Commentary

Grand Theft Roto: No more time for patience

Updated: January 28, 2009, 1:58 PM ET
By Josh Whitling | Special to ESPN.com

If you haven't heard, the time has come for change. But you can't expect somebody else to change your fantasy team. You must pull yourself up by the bootstraps and make the proper moves to ensure your own destiny.

The time for being patient while evaluating our needs and players we desire is coming to an end. Trade deadlines are approaching, the season is halfway done and, at a certain point, it'll be too late for a trade to have more than a minimal impact on the standings. We'll cross that bridge when we get there, but if it makes sense for your team, make that trade. If you have lots of ground to make up, major moves and roster overhauls are necessary if you plan on making a several-place jump in the standings.

But don't make stupid moves. Continue to do your best to shed excess value in certain areas, and target players whose value you believe to be worse than what you expect of them for the rest of the season. Buy low and sell high. But if you want to make a move, now's the time to do it. Certain types of buy and sell candidates emerge at this point in the season, and with the NBA's trade deadline coming up, it's smart to pay close attention to the rumors and speculate about potential repercussions. Every trade hurts certain players' values and augments others', and even if we don't know the specifics of a trade, we certainly know which names have been floating around for a while and can speculate about who would benefit once a certain player is subtracted from a team. Here are some players you should target or eschew based upon inappropriately perceived value.

Buy low

Shane Battier
AP Photo/Kathy WillensShane Battier provides help in smaller counting categories such as blocks.
Shane Battier, SF, Rockets: His season has been severely limited by injuries, but in eight January contests, he's averaging 1.1 3-pointers, 0.6 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, and he finally seems to be at full strength. Those stats don't blow you away, but Battier should be averaging 1.5 3s and one steal and block before you know it, providing a valuable combination of statistics with nonexistent turnovers and virtually no impact on percentages. If you want help in 3s, steals and blocks and can stomach his minimal scoring, Battier is a cheap form of fantasy-roster glue.

Ronnie Brewer, SG, Jazz: Brewer's value has plummeted primarily because of the decline in his steals: He averaged 2.1 in November, then 1.6 in December, and is averaging just 0.8 thefts in January. If you own Brewer, this is maddening, but the stat historically has been his forte, and I'm sure it will bounce back. If he suddenly were taking five fewer shots per game or shooting 50 percent from the stripe, that'd be one thing, but he's just been unlucky in the steals department. Steals are a tricky stat, but Brewer's long arms and tough perimeter defense will make them come. If you need steals, Brewer is an ideal, cheap target.

Michael Beasley, PF, Heat: The numbers aren't always pretty, and his minutes bounce around from the teens to the 40s, but I have to believe the Heat will start making ways for his role and minutes to expand. If Shawn Marion is traded before the deadline, Beasley likely would be the Heat's primary beneficiary, and because he hasn't been overworked, he shouldn't hit a rookie wall. He has talent that eventually will translate into impressive stats, and he should be a five-category player before we know it, contributing in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and 3s.

Andres Nocioni, SF/PF, Bulls: He's throwing in his hat for sixth man of the year (or at least sixth man of the month) consideration after scoring at least 10 points off the bench in all but four January contests. It can be difficult to make up ground in 3s. The best way to do it is to start a power forward such as Nocioni, who is averaging 1.5 3s per game for the third consecutive season. His November was awful, and he's shooting poorly from the field, but you can expect from him continued scoring, 3s and free-throw percentage with a handful of steals and blocks.

Richard Jefferson, SF, Bucks: Fantasy owners who have been frustrated with deciding whether to start or bench Jefferson have been looking for buyers for a while, as he's not an especially dynamic or inspiring fantasy player. But now that Michael Redd is out for the season, the team doesn't have another player with experience as a go-to scorer, and Jefferson will be forced to shoulder a hefty load. His average scoring should be in the low 20s, and he's already attempting the most 3s of any season in his career, an indication he could average 1.5 per game with the increased workload. His steals, blocks, assists and rebounds are negligible, but he should outperform his current averages in offensive categories thanks to Redd's injury.

Samuel Dalembert, C, 76ers: Dalembert has once again established himself as a force in the blocks department, averaging 2.4 swats per game in January, and I'm thinking the rest of his stats will improve, too. After eight consecutive games with single-digit rebounds, he's been in double digits in three of the past five games. Dalembert's owners likely are freaked out that the return of Elton Brand could hurt Dalembert's stats. But he'll continue to earn minutes if he keeps blocking shots and should form a formidable frontcourt with Brand for the season's second half.

Mike Conley, PG, Grizzlies: Conley is only a deeeeep league option, but he has nabbed the starting job from Kyle Lowry and has been subject of trade rumors that likely would land him in a starting situation. I don't like him much as a player, but opportunity is half the battle, and Conley is merely starting to get a chance to produce this season. Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins has indicated he'll lean heavily upon Conley and push him, so his time to prove he's a capable NBA point guard is now. If he capitalizes, solid 3s, assists and steals should follow, and Conley can be had practically for free.

Sell high

Jameer Nelson
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesHow much longer can Jameer Nelson keep up his torrid pace?
Jameer Nelson, PG, Magic: Perhaps it's because he has burned me so many times, but I think Nelson is in line for a somewhat significant drop-off. He'll still put up better numbers than ever, but he has put up some pretty insane numbers in the past two months that must return to Earth. For one, he's shooting 45.6 percent from 3-point land in January after 56.3 percent in December and is averaging 2.3 and 2.8 3s per game, respectively. I see him closer to 1.7 per game from this point forward, which still would be a huge statistical improvement over anything he's done in the past. But even if the rest of his numbers remain solid, his value will take a significant hit as his 3s regress toward the mean. If you can flip Nelson's No. 28 ranking on the Player Rater into a topflight point guard such as Chauncey Billups or Jose Calderon through a crafty trade, you'll be making the type of sell-high move that wins championships.

Luke Ridnour, PG, Bucks: Because I'm a Seattle boy, the cool-handed one is near and dear to me, and watching him play well enough to be ranked 30th on the Player Rater during the past month has warmed my heart. But after a string of six consecutive double-digit scoring games in early January, he's done so only once in his past six games. Now, with Michael Redd out for the season, Ridnour will share the backcourt with Ramon Sessions, a move that surely will cut into his assist totals. That's the category in which Ridnour makes his money. Even though he's still a feel-good story and will act as more of a distributor while Sessions scores, Ridnour's value will take a hit.

Mehmet Okur, C, Jazz: He's shooting 50 percent from behind the arc in January, a number that's sure to come down, and if Carlos Boozer really returns by the All-Star break, Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan has no other choice but to cut into Okur's minutes thanks to Paul Millsap's awesomeness.

Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, Warriors: His six assists per game are sure to decrease now that Monta Ellis has returned. But because he won't have to be everything for the team, his percentages will improve, but the gaudy aggregate stats will decline.

Ben Gordon, SG, Bulls: The return of Kirk Hinrich makes for a crowded backcourt, and his 0.7 steals per game for a guard logging 36.2 minutes per game are almost insulting.

Finally, my month was made today when a friend sent me a text that said he has a ticket for an upcoming Thunder/Blazers game with my name on it. I'm going through hoops withdrawal in the cold and gray Emerald City, so hopefully seeing Brandon Roy doing something like this will satisfy my fix.

Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. Got a trade question? Page Josh at whitlingsfantasy@gmail.com.

Josh Whitling

Fantasy Basketball
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

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