Good players on likely bad teams

Updated: November 6, 2012, 3:23 PM ET
By John Cregan | Special to ESPN.com

What are some of the leading factors that cause a player to be undervalued?

The No. 1 individual trait is always a low points-per-game average. Because we are trained from our earliest childhood basketball experiences to overemphasize scoring's importance, we fantasy basketball enthusiasts are often guilty of prizing one-dimensional players who score and do little else.

But once we get beyond the points bias, we get into team-wide bias -- when an individual player's value is artificially boosted or depressed due to the perception of his given team.

It's simply the laws of dynamics at work. Winning teams deservedly get more attention. Large-market teams get more attention whether they deserve it or not. Hype has an effect, especially at draft time.

That surplus of attention has an effect on players' fantasy fortunes. It's why a Los Angeles Lakers fan has to overpay for a Kobe Bryant or a Pau Gasol. Or a Miami Heat fan has to spend a first-rounder on Dwyane Wade.

Conversely, it's also why players like Anderson Varejao or Brandon Jennings invariably go a round or two lower than they should.

It's obviously early. Three or four games don't constitute much of a sample size. But some smaller-market teams -- and/or teams projected to land in the lottery -- are already starting to shift the market in fantasy.

Let's take a look at a few teams that are shaking things up right out of the gate.

(These stats don't include the Monday night games.)

Houston Rockets

Heavy Rotation Players:
James Harden, SG: 41.7 MPG, 35.3 PTS, 6.3 REB, 6.3 AST, 2.3 3PM, 1.7 STL, .529 FG%, .818 FT%
Chandler Parsons, SF: 40.0 MPG, 8.7 PTS, 8.0 REB, 5.0 AST, 1.3 STL, 1.0 3PM
Jeremy Lin, PG: 37.7 MPG, 15.3 PTS, 7.3 AST, 5.7 REB, 2.3 STL, .917 FT%
Omer Asik, C: 34.7 MPG, 5.3 PTS, 14.3 REB, 1.7 BLK
Patrick Patterson, PF: 33.5 MPG. 10.5 PTS, 6.5 REB, 1.5 STL

Bench Players To Watch:
Carlos Delfino, SF/SG: 8.0 PTS, 4.3 REB, 2.0 3PM, 1.3 STL
Marcus Morris, PF: 12.0 PTS, 5.0 REB, 1.0 3PM
Royce White/Terrence Jones PF

[+] EnlargeJames Harden
Dan Lippit/NBAE via Getty ImagesJeremy Lin and James Harden already had lots of fantasy value, but they also could have some extra help around them.

In previous seasons, the Rockets' chief fantasy issue was depth, as in too much of it. As in too much mid-level, medium-upside talent up and down the roster. So statistical superstar Daryl Morey finally went young in an attempt to improve draft position, gather assets and hoard cap space to make a run at a marquee name or two.

Now with Harden's arrival, the plan is ahead of schedule.

The backcourt is set -- I'd go as far as "ossified"-- with two players on track to average 35-plus minutes per game for the foreseeable future. Asik (foul trouble willing) is locked into a 32-35 MPG role, the question being whether he can offer any offensive production of remote note (the answer so far is no).

Both forward positions offer untapped fantasy opportunity.

Chandler Parsons is getting a bushel of minutes at present, and he's producing. But it wasn't too long ago that Carlos Delfino was one of fantasy's best box-score-stuffing success stories.

Delfino had visa issues in the preseason and didn't really get it going until late October. Parsons-Delfino could devolve into a value-killing timeshare, or it could work out with Delfino filling the type of role Harden performed back in Oklahoma City. Don't scoff; Delfino can back up the two. He has more to offer than 3-pointers, if he can stay healthy.

Power forward could be a gold mine, or regress into four-headed statistical miasma.

With Asik averaging only 5.7 points per game, there's a lot of pressure on the Rockets' power forwards to provide some interior scoring punch. If Patterson falters, the Rockets have multiple youngsters with upside to burn in White, Morris and Jones.

Or the Rockets could always make another trade. They've done it before. As in about 10 days ago.

Phoenix Suns

Heavy Rotation Players:
Goran Dragic, PG: 35.3 MPG, 14.7 PTS, 8.7 AST, 1.7 STL, 1.0 3PM
Marcin Gortat, C: 35.0 MPG, 13.3 PTS, 12.0 REB, 4.0 BLK, .543 FG%
Luis Scola, PF: 31.0 MPG, 17.3 PTS, 9.0 REB, 1.7 STL, 1.3 BLK, .533 FG%, .833 FT%
Jared Dudley, SF/SG: 28.3 MPG, 5.3 PTS, 0.7 3PM, .316 FG%
Michael Beasley, SF/PF: 28.3 MPG, 15.3 PTS, 5.7 REB, 1.3 3PM, 1.0 STL

Bench players to watch:
Shannon Brown, SG: 20.3 MPG, 9.3 PTS, 2.0 AST
Markieff Morris, PF: 17.0 MPG, 4.7 PTS, 3.3 REB

[+] EnlargeGoran Dragic
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinGoran Dragic has gotten his season off to a solid start and was probably overlooked by many fantasy owners.

Here are some fertile fantasy conditions: no franchise player, lottery-bound in a tough conference, and four players on track to average between 28 to 35 minutes per game.

Contrast the Suns' distribution of minutes with a deep playoff-bound team such as the Celtics, who currently feature seven players averaging at least 22 minutes per night. (And that number will climb to eight when Avery Bradley returns.)

Depth is fantastic when constructing a team to advance deep into the postseason, but it's a real buzzkill for said team's ongoing fantasy prospects.

Dragic and Gortat were two of my most-drafted players of this preseason. Their ADPs seemed criminally low. Why did they drop? Both players were recent additions, hailing from (A) other smaller market teams and (B) foreign countries. Both players also only became full-time starters over the past season or so. And no one nationally was talking up Phoenix.

Then you also add a couple of change-of-scenery bounceback candidates in Scola and Beasley. In this lineup, Beasley should evolve into a role as the Suns' go-to-guy in crunch time, and Scola will, as always, continue to provide cheap blocks and boards.

Orlando Magic

Heavy Rotation Players:
Jameer Nelson, PG: 35.0 MPG, 9.0 PTS, 7.0 AST, 4.0 REB, 1.0 3PM, 1.0 STL (currently day-to-day)
Arron Afflalo, SG: 35.0 MPG, 14.5 PTS, 1.5 3PM, 5.0 REB
J.J. Redick, SG: 34.0 MPG, 22.5 PTS, 6.0 AST, 3.0 3PM, 1.0 STL, .640 FG%
Glen Davis, PF/C: 33.0 MPG, 25.5 PTS, 9.0 REB, 1.0 STL, 1.0 BLK
E'Twaun Moore, SG: 31.5 MPG, 14.0 PTS, 4.5 AST, 4.0 REB, 2.0 3PN, 1.5 STL, .571 FG%
Nikola Vucevic, PF/C: 26.5 MPG, 12.0 PTS, 8.5 REB, 1.0 STL, 1.0 BLK, .545 FG%

Bench Players To Watch:
Josh McRoberts, PF: 23.0 MPG, 7.0 PTS, 7.0 REB
Gustavo Ayon, PF (Out): 9.0 MPG, 0.0 PTS, 4.0 REB
Andrew Nicholson, PF: 3.5 PTS
Maurice Harkless, SF (Out)
Al Harrington, PF (Out)
Hedo Turkoglu, SF (Out)

[+] EnlargeGlen Davis
Rob Foldy/US PresswireGlen Davis has gotten off to a nice start. How long will that last?

Are the Magic getting the last laugh? After they were collectively guffawed out of the building by every NBA observer in existence? Well, no one here's going to make anyone forget Dwight Howard. But the Magic could be primed to provide a couple of heartwarming little fantasy success stories (At least it will be heartwarming for me; I'm a sucker for post one-sided-trade team-wide revenge seasons.).

As of this writing, the Magic sport six players notching at least 26.5 minutes a game. It's a mirage. Merely temporary. Because the Magic also have six players nursing injuries. And those six have the potential to play their way onto the fantasy radar. Some are grizzled vets (Harrington, Turkoglu). Some are unproven but carry buzz (Harkless, Ayon).

As Redick and Moore inevitably cool off, and Nelson and company heal up, the Magic's teamwide fantasy mojo will become more difficult to peg. There are a ton of variables at play here. This is essentially an expansion team. They're constructed to garner a high lottery pick for a lengthy rebuild.

They could go all-young with Harkless and Nicholson. Or they could go for instantaneously semi-respectable with Harrington and Turkoglu. Or something in between. It will be a while before I totally trust what's going on here.

New Orleans Hornets

Heavy Rotation Players:
Greivis Vasquez, PG: 36.7 MPG, 13.0 PTS, 9.7 AST 4.7 REB
Ryan Anderson, PF: 34.0 MPG, 14.0 PTS, 8.0 REB, 2.3 3PM
Al-Farouq Aminu, SF: 32.7 MPG, 13.3 PTS. 7.0 REB, 2.0 STL, 1.7 BLK, .594 FG%
Robin Lopez, C: 31.3 MPG. 14.3 PTS, 7.7 REB, 2.0 BLK, .556 FG%
Austin Rivers, SG/PG: 29.0 MPG, 6.0 PTS, 3.3 AST. 1.7 STL
Anthony Davis, PF/C (Out): 21.5 MPG, 14.5 PTS, 6.5 REB, 1.5 BLK, 1.0 STL

Bench Players To Watch:
Eric Gordon, SG (Out)

[+] EnlargeAl-Farouq Aminu
Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty ImagesAl-Farouq Aminu has the potential to fill up all different categories on a consistent basis.

When your franchise player can't get on the court, and is having words like "microfracture" mentioned, it's going to open up production up and down the rest of that team's lineup. And because the Hornets carry a lack of depth at multiple positions (every position but power forward), it points toward a highly concentrated mix of minutes and touches at the top of their rotation.

A small confession: I've had a small roto crush on Aminu since he came into the league. He's got the sort of athleticism that translates into across-the-board box scores. If he stays around 30 MPG, and can hit the occasional 3-pointer, Aminu could crack the top 40 on the Player Rater.

I'm a little concerned about the roles in the frontcourt, especially Ryan Anderson coming off the bench. Davis will eventually garner the lion's share of frontcourt minutes. My guess is that Robin Lopez's playing time will suffer as a result, probably dropping into the 27-30 MPG range.

Austin Rivers is a rising X-factor. There's a growing possibility that Eric Gordon will be shelved for the duration. Rivers has struggled from the field, but he's recovering from some (less serious) injuries of his own (two ankle sprains).

With only Roger Mason pushing for minutes, it's entirely possible that Rivers could have a long-term 30 minutes per game delivered to him on a silver platter. With no playoff expectations, Rivers would be given every opportunity to stick as the starter.

As a lottery pick, Rivers carries some pretty high expectations of his own. Scouts and personnel men seem divided on Rivers, but I'm guessing the upside is there.

John Cregan

Fantasy Basketball
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.