How many headaches do you have?
In some ways it's the question that defines how well or how poorly your fantasy teams are doing. After all, in fantasy hoops, it's pretty easy for a player to put up enough numbers to get into your lineup, and absolutely lay waste to your most delicate and pristine stats after doing so.
So which players represent the biggest headaches in fantasy hoops? Let's look at five of the most glaring cases, keeping in mind that one of these (hint: It’s the first guy on the list) may not be quite the headache we think he is…
Anthony Davis: If you look at his early-career track record of injuries (18, 15, 14 and 21 games missed his first four seasons), and if you note where he was available in many drafts — often in the middle-to-late part of the first round — Davis has a lot of headache baked into him (whatever that means). He was also mentioned in this week’s roundtable on frustrating teams for fantasy.
But let’s put aside the early-career absences for a minute and look at some facts. And here are the facts I’d like to look at:
Anthony Davis, season-by-season, per-game value in 9-category leagues:
2013-14: 2nd overall
2014-15: 1st overall
2015-16: 5th overall
2016-17: 2nd overall
That’s right, he has been top-five in per-game value each of the last four seasons. You know who else can make that claim? No one. Actually, that’s not true. Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry have both been in the top five all of those years as well. But it’s those two and Brow and no one else.
As for the durability thing, I know he has already missed essentially two whole games this season (he played five minutes in one and sat out the next). And we expect him to miss potentially many more, along with a bunch of other locker room trips and scares and various false alarms. There's no denying that aspect of it is a pretty significant headache.
But given the overall value he provides when on the court, and the fact that he’s coming off a career-high 75 games last season, AND the fact that he’s No. 5 so far this year (not counting Myles Turner, who has only played one game), I give Davis the benefit of the doubt and would gladly trade for him this season, under the optimistic assumption that he's got another 75 or so games in him. If he proves me wrong, and plays in let's say 65 games this year, I'll downgrade him. But for now, I'm willing to put per-game production over durability concerns.
So how much of a headache is he? (Arbitrary 10-point scale from 0 to Mudiay): 3.5, for reasons explained above. There are some headaches here, but none of them pertain to Brow’s numbers: 27.1 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.9 bpg and 1.0 3s (53.2 FG / 79.7 FT).
Lonzo Ball: If I told you before the season that you could get 9.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.3 3s from Ball, I’m pretty confident that many of you would have responded: Sign me up.
The problem though, as you know, is that he’s shooting just 32.6 percent from the field — a number that would make Rafer Alston cringe — on 11.1 attempts per game, which is not a small amount. That, along with 55.6 percent from the line (and 2.8 turnovers) leaves Ball at No. 136 in 9-category leagues, right on the fringe of not even startable.
My thinking these days on bad shooting and turnovers is that you can have a player who shoots badly or turns the ball over a lot, but when you have both, it’s a serious recipe for trouble. After all, it’s one thing to have a guy who doesn’t get a lot of boards or assists or 3s, but you can make those up elsewhere with minimal harm done. To give you one random example, Gary Harris gets just 2.4 rpg, but you can easily stack your lineup with other big-time rebounders and that deficiency is not a problem. But FG, FT and TOs are the categories where one player can much more effectively sink you, and it becomes a lot harder to bail your team out. Early on, Ball is doing damage in all three of those red flag categories.
It’s certainly not crazy to think that he can improve a bit on his shooting percentage, but I would not be trading for him unless you play in a points league or an 8-category format, where he’s closer to top-100 overall.
How much of a headache is he? 7.5. I wouldn’t be surprised if he can shoot closer to 40 percent in the long run, and eventually be a pretty valuable fantasy option, but I'm not gonna buy low right now because I know he’ll probably get into my lineup.
Dennis Smith Jr.: DSJ was a popular pick among my Rotoworld colleagues, to the point where I couldn’t come close to getting him in any draft I was in with these maniacs. That of course has proven to be a wonderful thing, because Smith has been (are you ready for this?) the No. 372 player in 9-category leagues. There’s just no one close to him in the rankings who plays minutes above the 20’s. The percentages are awful (39.8 / 52.0), the turnovers are high (3.6) and the assists/3s/steals aren’t anything special (5.1 /1.0 / 0.9). Basically, he’s been the worst fantasy player in the league getting starter’s minutes, other than Dwight Howard (more on him in a second).
So should you perhaps consider a buy-low offer on DSJ? After all, you’ve seen him play and he’s pretty exciting. Surely he can’t be this rotten statistically all year.
My response to that is an emphatic no. If you trade for him, you’re going to have a hard time keeping him out of your lineup (a recurring theme here). And if you get him into your lineup, he’s likely going to maul you in three categories.
How much of a headache is he? 9.2. He's too dynamic to drop, too problematic to put in your lineup. The only hope is to bench him for several weeks in the hopes that he can somehow get these percentages fixed. And maybe his 4-of-5 from the line Wednesday is a start, but I'm not all that optimistic. I like the player in real life, but from a fantasy perspective, he’s dangerous.
Dwight Howard: 417. I’ll repeat that — 417. That is Howard’s current ranking in 9-category leagues so far in Charlotte, where he is truly having a bizarre start to the season. Let’s consider:
*Howard’s current rebounding average (14.5) would equal his career-high if it held up.
*Howard’s current blocks per game (1.5) are up from last year’s 1.2.
*His scoring average (14.1) is right on par with his last couple of years.
*His current free throw percentage (37.3!) would be the worst of his career, by a lot (his previous career-low was 48.9 percent, and he shot 53.3 percent last year).
*He’s taking 8.4 FTs per game — tied for third in the NBA.
*Want more? His turnovers (4.1) would be his career-worst if they held up.
Yes, Dwight is helping you a lot in rebounds and blocks, but at what cost man? At what cost? Insist all you want that you have a strategy to throw free throws and turnovers, but in a 9-category league my guess is you are not looking down on many others in the standings.
How much of a headache is he? In an 8-category league if you’re throwing free throws, I’ll give you a pass. In a 9-category league, I consider this a 9.5.
Rodney Hood: I want to ask you something serious, because I care about your fantasy well-being. Are you actively trying to trade Rodney Hood? I understand if you had to back off it a little bit after his 0-for-11 performance on Wednesday night, but the next time Hood strings together a few good games — as he did in late October with a three-game stretch of 20.0 ppg and 3.3 treys — you should be getting him off your roster immediately. He has already missed two games this season after an infuriating stretch to close out last year. As a reminder, from mid-January onward, this is what the last part of Hood’s 2016-17 looked like:
Missed five games… Played in three straight… Missed seven more… Played in three straight… Missed two… Played in six… Missed two… Played in seven… Missed one… Played in two…Missed one… Played in one.
If that’s an annoying paragraph to read, it sums up the Hood experience well. With Anthony Davis I argued that the rewards outweigh the headaches. With Hood I’m not convinced that’s true, and I’ll get my points and treys elsewhere.
Other Random Thoughts: Emmanuel Mudiay, the man at the top of the headache scale for this particular column, is currently No. 227 in 9-category leagues. However, there is a little bit of good news: With his minutes down in a backup role, his turnovers are down to 2.0, and the rest of his numbers (12.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.3 3s on 39.0 percent from the field) at least make him a consideration in deeper leagues. … Bizarre sight from Wednesday night: Ricky Rubio — 30 points, 1 assist. … One player who I find very intriguing at the moment: Spencer Dinwiddie, who has averaged 11.5 ppg, 5.4 apg, 1.3 spg and 1.6 3s in just 23 minutes per game (and is now the No. 58 player in 9-category leagues). … Also surging close to the top-50: Lauri Markkanen, who isn’t getting many defensive stats (0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg), but is living large thanks to 17.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg and 2.8 3s per game. … In closing, this was by no means a comprehensive headache list, so I’d be curious to hear what others you think I’ve left out. One potential headache I didn’t discuss: Russell Westbrook, who with his points down (19.6) and turnovers still lofty (5.3) has ranked just 72nd in 9-category leagues so far.