The past few weeks have been unkind to fantasy basketball owners in terms of injuries. From short-term issues like those afflicting Harrison Barnes and Chris Paul to long-term ailments for Al Jefferson, Marcus Smart, Jonas Valanciunas and Rudy Gobert, a number of fantasy owners have been left scrambling to find replacements.
With injuries starting to pile up, now’s a good time to survey the trade market, particular if an owner will be without the services of Valanciunas or Gobert for the next few weeks. Is there another player of theirs you can buy low on in exchange for a short-term infusion of help? If so, now marks the perfect time to float an offer while they’re desperate to plug any holes on their roster.
Here, we’ll highlight three players who’ve caught fire of late and three players whose fantasy stock is plummeting. You shouldn’t necessarily sell high on the rising players or buy low on the falling players; instead, use this to recalibrate your expectations for all of them moving forward.
Derrick Favors, PF, Utah Jazz
As I wrote about in detail Thursday, Gobert is sidelined “indefinitely” with a Grade II MCL sprain, meaning Utah is likely to be without his services for at least a month. Until he returns, Derrick Favors is in line for a far heavier workload than he received through the first month of the season, where he averaged 16.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocks in just 31.0 minutes per game.
Favors didn’t erupt in his first game sans Gobert on Thursday against the Orlando Magic, putting up 12 points (on 4-of-7 shooting), 10 boards, two assists, a steal and a block in 38 minutes, but the increase in playing time is the big takeaway for fantasy owners. Prior to Thursday night’s action, Favors had topped the 35-minute mark just four times in his first 15 games. Assuming he continues racking up 35-plus minutes until Gobert returns, his fantasy value is bound to shoot up accordingly.
John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards
On Tuesday, CBS Sports’ Chris Towers wrote about John Wall’s early-season struggles (relatively speaking) in the context of fantasy. While most owners likely invested a late first- or early second-round pick in the Washington Wizards point guard, he had yet to return anywhere close to his draft-day value, averaging just 16.1 points, 7.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 1.2 treys and 1.0 blocks in 33.0 minutes per game.
Naturally, Wall responded with his two best games of the season, erupting for 35 points on 14-of-24 shooting, 10 assists, five steals, four rebounds and three triples in Washington’s 97-85 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday and following up with 34 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, three triples and two steals in the 108-104 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday. If those two games are a sign of things to come, Wall’s buy-low window has officially slammed shut.
Avery Bradley, SG, Boston Celtics
Heading into Friday’s action, Avery Bradley is owned in just 74.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Until Marcus Smart returns to action — Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Thursday that Smart is likely a “few weeks” away from doing just that, per ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg — Bradley shouldn’t be on a single waiver wire in leagues 10 teams or deeper.
Since returning from a calf injury that sidelined him for two games in mid-November, the former Texas Longhorn has been scorching hot, averaging 19.5 points, 3.0 triples, 2.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.9 assists in just 31.0 minutes per game over his past 11 contests. He’s started every game in Smart’s absence and has thrived in that role, making him a must-add at least until the second-year floor general returns to action.
Eric Gordon, SG, New Orleans Pelicans
Last week, I warned fantasy owners to sell high on Eric Gordon, as the imminent return of Tyreke Evans threatened to blast his value into smithereens. Lo and behold, when Evans returned Tuesday against the Memphis Grizzlies, Gordon shifted to the bench and finished with just eight points on 2-of-5 shooting, four assists, one rebound and one block in a season-low 19 minutes and 30 seconds.
Gordon bounced back with 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, two assists, two boards and a triple in 33-plus minutes against Houston the next night, but Jrue Holiday sat that game out. As Evans and Holiday work their way back to a regular minutes load, Gordon’s playing time and usage could begin to plummet, which will do no favors to his fantasy value.
Evan Fournier, SG/SF, Orlando Magic
Evan Fournier likewise made the sell-high list last week, as he’d played the third-most minutes per game of any player at the time. Ever since Orlando Magic head coach Scott Skiles shuffled his starting lineup, though, sending Victor Oladipo to the bench in favor of Channing Frye, Fournier’s minutes have plummeted, sending his fantasy value into a tailspin, too.
After averaging 18.8 points, 4.0 boards, 2.8 dimes, 2.5 treys and 1.4 steals in a whopping 37.1 minutes per game through his first 14 contests, he’s gone for just 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 treys and 0.8 steals in 25.4 minutes per game over his past five. Fournier’s surprising early-season production was a direct result of his huge amount of playing time, and unless Skiles reshuffles his rotation once more, it appears as though the gravy train has come to an end.
Nikola Jokic, PF/C, Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic’s fantasy relevance was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it? The rookie big man looked like a worthwhile pickup after erupting for 23 points and 12 rebounds against the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 18, as he promptly forced his way into Denver’s starting lineup and averaged 11.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.3 blocks in just 23.2 minutes per game over his next three contests.
However, owners who rushed to scoop Jokic up last week are likely ready to cut bait on him, as he’s averaged just 7.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.6 blocks, 0.4 assists and 0.2 steals in 16.1 minutes per game over his past five contests. Nuggets head coach Mike Malone opted to move Jokic back to the bench Thursday, installing Joffrey Lauvergne as his starting center instead, thus ending any reason to hold on to Jokic except in deeper leagues.