Player Rater: Sell-high options
Which players appear to have maximized their fantasy value already?
Last week, we took a look at some players who have been underachieving (at least in fantasy) in the early part of the season in order to think about players you might want to target in trades. Of course, there's another side to that coin. This has been a strange season, and that means there are quite a few players who have found themselves among the elite on the Player Rater but probably won't be there by the end of the season. Those are the players you might want to look to trade in the coming weeks if you can get good value for them. Here are a few to consider.
(Current ranking, based on per-game averages, in parentheses.)
Paul Millsap, PF, Utah Jazz (19): I love Millsap's game, and his inclusion on this list is not an indictment of his style in any way, but it's going to be extremely tough for him to maintain the sort of value he's had so far this season. A quick look at his Hollinger stats shows he's averaging career highs in rebound rate, usage rate, turnover rate and free throw percentage, and while it makes sense for a guy who is 26 to be having the best season of his career, it just feels like there's room for some drop-off from his current level as the season wears on. In a way, it's already happening. He's taken a hit in field goal percentage from 54.3 in January to just 47.8 so far in February, and is averaging far fewer points as well. Another huge concern is that he's averaging 1.5 steals per game for the season but hasn't had more than one in a game in his past six games. He's playing fewer minutes than he did last season, and that's unlikely to change, given the plethora of power forwards vying for minutes on the Jazz roster. Millsap's going to keep playing great basketball all season, but to expect him to continue hanging around in the top 20 is probably a mistake.
Tyson Chandler, C, New York Knicks (26): Traditionally, you draft Chandler in fantasy leagues because you know he'll get you rebounds and blocks while contributing in field goal percentage. That's usually just about the end of his list of contributions. This season, Chandler is doing all those things and more, and frankly, it's been pretty amazing so far. He doesn't take a ton of shots, but he's leading the league in field goal percentage (70.8 percent) by such a wide margin that the distance between Chandler and second place is roughly the same as the distance between second place and 82nd place. That's unlikely to continue, of course. In fact, if Chandler shoots anywhere near 70 percent for the season, he's going to set the all-time record. It's great that he's been this good so far, it's just unlikely to continue. There's more: Chandler is currently working on career highs in free-throw percentage and steals per game, and both by comfortable margins as well. Basically, his value is as high as it will ever be. Possible trade targets -- depending on what sort of stats you're looking for -- might be Pau Gasol and Al Jefferson, both of whom should be better than Chandler from this point forward and would be fantastic returns if you could get them.
Mike Conley, PG, Memphis Grizzlies (29): Conley is averaging 2.4 steals per game this season, which ties him with Ricky Rubio and Chris Paul for the league lead. Over his past five games, he's actually up to 2.6 per game, so he hasn't really necessarily done anything to warrant my skepticism. Still, last season he averaged just 1.8 steals, which was already a career high by a big margin, and to jump to 2.4 in the same number of minutes per game is pretty remarkable. There are other reasons he's on this list; first and foremost is the fact that his shooting percentage is falling rapidly, and 42.8 for the season is already less than stellar. Over the past five games, his assists are down as well, from 7.0 to 5.8. Those areas are definitely a concern, but the steals are the main reason you might want to consider trading him if you can afford to lose, say, one steal per game. For example, Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday is currently 64th on the Player Rater. His averages are actually better than Conley's in most areas -- scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, 3s made -- but he's down a bit from Conley in assists and steals. If you can afford the slight drop-off from Conley to Holiday in those two areas, you could possibly trade a guy who has absolutely maxed out his value on the Player Rater for a guy who should be climbing up the ladder as the season goes on. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Conley and Holiday end up within a few spots of one another by the time the season is over.
Ryan Anderson, PF, Orlando Magic (34): Anderson is having a very nice season, but he's really only a contributor in four fantasy categories: points, rebounds, free throw percentage and made 3-pointers. It's the last category that makes him special; he's leading the league by 10 3s over Anthony Morrow, and that separation means his fantasy value is heavily tilted toward that particular area. Dropping from 2.9 3s per game to, say, 2.2 (which is what he's averaging over his past five games) would be enough to almost knock him out of the top 50 on the Player Rater all by itself, but when you add in the drop-off in scoring that would come with fewer 3s, Anderson's fantasy status becomes a little more questionable. He could slip a lot in the rankings and still be a far better fantasy option than anyone expected heading into this season (his average draft position was 119), but that's no reason not to explore trading him while his value is at its absolute highest.
Jeff Teague, PG, Atlanta Hawks (59): Teague has been a nice story this season, piloting the Hawks to a record far better than anyone expected, especially with Al Horford missing significant time. Teague is extremely fast and has done a great job of getting to the rim and finishing with regularity, so much so that he's shooting 48.6 percent from the floor, a great percentage for a point guard, especially this season. He's also been a great source of steals, averaging 1.8 per game, but that number feels a bit tenuous. Over his past five games, he's averaging just 0.6 steals, including three games in which he had none. Just as troubling is that his minutes have fallen from 33.0 for the season to 28.4, and his assists have dropped from 5.0 per game to 4.0 over that same stretch. Part of this is because of Kirk Hinrich, who has played 19.0 minutes per game since his return to the lineup, but the other reason is simply that the Hawks have a lot of guards at the moment with Tracy McGrady and Willie Green both playing reasonably well off the bench as well. Given the fact that this is Teague's first season as a starter, it probably makes sense for the Hawks to try to regulate his minutes so that he doesn't wear down, but that's bad news for fantasy owners. I don't think he'll fall off much from his season averages, but even a small drop-off would really hurt his overall ranking; just dropping his steals per game from 1.8 to 1.6 would probably bring his ranking down from 59th to 70th. If you can afford to move him, wait for him to have another good game and then pull the trigger, because his value is probably at his highest.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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