.8 spg, 1.5 3s
To be fair, Dragic has already been pretty good, rating as the No. 35 player in Basketball Monster’s 9-category rankings so far. But I expected more coming into the season, and that expectation hasn’t changed. And with Dragic posting 21 points along with a season-high 11 assists on Wednesday, I’m optimistic that more explosive lines should be coming soon. Quite simply, Dragic has proven that he’s better than 15 and seven (last season as a starter, he averaged 18.0 and 8.4), and I still think he can and should push top-20 value before it’s over.
Follow me on Twitter: @MattStroup
Season stats: 13.3 ppg, 6.8 apg, 0.9 spg and 1.3 3s
Williams actually got off to a fast start with the Jazz (16.9 ppg, 7.4 apg through his first seven games), so I mention him here simply because I think there’s a solid buy-low opportunity right now. In his last five games, the Utah PG is averaging 9.8 ppg, 5.4 apg and 1.2 treys on 37.3 percent shooting, with a grand total of zero steals during that stretch. There is some injury risk, but the minutes are still there (31 per game during his cold streak), and I’m confident that he’ll break out of it and start scoring closer to 15-16 ppg going forward.
In other hoops-related matters…
DeMar DeRozan’s recent all-around production is intriguing, but is it sustainable? Cue stat comparison:
DeRozan for the season: 18.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.4 bpg, 0.6 3s.
DeRozan in December: 17.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.9 bpg, 0.7 3s.
Obviously it’s encouraging that he’s showing signs of becoming more than just a one-dimensional scorer, but I’m not yet convinced that the defensive stats and 3-point shooting (including 2.0 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.0 3s in his last five games) are sustainable. With that said, I don’t see this as a situation where fantasy owners should try to trade him at all costs (DeRozan is a respectable No. 65 in 9-category leagues this season), but I do think it’s worth casually gauging his trade value around your league. If there are other owners who overvalue points, it makes sense to consider dealing DeRozan for someone who scores less, but contributes more elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Danilo Gallinari is maddening. Just when he appeared to be getting on a hot streak (21.0 ppg during a four-game stretch from Dec. 12-18), The Rooster unleashed a six-point, five-rebound, 1-of-10 stink bomb on Thursday night. Obviously everyone is entitled to one of those now and then, but let’s take a moment to look at Gallinari’s season stats:
15.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.5 3s (on 39.4 percent from the field)
When you really look at those numbers (which are very similar to Gallinari’s numbers in December), it’s hard to find much reason to be all that excited in fantasy leagues. He has a reputation as a great shooter, but since the start of last season, Gallinari has shot 31.8 percent on 3s, and is now working on his third straight season of 41 percent or worse from the field. Bottom line: He will help your squad in points and 3s, and there are nights that he looks like an electric all-around contributor, but in the long run – at least for this year – he looks more like an average fantasy option than a dynamic one.
A couple thoughts on the Hornets after watching two of their games closely this week:
It may go without saying given his numbers (7.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.8 apg in 28 minutes a game), but I’m not impressed with Austin Rivers. He too often looks like he doesn’t know when to shoot or when to drive, and when he does drive it is neither exceedingly quick nor exceedingly explosive.
Meanwhile, I watched a lot of Robin Lopez’s 22-point, nine-rebound game against the Clippers Wednesday. First, I’m not sure that there has been an uglier 20-plus point game all season (watching Lopez’s hook shot is painful, even when it goes in). Secondly, I know that his blocks (2.0 per game) are valuable, but personally I wouldn’t want Lopez on my squad outside of a deeper league. The reason: too much inconsistency. In his three games leading up to Wednesday’s 22 and nine, Lopez had averaged 8.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg and 0.3 bpg.
Lastly, even with a couple of relatively quiet games this week, Anthony Davis is still averaging 15.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.3 spg and 1.0 bpg in his last three. Now that he’s starting again and playing heavy minutes (including 42 on Wednesday), the upside is once again pretty monstrous.
Other Random Thoughts: With Glen Davis out 4-6 weeks, I’m intrigued by the potential of Andrew Nicholson. We should get a good idea of how much run he’s going to get sans Davis when the Magic play on Friday night, but we’ve already seen him post a 19-point, nine-rebound, four-steal game and a 15-point, nine-rebound, four-block game this month. … Kosta Koufos still doesn’t get a ton of playing time (23 minutes per game in December), but he’s got deeper league value right now while averaging 8.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg and 2.0 bpg this month.
(Note: Things to Do This Weekend! has gone on vacation. It will return with a fresh batch of recreational suggestions next week.)