Now that Dec. 15 has passed, most NBA players who signed with a team during the offseason can be moved in a trade. These next two months — until the Feb. 18 trade deadline — are some of the most important of the fantasy basketball regular season, as certain deals are bound to radically shake up the current landscape.
As general managers begin to work the trade market behind the scenes, coaches may alter their rotations in anticipation of such moves. Phoenix head coach Jeff Hornacek appears to be preparing for life without Markieff Morris, as he’s handing the forward DNP-CDs left and right. Other coaches may be forced to hand additional minutes to particular players in an attempt to increase their value to other teams. The concept of selling high and buying low isn’t just limited to fantasy leagues.
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.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG/SF, Detroit Pistons
The long-awaited Kentavious Caldwell-Pope breakout finally appears to be happening, as Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy is heaping an unbelievably high minutes load upon him. After cracking the 18-point threshold just three times in his first 20 games, he’s topped that mark four times in his past seven, including a career-high 31-point eruption against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
Over that seven-game span, KCP averaged 18.3 points on 47.4 percent shooting, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 steals, 2.6 assists and 1.7 triples in a whopping 38.0 minutes. Before penciling him into your lineup for the rest of the season, however, keep in mind that his minutes are bound to regress later in the season once Jodie Meeks returns from his foot fracture, making him a possible sell-high candidate.
Jrue Holiday, PG, New Orleans Pelicans
Fantasy owners who weathered the early-season storm with Jrue Holiday may be on the precipice of relief. Last Saturday, New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters that the UCLA product will soon be cleared to play in both games of a back-to-back set, and he’s reportedly just two weeks away from having his minute restriction lifted entirely.
Holiday has been coming off the bench as of late, but he’s thrived in that role, averaging 16.0 points, 4.6 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 triples and 2.0 steals in just 25.2 minutes over his past five games. With his playing time likely to spike soon, this may be the last chance to buy Holiday at even a slight discount, although you’d be justified paying full price for him given his recent production.
Michael Carter-Williams, PG/SG, Milwaukee Bucks
Three weeks ago, Michael Carter-Williams found himself in the “Falling” section of the stock report, and that was before Bucks head coach Jason Kidd moved him into a reserve role. He badly struggled through much of November, failing to score 10 points in seven of nine games at one point, but he finally appears to be coming around, delivering the value fantasy owners expected when they invested a mid-round pick in him.
Over his past seven games, MCW averaged 14.7 points on 47.9 percent shooting, 6.6 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.4 blocks in 31.5 minutes a night. With Greivis Vasquez now out through the All-Star break and Jerryd Bayless nursing an ankle sprain, Kidd reinserted Carter-Williams in the starting lineup against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. If that winds up being a permanent change, his fantasy value only figures to continue rising.
Terrence Jones, PF, Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets have a frontcourt glut that’s draining the fantasy value of its big men, particularly Terrence Jones. The Kentucky product appeared to be rounding into form early in December, averaging 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.0 blocks and 0.7 triples in 27.6 minutes over his first three contests of the month, but he quickly fell off the fantasy map ever since.
Over Jones’s past five games, he averaged just 6.0 points on a ghastly 37.0 percent shooting, 4.4 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 0.8 assists, 0.4 triples and 0.2 steals in 18.0 minutes, although a 16-point performance in Houston’s blowout of the Lakers on Thursday inflate those stats. The Rockets have reportedly engaged several teams in trade talks for Jones, per ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, but he shouldn’t be in any fantasy lineups unless he does get traded or Houston’s frontcourt logjam clears up.
Tim Duncan, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs
For years, fantasy owners have been expecting Tim Duncan’s fantasy value to take a nosedive, and for years, he’s been proving doubters wrong by consistently posting top 50 value. He began this season once again looking like a draft-day bargain, averaging 10.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.6 blocks and 0.8 steals in just 27.4 minutes over his first 18 games, but his value has taken a nosedive as of late.
Duncan has sat out two of the Spurs’ past seven games due to rest, and in the other five, he averaged just 5.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.4 steals and 0.4 blocks in 22.7 minutes a night. With San Antonio blowing out opponents left and right and cruising toward the No. 2 seed in the West, head coach Gregg Popovich has no incentive to trot out his 39-year-old center for extended minutes, which means Duncan will likely provide nothing more than late-round value moving forward.
T.J. McConnell, PG, Philadelphia 76ers
If you’re still hanging on to T.J. McConnell after riding his shockingly hot start to the season, it’s officially time to cut bait. Both Tony Wroten and Kendall Marshall have returned to the Philadelphia 76ers’ rotation, and though each remains on a minutes limit, McConnell’s fantasy value has already begun to plummet.
Over his past five games, the Arizona product averaged 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 treys in 20.0 minutes a night, but a 17-point, three-steal outing against the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 10 substantially inflated those averages. As Wroten and Marshall round into form and begin gobbling up more of the minutes pie at point guard, McConnell will lose any fantasy relevance he once had, even for those in deep leagues.