<
>

Grand Theft Roto: Buy-low, sell-high options

1/7/2009

Word on the street is that 2009 is destined to be a year of glorious wonderment. That's what the street says, at least. But for fantasy hoops fanatics, January is the time to buckle down. The initial fervor surrounding the start of the season has faded, and it's time for diligent owners to do the bulk of their management. You must monitor box scores, injury reports, the waiver wire and your league's standings. By doing so, your team's needs become clearer.

The next month or so is a key time to trade. We have a large enough sample size of games at this point in the season that players' values are fairly reliable, although the savvy owner must capitalize upon poor judgment of perceived value. This means eschewing players you believe to be overperforming while targeting those you believe have yet to play their best ball this season.

So don't even worry about losing weight, exercising more or paying off debt. Just make your primary resolution to spend some quality time with fantasy basketball every day. This week, I'll highlight players who are good buy-low or sell-high trading targets.

Buy these seven

Peja Stojakovic: He is a serious injury risk but pays huge dividends when on the floor, averaging 2.6 3s per game despite a decline in his minutes and overall stats. Stojakovic's injury history and crumpled reputation as a go-to scorer have made him nearly droppable at points during the season, and he has little value. He missed five games at the end of December with a nagging back injury. Yet he has stormed back onto the scene in two games since, sinking four 3-pointers on both occasions. Bottom line: He plays enough minutes and produces when he's healthy, and he's healthy right now with very low value. Even if he gets injured, the price you pay to trade for Stojakovic won't break your team, and if you're able to get 45 games of almost three 3s per game from this point forward, you're sure to get more in return than you spent.

Jason Richardson: In the past few years, moving to Phoenix has done to players' values what flaxseed oil did to the complexion on Barry Bonds' back, especially those who can shoot 3s. But after leading the league in 3s made last season, the move to Phoenix has not caused Richardson to break out. He's adjusting to a new squad with a new coach and his overall stats are down, thus his value is low. But he averages 2.5 3s per game with Phoenix at an insane rate of 52.1 percent accuracy and has played 35 minutes or more in his past seven contests. Still, if you throw in last month's DUI arrest, you see that the overall mojo surrounding Richardson is less than awesome, diminishing his value and making him a good trade target. Remember, it's all about perceived value, and right now the perception of Richardson likely is lower than what he'll produce. He's a lethal scorer who can pour in the 3s, and his overall stats with Phoenix should increase as he grows comfortable with the offense and continues to play big minutes.

Charlie Villanueva: My boy Cholly has been all over the map like Carmen Sandiego this season, making it frustrating that he was near the top of my must-draft list and ended up on most of my teams. But things have been looking up in the new year (he's averaging 19 points, six rebounds and 1.3 3s per game in three January contests), and the 3s/blocks/steals potential is there if Scott Skiles will let it unfurl. With Villanueva, it isn't as if I think he'll break out in the next few weeks, I just think his skill set and potential indicate that his averages at the end of the season will be much better than we're seeing now.

Al Horford: The downside of a young player as polished and experienced as Horford is that you can't expect the same type of jump between his first and second seasons as you can from a one-and-done rookie. But Horford's increase in blocks this season from 0.9 to 1.6 and assists from 1.5 to 2.7 compared to his rookie campaign, as well as his 9.4 rebounds per game in December, lead me to believe that the underlying improvement is there and we'll see it even more in the box scores soon.

Michael Redd: His points, field goal percentage, assists and rebounds are all down this season as he adjusts to the addition of Richard Jefferson. This is a difficult task for a player used to being the No. 1 option on his team. But recently, Redd has been grand. Among other solid performances, he scored a season-high 35 points Tuesday night, marking the 34th time in his career he has scored 35 or more points in a game but the first time this season. Things are looking up, but Redd hasn't been dominating for a long enough stretch for his value to have seen a huge recent spike. See if you can capitalize upon his buy-low window, as he seems to be acclimating to the nuances of a new squad and a new coach, especially one as demanding as Scott Skiles.

Luke Ridnour: He technically doesn't qualify as a buy-low player because his value is the highest it's been all season, but everybody is skeptical of Ridnour's production. I'm not, especially in a fantasy sense. Most owners with Ridnour on their squad are looking to sell him ASAP after he averaged 6.5 assists and two steals per game in December and is ranked 52nd on the Player Rater in the past 15 days. His 11 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds on New Year's Eve is an example of what he can do, and Ridnour is a solid three-category player (assists, steals, free throw percentage) with decent 3s. As the Sonics' situation unraveled the previous two seasons, so did Ridnour's game and confidence as he was shuffled in and out of the starting lineup and was constantly criticized for his defense and inconsistent shooting. But Ridnour's renaissance in Milwaukee should continue, and he's a great player to include in a trade as a throw-in who could regularly start for your squad.

Chris Kaman: Kaman is suffering from plantar fasciitis and hasn't played since Nov. 26, when we were drinking boatloads of gravy. He's set to undergo an MRI this week and will be out for at least another two weeks. Meanwhile, Marcus Camby is shining in his absence, averaging 18.3 rebounds in his past nine games. This means Kaman's value is virtually nonexistent, and he should be attainable at a bargain. Don't break the bank for him, but if you want to stash a solid center who'll contribute boards and blocks upon his return, Kaman is a good target if you have a roster spot to use on player who will far exceed his current value once he's back on the court.

Sell these three

Jason Kidd: His insane 2.5 steals per game is the primary reason he's ranked 14th on the Player Rater, and he's not slowing down much there, as he averaged 2.8 swipes per game in December. But he's shooting 30 percent from the field and 25.5 percent from behind the arc in his past 10 games, so his scoring and percentages are a liability despite his attributes. Kidd likely won't finish the season as the third-ranked point guard in the league, as he currently stands on the Player Rater, and the ideal trading strategy here is to package Kidd and another player for a downgrade at point guard (Jose Calderon, Devin Harris or Steve Nash) and an upgrade at the other position.

Kenyon Martin: K-Mart's numbers are pretty weird. It's also pretty weird that they sell Snuggies at K-Mart even though the infomercials make them seem all exclusive. Anyway, Martin's points and rebounds are mediocre (12.8 and 6.6 per game, respectively) and his free throw percentage is perennially putrid (61.1 percent this season, 65 percent for his career), but his 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks are one of the best defensive-stat combos in the league. But all the discussion surrounding his numbers hinges upon his staying healthy, a hurdle he's been unable to clear for the majority of his career. His 71 games played last season were the most since the 2002-2003 season, and he has missed just four games this season thus far. I have a feeling something's gotta give. Martin is ranked 66th overall on the Player Rater, but along with his propensity for injury, he fails to provide the rebounds you'd typically seek from a power forward. If he can stay healthy, he should continue to produce at this rate, although I'd advise selling him for a more reliable option, especially because his upside isn't enormous and his numbers won't improve.

Jameer Nelson: Nelson has burned me so many times in the past that we decided before the season began that it probably would be better if we weren't a part of each other's lives anymore. I've always rooted for him and believe his breakout season will continue to an extent, although he simply will not end the season shooting 52.2 percent or draining 1.8 3s per game. This will cause his scoring to drop, and even though his assists, steals and free throw percentage are legit, Nelson won't finish the season as the fourth-ranked point guard in the league, as he currently stands on the Player Rater. Package Nelson with another player and target an upgrade at point guard like Chauncey Billups or Deron Williams to capitalize upon his ridiculous current value.

Got a trade question? Page Josh at whitlingsfantasy@gmail.com.