We’re officially more than a fourth of the way through the 2015-16 NBA season and the Golden State Warriors are 24-0, which happens to be the best start in NBA history and the best start for a professional team in any of the four major sports. What you’re witnessing is history in the making and perhaps the best basketball team of our era, so make sure to enjoy this incredible run while it lasts. Stephen Curry had an off night by his brilliant standard, but still produced poured 38 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, and six 3-pointers on 9-27 shooting (14-14 FT) as the Warriors held off the Boston Celtics 124-119 in double overtime in what turned out to be their toughest test yet. After setting the NBA record in 2014 with 286 three-pointers, Curry is on pace for 422 threes this year. 422! He’s truly a one-of-a-kind player and fans have truly been spoiled by his ridiculous output thus far.
Not to be outdone, teammate Draymond Green collected a rare 5×5 line and was the best player on the floor as he went off the tune of 24 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, five steals, five blocks, and two 3-pointers. In fact, over the last 40 years, Green, Hakeem Olajuwon and Derrick Coleman are the only players to record at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, and 5 blocks in a game. Green has returned second-round value on the season and he’s well on his way to a career-best season. He’s proving to be worth every penny of the five-year, $85 million contract he signed in July. They don’t call him “Money” Green for nothing. Considering he plays power forward for the Warriors, although we all know he’s too versatile to be listed at one position, but it’s ludicrous he’s averaging the seventh-most assists (7.1) per game While he may not keep it up to this extent, he’s obviously the real deal and owners lucky enough to have nabbed him in drafts should be patting themselves on the back
With the major headlines out of the way, why don’t we go ahead and get to the main portion of the column as we examine five players you should be looking to trade for or ones you should be looking to unload.
DeMarcus Cousins (44) -25.2 PTS-10.6 REB-2.9 AST-0.9 STL-1.3 3PM-1.3 BLK-42.1% FG-75.0% FT
After finishing as the 11th-ranked player on a per-game basis in 9-cat leagues last season, most of his stats have dropped off in the early going of the 2015 season and his ranking has fallen off as a result. Compared to 2014, Cousins is averaging less rebounds (12.7 > 10.6), assists (3.6 > 2.9), steals (1.5 > 0.9), blocks (1.7 > 1.3), and his field goal percentage (46.7 > 42.1) percent has fallen off as a result of him shooting an average of 4.1 3-pointers per game after that figure stood at 0.1 last year. On the flip side, he is averaging a career-high 25.2 points to go with 1.3 3PM, not to mention he’s averaging more than a turnover less per game compared to last season. It’s been obvious that Cousins hasn’t been his usual self all season as back issues have forced him to miss time already, but it looks like he snapped out of his funk as his last two games played were terrific.
Fantasy owners would probably like to see Cousins take less 3-point attempts considering he’s only hitting at a 30.3 percent clip, as it would stand to benefit his field goal percentage a great deal. George Karl’s spread the floor offense has Boogie drifting out to the perimeter on a lot of possessions and not taking advantage of his post play, and that’s a problem that is likely to be fixed sooner rather than later. Another statistic owners can take solace in is the fact he sports the second-highest usage rate (33.0) in the league, behind only Russell Westbrook. Additionally, even though Boogie is only averaging 0.9 steals, he’s averaged at least 1.4 steals per game the last four years and that mark is one likely to positively regress for him. The 25-year-old owns a career 46 percent mark from the field and once he irons out his shot, he’ll be back to returning first or second-round value in no time. His value isn’t going to be much lower than this for long and trying to explore trade opportunities for the Kentucky product would be a sound strategy to see if any owners are willing to deal him at a discounted price. It won’t be easy to acquire a nightly 25 point-10 rebound threat, but by all means you should at least explore the possibility.
LaMarcus Aldridge (71) –15.8 PTS-8.9 REB-1.4 AST-0.2 STL-1.2 BLK-46.1% FG-78.8% FT
The buy-low window is closing quickly on Aldridge as he’s been quite solid of late as he’s averaging 19.6 points, and 7.8 rebounds on 55.4 percent shooting over his last five games. Over the last two weeks, Aldridge comes in at 62nd on a per-game basis. His improved late has been welcome news for frustrated fantasy owners who haven’t seen much return on their investment so to speak considering LMA he had a 17.7 ADP entering the season. Compared to last season, the 30-year-old is averaging less minutes (35.5 > 29.5), points (23.4 > 15.8), rebounds (10.2 > 8.9), steals (0.7 > 0.2), and field goal attempts (19.9 > 14.0), although his marks in turnovers and blocks have both slightly improved. While the transition from the focal point of the Portland Trailblazers to the 1B option to Kawhi Leonard’s 1A role on the San Antonio Spurs hasn’t been as smooth as many predicted (yours truly included), he has started to settle into the Spurs pass-heavy offensive system and Aldridge has yet to reach his true zenith of fantasy value this season.
Excluding his rookie season, Aldridge has shot at least 41.1 percent on mid-range jumpers each of the last eight seasons so one could reasonably conclude his current 38.2 percent mark in that area has room to improve. As for another category, he’s averaged at least 0.7 steals the last eight years so it’s a little odd to see his mark so low, especially for the number one defensive unit in the NBA. Look for that mark to slightly increase as well. Additionally, he’s a career 48.4 percent shooter and in a Spurs efficient offensive system, LMA is likely to see a slight uptick in his field goal percentage over the remainder of the year as well. I ultimately expect Aldridge to average between 17-18 points as the second option for a team that needs all the scoring they can get. Look, at this point of the game it’s unrealistic for owners to expect Aldridge to deliver the second-round, much less third-round value he was expected to provide for some as his reduction in minutes has inevitably lead to a decrease in counting stats which clearly makes sense. With that being said, top-60 value is certainly in play here and if you can sell high on someone to get a proven stud who will provide copious amounts of points, rebounds, and blocks to go along with good percentages who likely won’t cost too much to acquire, he may be your man.
Jordan Clarkson (89) –15.2 PTS-3.5 REB-2.1 AST-1.0 STL-1.4 3PM-47.0% FG–80% FT
The second-year player out of Missouri is currently sidelined with a sprained ankle which happened on Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves and isn’t expected to play tonight against the Houston Rockets, but all indications are the injury isn’t too serious and he looks likely to return at some point next week. Now makes for a good time to send out some trade offers for Clarkson as he possesses decent upside and a high-floor in terms of fantasy value considering the circumstances under which the Los Angeles Lakers are playing under. The 23-year-old is averaging career-high marks in points, rebounds, steals, 3-pointers, field goal percentage, and 3-point percentage (41.1). Perhaps the most encouraging development of his sophomore season has been his dramatically improved efficiency from 3-point range as he only hit 31.4 percent of his attempts from distance in 2014. In fact, his current mark 41.1 percent mark ranks 28th in the league and is better than noted sharpshooters like Dirk Nowitzki (40.7), Nicolas Batum (40.6), and C.J. McCollum (39.6) to name a few.
Another encouraging statistic for his fantasy value going forward is the fact he’s averaging the most minutes per game (31:33) than any other Lakers player and it’s clear he has earned the trust of Byron Scott, which is saying something considering Scott is one of the worst coaches in the NBA. His old school mentality of coaching, specifically his reluctance to hoist 3-pointers, has left the Lakers in the distance compared to many teams as well as stunting the development of his young core players like DeAngelo Russell and Julius Randle for idiotic reasoning. It’s time to develop the future players of your franchise Byron! Ok, sorry for the rant, but it’s true and Scott has been lambasted for his handling of starting lineup decisions by plenty of well-respected people. Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour and inexplicable shot selection will continue to be the main attraction for the Lakers down the stretch, but his minutes and shots have trended down the past few games and the looming possibility of missed games for the 37-year-old will only serve the enhance the value of Clarkson down the stretch as him and Russell will likely be the focal points of the offense whenever he is forced to sit out. While acquiring Clarkson through trade may not be the flashiest move, he should stand to be a reliable option capable of supplying top 70-100 value for a tanking Lakers squad that has all the reasons in the world to develop their young core in a lost season.
Marvin Williams (43) -10.4 PTS-7.1 REB-1.3 AST–0.7 STL-1.1 BLK–1.7 3PM-45.7% FG–88.5% FT
I’ll the be the first one to admit that I was dead wrong on my Marvin Williams fantasy projections for this season, then again, can you really blame me or anyone for being shocked at the former number one overall picks’ career renaissance in his age-29 season this year based on his career prior to this year? After finishing as the 121st-ranked player on a per-game basis for 9-cat formats in 2014, Williams has shockingly provided fourth-round value to date playing the stretch power forward role with the Charlotte Hornets without the services of Al Jefferson. His improved fantasy value is due in large part to the career-high averages he’s posting in rebounds, blocks, 3-pointers, and free throw percentage. While his marks in rebounding and 3-pointers aren’t extraordinary, they are much better than his previous career-highs of 6.3 rebounds (2008) and 1.3 3PM (2013), so he may be due for a slight regression in those areas. While his 80.1 percent free throw mark indicates he’s an above average foul shooter, his current percentage places him among the best free throw shooters in the NBA and that number will likely come down closer to his career norms as well.
Perhaps the most shocking development in Williams game this year has been his ability to block shots as it’s a skill that has seemingly come out of nowhere for him. Before this season, Williams had never averaged more than 0.6 blocks per game and he’s nearly doubling that figure in 2015. Color me skeptical on his ability to keep that number over 1.0 over the duration the entire season. If I were the betting type, I’d put a lot of money that Williams fails to attain top-50 status by the end of the year as his middling usage rate (14.0) and numerous areas of regression leave him little room to best the fantasy value he’s currently providing. Owners in need of a capable 3-point shooter with decent rebounds will undoubtedly be satisfied with Marvin as long as you’re not expecting too much else outside of that, but owners who are shooting for more upside may be able to cash in on his fantasy stock at the moment to unload him for a more proven player.
Tony Parker (86) -12.7 PTS-2.4 REB–5.0 AST-0.8 STL-0.2 3PM-56.2% FG-77.6% FT-1.7 TO
Things had been going quite swimmingly for Tony Parker owners this season before the
unexpected (depending on your point of view) happened last night as the 33-year-old Frenchman received a DNP-OLD from head coach Gregg Popovich against a hapless Lakers team. This happened to be first missed game of the season from Parker which comes as a surprise considering he hasn’t played in over 68 games any of the last four seasons. Although this was the first one, you can expect a handful of more scheduled rest days throughout the season as the Spurs look to preserve their health for the playoffs as they are all but assured of being a top-3 seed in the Western Conference by the end of the regular season. This is perhaps the main reason why I’m urging Parker owners to sell high as his fantasy value is unlikely to improve as the season goes along due to his injury proneness and potential for random DNP’s.
The veteran point guard is averaging career-lows in minutes played (27:00) and points while averaging the second-fewest amount of 3-pointers and assists of his career. His fantasy value has been buoyed by his ability to stay on the floor thus far in addition to his career-high 56.2 field goal percentage. It’s not shocking to see Parker being the owner of a stellar mark from the field as he’s always among the league leaders in that department, especially among guards. With that being said, since he’s averaging a career-low 9.4 shots per game the added efficiency isn’t helping owners as much it could be considering his lack of shots compared to previous campaigns. Parker had a 124.1 ADP entering the season and has clearly provided owners a tidy little profit so far. With that being said, owners should try to unload him while his value still presents an opportunity to do so as Parker has proven to be a depreciating asset in fantasy basketball in the second half of seasons over the last few years.
Thanks to Rotoworld, ESPN, Yahoo, and NBA.com/stats for the statistical information. Be sure to comment below with any questions or remarks. You can follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy and I’m more than willing to answer any questions.