The NBA season is now well and truly in full swing. Both in reality and fantasy, players are now accustomed to their roles, and beginning to find some consistency in their performances. Whether it is actually the case or not, it feels like there have been a lot of injuries so far, across all teams in the league. Some of these injuries have come to the elite fantasy options such as Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap, Rudy Gobert, D’Angelo Russell and more recently, Anthony Davis. With these players, you basically have to try and play the waiting game, and stash them somewhere on your roster, if possible. In head to head leagues, this can prove to be difficult, especially if you are battling for a playoff position.
In this article, I’m going to talk about some of the players who owners might also be thinking of dropping or trying to trade. But in these cases, it is not due to an injury. There are a number of players who are currently rostered in most leagues, that are frustrating owners to the point of questioning their decision to draft them in the first place. I’ll look at some of these players who are underperforming, but should still be given some time before making the choice to drop them to the wonderful world that is the waiver wire or offload them for the first player that is thrown your way.
Rubio had a strong start to the season, appearing to slot in well with his new teammates. He was shooting the ball well, scoring plenty of points and racking up the assists and steals, just as we had expected. Over the last four weeks, however, his production has decreased noticeably. There have been a number of reasons why this might have happened, including both injury and pressure from within. He missed one game on November 17th, due to Achilles soreness. Although we have heard no more about the injury, there is a good chance it is still bothering him, as Achilles injuries do tend to linger. The other, more obvious reason, is the stellar play of the rookie guard, Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell has seen his production move in the opposite direction, especially over the last two weeks. His minutes have been on the rise, as has his scoring and efficiency.
Whether or not these are contributing to Rubio’s poor showing of late, he is still worth holding to see what happens. He has been known to go through slumps like this throughout his career, and throw in the fact he is playing for a new team time might be what he needs. One other factor to take into consideration is that Rudy Gobert is due back from his knee injury anytime soon. Gobert injured his knee about one month ago, around the same time Rubio saw his production fall away. Rubio would have worked primarily with Gobert in the off-season, especially in the pick-and-roll situation, and his absence may have had a flow on effect to Rubio’s game.
Murray came into the season with a bit of hype around what sort of a fantasy asset he could be. When draft time came, he was probably over-drafted in a lot of leagues, leading to the disappointment of many owners as we reach the seven-week mark of the season.
So far he has been about as inconsistent as a player can be, in both scoring and efficiency. He has had six games of 20 or more points, and five games of six points or less. Accordingly, his field-goal percentage has ranged from 11 percent up to 72 percent. Through all of these ups and down, his minutes have remained fairly steady, and apart from a short period where he was outplayed by Emmanuel Mudiay, he has made the starting point-guard position his own.
If you are expecting more out of him than scoring and three-pointers, you probably shouldn’t have drafted him in the first place. He should see his steals climb as the season progresses, as should his assists. Points are hard to come by when looking at the waiver wire, so dropping him will almost certainly mean you are taking a hit to that category. With his upside, which has been clearly evident in his big games, he is worth holding onto, as long as you can take a small hit when he flops from time to time.
Lopez is probably one of the most frustrating players to own at the moment. Basically, every aspect of his game is inconsistent, apart from his blocks. He has not played 30 minutes since mid-November, and in fact, has only reached that mark four times all season.
He appears to be an odd fit for the rebuilding Lakers, and Coach Luke Walton’s use of him in the rotation seems lost and misguided. He has shown glimpses of what he can do when given 30 plus minutes, but the performances have been few and far between. As an owner of Lopez in more than one league, I can completely sympathize with those who are considering trading or dropping him altogether. But I think this is a perfect example of where we need to sit tight.
Like I mentioned, his block numbers are one part of his game that has remained constant. This alone gives him some value, as blocks are hard to come by this season. The fact that he is such an odd fit with the team, gives us reason to believe that he may be traded at some stage during the season, and this could really only increase his value. If you were to trade him, you are basically going to get nothing in return, so holding him is the better option.
Prince is a tough one to make a call on. He was another player who was somewhat heralded coming into the season, and has failed to deliver in some areas. His projections were based on a relatively small sample size, and he is playing for arguably the worst team in the league.
I think this is a case of people setting their expectations too high. If we compare his numbers against his projections, they are very similar. His scoring and free-throw percentage are down slightly, but on the whole, he is where we thought he would be. I think the fact he is on such a bad team, leads people to believe he should be doing more with his opportunities. This is not always the case, however, and time is going to be something that he needs to develop his game.
The Hawks have suffered some injuries of late, and as long as Prince can remain healthy, he is going to be locked into 30 plus minutes per game. His production should increase slowly, and holding onto him is a good option, if you are prepared to play the waiting game. In the meantime, he doesn’t really hurt you anywhere, and I think his upside warrants a roster spot in most competitive leagues.
Dennis Smith Jr
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Like Prince, Smith is a player that is going to get better as the season progresses. After a strong summer league, there was a lot of hype around Smith, and what he could do for the Mavericks this season. He has shown flashes of his potential, but has yet to really break-out.
His numbers, in general, have been more than helpful, with his glaring weaknesses coming in his efficiency. He has been poor from both the field and the free-throw line, to the point being a ‘punt’ guy. The free-throws are not going to destroy you at this stage, but as he begins to gain more confidence and attack the basket more, this could become an issue. Apart from his last game, he has looked much better from the charity stripe, and so this is one element of his game that could improve quite quickly. The field-goal percentage is something that could take a bit longer to come around, but is quite common amongst rookie guards.
Nonetheless, he clearly has the green light to basically do whatever he wants, and his supporting stats should increase along with his confidence. If you drop him, chances are someone is going to grab him straight away, and it could end up being a move that comes back to haunt you later in the season. If you drafted him, you should have expected these issues for the first few months, and so holding tight is a smart move.