Now that we’ve arrived at the All-Star break – 50-plus games into the 2014-15 campaign – it’s a good time to audit the value of some of the big names who were/are supposed to carry us to fantasy championships this season. And we’ll start with Kyle Lowry, whose season, I would say, can be broken down into three distinct phases:
Phase 1: Raptors at Full Strength (16 games):
18.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.6 3s, 45.0% FG
Lowry’s early-season run was slightly off pace from last year’s stats in assists (7.4 -> 6.4), steals (1.5 -> 1.1) and 3s (2.4 -> 1.6), but there’s really nothing alarming about these numbers. A solid start from a premier fantasy point guard. And then…
Phase 2: DeRozan Gets Hurt, Lowry Goes Berserk (21 games):
21.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 8.7 apg, 1.9 spg, 2.1 3s, 43.2% FG
The night after DeMar DeRozan’s vicious groin injury, Lowry promptly threw his season into high gear, hitting for 29, 27 and 39 points in three consecutive games as he put up some flat-out dominant numbers for essentially a quarter of the season. For those drafting Lowry, these were prosperous times. Until…
Phase 3: DeRozan Returns, Lowry Goes Cold (16 games):
14.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.0 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.6 3s, 38.2% FG
Let’s be clear: These still aren’t terrible numbers. Brian Roberts can only vaguely daydream about a 16-game run like this. But for Lowry, it’s just not enough. And though we can certainly attribute some of his recent struggles to poor shooting (see the 38.2 percent above), that doesn’t tell the entire story. This stat, however, tells a lot of it: With DeRozan active, Lowry has averaged right around 14 FG attempts per game. With DeRozan out, he averaged 17.6. And when you add in the fact that DeRozan is suddenly doing more as a playmaker (5.0 apg in his last 10, meaning even more of the offense is going through DeRozan), Lowry and his stats have a legitimate problem. Is it cause for all-out panic? Not at all. Lowry is still likely to emerge from this shooting slump, and can easily get back to the numbers he was posting early on, but it’s fair to be concerned that his best run of the season is already behind him.
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Now a look at some other big names around the league…
Derrick Rose: After a maddening (and worrisome) start to the season in terms of injuries, Rose has now played in 26 of his last 27 games, and in his last 15, he has posted some pretty noisy numbers: 22.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.3 apg, 0.8 spg and 2.3 3s on 43.4 percent from the field.
Those stats are good, but when you factor in the low assist and steal totals, along with high-volume erratic shooting, Rose’s numbers can’t accurately be called great. And while I don’t think you need to be in any sort of hurry to trade him away, I do think this weekend – after a big 30-4-7 line on Thursday – is a good time to see if you can use his big name (and very good numbers lately) to deal him for someone great.
Pau Gasol: Here’s a sentence I would not have believed before the season started: At age 34, Pau Gasol will go to Chicago, play in 51 out of 54 games before the All-Star break, averaging 18.4 points (his most since 2010-11) and a career-high 12.1 rpg along with 2.1 bpg – tying his career-high. In most cases, a player who has wildly exceeded my expectations would be someone I’d aggressively be trying to trade, but at this point, I’d have a hard time dealing Gasol unless you’re truly getting a huge return. He has produced top-15 value in 8- and 9-category formats this season, and it’s pretty clear by now that injury is the only thing that can slow him down.
Nikola Vucevic: After back-to-back 10-point games in late December and early January, Vucevic has gone on a somewhat monstrous 20-game run: 22.3 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 0.6 spg and 0.5 bpg on 55.3 percent from the field and 81.3 percent from the line. Now, the caveat: Those defensive stats are pretty bad, and a notable disappointment from a guy who averaged 1.1 spg and 0.8 bpg last year. But if you can get your blocks elsewhere, Vucevic’s scoring, rebounding and high-volume stellar shooting is a pretty strong combo. Also in Orlando…
Victor Oladipo: After a slow start to the season while recovering from a facial fracture (and trying to play point guard), Oladipo is finally putting up the big numbers many of us expected: 19.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.5 spg and 1.2 3s in his last 15 games. The only downside – and one to remain aware of – is a heaping tablespoon of low-percentage shooting. Over his last 10 games, Oladipo is shooting 38.4 percent on 15.9 attempts per game, and over his last five, he has hit just 35.0 percent on 16.0 attempts. The rest of the numbers are good enough to still make Oladipo worth it, but if you’re losing FG percentage every week, he’s probably a major culprit.
Chris Bosh: His 2014-15 campaign breaks down into two parts…
Before calf injury: 21.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.8 bpg, 1.5 3s, 47.9% shooting (23 games)
After calf injury: 20.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.4 3s, 44.2% shooting (21 games)
After making pretty solid contributions in rebounds and blocks during the early part of the season, Bosh has fallen off considerably in both categories, with no double-digit rebounding games and just six blocks in 21 games since he returned. It should also be noted that Bosh’s return from his calf injury basically took place at the exact same time that Hassan Whiteside started posting productive lines – and Bosh is certainly happy to throw some blame at Whiteside for his dropoff in boards.
The good news is it’s not all terrible, as Bosh is still posting some big scoring lines (including two 30-plus point games in his last five), but he’s also averaging just 3.8 rpg and 0.2 bpg during that five-game stretch. Given the fact that he’s still scoring and hitting 3s – and still has big-name value – I’d do what you can to trade him for a lesser name who’s doing more work in more categories. In theory he could certainly turn things around in boards and blocks, but with Whiteside in the picture, the reality is that Bosh is likely to remain content to spend a lot of time on the perimeter.
Joakim Noah: The big headline from Noah’s season so far is that he’s clearly been worse than he was last year, when he averaged 12.6 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 5.4 apg, 1.2 spg and 1.5 bpg in 80 games. But lately, it should be noted, Noah been trending in the right direction. After posting a 10-15-7 line on Thursday, he has now averaged 8.6 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 4.5 apg, 0.6 spg and 0.6 bpg in his last eight games. That same stretch has featured a couple of low-scoring duds, and the defensive stats still aren’t where they should be, but minutes aren’t holding him back right now (32 per game over his last eight, including his first two 40-minute games of the season), and I expect strong all-around production the rest of the way from Noah – even if it’s not up to last year’s lofty standards.
Josh Smith: His release from Detroit and subsequent resurgence in Houston has been one of the more surprising story lines of the season. And with Dwight Howard out, he has posted some vintage numbers lately: 14.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.6 bpg and 2.1 3s on 46.4 percent shooting in his last nine games. I’ll of course take the under on the 3s and shooting percentage going forward – I’ve seen enough of that busted jumper over the years to never fully trust it – but the rest of the stats look very much sustainable for as long as Howard remains out.
Other Random Thoughts: The aforementioned DeMar DeRozan has been putting up big numbers lately in a number of areas (last 10 games: 19.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.5 spg), but he’s still not hitting 3s (0.3) and is shooting just 39.5 percent from the field during this 10-game run (and 39.4 percent on the season). … Jason Smith is worth considering after his 25-point, seven-board game on Wednesday (and with Carmelo Anthony potentially on the verge of a shutdown), but the reality is that Smith is still a limited fantasy player. In his last 10 games he has posted a respectable 12.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 3.0 apg, but just 0.5 spg, 0.4 bpg and 0.6 3s. … I’m surprised that Gorgui Dieng is losing this much playing time to Nikola Pekovic (last seven games: 5.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.0 bpg in just 20 minutes per game). At this point the only real option is to stay patient and privately hope that Pekovic rolls an ankle in the near future. … And speaking of veterans blocking younger players in Minnesota, Andrew Wiggins averaged 19.8 ppg over an 18-game stretch from late December to late January. But in nine games since Kevin Martin returned, Wiggins has dropped to 15.2 ppg.
Random Thoughts, Part Two: Mason Plumlee has been pretty inconsistent on a game-to-game basis lately, but if you’d just left him in your lineup without making any changes the last few weeks, here’s what you would’ve gotten over his last 10 games: 10.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.2 spg, 0.9 bpg. … We’re all aware that Greg Monroe’s scoring and rebounding have taken off (last 20 games: 16.9 ppg, 12.5 rpg), but it’s also worth noting his quiet improvement in defensive stats. After posting just 0.6 spg and 0.2 bpg in his first 24 games, he’s at 1.1 spg and 0.6 bpg in his last 28. … Fantasy owners who drafted Thaddeus Young may have been hoping for a change-of-scenery trade out of Minnesota when he was struggling earlier this year, but now we should hope he doesn’t get dealt elsewhere. Young’s last 16 games: 16.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.7 spg and 48.2 percent shooting in 38 minutes per game. … I generally think that Evan Turner’s game (in particular his jumper) is kind of ugly, and I don’t like reliving game-winners against my hometown team, but I have to give credit – this was pretty nice. Related: Turner’s recent stat line has been an interesting combo of useful and gross. Last five games: 7.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 7.0 apg and 1.0 spg, but just 0.2 3s and 31.7 percent from the field during that stretch.