- Josh Whitling, Fantasy Basketball
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Upon being asked to take over for our beloved Guy Lake, I began crafting my introductory GTR manifesto in my mind. But y'all know the basics of trades, as Guy paved the way perfectly, so I don't need to reiterate the fundamentals of trade strategy and dive into soliloquy. Throughout the season I'll get in-depth with different specific aspects of trades and trading strategy, and a running theme will be that trades are all about perceived value and addressing needs, but this week we'll roll with a simple sell high/buy low, the ABCs of perceived value.
I also nixed the summary of "Josh Whitling: An Autobiography," because you probably don't need an introduction so thorough it included my seventh-grade crush's favorite artist (Ace of Base). Instead, I'll provide a few introductory tidbits throughout (like the fact that I'm the Kelly Clarkson of fantasy sports), but stop now and get straight to the hoops. The opus was pretty good, though. There was a limerick.
At this point in the season we've got a nice sample size to work with, so owners feel more confident in their notions about what to expect from a player in the future. They are also starting to get frustrated with slumping players, and nervous about specific needs emerging on their rosters. Capitalize on this. The sample size is still small enough that circumstantial factors -- injuries, trades, positional battles, even slumps -- drastically impact a player's current value, and this early in the season the perception is often inaccurate. Using Guy's advice from last week, see how other owners feel about players on their rosters who are currently underperforming based upon what you expect from them the rest of the season. He said it best: It is all about communication. If they're down on a player, try to grab him, doing everything possible to include players whose values you believe to be inflated.
The first thing to acknowledge about a "sell' player is that if he qualifies it doesn't mean he's not a good or even great player. It means you can likely get more value from him, ideally for your team, in a trade given his current stats and perceived value. If he's your boy, don't take it personally. It's also important to look at secondary factors when choosing an owner with whom to negotiate. What are their surpluses, both positional and categorical; their biases; who do they text friends about while at work (OK, maybe that's just me. Don't worry, Danny Granger, I'm following the guidelines of the restraining order), etc? Capitalizing on one of these and coupling it with a smart trade offer can reap dividends. Always remember a smart trade means one that makes sense for your roster, although addressing specific needs is less crucial early on, as I tend to focus on stockpiling value to peddle at an opportune time. Here are a couple of players I'm shopping, and even more I'm shopping for.
Jason Kidd: I'm not predicting a drastic dropoff here, and the points, assists and rebounds are right in line with what you should expect. But I don't see him shooting 46.6 from the floor, 44.1 from behind the arc, averaging 2.4 steals per game or 0.6 blocks. He's ranked fifth on the player rater, a number that will fall as his percentages and steals regress toward the mean. His assists could actually increase, but Kidd has always struggled with shooting efficiency and hasn't shot better than 41.4 percent from the floor since the 90's. Typically when a player is doing something they haven't done since the Clinton administration, it's a safe bet the bubble will burst. When I get bored at work I play Barack Paper Scissors.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas: Big Z is underrated in the hoops world, and isn't acknowledged enough when people point out the fact LeBron James has nobody surrounding him. But his percentages are so high compared to his career stats -- 54.1 from the field and 85.2 from the line this season compared to 47.8 and 78.2 career -- that he's gonna come down to earth. He could definitely finish the season in the 50/80 club, although these numbers are just too good to be true. Throw in the fact that Ilgauskas' blocks and boards are down, a better indication of a slight physical decline than percentages, and the evidence indicates that Z is playing over his head. On a daily basis, I'm perplexed by the ads that say, for example, "Adam Jones' IQ = 125" . My confusion is a reaction to the ad campaign itself, as well as that example specifically.
Rudy Gay: I didn't expect Gay's points to drastically improve this season, but I did see his percentages and all-around stats taking another step forward, albeit not as drastic a leap as the one between his rookie and sophomore campaigns. They haven't. His 25.4 3-point percentage is bound to improve, and the fact he's attempting almost as many long-range shots is indication his 3-point totals will rise. He now has the benefit of O.J. Mayo drawing defenses' attention, and as they mesh as players Gay should at least be able to mimic last season's effort, which will bump him up about 40 spots on the player rater from his current No. 63 ranking. Now's the time to pounce.
Shawn Marion: Sure, he fits in on the Heat roster about as well as the second Aunt Viv fit in with the cast of "Fresh Prince," but if there's one thing I've learned about him over the years, it's that Marion a fantasy gold mine. As he grows more comfortable in the offense, he'll attempt more 3s, and his percentage has to go up regardless (he's currently shooting 21.7 percent from behind the arc). His steals should also creep close to two per game, and even though his points will remain significantly lower than his career average of 18.2 per game, points aren't the category you bank on with Marion. His decrease in free-throw percentage over the past three years is frustrating, but he barely goes to the line twice per game, so it's not very impactful. Expect his 3s, percentages and steals to increase, and for Marion to finish closer to 14-16 points per game, with a bonus if you're playing in a turnover league. He's no longer first-round value, but you also won't have to click on the second page of the player rater for very long to find his name. I'm a retired high school teacher.
Al Horford: The dip in rebounds and free-throw percentage is the reason for his No.103 rating on the player rater, and is likely driving the owner who drafted Horford for the nightly double-digit rebounds mad. But look at the improved peripheral stats -- 1.7 blocks and 2.7 assists compared to 0.9 and 1.5 last year, respectively -- and you'll notice he's becoming a more well-rounded player. He's also been favoring a bum ankle since mid-November, but seems to have rounded into shape, shooting 58.5 percent from the floor over his past four games with double-digit points in each contest. We know he's an excellent rebounder and his scoring statistics should improve as his offensive game develops, so I'm not worried about the discrepancy there. The points and boards will go up, but this year will be surrounded by better numbers in other categories.
Ron Artest: He's still acclimating to his new team, and has been nursing a sprained ankle, but with Tracy McGrady out for the next three weeks (something tells me he'll miss much more than three weeks over the course of the rest of the season), Artest will immediately have the ball in his hands more. No part of me believes he's going to shoot 34.4 percent from the floor this year, considerably lower than his career field goal percentage, and his 3-point game has improved (1.8 makes, 4.8 attempts and a 38.1 percent mark from downtown are all career bests). As the rest of his shooting improves, so will his points and 3s, and that along with an increased role in the offense leads me to believe the Tru Warier will outplay his current value. I was an underground rapper in an alternate life.
Luol Deng: He missed three games in mid-November, and is disappointing owners for his second consecutive season. But he's back in the starting lineup after returning slowly from his bum hammy, and should far outperform his current pace and, I think, his numbers from last season as well. He'll need to develop chemistry with Derrick Rose, but things are already looking up as he played his most minutes since Nov. 8 on Tuesday. His shooting woes are atypical, and his current 39.6 percent from the floor won't stay so meager as he develops a better rhythm.
Andre Iguodala: AI2 won't finish the season with 13.7 points per game and terrible percentages. He also hasn't evolved into the elite player many imagined, but his points, 3s, steals and percentages should all veer closer to last season's numbers, and his assists are fantastic. This is a guy who averaged 50 percent from the floor for the season in his sophomore campaign, and is currently fumbling around with 41.4 percent this season. He and Elton Brand haven't jelled yet, but they will have to out of necessity, and when the dust settles for this 76ers squad, Iggy's stats will look much nicer. My favorite movie as a child was "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," which makes writing this specific column even more awesome.
I'll explain the Kelly Clarkson thing in the future, but it does include comparing TMR to Simon Cowell, something I'm sure he'll love.
Got a trade advice question? Page Josh at email@example.com.
Josh Whitling breaks down some of the best buy-low and sell-high options in fantasy.