- John Cregan, Fantasy Basketball
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With the fantasy trade deadline upon us, and deals both in the NBA and fantasy leagues flying fast and furious, many of you are taking a final opportunity to make sweeping changes to your rosters.
But when considering new additions to your team, I strongly recommend staying away from seasonal average statistics when considering a player.
Don't be taken in by pre-New Year's numbers. A month is a lifetime in an NBA player's statistical portfolio. When you're considering a deal, ignore what the players in question did back in November and December, and instead focus on their January and February numbers.
I'm not a big believer in the "rookie wall," but I do believe in younger players (and older players) having a propensity to slump as the season progresses. And beyond that, some players are just historically streaky. Own Stephen Jackson for a month, and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Let's take a look at some players whose performance during the past month has been trending downward. Remember, I'm not talking about these players' values falling through the floorboards. Rather, I'm talking about players whose value might be inflated due to having a particularly hot start to the season, or players who have been inconsistent due to injury.
With an average draft position of 3.1, it's safe to say Paul has been a minor disappointment this season. The problem is easy to diagnose; Paul has been slow to bounce back from last year's knee surgery. But Paul's more pronounced dip as of late might actually be connected to an unlikely source: Emeka Okafor. Paul and the Hornets have struggled mightily since Okafor went on the shelf 10 games ago with a strained oblique.
But several signs point toward a Paul bounce-back in the short term and the long term. Okafor is due to return Friday, and the Hornets just made a move to shore up their front line by acquiring Carl Landry. These developments should help stabilize Paul's statistical slump, but maybe more importantly, Paul has recently begun playing without his knee brace. As anyone who's suffered a big injury can tell you, losing the recuperative hardware is an important psychological step in getting your mindset back to pre-surgery levels.
Since Miller has never (ever) been able to develop a consistent outside shot, his value has always been tied exclusively to his production in assists and steals. He simply must sustain above-average levels in those categories to retain his value. Lately, Miller's been a stabilizing force on the injury-plagued Blazers, offering some of the better lines he's had in the past few years.
But these numbers have been inflated due to Miller playing too many minutes during the past month. Even if Miller (the subject of a ton of trade rumors) stays in Portland, I see him dropping off down the stretch due to two factors: mileage and Brandon Roy. Miller's been averaging a season-high 36.0 minutes per game in February, a lot of court time for a 34-year-old guard. The easing back in of Roy should take some of the pressure off Miller, which is good for the Blazers, but bad for Andre Miller owners.
Overall, Ginobili is enjoying one of the more consistent and injury-free seasons of his career. But compare his scoring averages in November (22.5 ppg) and December (21.8) to his averages in January (18.4) and February (13.0), and you'll see a tale of two seasons.
Ginobili is coming off a tough extended road trip, so he has a chance for some improvement at home. But like Miller, Ginobili has been logging way too many minutes for a guard in his mid-30s. And he didn't get to take the All-Star weekend to recharge, as he obviously had to play in the All-Star Game. Look for Gregg Popovich to rest Ginobili as much as possible down the stretch for the playoffs, and for Ginobili's numbers to continue to suffer.
As I said earlier, I don't believe in the "rookie wall," but rookies are incredibly inconsistent. And rookie shooting guards are, along with centers, the most inconsistent rookies on the fantasy landscape. Fields has been a pleasant surprise this season, obviously rating highly enough with the Knicks' brass to be one of the few remaining Knicks to survive the Carmelo Anthony trade.
Fields' minutes should climb post-trade, but I see the trade having a short-term negative effect on his numbers. Minutes-wise, Fields should actually improve, but I think he's going to have to take some time to adjust to a radically revamped roster. He's also now going to have to defer to not one, but two score-first stars in Amare Stoudemire and Anthony. Fields has all the earmarks of a great role player a la Tayshaun Prince, but he's going to have to look for his shot more often to stay firmly on the fantasy radar. As a result, he might be in a push-pull situation with Toney Douglas (a more aggressive shooter) for the rest of this season.
It's difficult to project Beasley's production because this is really his first true season as a full-time starter. On top of that, Beasley's been plagued by a balky ankle, interrupting what's been one of the nicer surprise stories in fantasy.
Beasley rested his ankle up to the All-Star break in hopes of getting right, but his first two games back have been decidedly uneven. He shot 10-for-17 with one rebound Tuesday night, and then turned around and shot only 5-for-17 with seven rebounds Wednesday night. During the course of this season, Beasley has displayed an ability to fill a box score in different ways, but he hasn't been a very prolific rebounder. It's difficult snaring 8-10 rebounds per game alongside Kevin Love, but if Beasley's banged up for the duration, he's going to have to produce in areas other than scoring to make up for these up-and-down shooting performances.
Boozer's recent drop in scoring isn't what worries me. What worries me is what effect Joakim Noah might have on Boozer's rebounding long term.
Like Beasley (and Marc Gasol), Boozer's value might be hurt by playing next to such a prolific rebounder. Due to injury, we haven't really gotten an extended look at how Noah and Boozer will coexist on the Bulls' front line, but we should get a chance to see how it's going to work the final month of the season.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Past 10 games: 11.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, .473 FG%
Last season, Gasol was one of the most underrated players in all of fantasy. This season, he's been a frustrating player to own, as he started very slowly out of the gate due to an ankle injury.
The past month or so has been a waiting game, as owners have been looking for a stretch of box scores steady enough to pronounce Gasol as being "back." So far, that stretch hasn't happened. Most troubling of all has been Gasol's anemic rebounding. I realize playing alongside Zach Randolph is going to sap your rebounding numbers, but Gasol has no business averaging fewer than six rebounds a game.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
John Cregan discusses players who are trending downward as February winds down.