Grand Theft Roto: Players to sell ASAP
Even though it feels like -- to me, anyway -- this young season has been packed with pleasant surprises and interesting developments, the fact of the matter is that the season still isn't even 10 percent of the way through. The tricky thing about the early part of the season is that it's easy to get enamored with a small subset of games -- forgetting that many teams have had a particularly unbalanced schedule -- and to fall in love with a player too soon. For one more week, at least, resist that urge.
Until then, however, it's just as important to know whom you don't want. The great thing about the early part of the season is that there is still incomplete information; three months from now, everyone might know that Paul Millsap is a sunk cost, barring injury, but now, however, you can still sell the dream to someone else. You may have to sell at a severe discount, but if it's better than the alternatives in free agency, then you gotta do what you gotta do. Indeed, if you ask me, pulling a Grand Theft Roto where you turn what you believe is a nothing -- before everyone else realizes it's nothing -- into a something is the sweetest of satisfactions.
Everyone makes mistakes, but you have only so long to sell that bad stock to someone else before it completely crashes and you're forced to eat all of the cost yourself. So if you see your leaguemates shopping any of the following players around, then you'll know enough not to be tricked. Or if these guys ended up on your roster, you know you need to get on the horn and ship them off to the nearest sucker:
Elton Brand, 76ers (ADP: 33; Player Rater: 121): Entering the season, I was cautiously optimistic with regard to Brand's ability to recover from a disastrous initial season in Philadelphia. And considering that blocks are few and far between, the 1.5 to 2.0 blocks per game that Brand was expected to deliver would do much to cover up any other deficiencies. Instead, Brand looks flat-out done, averaging just 10.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in 27 minutes per game. One look at his numbers on 82games.com, a sabermetrically inclined basketball site, shows the stark difference in Brand's game since his Achilles injury. In the two seasons prior to his injury, in 2005-06 and 2006-07, Brand had a .475 effective field goal percentage (eFG% takes into account the extra value of a 3-point shot over a 2-point basket; for a big man such as Brand, it measures how effective his midrange jump shot is) on his jump shots, making up 70 percent of his total shot attempts. Last season, however, Brand shot 41.5 percent on jumpers, and this season he's at 41.2 percent; worse is the fact that he's attempting more jump shots -- 71 percent of his total shots last season were jumpers; this season, 77 percent are -- than ever before, and more of his shots are getting blocked, too (9 percent this season, 3 percent in 2006-07). That explains the low field goal percentage, and once you also consider how the game is moving away from his skill set -- becoming smaller and faster while focusing on outside shooting instead of a traditional back-to-the-basket game -- and it's really hard to see much reason for optimism. Sell immediately, and if you can't get any buyers, it's time to think about dropping him if there's someone on the waiver wire you want.
Charlie Villanueva, Pistons (ADP: 74; PR: 141): Villanueva is another power forward who was tantalizing on draft day, as he is seemingly oozing with potential. Few other forwards have the potential to average at least one 3-pointer, steal and block per game, as many of Villanueva's prospective owners anticipated, since it was assumed that the big free-agent splash would top 30 minutes a game for the first time in his career. Instead, however, it's been a lesson that old dogs don't learn new tricks, or that zebras don't change their stripes, or whatever cliché you prefer. Villanueva is averaging just 27 minutes of playing time, thanks primarily to the 3.4 fouls he averages. Last season, he averaged 3.3 fouls in just under 27 minutes per game, so that looks about right. And since he doesn't excel at any one thing offensively -- his career high in 3-point percentage is .345, and the most free throws he's averaged are 3.1 per game, both of which were set last season -- then the question you have to ask yourself is where any improvement will stem from. Chances are, what you see is what you will get with Villanueva: oodles and oodles of inconsistency.
John Salmons, Bulls (ADP: 76; PR: 82): It should be obvious a player had a career year when he shoots 41.7 percent from beyond the arc on 3.8 attempts per game when he previously had never topped 35.7 percent shooting from long range or ever averaged more than 1.9 3-pointers a game. Chances are some regression will occur, and so far this season it's been extreme. Salmons is shooting a woeful 34.5 percent from the field and 23.3 percent from the 3-point line on a whopping five attempts per game. He has managed to buffer this by averaging 2.3 steals per game, but considering he swiped just 1.1 steals in 37-plus minutes last season, that is probably a fluke. Instead, you're left with a one-dimensional scorer who shoots too much for his own good, risking your field goal percentage in the process. And since Salmons doesn't get to the line very often, he has to shoot lights-out from distance to be worth much of anything in fantasy leagues.
Allen Iverson, Grizzlies (ADP: 80; PR: 223): It should be obvious at this point that Iverson is any one of a number of unpleasant adjectives: arrogant, deluded, maybe a bit crazy, and more than a little self-obsessed. Few expected the situation to come to a head so early in the season, though I did state that I could see no way Iverson could average more than 25 minutes per game with all the young talent the Grizzlies have in their backcourt. If Iverson is going to pout about coming off the bench, fine, but why in the world is he still owned in 87.2 percent of leagues?
Wilson Chandler, Knicks (ADP: 129; PR: 116): I have seen Chandler described as a building block for the Knicks, and I am sincerely perplexed at the notion. Honestly, what does Chandler bring to the table? OK, in theory I get it. You expect a 22-year-old to make great leaps in his game. But this is now Chandler's third season, and he still hasn't shown he can shoot in an offense predicated on shooting. He's shooting 20.7 percent on 3-pointers this season, although that hasn't stopped him from attempting 3.6 per game. He doesn't get to the line (1.1 times per game), he fouls often (3.4 in 35 minutes this season; 3.1 in 33 minutes last season) and doesn't create very many shots for others. Sounds like a current place-holder and future sixth man to me.
Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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