Earlier this week I sat down at a roundtable (figuratively speaking) with the rest of the Rotoworld NBA crew to discuss our sell-high recommendations.
From there, I’ve made an incredible intellectual leap to the topic at hand in this week’s Stew: some players who are off to frustrating starts, and why I think it’s wise to stay patient with them. Here are five who stand out…
(Recommended listening during this column: Gone ‘Til November, by Wyclef Jean)
Nerlens Noel, PF/C, PHI
Why We’re Frustrated: Missed two games last week with wrist injuries, is apparently now dealing with knee tendinitis as well, and has posted just 7.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.2 spg and 0.4 bpg while shooting 33.3 percent in his last five games (including two points and three boards in 24 minutes Wednesday night). Related: It’s not killing me at all that I drafted Noel ahead of Draymond Green (12.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 7.1 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.4 bpg, 1.7 3s) in my hometown league.
Why We Should Stay Patient: I have a few things to say here, so let’s review them in alphabetical order…
A) Because last year, Noel actually started pretty slowly as well (6.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.4 spg, 1.3 bpg through his first 10 games), then finished on a major tear (12.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.0 spg and 2.3 bpg his last 33 games).
B) Before his recent struggles, this year’s start actually wasn’t bad. Sure, his percentages and mid-range shooting have been shaky from the get-go, but Noel was still putting up good numbers (14.2 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 2.0 spg and 2.0 bpg on 43.1 percent shooting) in his first five games before hurting his wrists. So ultimately I’d say this slump could potentially be about the wrist injury lingering (and perhaps a bit of knee trouble) as much as anything. And as maddening as this has been, Noel still has two double-doubles in his last four games.
C) My cousin Eli just sent me a text on Wednesday asking about trading for Noel in my aforementioned hometown league. Bottom line: Cousin Eli is not to be trusted, and none of us should be bailing on Noel early.
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Klay Thompson, SG/SF, GSW
Why We’re Frustrated: Lingering back trouble and subpar scoring numbers so far: 16.3 ppg, 2.3 3s on the season (after posting 21.7 ppg and 3.1 3s last year).
Why We Should Stay Patient: This recommendation may be perilously close to obvious – especially after Thompson’s 25-point game Thursday night – but I still think it’s worth a stay-patient reminder for one simple reason: We’re still not quite seeing peak Klay. For starters, he hasn’t had a steal or a block in his last two games, and those defensive stats (1.1 spg, 0.8 bpg last year / 0.7 spg, 0.8 bpg this year) really help offset his limited contributions in rebounds and assists. Furthermore, last year by this time, Klay already had a 41-point game, two 29-point outings and another 25-point effort in his game log. That put his scoring average, as of Nov. 20, 2014, at 23.6 ppg. This year, on Nov. 20, he’s at 16.3 ppg. Thursday’s 25-point binge was certainly a start, but in my opinion you’re still selling low if you trade Klay today.
Victor Oladipo, PG/SG, ORL
Why We’re Frustrated: Recently missed two games due to a concussion, and bookended those two missed games with three points (in the game he was injured) and then just one point in 20 minutes in his return on Wednesday night. Also, he’s been shooting badly: Oladipo is at 36.6 percent from the field on more than 14 attempts per game on the season.
Why We Should Stay Patient: Aside from the bad news above, there’s also good news. Oladipo is currently averaging a career-best 6.5 rpg and 0.8 bpg, and his steals (1.5), assists (3.7) and 3-pointers made (1.2) are all right in the range of last year. Plus, before messing up his averages with those two wasted games pre- and post-injury, Oladipo’s numbers sat at 16.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.9 bpg and 1.4 3s in eight games. Even better: Orlando doesn’t play on Friday, so you have at least until Saturday to try to hammer out a buy-low trade if Oladipo isn’t currently on your team.
Danny Green, SG/SF, SAS
Why We’re Frustrated: Take a look at the last year vs. this year comparison below…
Last Year (81 games): 11.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.1 bpg, 2.4 3s, 43.6 FG, 87.4 FT, 1.1 TO
This Year (11 games): 7.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.4 3s, 32.9 FG, 72.7 FT, 1.2 TO
Why We Should Stay Patient: I can understand if you’re feeling panicked here, especially with Green still doing very little on the stat sheet lately (last five games: 7.8 ppg, 37.8 shooting). But that panicked feeling is exactly why we need to stay patient. Quite simply, trading Green now is selling way too low on a player who can still hit the switch and start churning out top-25 value very quickly. And as bleak as things look at this exact moment, a shooter can break out of a slump any second, and Green has at least given a hint that he may be headed in the right direction by hitting 8-of-18 3s (44.4 percent) in his last four games. That may not be a number that knocks you out of your seat with excitement, but at this point I’d be looking for any positive signs that will keep me from making an irrational trade.
D’Angelo Russell, PG, LAL
Why We’re Frustrated: It’s been an uneven start for the No. 2 overall pick, who has shown glimpses of productive numbers, but is overall sitting at 9.5 ppg on 39.3 percent shooting in just 25 minutes per game.
Why We Should Stay Patient: I said just 25 minutes per game above, but if you want to be optimistic you could also look at it this way: Russell is already getting 25 minutes per game. And if you’re willing to be patient, the 19-year-old is in many ways an ideal bench stash. He’s not really startable right now, but is already posting some intriguing low-end numbers (last four games: 11.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.5 3s). And with the Lakers obviously going nowhere this year (a 2-9 record so far), and with Kobe Bryant very far from certain to stay healthy, it’s easy to project Russell into some lofty minutes and exciting stats later in the year. So I’ll say it one last time: stay patient, if you can.
Other Random Thoughts: Speaking of staying patient (okay, I lied), it tentatively looks like things may be trending in the right direction for Al Jefferson, who has posted 19.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.3 spg and 1.3 bpg in his last three games. … Zach LaVine averaged 21.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.0 spg and 2.3 3s in the four games that Ricky Rubio missed, and it’s encouraging to see him remain involved, and decently productive, now that Rubio is back (15.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.0 3s in 29 minutes his last two games). … It’s been a bit overshadowed by Stephen Curry’s absurd start (and understandably so), but Harrison Barnes has quietly emerged as a useful – and most importantly, consistent – fantasy option. Notably prone to duds in the past, Barnes has hit double figures in 10 of 13 games while posting 13.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.8 spg and 1.1 3s (48.5 FG / 88.2 FT). … Jarrett Jack’s last four games: 19.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 9.5 apg, 1.0 spg and 2.0 3s. He obviously can’t maintain this pace, but he’s certainly much more than just a low-end PG. … Also mauling box scores in Brooklyn: Thaddeus Young, who after a relatively slow start (12.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 0.8 spg in his first six games) has jumped to 19.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg and 2.2 spg in his last six.