Roughly one month into the 2015-16 NBA season, it’s time to begin sniffing around the fantasy basketball trade market if you haven’t already done so. If your fellow leaguemates spent an early- or mid-round pick on a player who has started the season off slowly, they may be ready to cut bait on him at a discount.
Some players, like Goran Dragic and LaMarcus Aldridge, aren’t necessarily worth targeting in a trade, as their draft-day value and rest-of-season outlook are too far apart to construct a reasonable deal. Others, however, may simply be mired in a slow start due to an injury, an unexpected reduction in playing time or an early-season slump that should eventually regress to the mean.
The following five players, in particular, are worth attempting to acquire at a slight discount, as they’re likely to begin providing far higher value than what they have to date. If you’re able to take advantage of an impatient owner, it could help your squad move one step closer to your league’s title.
Tyreke Evans, PG/SG/SF, New Orleans Pelicans
Heading into the season, I was all over Tyreke Evans as one of the best mid-round values on the draft board. A week before the season began, however, he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee that was expected to sideline him for six to eight weeks, submarining his draft-day value. If the owner who drafted him needs immediate help, he’s perhaps the No. 1 buy-low target in all of fantasy basketball, as he could be returning within the week, per John Reid of the Times-Picayune.
If Evans’ owner isn’t aware of his imminent return, you should be able to steal him by shipping out an early-season overachiever like Evan Fournier or Kent Bazemore. Even if his owner refuses to move him until he returns, he’s likely to be limited in his first few games as he gets his legs under him again. Considering he finished last season ranked 38th on ESPN’s Player Rater, he’s a player worth moving heaven and earth to acquire, especially with Jrue Holiday still dealing with a minutes restriction.
Nikola Mirotic, SF/PF, Chicago Bulls
I mentioned Nikola Mirotic as a “faller” in last week’s Stock Report column, as he had come crashing back to earth following a scorching start to the season. As Today’s Fastbreak colleague Michael Wonsover wrote Friday, Mirotic has been relying far too heavily on jump shots—particularly above-the-break three-pointers—which has limited his ability to draw fouls after excelling at that as a rookie.
Against the Golden State Warriors on Friday, Mirotic showed some promising flashes, finishing with 18 points (albeit on 6-of-17 shooting and 0-of-6 from deep), 10 points, five assists and a steal in 36 minutes. Though his three-point shooting continues to abandon him, the 36 minutes far surpassed his previous high in November, which is undoubtedly a positive step forward. Given Mirotic’s limited track record, you should tread with caution when making a trade offer for him, but he’s almost certain to improve upon his currently dismal value.
Danny Green, SG/SF, San Antonio Spurs
In 2014-15, Danny Green usurped Nicolas Batum as the sneaky-good fantasy player who a casual NBA fan would hardly notice in real life. He finished the year ranked 21st on ESPN’s Player Rater, having averaged 11.7 points on 43.6 percent shooting, 4.2 rebounds, 2.4 treys, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes per game, proving that limited playing time isn’t necessarily a death knell for his fantasy value.
Though his steals and blocks totals are slightly down early in the 2015-16 campaign, his assists figure is actually higher than it was last year. What’s changed? He’s suddenly gone cold from the field, averaging just 7.2 points on 33.0 percent shooting and just 1.4 treys on 29.5 percent shooting from deep. Seeing as he’s shot in the mid-40s both in overall field-goal percentage and the low-40s in three-point percentage each of the past four seasons, it’s reasonable to expect a regression to the mean eventually, making Green a tantalizing buy-low target.
Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Philadelphia 76ers
Today’s Fastbreak colleague Haddon Anderson recently named Nerlens Noel to his “Biggest Early-Season Disappointments” list, and it’s not difficult to see why. After finishing 52nd on ESPN’s Player Rater last season, many fantasy owners (including myself) had justifiably high expectations for Noel this year, but he’s yet to deliver on that promise, averaging 11.0 points on just 42.6 percent shooting, 8.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1.3 assists and 1.0 blocks in 31.4 minutes per game.
The Sixers’ addition of Jahlil Okafor appears to be adversely affecting Noel’s fantasy production, as he’s being asked to play out of position at the 4, limiting his ability to rack up defensive stats and easy buckets around the rim. To head coach Brett Brown’s credit, though, he’s begun splitting up their minutes and playing Noel more at the 5, which should help boost the Kentucky product’s fantasy value. If Noel’s owner is frustrated with his early-season lack of production and is willing to sell him for 70 cents on the dollar, his upside makes him an ideal buy-low candidate.
Terrence Jones, PF, Houston Rockets
Terrence Jones is one of those under-the-radar mid-to-late-round picks that can help you win your league without anyone being the wiser. Injuries limited Jones to just 33 games last year, perhaps explaining why his ADP had him pegged as a late ninth- or early 10th-round pick this fall, and a lacerated eyelid suffered in Houston’s second game of the season wound up costing him five contests. As a result, he’s just 217th on ESPN’s Player Rater at the moment, likely far off the radar of most owners.
When healthy enough to play, however, Jones is averaging 12.9 points on 47.4 percent shooting, 5.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.8 triples and 0.6 steals in 27.7 minutes per game, making him an intriguing buy-low target. So long as he can avoid further injuries, his well-rounded contributions are sure to help any fantasy squad, particularly with Donatas Motiejunas’ return still seemingly a ways away.