Fantasy Basketball

2014-15 Fantasy Basketball: Week 4 Buy/Sell

Photo credit: Erik Drost
Photo credit: Erik Drost

Welcome to the Week 4 Buy Low, Sell High report. We are nearly finished with the first month of the 2014-15 NBA season and boy has time flew by so far. There have been notable breakout seasons from players like Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, and DeAndre Jordan who are all supplying top-15 value. On the flip side, consensus early-round selections like Carmelo Anthony, Chandler Parsons, and Kobe Bryant are all outside the top-50. While fantasy values are never set in stone, we are reaching the point of the season where small sample sizes don’t play as big of a role when evaluating whether statistics for said players are sustainable. The point of this column is to bring some clarity for owners looking to identify some of the best targets and sells in fantasy basketball to this point of the season.

The number listed directly to the right of each players name indicates their Yahoo 9-cat values. Without further ado, let’s get started. You can follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy for more basketball musings.

Buy Low

Kevin Love – (34) 16.7 PTS10.4 REB-2.6 AST-2.0 3PM-0.7 ST-0.3 BLK-38.9% FG-83.3% FT

While Love is still the 34th-ranked player in 9-cat formats, fantasy owners likely paid a first-round pick for his services and the early results haven’t been promising. Entering this season owning a career 43.9% field goal percentage, Love has been drastically less efficient this year as his 38.9% mark from the field would attest. The 26-year-old is definitely experiencing some growing pains playing alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and he admitted after the Cavaliers lost to the Spurs he’s still trying to get comfortable in his role. Take a gander at the table below to see the noticeable drop-offs in Love’s stats compared to last season.

Year/Cat

MPG

FGA

FG%

3PM

FT%

REB

AST

TO

ST

BLK

PTS

2013

36.3

18.5

45.7

2.5

82.1

12.5

4.4

2.5

0.8

0.5

26.1

2014

36.8

13.1

38.9

2.0

83.3

10.4

2.6

1.3

0.7

0.3

16.7

While regression in points and assists was to be expected, it’s rather shocking Love is almost averaging 10 less points per game than with the Timberwolves in 2013. His horrid field goal percentage is obviously a big factor in his decreased scoring and when he straightens his shot out he should be good for 18-20 PPG. It’s worth pointing out his 13.1 FGA would be his lowest mark since 2009 and it’s evident he’s being cast as the third option on offense a la Chris Bosh. Part of the reason why his field goal percentage is lagging is due to the fact he is being used as more of a perimeter threat than post-up presence on offense as the following shot charts indicate.

Love 2013 Shotchart

Love 2014 Shotchart

You can see he is having trouble finishing at the rim and according to NBA.com/stats, Love is shooting 45.5% on shots within 5 feet this season after hitting those shots at a 63.6% clip in 2013. The Cavs would be wise to start feeding Love down in the post more to get him going on the offensive end as he’s really excelled down on the block in his career. It’s also been mildly surprising that Love is averaging 2.1 less rebounds per game this year as he owns a career average of 12.5 boards per game and can likely be somewhat attributed to his newfound role operating further away from the basket on offense. It’s been well documented Love has a great knack for reading shots off the rim and has been one of the best offensive rebounders in the NBA throughout his career. He averaged 3.7 OREB in his six prior seasons, but is currently only averaging 1.9 OREB per this year. Additionally, after posting a 28.4 usage rate in 2013, he only owns a 20.5 usage rate this season. It’s called the LeBron effect.

Look, almost all the negatives have been laid out for you and he is still the 34th-ranked player in 9-cat Yahoo leagues. It’s inevitable he’ll become more comfortable in the offense as the season progresses and his efficiency will undoubtedly improve as well. Love is still a walking double-double who is hitting 2.0 3PM with an 83.3% mark from the charity stripe and his turnovers have practically been cut in half. The 3x NBA All-Star and 2x All-NBA Second Team player is simply too talented to be held down for long. He’ll right the ship sooner rather than later and shrewd owners should be looking to deal for the versatile big man at his current discounted price.

Serge Ibaka – (58) 15.5 PTS-7.8 REB-1.2 AST-1.8 3PM-0.2 ST-1.7 BLK-46.4% FG-73.3% FT

Ibaka came into the 2014 season as a universal late-first or early-second round selection due to his stellar production in the past combined with the unfortunate foot injury Kevin Durant suffered in the preseason. Add in the fact Russell Westbrook broke his hand on a fluky play in the second game of the year for the Thunder and owners had to be feeling pretty, pretty good about drafting Ibaka. Fast forward to where we’re at now and it’s safe to say the artist known as “Iblaka” has been a mild disappointment so far for owners. While the 25-year-old native of Congo has seen his FGA rise (12.1 to 13.9) due to an increased offensive role with the Thunder’s two best players out the lineup, it’s translated to less points (15.5 >15.1) to go along with a major drop in efficiency (53.6% FG > 46.4%). Considering Ibaka owned a 54.6% mark from the field in his five prior NBA seasons, it’s become evident he relies on the playmaking ability of Durant and Westbrook to open up easy shots as he’s still not great at creating shots for himself.

He’s drifting further away from the basket on offense now as his career-high prior to this season in 3PM was 0.3 but he’s become a weapon behind the arc this year as he’s hitting 1.8 3PM while launching 4.5 3PA per game. He’s even hitting from deep at a 39% mark. While the three-pointers are the cherry on top for owners, most would likely admit they would take a few less threes in exchange for an improved FG%. Somehow, Ibaka is only averaging 7.7 rebounds after he pulled down 8.8 boards per game a season ago with KD and Westy on the court and it’s simply inexcusable he hasn’t crashed the boards harder so far. Since Nov. 4, Ibaka has only recorded two double-digit rebounding performances. Additionally, the 6’10 center has always been a great shot blocker but after averaging 2.7 last year and 2.6 blocks for his career, he’s only swatting 1.7 shots this year. So why in the hell is he listed under the buy low column you may ask? Because the returns of KD and Westbrook will help, not hurt him like conventional wisdom would suggest.

The Thunder superstars are both set to return within the next three weeks and when they do operating on the offensive end is going to become much easier for Ibaka due to less defensive attention. Unlike Reggie Jackson who will be discussed later on in the column, Ibaka doesn’t need the ball in his hands too much to be effective fantasy-wise. His usage rate has jumped from 19.6 in 2013 to a 22.8 usage rate this year, but it’s important to remember that increased opportunity doesn’t always mean an increase in fantasy value. With that being said, Ibaka remains one of the best buy low options in the game right now as his value will skyrocket with increased efficiency and more blocks due to the looming returns of KD and Westy as he can concentrate more on rebounding and protecting the paint rather than scoring.

Joakim Noah – (74) 8.4 PTS-10.3 REB-4.7 AST-0.5 ST-1.3 BLK-46.2% FG-60% FT

Concerns over his durability will be lingering for all Noah owners out there should be taken seriously considering his injury-prone ways combined with offseason knee surgery, but he’s been delivering his typical well-rounded lines as of late. While points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and percentages are all down due to the presence of Derrick Rose/Pau Gasol in addition to his minutes being reduced to keep him healthy, he’s still the 74th-ranked 9-cat value after finishing 19th a season ago. While his per-game averages are lower in many categories, the only major regressions have been in free throw percentage, steals, and points. We all know Noah scoring isn’t his forte so that’s not too big of an issue in regards to his fantasy value. Perhaps most surprisingly, the 29-year-old Florida alum is still racking up the assists as he’s recorded six assists in six consecutive games. This can largely be attributed due to Rose (hamstring) and Gasol (calf) dealing with injuries the last few games, but Noah is an extremely adept passer for a center so don’t expect too much regression in that area.

After averaging 35.9 MPG the last two seasons, Noah is currently only averaging 32.1 MPG this year in order to keep him fresh as alluded to earlier. You can bet as the season progresses head coach Tom Thibodeau, notorious for riding his players into the ground, will unleash him in due time. While Noah’s form on his free throws has earned his shot being nicknamed “The Tornado” due to the unusual rotation when he shoots, he’s not as bad as his 60% mark from the charity stripe would suggest, although watching his form would indicate otherwise. Noah is a career 72.7% free throw shooter so owners can expect him to pick it up sooner rather than later. He will likely return top-40 value when it’s all said and done due to his versatility in the box score and now remains as good of a time as ever to try to trade for him.

Sell High

Roy Hibbert – (36) 14.0 PTS-8.3 REB-1.8 AST0.2 ST-3.0 BLK-47.3% FT-81.5% FT

While Hibbert has certainly provided a tidy profit for owners thus far based on his 84.3 ADP compared to his current 9-cat ranking, there’s reason to be skeptical he can keep up this pace all year. David West returned to practice today and is likely looking at a return sometime shortly after Thanskgiving and while George Hill isn’t too close to returning, he will eventually make it back into lineup. Their returns will likely cause Hibbert to see a slight dip in points, rebounds, and assists since he won’t be the focal point of the offense anymore. Paul George being absent will definitely help keep his average up in points, but his career-high is 12.9 PPG so it’s foolhardy to expect Hibbert to completely keep up the pace. Even though he stands 7’2, Hibbert has always been a mediocre rebounder for his size and he’ll likely average under eight boards with the return of West. Furthermore, he’s yet to shoot 50 percent or better from the field in his six-year career and while his 47.3% mark from the field is an improvement over last year, it’s nothing special for a center.

If you drafted Hibbert to be on your squad it’s likely due to his elite shot blocking and free throw shooting for a big so the aforementioned issues may not be as big of an issue to you. It would be much easier to trust Hibbert for the whole year if he didn’t also get off to a fast start last year only to fizzle down the stretch. It will be awfully hard for the 27-year-old Georgetown alum to keep this ranking all year due to his lack of upside. If you can trade him for the likes of Al Horford, Derrick Favors, Joakim Noah, Tyson Chandler,  Jared Sullinger, Marcin Gortat, or Tim Duncan, you should take advantage of the opportunity.

Reggie Jackson – (63) 19.8 PTS-4.9 REB-7.7 AST-1.4 3PM-0.8 ST-40% FG-87.3% FT

While Jackson has been dynamite on the floor this year for the Thunder, the looming returns of Durant and Westbrook within the next few weeks will obviously be a huge detriment to his fantasy value. If you exclude his 3.3 turnovers per game, he would be a second-round value in 9-cat formats so you can see how valuable he’s been. This makes for the perfect time for owners to sell-high on him since he’ll likely return to a sixth man role when the Thunder get a bevy of players back from the injury list. With an 99 ADP, owners have certainly reaped the early benefits so far so cashing in would be the wise move. While his usage rate has skyrocketed from 22.7 in 2013 to 26.6 this season, it’s come at the expense of efficiency. After shooting 44.9% the last two years, his field goal percentage has plummeted to 40 percent on a career-high 17 FGA per game, obliterating his previous career-high of 11.5 FGA he established last year. He’s been especially bad from the field in his last three games as he’s shot 12-44 (27.3%).

R-Jax may be drilling a career-best 1.4 3PM on a career-high 5.2 3PA, but he’s only pouring it in at a 26.9% clip from deep. Operating as the main ball-handler/playmaker for the Thunder at the moment, the Boston College product is dishing out an impressive 7.7 assists. While this is as well and good, he’ll likely see his average fall below five once Westbrook returns to his ball-dominant ways. The return of the two perennial All-Stars should help Jackson in regards to his efficiency, but his popcorn stats will undoubtedly regress to the mean. He will likely settle in as a top-75 player capable of averaging something similar to a 15-4-5 line with a superb free throw percentage so be sure not to sell yourself too short if you decide to trade him.

Thanks for reading and thanks to BasketballMonster.com, Yahoo, and NBA.com/stats for providing the statistical information. Be sure to comment below with any questions or remarks you have concerning the article. You can follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy and I’m more than willing to answer any questions.

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5 Comments

  1. Jack
    November 21, 2014 at 11:35 pm — Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Thanks for the article. I was wondering if you could give me a little advice on whether I should pull the trigger on picking up Jose Calderon and dropping Reggie Jackson.

    I’m in an 8 team, 9-cat league with KD, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka, Markieff Morris, Jared Sullinger, Gordon Hayward, Damien Lillard, RoLo, Nerlens and Thad Young. (Not a bulls or okc fan…just a wacky auction draft)

    I’m loving Reggie’s production in spite of the TOs (which due to the build of the team, is pretty good still with injuries that is) and poor FG%. But Jose could help with threes while still maintaining I’m assuming a good 4-6+ assists a night based off Iman’s numbers. So would it make sense to drop him for Jose?

  2. November 22, 2014 at 9:16 am — Reply

    Jack,

    Whoa, Nellie! You can’t drop R-Jax for Calderon, at least right now since he is simply the superior fantasy play due to the injuries on the Thunder. If there was anyone I would drop on your team, it would be Noel due to his lackluster play of late. Other than BLK/ST he’s not really helping owners out very much. Calderon is an underrated fantasy play and should finish the season ranked higher than Noel.

    • Jack
      November 23, 2014 at 10:29 pm — Reply

      Haha thanks for the advice! I guess I was really holding on to the hope that Noel would blast off, but he seems fairly mercurial right now, just like any rookie…Keep up the good work! I enjoy reading your pieces as well as the other writers’!

      • November 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm — Reply

        Jack,

        Of course as soon as I mention how I’ve soured on Noah in fantasy he proceeds to drop a 17-12 line with two assists, one steal, and one block. If you haven’t dropped anyone yet and Calderon is still out there, I would suggest maybe trying to trade R-Jax/Noel in a package deal for an elite PF/C type which would open up a roster spot for Calderon.

        Thanks for the support, it’s much appreciated!

        • Jack
          November 25, 2014 at 5:31 pm

          haha yea I noticed he’s been better these last two games. I had already dropped him but he’s still sitting on the wire (I think the lack of points plus coming off the bench is dissuading my small league to drop anyone for him). I’m looking to move Noah and RJax but I doubt anyone will bite, especially with the news of Noah’s knee swelling. 🙁

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