Hopefully, the first week of the fantasy basketball season has treated you well. Last week, we talked about the importance of being active on the waiver wire, especially early in the season. Thus far, the breakout waiver wire star has to be T.J. Warren of the Phoenix Suns, who is taking complete advantage of P.J. Tucker’s minutes limit as a result of a back injury.
While it’s not clear if he will be able to keep it up once Tucker is able to take on a larger load, Warren has averaged a phenomenal 22 points, seven boards, and 2.5 steals while shooting 56 percent from the field and 88 percent from the line. At the very least, his field goal percentage should drop, but still, he’s a run-don’t-walk to the waiver wire guy. Pick him up and ride him while he’s hot.
That said, this week we need to talk about the importance of patience in fantasy basketball. For every clear-cut waiver candidate like Warren, there are also flash-in-the-pan players, guys who put up a big game or two at the beginning of the season and then are rarely heard from again. It’s a dated reference, but I always think of Chris Mihm. In his first game with the Lakers in 2004, Mihm dropped 23 points, 12 boards, and two blocks and sent fantasy basketball owners scrambling to the waiver wire to grab him, often dropping good players to free up room. On the season, he ended up averaging less than 10 points, 6.7 boards, and 1.4 blocks. Not terrible numbers, but certainly not the breakout season that owners were dreaming of after that first night.
The point is if you are heading to the waiver wire to pick up a hot prospect, be careful about who you drop. If it’s a guy you drafted late who just doesn’t look like he’s going to pan out that’s fine, but historically solid players who are underperforming should be given the benefit of the doubt.
After all, sometimes even consistent veterans can start the season in a bit of a rough patch while they adjust to new teammates and/or coaches. With there being such a small sample size early on, your league standings can fluctuate like crazy, particularly in roto leagues. Every season I see good players, taken early in the draft, flounder and a desperate owner near the bottom of their league panic-trades him, or even worse, drops him altogether.
For example, Klay Thompson owners have to be sweating things a little bit right now. With all of the hand-wringing over whose numbers would take a hit due to the arrival of Kevin Durant in Golden State, many were already leery of Thompson’s stock plummeting this year. He’s shooting well enough at 47 percent from the field and scoring 19.5 points, but he’s providing very little else across the board. Even his threes, which were superhuman at 3.5 per game last year, sit at a very mortal 1.5.
If you own him, or another player who hasn’t come out of the gate killing it, be patient. The odds of Thompson and those sharing his boat remaining this poor all season long are very low. He may not be the player he was pre-Durant, but his numbers should still improve from where they are right now.
Conversely, if you are looking to make a deal now is a great time to seek out those owners of slow-starters and shoot them an offer. Don’t totally low-ball them, because that just fosters ill-will, but send something that is in your favor and see if they bite. You never know when you might come across a nervous owner ready to make the mistake of a panic trade of their own.
Here are a handful of slow starters I’m targeting in my leagues:
D’Angelo Russell- Field goal percentage is suppressing his value, but it won’t stay this low all season.
Serge Ibaka– Averaging just .7 blocks right now, hasn’t averaged below 1.9 for the past six seasons.
Kyle Lowry– Like Russell, field goal percentage is suppressing value
Marcin Gortat– Scoring just four points and blocking one shot right now, but that will change as long as he continues to average 32 minutes.
J.J Redick- Averaging just one three-pointer per game, his lowest since 2008. That won’t last.
I’ll be back next week to talk more fantasy basketball, hope this Halloween week gives everyone’s fantasy teams more treats than tricks.