Luka Doncic being injured makes him an interesting buy-low option, John Collins will be back in just three games, and Chris Paul’s fantasy value might not be higher again this season than it is right now. Buy Low, Sell High breaks it down. Follow me on Twitter here!
Luka Doncic Mavericks – The best time to try to snag a great player for the best price is when he’s hurt. And that’s exactly what Luka is right now after going down with what looked like a badly sprained ankle on Saturday night while I was trying to enjoy my dinner at the NBC Sports Grill at Universal in Orlando. And while it initially looked like it might be one of those “monthers,” Luka has already shed his walking boot and crutches, and we’re waiting for a new report on his status on Wednesday night. While everyone still seems to be sticking with a two-week timeframe for his return, I get the sense we might see him earlier in that, and I wouldn’t even rule him out for one of this weekend’s game. Then again, I’m the president of the Luka fan club, so maybe I’m a little too positive about his outlook. But it worked once, so maybe it will work again. Either way, most of his owners aren’t going to listen to me and will assume he’s out for two weeks and the fact remains that Luka’s price tag won’t be lower than it is today. As he showed prior to going down, he’s a Top 5 fantasy player and it wasn’t a fluke, as no one can stop him. I’m not sure what it will take to get him, and I have no interest in trading him where I own him, but other owners might be able to be bought in their time of need. Two weeks is a long time to be without your team’s best player.
John Collins Hawks – Marvin Bagley is back, and Deandre Ayton is coming back on Tuesday night, leaving Collins as the premier long-term, healthy player still not with his team. Collins will be back on Dec. 23, which is Monday. Like Ayton, he should come back with a chip on his shoulder, be completely healthy and ready to run roughshod over the league. He’s going to come with a healthy price tag, but he’s another guy whose price probably won’t be lower than it is right now.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Thunder – SGA had scored in double figures in every game this season until he laid an egg on Monday with seven points on 1-of-3 shooting in 34 minutes. Chris Paul went bananas in that one, hitting 9-of-12 shots for 30 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and two steals, and Dennis Schroder also played well with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, leaving SGA out of the mix. He’s still averaging 18 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.3 3-pointers on the season, and while his field goal percentage (43.3) and free throw percentage (78.6) could be better, he’s still a sixth-rounder if you throw those and TOs out of the equation. Yes, he’s a ninth-rounder when you leave those categories in, but he’s still young and should continue to get better as the season progresses. Especially if Paul ever starts missing games, which could become a reality if the No. 8 Thunder start to fall in the standings and out of the playoff race.
Khris Middleton Bucks – Middleton’s value has been established and it will likely take more than one bad game to make his owner want to move him, but he was really quiet on Monday with nine points, six rebounds, three assists, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer on 4-of-12 shooting in 28 minutes. And the Luka-less Mavs stunned the Bucks in Milwaukee. Middleton’s showing up as a seventh-round player and might be able to be had in a trade after Monday’s dud.
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Ja Morant Grizzlies – Morant is not necessarily a true buy-low player based on his December numbers (19.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.5 3-pointers and 54 percent shooting), but he recently missed a week of action and the Grizzlies have made it no secret they’re going to play it safe with him this season and subject him to load management rest whenever they want to. You can show me all the production stats on any player you choose, but if that player is subject to miss a random game on any given random day (Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, etc.), nothing will drop their perceived value more quickly. And as a Morant owner, I’m going to be worried about him missing games with each week that goes by. Maybe the right way to make a play for Morant is to wait for him to miss another game or two, but his week off is still fresh enough in his owners’ minds to possibly make a value play for him before that happens, as well.
Lauri Markkanen Bulls – Markkanen has looked a lot better in December, scoring in double figures in all nine of his games and averaging 16.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks and 2.8 3-pointers on 49 percent shooting. But his rough start to the season is still fresh in his owners’ minds and he’s coming off games where he has scored just 13, 13 and 10 points. He’s still returning just seventh-round fantasy value, but I think he’s going to continue to play better as the season progresses. And after his last three games, his owners might be willing to deal.
Danuel House Rockets – Between the injuries and the poor play, House may not even be worthy of buy-low status, as he is floating on waiver wires in a lot of leagues. But what we do know is that House appears to be locked in as the starting SF for the Rockets, he went on a six-game tear in October and November where he posted highs of 17 points, nine rebounds, three blocks, six steals and five 3-pointers, and he’s finally getting healthy again. He’s in a slump right now, scoring 11 or fewer points in six straight games and has been highly disappointing for those who have tried to ride him. Even with all the struggles he’s still showing up as an 11th-rounder and the Rockets play four times next week and also go 4-4-4 from weeks starting Jan. 20 through Feb. 3. Whether you can get him off waivers or trade a player you’re going to cut for him, now looks like a good time to try to get your hands on House. I think he’s going to have a nice second half.
Stashes - Christian Wood, Larry Nance Jr. & Kevin Porter Jr. – Wood is licking his chops and biding his time as he waits for Blake Griffin to go down (and Blake’s missed the last couple games with a sore left knee), Nance should blow up when Kevin Love gets traded, and KPJ has shown nice promise and could be fully unleashed by the Cavaliers any day now. All three of these guys are floating around on a lot of waiver wires and make for great stashes, and if they’re owned in your league, they should be available for a song right now, as they still haven’t had a chance to fully blow up. If you’ve got a good team and have room for some really high upside guys who may not produce massive stats for another month or so, now’s the time to make a play for any of them.
Chris Paul Thunder – CP3 is on fire right now after his 30-point, near triple-double I mentioned earlier and he’s averaging 17.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 1.6 3-pointers in December. He’s currently a Top 20 player and should bring back a ton in exchange if you can find the right owner to trade him to. I don’t really trust his knees, I don’t love the fact that SGA is pushing him, and I really don’t like him if the Thunder start struggling and fall out of the playoff hunt. Right now, they’re the No. 8 seed and playing well. And if they keep winning and stay in the hunt, CP3 could do this all season. But I think the odds are in favor of them eventually falling out of the hunt, CP3’s knees acting up and SGA turned loose later in the season. We shall see.
Kristaps Porzingis Mavericks – The Mavs are going to lean heavily on Porzingis for as long as Luka is out and KP had one of his best games of the season on Monday with his 26 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and four 3-pointers, and is averaging 22.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.3 blocks and 2.3 3-pointers over his last three games, which is easily his best three-game stretch of the season. He should continue to go off as long as Luka is out and while Porzingis’ lack of missed games this season has been encouraging, he’s still clearly on the load management spectrum. He also, basically, spends his time with Luka lurking around the 3-point line and has been reluctant to get inside and mix it up, despite being the tallest guy on the court. He’s been a sixth-round player this season and while I’m a fan and an owner, KP does make me a little nervous because of his potential for missing games. He’s hot right now and should continue to ball out over the next two weeks, meaning his sell-high window is wide open right now.
Bogdan Bogdanovic Kings – Bogdan is only returning 11th-round fantasy value this season but has gone on some streaks where he can carry a team. He was absolutely on fire from Nov. 6 to Nov. 24 but then a hamstring and knee issue slowed him down and resulted in a pretty boring December. At least until Sunday night when he scored 25 points, with five rebounds, five assists, a steal and four 3-pointers on 9-of-11 shooting. Bogie could be ready to go on another tear, but as long as he’s coming off the bench for the Kings, inconsistency could dog him all season. Especially once De’Aaron Fox is back from his sprained ankle, which is coming very soon. Now seems as good as any to move Bogdanovic if you’re inclined to do so.
Jabari Parker Hawks - With John Collins coming back on Dec. 23, Parker is set to take a hit. The question remains whether he'll be able to hang onto some of his value or if he's going to be come a lost cause in Atlanta. He's basically been the Hawks' second-best player this season and my guess is he'll still find a way to be on the floor and hold some of his value. But he's likely going to be more like a ninth- or 10th-round player instead of the sixth-round value he's been returning while Collins serves his suspension. Parker's already cooled off in December, averaging 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and1.0 steals after averaging 17.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals in November. This is probably your last call to move Parker for max return.
Zach LaVine Bulls – I’m not too worried about LaVine shutting it down because he plays for a bad Bulls team this season, but his injury history is always a concern. LaVine scored 35 points on Dec. 11, then had a 12-point dud on Friday the 13th, scored 31 on Saturday and then went off for 39 points against the Thunder on Monday. His season high is 49 points against the Hornets back on Nov. 23 and LaVine has returned late fourth-round fantasy value on the season, mainly because he volume scorer and 3-point specialist without producing big numbers in other categories. He’s a really good offensive player who is currently playing through shin and shoulder injuries, and while I’m not getting the feeling that LaVine is a sinking ship that needs to be dealt ASAP, his value may not be higher again this season after scoring 31 or more points in three of his last four games.
Isaiah Thomas Wizards – Thomas is, perhaps, the No. 1 player we should be concerned about as far as injuries go. He just returned from a five-game absence with a calf injury and went nuts on Monday, racking up a season-high 23 points, one rebound, six assists, one block and five 3-pointers in just 26 minutes. I’m still highly concerned about his body holding up throughout the season and Monday’s game might end up being his best one of the entire year. Sell him and get a player you’ll be able to count on for the long haul.
Norman Powell Raptors – Powell is feeling it right now, scoring 26, 25 and 22 points in each of his last three games and averaging 18.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.5 blocks and 2.4 3-pointers on 57 percent shooting in the month of December. Fred VanVleet has been out for five straight games with a right knee injury and will not play on Wednesday, meaning Powell should have another big game in that one. But once FVV is back and healthy, Powell simply has to take a hit. Powell’s on fire, FVV should be nearing a return and now is the perfect time to get one more game out of Powell on Wednesday and then send him packing for a comparable player who doesn’t have to deal with a Fred VanVleet.
Myles Turner Pacers – After a couple weeks’ worth of games that basically wanted to make his owners puke, Turner blew up on Sunday for 14 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and two 3-pointers. That’s what his owners drafted him for, but even when you include Sunday’s explosion, he is averaging just 10.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 0.9 3-pointers in his eight December games. Now’s the time to market him before he bounces back with five points, four boards and a block in his next one.
The Heat – Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, Derrick Jones Jr. & Tyler Herro – All four of these guys have been getting it done for a very good Heat team and may continue to do so all year long. But most of their big games have come with Goran Dragic (groin) and Justise Winslow (back) in street clothes. And while those guys should return sometime in the near future, it’s also possible they’ve been passed on the depth chart by some of the aforementioned players. But once Dragic and Winslow are back, even though they may not be dominant players in their own right going forward, they are going to eat into the minutes, touches and production of all four of them. My advice is to enjoy Nunn, Robinson, Jones Jr. and Herro while you can and then be prepared to come up with alternative plans once the Heat are back at full strength.
The Suns – Frank Kaminsky, Aron Baynes & Dario Saric – Ayton will be back on Tuesday night and all three of these guys are going to see fewer touches as a result. I’m expecting a healthy and motivated Ayton to go nuts, and I think Kaminsky and Baynes will take the biggest hits. Saric should be safe as the starting power forward, Kaminsky should back up both Saric and Ayton, and Baynes, who has played really well, should be Ayton’s primary backup going forward. Don’t feel like you need to drop any of these players immediately, but if Ayton goes nuts tonight and some of these guys disappear, it could quickly become the norm in Phoenix. While I’m psyched to get Ayton back, I’m a little sad that Frank the Tank is probably about to go away.