The age-old investing axiom says to buy low and sell high, but when applied to fantasy sports, perceptions of a player’s value will vary widely based on the owner. One simple way to identify players to buy or sell is to compare a player’s current production to their historical levels. With the lockout shortened fantasy season (and compressed schedule) fantasy owners may be more inclined than ever to sell a struggling star or buy into a fast start as a sign of things to come. But you can’t just sell every player who is exceeding expectations. No, the challenge there is to identify whose numbers are legit so you can hold on and enjoy the ride. With that in mind, here are my recommendations for some players I’m buying, selling, or holding:
David Lee – remember he started slowly last year as well. When his FG and FT% get back to their usual levels (career 54.4%/77.4%) you will wish you threw out a few lowball offers for this stud. He doesn’t block shots, but few big men can anchor your percentages as well as Lee.
Kevin Martin – known for his elite scoring and three point shooting, Martin is producing far below his career norms in both categories so far this year. Point out his slow start and remind his owner that he’s a big injury risk and hope that you can get him for 80¢ on the dollar.
John Wall – scoring down, %s down (below their already low expectations), TOs up…everyone expected Wall to take the next step forward, but he’s actually regressed so far this season. But there’s just too much talent here to expect this to last much longer. Remember he won’t help your % or TOs, but buy him for his 15+ point, 5 rebound, 7+ assist, and 2+ steals/blocks per game.
Paul Pierce – Sometimes “The Truth” hurts, and Pierce owners are feeling the pain so far this year. Between his heel injury that forced him to miss the season’s first three games, to some woeful shooting of late, you should be able to find a panicky owner who thinks this is the beginning of the end for Pierce and will deal him at a considerable discount.
Chris Paul – Last night’s performance might raise the price a tad, but I still think Paul has had enough poor games to raise doubt about whether he can live up to his top 5 ADP. Make no mistake, Paul will put up monster numbers once he gets more comfortable with his new surroundings. I wouldn’t bet against him leading the league in assists and steals, and he’ll give you elite FG% for a guard. See if he can still be had for slightly below draft day value.
Chris Bosh – Bosh has been very solid so far this year, but his only truly great game came with both Wade and LeBron out of the lineup. I think he will have a tendency to disappear in a lot of games when the other members of the big 3 catch fire. His name still carries a lot of weight – many fantasy owners fondly remember his Toronto days – so dangle his name in trade offers and see if you can upgrade to someone who is the main attraction for his team.
Tyson Chandler – the move to NYC seems to have agreed with Chandler, as he’s currently producing career high numbers in FG%, FT%, and is near his career highs in points and blocks per game. He’s a very good fantasy center, but he’s playing a bit over his head right now. He’s only taking about 4 shots per game on the season, so his impact on your team’s FG% is minimal, even though he’s currenly hitting 71% of his shots, and when that number normalizes his ppg will likely drop under 10.
Brandon Jennings – Jennings’ overall numbers on the season are getting a nice boost from one monster game – 31 points (6 threes), 7 assists, 5 steals on 12-23 shooting. If you throw out that one game, his statline looks nearly identical to last year, when he was not even a top 100 player. He’ll definitely have the occasional great game, but I don’t think he’s a top 50 player, which is where he ranks today. Wait for that next big game and then try to sell.
Andre Iguodala – Iguodala’s stock may have already taken a considerable hit from where it was after the first week of the season, when he averaged 16.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 threes, 1.3 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting 52.4% from the field, but he’s still a sell high for me mostly because the Sixers backcourt is so deep, with Jrue Holliday, Jodie Meeks, Evan Turner, and Louis Williams all vying for minutes. Iggy should continue to be a nice source of rebounds and steals, but he’ll hurt your FG and FT %s in the process, and I could see his production taking a hit across the board as he cedes minutes to his talented, young teammates.
Ray Allen – It pains me to put Ray in this section because I’ve always been a huge fan of his, but at this point his numbers have nowhere to go but down. Averaging 19 points and 3.4 threes per game on 55.7% shooting (62.8% from three point land!), even the greatest shooter of this generation can’t keep this up. His value will likely never be higher.
James Harden – Harden is averaging nearly 17 points, 4+ rebounds, 3.5 assists, nearly 2 threes, and just under 1 steal per game off the bench for the Thunder. He’s scored between 16 and 23 points in 9 of 12 games this year. Harden is getting consistent minutes (30+ per game) and doing a little bit of everything for fantasy owners. I don’t see any signs of slowing down.
Ryan Anderson – Anderson was a valuable fantasy player last year while coming off the bench for the Magic (22 mpg). This year he’s starting (30.5 mpg) and his only competition at PF is Glen Davis. Anderson will continue to be a great source of points, threes, and rebounds, and his C eligibility makes him even more valuable. Resist the urge to sell high, unless you are already stacked in 3s and are getting a great player in return.
Danilo Gallinari – Gallo appears ready to take the next step and become a fantasy (and real life) star. He leads the talented Nuggets team in points, 3PM, steals, and is third in blocks. He shooting a high % from the field and from the line. All in all he provides a great combo statline for a SF. His ADP was in middle rounds, but he looks like he will finish as a 2nd-3rd round value. Enjoy the ride.
Ty Lawson – another young player from Denver who is ready to take the next step. Lawson has a near perfect fantasy game, producing across the board numbers without hurting you anywhere. Like his teammate Gallinari, his ADP was in the middle rounds, but his production has and will continue to exceed that. Hold.
Kyle Lowry – currently fantasy’s #17 ranked player, Lowry is doing it all for the Rockets. He showed glimpses of this type of production in the second half of last season, and in 2011-12 Lowry picked up right where he left off. While he might not finish in the top 20 (or top 5 at his position) you’ll be hard pressed to find a trade partner willing to give up even a top 50 player for Lowry, so you’re better off holding.
Marc Gasol – Always a good passer for a big man, the knock against Gasol has been that he is soft, and doesn’t get enough rebounds or blocks to be considered an elite fantasy C. Well, don’t look now, but Gasol is averaging 10.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game this year, with double-digit boards in 6 contest in a row, and four games with 3 or more blocks on the young season. If he can stay close to those levels he’ll give his brother a run for his money as fantasy basketball’s most valuable Gasol. Your leaguemates probably still think of Marc as Pau’s little, softer brother, so unless you can land a top 25 player in return, I’d stay put.
Ricky Rubio – Rick Adelman has resisted putting Rubio in his starting lineup, but he should already be in yours. Rubio has 4 double-doubles already this year, and he has an efficient style that lends itself to fantasy stardom. When (not if) he takes over the starting job in Minny, he’ll be among the league leaders in assists per game and his rebounds and steals will be well above average for a PG. I’d call him a buy low if I didn’t think the cat was out of the bag already.
You can send your comments and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow me on twitter at @mikebaumsays. Got a player who you aren’t sure whether to buy, sell, or hold? Send me an email or hit me up on Twitter, and your player could be featured in next week’s column.