10 NBA Fantasy Basketball Trends You Can Bank On
The fantasy basketball stock market continues to fluctuate as several key players have suffered long-term injuries. From Rajon Rondo’s torn ACL to Andre Drummond’s stress fracture (via ESPN’s Marc Stein), injured fantasy hoops stars have opened up playing time for others.
These two situations haven’t freed up a clear-cut successor to the injured player’s position in the fantasy landscape. The Boston Celtics have gone with a patchwork approach to replace Rondo’s stats: Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have gotten more assists since Rondo went down.
Jason Maxiell is likely the top candidate to take some of Drummond’s playing time while he’s out, but he hasn’t been terribly efficient this season. In 25.2 minutes per game—a figure that has dipped since Drummond’s emergence—Maxiell is shooting just 45.2 percent from the floor and 66.4 percent from the free-throw line en route to 7.3 points per game.
Trade activity has jumbled up fantasy expectations as well, but the truth is that nothing has to happen to the roster for a fantasy basketball player’s light to come on—or dim.
Sometimes, it just happens.
Stock Down: Jimmy Butler, SG/SF, Chicago Bulls
Jimmy Butler was getting a lot of playing time and doing plenty with it. Over an eight-game stretch, he shot 50.6 percent from the floor, 88.9 percent from the free-throw line and 31.3 percent from deep. He averaged 16.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 SPG and 0.4 BPG and turned the ball over just once per game in that span.
That was when Butler was playing 36.8 minutes per game.
On Feb. 8, he saw just 13 minutes of action, took one shot—and missed it. The rest of his box-score line was a row of goose eggs. There was no report of him leaving the game with an injury, and the 6’7” wingman isn’t exactly a size liability against the Utah Jazz. The volatility of his playing time is problematic for fantasy purposes.
However, if the Chicago Bulls trade him—or clear roster room for him—he’ll be a hot waiver wire pickup.
Stock Up: Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Kyrie Irving might be fantasy basketball’s best shooting guard—if he were a shooting guard. You could say that about plenty of elite PGs, but Uncle Drew’s numbers kind of look like Kobe Bryant’s.
Irving’s shooting 47.6 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from beyond the 3-point line and 84.7 percent from the charity stripe. In 35.4 minutes per game, he’s putting up 23.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG and 3.4 TOPG.
Bryant, meanwhile, is shooting 46.3 percent from the field, 33.1 percent from deep and 84.5 percent from the line. The Black Mamba is only making 1.8 threes per game—Kyrie is hitting 2.1—but scoring more frequently than Uncle Drew, with 27.4 points per game.
Kobe’s also averaging 5.3 boards, 5.3 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.4 steals and 3.4 turnovers a night.
You can bank on Uncle Drew taking home some lessons from his first All-Star game and continuing his statistical dominance—without elite assists production.
Stock Down: Nate Robinson, PG/SG, Chicago Bulls
Like his Chicago Bulls teammate, Jimmy Butler, Nate Robinson has had a productive recent stretch of games. Also like Butler, Robinson is due for a drop in playing time because of Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose's impending returns.
For now, fantasy owners can enjoy the 38.8 minutes per game that Robinson has been running in the month of February. Capitalizing on his recent playing time in the trade market would be an astute move, if possible.
In the five games before Hinrich missed time, he played 30.8 minutes a night. Robinson received 24.4 minutes of burn—a number that is likely to further decrease once Rose returns to the floor.
Stock Up: Nikola Vucevic, PF/C, Orlando Magic
With Glen Davis’ season-ending broken foot, Nikola Vucevic has been getting more looks at the basket. He took a season-high 21 shots on Feb. 6 against the Los Angeles Clippers, but the Orlando Magic big man only converted seven of them.
Still, Vucevic has increased his scoring average in every month this season: from 9.5 in November, to 12.1 in December, to 14.4 in January and 16.6 in February. He’s shooting 48.7 percent this month and has brought down at least 12 rebounds in each of his five games.
Stock Down: J.R. Smith, SG/SF, New York Knicks
J.R. Smith is on one of his scoring binges again: the New York Knicks' Sixth Man of the Year candidate has scored 17.2 points per game—on 3.8 made threes—in the month of February.
Smith is averaging 16.2 PPG in 2012-13, on 1.7 deep balls per game. His 0.2 turnovers per game in February combine with the increased long-range production to make him a fantasy asset as a swingman.
His streakiness will eventually catch up to him, though, if it hasn’t already. Smith hit just two threes in his last two games after converting 17 long-distance attempts in his previous three.
Stock Up: Tony Parker, PG, San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili have been in and out of the San Antonio Spurs lineup with varying ailments. As the youngest of the three, Tony Parker has been the consistent star presence for head coach Gregg Popovich.
Even without the presence of his friends, Parker is enjoying one of his best statistical seasons, with 53.4 percent field-goal shooting, 38.9 percent 3-point marksmanship and a career-high 82.1 percent free-throw shooting.
He’s never averaged eight assists in a season, but the veteran has dished eight or more—including five double-digit dimes outings—in nine of his last 11. He scored 24.2 PPG over that stretch, too. Once Duncan and Ginobili return, Pop may be tempted to keep their minutes down in preparation for a postseason run.
That would benefit Parker’s fantasy prospects for the remainder of the season.
Stock Down: Ed Davis, PF/C, Memphis Grizzlies
Prior to getting traded to the Memphis Grizzlies from the Toronto Raptors, Ed Davis was on an 11-game double-digit scoring streak with efficient field-goal shooting.
As a member of the Grizzlies, Davis has been all but invisible on the fantasy landscape: He has played 30 minutes, scored nine points (on 42.9 percent FG), grabbed seven rebounds and blocked a shot.
That took him four games.
Stock Up: Amir Johnson, PF/C, Toronto Raptors
Ed Davis’ departure freed up frontcourt minutes for Toronto Raptors big man Amir Johnson, who’s averaging 26.8 minutes on the season and 34.5 in February. In his last eight games, Johnson played 34.3 minutes per game and recorded six double-doubles.
He shot 54.1 percent from the field (62.2 percent this month) and 61.9 percent from the line. Johnson’s been providing the fantasy big-man stats of late, averaging 13.1 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG and 1.4 SPG over his last eight.
Johnson’s rapidly diminishing waiver-wire availability is good news for his owners looking to trade him. He should be able to keep up his recent production. But including him in a 2-for-1 deal where you improve the talent level elsewhere on your team will enable you to scoop up the next big thing in terms of future fantasy free agents.
Stock Down: Jose Calderon, PG, Detroit Pistons
Jose Calderon is still getting minutes as a member of the Detroit Pistons, but he’s not the team’s future at the point guard position and he just lost one of the team’s best finishers, Andre Drummond, to injury for the foreseeable future.
He’s more likely to see a decrease in playing time than an increase going forward.
Calderon has the—well-deserved—reputation in the fantasy community of being a high-volume assist guy with limited turnover downside. Unfortunately, to actually be high-volume in the assist category, he will need more than the 29.3 minutes per game that he’s seeing with Detroit.
Stock Up: Ty Lawson, PG/SG, Denver Nuggets
Ty Lawson has made a habit of ramping things up after the All-Star break.
He got an early start on it this year during the Denver Nuggets’ eight-game winning streak. Since their last loss against the Washington Wizards (nine games), Lawson has shot 50.0 percent from the floor, 48.3 percent from deep and 82.4 percent from the free-throw line.
In that span, his stat line looks more like what was expected from the lightning-quick guard in his fourth season: 20.0 PPG, 1.6 3PM, 2.8 RPG, 7.9 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.1 BPG and 3.1 TOPG.
He’s converted 85.2 percent of his 9.0 freebies per game in February (three games). Lawson’s past late-winter performances should put his frustrated fantasy owners at ease for the rest of 2013.
For more fantasy basketball analysis, follow Jamal on Twitter: Follow @StatManJ
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