Brook Lopez (ankle) has missed seven games and counting, which may have frustrated his owners enough that you can trade for him at less than full price. The Nets have a 4-11 record and they're still searching for an identity, but one thing that worked early this season is throwing the ball to Brook. He's averaging career-highs with 20.5 points on 57.4 percent FGs and 83.3 percent FTs, to go along with 6.5 rebounds, a career-high 2.8 blocks, and his typically-sparse 1.8 turnovers per game. There's no indication that his ankle problem is more than a lingering sprain and the Nets have been wise to play it safe with their 275-pound center, but he remains day-to-day and could return at a moment's notice since Jason "Hit Me" Kidd won't require Brook to practice before inserting him into the starting lineup.
Arron Afflalo is playing out of his mind right now. He's crushing his previous career-highs with 21.7 points, 2.6 triples, 4.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 0.9 steals per game, while shooting strong percentages from the field (47.8 percent) and from the FT line (83.5 percent). That adds up to the most unlikely top-25 value in the league this season. Typically this would seem like a 'sell high' moment, but Afflalo's name doesn't inspire most fantasy owners and I cannot envision someone trading Nicolas Batum for him straight-up. Can you? This is a 'buy low' recommendation for that exact reason—he's playing at an elite level but can probably be stolen for a guy closer to mid-round value like Gordon Hayward or Jimmy Butler. Afflalo is balling uncontrollably and I can picture him doing it all season, given that he's in his prime (28 years old), playing his biggest-ever role offensively, and he's capable of shifting between SG and SF to accommodate Jacque Vaughn's whims and/or the eventual return of Tobias Harris. Even better is Orlando's clear desire to flip Jameer Nelson for draft picks and/or prospects, which would likely install Victor Oladipo at PG and clear even more backcourt minutes for Afflalo.
Tyreke Evans, amazingly, has more field goal attempts (158) than points (152) this season. He's shooting 39.2 percent from the field, 66.7 percent from the FT line, and a combined 2-of-16 from downtown. Interestingly, he's still averaging healthy rebounds (4.7) and assists (3.6) despite playing a career-low 25 minutes per game. Once his shots begin to fall, in other words, his value should be raised from the basement of 14-team leagues to at least the late rounds of 12-team leagues. I wouldn't deal a sure-fire value to get him but he's worth flipping a flavor-of-the-week player.
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Eric Bledsoe's shin bruise has been frustratingly slow to heal and his owners may be prepared to deal him at a discount, but the window of opportunity won't last long. An MRI this week ruled out further injury and confirmed that it's just a contusion, so Bledsoe should return without any restrictions before much longer. When he does, he'll remind people how he's accumulated first-round value on a per-game basis this season with averages of 20.4 points, 1.1 triples, 4.6 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He has only blocked one shot this season but I’m still convinced that a spate of blocks are coming.
Amir Johnson hasn't hit his stride this year and I haven't seen enough of his games to diagnose the issue (presumably it relates the Raptors' sickly ball-movement and failure to initiate any sort of post offense), but it's hard to imagine him struggling this badly all season. Despite a clear-cut starting PF job, Johnson is barely clinging to 12-team value with averages of 9.8 points on 54.7 percent shooting, 6.5 boards, 0.6 steals and 0.9 blocks. He's posting his worst per-36-minute numbers since his rookie season in rebounds, steals and blocks, and many owners are dumping him onto the waiver wire. If you see him floating unowned, or can get him in a trade for next-to-nothing, it's a low-risk gamble with potentially huge upside.
Wesley Matthews finally cooled off this week, scoring just eight points on 3-of-6 shooting as the Blazers' 11-game winning streak was snapped in Phoenix. I absolutely expect Matthews to average around 15 points and two 3-pointers per game, but his current top-35 fantasy position doesn't seem sustainable. He's shooting 55.4 percent from the field and 50.5 percent from downtown, with 4.8 rebounds per game, all numbers which shatter his previous career-highs. Can a guy who is taking 53 percent of his shots from beyond the arc possibly maintain such a rarified FG percentage? I turned to Basketball-Reference for the answer. It turns out that only three players since 1946-47 have attempted at least 5.8 threes per game while shooting 50 percent or better from the field, and each of them is doing it in this abbreviated 2013-14 season: Matthews, Klay Thompson and Ryan Anderson. A natural correction is inevitable and Matthews' value is heavily reliant upon his gaudy 3-point totals, so I'd flip him for maximum value while you can.
Nene's career-high 30-point outburst was quickly put into perspective on Wednesday, when the Bucks held him to nine points with a constant stream of double-teams. The man with one name isn't likely to get that much defensive attention very often, but he's still a sell-high player thanks to his hot stretch recently (17.9 points, 6.7 boards over the past seven games) and his voluminous injury history. If you can flip him for an underperforming guy like Paul Millsap, David Lee, or even teammate Marcin Gortat, I'd take that deal and let someone else worry about when Nene's next knee/foot/ankle injury will strike him down.
Rodney Stuckey as a sell-high opportunity is self-explanatory. Its very obviousness may work against it, as few fantasy owners would actually expect him to keep up his torrid pace of late. In the past eight games he's pouring in 19.6 points on 54 percent shooting, with 0.5 threes, 2.6 boards, 2.9 assists and 0.9 steals per game. The accurate shooting alone is unsustainable from a career 42.4 percent FG shooter, we have to account for the recent absence of Will Bynum and continued absence of Chauncey Billups, and Stuckey isn't known for his durability. Add it up, and owners have a temporary opportunity to deal him for a player with a more promising rest-of-season outlook.
Finally, Michael Carter-Williams. The rookie has been awesome all year, silencing doubts about his ability to maintain value despite a shaky jumper and an inevitable heap of turnovers. By averaging 7.0 assists and 3.3 turnovers per game, MCW's assist-to-turnover ratio (2.15) ranks 25th among the league's qualifying PGs. It's a tolerable number for a rookie PG, and his TOs only drop him from a first-round fantasy value in eight-cat leagues to a second-round value in nine-cat. Not too shabby.
Shooting percentages have indeed been his other short-coming, as he's made only 40.3 percent of his FGs and 68.3 percent of his FTs. Interestingly, he's getting to the rim often enough to attempt 45 percent of his shots within eight feet (Tony Parker takes 52 percent of his shots in that range, for comparison’s sake) yet he's converting at a well- below-average rate of 46 percent from that distance (Parker is at 61 percent). He should get much better once he develops a little tear-drop shot in the paint and adds strength to his lanky frame, but none of these quibbles have prevented him, as stated above, from averaging top-20 value. That's what happens when you're pouring in 17.8 points with 1.7 triples, 5.6 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 3.1 steals and 0.9 blocks per game. Those are truly incredible numbers for any rookie, let alone the No. 11 pick in a weak draft class.
I don’t like to say it, but I do think MCW's lofty value will drift downward as the year progresses. Fatigue is always a concern for a rookie who hasn't played more than 40 games in a season and is logging a whopping 36.5 minutes per game while doing everything for his team. There are also lurking concerns that the Sixers will treat him like a Fabergé egg if he shows the slightest sign of injury, compounded by their probable desire to lose games (and gain draft-lottery balls) down the stretch. This is nevertheless a qualified 'sell high' recommendation because it requires getting back a legitimate top-20 player.
Channing Frye is playing exceptionally well on the court, averaging 15.3 points, 2.8 three-pointers and 6.2 rebounds in the past six games, but as beat writer Paul Coro explains, that's not the reason he's giving thanks this year. Frye missed the entire 2012-13 season with an enlarged heart, and his family history of heart problems threw his NBA career into question. On top of that, his daughter Margaux was born in 2012 without vision due to cataracts. What a difference a year makes. This Thanksgiving, Frye is thriving as the Suns' PF without any medical restrictions and his daughter has regained her vision after five surgeries. Coro's story about the Frye family's journey is a timely reminder of all the things we have to be thankful for but often take for granted, and it is well worth pausing to appreciate.
While you're at it, read this uplifting story about Shaun Livingston's long path back to the court after his devastating knee injury in February, 2007. When he first arrived at the hospital after the injury, doctors told him, "‘You have a main artery in the back of your knee that controls your blood flow in your lower leg. So if you tore that artery there’s a chance that you can get gangrene and we have to amputate your leg.’" Six years and countless hours of rehab later, he's averaging 25 minutes per game on a playoff contender. Amazing.
Few things, after all, are more important than our health and the health of our loved ones. If you're so inclined, take a minute to support men's health by donating to the Movember Foundation, which funds programs for prostate and testicular cancer (full disclosure: my brother is participating), and support women's health by donating to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Thanks for reading, stay healthy, and have a great weekend!