Commentary

Grand Theft Roto: Hot starters to keep

Updated: November 17, 2009, 2:21 PM ET
By Adam Madison | Special to ESPN.com

One of the strongest tenets in fantasy basketball is the theory of buying low and selling high. The oft-repeated mantra is good advice for a reason, but examining its inverse can also prove to be valuable: selling low and buying high.

Last week's Grand Theft Roto looked at a handful of players whose stock had fallen precipitously since draft day. This week, however, is the opposite: an examination of players whose stock has soared, players you might look at through three weeks and feel tempted to trade while they're at the peak of their value. After all, with more than 10 percent of the season in the books, for the most part players have shown their true colors at this point. Even the most unlikely success stories have enough games under their belts to hold some serious trade value, and now it's time to decide just how much confidence to place in early-season performance.

It can be tough to decide whether to hold on to a player who is off to a scorching start, especially one out of line with his career numbers. Players in the midst of career years can also be difficult to trade and still receive full value for, as there will always be a fair share of skeptics. But if you own one of the following players, shipping one of them off for anything other than full value probably will end up biting you in the rear, with one glaring exception.

Andrew Bynum
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesAndrew Bynum's 39.3 minutes per game are sure to come down in the very near future.
Andrew Bynum, Lakers: Although Bynum is currently the top-ranked center, don't be surprised if you find an opposing owner attempting to smooth-talk you into selling high on Bynum, noting his prior injury history and the eventual return of Pau Gasol. This isn't really a breakout for Bynum, however; on a per-minute basis, his numbers are eerily similar to last season's, with an uptick in points and rebounds along with a drastic decrease in fouls. Instead of performing over his head, Bynum is really just living up to his upside. As for the return of Gasol threatening his numbers, it would seem that Bynum's 22-year-old legs are better equipped to deal with the grind of the regular season, so the Lakers could just as easily decide to lean on Bynum and conserve Kobe Bryant and Gasol for the playoffs. Bynum might not average 20 and 11 all season, but he'll be pretty darn close.


Marc Gasol, Grizzlies: Speaking of Gasols, Marc Gasol -- along with Brandon Jennings -- may be the biggest surprise of the season so far. Pau's brother has worked hard to improve his game, however, and he has a stranglehold on minutes since the Grizzlies want to slowly assimilate top draft pick Hasheem Thabeet into the mix. Indeed, Gasol is logging nearly 36 minutes per game despite averaging four fouls a contest, and his efficient, low-usage game meshes well with the rest of the Grizzlies' roster. His knack for getting to the free throw line (6.1 attempts) is another positive underlying indicator, and the Grizzlies' waiving of Allen Iverson ensures Gasol will continue to get his fair share of possessions.

Chris Kaman, Clippers: Judging from your e-mails, it seems that many of Kaman's owners would really like to sell high on him if they can. But what is the rush, I ask? Although Kaman's scoring outburst has been legitimately shocking, it's not as if the seemingly ambidextrous big man lacks talent. As recently as 2007-08, Kaman was a beast, averaging 12.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 37 minutes. This season, his production has been a bit more focused on the offensive end, but the main reason to believe is that he has finally cut down on his foul rate, averaging a manageable 2.4 fouls per game this season. The eventual return of Blake Griffin could throw a monkey wrench into things, but as long as Kaman is playing at an All-Star level, it's doubtful his minutes would dip below the mid-30s, and if it results in less offense but better rebounding and shot-blocking, his owners won't complain. Others may shy away from his injury history, but his improved conditioning should help there, and even if he does end up hurting himself, 60 games of elite-level production more than makes up for it.

Jason Thompson, Kings: A large reason new coach Paul Westphal was hired was to develop the Kings' young talent, and Thompson has been the main beneficiary of that "let 'em play" attitude. Despite racking up 4.1 fouls per game, the power forward is still averaging more than 34 minutes in the Kings' up-tempo attack. He simply makes too many things happen on the court, averaging 6.4 free throw attempts to go along with 4.8 offensive rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. As a productive young player on a bad team with a lot of possessions to offer, Thompson looks like a great bet to maintain his surprising performance throughout the season; I would inquire about his availability as often as I could.

Channing Frye
Barry Gossage/Getty ImagesChanning Frye already has more 3-pointers this season (32) than he had in his first four seasons (20).
Channing Frye, Suns: Being labeled a one-trick pony is often a negative thing in fantasy leagues, and it's often difficult to get proper value for that kind of player. Sorted by averages, the Player Rater says Frye is a top-40 asset, but you would probably get mocked if you tried to ship him out for, say, Gilbert Arenas, the player right behind him. Since it's unlikely you'll be able to trade him for full value, just feel content milking him for all he's worth. He serves a unique purpose on the Suns that they cannot easily replicate, so playing time should remain consistent, and as long as teams continue to play off him, his robust long-range shooting shouldn't be seen as a fluke. And unlike many other one-trick ponies, he's just average enough in other categories to keep you afloat, giving you a lot of roster flexibility as a center providing two-plus 3-pointers a game.


Aaron Brooks, Rockets: A sleeper favorite by many entering the season, Brooks has cashed in on his opportunity this season, averaging 18.3 points on 14.3 shot attempts per game. The problem, however, is that it's hard to see much area for growth. A career 40.5 percent shooter entering the season, it's doubtful Brooks can maintain the 45.5 percent shooting he's put up this season, since he neither gets to the line particularly often nor shoots the long ball very well. His lack of steals (0.5 per game) is also appalling, and Kyle Lowry is a capable backup who could end up being a thorn in Brooks' side more than a couple of times this season. And the same owners who liked him as a sleeper before the season are now only going to be even more confident that he's the real deal, giving him some inflated trade value.

Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at mr.adam.madison@gmail.com .

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