Fantasy Basketball Sell-High Candidates: With 3-pointers up around the league, is Klay Thompson losing value?
Looking to make a trade? Here are some players to consider moving while their value is high.
It's been an eventful few weeks, so it may sound hard to believe, but barely 10 percent of the NBA season has passed. We're in the middle of Fantasy's Week 3 – out of 25 – and most teams have played about eight of their 82 games.
An eight-game hot streak in January might not get someone added off waivers, but an eight-game cold streak in October can get a top-70 pick dropped. A hot streak this early can be even more powerful, as it can elevate the present trade value of player who's likely to regress toward the mean over the course of 82 games.
That's what this article is all about: identifying "sell high" candidates, players whose trade value may never get higher than it is right now.
In real life and in Fantasy sports, there is a lot of value in identifying a trend early and acting on it. We've heard a lot about the NBA's three-point boom, but it's hitting now like never before, and the Fantasy marketplace has yet to adjust.
The changing NBA landscape has already hurt Thompson's value, though that fact has largely escaped attention. Compare Thompson's 2015-16 per game numbers to those from 2016-17:
2015-16: 22.1 points, 3.5 threes, 3.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks, 1.7 turnovers, 47.0% FG, 87.3% FT
2016-17: 22.3 points, 3.4 threes, 3.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 1.6 turnovers, 46.8% FG, 85.3% FT
They're almost exactly the same! Yet, despite bizarrely identical stat lines, Thompson's value fell from 2015-16 to 2016-17. In the first year, he ranked as the 19th-best player, according to Basketball Monster. The following year, with identical numbers, his rank fell to 31st. The entire explanation for his drop-off is accounted for in his two best categories, threes and points, which were more widely available around the league.
In 2017-18, points and threes are more abundant than ever. So far this season, 26 players are averaging at least 2.5 made threes per game. Last season, only 17 players reached that mark. In 2015-16, there were only 12, and "all the way back" three seasons ago, in 2014-15, just six players averaged 2.5 threes per game. An almost identical pattern exists for points.
Make no mistake – Thompson is a consistent, excellent player. But his greatest skills are much easier to replace than they once were, and he still carries a lot of trade value. This early in the season, most managers doubt whether Marco Belinelli, Joe Ingles, and Justin Holiday can maintain their current rate of three-point production. But even if it isn't Belinelli, Ingles, or Holiday, several surprising players will average enough threes to keep pace with Thompson. That's the nature of the modern NBA. Trading Thompson now could yield top-30, or possibly top-25 value. That might not be true by January.
Finally, while I'm focusing on Thompson, the same factor hurting his value will drive down the value of other top-60 Fantasy options who derive much of their value from elite shooting – players like Bradley Beal and C.J. McCollum. Beal and McCollum, too, can be considered sell-highs.
With Chris Paul's (knee) return around the corner, Gordon's value is probably about to drop. When shopping Gordon, be sure to point out that the 2016-17 Sixth Man of the Year award winner has proven that he is still impactful off the bench, and he averaged 31.0 minutes last season in that role. But it's almost impossible to imagine that Gordon continues to attempt more than 18 field goals per game when Paul returns to the lineup, and any decrease there would, in turn, bring about a drop in points. Gordon has averaged 34.7 minutes with Paul out, compared to 29 in the one game with Paul. That probable minutes drop would likely hurt Gordon's supplementary stats.
If you are in a keeper league, please just skip this paragraph, because this does not apply to you. I really like Brown long-term. But in a redraft league, I'd sell Brown while the memory of his nationally televised, opening night performance still lingers.
Brown is a really good NBA player, but at this stage of his career, his real-life talent doesn't totally translate to Fantasy. Some still consider his Fantasy value to be at or near (or possibly above) his teammate, Jayson Tatum – but they shouldn't. Brown's not an efficient scorer, and while he's fairly reliable in threes and rebounds, he's inconsistent or worse in every other category.
Tatum is the one whose game naturally lends itself to Fantasy. His value is especially high right now, after Wednesday's double-whammy of Gordon Hayward (foot) declaring himself officially out for the season and Brown's 22-point game. There is a high possibility Brown returns to the waiver wire in many 12-team leagues at some point this season, so getting a Wesley Matthews or Rudy Gay type feels like a steal. Lesser targets, such as Will Barton or Caris LeVert, could also be good values. In many leagues, the Jayson Tatum owner might be convinced to do a Celtics swap, which is a great deal for the team that walks away with Tatum.
Crowder's ownership is dropping fast, and rightfully so. He belongs on waivers. But before you drop him, it's worth checking around your league to see if anyone is willing to trade for him. In a 12-team league, literally any return package is good value – after all, you're probably about to drop him anyway.
I love the Unicorn. But I don't love the Knicks, and I don't love his knees. Never doubt the Knicks' ability to make mistakes. A series of injuries limited Porzingis in 2016-17, and while there is no specific reason to believe that those injuries would recur, the human body isn't really made to be 7'3".
Obviously, injuries can happen to anyone at any time, but if you can swap Porzingis for someone with a less-concerning injury history, perhaps Nikola Jokic, that's a solid upgrade. Porzingis was always a long-shot to climb any higher than top-15 this year, and he's almost there now. His value seems unlikely to increase, and there seem to be more ways that this goes bad than that it stays good.
This is tough advice to follow, but sometimes we've got to take our medicine. Markkanen has been great, and it's tough "giving up" on a rookie who has shown so much in such a limited time. Markkanen's potential feels boundless, and his strong current production feels like a rock-hard floor. Sorry to crush anyone's optimistic spirit, but let's face reality here.
Markkanen is a rookie. Rookies almost always struggle, and they are almost always inconsistent. In most seasons, only two-to-four rookies are worth owning for the whole season. Even if Markkanen will go on to warrant season-long ownership, it is very possible – if not probable – that his current run will end up having been one of his more productive streaks.
His final averages may be similar to his current levels -- 15.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 3.0 threes in 32.2 minutes -- but this is far more likely to be his ceiling than his floor. Markkanen's workload could also contract when Bobby Portis (suspension) and Nikola Mirotic (face) return. Fantasy managers already got what they were hoping for from Markkanen – a late-round flier or early waiver pickup turned into a viable Fantasy asset. Now is the time to cash out and reinvest in a more stable commodity.
A few more names, with much shorter explanations, who might make for good "sell high" options.
Evan Fournier, Magic: Literally producing at a top-10 level for Fantasy, which is completely unsustainable. His current field goal percentage is more than 10 percentage points higher than what it was last season.
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